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

The State of the Neighborhood; A Quick Little Post.


East 185th Street looking North.

While the mayor and his merry band at City Hall figure out how to hire more policeman by the end of this year, I didn’t let this fact stop me from taking a walk down my street this Sunday.  After all, one of the supposed advantages of a Cleveland neighborhood over moving out to the urban fringe is their walk-ability.  On a sunny, almost early March-like Day in January, I took a stroll up to see what was going on with the La Salle Theater.  From the photos you can see how much work has been put into renovating this place.   It’s a great thing that the councilman, and Neighborhood Progress, came up with the money to finish this. While we may not have a street like Pittsburgh’s Walnut in this city, places like East 185th have the potential to do a whole lot more and, right now, it looks like it might just happen.


The La Salle Theater with its’ new marquee.

Then, it was a stop at Gus’ Diner East 185 for lunch.  It wasn’t packed like usual but I just missed most of the lunch crowd and got one of the two booths that were still empty.  As I ate a corned beef sandwich and fries, I continued working on a project of mine that is now 43 pages long.  Some of it does cover what is going on here in North Shore Collinwood and the vast potential this place, and other Cleveland neighborhoods, have.







A few days later, while the national news swirled and buzzed with the unthinkable only two years before, I had to take a long walk home from my mechanic who has a garage off the Shoreway in neighboring Euclid.  Getting back on my street, I had an opportunity to see some of the houses that are for sale or recently had a history of foreclosure, vacancy and neglect.  Just like everywhere else in the city of Cleveland, the streets off of East 185th St. were really hit by the mortgage crisis.  However, for those who follow this blog know, things have stabilized since 2010 and slowing rebounded.   Yesterday I had even more encouragement seeing a new driveway in a Cape Cod that is apparently being renovated.  This is significant because of what I remember as a kid growing up here.  Thirty to Forty years ago, the owner at that time was a woman in her 50s and she had a thing about her lawn.  It seemed like every year she would have it ripped up and re-seeded so it would have that golf putting green look.  I would sit in the back seat of the car my parents were driving and sometimes see her standing on her front lawn.  With her curlers still in her hair and covered by a scarf she would look down at how the germinating lawn was growing.  Flash forward to 2010.  She was already dead by then, the house had a few owners, and by that year was vacant.  The front lawn was not only full of weeds but not even cut.  If by a miracle she came back to see this, the lady probably would have had a fit; just like many of the other old homeowners I remember living up and down Cherokee.  Well, yesterday, for the first time in years, not only was there a new driveway but that Cape Cod looked almost like it used to be.


A Cape Cod with a brand new driveway.

As I finish this so I can watch another State of the Union Address, I think it is fitting I should at least write about this place.  Let’s see what interesting things happen along these streets during this year.


A view of Cherokee Avenue looking West.



Photographs by James Valentino





About Cleveland, Community and Economic Development, Uncategorized

Northeast Shores Membership Meeting.

IMG_20180116_181313For those who read this blog, you may know that the neighborhood I live in has a community development corporation called Northeast Shores.  Yesterday, January 16, 2018, it had their membership meeting at the Collinwood Recreation Center on Lakeshore Blvd.   In a surprisingly full room, local residents, merchants, and representatives of such groups as the Hospice of the Western Reserve learned what has been going on with the local development corporation.  There were elections for new board members, and the candidates got to tell the crowd a little about themselves.  Many of them seemed to have moved to the area in the past decade.  That is an encouraging sign but also means that there were very few people I knew in that room.

Another thing on the agenda was a short speech by the owner of an accounting firm doing their books.  He stood up to tell everyone that they should have their report ready by the next meeting.  It would be interesting to see since Northeast Shores has had to let go most of its’ staff last year and move into space given by the Hospice of the Western Reserve to which the executive director, Camille Maxwell (who became director last year after her controversial predecessor left), is sincerely grateful.

What would a community meeting be without of few words from Mike Polensek?  The councilman gave give everyone the run down on what has been going on in the ward.  while I heard half of it before, such as Cleveland’s police officer shortage, Mike did talk about some of the major projects in the neighborhood such as the ongoing LaSalle Theater renovation and the new Oliver Hazard Perry Elementary School under construction.  He also said a few words about how people should be supporting the development corporations and try to make them as strong as ones elsewhere in the city. Last but not least, the Power Point presentation showing the new marquee of the LaSalle Theater, all lit up at night, drew a lot of applause from the audience.  I can’t wait to see the LaSalle when it’s finished.

Last night was kind of encouraging.  I keep telling people that it’s a toss-up on what’s going on here but there are a lot of committed people who seem to be investing a lot into the future of North Shore Collinwood and that’s wonderful.  Now, if we can City Hall to give us our income tax increase money’s worth this year, as in more police patrols and funds for home repairs for residents, that can be a great boost.

