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New hope for historic Scofield Mansion restoration

The 1898 dilapidated mansion of renowned Cleveland architect Levi Scofield is about to get a makeover and a new chance to become a crown jewel of the Buckeye Woodhill neighborhood, thanks to the valiant efforts of the Cleveland Restoration Society (CRS), Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, the Cuyahoga County Land Bank and a team of volunteers.

Scofield’s vacant historic home, tucked away at 2438 Mapleside Road, has fallen into disrepair over the past two decades.

“It’s in a forgotten corner of this neighborhood, in an area you wouldn’t normally go to,” says CRS president Kathleen Crowther. “It’s like a haunted house. But if it’s restored and sold, it could be a showcase for the city and could really turn this neighborhood around.”
 
That optimism is why the CRS formed a blue ribbon task force last year with the hope of saving and restoring the home. “This is a last-ditch effort on this property,” Crowther says, noting the structure has been flagged for potential demolition. “It’s completely open to the elements, kids can get in there. It’s horrible. It’s now or never.”
 
Despite the repairs needed because of vandals and exposure, Crowther says the house is structurally sound. “The stone is Berea sandstone, the wood is hard as steel,” she says, adding that the original slate roof is still intact. “The wood that was used back then was hard, dense lumber. The building was very well-built.”
 
Saving the mansion is now looking like a possibility, as the property could be signed over to the Land Bank as earlier as the end of this week, says Justin Fleming, director of real estate for Neighborhood Progress.
 
The move was made possible through a legal deal in which the current owner agreed to donate the property to the Land Bank in exchange for the court waiving $55,000 on back property taxes. In turn, the Land Bank has agreed to hold the property for two years while Neighborhood Progress and the task force try to save the house.

“We’ve been working on it in earnest since last spring and not it’s really all hands on deck,” says Fleming of the effort. “This gives us time to clean it out, stabilize it and secure the house and really set the stage for what could happen.”
 
When Scofield, who is best known in Cleveland for the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Public Square and the Schofield Building, now the Kimpton Schofield on E. 9th, was looking to move to the country in the late 1890s, he bought six acres of land on a bluff overlooking the Fairmount Reservoir and built the 6,000-square-foot, three-story Victorian home.
 
“It was designed in a very picturesque setting to overlook the city,” says Crowther. “He built it in a bucolic area to have magnificent views of the city.”
 
After Scofield’s death in 1917, his family remained in the house until 1925. Over the years the house served as a chapel, a convent, and finally a nursing home until 1990. Sometime in the 1960s, a second building was erected on the land as an extension of the nursing home.
 
Both buildings stood vacant and went into disrepair since 1990. In 2011 a buyer, Rosalin Lyons, bought the property for $1,400 at a foreclosure auction, thinking she was just buying the 60s building. But the sale included the mansion, according to Fleming.
 
“I can understand the thought process on the building because it has really good bones,” he says. “But Lyons was in way over her head and nothing ever happened to either property.”
 
Crowther says the owner had plans to transform the property into a rehab center, but nothing every came of it and Lyons ended up in housing court. “She had dreams of doing something good for the community there but that dream needed money,” Crowther says. “She was between a rock and a hard place.”
 
Now members of the task force are making preparations for stabilization work on the house as soon as they get the word the transfer is complete. “The clean-out, the stabilization and securing of the house really sets the stage for what could happen,” proclaims Fleming. “Let’s save the asset.”
 
Three companies have already committed their time, labor and services to stabilize the house, says Crowther, who calls the process “mothballing,” which means preserving the property for future renovations.
 
Joe DiGeronimo, vice president of Independence-based remediation company Precision Environmental, has pledged to clean up both the mansion and a 1960s building built on the property. The DiGeronimo family has roots in the neighborhood, says Crowther, and has an interest in revitalizing the community.
 
“They have been heroes in this endeavor,” says Crowther of Precision Environmental.
 
Steve Coon, owner of Coon Restoration and Sealants in Louisville, Ohio, sits on the CRS board of trustees and has committed to roof and wall stabilization as well as masonry work. Cleveland-based SecureView will measure all of the doors and windows and fit them with the company’s patented clearboarding—clear, unbreakable material. The help is a relief for proponents of the renovation.

“In the beginning we were knocking out heads because we didn’t know what to do—there were so many pieces, all moving at the same time,” says Crowther of the project. “But inch by inch, we got somewhere.”
 
Crowther says CRS continues to raise money for the project. Once the building is stabilized, CRS and Neighborhood Progress will figure out the next steps in saving the house, marketing it and selling it. Both Crowther and Fleming say there is no concrete plan yet for the final outcome of the project, but they say they are pleased with the initial progress.
 
“I think it illustrates what can happen with lots of partners willing to come in and do something,” Crowther says.
 
John Hopkins, executive director of the Buckeye Shaker Square Development Corporation and task force member, says he sees restoring the Scofield Mansion as beneficial for the neighborhood in three ways.
 
“It would bring stability for the neighborhood,” says Hopkins. “It would not just stabilize the building, but stabilize the neighborhood. Second is the economic impact in that it would increase the value of some of the homes around it [the mansion]. Third, there will be a sense of pride in this great building we saved.”
 
Fleming says Neighborhood Progress must next bring in an architect to draft new floor plans for the home, as the originals are lost. “That will help us talk to a tenant,” he explains.
 
Eager to move forward, organizers on the task force are encouraged by the pending transfer.

“They are trying to save it as an anchor and a monument,” Fleming says. “The neighborhood deserves it. The house deserves it.”

600 residential units coming to University Circle, more in the works

Midwest Development Partners, along with Coral Company and Panzica Construction, quietly broke ground in late December on Centric Apartments, formerly known as Intesa, at 11601 Mayfield Road, marking the beginning of a residential construction project that was delayed for almost three years.
 
“It’s a really good achievement,” says University Circle Inc. (UCI) president Chris Ronayne. “We are very excited about it.”
 
The seven-story Centric building, which sits on 2.2 acres and borders Little Italy and Uptown, will have 272 one- and two-bedroom apartments, averaging 750 square feet and running about $1,600 per month; 27,000 square feet of office, retail and commercial space on the ground floor; and a 360-space parking garage that will accommodate both residents and visitors to Uptown.
 
“I’m very excited about this project because it’s a connection between Little Italy, the Little Italy–University Circle Rapid Station and Uptown,” says Ronayne, adding that greenspace is part of the $70 million project investment. “It offers great walkable-friendly development.
 
But the Centric project is just one of many new apartment buildings going up in the neighborhood, bringing more than 600 new units to the University Circle area by late spring 2018, with even more projects in the works.
 
Also slated for completion by 2018 is the 20-story, 270-apartment One University Circle building being developed by First Interstate Properties and Petros Development on the former site of the Children’s Museum at E. 107th Street and Euclid Avenue.
 
