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indian street food, international sports bar coming to campus district

If the student can't get to Mumbai, Mumbai shall come to the student … and teacher, and regular Cleveland joe and anyone else who's interested in a plate of vada pav or pani puri.
 
Those dishes, along with an entire menu of classic Indian street food will be available at the new eatery Bombay Chaat, 2044 Euclid Avenue, as early as March 1st. Entrepreneurs Hetal Patel and her husband Nehal are putting forth the venture. 
 
"They wanted to do something interesting and unique," says building owner Richard Bole. "This is the first dedicated Indian street food concept in Cleveland."
 
Bole is leasing the entire first floor of his building, 8,000-square-feet, to the Patels. Half of the space is under construction, including the kitchen, restrooms and seating for 60. The space will also feature a mural by local artist Erin Mazza. Work on the other half of the project, an international sports bar, is slated for later this year.
 
Plans for the bar include a limited late night menu and showings of international sporting events such as Premiere League games and cricket matches from countries afar (think India versus Pakistan) in an effort to attract international students.
 
"That's kind of the niche they're looking for," says Bole. The couple also manages a convenience store at 1900 Euclid Avenue Lofts and some Subway franchises.
 
Tentative future plans include bringing an actual street food stall from India and nestling it right on Euclid Avenue, from whence hungry passers-by will purchase exotic paper-wrapped snack foods.
 
"I think it could be very popular and I think it has a lot of appeal to the younger demographic on campus," says Bole. "Everything they're doing is trying to authenticate what you would see in India."
 
Bole purchased the 66,000-square-foot building in 2007.
 
"When I bought it," he says, "it was a 70 percent vacant, Class C office building."
 
He went to work converting much of the space into apartments. The 22 units range from 720- to 2,000-square feet with monthly rents from $800 to $1,950. Plans for five more units are in the works, with construction slated to begin once the restaurant is complete. The existing units are fully leased, with 80 on the waiting list.
 
The building also houses 8,000-square feet of office space. Tenants include Donley's Construction and Dorcherty Talent and Modeling.  
 
Most of the work on the project, which Bole characterizes as "long and difficult," was completed last year. Doty & Miller were the general architects; however, Mahler & Associates were the architects for the restaurant. Investment details for the project are confidential.
 
Bole muses on the meteoric rise of Downtown's residential scene. "As recently as 2003," he notes, "the population on our block was pretty much zero and now it's got to be three or four hundred."
 
The impetus for Bole's development effort was born during a stint living in New York City. "I thought we had the same architectural bones as some of those neighborhoods and the potential to do something similar," he says.
 
"I'm kind of a crazy dreamer like anyone else in this business."

near west theatre set to debut its new $7.3m home in gordon square arts district

At an upcoming open house on February 28th, Near West Theatre is set to debut its long-awaited new home in the Gordon Square Arts District. The $7.3 million, green-built, state-of-the-art theatre is the kind of space the nonprofit has long been dreaming of, and this year will be its chance to shine.

Before the winter break, Fresh Water took a tour of this bold new space with NWT staff. The impressive building is set back slightly from the street, yet it's large enough that you can't miss it. A plaza that will be constructed in front of the building should offer a gathering place for theatre-goers, visitors and community members alike, with planters, bioswales, a mural and a large, artistic sign.

"The entrance will get across that Near West Theatre is the 'magic factory of transformation,'" says Josh Padgett, Technical Director with NWT. "We transform people."

Within the facility, the expansive lower level offers 3-4 separate spaces that can be customized to the theatre's needs. The space will provide a rehearsal studio and changing rooms (NWT's productions are often quite large and can include 60-65 people), and it will be rentable to outside groups. In the future, the group hopes to build out a small cafe that can serve concessions during shows.

The entire building is ADA-accessible, with both an elevator and ramp access, details that were sorely lacking from its past performance space at St. Pat's.

Yet it's the main level of the theatre that truly conveys that NWT has hit the big time. The soaring ceilings offer a full theatrical production facility with fly space. For the first time, the theatre company has wings that can be used during its shows. The theatre itself is at once intimate and capacious, with its 275-seat capacity offering opportunities for proscenium, thrust or in-the-round seating. If that's not enough, there's also a small balcony that may offer the best views.

