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AsiaTown/St. Clair Superior : Development News

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Goldhorn Brewery to be Shaker's first brew pub in new Van Aken District

When phase one of the new Van Aken District in Shaker Heights opens in spring of 2018, Goldhorn Brewery will be one of the anchor tenants in the district’s Orman Building food hall.

The brewery, which opened its first location on E. 55th Street last June, will be Shaker’s first brew pub. The partnership between developer RMS Investment Corp and Goldhorn came about after the realization that both entities strive to revitalize historically vibrant areas, says Goldhorn owner Rick Semersky.
 
“They loved the story of what we did with the [St. Clair Superior] neighborhood and they’re doing the same thing in building the new downtown Shaker,” says Sermersky. “There are a lot of similarities between the projects.”
 
RMS director of leasing Jason Fenton agrees that Goldhorn will be a good fit for the district.

“The Van Aken District is excited to have Goldhorn as a partner and feel their addition within the Orman Building will help anchor the project,” he says. “Rick and his team are a fantastic compliment to the other offerings," adds Fenton, noting that the developer is striving to include the best local offerings in the highly anticipated Shaker project.
 
Goldhorn will occupy 2,200 square feet in a corner space of 20,000-square-foot Orman Building, complete with an outdoor patio and seating that overlooks the food hall. “It’s smaller than the space on 55th, but it’s great exposure,” says Semersky.
 
The Van Aken District will be an open container area, he adds, so patrons can grab a beer while they shop. “They can get food from the other vendors and then come in and sit at our bar, or they can grab a beer from us and go out into the hall,” he explains.
 
The bar will probably have a 12-tap system, with eight to 10 beers on draft at any given time. “It seems to work well for us,” Semersky says of the choices. “It’s not too little, but not overwhelming.”
 
While Goldhorn will offer some of its established signature brews, brewer Joel Wagner says he is already testing different recipes to create beers just for Van Aken. ”I’m playing around with different grains and hops recipes,” he says. “I can do one-off batches, and we have a good variety so people can come in, no matter what their beer style is, and taste everything to hit that style.”
 
Semersky says they plan to move into the new space within eight months and begin preparations. “We will hit the ground running,” he says. “The way we look at Van Aken is it’s an opportunity to be part of the neighborhood’s redevelopment and be a neighborhood brew pub in Shaker Heights.”

The city of Shaker Heights is part of Fresh Water's underwriting support network.

Chill Pop Shop’s unique frozen novelties advance to national market

Popsicles aren’t usually at the forefront of the mind in the middle of winter, but despite the frosty weather, business is hot for the owners of Chill Pop Shop.

Owners Elizabeth and Maggie Pryor have come a long way from their early days of pedaling their all- natural ice pops to customers at local venues. Not only have they expanded to retail markets such as Whole Foods and Mustard Seed Market throughout Ohio, now they're available at retail outlets across the Mid-Atlantic United States.
 
As of this past summer, Chill Pops are in the freezers of Mustard Seed, Whole Foods and MOM’s Organic Market throughout Ohio, Washington, D.C., Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia 
 
“It’s so exciting,” says Chill CEO Elizabeth Pryor. “It’s exciting to hear from friends and family everywhere who can enjoy our popsicles.”
 
The Pryors – Elizabeth, a holistic health coach and her wife Maggie, a health and wellness educator – started Chill Pop Shop out of the Cleveland Culinary Launch and Kitchen (CCLK) in 2013 with the intention of making frozen treats using only real fruit and all natural, fresh ingredients.
 
“We started Chill Pop because we’re very passionate about food and where it comes from,” says Elizabeth. “We use all real fruit, grass-fed dairy and fair trade organic sugar. We take great care of where we source everything.”
 
The first year, Elizabeth and Maggie sold their pops at the Cleveland Flea, farmers markets and food truck events such as Walnut Wednesday. By their second summer, Elizabeth and Maggie were catering and serving their pops at private events.
   
The pair soon grew out of the CCLK space and moved to a storefront on E. 185th Street in North Collinwood. Then, while working on their packaging design, Maggie and Elizabeth learned Whole Foods was interested in their products.
 
“We happened to land a meeting with Whole Foods in advance of opening their Rocky River location,” recalls Elizabeth. “They were looking for local suppliers.”
 
It took about a year to get the details and package design figured out, but by September 2015, Chill Pops were on the shelves in time for the Rocky River Whole Foods opening. “They performed really well there,” Elizabeth recalls. “It helped that we had been around Cleveland for a few years, so we had name recognition. We were constantly asked ‘where can I get these?’”
 
