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 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.