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new grant program funds business incubator, other innovative community projects

A new grant program launched by Neighborhood Progress Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides funding and technical assistance to community development corporations in Cleveland, recently awarded $200,000 to five projects. The recipients include a new business incubation program in North Collinwood, youth programming in Ohio City and surrounding neighborhoods, an effort in Central to teach fourth graders about healthy, local food, arts-based development in St. Clair Superior, and a community engagement effort in Tremont.

"The program came to be when we, as an organization, made a decision to develop a program that all CDCs had access to," says Colleen Gilson, Vice President of CDC Services for NPI, of the Neighborhood Solutions grant program. "The idea was, let's not be prescriptive. Let's let CDCs tell us what their solution to a neighborhood problem is or a cool project in their service area."

The awards break down as follows: NPI awarded $45,000 to ActiVacant, a program to recruit entrepreneurs to vacant retail spaces on E. 185th; $45,000 to Near West Recreation to expand its network of youth programming, including baseball, soccer, softball, basketball and bowling; $45,000 to St. Clair Superior for its Urban Upcycle project; $45,000 to Burton Bell Carr for its Urban Farm Diet Program; and $20,000 to Tremont West for its efforts to engage residents in creating a community-based development plan around MetroHealth.

Gilson says the projects reflect "deep collaboration" and non-traditional approaches towards community development. For instance, Near West Recreation is an effort to engage and retain families in six neighborhoods on the near west side -- Ohio City, Tremont, Stockyards, Clark-Fulton and Detroit Shoreway -- and build "intergenerational mixed-income neighborhoods." ActiVacant, spearheaded by Northeast Shores, is a "new take on the American dream" and a "business incubation project on steroids" that will entice young retailers to fill empty spaces on E. 185th by offering them free or reduced rent for a period of time, access to mentors and other support, and incentives for meeting benchmarks.

"The process was pretty amazing," says Gilson, describing a Shark Tank-esque format in which finalists presented in front of a panel of community development leaders, who then ranked and voted on winners. "We invited other CDCs to come watch and learn from their peers, and it was a really good opportunity to learn."

Source: Colleen Gilson
Writer: Lee Chilcote

collective upcycle to debut in st. clair superior with slovenian-themed bash

Collective Upcycle, the creative reuse boutique that's been popping up around town for the past few years, is opening a bricks-and-mortar store in the St. Clair Superior neighborhood. The shop, located at 6202 St. Clair Avenue -- aka the "coppertop building" -- will hold a grand opening party this Friday, November 22 from 5-8 p.m.

Friday's big bash will feature Slovenian beer and a Slovenian band in honor of the St. Clair Superior neighborhood's rich heritage as a hub for the ethnic community. The store will feature the work of 35-plus Cleveland upcycle artists and designers and is being spearheaded by Lauren Krueger as part of the Upcycle St. Clair effort.

"The shop is a celebration of innovation that's locally and regionally sourced," says Nicole McGee of Plenty Underfoot, who founded Collective Upcycle in 2011 and is a partner in Upcycle St. Clair, a larger effort to revitalize the entire retail district.

Some of the upcycled items offered at Collective Upcycle include roof slates turned into picture frames, plastic soda bottles made into sculptural flower bouquets, and vinyl LPs melted down into jewelry and serving bowls.

Collective Upcycle will be open Thursdays through Sundays during the holiday season. Then the store will close for a few weeks and reopen in January. Although the copper top building will eventually be taken over by St. Martin DePorres School, the shop will reopen in another location on St. Clair in the spring.

McGee says the store is proof positive that the strategy behind Upcycle St. Clair is working. "One of the goals was to bring in new businesses," she says. "We're celebrating what's already existing while also creating new opportunity."

Source: Nicole McGee
Writer: Lee Chilcote

cleveland public library to launch high-tech maker space downtown

What are the kids into these days? Learning to sew, if you can believe it.
The Lorain branch of the Cleveland Public Library recently purchased sewing machines and began offering classes, and apparently they're a hit with young adults, who are interested in crafting, learning to make and repair their own clothes, and upcycling older materials into something new.

