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Dinner-for-two, prix fixe specials and competitions in 56 local eateries for weeklong event

The 10th annual Downtown Cleveland Restaurant Week will kick off this Friday, Feb. 17, in a 10-day competition between downtown restaurants for the title of Restaurant of the Year, as well as a chance for diners to shake off the winter blues and get out to enjoy discounts at some of Cleveland’s best and newest restaurants.

“The whole reason we produce Downtown Restaurant Week at this time of year is because February tends to be a slower month,” says Heather Holmes, marketing and public relations director of event host Downtown Cleveland Alliance (DCA). “It gives people the opportunity to get out to downtown and try something new.”
 
Fifty-six downtown restaurants will participate in Restaurant Week this year — with both the old favorites and some newcomers to the scene — and will offer prix fixe lunch and dinner menus for $15, $20 and $40.
 
“Some of the restaurants even use those prices for dinner-for-two specials,” says Holmes, adding that Rose’s Braai in the Arcade plans to offer a two-for-$15 lunch special. Many newcomers, like Parker’s Downtown in the Kimpton Schofield, Nuevo Cleveland, Raving Med and the Burnham — just to name a few of the 12 new restaurants that opened downtown last year — will also be participating.
 
Another newcomer, Chicago’s Chicken and Waffles, at 1144 Prospect Ave. in Playhouse Square, chose not to participate this year.
 
This year, local chefs and restaurateurs in six districts — Public Square/Tower City, Gateway, Playhouse Square, Campus District, Warehouse District and the Flats — will also compete in The Hungry Games: Battle of the Districts for the title of Best Dining District.
 
"It’s a fun thing for the chefs to get behind, and what’s better than a little friendly competition” says Holmes of the battle. “I thought it would be fun to see the Zach Bruell [places] bringing their game and competing against the Michael Symon places.”
 
The winning district earns bragging rights, says Holmes, as well as a mention in an upcoming issue of Cleveland Magazine.
 
Other categories during Restaurant Week are Judge's Choice, Best New Restaurant and Restaurant of the Year. Diners can view the participating restaurants and their menus, as well as vote for their favorites. For every vote cast, diners earn a chance to win free downtown dining for a year.
 
Last year, judges chose Johnny's Downtown as their favorite, while diners picked Elements Bistro and Cleveland Chop took home Restaurant of the Year. The Rusty Anchor at Music Box Supper Club claimed the award for “most mouthwatering,” says Holmes.
 
Additionally, DCA will host a kick-off party this Thursday, Feb. 16 from 5 to 8 p.m. in the Hyatt Regency Cleveland in the Arcade, 401 Euclid Ave. Attendees can sample selections from more than 30 participating restaurants, enjoy cocktails from the cash bar and shop the Arcade’s retailers.
 
“Sponsors will parachute gifts off the balconies,” promises Holmes, and a panel of celebrity judges will name the Judge’s Choice establishment.
 
Tickets are $25, with all proceeds going to DCA’s GeneroCity Cleveland, an organization dedicated to helping the city’s homeless population find permanent housing, get job training and other assistance. The Kick-off party is for people ages 21 and older.

Mural to bloom at Public Square bakery

Beginning next week, the employees at Bloom Bakery at the 200 Public Square location will tap into their creative juices to paint a 10-foot by 10-foot mural on the walls of the café.

Aiming to connect the arts with business, the project is a joint endeavor between Towards Employment, the non-profit organization dedicated to helping low income and disadvantaged adults achieve self-sufficiency through employment, the founder of Bloom and Negative Space Gallery executive director Gadi Zamir.
 
“We always wanted to do something with the space and tie in art,” explains Bloom general manager Logan Fahey. “This fits with our mission and uses art to represent what the business stands for. Through this mural, employees will be able to gain exposure to the artistic community and help create an artistic expression that is ingrained in Bloom.”
 
Five Bloom employees, all of whom recently came out of incarceration and are graduates of Towards Employment, volunteered to be involved in the project. Bloom employs 18 at its two locations, 16 of which are Towards Employment graduates.
 
“Everything we do is about providing opportunities to our graduates and employees,” says Fahey. “We want this mural to be emblematic of our commitment to providing training and employment opportunities to those with barriers.”
 
The mural is inspired by the painting “Purple Haze” by local artist James March, who specializes in abstract works.
 
Zamir, who is also an artist, will sketch the mural on Thursday and Friday, Dec. 8 and 9. The employees will begin painting it on Monday, Dec. 12. Zamir will help the employees through the process, then touch up the mural when it is complete.
 
Fahey says Towards Employment began talking with Zamir a few months ago about how to motivate the organization’s graduates through the arts. “He really has a passion for helping people with barriers to employment,” Fahey says. “He is an artist who was willing to open up to our graduates and let them into his studio.”
 