“Together, 542 units will come online in 2018,” says Ronayne. He says the timing should coincide with “match week ”— the time in March when medical students find out where they will be placed for residencies. “We have 3,000 to 5,000 medical residents each year through University Hospitals, Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic,” says Ronayne. “It’s a mad rush [for housing]”
 
Meanwhile, this summer Berusch Development Partners plans to open its Euclid 116, 31 apartment suites at 11611 Euclid Ave, which will cater specifically to students. The one- to four-bedroom suites are let by the room. Rent covers internet and utilities.

Already complete is the Finch Group's phase one of the 177-unit Innova Apartments, 10001 Chester Ave. The parking garage, part of phase two, is scheduled to be completed this summer.
 
The massive mixed-use plans for Circle Square, formerly known as University Circle City Center (UC3), spearheaded by Midwest Development Partners, are still in the works, Ronayne says, with a groundbreaking date for the site at E. 105th Street and Chester Avenue still a bit in the future.
 
All of this new residential development stems from a plan created in 2007 by the University Circle Land Bank to build 1,000 new apartments and houses. “We’ve now reached that goal and we’re well on to the next 1,000,” says Ronayne.
 
Additionally, the Greater Circle Living Incentive Program encourages residents who work at non-profit agencies in the Greater University Circle to also live there. The program offers the first month of a rental lease, up to $1,400 for free, or up to $30,000 in a forgivable loan on a house if the resident stays for five years.
 
“We’ve accepted nearly 1,000 applications,” says Ronayne, noting that eligible neighborhoods include Glenville, Hough, Fairfax, Little Italy, Buckeye-Shaker and parts of western East Cleveland.
 
The program furthers UCI’s goal of creating a true live-work community. “We’ve been trying to achieve a walking-friendly, high density, populated neighborhood,” says Ronayne. “Today’s employees have a healthy appetite of walking to work with a community that has [amenities such as] restaurants, a grocery store, a library ...

"We’ve done that.”

Rickoff students to combine plants, community and the arts in new garden project

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson’s Office of Sustainability has named 2017 the Year of Vibrant Green Space, and the students at Andrew J. Rickoff School, are working with  Kulture Kids, the nonprofit organization that integrates the arts into traditional education approaches, to make sure the 30- by 85-foot area behind their school on E. 147 St. in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood is as vibrant as can be with a community garden and labyrinth.
 
For the past seven years the Kulture Kids group has worked with students at the Cleveland Metropolitan School District elementary school, using original arts-integrated programs based on STEM concepts to teach them about everything from science to transportation through the arts.
 
This year, Rickoff students will learn about the difference between living and nonliving things, plant lifecycles, the environment, and scientific processes while creating a school and community garden.
 
“Our mission is to integrate the arts into the academic curriculum,” explains Kulture Kids founding artistic director Robin Pease. “With the Year of Vibrant Green Space, I was thinking about what we were going to do, and we found this large green space.” The lesson then became clear.
 
“I thought of the science of plants native to Ohio,” she says. “We thought, there’s so much you can learn from a garden – responsibility, the life cycle.”
 
The three-year project will include flowers and vegetables, many grown from seed by the students in their classrooms. Plants will include sunflowers, bulbs, raspberries, carrots, lettuces, beets, tomatoes, beans, an herb spiral and milkweed to attract monarch butterflies.
 
Pease says they plan to share the garden’s bounty with the surrounding Mount Pleasant community. “Whatever food we grow, we hope to share with the neighborhood,” she says. “And flowers are pretty and smell good.”
 
Kulture Kids is relying on donations for many of the seeds, bulbs and plant material. DistinctCle is donating herb seeds to grow, as is The Ohio State University Extension Services, and organizers plan to take advantage of the Cleveland Public Library’s free heirloom seeds library. Master Gardeners of Cuyahoga County and the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability have also provided in-kind support.
 
The design also includes an earthworm hatchery to promote healthy soil.
 
The centerpiece of the garden will a labyrinth-like paved trail. “This isn’t really a maze, there’s no trick to it,” Pease says of the labyrinth’s design. “It’s a path and you follow it to the center. I guess it’s a path to nowhere, but it’s a path for meditation, for thought and reflection.”
 
In fact, Pease sees the labyrinth as a potential alternative to detention at the school. “Kids get in trouble and get detention,” she explains. “We thought, wouldn’t it be cool if kids could instead go walk through the garden and meditate and think – to take a moment, to think, to take a breath.”
 
But before the path can be built, Kulture Kids needs both volunteer and materials support. The group is actively searching for someone to donate the paver stones and boulders as well as landscapers willing to work on the garden and path. The group can arrange for transporting larger stone donations, according to Kristan Rothman, Kulture Kids’ operations director
 
Pease points out that, as a 501(C) (3) nonprofit, their funds are limited, but donations are also tax-exempt. “We definitely need a lot of help to do this project,” she says. “We’re looking for a landscaper who will help guide us and we’re looking for donations from the community to make this happen.”
 
Kulture Kids has already received an $18,812 grant from Cuyahoga Arts and Culture for physical aspects of the $53,000 project, says Rothman, as well as a $7,364 grant from the Ohio Arts Council and a $15,500 grant from the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation for Kulture Kids’ in-classroom residency work.
 
The search for volunteers has turned into its own lesson to the Rickoff students. “We talked to the kids about 'what is a community',” explains Pease. “One kid said, ‘It’s me, but it’s also the principal and the janitor. It’s the gas station down the street.’ They saw that a community is all of us. We have to work together.”
 
To further the community presence, organizers are applying for a Toni Morrison bench. If approved, the $3,500 commemorative bench will become part of the Bench by the Road project, which represents significant periods and places in African American history.
 
Pease explains that the Mount Pleasant neighborhood has a rich history, with African American farmers settling in the community in 1893. In fact, Rickoff School is the site of an historical marker honoring Carl Stokes and Jim Brown that was spearheaded by Cleveland city councilman Zack Reed.

"We're hoping the garden will continue the settlement of Mount Pleasant,” says Pease.
 
The Rickoff Community Garden residency began in October with visual artist Wendy Mahon helping the students with the creation of herbariums. This month the students will begin working with a composer on an original song. Pease will then work with students in late February and early March to plant their seeds in the classroom, while dancer Desmond Davis will work with students to choreograph an original dance in March and early April.
 
The garden will officially launch on May 13, with a formal name and logo designed by the students.

Seventy-nine new homes coming to the heart of Buckeye

Tomorrow, Wednesday, Oct. 19, the official groundbreaking on Legacy at St. Luke’s will mark the beginning of a new, revitalized Buckeye neighborhood. Zaremba Homes will build 79 homes at 11327 Shaker Blvd. on Britt Oval, near the Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and E. 114th Street intersection.