"They absolutely loved it," says branch manager Olivia Hoge of the classes that debuted this fall. "It's something old that's coming back. The idea of 'making' is becoming very prevalent in libraries."

The Lorain branch is offering additional classes in December, and Hoge says that youth involved in the effort might also hold a fashion show as part of Cleveland Fashion Week.

Sewing classes are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how CPL is tapping into the maker movement, however. In January, a new high-tech Maker Space will open downtown, complementing the already-diverse offerings available there.

Housed in TechCentral, a technology and learning center in the lower level of the Stokes Wing, the MakerLab will feature the latest cutting-edge tech, including graphic design software, audiovisual recording equipment, vinyl cutter, laser cutter, 3D scanner, high-definition video camera and smartboard.

"It's pretty cool," says C.J. Lynce, manager of TechCentral. "We've invested in equipment, tools and software that are high-level and professional."

"TechCentral and the MakerLab fit into our strategic priority of 'Forming Communities of Learning,'" adds Cathy Poilpre, Assistant Marketing Director with CPL. "Collectively, all the services offered in the MakerLab make CPL the center of learning for our whole community. Most people have a place they live, a place they work, and this is like a third place -- to play, engage and learn."

The TechCentral MakerLab is slated to open January 11th in the main library.

Source: Olivia Hoge, C.J. Lynce
Writer: Lee Chilcote

developer breaks ground on 20 new micro-apartments in university circle

WXZ Development recently broke ground on 20 new micro-apartments on E. 118th Street in University Circle, adding to the wave of new housing in the area. Developer Jim Wymer says demand remains strong for efficiently designed, higher-end rental units geared towards professionals and students.

"We realized the true market that was untapped was an upscale rental product that was suited to the demographics of the Circle," says Wymer, who previously built and sold 12 townhomes at Circle 118. "There are people looking for nice, unique housing that feels like a for-sale product, but they want to rent."

A few years ago, WXZ developed Hazel 8, a 59-unit apartment project on Hazel Drive that is nearly 100 percent occupied. The units feature hardwood floors and stainless steel appliances and rent for $1.85 per square foot, or about $1,100 for a 600-square-foot, one-bedroom unit, due to the premium University Circle location.

The newest units, located on land previously owned by RTA, are actually Phase II of 118 Flats, a project that already brought 10 new units to E. 118th and Euclid.

"The market is so unique," says Wymer of demand for the units. "We have people coming into the market from as far away as the Far East. There was a lot of Internet shopping with Hazel 8 -- probably one-third of our tenants did applications and made deposits without ever seeing the product."

The units at 118 Flats average about 800 square feet, but they are efficiently designed with high ceilings, little wasted space and plenty of natural light, making them feel less like cramped apartments and more like hip micro-units.

Source: Jim Wymer
Writer: Lee Chilcote

tremont developer will reopen harbor pub on waterloo as part of operation light switch

Operation Light Switch on Waterloo is an effort to add critical mass to the area by "turning on" multiple new bars and restaurants as the streetscape project wraps up next year. The project recently scored another little win: restaurateur Alan Glazen sold the Harbor Pub to Tremont developer Tom Bell, who will reopen it.

Although it's too early to announce the concept, operator or even the name, Bell says he's excited about the opportunity to help revitalize Waterloo. "I'm trying to help Alan get the right mix," he says. "The area has kind of a rock-and-roll vibe -- it's really blue-collar Cleveland. I want to have a place with great food and great atmosphere. It won't necessarily be a step down, it will be a step over."

The Harbor Pub building features a historic bar that runs the length of the building. Although the exterior of the building has been redone, Bell will finish out the interior himself. The property features about 2,000 square feet on each of the two floors, and Bell plans to use all of it with a two-story bar and restaurant. He's also toying with the idea of creating outdoor seating along the driveway area or in the back.

Bell, who perhaps is best known as the creator of the Flying Monkey Pub in Tremont, says that he was intrigued by Glazen's salesmanship and vision for the area. "Alan browbeat me for months. He's a good drumbeater who creates excitement and gets people to think about new ideas. I can see the potential -- the CDC is re-seeding the area with artists and non-absentee property owners."

