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

Richey Piiparinen Leaves CSU: A Quick Little Post.

Thursday, I came across on my cell phone a piece from Cleveland’s Scene Magazine about Richey Piiparinen, the Director for the Center of Population Dynamics at the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State, leaving CSU to get a job with the non-profit Unity Project.  He, in partnership with geographer James Russell, has written many very interesting studies related to the city, including From Metals to Minds: Economic Restructuring in the Rust Belt (which was reviewed on this blog) and of course Preparing for Growth: an Emerging Neighborhood Analysis Commissioned by Mayor Frank G. Jackson for the City of Cleveland.

While his work is interesting, I still don’t know how it translates to real mortar and brick matters in Cleveland, let alone for East 185th St.  All the best in him in the non-profit world.

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

A look at ‘anchoring’ university neighborhoods: A Quick Little Post.


On Tuesday November 13, 2018 the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs had another forum at 4:00 PM.  The topic, Gown, Town, and Neighborhood Change: Considering the Role and Neighborhood-Level Impacts of University Anchors took a look at how universities and other anchor institutions play a role in revitalizing the adjacent neighborhood they are located in.  Based on the work of Arizona State University assistant professor Meagan Ehlenz, who was there to deliver the keynote address, it also featured a panel consisting of representatives of local anchor institutions.

Here in Cleveland, Case Western Reserve University is one of the top 8 in the nation engaged in an aggressive neighborhood revitalization strategy.  This is in some ways ironic since this same institution, along with others around University Circle were instrumental in the wholesale destruction of many buildings and even streets (think Magnolia Drive) in the name of urban renewal.  Nevertheless, the vitality of that and the adjacent Little Italy neighborhood stands in start contrast to the floundering real estate market in the rest of the East Side of Cleveland.

While she joked that Cleveland State University didn’t respond to her initial survey for her research, she did note that the university, along with Tri-C and St. Vincent Charity Hospital, have made a serious effort to create what is called the Campus District (or other the St. Vincent Quadrangle) and event the Associate Dean of the College of Urban Affairs, Bob Gleason, noted to the audience how vastly different CSU’s campus is from twenty years ago when it was still, as I call it, a Brutalist Inspired concrete fortress.  Not only have new buildings constructed along Euclid and Chester but old ones retrofitted with new facades to look out onto the streets in front of them

There probably more interesting Forums in the months to come.



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

How did I wind up in a Cleveland Connects Live Studio Audience?

The last thing I thought I’d be doing this week is sitting in a dark studio at the Idea Center in downtown Cleveland, but that’s exactly what happened.  Monday, October 29th, 2018’s show, We’re Behind: Lessons from Peer Cities, looked at how Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Louisville, Kentucky, dealt with recreating their economies.  It has already aired on WVIZ Channel 25 at seven on Tuesday and you can see a repeat of the show here.


The Cleveland Connects set at the Idea Center.

I never would have thought of going on my own. but in a way I’m glad I spent that four bucks to park and walked over there.  This not only had to be the first time in decades that I wound up sitting in a live studio audience, but the topic discussed by Joe Frolik and his guests is quite timely considering the economic condition Cleveland area is.

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

The Divided City: A Quick Little Post.

Wednesday afternoon, I managed to get a few hours off from the job and drove down to my alma mater for the first College of Urban Affairs Forum of the new school year.  It was a presentation by Alan Mallach of his new book The Divided City: Poverty and Prosperity in Urban America.  A Senior Fellow at the Center for Community Progress, his book looks at national trends in American cities when it comes to community revitalization, gentrification, and the effects they all have on residents.


The Forum.

“Even as these cities are reviving, they are becoming more unequal and more segregated.  Mr. Mallach told the audience near the beginning of his presentation.  There seems to be a hierarchy of revival in city neighborhoods.   He is also unsure if this revival is sustainable in the long run.  In some ways, his findings on job growth in the central city meshes with the ‘Eds and Meds’ study created by Richey Piiparinen and Jim Russell a few years ago.  However, the jobs being created aren’t going to the people who live here.  For example, in Cleveland, one out of the five of the 250,000 jobs created in Cleveland in the past few years are held by people who don’t live there.   In fact, hyper-abandonment is still happening on a large-scale in many areas (think Glenville), and this is in fact a nation-wide phenomenon.  Basically, despite all the hoopla, more neighborhoods are declining rather than gentrifying.  Mr. Mallach believes that cities have to once again be places of opportunity for everyone.  Later he did cite things cities are doing right now to try to adress these problems.  For example, in Pittsburgh there is a shared effort and common ground between City Hall, Institutions like Carnegie-Mellon Unviersity, and major corporations.  they have kept the effort to turn their city around going for 70 years.

