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State-of-the-art Taussig Cancer Center designed around the patient

When the Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Center, 10201 Carnegie Ave., opens on Monday, March 6, cancer patients will be introduced to an immersive state-of-the-art experience.
 
Patients will have access to all outpatient treatment services in the new 377,000-square-foot facility, wherein the center’s entire team of medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, surgeons, nurses, genetic counselors and social workers will be based. Currently, the oncology department is located in the Crile Building and patients receiving treatment on the Clinic’s main campus often have to navigate through four different buildings to make their appointments.
 
“The way we’ve designed this, through the physical layout, is to treat the patient like the focal point,” says John Suh, chairman of the Clinic’s radiation oncology department and associate director of the Gamma Knife Center at the Brain Tumor and Neuro-Oncology Center. “We’ve integrated care so patients don’t have to go back and forth.”
 
The new $276 million Taussig Center is very “patient-centric,” says Suh, in that the seven-story building is organized by cancer type. Patients see all of their caregivers in the same area. In the new building the caregivers travel to the patient, instead of the patient having to travel to different locations for different appointments.
 
"It fosters communication and collaboration by having the physicians revolve around the patients," says Suh. “It optimizes outcomes and the patient experience.”
 
The 126 exam rooms and 98 treatment rooms on the second, third and fourth floors are all in close proximity to each other, while the fifth and sixth floors house offices. Private chemotherapy infusion suites, complete with floor-to-ceiling windows, will overlook a tree-lined courtyard.
 
“One of the nice things about this large building is it was designed to let light into the building,” says Suh. “One side is all glass.”
 
Current and former patients, as part of the Voice of the Patient Advisory Council, were consulted in the design, as well as surgeons, oncologists and nurse caregivers. Stantec and the Boston-based William Rawn Associates worked on the architecture and design, while Turner Construction served as the general contractor.
 
The first floor lobby features floor-to-ceiling windows to let natural light pour in and serves as the main area for patient resources — including an information center; art and music therapy spaces; a boutique for free wigs, caps and scarves; a wellness center; a prosthetics fitting area; and a place for prayer and meditation.
 
“It’s a concentrated support system,” says Suh of the first floor resources. “Patients and caregivers can get support in one concentrated area.”
 
The 4th Angel Mentoring Program, founded my figure skating champion and former Cleveland Clinic cancer patient Scott Hamilton, will also be housed on the first floor, as will a cafeteria that will promote healthy, locally-grown foods.
 
The radiation treatment center, which includes six linear accelerators and a Gamma Knife suite, will be housed in the basement. Suh says Taussig also will be the first facility in Ohio to receive Gamma Knife ICON technology.
 
To brighten up the basement area, a 34- by eight-foot, six-foot tall skylight will pop out of the ground in the parking drop off area to bring in natural light into the otherwise dark space.
 
“I think it’s very important for natural light to come into the radiation oncology department,” says Suh. “Patients can see if it’s sunny out or raining. It’s a unique part of the building.”   
 
The new center will also have on-site diagnostic imaging, space for genetics and genomics testing and a dedicated area for clinical trials. While Clinic researchers will perform their phase one, two and three clinic trials there, emphasis will be placed on phase one trials.
 
“It’s really going to enhance what we do from a research standpoint,” says Suh. “It’s really a very exciting time in cancer care and [Taussig] will optimize that care.”
 
Architects and planners kept the patient in mind even when designing the parking and drop off area. “There are two lanes for the valet and patient drop off, and a third lane for passers-by,” Suh explains. “We don’t have a pile-up.”

The entire facility will feature from art curated by the Clinic's in-house team.
 
The Clinic will host an open house on Saturday, Feb. 18 from 1 to 4 p.m., during which the public is invited to drop in and tour the new center. The event will also include health screenings, children’s activities and healthy refreshments.

$2m incentive fund to lure business to Health-Tech Corridor

Since 2011 the Health-Tech Corridor (HTC), the three-mile stretch in Midtown between downtown and University Circle, has been quietly building a hub for health, high-tech and research companies.
 