Bell plans to open next summer along with Steve Schimoler's Crop Rocks. He is toying with the idea of a coal-fired pizza concept and is looking for an operator to run it.

Source: Tom Bell
Writer: Lee Chilcote

neighbors try to shape future of duck island as developers stockpile land for new housing

The Duck Island neighborhood, which is situated off Abbey Road between Ohio City and Tremont, got its name because characters used to "duck" in here to escape cops during Prohibition. At least that's the legend that local residents like to offer.

Somehow, despite the sea-change development that's occurred in Tremont and Ohio City over the years, Duck Island has kept its tucked-away identity. Some new projects were built here, but others were stymied over the years by local residents opposed to density. But that may change over the next few years.

As developers like Andrew Brickman, Knez Homes and Sam McNulty buy up land in Duck Island, the Tremont West Development Corporation is leading a process to engage residents and stakeholders in shaping the future of Duck Island. And that future will likely involve new development, in some fashion or another.

"There's a lot of development being discussed in Duck Island, and the goal is to get the neighborhood on board with what's coming and create win-wins," says Cory Riordan, Director of Tremont West. "We want to have the conversation in advance and be proactive about how the development interacts with the community."

To that end, Tremont West is hosting a community design "charette" December 5-7 at St. Wendelyn's Church. Kent State University's Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative will lead the process, which will result in a new development plan for the area, encompassing everything from housing to infrastructure to home repair.

"People rise to the bar that's set for them," says Riordan. "The planning process won't just focus on development -- we want to look at improving Abbey Park and giving seniors the ability to fix their homes -- but new developments are driving the need for it. The result will be a community vision for moving forward."

Currently, there are only six new for-sale housing units officially proposed in Duck Island, a townhouse project being developed by Knez. Yet Riordan confirmed that developable land in Duck Island could result in dozens of new units in the coming years. For example, developer Andrew Brickman owns the former Bridgeview Cafe on Lorain Avenue, and that site alone could hold a large development.

In other Tremont news, the Professor Avenue streetscape project is nearly done. Artist Olga Ziemska has created "Dendrite," a public art piece that will function as seating and a gathering place, at the plaza at the corner of W. 10th, Fairfield and Professor. She intends to install it by the end of November, weather permitting.

Source: Cory Riordan, Olga Ziemska
Writer: Lee Chilcote

pop-up shaker launches winter market for handcrafted food and crafts in van aken district

Shaker Heights perhaps is better known for its handsome residential districts than its commercial areas. However, a new pop-up event aims to highlight local businesses in the Van Aken District, invite a few new ones to participate, and offer a new kind of winter market where people can shop close to home.

Pop Up Shaker will bring a range of local food and craft purveyors into Juma Gallery and Lucy's Sweet Surrender for a two-week run beginning Saturday, November 30th and going through Sunday, December 15th. Upcycle St. Clair's innovative Shop the Window event will brighten the windows of the vacant storefront between them.

"The goal is to encourage residents and others to look at Shaker as a great place to do business," says Katharyne Starinsky, an Economic Development Specialist with the City of Shaker Heights. "Construction on the Van Aken streetscape is starting next year. We want people to think about how great the future of the area will be."

Cleveland Culinary Launch and Kitchen will turn Juma Cafe into a marketplace for tantalizing foods; Cleveland Craft Connection will host a handmade market and teach crafting classes at Lucy's; and Shop the Window will allow visitors to purchase upcycled crafts simply by scanning the QR code with their smartphones.

"You can immediately purchase the gifts right then and there, and then they'll be available for pickup at Upcycle St. Clair, or they can be shipped," says Starinsky.

So far, everyone loves the idea, which has never before been tried in the City of Shaker Heights. "People are excited to be able to shop in their own community."

Source: Katharyne Starinsky
Writer: Lee Chilcote

kai's kultured mushrooms launches local mushroom farm in buckeye-shaker

Shaker Heights entrepreneur Kai Wingo recently launched the Buckeye Mushroom Farm on a vacant lot on E. 127th Street off Buckeye Road. Wingo is growing oyster and garden giant mushrooms on beds and racks there. She also teaches classes and sells mushrooms under the moniker Kai's Kultured Mushrooms at the Coit Road Farmers Market.