More than 6,000 people in Cuyahoga County are released from state prison each year, according to Towards Employment. The organization helps more than 500 of them with finding jobs. The organization helps a total of 2,000 people yearly in Cuyahoga County with its various programs.
 
Bloom Bakery plans two additional murals next year. Fahey says a second mural will be painted in the upstairs area of the Public Square location during the first quarter of 2017, while a mural at the Cleveland State University location – in collaboration with CSU students – is planned for next spring.
 
Bloom opened its bakeries earlier this year as a social enterprise venture.

GLO opens in Artcraft building as a creative space for everyone

With its stunning views of downtown Cleveland and Lake Erie, GLO Cleveland is creating a reputation for being a collaborative studio and event space for those who want to express themselves in a supportive environment.
 
GLO manager Shelly Gracon, owner of Butterfly Consulting Group, and artist and entrepreneur Mike Bruckman had the vision of creating a space that both serves the community and uses a collaborative approach to building business. GLO is open to artists in all media, from film and production to painting and music.
 
“We came together with the mission of creating a collaborative space for all types,” says Gracon. “The name GLO signifies that bright and positive energy in the community. We want to bridge that gap with a creative space where [people] come to see each other, connect and build relationships.”
 
GLO’s 4,000-square-foot space on the fifth floor of the historic Artcraft Building, 2530 Superior Ave., has been open since late September, but officially kicks off its programming with an open house on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 3rd and 4th during the building’s annual ArtCraft Holiday Sale.

During the open house, one of GLO’s artist collective members, AyyeDeesMM – a multimedia hip hop collective – will perform. “They focus on the foundational pillars of the Hip-hop culture, which include hip hop music, spoken word, graffiti art and graphic design, hip hop dance, and DJing,” Gracon explains. “Through their performance, education and brand they promote the values of peace, unity, love, and having fun.”

GLO has already hosted an after-hours party after a Night Market Cleveland last summer, a D.J. for an event and the filming of two music videos in the space. Gracon says she wants to keep the momentum going with yoga classes and wellness programming and artist uses in other mediums.
 
“We’re trying to get some photographers in here because the natural light is so incredible,” Gracon says. “We really want to open it to everyone and not be an exclusive space. We want to work together.”
 
GLO will also rent the space out for private events, says Gracon, which will help fund artists’ projects and programming. “The private event money allows us to offer space to artists,” she explains, adding that GLO is attractive for private events “because we have the view that we have. We want to use it all day, all evening, every day of the week.”
 
Memberships in the artist collective start at $100 per month and offer access to studio space, networking events and workshops and discounts on GLO rentals for private shows and parties. And additional fee gives members access to GLO’s wellness collective, which includes yoga, meditation and other fitness classes.
 
This weekend's open house is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Anyone interested in touring the space can also contact Gracon for an appointment.

From West Africa to West Boulevard: an artist's journey

Born in Accra, Ghana, West African artist Harry Larweh uses African mahogany and Rosewood for his craft. He reimagines the beautiful wood into meticulously carved tables, wall hangings, chairs and both small and enormous works of art. Touring the vast inventory throughout his garage and backyard workshop in his West Boulevard neighborhood home, Larweh explains a simple premise for his artistic process, “All these creations, I see the wood and I just start creating.”
 
Young and with a passion to travel, Larweh moved from Ghana to Holland where he met his wife. In Holland, Larweh continued to explore his love of woodworking. Visits to antiques shops and galleries reaffirmed a passion that he'd nurtured his entire life.

“I didn't realize when I started, I just grew up doing it,” Larweh notes of his journey into the arts. After a decade in Holland, Larweh returned to Ghana and then finally made the move to Cleveland to be with his wife, who had moved to Ohio to be closer to family.
 
Most of Larweh's family still remains in Ghana, and his passion for his homeland is apparent. “I am a self taught artist," he says. "I have very good people back home.” After an eight-week visit earlier this year, Larweh arranged to have a freight container full of Mahogany planks shipped to the United States. “It is difficult and expensive”, he describes of the delivery.

The move was enabled in part by the Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI), and allows him to use materials from his homeland, keeping him focused and excited to create. ECDI relationship manager Rebecca Mayhew, who worked directly with Larweh, explains, “I love Harry's work. It is just marvelous, that here we are in Cleveland, and we have an artist carving this amazing African mahogany furniture...Not everyone is in the position for a bank loan, and that is why ECDI is so important. We help the individual start a business or continue their business with our loans.”

ECDI, a statewide SBA lender, started in Columbus in 2004 before expanding to Cleveland in July 2012 and Akron in November 2014. Since 2004, ECDI has benefited local communities with small business loans throughout the state of Ohio, and assisted over 8,500 individuals - people like Larweh.

Not only does ECDI provide loans to small business owners, but they also provide contact and network information to the clients. Mayhew continues, “We are hoping to connect him (Larweh) to the appropriate contacts so he can find potential markets for the raw wood planks and his art.”
 