Today more than 160 such endeavors in biomed, technology and other industries are operating in the HTC, creating an entrepreneurial hub touting amenities such as a 100 gigabits-per-second fiber optic internet pipe – the first of its kind in the country – and access to nearby universities and medical centers.
 
Now HTC officials have partnered with JumpStart to build a $2 million fund to foster even more activity. “We’re really excited to use the fund as a carrot to attract businesses to the corridor,” says HTC director Jeff Epstein, adding that 90 percent of the 500,000 square feet of renovated office and lab space is already filled.
 
But there is plenty of room for any company looking to relocate on the HTC’s 1,600 acres. “We’ve got space for whoever wants to come,” Epstein says. “Early stage companies can get anchored here.” He also notes that Geis Companies’ developments in the area, the Beauty Shoppe co-working space and the new University Hospitals campus add to the corridor’s draw.
 
The HTC and JumpStart raised $1 million for the fund through grants from the Cleveland Foundation, the City of Cleveland and private investments, which was then matched with another $1 million by the Ohio Third Frontier.
 
Companies seeking investment from the fund must have a unique or breakthrough idea, have at least a $1 billion addressable market and exit potential. They must also demonstrate excellence in their fields.
 
Epstein says a fund awareness campaign started last month, while officials at the HTC and JumpStart have been brainstorming attraction campaigns for the past nine months. “We launched social media campaigns in high-cost markets and targeted alumni from local universities,” he explains. “We going for the low-hanging fruit first.”
 
Epstein says more than 20 companies have already expressed an interest in applying for funding. Companies that do apply must go through a full vetting process with JumpStart.
 
“We don’t just give the money away,” explains Epstein. “But companies who don’t get an investment with us will hopefully be turned on to opportunities in Cleveland. The best problem we could have is too many companies interested.”

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.”

New Women's Business Center launches, offers tools for entrepreneurs

While Womenable’s April 2016 State of Women-Owned Businesses report shows that women-owned firms are outpacing the national average in both job creation and revenue generation, just 27 percent of all firms in Ohio are owned by women, compared to the national average of 38 percent. Additionally, the report indicates that women are half as likely as men to start a business. 

The Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI) decided to do something to boost those numbers. In January 2015, the Cleveland ECDI opened a satellite office of the Women’s Business Center (WBC) in Columbus.
 
The satellite office was so well received that ECDI decided to open a full-fledged Women’s Business Center of Northern Ohio in order to serve the entrepreneurial needs of women starting a new business.
 
“We were seeing so much demand, we went to the Small Business Administration (SBA) with a grant proposal and officially launched in October 2015,” explains Carrie Rosenfelt, the WBC director. “Since October 2015, we have provided training to over 150 women, one-on-one coaching to over 50 and created nearly 20 new jobs.”
 
The SBA granted the Cleveland center a total of $750,000 in financing – $150,000 a year over five years. Per the agreement, the center must raise a 50 percent match over the first two years and then match 100 percent of the grant in the final three years. ECDI’s two WBCs are the only two SBA-funded women’s business centers in the state.
 
The WBC is located one floor down from the ECDI offices at 2800 Euclid Ave. The 1,205 square-foot space may be small, Rosenfelt says, but it’s designed to be completely focused on women. “We wanted to have a space that is women-centric,” she says. “Something happens when you put a bunch of women business owners in a room together.”
 
Now more than 200 members have access to a resource library, computer lab and free wireless internet; copy, fax and notary services; business coaching/mentoring and one-on-one counseling; training and workshop programs; networking opportunities; and access to small business loans through ECDI.

“It’s been a very quick ramp up for us,” notes Rosenfelt. “We want to be accessible to all women. When you fuel women entrepreneurs, when you invest in family and community, you’re investing in small business and economic development.”

The center has five computer stations, a project or conference room, co-working space and a training center. One entire wall is a white board, while the opposite wall serves as a projection screen. “We designed it that way so women would be forced to work around the room.”

The WBC also received funding from the Business of Good Foundation, Citizens Bank, Fifth Third Bank, First Merit Bank, Huntington Bank, KeyBankU.S. Bank, and, notably, the Cleveland Foundation, which helped the center meet its matching requirements.
 
“We’ve had overwhelming support from our business partners,” says Rosenfelt. “Even women in the business community who are not necessarily entrepreneurs but want to support us.”
 