"I'm a mushroom ambassador," she says. "I want people to know about benefits we get from mushrooms. I'm the only one I know of who's doing it at this scale."

Wingo began growing mushrooms four years ago, and launched her business when she got laid off from her job with the Cleveland Municipal School District. By then, she'd outgrown her home garden, so she applied for a vacant lot through the land bank. Recently, she also built a hoop house there to extend the growing season.

"Mushrooms are a powerhouse of nutrition," she explains. "The gardens also benefit because of the compost they provide. They're just a grand recycler."

Wingo says there is great untapped demand for local mushrooms, which are a high-value crop, and that her business and classes are taking off. "There's a long waiting list of farmers markets that would love to have mushrooms there, but there aren't any people to fill the niche, so that's why I'm teaching people."

Hough entrepreneur Mansfield Frazier also has tapped Wingo to grow 'shrooms at his new biocellar project. She can be reached via Facebook or by phone at 216-561-3200.

Source: Kai Wingo
Writer: Lee Chilcote

entrepreneurs show off evolving plans for ohio city's new platform brewing company

Predictably, Paul Benner and Justin Carson came up with their idea to launch a brewing incubator over a couple of strong pints at a local alehouse. Benner owns the Cleveland Brew Shop, a homebrew supply store in Tremont, and Carson runs JC Beertech, a company that installs and cleans draft beer lines.

Two weeks ago, JC Beertech moved its 40-person office from Medina to a renovated building in Ohio City. The company occupies the second floor of the Tomasch building at 4125 Lorain Avenue, which was built 100 years ago as a Czech social hall. Benner and Carson are now hard at work on renovations to the first floor, which by next spring will be home to Platform Brewing Company.

JC Beertech's new offices feature gleaming hardwood floors, the original bar from the Czech social hall, solar tubes that introduce natural light and windows that overlook Lorain. The stout brick building's exterior has been completely renovated with new storefront windows, and signage will be added when the project is completed.

Platform, a microbrewery and brewing incubator, will occupy 5,000 square feet on the first floor. The space, part of which was a former bowling alley for the Czech hall, has slender planked hardwood floors that are being restored. A 20-foot-tall garage door will open to a spacious new beer garden. The Plum, a cafe and sandwich shop opening next door, will provide food from a shared kitchen.

Platform will brew beer for consumption on premises and sale to restaurants, offer contract brewing services for restaurants that want to brew their own beer, and hold classes and other instructional programs for homebrewers who want to break into the industry. Benner says it's the only brewing incubator he's aware of in the country.

"We're excited about creating a new district in Ohio City," Benner says of Lorain Avenue between W. 45th and Fulton, which is considered part of SoLo (South of Lorain). "We'll have people here from seven in the morning until ten at night."

In spring, Benner will plant hops vines that will grow over trellises in the rear of the building and along the alleyway next to the building so that they're visible from the street.

Source: Paul Benner
Writer: Lee Chilcote

new tremont animal clinic will give near-west side pet lovers new option for care

Among Tremont residents, it's a running joke that the area has almost as many dogs and cats as people. Now this pet-friendly neighborhood will gain another asset in the form of the Tremont Animal Clinic, which is set to open on W. 14th Street by the end of the year.

"We grew up in Cleveland, born and bred," says Katie McCoy, who is opening the clinic with fellow veterinarians Sara Tippins and Bob Litkovitz (known as "Dr. Bob" to all who frequent Gateway Animal Clinic, where he and Litkovitz has worked for years). "We looked at Independence, Hinckley, but always came back to wanting to be a part of the city. We walk down the street and see people we know. Tremont is a nice, small, supportive community, and we love that."

Tremont Animal Clinic will be a full-service clinic that offers appointment times and segregated examination rooms. The vets decided to open the clinic to offer an alternative to Gateway, which is walk-in only and has large, open rooms. The facility will be open Monday through Saturday, and will be open until 7:30 p.m. at least one evening per week.