Even with the assistance, Larweh says it can be difficult to find a niche and earn enough to make a living in the art community, but he has found an audience. “I do things differently, I just create … I am finding people who are admiring a lot.” As Larweh explains, however, making a living as an artist is a challenge of its own, “It is early. As for the art, I knew it wouldn't be something that would be selling just like that.” He soldiers on nonetheless, continuing to design his own pieces and looking forward to providing high quality materials to his fellow artisans.
 
Larweh's work is available for sale on etsy.

ECDI Cleveland is part of Fresh Water's underwriting support network.

A Place 4 Me launches 100 Day Challenge to end youth homelessness

Natasha spent her childhood in the Cleveland foster care system before living with relatives as a teenager. But when she turned 18, her family informed her that she was on her own and had to leave. With $5 and a pack of gum in her pocket, Natasha found herself homeless.

“I was very confused,” Natasha recalls. “It didn’t really hit me that I really had to leave until after I packed my bags. I thought no one really wants me. I felt alone in the world and I felt abandoned.”
 
Natasha turned to Cleveland homeless shelters before ending up in a traditional housing facility on W. 25th Street while she finished high school and got a job at Taco Bell, where the manager took a chance on her with no job experience and made her a team leader.
 
“It was difficult at first, but I managed to do it,” she recalls. “I was eventually able to move out on my own.”
 
Natasha’s story is just one story among many that prompted the creation of  A Place 4 Me in 2014 – an collaborative housed within the YWCA of Greater Cleveland that  harnesses the strengths and resources of more than 30 partners to help youth age 15 to 24 who are at high risk of homelessness, particularly those who age out of foster care.

Earlier this month, A Place 4 Me launched the 100 Day Challenge to house 100 at-risk youth in 100 days. Cleveland is one of only three cities to be chosen by A Way Home America to participate in the challenge and receive coaching and support toward ending youth homelessness from the Rapid Results Institute.
 
The Cleveland challenge team is made up of A Place 4 Me and 12 other organizations focused on youth homelessness. “This is a collaborative in the community concerned with homelessness and youth aging out of foster care,” says Kate Lodge, A Place 4 Me project director. “There are 500 people a year age 18 to 24 in Cleveland in a shelter – 100 people on any given night – and this doesn’t even count the people not showing up.”
 
Approximately 150 people age out of foster care each year in Cleveland, Lodge adds, and 40 percent are likely to experience some kind of housing instability by age 24. The 100 Day Challenge aims to not only house 100 youth in 100 days, but also reinforce the support systems to prevent youth homelessness. The challenge ends on November 14.
 
Cleveland was chosen after a competitive application process. Lodge says 20 cities applied. In addition to Cleveland, Austin, Texas, and Los Angeles were also chosen. Team representatives went to Austin earlier this month for a convening of the three challenge cities.
 
Cleveland's harsh winters, says Lodge, was one of the reasons it was chosen. “In warmer climates there are hordes of youth homeless [on the streets],” she says. “We don’t have that here. We pitched our goal, and planned out strategies. We’re really focused on helping the youth who are in the shelter get out of the shelter," she says. "It’s going to be intense.”
 
The goals include identifying at-risk youth; care coordination; establishing links to available resources; providing a list of types of housing available; and homelessness prevention through planning.
 
“This is building upon something we’ve been working on for two years,” Lodge explains. “This is going to help us get there faster.”
 
As for Natasha, she is currently living at Independence Place, the YWCA of Cleveland’s permanent supportive youth housing facility.
 
Now 24, Natasha has earned her associate’s degree in business from Cleveland State University and will earn her bachelor’s in international business in December. She says the wants to start her own business and employ young people who need a chance at gaining job experience.
 
“I want to open a business that never goes out of style, like childcare, hair care or auto parts,” she says. “Even if cars start flying, they will still need repairs. A lot of job applications say you need two to three years of experience. When you’re 18, 19, you’re not going to have that. I want to hire younger people and give them that experience.”
 
Natasha’s advice to other young people facing homelessness: “It may seem dark right now, but there is going to be light at the end if you keep pushing toward greatness,” she declares. “This challenge is really close to me. I’m really excited for the 100 Day Challenge because I feel like it’s an issue that needs to be addressed.”

Bridging the racial divide through art

The Campus District is a divided segment of Cleveland. It is divided by race. It is divided by income. And, since the 1950s, it is an area divided by Interstate 90 and the E. 22nd Street Bridge.

To the north are Cleveland State University and Downtown, full up with a diverse mix of students and business. The Central neighborhood on the southern end is predominantly African American and home to some of the country’s oldest, and once densest, public housing.
 
Like many Cleveland neighborhoods, the construction of highways segmented the communities, creating access to the rest of the region while simultaneously cutting some neighborhoods off. The Central neighborhood is one such example.
 
A group of people who live, work and go to school on either side of the E. 22nd Street bridge have come together to talk about issues of race and prejudice through a collective public art project called A Bridge that Bridges.
 