The WBC of Northern Ohio had an official launch party on April 19 at Ariel International Center attended nearly 200 people and county executive Armond Budish. On Monday, May 2 at 8:30 a.m. the center will have a ribbon cutting ceremony.
 
The free event will feature representatives from the national SBA, who will present the Woman Owned Small Business of the Year Award, as well as WBC of Northern Ohio advisory board, staff, members and funders. The SBC Volunteer of the Year awards will also be presented. Registration is required.
 
The ribbon cutting also kicks off National Small Business Week. Following the event, the WBC will host two free seminars presented by Fifth Third Bank. Banking Services and Credit Reporting for Small Business runs from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and includes lunch. Then on Wednesday, May 4 from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., the WBC will host two more free seminars presented by Huntington Bank, Financial Management for Small Business Owners and Planning for a Healthy Business.

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

Sabor Miami offers up authentic homestyle cuisine, warm atmosphere

When Mariela Paz opened the doors to Sabor Miami Cafe in Old Brooklyn on March 31, she knew she had found her calling. The restaurant, which features Latin inspired dishes amid the flair and décor of Miami, was a result of Paz’s desire to put her love of art and cooking into an entrepreneurial endeavor.

“I’m so happy because this is me,” she says of her new restaurant at 4848 Broadview Rd. “It has a full commercial kitchen, art and artwork and my paintings on the walls.”
 
Originally from Honduras, Paz came to Cleveland to be closer to family after working for 13 years as a graphic designer for a silkscreen company in Miami. She previously operated the former Café Miami just down the street while battling uterine cancer, undergoing surgery just four months before its opening. Then she began thinking about running her own restaurant.
 
“I loved my job [in Miami] but I worked at a computer all day,” she recalls. “Everything happens for a reason. For me now, it’s just enjoying the little things. I want to help with art and I want to get involved in the Cleveland community through my art.”
 
The 35-seat café serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast options include the bistec a caballo, a popular Miami dish of steak topped with sautéed onions alongside eggs, home fries and Cuban toast. Lunch and dinner items feature Paz’s signature Latin favorites such as vaca frita (fried cow), ropa vieja, (the translation for which is "old clothes," but fortunately, the dish itself is one of stewed beef and vegetables) and an assortments of empanadas.
 
Good coffee and coffee drinks are a must for Paz. The drinks menu includes Cuban coffee, Mayan mocho (a blend of espresso and milk) and Coco Beach latte (iced coconut coffee con leche and whipped cream).
 
“You have to have a good cup of coffee,” says Paz, “because sometimes you go to a place and the food is the best food, but the coffee is not good.”
 
Paz renovated and redecorated the café herself. “The kitchen is good and the place is nice and homey,” she says. It's also where she does all of the cooking herself while her mom, her niece and a friend help run the café. “I am so lucky because I get paid for what I love to do,” she says. “I put my heart into my cooking. It’s a lot of work for me, but I have no complaints.” She plans to hire staff as business grows.

Ahead of opening, Paz joined the Economic Community Development Institute (ECDI), which helps small businesses such as hers succeed by providing tools, technical assistance and support, and took advantage of the organization's business training classes. ECDI also gave her a $750 loan to launch the venture and build her credit. Rumor has it ECDI staff will drop in for a plate of Paz's homemade eats on occasion.
 
Customer reviews of Sabor Miami so far have been few but stellar, Paz says, adding that she’d like to eventually offer some Honduran dishes. “I want people to come and feel like you’re a family or you have a friend here,” she says.
 
Or bring your family. To that end, Paz has already started hosting “Painting with Mom” coffee, tea and canvas parties. The first two events were so popular that she will hold another one on Sunday, April 24 from 3 to 6 p.m. The cost is $45 per mother and child pair and includes all painting materials, sandwiches, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, flavored lemonade and pastries. Call (440) 714-0202 for reservations.

Paz plans to host similar events in the future and add community outreach programs, like feeding the homeless, to her repertoire. “I have many ideas in my head,” she says. “Because that makes me feel good. I don’t want material things. I’m a good person. You have to keep going when people tell you, ‘you can’t do that.’”

