A Quick Little Post, About Cleveland, Opinion, Uncategorized

A Quick Little Post on the La Salle Theater.

For those who follow this blog, you know I have shared updates on the status of the old La Salle Theater on East 18tth St. here in North Collinwood. Tuesday, at the monthly neighborhood watch meeting, Councilman Polensek told the members that the Planning Commission approved the plan (mentioned previously at another meeting) to demolish the La Salle Tavern, the house behind it and another structure to expand that parking lot. Now, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress has to work with the Cuyahoga County Land Bank and the regional sewer district to secure the funding to do so.

Other projects are coming down the pipeline (or sewerline if may be) and so while North Collinwood may not get the press the Cleveland Plain Dealer has given lately to downtown and adjacent West Side neighborhoods, it’s still chugging along.

All this is rather encouraging.

About Cleveland, My blog., Opinion, Uncategorized

Interesting piece on the Wade Family heirs and their lawsuit with the Cleveland Botanical Gardens.

While this was published in Scene Magazine last week, I only caught it on Saturday and it piqued my interest. Among other things, I was surprised to see that the heirs to Jeptha H. Wade are concerned enough about his legacy to put forward this lawsuit and I give them credit for doing so. After all, it’s not the first time I heard people criticize the fact that the gardens are walled off and you must pay admission to enter. A lady that used to work with me at the job, now retired, told me that the herb garden which was created in 1969 by the Western Reserve Herb Society was originally open to the public and many of the older members, such as her late mother, were not happy with the present arrangement. As a matter of fact, I remember as a child one time walking across the street from the Art Museum to go to what was then called the Garden Center of Greater Cleveland (as the gardens were then called) and it was free.

While I was a long time member of both the Cleveland Botanical Gardens (or the CBG) and the Holden Arboretum (and now Holden Forest and Gardens) the fact is that some short-sighted decisions from the CBG’s management over the years has led to all this. However, it is to me very interesting that the descendants of one of the big old families of Cleveland’s industrial heyday still care about what is going on in this city. Good for them.

A Quick Little Post, About Cleveland, My blog., Opinion, Uncategorized

Thoughts on El Paso; A Quick Little Post.

Yesterday’s horrific mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, and what has now happened in Dayton, Ohio, threw what was a regular weekend off kilter. I just happened to come home Saturday from an area Kohl’s store when I turned on the television to the breaking news. My thoughts immediately went to the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh last year (a place I parked near when I visited that city a year earlier). My thoughts also went to the shooting that have occurred in parts of Cleveland this year.

Friday, at the job, I chatted with someone who works for Cuyahoga County’s Office of Emergency Management. He and a colleague went down to Public Square Thursday August 1, 2019 for Cuyahoga County’s first annual Fun Day. An afternoon of family friendly fun disguising the real purpose of the event; promoting county public service agencies and related non-profits like the YMCA and the Cleveland Public Library, these two lucky souls had to set up and sit at their agency’s booth. One of the first questions I had for him was there enough police protection there. He told me that the City of Cleveland and Sheriff’s Department had their officers in full force with no incidents. I was glad to hear that since i remember another big free event at Public Square years ago under then Mayor Jane Campbell that turned into a brawl in front of the Terminal Tower. Back then, someone shooting off guns wasn’t on the forefront of my mind but Thursday it did; I just didn’t mention it to him.

I will not write here on this site my views on gun rights or control and the polarization our society is afflicted with today. However, people should be able to worship, shop, have a night on the town, and send their children to school without worrying about being shot.

On a tangent away from this but still related to what took place, I want to leave a link to a clip to the ending of the film Lilies of the Field. Unfortunately they left out the previous part where Homer (Sidney Poitier who delivered an Academy Award winning performance) tricks the Mother Superior (Lila Skala) into finally saying “Thank You” for all the work he did helping her, and everyone else, build that chapel. I first saw this simple yet honest film at the Cleveland Cinematheque and the ending always moved me. Recently, it was on Turner Classic Movies and I haven’t seen it in awhile. The America some people are afraid of us becoming already exists and has so for a long time.


A Quick Little Post, About Cleveland, Community and Economic Development, My blog., Opinion, Uncategorized

City Block is Coming to Tower City Center, A Quick Little Post.

I’m really starting to like what Scene Magazine’s Sam Allard has written lately. This week’s piece on ‘City Block,’ the Blockland Tech Hub for downtown Cleveland really caught my attention. When I visited the Youngstown Business Incubator years ago with its’ founder Jim Cossler, I thought to myself that Cleveland needed to study that and create its own version to generate new companies for the area. While not exactly an incubator, what Bernie Moreno proposes is pretty close. It also utilizes the empty space at Tower City Center far more effectively than any Amazon HQ2 proposal ever could.