“We had opportunities for people who wouldn’t talk to each other otherwise about race in the neighborhoods, the different levels of racism,” says Kaela Geschke, Campus District community organizer. “We were crossing lines we wouldn’t have in our daily lives.”


 
The group of 17 participants, led by Geschke, ioby (In Our Own Back Yards), Cleveland action strategist Indigo Bishop and artist Gwen Garth, founder of the Kings and Queens of Art, have met biweekly since last spring to discuss race and racism while designing a community mural.
 
“We are trying to cement that racial divide,” says Garth. “A diverse group of people of different ages, races, walks of life came together to sit down and discuss the levels of racism and create works of art.”
 
Some of the conversations revolved around preliminary painting/planning sessions. “The artwork they are creating is depicting the difference between how we see ourselves versus how others see us,” Geschke says. “We did this early on when talking about interpersonal racism. The [preliminary] images did not end up in the mural but were a stepping stone for conversation. There were a lot of different perspectives, and it was a really good process for everyone.”
 
Over the past weeks, the group has been painting the mural they designed along the E. 22nd Street Bridge. The mural spans 80 feet on both sides of the bridge, yet is only two-and-a-half feet tall.
 
“The mural shows legs of different types of people walking across the bridge on one side,” explains Geschke. “On the west wall it uses words to name the systems and thought patterns that keep racism and segregation in place in the center. Then as it continues out towards the north and south end, [where] the words change into steps that a person can take to address these inequities.”
 
The group has raised more than $1,300 toward its $2,095 ioby fundraising goal. They also received a $5,000 grant from Cuyahoga Arts and Culture and a $500 grant from the Neighborhood Leadership Development Program.
 
The mural will be unveiled on Thursday, Aug. 25 during the Campus District’s E. 22nd Street Festival.
 
But organizers hope that the mural’s completion will not be the end of race discussions in the community. “It cannot be a one-and-done thing,” says Garth. “It took a long time to get there, so it’s going to take a long time to undo it.”
 
Geschke agrees. “People of all races would say race is not a problem,” she says, “but people also say this is just a start. Let’s look ahead and see what can be done. I think this is a good starting point.”

Two ioby campaigns make waiting for RTA a little more productive, enjoyable

Waiting for the bus is about to get a little more interactive. ioby (In Our Own Backyards), the New York-based organization that uses crowd-funding to turn grassroots neighborhood projects into realities, established Cleveland offices in March and organizers have wasted no time in getting behind worthwhile projects.
 
Two of its latest projects involve public art at RTA shelters and offering riders fitness suggestions while they wait for the bus. The projects are part of ioby’s Trick Out My Trip campaign to improve public transportation in cities nationwide. Cleveland was chosen for two out of 10 total projects across the country.
 
Art Stop
 
At East 22nd Street and Superior Avenue in the Superior Arts neighborhood within the Campus District, a group of artists and residents are working to make the area art-friendly and safer for riders waiting at the bus stop.
 
Art Stop will create a bus shelter to shield residents from the elements while also providing a canvas for public art by a rotating list of artists. Campus District officials hosted a barbeque to get input on what the diverse neighborhood needed and wanted.
 
“People were very excited about this because Superior Avenue has a lot of bus stops, but not a lot of shelters,” says Kaela Geschke, community coordinator for the Campus District. “There are so many artists that live in the neighborhood and this is way to highlight them.”
 
Geschke adds that, with three homeless shelters in the neighborhood, the stop will also provide some shelter from the notoriously windy corridor.
 
The group then turned to Cleveland Institute of Art adjunct professor Sai Sinbondit and his students to design the shelter’s elements. They were charged with keeping the shelter’s functionality while also creating a pleasing environment.
 
The group needs $10,335 to realize all of the features they want in the shelter. So far, they have raised $3,100. If they meet their goal, the bus stop will have Wi-Fi and solar lighting. The Wi-Fi will make it easier for riders to check bus schedules and for the homeless population to research services, Geschke says.
 
“We’re really working hard to create a connection between students, artists and the homeless,” says Geschke. “The artwork will build community and be a way for neighbors to get to know each other.”
 
Bus Stop Moves
 
Bus Stop Moves gets riders exercising while waiting for the bus.
 
The concept was first spearheaded last fall by Allison Lukacsy, an architect and a planner for the city of Euclid, as a pilot program through RTA’s adopt-a-shelter program with MetroHealth System.
 
The program began after a survey of Collinwood residents revealed that people wanted more opportunities to exercise. “Something jumped out at me [in the survey] that people could be healthier and wanted more opportunities to be active,” says Lukacsy.
 
The pilot program involved three bus shelters in Collinwood, in which translucent vinyl adhesive wraps over the shelter walls illustrate simple exercises and health tips. The exercises can be done while sitting or standing and in normal street clothes.
 