Sabor Miami Café is currently open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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

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.”

Summer opening eyed for Cleveland Coffee in Ecovillage

The plot of land between West 58th and 57th Streets on the north side of Lorain Avenue is one of those spaces Clevelanders pass again and again while their brow knits and they mumble to themselves … huh.

On it sits just one old building from days gone by, shuttered since who knows when. It is the only structure on that block, which is bordered to the north by West Aspen Court. For years, it has looked curious and perhaps lonely, but courtesy of a local entrepreneur that quirky old building in Detroit Shoreway's Ecovillage at 5718 Lorain Ave. is undergoing a transformation.
 
"We've decided to house our first Cleveland Coffee retail environment there," says Brendan Walton, who founded Cleveland Coffee in 2003. He currently roasts at a midtown location and serves his brew at the downtown café and bar, A. J. Rocco's at 816 Huron Road.
 
While Walton has owned the Lorain Avenue building for six years, he only began working on it recently. The first floor café area is approximately 850 square feet. Future plans for the second floor, which is zoned residential, are pending.
 
"Our focus is definitely on the first floor," says Walton, who is acting as his own general contractor. Leslie DiNovi of Mark Fremont Architects is doing the design for the privately funded project. While Walton has not yet submitted an application, he hopes to take advantage of the city's Storefront Renovation Program.
 
"I have to go through the process," he says, adding that he's working with staff at the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization to apply for the popular program.
 
While interior work is ongoing, thus far Walton has replaced all the windows save for the large front window and has installed Dutch lap siding, which is often fashioned from vinyl, but Walton opted for wood.
 
"We tried to match what was there," he says.
 
While specifics are still yet to be determined, Walton is planning to be open seven days a week and have a limited selection of edibles that will complement his high end coffee, which he'll prepare via popular methods such as pour-over and Aero and French press.
 
"A. J. Rocco's doesn't really lend itself to that," says Walton of those slower per-cup methods.
 
He hopes to be serving up his joe – including the new and popular Cavs/Aussie inspired blend – at the new Lorain location by the beginning of summer. Until then, home brewers can purchase Cleveland Coffee at some 40 retail locations across northeast Ohio.
 
While Walton is a bit of a pioneer on this stretch of Lorain, which has more than its share of vacancies, he is quick to tout neighboring successes such as the venerable Lorain Antique District, the gravity of which is loosely centered amid the West 70's, and the burgeoning easterly part of Lorain in Ohio City, into which ventures such as Canopy, The Grocery, and Platform Beer Company are breathing new life. He has stalwart faith that he can pull that energy inward to West 58th Street.
 
"I've always loved Lorain," says Walton, adding that his new coffee spot may inspire others to invest in the area around West 58th Street. "I think this is an important intersection for Detroit Shoreway," he says. And while many of the area storefronts are vacant, they have a certain vintage charm, one that could reemerge with what Walton calls an "old-school Coventry feel," referencing the storied east side neighborhood.
 
"We're Clevelanders," he says. "We like urban renewal and we would love to be a part of a renaissance in this area. We are very optimistic it's going to happen."

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."
 

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."
 

Small scale projects can be a big deal for downtown, says neighborhood group

In recent years, cities have utilized the concept of "tactical urbanism" to enhance downtown neighborhoods with short-term, community-based projects like pop-up parks and street art campaigns.

Cleveland planners have engaged the metro in its own urban improvement endeavors including SmallBox, an initiative that changed refurbished 8 foot by 20 foot shipping containers into startup small businesses. Livable city advocate Mike Lydon will discuss both local and national urbanism trends during a June 11 luncheon sponsored by Historic Gateway Neighborhood Corporation, Historic Warehouse District Development Corporation and PlayhouseSquare District Development Corporation.

Lydon is an internationally recognized urban planner as well as a partner in the Street Plans Collaborative, a group aiming to reverse suburban sprawl through walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods. Lydon's talk is opportune for a downtown aiming to jumpstart ambitious change via low-cost, potentially high-impact techniques, says Tom Starinsky, associate director of  both the Warehouse District and Gateway neighborhood organizations.