He was joined by a panel featuring not just Roland Anglin, the Dean of the Maxine Goodman Levine College of Urban Affairs, but also Joel Ratner who is the CEO for Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, Frank Ford of the Thriving Communities Institute (who was instrumental in suggesting this for the Forum series), and Freddie Collier Jr., the Director of the Cleveland City Planning Commission.  They were all brave enough to stay for the question and answer period (which wasn’t too bad anyway).   Frank Ford for one feels that the blight removal work done by the City of Cleveland (in places like Collinwood) and the Cuyahoga County Land Bank are still important ten years after the sub-prime mortgage meltdown.  Meanwhile, Joel Ratner cited such programs as the Slavic Village Rediscovered program as a local program that seems to be doing everything right in stabilizing a community (in this case around Fleet Avenue).

There were copies of the book available afterwards to purchase but I think I’ll wait a few months before I take it out of the library.  To be honest, a lot of what was discussed Wednesday has been talked and written about before.  However, it was still a very intersting presentation for everyone there.

Photographs by James Valentino

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

Thoughts on East 185th.

I bought the house I grew up in, my parents having purchased it in March 1970 a month before I was born.  A lot of ups and downs have hit this corner of Cleveland and, as I have been at one time passionate about this city as a whole, I was always trying to be involved in North Collinwood and the East 185th St. area.  In general, this part of Cleveland on the shores of Lake Erie has many assets and so much potential.  While I never, nor did many of ny neighbors growing up who have long since moved away or died off, really think they had anything in common with Waterloo or the area around St. Jerome’s at East 152nd and Lakeshore Blvd, let alone with anything south of the freeway.  If anything, we gravitated towards Euclid. Five Points was for me just as distant as  Shaker Square or my grandmother’s old neighbborood around Payne Avenue.

So much has changed since 2000 that will not be mentioned here.  It doesn’t matter because we can’t go back to the way it was (which to be honest in 1980 was basically your average working class white ethnic community).  However, I along with more than a few people of various backgrounds did have a dream of re-inventing the place.  In some ways, such as the Metroparks taking over the lakefront parks to the restaurants on East 185th St dong great business, we have succeeded.  In others, well, is what many people who used to live here and moved expected.

This past week, as I checked out my cellphone at work, I was shocked to learn that two people were shot on my street.  The way the Google Map with the article showed it, it looked like it was on the block facing East. 200 St. in one of the houses.  Even when, after talking with the Councilman’s assistant and learning it was actually on East 200th St. across from our local Discount Drug Mart, that didn’t make me feel any better.  Two fifteen year olds with guns shot a couple who confronted them about bikes they stole at a playground a few days previously.  One of the victims was shot five times.  This is on top of a terrible shooting at a home on Pawnee Avenue in January of this year (Which Cleveland EMS refused to pick up because the victim went across 200 into Euclid).  While Frank Jackson may be saying they are really trying to finally hire more police, the fact is that we need them now.

On thing about some of the conversations I had this week with people is how frustrated and in a way despondent they are.  One even said they would move if they could afford it, this is the same person who a year ago was talking about how a relative who moved in from Medina loved the short commute to the job now that she moved here.  The problems of the inner city seem this week to be hitting this area and it shouldn’t be that way.

Of course, as the incident with the man with a walker on Puritas on the West Side shows, all this can happen everywhere.  The permissiveness of gun laws has led to this, even in the suburbs.  The fact that the City failed to hire enough cops last year didn’t help.  Yet, something has to be done.

Things are quiet again as I write. I have been driving about on my endeavors in this heat, went out to Burton Ohio for a steak fundraiser, went on an elusive search today for a cellphone (still have the old one), and things are calm.  Funny, yesterday morning, as I drove up East 200th St. to go to this diner on the Euclid side of the border, it didn’t occur to me that I drove right past the crime scene.  On the way home, I tried to see if there was yellow tape or anything around indicating where the shooting took place.  I didn’t see that but, in a planter in front of one of the buildings I did notice some yellow daisy like flowers that seemed to be put there.

Another thing that is going on which disturbs me in some way.  While two bankrupt development corporations merging and starting anew is a good thing.  The fact is, the demise of Northeast Shores Development Corporation and everyone now moving to the South Collinwood-Nottingham Village offices at Five Points (near Collinwood High School) makes me feel like years of hard work on my part has gone down the tubes.

It feels like an uphill battle but as our mayor so eloquently puts it is what it is.

This will never happen, but it would be nice if there was a community development corporation just for the East 185th St./Beachland area where I live with a staff that not only lives in the area (not Cleveland Hts. or Old Brooklyn) and can build upon not just all those studies that NE Shores spent money on (such as for East 185th St.) but emerge from the work done by the Neighborhood Watch Group, the moribund Merchants Association and of course the beach clubs north of Lakeshore Blvd.  I heard that the owner of the Cleveland Brewery wants to revive a version of the old East 185th St. Old World Festival.  That’s exactly what a local CDC could help organize and promote.  I would also like such an organization to aggressively promote and market the housing stock on the Indian Streets all the way to Nottingham Road.  It is time to stop people from buying and fixing up single family houses to rent and instead move in for a bit, take care of their yards, and become part of the community.  Yes, I want people to say in the same breath as Tremont, Gordon Square, and Old Brooklyn to say the East 185th St area is really going to take off and be a hot place to live.