A Quick Little Post, About Cleveland, Community and Economic Development, My blog., Uncategorized

More thoughts on the Neighborhood and the LaSalle Theater.

A view of the LaSalle Theater and the Humphrey Store on the corner.

This past Tuesday, I managed to head over tot he Lithuanian Hall for the monthly East 185th Street Neighborhood Watch meeting. The guest speaker was Linda Warren of Cleveland Neighborhood Progress who brought the audience up to date on what was currently happening with the LaSalle Theater. This organization, founded over 30 years ago, has for almost a year been instrumental taking care of the recently renovated historic building and making it a successful anchor for the street as everyone here has envisioned.  They focus on working in Cleveland neighborhoods and have undertaken many successful projects including partnering in Slavic Village Rediscovered and renovating the historic Levi Scofield House.

Ms. Warren is president of the New Villages Capital Corporation with three employees on her staff attending the meeting as well.  They were brought on board the LaSalle Theater project in July 2018 and work in conjunction with NE Shores and the Greater Collinwood Development Corporation to stabilize operations and create a new business plan.

It seems that the space currently rented out (including the popular Humphrey Store and 5 residential units) covers 20 percent of the revenue and have only a year to stabilize operations.  It is crucial for the success of the project that they land a profitable level of money from renting the theater itself.  So far, as of May, they got 27 of the 57 projected event bookings to take place at the LaSalle this year.  In 2020, they need to get 80 events booked at the LaSalle to be viable.

The LaSalle Tavern.

The big issue that came up was adjacent parking and there was a big debate by people over the fate of the LaSalle Tavern and the house and garage behind it.  Funding, courtesy of the NE Ohio Sever District and another organization has been obtained to demolish the structures and expand the existing parking lot from 22 to 44 spaces.  Some, including a former Notheast Shores Member sitting next to me and an employee of the Cleveland Planning Commission (who I overheard telling someone how he bought a house in the neighborhood), felt that other things could be done rather than tear down those buildings for more parking. Basically, they felt that the valet parking now serving the LaSalle is good enough.   Others, like myself, felt differently.  I do believe in preserving buildings of historic value too and there were some demolitions over the years in this area I disapproved (such as the Christian Life Center that was next to Villa Angela/St. Joseph High School) but each case is different. After all, with all the years and money spent to renovate the LaSalle, which is in fact a major anchor for the street and any future redevelopment, any measure to make the balance sheet go in the black such as a bigger parking lot is worth it. After all, if we need another tavern, why not open it at the now vacant Bistro 185 just down the street? Overall, Tuesday’s presentation was very informative.

I left the hall kind of glad to see all those people there that usually don’t come to the meeting and that there is still a feeling of possibilities that the neighborhood can reinvent itself.

Photographs taken by James Valentino.

About Cleveland, Community and Economic Development, Opinion, Uncategorized

Another look at the Neighborhood and the City.

This week has been pretty calm.  Saturday, I walked up the street to the Humphrey Store and later drove to Gus’ East 185 Diner for a late lunch.  Business is good for both and everything seems like it always has been.   Now, the next day it was time to do something different.  I decided to finally stop in at the Standard Restaurant for the first time since it has been under new management.  It was quiet but then again it was four in the afternoon.  However, the food was really good; a filet mignon with mashed potatoes, green beans, and carrots.   They don’t have valet parking at night for no reason! This all may seem like a lot of eating out but there are other ways I try to support this community.

The Standard April 7, 2019 my meal.

Filet Mignon at the Standard.

It was with this attitude in mind that I attended our monthly neighborhood watch meeting Tuesday evening at the Lithuanian Hall next to the post office.  While I did learn, to my surprise, of the incident at Lansing and East 185th this weekend, and the bust of a drug ring that nabbed 22 people, there were other things that would be put on the pro side of the ledger regarding the fate of this area.

For starters,  Collinwood won this year’s Cleveland Chain Reaction contest and the Dev. Corp is going to target East 185th St., not just retail but light industrial and the like.  Not only that, the East 185th St. area is now part of one of the Opportunity Zones in Cuyahoga County.  According to the Economic Innovation Group, this is a new tool established by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 to bring investment into low-income and rural communities.  While the idea that this area is now considered a low-income community is kind of depressing, nevertheless the funds offered will come in handy especially with other projects underway or soon to be around here.  The boundary of the one East 185th St. is now part of is from East 169th St. (and London in S. Collinwood) all the way to the Euclid Border and in fact all of Euclid West of East. 200 St.   Finally, the Cleveland Metroparks has taken over the Wildwood Marina and is upgrading the docks and concession facilities there.