“That sort of 20 to 25-minute period between bus rides is the perfect amount of time, physicians will tell you, to get some exercise,” says Lukacsy, who designed and drew all the illustrations.
 
The fitness shelters were so well-received that ioby has partnered with RTA to wrap 10 additional shelters with workout moves in the Central-Kinsman, Slavic Village and Detroit Shoreway neighborhoods.  So far, the group has raised about $500 of the $618 needed to fund the project.
 
The exercises vary at different shelters – some more intense and some more relaxed. For instance, in Collinwood a shelter that has a lot of high school students features more engaging exercises, like jumping jacks, while another shelter features strengthening and stretching exercises.
 
“Some people are willing to break out and dance in public,” says Lukacsy. “But more people are more comfortable doing the strengthening. You could totally drive by and not know someone is doing exercises.”
 
The shelters not only offer a unique way to squeeze in a workout, Lukacsy says it also helps spruce up the neighborhoods. “If you look around, these are older shelters,” she says. “This is a way to not only aesthically improve the look of the shelters, it’s also something to improve people’s health.
 
Both crowdfunding campaigns have until Friday, August 5 to reach their goals. ioby had partnered with New York-based TransitCenter on Trick Out My Trip. The foundation dedicated to improving urban mobility will match the money raised when the campaign ends.

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.”

Bloom Bakery opens on Public Square

Sour dough bread, sticky buns and English sausage rolls are just a sampling of the items available at the highly anticipated Bloom Artisan Bakery and Café, which opened earlier this week at 200 Public Square. In addition to the bakery items, Bloom also offers a selection of sandwiches, soups and salads. Try homemade hummus with red capsicum peppers, house-roasted garlic and olive oil on your choice of bread alongside a cup of French onion soup and a beet salad. Top it off with a chocolate pecan brownie, spice cookie or slice of Madeira pound cake.
 
There is, however, much more to this story than just a mouth-watering menu.
 
Made possible by a collaboration between local organizations including the Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI), the Business of Good Foundation, the Cleveland Foundation and Towards Employment, Bloom Bakery is dedicated to employing low-income and disadvantaged adults from the Greater Cleveland area.
 
"Bloom Bakery's partnership with ECDI is bound by a shared passion for benefiting local Cleveland communities," said Logan Fahey, general manager of Bloom Bakery in a statement. "Their support for our social enterprise has been instrumental in our efforts to give those with barriers to employment a second chance.”
 
Before being hired by Bloom, potential employees go through a Towards Employment’s career readiness course. They also learn baking skills from the best. Internationally-renowned artisan baking specialist Maurice Chaplais, who is based in the United Kingdom, is here training the first group of bakers and the head baker. After he returns to England in April, Saidah Farrell, head baker, will be in charge of training. The aim is to give employees access to meaningful work, achievement, and self-sufficiency through the art of exceptional handcrafted baking.
 
“We wanted to create a business that is scalable,” Fahey told Fresh Water last year. “The hope is that once they graduate from the bakery they will move on to jobs with higher wages and use the skills they’ve learned.”
 
The second Bloom location at 1938 Euclid Ave. in the Campus District is the operation's production kitchen. Bloom previously used the Cleveland Culinary Launch and Kitchen, an incubation kitchen and accelerator, also funded through ECDI.

The Economic and Community Development Institute is part of Fresh Water's underwriting network.
 

CMHA breaks ground on more than 100 residential units in Campus District

Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) broke ground Jan. 29 on  the Cedar-Central Development  a large-scale, mixed-use housing project that supporters believe will weave seamlessly into the fabric of its downtown neighborhood.

The planned 15-acre residential initiative includes an apartment building and townhomes. Construction has already begun on the first two phases, which will utilize approximately eight acres of the site, says Jeffrey Patterson, CMHA chief executive officer.

Phase one is a four-story, 61-unit structure with room on the ground floor for a community area and potential commercial space. Each unit will contain one bedroom, a full bathroom and kitchen. The project's second phase consists of 50 townhome units with multiple bedrooms, depending on unit type.

Future stages representing the project's remaining seven acres could include additional residential units, while green space will be dispersed throughout the redevelopment site.

The mixed-use apartment and townhome space, costing a total of about $33 million, will be built near the corner of East 30th Street and Community College Avenue. The units will rent at both market and subsidized rates.

With this area already active thanks to two nearby colleges and a recently introduced neighborhood clinic, the CMHA project can help link these elements together, Patterson says. "This type of housing is different than what had been there in the past," he says. "It's going to add a new dynamic."

The housing initiative replaces the Cedar Extension Estates, demolished in 2012 to make way for the forthcoming project. Displaced residents will get first dibs on the new apartments at the normal subsidized rate.

These folks will be returning to a project that can help transform the area through streetfront retail and other perks, its backers maintain. Restaurants and shopping options are among the possibilities for the mixed-use apartment complex.