Lisa Saffle, director of sales and marketing for Zaremba, says the company is happy to be working on another Cleveland residential development project. “We are very pleased and feel proud to be chosen as the builder on this project,” she says, adding that Zaremba is just completing work on the Woodhaven project in the Fairfax neighborhood. “This is what we do – redevelop neighborhoods, create walkable neighborhoods in the city of Cleveland.”

The new two- and three-bedroom homes and townhomes will range from 1,700 to 2,400 square feet and have two-car garages and available patio space. They will sit on well-lit, tree-lined and landscaped streets.
 
The houses will be a 50-50 mix of market rate, starting at $170,000, and affordable lease-purchase options. They are the restart of a housing construction plan that launched in 2004 with the construction of 22 new homes along E. 111th Street before the real estate market crash halted progress.
 
“The pause button was hit,” says Jeff Kipp, director of neighborhood marketing for Cleveland Neighborhood Progress. “We think the time is right and the market is ready. This will complete the renovation of the St. Luke’s campus.”
 
“It is exciting to see this development continue in the Buckeye neighborhood,” adds Joel Ratner, president and CEO of Neighborhood Progress. “Started over a decade ago, it was envisioned to be a new construction, mixed-income community that would provide new residential opportunities in the neighborhood.”
 
The 22 homes that were built in 2004 are full occupied, says Kipp. “This was first really new -  market rate new - construction that was built in the last 30 years in the heart of Buckeye.”
 
The additional homes being built this year will only add to the neighborhood’s renaissance, Kipp says. “This is an effort to really strengthen the real estate market. There are lots of assets in this neighborhood, but when you haven’t seen new construction that market needs a pickup.”
 
Assets include proximity to the neighboring Intergenerational School, the recently developed Harvey Rice Elementary School, the Rice Branch of the Cleveland Public library, University Circle, Shaker Square and the Larchmere Arts and Antiques District.

The gem of the neighborhood will be Britt Oval, which will be preserved as a one-acre plot of greenspace. Neighborhood Progress received a $250,000 grant from the Ohio State Operating Budget to develop the land. Kipp says they will consult with residents to determine final plans for the oval.
 
Legacy at St. Luke’s is a cooperative effort between Neighborhood Progress and Buckeye Shaker Square Development Corporation, both of which owned the land and sold it to Zaremba. “Now, along with our partners, we are able to realize this vision and complete the redevelopment of the Saint Luke’s campus,” says Ratner.
 
Neighborhood Progress and Buckeye Shaker Development solicited residents’ input on what they wanted in the neighborhood. The result is housing that will appeal to working class families and young professionals alike, with a bit more space and a more modern design. “We’re balancing the iconic landmark structure of the hospital with modern design,” Kipp explains. “It's an opportunity to highlight the benefits of city living and another urban neighborhood that has proximity and assets.”
 
The homes offer views of the St. Luke’s building and proximity to the RTA 116th Street St. Luke’s Rapid stop, which is undergoing a $5 million renovation to be completed in spring 2018. The new homes will be eligible for tax abatement from the city of Cleveland and part of the Greater Circle Living incentive program for employees of Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland Museum of Art and Judson at University Circle.

Saffle says Zaremba met with the architect to finalize floor plans and they hope to officially start construction in the spring. The company is already taking reservations for the homes.
 
Cleveland mayor Frank Jackson and Ohio senator Sandra Williams are expected to join the groundbreaking ceremony tomorrow at 11 a.m., as well as representatives from Neighborhood Progress, Buckeye Shaker Square Development and Zaremba.

Edwins campus completes second phase

When De’Anthony Harris was released from Grafton Correctional Institution last October, he had a new outlook on his future. And, thanks to Brandon Chrostowski, owner of EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant  Institute on Shaker Square, Harris also has a second chance at a successful life.

During his eight years in prison Harris, now 27, did everything he could to improve his odds in the outside world. “The best thing that happened to me is I didn’t have kids when I went in,” he says. “The only responsibility was myself. I was blessed that I did the right thing.”
 
Harris enrolled in Chrostowski’s culinary training class at Grafton. He also earned his temporary commercial driver's license (CDL) for truck driving, a certification in pet grooming and any took just about any other workforce training program the prison offered.


 
Chrostowski opened EDWINS in November 2013. The restaurant employs former inmates in Ohio prisons to teaches them the inside ropes of an upscale French restaurant. EDWINS has graduated 145 students men and women, with another 30 graduating in December. A new class of 30 started on August 8 and will begin working at the restaurant today.
 
In addition to the restaurant, Chrostowski has been busy building the EDWINS Second Chance Life Skills Center in the Buckeye neighborhood to further help his students get a solid fresh start.
 
Edwin is not only Chrostowski’s middle name, it also stands for “Education Wins,” says Chrostowski – the whole mission of the restaurant and the skills center campus.
 
“If we can educate our students to a new reality and maximize their potential and educate our guests on the level of quality of someone coming out of prison,” Chrostowski explains, “then we can educate the men and women in corrections that there is more than a number to [being] a human being and instill hope inside of our prisons.”
 
When phase two of the project is officially completed next week, Harris will serve as the Resident Advisor (RA) in the student housing dormitories on the 20,000-sqaure-foot campus on the corner of South Moreland and Buckeye in Cleveland’s Buckeye neighborhood.
 
After beginning the $1.3 million construction project on the EDWINS campus late last July, Chrostowski has transformed a once-rundown and somewhat abandoned portion of the street into a vibrant neighborhood. The campus's three buildings house an 8,000-square-foot, a three-story dorm, an eight-bedroom alumni house for EDWINS graduates, a fitness room, weight room, library and test kitchen.
 
“No one wanted to partner with us,” Chrostowski says of his early fundraising efforts. But then $1 million came from two anonymous donors and the execution of his vision began. “There’s a need for housing and there’s a need for someone who wants to be better.”
 
 Chrostowski extensively renovated and remodeled the interior spaces and spruced up the exterior with landscaping and freshly painted trim on the exteriors of the red-brick buildings. Much of the material and labor was done at or below cost by area contractors.


 
From the front of the library building, a sign touting "EDWINS" adorns new a glass front. Chrostowski is expecting granite glass tiles to be delivered any day now, sold below cost to EDWINS by Solon-based Granex Industries, which will border the bottom of the front windows. Fir trees in square wooden planters welcome passersby on the street.
 
The building that houses the newly-painted EDWINS library and test kitchen was in disrepair when Chrostowski took ownership of the property. Just 13 months and $480,000 later, thanks to generous donations and fundraising, the building features new plumbing and electrical.
 