When I drove home, I had to stop at the light at East 185th Street and LaSalle.  There across the street from me was the theater and its’ brand new marquee.  This is something people would notice driving in from Lake County to dine at the Standard or get a beer at the Cleveland Brewery.  It also shows that our development corporation managed to pull this project off and it’s something the staff should be proud of.  So should Councilman Polensek.  There will be more news about the neighborhood to come.


Photographs taken by James Valentino

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

A Walk Down Walnut Street: A Quick Little Post.


Walnut Street looking West.

Pittsburgh called me again on Sunday and I drove down the Turnpike to spend a few hours there.  As a post from last year shows, I have become familiar with some of the neighborhoods on the East side of that city and moved beyond Penn Avenue to see places further afield such as Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill and finally the campus of Carnegie-Mellon.  Another street I went back to was Walnut Street in the Shadyside neighborhood.  This time around, I managed to do something I wasn’t able to do last year; find a parking spot.  As a result, I was able to hit the sidewalk and explore a really unique street.





Walnut was not a major thoroughfare but, as the existence of many old commercial buildings showed, this was a community shopping area of long-standing.  However, besides a drug store, bank and an apparently really busy diner called Pamela’s, there were other stores that seemed to have plopped down there from a high-end suburban lifestyle center.  I saw high end boutiques with designer labels, a smart phone store with millennials standing in front of the new products, even a what looked like a very nice florist shop.  Here in Cleveland, a J. Crew would be at Legacy Village or Crocker Park and not on a street like East 185th or Murray Hill Road, but that’s what has happened in Pittsburgh.

They even had a L’Occitane en Provence, a high end body and skin care chain, in a shop on a corner.   I stopped inside and saw a scene that would be more fitting for Beachwood Mall in the Cleveland area than in the central city.  There were all the various products assembled in appealing displays, a modish decor, and an attentive sales clerk who told me that Pamela’s had the best pancakes she ever tasted.  Since there was a line of people out the door, I did not take up on her suggestion and lunched later in Squirrel Hill, but it just goes to show how busy this street can be even on a Sunday morning.


One of the nearby residential streets.

The presence of such areas within the central city limits is interesting to me as a Clevelander.  In fact, many of these neighborhoods within Pittsburgh’s city limits provide a learning opportunity for many of us here to emulate in our own neighbhorhoods.


Walnut Street looking East.



Photographs by James Valentino


A Quick Little Post, About Cleveland, Opinion, Uncategorized

Northeast Shores’ Membership Meeting; A Quick Little Post.


The NE Shores Development Corp. Meeting at Euclid Beach.

I truly believe that to have a successful city, you must have strong neighborhoods.  One of the signs of this is to have a good network of local development corporations that work with the community.  The Collinwood area happens to have two of them; the one representing North Shore Collinwood being the Northeast Shores Development Corporation.  This has been around for decades and I remember stopping in their offices in the 90’s when they were actually housed in a building next to Euclid General Hospital. Board members, and executive directors, come and go but I’ve been a fairly loyal member.  However, Wednesday’s Quarterly Membership meeting was the first I’ve been to in a year.  Instead of at the Collinwood Rec Center, they decided to put it across the street at Euclid Beach Park.  That’s where I went a little before 6:00 to the pavilion to see what was going on.


Mary Louise Daily speaks with Scott standing next to her.  New Executive Director Camille M. Maxwell sits to his left.

I knew some of the people already, such as Councilman Michael Polensek’s aide Mary Louise Daley, but the vast majority were new faces. Even the new Board president, a guy named Scott, I never met before.  However, I wound up staying there for over an hour and a half, and not just because of the hot dogs.  They just appointed a new Director and I got to chat with some of the staff for the first time in years.  None lives in the neighborhood.  However, one young lady did just buy a house in Old Brooklyn which at least is in the city.  As for the business development specialist, he lives in the same area of Cleveland Heights where my mother grew up.  As for the new director, I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt.

Actually, a lot of positive things are still taking place here.  Work is still going on regarding the new Euclid Beach Pier.  As for the La Salle Theater on East 185th Street, they are in the process of getting more funding for the renovation project there.  Also, we’re going to get one of the big white Cleveland signs like the one that everyone has been taking photos with at Edgewater Park.  Considering the terrible events last month at Mr. Car, this meeting put things all back into perspective.  While my neighborhood is not one of those targeted in that new Cleveland State Univeristy study commissioned by Mayor Jackson for investment, it still on the cusp of becoming one happening place.  Chatting with some of the people there, I met a lady who moved here from Shaker.  She told me that a realtor told her that the area where she moved to was getting a lot of money coming in renovating those lakefront properties.  Also, like many of the other former Heights’ residents who moved into North Shore Collinwood over the past few decades, she loves the lower taxes from what she was formerly paying.