All of the seats are completely removable and flexible. "It used to take us four days to set up the seats, and now it will take us four hours," quips Padgett, who adds that NWT has purchased state-of-the-art theatrical equipment for its new home. Expect a level of technical proficiency that hasn't been done before.

A few more cool facts that we gleaned during the tour: For the first time, cast members will have their own restrooms (in the past, they had to traipse, costumes and all we imagine, into the same bathrooms as the audience). The large I-beam behind the stage bears the signatures and well wishes of people who attended a recent Gordon Square Arts District festival, and it will remain exposed and visible. The beam was also signed by cast members and theatre supporters.  Padgett and others refer to it as the "we beam," reflecting NWT's community spirit.

Part of the beauty of this facility is that NWT owns it free and clear, having raised the funds during the GSAD capital campaign. Also, because the structure was built using ultra-sustainable techniques borrowed from European passive house design, it will be a very affordable building to operate, limiting capital outlay.

In addition to the February 28th open house, NWT is holding a "blowout party" on March 14th. The group's annual benefit will be held on March 21st, while the upcoming production of "Shrek the Musical" will open on April 24th and run for four weekends. Later in the summer, NWT will produce the musical "Hair."


foreign language immersion school set to open next year in cleveland

Educational opportunities for Cleveland grade-schoolers could soon expand with the addition of a new foreign language immersion school in the 2015-16 school year. Last February, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) gave the Global Ambassadors Language Academy (GALA) the thumbs up on a new charter school for children in kindergarten through grade eight.
 
"This is going to be the first foreign language immersion school in the region," notes GALA's founder Meran Rogers, adding that it will also be the first Mandarin immersion school in the state.
 
"Outside of our country, attending a school where you're immersed in another language is typical," says Rogers. She should know. She taught at an immersion school in Taiwan for a year and saw the benefits it brought to children there. The experience made Rogers wonder, why don't we have this here? And GALA was born.
 
The new charter school expects to open for the 2015/2016 school year offering Spanish and Mandarin programs, although Rogers hopes to expand in the coming years, particularly with Portuguese and Arabic programs. Upcoming milestones for the school include getting a preliminary agreement filed with the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) next March, and a formal contract between CMSC and GLA filed with ODE next May. The group is optimistic that these procedures will go smoothly as GALA plans to begin hiring staff in February and start enrolling students in March. They are currently accepting intent to enroll forms for their inaugural year.
 
Enrollment is free for all Ohio residents. GALA will receive the standard state and federal per-pupil allocations. Private donors have included the Albert B and Audrey G. Ratner Family Foundation, RPM International Inc. and Margaret Wong & Associates. Rogers is also hopeful that GALA's application of a $653,000 federal three-year grant will be approved in the coming days.
 
GALA will announce the school's location in December, after completing a series of community information meetings (tonight, Oct. 4, Oct. 8 and Oct. 9, RSVP required). Information gleaned from those gatherings and the intent to enroll forms, such as where students live, will determine the school's location. GALA is considering three potential spots, although Rogers will not disclose details except that all three are in Cleveland proper with one on the west side of town, one on the east side and one in the middle.
 
In addition to her international teaching experience, Rogers has another more personal reason for starting the venture.
 
"I grew up in Cleveland and both of my parents were immigrants. I grew up speaking a blend of four languages: Polish, Taiwanese, Chinese and English," she says, adding that the confusion over language caused the Cleveland Public Schools to label her as a special education student instead of one with English as a second language. When she transferred to Lakewood Public Schools in second grade, the mistake was corrected. Nonetheless, Rogers still carries negative feelings over the experience and disappointment that her diversity wasn't valued and nurtured.
 
"I grew up feeling that my culture and my languages were a burden—something that needed to be done away with—to assimilate," she says. "If I offer students in similar situations a program that embraces their culture and diversity—or other cultures and diversity—I think that's good for our community."
 
Rogers stresses that GALA is not targeting Mandarin or Spanish speaking students. "It's actually just the opposite," she says. "Our model is to target English speaking students."
 