"Cleveland has a very strong community-led urban design community," Starinsky says. "(Lydon) is bringing these innovative ideas here so the city can stay in step with what's happening in the world."

Among other projects, the Cleveland organization has transformed parking spaces adjacent to the small-box stores into a pocket park. The park, decorated with shipping pallets converted into funky furniture, will host mini-concerts and other events, and is designed to be enjoyed by residents, office workers and visitors alike.

The Gateway District group, meanwhile, has plans for a parklet and bike corral on Euclid Avenue that will repurpose parking spaces in front of several businesses and create a semi-enclosed respite for pedestrians. In addition, the group is planning to build sidewalk parks throughout the neighborhood in areas where the pavement is especially wide, using a variety of seating types where people can sit and eat lunch. 

Urban planner Lydon, who has promoted similar efforts throughout the world, believes tactical urbanism projects can scale up without losing their connection to the neighborhoods that spawned them. This connection is a vital condition for any enduring successes locally, says Starinsky, particularly if new projects can empower a generation of engaged citizens, urban designers and policymakers.

"People involved with the city know more than anyone what will make it livable," he says. "There are infinite ways to make Cleveland better long-term."

Flashstarts move aims to create centralized innovation hub on Public Square

The Flashstarts business accelerator and venture fund recently moved from Playhouse Square to a much larger location in Terminal Tower for two basic reasons, says cofounder Charles Stack.

The first reason was to make it easier for startup companies to find stable office space. The second was to condense newbie entrepreneurial efforts into StartMart, a single, highly energetic nucleus where water cooler moments can foster new ideas and economic growth.

This concept of "engineered serendipity"  began May 16th when Flashstarts, which provides coaching, funds and other resources to new companies that participate in a 12-week program, left for its new 30,000-square-foot headquarters on Public Square, a space six times larger than its previous office.

"I've been doing this for 30 years, and I've never been more optimistic about startups having the opportunity to turn this region into a powerhouse," says Stack, who began planning StartMart with fellow Flashstarts founder Jennifer Neundorfer last spring. "This move is a small step in that direction."

Flashstarts itself will be the hub's first official tenant in the lead-up to a public launch in September. Over the summer, the accelerator will engage the community for feedback on StartMart's design and begin identifying and communicating with potential members. Though the group's focus is on use of software and technology, Stack expects a diverse range of occupants to fill the space.

"It's wide open to anyone who wants to join," he says.

Participants will work in a flexible space where privacy is an option even as collaboration is encouraged. Ultimately, StartMart will stand as a focal point for large-scale innovation.

"We want this to be a global center for startups," says Stack. "Cleveland can be a great home base (for small businesses), and we need to play up that strength."

First residents jump into Solarize Cleveland

"We're thrilled," says Barbara Hermes of the 23 new solar panels that grace the roof of her Parma home. The installation was completed just last week.
 
Hermes and her husband Rudy are two of the area's first residents to take advantage of Solarize Cleveland, an all-in-one program that allows homeowners to enter their address online and build a virtual solar installation that's custom to their home, complete with an estimate of their prospective energy savings.
 
"This is solar made easy for homeowners," says Mandy Metcalf, director of the Affordable Green Housing Center at Environmental Health Watch (EHW), which is helping to promote the program. "The program will walk you through all the options so you can make an educated decision."
 
Endorsed by both the World Wildlife Fund and Sustainable Cleveland 2019, Solarize Cleveland is administered by the national firm Geostellar, which aims to lower costs to homeowners with bulk purchasing power for the solar panels, inverters and mounting racks.
 
"They've got the cost of solar down to about $3.5 a watt," says Metcalf. "It's starting to make sense for more people."
 
Per Metcalf, the average residential installation costs between $10,000 and $20,000. Thirty percent of that, however, comes back as a direct rebate via a federal tax credit. Owners of energy generating solar panels may also sell Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), a market driven commodity. RECs in Ohio, however, have taken a hit on the market due to Ohio Senate Bill 310, which, per Cleveland.com, "(froze) state rules requiring electric utilities to sell more power generated by wind and solar." Governor Kasich signed SB310 into law last June.
 
If panels produce more energy than the homeowners use, they can sell the surplus back to the grid.
 