I write this as a counterpoint to some of the things I’ve read in the papers these past two weeks.  Cleveland Plain Dealer Columnist Phillip Morris wrote something on March 31st about reactions to the trial of the ring leader in the shooting of the owners of Mr. Car two years ago and now being put on trial.  While I know it’s a losing battle to let people know that the East 185th neighborhood isn’t really Collinwood, Mr. Morris does hit it on the head regarding  a ‘resistance’ to urban decay by locals here (kind of like what happened in Slavic Village in the 1990s) and that it’s a combination of local people and Councilman Polensek, rather than City Hall, that’s leading the way.  However, it would be pollyannaish to not see that the problems that have usually affected the inner city have now spread even beyond the city limits.  For example, the fatal shooting a man in in his car at Villaview and Nottingham in February began with a party in East Cleveland and a  car chase leading not only to this murder here but the suspect eventually hitting a tree in Euclid after trying to flee the cops. Let’s not also forget the car chase last year by the Willowick police of a suspect that lead to a house on Waterloo being knocked off it’s foundation (and that’s city’s chief  of police telling the owner of the house that his insurance would cover the damage).  So, when we grumble about why City Hall doesn’t spend part of that $73 million budget surplus to hire more cops than they have, perhaps there is some grounds for it.

However, as shown by this week, there are some really encouraging things happening in this corner of Cleveland.  For all those former neighbors who moved out to Willoughby, Mentor, or even Rocky River (and beyond), things are still promising in your old neighborhood; and not just north of Lake Shore Boulevard.

Photograph by James Valentino.

A Quick Little Post, About Cleveland, Community and Economic Development, Opinion, Uncategorized

A look at Cleveland’s HQ2; or a look at where once again my tax dollars were going to go to.

I was intrigued, like many others, on what the City of Cleveland’s proposal to land the second Amazon Headquarters was like,  After all, the Plain Dealer editorial board wrote in May 2018 that it was “more feeble than expected”.  From what we knew at the time, it looked like Amazon was being offered all the empty space vacated by Forest City Enterprises in the Terminal Tower.  However, as the local media has put out there last weekend, the unredacted version of it was a lot more than that, and I still have to read the copy I downloaded myself to figure it all out.  However, Sam Allard in Scene Magazine wrote a piece that in a way sums up what I think so far.

He’s right, the incentives WERE insane, and you kind of wonder how, for Cleveland’s part, it could afford it.  What intrigues me the most is what Cleveland was willing to offer in tax incentives, more than $800 million and a $50 million tax credit.  Where did they plan to get the money?  One can safely assume that the income tax increase people voted for in 2015, which was for better services like police protection, went into this pot of gold.  It was going to be a city within a city, or a downtown within downtown so to speak with a few things that were way over the top. The new electric grid, was that at least going to be operated by Cleveland Public Power?  In the case of Google moving to the Bakery Square project in Pittsburgh, one can safely argue that they got a lot more bang for their buck; and with lower tax breaks and dollars too.

CSU was to offer 10 acres for an Amazon University to train a local workforce.   Now what would an employee of the Amazon HQ2 do differently that would warrant something like that? Couldn’t CSU’s college of business come up with a program let’s say Amazon HQ2, a fast track degree to excellence sponsored by the Cleveland Foundation?  Where the heck were these ten acres going to be located, next to Cuyahoga Community College’s Metro campus where there is probably is ten vacant acres to house such a thing?  How about the still empty former Juvenile Court complex on East 22nd St?   Let me read that proposal again.

It wasn’t surprising to see the names of the two Joes, as in Joe Roman (of the Greater Cleveland Partnership) and Joe Marinucci (President of the Downtown Cleveland Greater Alliance) popping up in this and many other articles regarding the proposal I’ve heard these names, and even met them, as far back as twenty years ago when I was working on my Masters and Cleveland State University.  Admittedly, looking at the finished product, this is the type project that, back then I would have dreamed working on right now.  But, that not the point, it’s just that those tax dollars Cleveland (and Cuyahoga County for that matter) was going to throw away at this pipe-dream were meant for something else, like keeping our neighborhoods safe which this year seems apparently a tall order to do. As of this writing, Cleveland is carrying a budget surplus in the millions while potholes are popping up on neighborhood streets and the sporadic shootings continue.

One last thing, Sam Allard’s article ends with what I call a bit of a warning:

“And while the Amazon bid is among the more extreme imaginable cases, packages of this nature, thatched in private by mostly private leaders, with the potential to radically reshape the contours of the central business district while crippling the city and county for years in the future) are a rotten plank in the region’s economic development platform.:”  (People are Mad about Cleveland’s $3.5 Billion Amazon HQ2 Bid for the Wrong Reasons ). 

However, as seen by Gateway, Tower City Center, Brown’s Stadium, money for the Gund Arena..I mean Q…renovations, this is just the logical progression of what so many of us living here have seen before.