$11m buckeye square building offers supportive housing for chronically homeless

Housing First, a coalition of more than 40 public and private organizations throughout Northeast Ohio, was formed in 2006 to end "long-term and chronic homelessness" in Cuyahoga County. With the recent completion of Buckeye Square, an $11.3 million building that offers 65 affordable, furnished studio apartments for low-income individuals and families, the group is closer to its goal of building 1,271 units of permanent supportive housing.

“Housing gives residents security and stability to combat other issues and get back on their feet," said Marc McDermott, Vice President and Ohio market leader for Enterprise Community Partners, Inc., the Housing First Initiative leader, in a release." All of the partners that made Buckeye Square possible are changing lives, and the model’s success in Cleveland proves that housing makes all the difference.”

The coalition has seen a 73 percent drop in chronic homelessness since the program began, which it cites as evidence that the strategy has been successful.

Buckeye Square, which officially opened this week, is located at Buckeye Road and E. 116th Street. The building offers shared laundry facilities, a community room with kitchen, a computer lab, resident parking, a 24-hour staffed front desk, outdoor space and on-site social services.

Supportive housing is aimed at helping the chronically homeless get back on their feet. Support services are provided to help them become more independent and reintegrate with their neighborhoods. Enterprise leads Housing First projects by assembling capital, working with local leaders and offering expertise. Cleveland Housing Network has acted as lead developer, while EDEN has served as co-developer and property manager. FrontLine Service helps provide supportive services to residents.

Buckeye Square was built using Low Income Housing Tax Credits as well as HOME funds and other grants. Enterprise furnished a predevelopment loan of $572,600.

Housing First also recently obtained a grant from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency to create a mobile health clinic that will serve all of its buildings.

urban community school opens new $6.3m middle school, increases enrollment

Urban Community School, an urban K-8 school founded in 1968, just celebrated the grand opening of a new, $6.3 million middle school. The new facility will allow UCS to serve an additional 150 students per year, bringing the total to 600.

UCS, which is considered a high-performing private school, has a mission of helping low-income students become high achievers. The school is an anchor on Lorain Avenue, which is experiencing a shot-in-the-arm of new business investment.

"Our long-term vision since 2000 has been serving more kids with a unified campus," said Sister Maureen Doyle, the head of the school, at the ribbon cutting ceremony. "Our goal is to inspire children and teachers to achieve."

UCS broke ground on its Lorain Avenue campus a decade ago. The project required tearing down a historic but dilapidated building that was donated to the school. The green-built facility opened in 2005, but the school still had a long waiting list. The new middle school caps off that decade-long expansion effort.

The middle school expansion was made possible by a lead gift of $5 million followed by a fundraising campaign. UCS will complete the project this month.

The facility allows middle school students to have their own separate wing. It features large classrooms designed for collaborative learning and gathering spaces outside the classrooms for studying or group work. The curriculum has also been redesigned to focus more on project work and social development. Science, math and the principles behind STEAM are also a strong focus area.

At the ribbon cutting, Natalie Celeste, Vice Principal of the middle school, outlined how the building's design helps facilitate learning. "We researched what adolescents need to learn best. They're becoming community members in an abstract world. Adolescents need to be able to practice community."

In addition to the new classroom and learning spaces, the building also features a new, larger middle school cafeteria. A new program gives every middle school student access to a personal iPad at school. Finally, the campus features a new middle school playground, learning garden and outdoor classroom. Through a partnership with Refugee Response, students learn about urban farming.

restored league park set to reopen following $6m renovation

League Park, the historic Hough ballfield where baseball legend Babe Ruth hit his 500th home run over the outfield wall in 1929, is set to reopen this weekend following a complete renovation. The reopening, in the works for years, will not only house the Baseball Heritage Museum, but also a replica of the original ticketing facility, a community room and a huge, new ballfield. It mimics the original down to the fact that home plate is set in the same spot as when Babe Ruth stood there.