"I just love watching that meter," says Rudy of his new system.
 
Geostellar also offers financing options and arranges installation with one of four local contractors: Bold Alternatives, YellowLite, Third Sun Solar or Appropriate Applied Technologies.
 
While the program kicked off last November, the harsh winter months tend to eclipse the idea of a solar panel installation for most people. To date, the Hermes and one Cleveland Heights resident have committed to the program, although ten others are in the fulfillment process, which includes final design, permitting and/or financing. Approximately 100 people have pursued the program by establishing a solar home profile.
 
"The theory is that when it starts to get warm and sunny," says Metcalf, "people start to think about solar."
 
The Hermes are well beyond the thinking stage. The couple expects to see an energy savings of 60 percent on their future electric bill courtesy of the panels, which will generate up to six kilowatts per hour.
 
"We strongly believe in green technology," says Barbara. "Even on this relatively cloudy day, we're gathering sun. We hope that we will inspire other people in our neighborhood and in our community to follow suit."

New Third District Police Station welcomes community with public art

 
The Cleveland Police Department will be bringing their new $17.5 million Third District Police Station, 4501 Chester Avenue, online within a matter of weeks, but the nuanced impetus behind the design is not as obvious as the structure itself.

"Of course it's a police station, but it's also intended to be a community space," says LAND Studio's managing director Gregory Peckham, adding that the property includes areas accessible to the public for meetings and gatherings. "They really want it to be a place that's open and welcoming to the neighborhood -- not just a place where bad things happen, but a real resource for the community."

Bob Rose, Stephen Yusko and Stephen Manka designed the steel and glass sconces, which were manufactured by Rose Iron Works. Signature Sign constructed the illuminated archway, which was the creative product of Laura Cooperman.

"The large gateway feature is really about reflecting the character of the neighborhood in the building itself," says Peckham, noting the references to area churches and architecture in Cooperman's design. "It's really meant to communicate that this is a place for community."

"Laura is a fantastic young individual. I was fascinated by her approach to design and representing the community," says Rose of his fellow contributing artist. "This was her first venture away from paper."

The design for the sconces was driven by comments fielded by the officers and staff members who will be relocating from the current Third District facility at 10700 Chester Avenue. They expressed a desire for something that would honor the pride, history and culture of their profession, hence the iconic globe design.

"The challenge of that was: how do you get a vintage feel with a new modern building?" recalls Peckham. "I think (the Rose team) did a great job of striking a balance."

Peckham notes the new station's environs are not highly walkable. Hence, the three points of illumination "create a sort of lantern that I think will be a welcoming presence and humanize the building a little bit."

One thing the sconces won't do is stain the building.

"They're all carefully ground and polished hollow steel construction," says Rose, "except where they touch the wall. That's stainless because we don't want rust to drip on the wall."

For Rose, however, the project also allowed him to symbolically connect with the Third District and the man who helms it, Commander Patrick Stephens. Rose respects Stephens for his commitment to the neighborhood and attention to issues such as scrapping, but he also helped out on an issue that was very close to home.

Rose was having trouble with neighborhood kids breaking his shop windows during business hours. He knew which kids were doing the deeds, and that they attended nearby Case Elementary.

"Rather than penalize the kids and haul them off to Juvenile Court and all that junk, I thought I'd go talk to them," recalls Rose. "Pat Stephens took the time to meet me and meet with the kids."

After that meeting, the vandalism stopped, which Rose credits in no small part to Stephens and his effort in a the matter, which considering the ongoing headlines, is something that could use a little publicity.

"The whole concept of the building is to change the perception that police are enemies," says Rose. "The whole concept in the design of the building was to be welcoming and friendly."

"There's a lot of not-so-positive views of the police in Cleveland," adds Peckham. "These guys are doing good work and this facility is part of presenting that."

The designs were chosen by the Cleveland Public Art Committee from a pool of six different artists who were invited (and subsequently paid a fee) to develop public art concepts for the new station. Such is the matter of course as the city sets aside 1.5 percent of dollars associated with every new capital project for the inclusion of public art. In partnership with the city, Land Studio manages the public art portion of each project by finding potential artists and design concepts, and overseeing construction and implementation.