Meanwhile, contracting work and other skilled labor positions related to the year-long construction are currently available, says Donovan Duncan, CMHA's director of asset management. The housing group participated in a building and certification program with Cuyahoga Community College, which taught painting and other valuable skills to laborers who can take those talents to employers beyond the Cedar-Central development.

"These are future job skills we're teaching," Duncan says.

Ultimately, the housing project represents a coming together of community stakeholders, notes Patterson.  Tri-C, Cleveland State University and St. Vincent Charity Medical Center have committed to Employer Assisted Housing, which will offer first-month stipends for staff and students to rent at the property.

A wholesale neighborhood effort will be a boon for the first two phases of the enterprise, slated for completion during the first quarter of 2017, Patterson says.

"Housing is going to be a key component of our community's development," he says.

Up to 250 new sharing bikes coming to the 216 ahead of the RNC

Bike Cleveland has teamed up with the Cuyahoga County Department of Sustainability to secure 250 bikes for a bike sharing program in time for the Republican National Convention next July. The move is part of a larger countywide initiative.
 
"Over five years we need 700 bikes in 70 stations," explains Mike Foley, executive director of Cuyahoga County's Department of Sustainability.
 
In order to get started on that tall order, last month the team identified CycleHop-SoBi as the preferred vendor for the new bike share system. Negotiations are ongoing, although Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) awarded the county $357,000 in federal funding to bring the plan to fruition. With 20 percent in matching funds, the group has $446,000 available to purchase the bikes.
 
"The federal government requires us to own these things at least for their usable life," explains Foley, "which is deemed five years." The program in its entirety will cost more, he adds, and will depend on a private-public partnership that relies on business and other private sponsors adopting stations and systems. Downtown will be the initial focus area for the first wave of bike stations.
 
The CycleHop-SoBi brand is a collaboration of two entities.
 
"CycleHop operates the system,"explains Foley. "SoBi manufactures the bikes," which he describes as sturdy and equipped with GPS systems. "Heaven forbid a bike is stolen or not returned," he says, "they'll be able to find it. It also helps figure out routes. They call it a smart bike. We were impressed with technology."
 
The bikes can also be locked anywhere.
 
"You don't have to go to a SoBi bike station," says Foley. "You can lock it up at regular bike stop and go get your coffee."
 
The versatility doesn't stop there. Although still tentative, Foley sees the program having flexible membership options, with yearly, monthly and weekly fee structures available, as well as an hourly rental system for one-time users.
 
As the program expands to reach that 700 number, Foley sees it reaching across the county.
 
"There are suburban communities that I know are interested in this. Cleveland Heights is chomping at the bit to be part of it," he says, adding that Lakewood has also expressed interest.
 
"We want this to be larger than just the city of Cleveland."

Lab spaces dominate CSU's new Center for Innovation in Medical Practices

Cleveland State University's (CSU) new Center for Innovation in Medical Practices (CIMP) building opened to students last August. Pelli Clarke Pelli designed the 100,000-square-foot structure, which features three floors and cost nearly $47 million to build. Donley's was the contractor.
 
The airy and modern interior includes spacious common areas, the walls of which are accented with graphics that evoke electrical pulses traveling between a great unseen brain to any number of imaginary limbs. And while CIMP has its share of classrooms, collaborative study spaces and offices, the labs are what set the building apart.
 
In the labs, hands-on practice involves dozens of patients with an array of health needs, from standard blood pressure monitoring to the treatment of acute conditions. These patients, however, won't suffer if a student errs.
 
"They're mannequins," says Dr. Vida Lock, CSU's dean of the school of nursing. "This is simulation. The students have actually practiced and done the psychomotor skills on plastic mannequins before they go into a hospital with a real patient."
 
To be sure, the labs look just like a real medical ward. Monitors beep. Oxygen ports hiss. Gurneys line the walls, each one occupied by a mannequin/patient. The effect is a bit eerie at first, until a visitor notices the names listed above the beds. Try: Ron Stillblowin, Angie Tube, Christopher Crash, Jason Hipster, Tree Shaker or Virginia Hamm. A bit of comic relief per se, but every one of them has a complete electronic health record that includes allergies, medications and the patient's health history.
 
"It's very realistic," says Lock. Students are even required to don a lab coat before they enter the room. "We want students to walk into the lab in role. They have to walk in pretending that they really are the nurse or physician."
 
The mannequins are no cast-offs from Macy's or JCPenney; these are highly technical teaching tools graded as low, medium or high fidelity. Lock describes the least sophisticated models as, "big Barbies with extras," while the high fidelity units cost upwards of $80,000 and simulate heart and lung noises, have blinking eyes and can be intubated or defibrillated among other features.
 
"We can turn these patients from male to female," says Lock. "We can put different body parts, organs, incisions, ostomies … " Versatility notwithstanding, the storage space for those parts is a bit unnerving for the layman.
 