The building, located at 3148 W. 14th Street, is the former home of the Rodeo Bar, a nuisance that Tremont residents have complained about for years. Local entrepreneur and Treehouse owner Tom Leneghan is completely renovating the place, having gutted it down to the studs. A hair and nail salon is located next door, and a barbeque joint called Nana's BBQ is slated to go in on the other side.

"People were so happy to see us go in here because the Rodeo had been a problem for years," says McCoy, who is aiming for a soft opening before Christmas.

Source: Katie McCoy
Writer: Lee Chilcote

port authority announces plans for cleveland-europe express ocean freight service

The Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority has announced plans to launch the first-ever Cleveland-Europe express ocean freight service, an effort that is currently being finalized and will be cemented next month if the agency's levy passes, officials say.

Port Authority business is already strong, Executive Director Will Friedman said at a recent press conference, with last month's port traffic having exceeded pre-recession levels. The new service will enhance those business fundamentals by offering "lower-cost, faster and greener" direct service.

"For freight, this is like the equivalent of a Cleveland Hopkins direct-to-Heathrow flight from our airport," said Friedman. "We feel that it will be well-subscribed by the maritime community in Northeast Ohio and beyond. There's a huge market -- fifty percent of the country's population is within an eight-hour drive of us."

"We believe this new service will be a game-changer for area companies, helping them become more competitive in the global economy," added board chair Marc Krantz, who stressed that it will help goods and products reach Northeast Ohio manufacturers and companies more quickly and result in more money spent locally.

Without this service, containers shipped from Europe are sent to East Coast ports, where they are then placed aboard a truck or freight line to be transported to Ohio. With the addition of this service, being chartered by the Port itself, both travel time and cost are reduced.

Friedman says the service would create 361 new direct and indirect jobs and generate $34.4 million of total personal income earned. The Port already generates $1.8 billion in annual economic activity.

Source: Will Friedman, Marc Krantz
Writer: Lee Chilcote

eclectic eccentric boutique adds to the vintage-modern mix on larchmere boulevard

The new kid on the block on historic Larchmere Boulevard sells everything from vintage longhorn antlers and Tory Burch sandals to designer jeans and mid-century modern Herman Miller chairs. That's just how Eclectic Eccentric rolls, which is a perfect fit for a street that is nothing if not both of those things.

Long considered the East Side's premier antiques district, the street still contains remnants of that, but now also houses a yarn shop, bookstore, soul food joint, bistro, barber shops, galleries and much more within a few short, walkable blocks. A new streetscape project, set to kick off next year, will make that walk even more pleasant when it wraps up in 2015.

Eclectic Eccentric owner Tracey Hilbert says that she got her start in retail at the tender age of 14, working in her father's drugstore. Last year, the Shaker Heights mom returned to her roots and opened a small store above Conservation Studios. Emboldened by its success, she pounced on a vacant storefront that became available earlier this year.

"I wanted the combination of a vintage store and new merchandise that's modern," she says. "People have always said I have a good eye, and I like the juxtaposition."

Hilbert, who is partnering with several other designers and clothing makers to turn Eclectic Eccentric into "more of a co-op space," says that she's tapping into a resurgence of interest in all things vintage and green. "There's a trend with people around the country taking what they like and incorporating a variety of different things into design," she states. "There aren't as many set rules any more."

Eclectic Eccentric is located at 13005 Larchmere Boulevard.

Source: Tracey Hilbert
Writer: Lee Chilcote

hotcards to match fiery growth with flaming guinness world record-setting attempt

Earlier this year, Hotcards CEO John Gadd moved the local printing and marketing company's headquarters to the former Futon Factory at 2400 Superior Ave., expanding from 14,000 to 22,000 square feet and giving the company the opportunity to do a ground-up renovation of new offices.

"We were able to do it from scratch, the way that we wanted, in order to reflect the culture we're trying to build," says Gadd, who has injected new life into Hotcards since he bought the company a few years ago.

The new space features 15-foot ceilings, expansive windows and walls adorned with tons of Cleveland artwork. Eleven people work in the Cleveland office. The company also has offices in other parts of Ohio as well as a Columbus manufacturing facility.