By the summer of 2016 Chill Pops were in stores across seven states. Plans are in the works for even more expansion by the spring of this year. “In Northern Virginia and Pittsburgh, they’re buying it off the shelves without even trying it,” boasts Elizabeth. “It’s doing really well in major markets.”
 
Having outgrown their North Collinwood space, Chill Pops moved again in November 2015, this time to a 3,500-square-foot space in the St. Clair Superior neighborhood’s Tyler Village. The space has walk-in coolers and freezers, plenty of workspace, office space and allows Elizabeth and Maggie to do their packaging on-site.
 
Chill Pop Shop now has six flavors of pops: avocado mint chip, black pepper plum, cucumber kiwi, lemon ricotta, sea salt strawberry cream, and watermelon lime, many of which are vegan. Additionally, Elizabeth and Maggie will introduce two more vegan flavors this year: blueberry basil and coco mocha fudge. In all they have created more than 40 flavors.
 
Elizabeth says her favorite flavor depends on the weather, although early-on her favorite was avocado mint chip.
 
While entry into the national market is limiting their time these days, the Pryors are still true to Cleveland. “We’ve scaled back our mobile presence,” Elizabeth says, “But people around Cleveland will still see us out and about.”

Perkoski's 'These Walks of Life' is a study in frozen motion

Those who walk religiously know the activity can be highly personal. A walking person may be in a rush. They may be deeply engaged in thought or a complex audio experience. They may be giggling over a podcast. Perhaps they are misting up over a lover's last whisper. Maybe they're tired. Maybe their feet hurt. Maybe those feet are the only mode of transportation they have.
 
In a new solo show, "These Walks of Life," Fresh Water's managing photographer Bob Perkoski has captured the essence of walking and its nuances with a collection of more than 40 images on display at Negative Space Gallery, 3820 Superior Avenue. "Walks" will run through mid-February.
 
The practice started out casually, with Perkoski taking clandestine photos capturing images of people while he drove around town – to and from shoots, grocery runs, wherever. Eventually, it became an intentional cataloging.
 
"I consciously started doing it in 2012," says Perkoski. "I put my camera on a high shutter speed so I'd catch it fast without getting a blur." The entire collection numbers in the hundreds and also includes people waiting for the bus or just standing along the street. Yet another category includes photos of bicyclists.
 
"I have people sitting on the corner, laying in the street," says Perkoski of some of his other images that are outside the scope of "Walks."
 
As for those included in the show, he took them at points all across town, including Playhouse Square, Ohio City, Clark Fulton, Little Italy, Woodland Avenue and Slavic Village among others. There are also two shots from out of town, one taken in London and another in Chicago.
 
All of the images are evocative and ironic in the sense that they are frozen images depicting motion. To be sure, the static background in each photo lends scale and contrast to the moving subject. One of the most jarring aspects of the show is also one of the most subtle: the voyeuristic feel of the images cannot be ignored – the majority of the walkers had no idea they were being photographed.
 
"I try to catch people that aren't looking at me. I just want them to be natural," says Perkoski of his subjects.
 
"You're wondering what they're doing and where they're going and what they're thinking."
 
"These Walks of Life" is on view on the second floor of Asian Town Center, which is a fascinating mall worthy of a visit on its own. The gallery housing Perkoski's work is in an annex to Negative Space and open for visitors whenever the mall is open, which is seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Contact Negative Space for extended evening hours.

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.

Goldhorn Brewery's offerings set to be on draft later this month

Later this month, East 55th Street will return to its roots with the opening of Goldhorn Brewery, 1365 E. 55th St.

While Ohio City usually comes to mind when thinking about local craft breweries, Goldhorn owner Rick Semersky says the St. Clair Superior neighborhood actually was Cleveland’s brewing hub at the turn of the twentieth century..

“East 55th used to be home to a lot of breweries and had one of the first neighborhood beer gardens in the city,” says Semersky, who also owns Sterle’s Country House next door and is developing the 42,000-square-foot Hub 55 complex. "Fifty-fifth Street has a long tradition of brewing business in the city of Cleveland.”
 
The Goldhorn Brewery lends its name from the Slovenian mythical goldhorn goat. Brewer Joel Warger, formerly the pub brewer for Great Lakes Brewing Company, has been busy since April at the 15,000-square-foot brewery, brewing Goldhorn’s signature beers including pilsner, stout, English pale ale and bock. The beers are brewed in nine fermentation tanks and nine brite tanks in the 10-barrel brew house on premises.
 