Now, personally, do I plan to live here my entire life?  Probably not.  Who knows what will happen in ten years.  Will I even be in this country let alone Cleveland the way things are going with this nation it’s hard to tell.  On the other hand, even if I live say near Stan Hywet Hall in Akron, I’d most likely take a drive up to the old neighborhood now and then and see what’s going on.  It would be nice to think that it will be better than it is right now and a community success story.  To have East 185th Street talked about in the same breath as Murray Hill Road or Gordon Square, would be wonderful. Ultimately, it’s up to the people who live there.


East 185th St. looking South taken today.


Photograph by James Valentino

About Cleveland, Community and Economic Development, My blog., Opinion, Uncategorized

Cleveland is number 5!!!…as one of the least liveable cities in the nation.

As I always said, forget downtown, Cleveland is also many neighborhoods which, on average, see high crime, poverty, low number of advanced degrees, and there are only four more cities in the USA that are worse than us.   This is what I got from reading today’s piece in USA TODAY on the top 50 worst cities to reside in the nation.  The fact that Detroit Michigan is number one on the list leaves little comfort, especially since Toledo, which is located at the other end of Lake Erie just south of the Michigan border, is ranked 35 while Canton gets a 33 ranking.  Akron isn’t even on the list.    What the piece says about Cleveland many of all already know but to have all written down together, after all the hype coming from the powers that be and City Hall after the 2016 Republican Convention shows a general picture of what the nation thinks about this place.

“Widespread poverty, a high crime rate, and a bleak jobs picture likely partially explain the declining population. In the last decade, Cleveland’s population fell by 2.4% even as the country’s population as a whole grew by 7.1%.”

As many locals can tell you, it’s not all bleak.  The potential for this city on the North Coast is amazing and many of the problems it faces many cities in the nation’s Rust-Belt have to deal with as well.  Then again, decades of following the same playbook in downtown investment at the expense of neighborhoods like North Shore Collinwood has paid off this dividend of bad publicity.

Some cities in this region, like Pittsburgh, managed to turn things around and that’s why I have been examining what they are doing down there to see what we up here in Cleveland can do differently.  We also need inspired leadership, and an effort by City Hall not to just follow the mayor’s mantra of “it is what is” and improve public services for residents like they promised when we voted for that ! percent income tax hike in 2016.  It’s time to stop doing just studies on what needs to be done and just do them.  If Detroit area native Dan Gilbert wants to have money spent on the Quicken Loans Arena then he better spend some dollars in Slavic Village or St. Clair Superior.  If we get another shot at landing an Amazon type headquarters here, think out of the box and come up with a really good plan and not just offer them a downtown landmark getting empty because Forest City Enterprises is closing up shop (after all the tax dollars and subsidies given to it for projects I must add) but something like what Pittsburgh did at Bakery Square which is in an East Side neighborhood miles from downtown.

The current way of doing things here in Cleveland is not working.  Think of this story as a wake up call.





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

Another Drive Out To The Boonies: A Quick Little Post.

IMG_20180608_082131Friday I took the day off from the job for another exercise in sadomasochism (or what my old career advisors would call networking) and attended the NE Ohio Planning and Zoning Workshop at the New Leaf Event Center in Conneaut Ohio.  I even got in the car 45 minutes earlier than I normally do so I can be there on time.

I have written about previous workshops on the blog before so let’s just say that it was worth the $60 and, while I never did get a government job in planning or community development, I still am truly interested in such matters as branding your community or grant writing for an organization which were in fact two of the topics of the four sessions I sat in on.   It gives me the illusion that I am part of something worthwhile, unlike recently my political activism.  When I left the workshop, I took a drive into town.  Once a major port for iron ore to be shipped to steel mills in Youngstown and Pittsburgh, Conneaut is now home of the Lake Erie Correctional Institution.   I tried to see where it was located but the prison is in fact hidden by woods as I drove East on Rt. 20 and unintentionally stumbled into Pennsylvania.  Retracing my way back, I drove onto Main Street and for a few blocks saw the old storefronts that still had plenty of cars parked in front of them.  Of course years earlier that place must have been a lot busier.


The keynote speaker, Dale Arnold of the Ohio Farm Bureau, does his presentation.

The It was only checking the news feed on my cellphone during one of the breaks did I realize the extent of the mess the man who says he’s president is leading us do now on the international trade and let’s be honest diplomatic front with long-term allies.  I felt Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s pain when he was on Meet the Press June 1st and now Trump wants Russia back in the G-7 (6, or 8) fold.

While all this happens everyday life goes on and there is so little time even to write.  But, I do worry about what the state of this nation will be like in a few years.  We will not be great again, I can see that and I fear at the least an economic meltdown just as bad as the last years of George W. Bush     There was an interesting piece in the New Yorker on the last Kaiser of Germany, Wilhelm II, and what I got out of it was that Wilhelm’s bombastic tirades and erratic behavior might have triggered WWI and got himself overthrown 100 years ago this year but it was the forces unleashed on Germany in the years following his exile that truly lead that nation to utter ruin by 1945.  In other words, we can vote Trump out but what he is already unleashed would be something that may harm this country for decades to come.


Photographs by James Valentino