“The building was a total wreck,” Chrostowski recalls as he looks around the renovated room, which at one time was filled with garbage and dead animals.
 
“It never seems to stop,” he says of the work required. “Our students needed this. The student is my boss, so they dictate what has to be done. It’s not what I want to get done.”  
 
Bookshelves and eight computers line the library’s walls, each with internet access and all of Chrostowski’s lessons via Grafton’s Hope Channel.
 
The library shelves are already stacked with about 100 culinary books. The collection continues to grow. “I want to build the biggest culinary library in the state,” Chrostowski says, adding that he hopes to accumulate 1,000 books.
 
Adjacent to the library is the test kitchen, with state-of-the-art equipment for the residents to hone their culinary skills and experiment with new recipes. “The dream is to always be around food,” Chrostowski explains of the setup.
 
Down the hall, past administrative offices, are lockers and showers next to an exercise room with workout equipment and a large-screen television, while the basement houses a weight lifting room. Another basement area is filled with donations of household goods, which will be sold in a planned store.
 
Beachwood-based Thomas Brick Company donated 10 pallets of tile for the test kitchen and locker rooms.
 
On the roof of the building are hives with 20,000 Italian honeybees, whose honey is harvested for many of EDWINS’ recipes. Below is a full sized basketball court, a greenhouse and a chicken coop that is home to three chickens. “The greenhouse will be the spring incubator for our summer vegetables,” Chrostowski explains.


 
Chrostowski recruited Lakewood artist Bob Peck to paint a mural on the wall abutting the basketball court. Chrostowski hopes to acquire the currently-vacant building from the Cuyahoga Land Bank for a future butcher shop.
 
The dorm houses seven apartment suites with room for about 20 students. The suites feature living areas, bedrooms and, of course, full-equipped kitchens.
 
While phase two is nearly complete, Chrostowski already has his sights set on the next phase of his dream to not only give former convicts a second chance at a productive, fulfilling life, but to revitalize the Buckeye neighborhood.
 
Chrostowski is eying a home just behind the EDWINS campus that he hopes to buy and convert into family housing for students. In addition to the buildings directly next door, he's also watching a couple of buildings down the street that would make good storefronts for a future fish market and butcher shop.


 
With the help of Jones Day, Chrostowski has set up the EDWINS Foundation to cover costs for current and future endeavors.
 
For Harris, the campus feels like home. He’s busy managing the final construction jobs, “giving a helping hand wherever needed and physical labor,” while also enforcing curfews and calming residents’ disputes as a certified mediator. “It works, it really does work,” he says of the mediation skills he learned at Cleveland State.
 
Harris is also continuing his pursuit to be a truck driver, hoping to see more of the country, as he’s never traveled beyond Cleveland. “I’ve never been nowhere,” he says, “I’ll go anywhere they tell me to go.”
 
For now, Harris is quite happy on the EDWINS campus. “People ask me, ‘how did you get that job?’ and I say ‘I educated myself,’” he explains. “You’re not just getting a job, you’re getting a family too. That’s your backbone. I would recommend this program to anyone.”

Hundreds volunteer, build new Fairfax Playspace

When the first intergenerational housing development in Ohio was built in 2014, Griot Village’s 40 units became a safe place in the Fairfax neighborhood for adults aged 55 and older to raise the minor children of whom they had custody.
 
Griot Village has been a success. However, there was one thing missing from the complex: A place for play.
 
To that end, last week, 249 volunteers from Morgan Stanley, Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation (FRDC), Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA), KaBOOM!, and community members from area construction companies, universities and churches joined forces to build a playground at Griot Village.
 
“It was awesome,” says Denise VanLeer, executive director of FRDC. “We always wanted to add a play space and garden area.”
 
The volunteers spent time ahead of the build cutting wood and getting everything ready, says VanLeer. Representatives from Whiting-Turner, Lake Erie Electric, Donley’s Construction and Ozanne Construction prepped the lot by removing tree stumps and old fencing and grading and leveling the lot.
 
The volunteers gathered early Wednesday morning to begin construction on "Playspace," a structure that was designed by the kids in Griot Village.
 
“We had a design day in May,” explains VanLeer. “They drew pictures of what they wanted to see there. Of course, they wanted a lot of stuff we couldn’t put in, but they were so excited.”
 
In addition to the brightly-colored equipment in purple, yellow and lime green, the group also installed picnic tables, planters, soccer goals and a rolling, oversized Connect Four game. The Greater Cleveland Food Bank donated vegetable plants for the garden.
 
The whole project, which is wheelchair accessible, was constructed on four housing lots that were specifically reserved for a play area. “We just knew we wanted to transform these lots,” says VanLeer.
 
The Cleveland Clinic, the Food Bank and FRDC made sure everyone was fed during the process.
 
While the structure had to sit for three days to let the concrete base set, the kids were able to get a preview throughout the planning, prep work and construction. “They were so excited, they could peek in through the fence,” says VanLeer.  
 
The crew was so enthusiastic about the work they were doing that they finished the playground an hour early. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held a few minutes before 2 p.m.
 
“It was such an awesome experience,” says VanLeer. “We got there in the morning and you have this vacant lot and you’re done by 1:30.

Morgan Stanley was the national sponsor for the project, while the Cleveland Clinic was the local supporter.

CDCs: the quiet but powerful engines driving neighborhood revitalization

The economic recession that began in 2007 impacted nearly every United States city. Compounded by the burst of the housing bubble in 2008, many Cleveland neighborhoods took a hard hit.
 
“Every neighborhood was affected by the Great Recession pretty much everywhere,” says Joel Ratner, president and CEO of Cleveland Neighborhood Progress (CNP), an organization committed to neighborhood revitalization. “Every one of our neighborhoods suffered.”
 
Many Cleveland neighborhoods have successfully recovered, with thriving places like Ohio City, Tremont and Collinwood being ideal examples. There are pockets in the city, however, that continue to struggle. “Most are coming back,” Ratner says. “The question is: where have they come back to and where were they?”
 
Ratner cites the Hough and Mount Pleasant neighborhoods as two areas that have not quite climbed out of the housing crash. “There are several east side neighborhoods that continue to have vacancies and abandonments,” he says. “The Hough neighborhood continues to struggle and places like Mount Pleasant really have a lot of work to do to restore the real estate market.”
 
For those neighborhoods that are beginning to bounce back, Ratner says the key to success is an active community development corporation (CDC). “We believe that where there is a strong CDC, they are able to lift up the neighborhood,” he explains, naming Tremont, the Detroit Shoreway, Central and University Circle as areas with robust CDCs. “Where there are great CDCs we’re seeing community benefits.”
 