The beers will be tapped later this month. “The plan is to always have at least nine beers at all times,” says Semersky. Goldhorn Brewery will share a kitchen with Café 55, which serves breakfast and lunch. Semersky plans to serve “sharable plates. We’ll be sandwich heavy – more casual food.”
 
The Goldhorn tap room will seat between 125 and 150 people. Epoxy floors shine in the natural light, as do the bar and fixtures. “The bar and walls are made of reclaimed barn wood and the bar top is copper,” he adds.
 
The idea for Hub 55 first came about when Semersky’s construction company, VIP Restoration, outgrew the former Leiden Cabinet Company building. VIP is now located in two buildings down E. 55th.
 
With the building right next door to Sterles, Semersky decided to create a center for food, drink and business to the neighborhood.
 
“The Hub will bring jobs, education and access to fresh healthy food for not just our community but the city as well,” Semersky says. “A Hub, by definition, is a ‘center around which other things revolve or from which they radiate.’ Our goal is to bring a focus and attention to the St. Clair neighborhood, bringing new business to the neighborhood and at the same time promote the rich tradition and history of the people and business that are already here.”   
 
In addition to Goldhorn Brewery and Café 55, Hub 55 will also soon host a farmers market of some kind. The St. Clair Superior Development Corporation (SCSDC) is in the final stages of a feasibility study for the remaining space in Hub 55, according to Semersky.
 
“Our goal is to have final plans soon so we can move forward,” he says. “In the meantime, SCSDC plans to hold pop-up farmers markets on the weekends here at the Hub until the permanent market is completed.” 

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.”

The Milton to offer 16 upscale town homes on Superior Avenue

When Brent and Cary Zimmerman bought their townhome in what was then called the Avenue District in December 2007, they were expecting a huge influx of neighbors and additional residential construction projects. Unfortunately, the housing market crash stalled activity and the Zimmermans were left looking at an empty lot at 1533 Superior Ave. near East 15th Street.

Eight years later, the Zimmermans have a 14-month old son and love their neighborhood. “We were really the first people in and we love it,” says Brent. “It’s just a little community down here. We have lawyers and doctors, engineers and people who are retired.”
 
But that empty lot still was an eyesore for the community. So in June 2015 Brent Zimmerman bought the property out of receivership. Plans are now underway to build sixteen 1,200-square-foot, two-story market rate town homes on the land in a gated community.
 
Designed by RDL Architects, the Milton units will rent for about $2,200 a month, Zimmerman says, and will feature two bedrooms, two-and-a-half baths and two-car garages. The units will have hardwood floors, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, a Sonos sound system and flat screen televisions. Many of the units will have balconies and city views.
 
Using energy-efficient appliances in all the units, Zimmerman estimates total utilities costs should be about $100 a month.
 
A private dog park will be accessible only to residents. “There are a lot of dogs living downtown,” Zimmerman says of the city’s residential rebirth. “I have one too.”
 
Perhaps the best amenity, says Zimmerman, is the Milton’s location. The development is a 10-minute walk to many attractions, and a short bike or car ride to the rest of the city’s charms. As a season ticket holder to the Cavs, the Browns and Playhouse Square, Zimmerman says he’s never experienced such convenience in any of the other metropolitan areas that he's lived in, including Boston and New York.
 
“There are no other cities on the planet where you can walk to three professional sports teams’ events and the theater in 10 minutes,” he says, adding that there’s a great selection of family-friendly restaurants nearby as well.

Zimmerman has all the permits in place and he says Geis Companies and Zimmerman Remodeling and Construction expects to break ground this month. The Milton should be complete by late summer or early fall this year. 
 
Zimmerman has a family history of residential development. To underscore his lineage, The Milton is named after his grandfather, who flew in World War II and was a developer in Zimmerman’s home town of Bellevue, Ohio. 

“This is a tribute to him,” he says. “He developed half the town I grew up in.”

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."
 

Winter is coming … and so is fresh local produce and permaculture from the urban greenhouses of CGP

Community Greenhouse Partners (CGP), an urban greenhouse and farm, is about to fly in the face of winter with fresh produce and an all-season teaching venue for an array of people,including some of the city's most disadvantaged youths.

This beacon of all things organic, sustainable and green will also continue to sell their produce at affordable prices even as the snow flies.
 