Councilman T. J. Dow hopes that the project will spark reinvestment in the Hough neighborhood. "We love the fact that we have a recreational park in the community, but it will also serve as an economic development piece," he says. "Many of the new homeowners moved here with the expectation that League Park would be rebuilt. We believe that it will serve as an anchor."

Dow also believes that the park will serve as a tourist attraction, drawing baseball and history lovers from Greater Cleveland and beyond. The park has a special significance for the African-American community, since many black teams played here and the Buckeyes won the Negro World Series at League Park in 1920.

The restored League Park will also serve as home field for many Cleveland Municipal School District teams, a special privilege since the park is quite large and has brand-new astroturf. Outside organizations can rent the field for a fee, and the money earned will go back into maintaining the park. The ticketing office and museum will be open for regular hours during the week and on weekends.

"We have Hough residents who are starting up baseball clubs," says Dow, touting ways in which enhanced recreational opportunities will help the neighborhood. "They could play on the League Park field during the championship games."

Although there is no active community development corporation in Hough and redevelopment plans stalled out in the recession, that could change. Dow is currently in the process of kicking off a neighborhood planning process, and envisions new housing built on tracts of vacant land around League Park.

League Park is located at East 66th Street and Lexington Avenue. A grand opening party is set for Saturday, August 23rd at 1 p.m., and will feature the unveiling of the Fannie M. Lewis sculpture, an appearance by the Cleveland Blues vintage baseball team, a Home Run Derby and other activities.

state of downtown is strong, but greater connectivity between amenities is needed, say leaders

Downtown Cleveland was named one of the top cities for millenials to live by The Atlantic, with more than 1,000 new housing units coming online, and major projects like Flats East helping to reenergize formerly moribund parts of downtown. These are just a few of the successes listed in Downtown Cleveland Alliance's 2013 annual report, and touted at this week's State of Downtown forum at the City Club.

Yet more needs to be done to connect downtown's assets, including public realm improvements, pedestrian- and bike-friendly amenities, and especially lakefront connections. These were the messages conveyed by leaders at the forum.

"We're no longer in the 'big box' phase," said Joe Marinucci, President and CEO of DCA. "Now our challenge is, how we can incrementally connect the investments."

Marinucci pointed to Perk Park, a revamped green space at East 12th and Chester, as an example of a successful strategy for creating public improvements.

Now DCA has launched Step Up Downtown, an initiative to engage residents and stakeholders in envisioning the future of downtown. With abundant plans in place, the goal is to prioritize which enhancements to focus on first, garner feedback from residents, and drill down to the implementation phase.

"This initiative recognizes that we've made a lot of investments downtown, but in many ways haven't connected the investments as well as we should," said Marinucci. "We need to make the public realm as attractive as the destinations."

Attendees posed questions about connecting to the waterfront, making downtown accessible to all income levels, and prioritizing educational opportunities for families.

Marinucci cited lakefront development plans, the incorporation of affordable housing into downtown projects and DCA's work with Campus International School and the Cleveland Municipal School District as signs of progress.


Source: Joe Marinucci
By Lee Chilcote

cleveland kurentovanje fest seeks to ward off cold with mid-winter parade, festival

Winter shows no signs of abating with the impending arrival of another Polar Vortex and more of that white, fluffy stuff.
 
But have no fear! The Kurents are here. These mythical fuzzy creatures from Slovenia will be out in force this weekend at the second annual Cleveland Kurentovanje, an all-ages festival that seeks to ward off winter with a fun parade and day-long party.

"We have 10 fuzzy Kurents this year, six of which are waiting for us in customs right now," says Michael Fleming, Executive Director of St. Clair Superior Development, the nonprofit agency spearheading improvement efforts in the area, who expects a good crowd. "There's a lot of excitement this year."

Fleming and his co-organizers ordered the outfits directly from the city of Ptuj in Slovenia, which, in case you don't know, is the capitol of all things Kurentovanje.

Cleveland Kurentovanje takes place this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Slovenian National Home on St. Clair, with an after-party set for Sterle's Country House. The parade steps off at noon from St. Vitus Church, and will feature fuzzy Kurents, marching bands from area schools, floats from area businesses, and a DJ Kishka float. Family-friendly activities will take place in the basement of the Slovenian National Home, and kids can also march in the parade.