Slavic Village Recovery Project, for example, is a collaborative effort between the neighborhood’s CDC, CNP, Forest City Enterprises and RIK Enterprises that acquires and renovates vacant homes, then sells them at affordable rates. The idea is to stabilize the housing market in Slavic Village while also making it an attractive neighborhood for potential home buyers.
 
At the same time Northeast Shores Development in Collinwood and other agencies have spent the last decade creating a destination for arts and culture with efforts such as the Waterloo Arts District. “Waterloo and Collinwood have a lot of exciting things going on,” says Ratner. “People are starting to see market recovery.”
 
In Glenville, the Cleveland Cultural Gardens reflect the neighborhood’s rebirth. “They’re beginning to see a renaissance there,” says Ratner. “The housing stock is really a treasure.”
 
St. Clair Superior and the Campus District CDCs teamed up to host Night Market Cleveland, creating a popular new destination event that brought exposure to AsiaTown and Quarter Arts District and encouraged appreciation for the diverse cultures that characterize the area. The effort garnered a CNP’s 2016 Vibrant City award.
 
Stockyards, Clark Fulton, Brooklyn Centre Community Development Office also received a Vibrant City Award for its part in bringing La Placita to fruition. The Hispanic-themed open air market provides business development opportunities to entrepreneurs and easy access to local goods and fresh foods for residents in the surrounding Detroit Shoreway neighborhood.
 
Ratner notes other projects, such as Goldhorn Brewery on E. 55th Street in the St. Clair Superior neighborhood, the Innova apartments straddling University Circle and the Hough neighborhood, and quieter endeavors in the Central neighborhood such as the small but mighty Ka-La Healing Garden and Resource Center show signs of revitalization.
 
"There are a lot of promising efforts going on around our city,” says Ratner. “There’s a lot of great stuff going on.”
 
And people are noticing, he adds. While previous generations moved out of Cleveland in favor of the suburbs, the city’s booming residential construction today is evidence that the locals are coming back. “They’re beginning to see the joys of the city and what a treasure it is,” he says. “Now people are coming in to Cleveland, especially the boomerangers.”
 
Newcomers to Cleveland are attracted to city living as well. “Someone comes in and doesn’t know the city, or they’ve been away, they have a fresh eye and they are not encumbered by the previous notions of ourselves,” Ratner says. “One of our burdens is our too-negative view of ourselves. As more people come here, we have an updated view.”

State allocates $6.1 million to Cuyahoga County for residential demolition

As part of the state's effort to eliminate blight, the Ohio Housing Finance Agency announced last November that it would distribute $13 million in funding for the demolition of distressed residential properties. This was the fourth such round of the Neighborhood Initiative Program (NIP), which has received $79 million in funding from the U. S. Department of Treasury's Hardest Hit Fund.
 
Cuyahoga County received $6,075,000 of the $13 million.
 
"This program started in summer of 2014," says Cuyahoga Land Bank's chief operating officer Bill Whitney of the NIP. "Before this $6 million, we received $14 million and have spent approximately $13 million of that." In doing so, he adds, the organization has demolished about 1,050 properties with the funds, 850 of which were done in 2015.
 
"This last award of $6 million brings the total to $20 million since 2014," says Whitney of the NIP funding. "We expect now be able to continue the program and probably demolish an additional 480 to 500 properties."
 
Of the 12 Ohio counties receiving these most recently announced allocations, Cuyahoga was awarded the lion's share, with Lucas County's $2.3 million allocation coming in second. The 10 other counties received $500,000 each.
 
Coming in "first" in a funding round such as this is sobering indeed, but not unexpected considering the state of northeast Ohio's residential vacancy rate.
 
A comprehensive property survey conducted last year by Western Reserve Land Conservancy, in collaboration with the City of Cleveland, counted 3,809 vacant residential properties graded D (deteriorated) or F (unsafe or hazardous). When combined with the 1,437 residential properties condemned by the city, the total is 5,246 structures that may be candidates for demolition. While that figure is daunting, it is also 32 percent lower than the city's 2013 estimate of 7,771 vacant and distressed properties.
 
The Cuyahoga Land Bank acquires foreclosed properties from HUD and Fannie May as well as tax foreclosures. Demolitions are restricted to vacant and abandoned blighted properties the organization owns. It does not demolish properties that have more than four units, those that might have historical significance or any property that is connected to other residences such as row homes.
 
Referencing a graphic that categorizes Cleveland neighborhoods and a host of eastside inner ring suburbs as either undergoing "revitalization" or nearing a "tipping point," Whitney explains that the revitalization sections are experiencing the most severe effects of the foreclosure crisis. They are also in predominately African American neighborhoods.
 
"In general, the foreclosure crisis here – and maybe in other places – was extremely racist," says Whitney.
 
If a property is salvageable, the land bank works with community development corporations and humanitarian organizations to rehabilitate it and put it to constructive use.
 
"We try to save any property we can," says Whitney. The organization prioritizes at-risk populations such as refugees, veterans and the disabled. Partner organizations include the Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry and a host of area CDC's. Whitney tags Slavic Village Development, Northeast Shores Development Corporation, the Famicos Foundation and the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization. In such cases, properties will transfer for as little as one dollar.
 
"Everybody needs housing," says Whitney.
 
"To keep things in perspective," he continues, "in our six years of operation, we've acquired about 5,000 properties. We've demolished about 3,500 and have been able to save about 1,000." Of that number, approximately one third go to humanitarian causes with the balance going to market. Prospective buyers are thoroughly screened and the land bank holds the title until they have brought the property up to municipal code.
 
To get an idea of the task at hand, Fresh Water invites readers to scroll through the properties owned by Cuyahoga Land Bank.
 
"There's still an awful lot of stuff to do," says Whitney, "but it's gradually getting better."
 

Holiday connections of a different sort: a little chickadee and a police station party

This holiday season, the Cleveland Metroparks invites families looking for something beyond the season's ubiquitous candy and glitzy digital animation to make a more authentic and gentler connection – with nature.

An array of free hand feed the chickadees programs offer up a breathtaking experience that's been a Metroparks tradition for more than five decades. Avian enthusiasts stand in a designated spot with an open hand of sunflower seeds and the tiny creatures land therein, pick up a seed and fly away to eat it.
 
"The trick is to watch a person's face as a bird lands in their hand," says the Metroparks' director of outdoor experiences Wendy Weirich. "That's worth everything."
 
The program is available at the Brecksville Nature Center from Dec. 19 through 31 from 10 a.m. to noon every day except Christmas, and on Saturdays and Sundays from Jan. 2 through Feb. 28 also 10 a.m. to noon. Two 1.5-mile Chickadee Feeding Hikes will be conducted at the Rocky River Reservation on Jan. 3 and 24 from 10 to 11 a.m., or meet the hungry and not-so-timid chickadees at the North Chagrin Reservation, which hosts bird-watching hiking events of various lengths on Dec. 19, 21, 26, 27, 29 and Jan. 4.
 