I hope the Corporation starts renovating their new offices on East 185th St. soon so they can move back there.  I also will try to attend more meetings to see what is going on.


Photographs by James Valentino


About Cleveland, Opinion, Uncategorized

Back to a Brown Bag Lunch.



The Brown Bag Lunch.

The song “Spinning Wheels” by Blood, Sweat, and Tears seems appropriate for today as I drove downtown from the job Wednesday afternoon to stop in at my alma mater, The Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University.  This is one of the varieties of programs that my old college has to fill the large building at the corner of East 17th Street and Euclid Avenue.

Moderated by Charles (Chip) Bromley, Director of the Ohio Fair Lending Coalition, it featured former Country Treasurer (now Director of the Thriving Communities Institute) James Rokakis and Cleveland Neighborhood Progress Inc.’s Erika Anthony.  To a packed room, they discussed how organizations such as theirs play a role in pivoting new housing and investment into rehabilitating housing.


Erika Anthony (left) and James Rokakis (center) at the Brown Bag Lunch.

The audience consisted of students, planners, and even two professors from when I was there as a student. Ms. Anthony, herself a graduate of the College, talked about how she’s now teaching a class there.  As for the Ohio Fair Lending Coalition, it is a collaboration of fair lending organizations throughout Ohio and part of Organize! Ohio which is a community organizing group.

James Rokakis delivered one of his speeches on the impact County Land Banks have had not only in Cuyahoga County but throughout Ohio.  Roughly half of the state’s 88 counties have one.  Since 2008, the Land Bank Bill has been tweaked six times.

However, demolishing vacant buildings isn’t just an inner city phenomenon.  “Blight is everywhere,” Mr. Rokakis told the audience and gave examples of small cities and towns throughout Ohio with downtowns as virtual ghost towns.  The loss of local government funds has paralyzed communities such as Portsmouth and Elyria Ohio for that matter.  He also added that Dan Gilbert’s Office was very helpful with getting the demolition fund money.

“People ask me ‘What are you going to do with all the vacant lots in Ohio?” Mr. Rokakis admitted, “ I have no idea.”  However, at least in Cleveland some things such as infill housing, urban agriculture, and adjacent homeowners buying the vacant lots to add to their own yards is quite common.  Warren Ohio had a plan to create wildflower gardens on their vacant properties.  While studies show that these demolitions helped stabilize the property values of surrounding houses, many of the buildings that wind up in the Cuyahoga County Land Bank are structurally sound and, with some work, can be put back on the market.


Charles Bromley checks out the audience.


Cleveland Ward 12 Councilman Anthony Brancatelli listens during the Q&A session.








For Erika Anthony, the goal of Cleveland Neighborhood Progress Inc. (also known as CNP), is not so much to tear down but to rehabilitate houses and getting people to move in them.  As CNP’s Executive Summary states, “We estimate that 1,081 programmatic rehabs completed between 2009 and 2015 in Cuyahoga County preserved or increased just over half a million dollars_$539,318,3018_in its values of surrounding houses.”  This is not an insignificant amount of money and this, combined with the work by the Land Banks, certainly stabilized the property values of many neighborhoods.


Map of Cuyahoga County showing sub-markets and location of rehabilitated properties.

As for how all this impacts North Shore Collinwood, it’s hard to say.  As of this writing, I’m still waiting for Ms. Anthony to get back with me with data on this.  However, according to the map, the further West you go, the more stressed the submarkets’ become.  Admittedly, on the East Side of Cleveland there are no truly higher functioning ownership areas.  However, the submarket with East 185th St. (and where I happen to live) is in the Moderately Functioning Ownership category with 10-11 rehabs taken place there.  In this category, the average impact per rehab is $501,651.  It’s really hard to tell how this translates into neighborhood property values but the average median price has not only stabilized but we up again a little since the mortgage meltdown of almost a decade ago.  On the other hand, it is still a far cry from what houses off East 185th St.  were fetching in 1997.

One felt there that the speakers as well as many in the audience were all trying to squeeze blood from the proverbial stone when it comes to finding the funds not just for home rehabing but other programs as well.   The elimination of the local municipal fund by the Kasich Administration was a major blow to city planning and housing departments and the proposed cut to HUD’s budget trickles down into less money from the Federal Government as well.

It will be interesting to note how the housing market and the money available for home and land bank programs will fare in the next few years.  In the meantime, there will be more Brown Bag lunches.