"We happily sell out the back door," says CGP executive director Timothy Smith, inviting anyone and everyone to visit this unique farm in the middle of the city at 6527 Superior Road. "Come and see. Come and help us harvest your greens."

Hours are between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. during the week. The organization also sets up shop every Saturday at Coit Road Farmers' Market and on Wednesdays from June through September at Gordon Square Market.
 
The greenhouse will operate through the winter courtesy of a compost heater, designed and built by engineering students from Cleveland State University (and funded by Virtec Enterprises). The system heats the farm's hydroponic water system to a balmy 70 degrees, keeping the roots of the plants warm even in winter.

Current crops include lettuce, kale, arugula, root crops and CGP's specialty, sunflower microgreens, which include the first stem and leaf of the sunflower plant.  
 
"They are nutty and sweet and crunchy," says Smith. "They taste a little bit like a sunflower seed. Some people say they taste like green beans or asparagus." He recommends them raw in a salad, as a sandwich topper or a salsa add-in. "I tend to sauté a handful of them in a little bit of butter and add my eggs."
 
Touting the plant's nutritional value, Smith tags protein, B vitamins, folic acid and antioxidants. "They're a superfood that's healthier than kale," he says of the tender greens. "We sell lots of them."
 
The group also offers up handmade value-added items such as apple jelly, herbed vinegars and cherry tomato chutney, which Smith describes as sweet and spicy hot. "It is delicious."
 
The CGP site was formerly a Catholic Church campus. Working the farm are any number of revolving volunteers and seven interns who live in what used to be the rectory, which was originally a farmhouse built in 1865. The interns get room and partial board in exchange for 20 hours of work per week. The live-in staff changes, with candidates coming from schools, internship programs and the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms program, which links international volunteers with organic farmers and growers. Working visitors of CGP have come from New Zealand, France, Peru, England and Germany.
 
While the organization is all about outreach and has engaged in educational and volunteer partnerships with Case Western Reserve University, Hawken School and an array of interested parties and downtown residents, CGP's work with students from the Saint Francis Elementary School truly exemplifies Smith's goal of teaching permaculture -- a hands-on learning approach to the ethical care of people and the planet that creates a "fair share" environment.  
 
The Saint Francis partnership starts aptly enough in the school's cafeteria with microgreen salads purchased from CGP once a month for student lunches.
 
"They love them," reports Smith of the students' reactions to the monthly salad delivery, which started in September. "They tear into them. They're so excited when we bring them in."
 
The kids also have monthly science classes at the farm, where they learn all about urban farming with hands-on instruction on topics such as composting, microgreen planting, bed preparation and harvesting crops like green beans.
 
Sometimes, however, just showing kids where vegetables come from – out of the ground - sparks an epiphany.
 
"You can see them make the connection: this is where (food) comes from. The light bulb goes on," says Smith. "It's remarkable just to watch them," he adds, noting that the Saint Francis students are largely disadvantaged.
 
"They're really smart and they want to learn," says Smith. "They're hungry for information and they're hungry for good food."
 
Community Greenhouse Partners is soliciting donations for an expansion that will include doubling the organization's greenhouse space from approximately 1,250 to 2,500 square feet and transforming CGP's growing system from hydroponic to aquaponic, which will utilize fish as living natural fertilizers. Click here to help the urban farm meet its $12,000 goal.
 

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."

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.

St. Martin de Porres, Salvation Army to benefit from $20m in New Market Tax Credits

The proposed new St. Martin de Porres High School in the St. Clair neighborhood and the Salvation Army's $35 million capital campaign for greater Cleveland will each receive $10 million in Federal New Market Tax Credits, which are part of a $50 million award the Cleveland Development Advisors (CDA) are shepherding on behalf of the city. The award was announced in June.
 
"At any given time we might have a dozen projects on the list that are close to or getting ripe for investment," says CDA president Yvette Ittu. "Once we get allocation we start moving very quickly to try to move those projects to fruition."
 
The Salvation Army campaign includes a new family shelter downtown, new community centers in Collinwood and East Cleveland and the renovation of a community center in West Park. The new 65,000-square-foot St. Martin de Porres High School will be at the intersection of Norwood Road and St. Clair Avenue.
 
As for the remaining $30 million in tax credits to be allocated, Ittu said plans have not been formalized, but hinted that the awards will go to a handful of high profile projects that are ready to move. Per the United States Treasury, the group has up to three years to allocate the tax credits, but CDA does not act leisurely when placing allocations.
 