Would-be wildlife explorers are advised to dress for the weather with layered clothing and appropriate footwear (trails may be snowy or icy). Calling ahead to confirm programming and registering is always a good idea.
 
"It's connecting people to nature," says Weirich. "What’s more important than that? If we don't get the next generation falling in love with nature, we're in for some trouble."
 
She notes that the feed the chickadee programs do not impact the birds' natural feeding habits - but it does impact program participants.
 
"It's a life changing experience," says Weirich."
 
For a connection of a different sort, this Saturday, Dec. 19, the 73rd Street Block Club and Ka-La Healing Garden Resource Center will team up for their fifth annual Winterfest event, which is for children up to age 17. Free and open to the public, the event will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Cleveland Police Department's Third District Community Room, 4501 Chester Avenue. Kids will enjoy a host of holiday treats and receive toys as well as hats and gloves. Last year's event attracted nearly 20 volunteers and 100 area kids, many of whom come from economically disadvantaged homes.
 
Previously held at the Ka - La Garden, this year holding Winterfest at the new police station will help reinforce one of the ongoing goals of the organizers: getting urban youths to interact with police in a positive way. While that ambition is surely lofty and honorable, event founder and community organizer Tanya Holmes says it's not the best part of the annual Winterfest.
 
So what is?
 
"The looks on the kids' faces," she says, and somewhere a chickadee chirps.

Successful pilot program paves the way for 50 sheep to graze vast urban solar field

In a partnership with St. Clair Superior Development Corporation (SCSDC), the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) welcomed three unusual guests last week to their sprawling Kinsman neighborhood campus, 8120 Kinsman Road.
 
Benny, Kenny and Mr. Wade performed a weeklong audition in anticipation of next season, when CMHA will welcome 50 sheep to tend its six-acre solar field.
 
"This was a small scale test, says CMHA sustainability manager Tina Brake. "We didn't want to find out the hard way that they were going to interfere with the solar equipment."
 
In fact, the trio passed with flying colors before heading back to Five Points Farm in Sullivan, Ohio over the weekend. The three were part of the 36-head flock that normally grazes the green space adjacent to the Quay 55 building just north of the Shoreway as part of the Urban Lambscape Program.
 
Getting up close and personal with the sheep, one finds them to be incredibly friendly and sweet animals that are unafraid of people and quick to nuzzle up in search of a petting hand.
 
"They're like big dogs," says CMHA landscape assistant Amanda Block. "They'll just follow you around. They like to be in a group," she adds, noting that the preference applies to humans as well as other sheep. "They'll automatically herd with you."
 
The sheep were chosen over ne'er-do-well goats.
 
"Goats will eat anything," says Brake, noting that would include wiring and equipment associated with the solar field. "Goats would probably jump on top of the paneling."
 
Conversely the gentle sheep didn't disrupt anything during the weeklong trial. They're also able to do a task humans cannot. One inspection of the vast 4,200 solar panel array tells the tale.
 
"This is a very difficult thing for a human and a machine to mow," says Brake. "This natural grazing not only saves us carbon from all the gas guzzling mowing machines, it's also just really hitting those social and sustainability high points." She notes that the sheep will nicely complement the Green Team Initiative, a program through which residents are employed to cultivate young plants on the Kinsman road campus that for the CMHA's 14 community gardens. The resulting harvests are shared with CMHA residents.
 
To do their part as green ambassadors, when the sheep arrive next June they'll be organic mowers and animated teaching tools for area youths as well, particularly those involved with CMHA's 21st Century 21 program and the local Boys and Girls Club.
 
"We definitely want to get the kids to come and see them," says CMHA CEO Jeffery Patterson, "but also to hear what value they bring. Also, some kids have never had the opportunity to see livestock like this, so that exposure is tremendous."
 
"I think that seeing farm animals in action in an urban setting in their own neighborhood is going to be a really great experience," adds Brake.
 
Judging by the response thus far, the sheep are bound to be a hit with area youths.
 
"A lot of folks have really taken to them," says Patterson. "I was actually out of town when they arrived, but I saw the pictures of everyone falling in love with them. This batch is so friendly and so nice you can't help but be intrigued and be interested by them."
 
"It’s a really interesting dichotomy," adds Brake. "You have an urban site over here, trains, solar panels, sheep and you're here on Kinsman. It's a really interesting moment to capture."
 
Cleveland's urban sheep: the rundown
 
- Their primary diet is grass and natural vegetation.
 
- If the grass supply dwindles, the sheep get supplemental alfalfa.
 
- The sheep have a constant fresh water supply.
 
- The sheep require no special shelter, although they enjoy the shade the solar panels provide.
 
- Their wool insulates the sheep from heat as well as cold.
 
- A llama protects the herd by Quay 55 from natural predators. A stalwart security fence that's already in place will protect the CMHA herd.

Former Cleveland Brown Jurevicius nurtures small business, aims to expand

Amid the ongoing controversies plaguing professional sports, talking with Cleveland native Joe Jurevicius reveals that not all pro players have pro-sized egos.
 
"I like to call myself a has-been," says the humble Jurevicius. "My plane landed in 2008."
 
While his professional career with teams such as the Browns, the New York Giants, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks did indeed come to an end in 2008, he was a few years away from an unlikely second act: that of a small business owner dealing in laundry.
 
Laundry?
 
"The thing that seems obvious is a steak house or bar," says Jurevicius. "I didn't want to lend a name. I didn't want to just say I was an owner of a business because my name was involved. I literally wanted to be involved in the business. I'm a guy who likes to work."
 
Hence in 2012, Jurevicius built his first Spins Laundromat at 6912 Lorain Avenue and subsequently opened other locations at 7989 Euclid Avenue and earlier this year at 14930 Saint Clair Avenue.
 
"One laundromat would literally drive you crazy," says Jurevicius. "You would think that if you doubled or tripled what you had, it would maybe become worse, but it's actually just the opposite," he adds, noting that shopping for supplies in bulk is easier than purchasing the smaller quantities only one location would need. 
 
Earlier this year Jurevicius also launched a full-service laundry pick up and delivery business, WashClub Cleveland. While he's signed a handful of commercial contracts, including one with Cleveland Hopkins Airport, he's targeting any and all customers and urges people to feel comfortable about someone else, well, dealing with their dirty laundry.
 
"These are the tee shirts, the underwear - the personal stuff that you wear on a day-in/day-out basis," says Jurevicius. He urges prospective customers to be as comfortable hiring someone to do their laundry as they are hiring someone to plow the drive or mow the lawn.
 