"We actually have a mannequin that gives birth," says Lock. There's also a pediatric ward that features an array of child and infant mannequins.
 
The end result is an all-encompassing educational experience. Students dispense faux pharmaceuticals, confer with one another on patients and review their work courtesy of a digital recording system that captures it all.
 
"We worked with all the different health disciplines to find out what people needed and how various professions could collaborate for education," says Lock. "Health care is really changing and with this new approach, there's not one person in charge. It's very collaborative. Teaching students in silos and then expecting them to graduate and go out and work as a team really is not effective."
 
The center houses 400 students. Approximately 170 are admitted each year. Lock notes that the school receives two and a half times the number of applications that can be accepted.
 
"It's very competitive," she notes of the coveted placements.
 
Other features in CIMP include a speech and hearing clinic, occupational and physical therapy classrooms, a physical assessment lab wherein students practice procedures such as taking a pulse and monitoring heart sounds on each other, a café and CSU's health and wellness services. Community outreach programs include flu shots, a monthly stroke clinic and the Go Baby Go program, wherein children ages six months to two years with Down syndrome and their families work on cognitive development.
 
"The building was really designed to be more than state of the art," says Lock. "It's designed to bring the future of health care to our students and our community. It's designed to be an inter-professional education building. The learning environment that exists here for our students does not exist anywhere else in this region.
 
"We really are cutting edge."

Salvation Army to break ground on $10m family shelter downtown

Earlier this month, the Salvation Army of Greater Cleveland announced a $35 million capital campaign in part to celebrate the organization's 150th anniversary.
 
Thus far, the Army has raised more than $24 million of its goal, which includes $10 million for the new Zelma George Emergency Family Shelter for homeless families and adult human trafficking victims. Groundbreaking is slated to begin by year's end at the site of the former Mad Hatter building downtown, which the organization purchased last year and demolished. The long-abandoned building was adjacent to the Army's existing Harbor Light facility at 1710 Prospect Avenue.
 
"There are several programs in that facility," says Major Lurlene-Kay M. Johnson,
divisional secretary for the Salvation Army of Greater Cleveland, referring to Harbor Light. "We have the family shelter. That is 110 beds. We also have homeless men there," she says, noting that the facility has a medically supervised detox program.
 
Harbor Light also houses 150 clients that are in a corrections program.
 
"They spend six months with us as kind of a halfway house," says Johnson. "In some cases, it's in lieu of them going to jail. If they've been incarcerated for many years they'll spend the last six months with us to allow them time to get a job and find a place to live."
 
That diversity of service is one of the main reasons the Army is building a new facility.
 
"We have mixed populations, so right now you have children and mothers coming through the same security system that everybody else has to go through," says Johnson, adding that the security portal is not very kid friendly.
 
Having the new shelter adjacent to Harbor Light has other advantages. The two buildings will be connected, allowing both to utilize the existing industrial kitchen, which serves 1,200 meals a day. The new shelter and Harbor Light will also share staffing. Both sharing measures constitute significant financial savings. Furthermore, the land on which the shelter will be built is already zoned for shelter use, a designation that is difficult to come by.
 
The Welty Building Company, headquartered in Akron, is the contractor on the project. Perspectus Architecture of Shaker Square designed the two-story, 29,000-square-foot facility, which will feature 35 individual family units and an apartment-style area for six adult human trafficking victims. Construction is scheduled for completion within 18 months.
 
Above and beyond those brick and mortar statistics, however, the new Zelma George Emergency Family Shelter offers something that is difficult to measure.
 
"When people come in, they are residents," says Johnson. "They stay with us—unless they leave on their own accord—until they have permanent housing. They don't have to come in each day, which gives them continuity. They have a place where they belong."
 
The new facility will include a green space and playground for the children who stay at the shelter. Services also include transportation to the school systems the kids came from to maintain consistency in that aspect of their lives.
 
"We're looking for stability," says Johnson, adding that the Army looks forward to having a shelter that is designed specifically for children and families. "We really want the family to do well and we really want their lives to be disrupted as little as possible."

PRE4CLE issues grants for four new classrooms

PRE4CLE, an extension of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District that aims to expand high-quality preschool options across the city, has awarded three grants totaling $120,000 to start four new classrooms, each of which will house 20 preschoolers.
 
The Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland will open two of the new classrooms at the Oakwood Child Development Center, 9250 Miles Park Avenue. Another will be the first preschool classroom at The Citizens Academy, 10118 Hampden Avenue, which is operated by The Centers for Families and Children. The fourth will be at the Buckeye-Shaker Fundamentals Academy, 12500 Buckeye Road, under the umbrella of the Fundamentals Early Childhood Development Academy.
 
"The grants cover things like furniture, small tables, chairs and shelves," says Katie Kelly, PRE4CLE director, adding interactive toys, enrichment activities, books, puzzles and blocks to the list. "It's all the basic -- but very critical -- parts of a high-quality early childhood classroom."
 