"Our awards are generally out the door in less than 12 months," says Ittu.
 
In the program, entities such as CDA court private investment for local projects, particularly in low-income areas. Investors are rewarded with federal tax credits.
 
"The tax credit is not applied to the actual project," explains Ittu. "What we're doing is providing a tax credit to an investor who is bringing the capital to the table. It could be a bank or corporation that has the need for a tax credit. Maybe they are willing to invest X amount of dollars into a project in return for the tax credit." Funds must be spent on a project before the investor can reap the tax credits, which may be taken over a seven-year period.
 
The nature of the program makes for strange bedfellows: Goldman Sachs, for instance, was a satellite investor in the Fairmont Creamery project courtesy of New Market Tax Credits.
 
CDA, which Ittu describes as a real estate financing organization affiliated with the Greater Cleveland Partnership, selects candidates based on recommendations from its Community Advisory Committee. The group focuses on areas of severe economic distress with unemployment rates more than 1.5 times the national average, poverty rates of 30 percent or more, or median incomes at or below 60 percent of the area median. Considerations also include timing of the project, its readiness for financing, its sustainability and its economic impact.
 
"A lot of what we do is looking to try to invest in projects that will stimulate additional development and also create jobs," says Ittu.
 
Specific goals include affordable housing, healthy food accessibility, public transit access and repurposing vacant structures. The group's success can be measured in their results. Including this year's $50 million award, the CDA has received $155 million in New Market Tax Credits since the program's inception in 2003. They have helped finance more than 30 projects including The 9, the Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry's Richard Sering Center, the Residences at 1717 and renovations at Saint Luke's Pointe.

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."

Every Cleveland property to be photographed and rated

In a collaborative project between the City of Cleveland and the Thriving Communities Institute (TCI), which is a program of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy (WRLC), more than 150,000 properties within the city (virtually every single one save for those dedicated to things such as roads, railways and utilities), will be visually assessed by September by a team of 16 people who are canvassing the city in teams of two. They started earlier this month.
 
"Their goal is to get 150 records a day," says Paul Boehnlein, associate director of applied geographic information systems for WRLC. That translates to 2,400 a day for the entire team. "They're doing really well. They're right up at that pace."
 
"They're almost done with all of Collinwood," adds Jim Rokakis, vice president of WRLC and director of TPI. "They're moving into Glenville."
 
Team members are equipped with mobile devices that have an array of information on each property, including the address, owner, whether or not there is mail service and utility service, tax delinquency status, etc.
 
"All the public data is there," says Rokakis.
 
They then make an assessment on whether or not the property is occupied or vacant and assess the general condition via a list of questions: Is there a structure? Is it boarded? Are there broken windows or doors? Is the siding damaged? Are there dilapidated vehicles in the yard? What is the condition of the porch and garage? Is the structure open or secure?
 
"The last step for them is to take a photograph," says Boehnlein.
 
"It will be the first survey of every property in the city attached to a photo and a rating system," adds Rokakis.
 
Data collectors are logging an estimated four to six miles a day, all on sidewalks or public right of ways. They were selected from a pool of more than 60 applicants and strive to keep their partner, who is usually working the opposite side of the street, within sight at all times.
 
"Safety is a really important consideration for this project," says Boehnlein.
 
Now for a bit of gloomy foreshadowing.
 
Last year, TPI was involved in the same sort of survey for the city of Akron that included more than 95,000 parcels. About 700 of them were categorized as being in need of demolition. That's less than one percent. When the organization conducted this sort of survey for the Saint Luke's Foundation on 13,000 properties in Cleveland's Mount Pleasant area (near Buckeye Road), "Eleven-hundred of them need to come down," says Rokakis. That's nearly 10 percent, which is a very troubling number and one that illustrates why the survey is so important.
 
"We need to know," says Rokakis, adding that estimates of the number of structures in Cleveland that require demolition go as low as 8,000, which would cost about $80 million.
 
"But what if it's actually 14,000 or 15,000?" poses Rokakis. "Well, do the math."
 
Boehnlein sees the project, which is supported in part by the Cleveland Foundation, as having another gentler impact. In addition to collecting valuable data for the WRLC and its partner organizations, he notes that those who own a vacant or abandoned property are struggling with a really difficult situation.
 
"If our work can help alleviate that situation," he says, "I'm pretty happy about that."
 
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