"I know that for a mother who works all week and has four kids, the last thing she wants to do on the weekend is attack the laundry," says Jurevicius, adding that the same goes for anyone who's short on time and long on tasks. "It's a convenience thing: one less stress for a family or individual."
 
Services include wash and fold, dry cleaning and tailoring. Customers sign into their account via the website or a mobile app and tap in their order.
 
"It's basically letting us pick up [your laundry] and taking care of it so the only thing you have to do is take it out of bag and put it back in the closet."
 
One cannot help but admire the former NFLer's down-to-earth work ethic. He'll take up the slack when duty calls no matter what the task, be it washing clothes, sweeping up, making deliveries or taking out the trash.
 
"If you're going to know a business you need to know everything that’s encompassed in that business," says Jurevicius. Being a hands-on boss also garners the respect of his 12 employees and eases communications about what's going well and what isn't.
 
Jurevicius isn't done yet. He's looking to purchase additional property in as little as a few weeks, although he's mum on details other than to say the parcels he's eyeing are on the "near east side and near west side." He's also toying with finding a warehouse space to house all WashClub activities.
 
"The goal is to ultimately double or triple the number of employees I have," says Jurevicius. He also hopes to turn one delivery van into a fleet of six or more and eventually "walk away from this business down the road someday and say, 'Man, I accomplished something.'"
 
Judging from what he's been through, it's hard to imagine Jurevicius won't achieve those goals. His NFL career ended after a devastating staph infection put him through numerous surgeries, which he does not recall with bitterness. Instead he regards his 11 years with the NFL with endearing self-deprecation. "I look at a helmet or a pair of shoulder pads now and I go: no way. My body aches just looking at them."
 
While he concedes that the infection was one of the hardest things he's ever gone through, he is quick to add that it pales in comparison to the 2003 loss of Michael, firstborn son to Jurevicius and wife Meagan, who succumbed to a rare condition at just two and a half months old. Ironically, Michael's short life played out amid the Buccaneer's successful 2003 championship season and Super Bowl victory, when Jurevicius was a receiver for the team.
 
"I tend to put things in perspective," says Jurevicius. "I lost my career to an infection, but I've always been able to keep that in check compared to what I went through with my son."
 
For now, he's happy to be involved in the ongoing Northcoast renaissance.
 
"We have a lot of things to be proud of in Cleveland," say Jurevicius. "We're like a sleeper trendy city. I'm just trying to be part of it."

Three outdoor Fitness Zones open on the east side

Last week, the Buckeye, Larchmere and Woodland Hills neighborhoods each got a new public amenity courtesy of a host of community partners and a tenacious group of residents that make healthy living priority number one.
 
About 15 residents make up the Healthy Eating and Active Living (HEAL) Initiative of the greater Buckeye neighborhood, which worked for two years to get Fitness Zones at East End Neighborhood House, 2749 Woodhill Road, Fairhill Partners, 122 Fairhill Road, and the at the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority's Woodhill Community Center, 2491 Baldwin Road.
 
"It's really a labor of love," says Erica Chambers, HEAL coordinator for MetroHealth Medical Center. "It took a while to get it here."
 
Each fitness area features highly durable and rugged resistance training and cardiovascular equipment such as elliptical machines, leg and chest presses and recumbent bicycles, all of which is outdoors and specifically designed to handle the elements. The three installations are also adjacent to kids' play areas, so moms, dads and caregivers can get in a workout while their wards play.
 
Chambers recalls the project's inception. The Buckeye HEAL walking group was out scouting new routes when they came upon an outdoor gym installation in a suburban park and instantly became interested: How can we get this sort of stuff into our neighborhood?
 
With that challenge before them, the group reached out to the Trust for Public Land (TPL).
 
"From there, everything was kind of a go," says Chambers, adding that the HEAL group can take pride in the accomplishment. "They can say, 'You know what? People live here and they do care.' They actually got together. They organized. They learned a lot about this legislative process and how to work with the city and build partnerships and what an investment can look like when you bring the right people to the table to listen to the community."
 
TPL eventually coordinated the three Fitness Zone projects. Funding partners include the Saint Luke’s, Reinberger and CareSource Foundations, and the MetroHealth System. Saint Luke's granted $250,000 toward the approximately $300,000 project.
 
While Cleveland's weather is not exactly the same as that of sunny Muscle Beach in California, area fitness enthusiasts will no doubt enjoy pumping iron amid the elements.
 
"It's a wonderful opportunity for residents who often do not have access to top quality equipment to be engaged in physical activity," says Chambers.
 
While the new installations will bring immediate benefits to area residents, they may have broader implications across Ohio.
 
"We've done these across the country," says Kim Kimlin, TPL's Ohio program director. "These three sites were our pilot for Ohio."
 
TPL will eventually commission a research agency to conduct a usage evaluation of the Buckeye installations, which will determine the future of TPL's Fitness Zone program in Ohio
 
"W are particularly interested in underserved communities," says Kimlin, "where people don't have access to free exercise equipment. One of the great advantages of (a Fitness Zone) is you can get same workout you would get at an indoor gym, but it's free and its accessible to public."
 

Saint Luke's Foundation funds rapid station upgrades, community programs

Earlier this month, the Saint Luke's Foundation announced nearly $1 million in grants that will directly impact the Buckeye, Mt. Pleasant and Woodland Hills neighborhoods. Founded in 1997, the Foundation has focused mostly on the health and wellness of community members. Three years ago, however, Saint Luke's expanded its mission to include the fostering of strong neighborhoods and resilient families.

"The health of any species is tied to its environment," says Nelson Beckford, Saint Luke's senior program officer for a strong neighborhood. He adds that neighborhoods are our most immediate and impactful environments. "What can we do to make to make our neighborhoods more walkable, more livable, and to create a sense of place?"

The Foundation has always endeavored to focus on the original footprint that Saint Luke's Hospital serviced. Hence the recent Strong Neighborhoods grants will include $300,000 for the enhancement of the East 116th Street Rapid station, which Beckford emphasizes as a vital component of the neighborhood that provides a means for people to get to work and school and to find employment.

"Public transportation is 'small d' democratic," says Beckford. "Folks in this community deserve a good station, a station that's more accessible, that’s bright." Since the East 116th Street station is adjacent to Saint Luke's Pointe, 11327 Shaker Boulevard, he also sees it as an important portal to the resources in that facility, which houses schools, senior living, a Boys' and Girls' Club, a library and the Foundation itself.

The station is slated for a major $6.3 million rebuild starting next year. The Foundation decided to complement that effort with the grant funds, which will support the design and implementation of public art and functional enhancements. Beckford envisions the East 116th Street station going through a transformation similar to that of the Little Italy-University Station, the rebuild of which was unveiled this summer.
 