Gadd says the company's growth can be attributed to its "customer-obsessed" culture, which "takes care of people we serve" with utmost attention to detail.

Now Gadd aims to make the company burn even hotter -- and seek some thrills and raise money for worthwhile charities in the process -- by setting 20 people ablaze along the banks of the Cuyahoga River in a Guinness World Records-setting attempt.

"It's a magical spectacle to watch -- people lit on fire look like an art display," he says. "Because we’re Cleveland, we'll turn a negative [burning river thing] into a positive. We'll also raise a bunch of money for charity and make some news."

Gadd has brought in stunt expert Ted Batchelor of Chagrin Falls to manage the event. He says it's so safe it almost takes the excitement out of it. The current record is 17 people set on fire at one time, a feat that Batchelor himself pulled off in 2009.

The event will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 19, at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River, with spectators invited to watch from Shooters (tickets start at $15). The fire department and Coast Guard will be on hand in case of emergency. Local YouTube superstar Madi Lee will sing the national anthem before the big burn.

Gadd isn't sure how much money he'll raise for charity, since the event costs about $50,000 to produce. But any additional proceeds will go to the Cleveland Foodbank and Brick by Brick, a nonprofit group that builds schoolhouses in South Africa.

Source: John Gadd
Writer: Lee Chilcote

phoenix coffee opens roomy new cafe on coventry road

Phoenix Coffee, known for setting the standard for Cleveland coffee culture throughout the past two decades, recently moved into a airy new digs on Coventry Road. The roomy, contemporary storefront boasts large windows and a design that incorporates reclaimed materials.

Coffee Director Christopher Feran says that Phoenix's goal was to relocate from its unworkable space down the block to a storefront that it could completely customize, adding to the renaissance of local businesses near the northern end of Coventry.

With help from a low-interest storefront renovation loan from the City of Cleveland Heights, Phoenix completely renovated the space, which formerly housed C. Jones Coffee and Tea. The design incorporates reclaimed materials such as Mason jar lanterns, old subway tile, a wood planking design accent with Phoenix Coffee logo and a cream station made from an old cog from Bethlehem Steel. AODK, Rust Belt Welding and the Foundry Project all helped with the project.

The new Phoenix coffee shop also has a pour-over bar, where customers can sit and watch coffee being made to order by the cup, a growing trend in artisan coffee over the past several years.

Next up: Phoenix is scouting for a fourth location with commissary space, a central kitchen where food and coffee can be prepared in an open and viewable space. Ideal locations include the near west side, including Ohio City.

Source: Christopher Feran
Writer: Lee Chilcote

bike composting biz among those competing in idea challenge

The Enterprise Nurture an Idea Crowdrise Challenge offers entrepreneurs the opportunity to win $10,000 by competing to raise the most money online. Eleven innovative ideas in Cleveland are competing between now and November 8th for that big grand prize.

Ideas include a bike composting business in Gordon Square, an initiative to open retail startups in former shipping containers in downtown parking lots, a healthy corner store in Tremont, and a food cooperative distribution center in St. Clair Superior.

Daniel Brown of Rust Belt Gardens studied successful operations in other cities before setting his sights on launching a bike composting business. He says that such a business not only can be profitable, but also can help homeowners divert waste from landfills, create green-collar jobs and improve soil at community gardens.

"We need to buy specialized bikes and trailers, get the website up and running, and start to educate people about what is compostable and not compostable," Brown says of his startup. His partners in the challenge are Detroit Shoreway Community Development, Bike Cleveland and Groundz Recycling.
Cleveland Bike Composting would charge $10 to $25 per month to pick up five-gallon compost buckets from a home or business, depending on how often it is scheduled.

"At our community garden, we can't compost enough," says Brown of the demand. "Purchasing compost is expensive, but the process to make it is fairly easy if you know what you're doing. People in Cleveland are really buying into the local foods movement, and that lends itself to there being demand for a composting service."

Currently, there is no business in Cleveland that helps individual homeowners to compost, much less that does so by bike, which raises the sustainability to a new level of green.

Source: Daniel Brown
Writer: Lee Chilcote
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