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.
One thing about the job that pays the bills is that it’s located behind a big road project that has entered its’ third phase of construction. Called the ‘Opportunity Corridor’ it’s supposed to connect East 105th St. in University Circle with I-490 and, subsequently all the freeways on the South and West sides of the Cleveland area.
This past week, I’ve walked the completed stretch of the Corridor from Quincy Avenue to East 93rd Street on my lunch break and took these photographs to give you an idea what the entire stretch will be like when completed. Also, here is to a link to a piece on the Channel 5 News website from May 28th on this.
As I walked on the sidewalk with a colleague, I noticed as much as she had the potential of the route for redevelopment, and not because of the new bike trail we noticed along the opposite side of the street. She saw the possibility of new restaurants and other buildings on what are now grassy fields. I agreed with her and even raised the idea that, potentially, housing could also be developed along the route. However, I also mentioned that any large scale development like that could only happen if Mayor Jackson and City Council hire more cops than they have the last two years and put a few more squad cars in the area. After all, a stray bullet hitting the nearby Juvenile Justice Center is not that distant a memory.
On the other hand, I must admit I had the same vibe that she did when I walked along the completed stretch at East 105th Street and Quebec Avenue a couple years back and thought about all the new medical related buildings that can join the 43,000 square-foot IBM/Explorys facility which is now at the corner of that street and Cedar Avenue. Already, there is a big billboard on the west side of the street that I drive past every day with an illustration of a spanking new building on it. We’ll see what happens.
Photographs by James Valentino.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.