"This plan is to enhance the station, make it more connected to the neighborhood, and also to create a better experience for riders," says Beckford. "We believe they deserve it and the neighborhood deserves a high-quality rapid station."
 
Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, Inc. (CNP), which is also located on the Saint Luke's Pointe campus, will be shepherding the Foundation's portion of the project.
 
"I can't say enough about their power and what they can do and their vision for greater Cleveland specifically," says Beckford of CNP and its staff.
 
Another $110,000 in grant funds will support the launch of ioby in the Buckeye neighborhood. The "in our back yard" movement fosters placemaking and public art as well as the enhancement of public spaces, transit, food access, public health and schools -- all from within.
 
"It combines digital organization and crowdfunding with straight-up grassroots organizing," says Beckford, adding that ioby approaches situations with the mindset that the community is the expert and that its members have the solutions to the challenges they face. "Often times, the best solution is the local solution."
 
The initial grant will fund research during which ioby representatives will "connect with local leaders, conduct one-on-ones and assess the landscape," says Beckford.
 
The Foundation also granted $167,000 to the Food Trust to determine strategies on how to increase access to affordable healthy foods across the greater Cleveland area; $150,000 to The Centers for Families and Children for operational support; $70,000 to the Murtis Taylor Human Services System to upgrade its communication infrastructure equipment; $60,000 to the adult education organization Seeds of Literacy to support the expansion of its facility in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood; and $65,000 to support a collaboration between Towards Employment Inc. and Beech Brook that aims to pair career pathway training with parenthood education and support for persons in the greater Cleveland area.
 
"We're very bullish about this neighborhood," says Beckford. "Part of our work is to remind people that there's a lot of really good work happening. Part of our role at the Foundation is to help support that and bring that to scale.
 
"So many people have an emotional connection to this place. We think it’s a special place."

Tony Sias prepares to take the helm at Karamu

Last Friday, Tony Sias stepped down from his position as director of arts education for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) in order to become the chief executive officer of the storied Karamu House, which marks it's 100th year in 2015.
 
Fresh Water sat down with this charismatic Clevelander to get the low down on where he's been, where's he's going and how he intends to measure up to one the area's most beloved and historic cultural venues.
 
What's your priority list when you step into Karamu?
 
The first thing is really building a relationship with the staff, to hear what their dreams are and get a better understanding of what people do. The other piece is communicating to community that the doors are open and there's a place for you -- the community -- to come to Karamu, to understand programming, to have an influence on what we do and how we do it.

That’s to say whoever comes through the door, that we celebrate who they are and use their culture, their ethnicity as a positive; and that we learn and build off of that.

This also goes so far beyond race and ethnicity. It's around the economic differences, or those who may have special needs. How do we reengage the millennials? How do we celebrate all of these people? How do we integrate them into the larger Karamu family?

It's really about community.

How do you make that happen on the ground?

I would love to see a more robust education program that is skill based and sequential in its instruction so that we can develop young talent over the years, so that Karamu is truly a performing arts training ground—visual and performing arts.
 
I also see us providing a culturally responsive pedagogical approach to instruction so that we are a place where anyone -- children, families -- can come to get formal training in the arts. This isn't only about young people; this is about lifelong learners.

We'd like to be able to contribute to being a premier place where, if films or commercials are being shot, that we have the talent to be a "first stop." That would be important to me.
 
How does that fit into your at-large vision of Karamu?
 
Being an administrator that has a strong arts background will really help bolster moving this agenda forward in terms of three very distinctive buckets while aligning all of them. When I say three buckets, there is the theater, the day care center and the educational program. How do these things become aligned and sequential in all of the services?
 
That's exciting to me: to be able to say, how do we not only create an alignment, but how do we solidify and crystallize the brand, the mission, the vision, and the core values?
 
It's a whole bunch of great ingredients. How do we sequence this recipe? How do we put it together at the right time to make it what we want it to be?
 
It's building on the success of past and re-envisioning what this should be for the next 100 years.
 
Are you a bit melancholy that you're leaving the school district just as the dazzling new Cleveland School of the Arts building is finally open?
 
After 15 years, it's been fantastic run at the school district. To have watched students come into various programs, to see the power of the arts with them and to see them move on and graduate; I feel like the completion of that building was a completion for me.
 
When I got to the school district, there was all this conversation over whether this building was going to happen or not going to happen. And to be so Intimately involved in design process, to have worked with community stakeholders making that happen, it's a dream come true.
 
And it's a great end to a chapter—or to a book—or to a chapter. I don't know if it's a book or a chapter (laughs).
 
What has driven this big change?
 
I have told people I left a very secure job with a great pension and great benefits, but it's so important take a risk and look at the potential of how my life can change and how Karamu's life as an institution can change. It was important for me to say, 'Hey, you have a passion for this. You only live once. You love this institution. Why not go and invest all that you have in it to make it a better place?'
 
I'm passionate about Karamu. It's a national treasure.

Luxury high rise in University Circle set to break ground in January

Construction is slated to begin in January on a 20-floor luxury apartment building at Euclid Avenue and Stokes Boulevard in University Circle. The new high rise would add another high-end residential option in this booming, popular community.

One University Circle, at 10730 Euclid Ave., should be ready for occupancy by January 2018. The 280-unit building will include 268 units averaging about 1,000 square feet, 12 additional penthouses, a four-story parking garage, outdoor grilling area, fitness room and yoga studio. The building also will have a café and market, business center and residents’ lounge.

Dimit Architects designed the building, which includes a window wall and terracotta panel system for the exterior of the building. All of the units will have floor-to-ceiling glass, and some of them will have balconies or patios.

University Circle Inc. president Chris Ronayne, who likens the project to similar apartment projects in New York’s Central Park and Chicago’s Millennium Park, envisions a diverse group of tenants, from academics and millennials to empty nesters. “You’re going to see a pretty diverse cross-section of people in One University Circle,” he predicts. “People who appreciate the amenities.” The building will offer easy access to the RTA HealthLine.

Ronayne adds that the rising demand for city living in Cleveland will contribute to One University Circle’s appeal.

It’s all about density when it comes to revitalizing any neighborhood, he comments. The residential component is just one factor. Retailers and public transportation are the other components that contribute to a thriving city.

“When you’re looking at 280 units on 1.3 acres, you’re looking at the density of a major city,” he explains. “You need that kind of density to create foot traffic, retailers, for public transportation. We want a complete neighborhood where in a 20-minute walk you can find everything you need. The Circle has become a complete neighborhood.”

A portion of the land at 10730 Euclid Ave. currently houses the Children’s Museum, which will be moving to the Stager-Beckwith mansion in Midtown.
 
First Interstate Properties and Petros Development are partnering with University Circle Inc. on the project. Panzica Construction will be the general contractor.
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