The grants, which total $30,000 per classroom, will not cover any new construction, but the funds may be used to cover minor facility upgrades to make the spaces safe, healthy and inviting. In addition, the funding will cover staffing, but only for a short time.
 
"They have to hire the staff and have them on board before the state will give them their license," says Kelley of the chicken-or-egg dilemma. "That is a upfront cost; so the funds from the grants will also cover very short term staff costs that are related to that startup effort."
 
The areas impacted by the grants (Glenville, Buckeye-Shaker Square and Union-Miles) all have a demand for those preschool slots and are near the top of their supply capacity.
 
"Part of our effort is to strategically expand high quality programs in neighborhoods that are in the highest need," says Kelly. "These neighborhoods that were chosen have a variety of needs. We wanted to make sure that we continue to build access."
 
The Buckeye Road classroom is slated to open this November, with the CEOGC classrooms in Union-Miles opening by year's end. Citizens Academy in Glenville expects to have its preschool classroom ready for an early 2016 opening date. All of the grantees have space that's available and ready to be used for programs.

"These early childhood programs that are community based (and not within the public school district) operate on tight margins," says Kelley. "So something like opening up a new classroom can be cost prohibitive. We don't want that upfront cost to be a barrier and often it is."
 
While the grants do not fund tuition, which is usually covered by the families, childcare subsidies and federal and state funding, Kelly is glad to be creating high-quality learning spaces for the area's preschoolers.
 
"The grants are only for classrooms, but we think it’s a great start," she says. "This is really our first brick and mortar venture into making sure that those neighborhoods have what they need," she adds. "This will serve 80 children, which we're really happy about."

Artcraft Building to be reborn as office space

The Artcraft Building, 2530-2570 Superior Avenue, which is beloved amongst the art set for its gritty appeal and inexpensive urban studio space, is about to undergo a major facelift. The building changed hands last year from the Roy Group to Global X as part of a larger real estate portfolio deal.
 
The renovations will include the installation of all new windows and a complete overhaul of the HVAC system, which is currently powered by steam heat.
 
"It must be the most energy inefficient building in northeast Ohio," says Global X's chief investment officer Timm Judson, "so we're going to change all that."
 
Other upgrades will include façade work (cleaning and tuck pointing), new exterior lighting, interior structural changes, restoration of the water tower, which is still used for the building's sprinkler system, a new security system, a yet-to-be-determined parking expansion and a refresh of all the common areas including the 26 bathrooms, which will be stripped down to the studs and completely redone.
 
"They are in desperate need," says Judson. "The tenants are pretty excited about that."
 
Whether or not they'll be around to enjoy the new bathrooms, however, is another matter.
 
"We're trying to keep a lid on rental increases," says Judson, "but there will be rental increases. We've spoken to the tenants about that. Some will stay; some will go." Judson was short on specifics, saying that the financial model is still in the planning stage, but he does see rents moving up in phases, "so everyone's not sticker shocked." Currently, approximately two-thirds of the 265,000-square-foot building is occupied.
 
One thing that will not change is the hand-operated elevators.
 
"That was one of the truly charming features of the building that the tenants seem to love," says Judson, adding that the elevator operators will continue "being a part of the fabric of the building."
 
Global X has budgeted $16 to $18 million for the project. "We'll be using federal historic tax credits, applying for state credits, and then we'll be using a mix of traditional and incentive based financing." Sandvick Architects are the historical advisors on the project with Vocon as the primary architect. The contractor is Marous Brothers. Judson hopes to begin work by early December. After that, milestone dates are tentative.
 
"We just don't know what our timeline looks like right now," says Judson, adding that some "fairly large space users" have expressed interest in the refurbished class B+ offices. "We can't make any promises on delivering space, but we're getting close."
 
Global X will be moving its own offices from 1303 Prospect Avenue into a 20,000-square-foot space in the Artcraft in the summer of 2016—depending on how things go with the Republican National Convention.
 
"We don't know how complicated that will be," says Judson. "So it may be that we wait until that event has passed."
 
With residential development the reigning king in metropolitan Cleveland, the Artcraft project begs the question, why office space?
 
"We've gone through a couple of different plans and iterations," says Judson, which included everything from gutting the building down to the columns to a residential build-out, but Global X eventually settled on offices.
 
"Our thinking was, with all of these office buildings being converted to residential, all those displaced tenants and businesses need some place to go and there's not a whole lot downtown in quality B+ space."
 
While the Artcraft project will be Global X's first foray into the once-derided and now booming section of Superior Avenue, it will not be its last. The organization has amassed a number of properties in the Campus District, plans for which are still highly tentative.
 
"There are a couple of other buildings on (Superior) Avenue that we have our eye on," says Judson. "You don't want to get into an area after it's become really hot because then you're going to pay through the nose," he adds. "We just need to get our arms around what we're doing to do with these buildings. We're taking them one at a time."
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