"I think it's really important that the city of Cleveland be recognized," says Peckham, "because they're investing a lot of money in artist and artwork and these projects."

"A Way Home," Stephen Yusko's latest exhibition, will be showing at the William Busta Gallery, 2731 Prospect Avenue, May 1st  – 30th, with an opening reception on Friday, May 1st from 5 to 9 p.m.

Cleveland Neighborhood Progress announces finalists for Vibrant City Awards

On April 28, 2015, Cleveland’s community development industry will gather at the Victory Center, 7012 Euclid Avenue, to recognize the accomplishments of its colleagues and organizations with seven awards during the first annual Vibrant City Awards luncheon.
 
Event host Cleveland Neighborhood Progress (CNP) will present the inaugural Morton L. Mandel Leadership in Community Development Award along with six other awards recognizing an array of community development efforts.
 
"This is a wonderful opportunity for our organization to convene the community development industry alongside city stakeholders and recognize successful neighborhood revitalization efforts," says Joel Ratner, president and CEO of CNP. "The Vibrant City Awards lunch continues a tradition of celebrating our collective accomplishments and enlisting new city advocates and champions."
 
"This is a celebration of the city—a celebration of the neighborhoods—and all are welcome," adds CNP's director of neighborhood marketing Jeff Kipp. "Obviously, community development stakeholders will be there, but this is part of our efforts to build up the core base of ambassadors and advocates and champions of city living. So anyone who has any role in that, from a resident to a store owner to a corporate executive, we want them to feel welcome to attend."
 
Response to the event has been brisk.
 
"We are very pleased that over 400 people have registered so far," says Kipp, adding that the capacity of the venue is 500.
 
While the recipient of the Morton L. Mandel award, which recognizes an individual who has had a profound impact in the community development field, will be announced at the ceremony, here is a synopsis of the six other community development awards and the associated finalists.
 
The three finalists for the Neighborhood Branding and Marketing Award include the Downtown Cleveland Alliance for its “You and Downtown” video, the Historic Gateway Neighborhood Corporation for the Take a Hike Tour offering and Tremont West Development Corporation for its Gay Games 9 Neighborhood Marketing campaign.
 
Finalists for the Community Collaboration Award include Kamm’s Corners Development Corporation and Bellaire Puritas Development Corporation for their efforts on the One West Park Visioning Study; the Ohio City, Inc., Tremont West Development Corporation and Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization; for their collaboration on the Near West Recreation effort; the Campus District Inc. for its Banner Up! project; and the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization/Gordon Square Arts District for its innovative collaboration with Cleveland Public Theatre and Near West Theatre and an associated capital campaign.
 
The Burten Bell Carr Development for the Market Café and Community Kitchen, the Historic Warehouse District Development Corporation for its Small Box Retail campaign, the Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation for its Intergenerational Housing initiative and Slavic Village Development for its Slavic Village Recovery project are all finalists for the Community Development Corporation Catalytic Project/Program Award. 
 
Those vying for the Corporate Partner Award include Fairview Hospital for its sustained commitment to the West Park neighborhood, Heinen’s Grocery Store for its successful efforts to realize a full service grocery Downtown at The 9 and Third Federal Savings for its continued partnership and investment in Slavic Village.
 
For his work in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood, Mike DeCesare of Case Development is a finalist for the Developer Award, as are Keith Sutton and Dave Territo of Sutton Builders for their efforts to revitalize Tremont, Mark Jablonski of CenterMark Development for his work at Lakeview Road and Superior Avenue and Sustainable Communities Associates partners Ben Ezinga, Josh Rosen and Naomi Sabel for completing the Fairmont Creamery development.
 
Finalists for the Urban Realtor Award include co-owners Keith Brown and Dave Sharkey of Progressive Urban Real Estate for their continued committed to Cleveland neighborhoods and Mark Lastition of the Howard Hanna Ohio City branch for his willingness to partner with developers on new construction and community events.
 
The Vibrant City Awards Lunch is open to the public. Tickets can be purchased via this link. For questions and comments, contact Jeff Kipp at 216.453.1453, or via email.
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