There will be plenty on tap at the Slovenian National Home, including krofe and sausage sandwiches, wine, beer, music, dance and crafting stations for kids.

Fleming says the Slovenian National Home on St. Clair and Sterle's on East 55th have become focal points for redevelopment activity in the area. The National Home has attracted new tenants including the Slovenian Genealogical Society, a dance studio and a bakery. Sterle's has reinvented itself with additional live music geared towards a younger crowd and an outdoor beer garden, yet it has retained the beer-and-schnitzel atmosphere that has worked for the past half century.


Source: Michael Fleming
Writer: Lee Chilcote

cleveland neighborhood progress launches city life tours to highlight urban vibrancy

Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, a nonprofit community development organization, has begun offering Cleveland City Life tours to expose suburbanites, millenials, empty-nesters, boomerangs and newcomers to town to all the city has to offer.

CNP Director of Marketing Jeff Kipp says the tours really are about helping Clevelanders see for themselves the positive change taking place in the city.

"We'll do the proverbial handholding and take you into the neighborhoods," he says. "You see the positive headlines and positive trends, but a big chunk of our population doesn't have firsthand experience with the city. This is about removing that intimidation factor and bridging the gap."

Tours starts in Ohio City and include stops in Detroit Shoreway, the lakefront, University Circle, Little Italy, Midtown, downtown and Tremont. Along the way, it also touches on neighborhoods such as Cudell, Glenville and Fairfax. Each lasts two hours, costs $12 and comes with a free Live!Cleveland/City Life T-shirt.
 
"As we drive through University Circle, we can reference the excitement that's happening in North Shore Collinwood," Kipp explains, adding that while the tours can't feasibly cover the whole city, they will highlight all city neighborhoods.

The tours are being marketed through CNP's website and partner organizations such as Global Cleveland and the Downtown Cleveland Alliance. There currently are tours scheduled between Christmas and New Year's and around the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend.

"This is a way to roll out the red carpet and give a reintroduction to your Cleveland neighbors," Kipp adds.
 

Source: Jeff Kipp
Writer: Lee Chilcote

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

opportunity corridor could be missed opportunity without better planning, advocates say

Opponents and proponents of the Opportunity Corridor, a 3.5-mile planned roadway that would connect I-490 with University Circle, don’t agree on much. Opponents say that the road is a glorified highway that will encourage drivers to bypass east side neighborhoods without providing much local community benefit. Proponents say the roadway will connect low-income communities with transportation networks and jobs while spurring new development.

“We think this is an example of outdated planning,” said Angie Schmitt of Clevelanders for Transportation Equity at a forum on the Opportunity Corridor, held at the Cleveland Museum of Art. “For decades, we’ve built a highway system and been told that prosperity would follow. A lot of times, this has been way oversold.”

Schmitt believes that the Opportunity Corridor could “entrench auto-dependency” and hurt neighborhoods, and says younger workers want pedestrian-friendly development.

Yet Vicki Eaton-Johnson of Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation says that the Opportunity Corridor is a true opportunity if done right. “Our neighborhood has planned with anticipation of this roadway for 10 years,” she said, pointing to the proposed New Economy Neighborhood on E. 105th Street as a benefit.

“Fairfax’s responsibility is to leverage what happens for community benefit,” she added, arguing that the medical and technology businesses that the Opportunity Corridor is expected to attract will provide some jobs to community residents. 

However, there is increased consensus that the Opportunity Corridor must be better designed or it will be a missed opportunity. Panelists said it should be a truly multi-modal roadway that not only maximizes development opportunities, but also works for cyclists and pedestrians while making the area more attractive and vibrant.

“I am a proponent of getting this right, and we need to create complete neighborhoods and complete streets,” said Chris Ronayne, President of University Circle Incorporated.

Schmitt criticized a proposed 10-foot-wide, multipurpose path on the south side of the roadway as a “bone” that was thrown to cyclists in order to pacify some vocal critics. The car lanes are 12-13 feet wide like a highway, which will encourage speeding, she argued. She also said the intersections are not designed to be pedestrian-friendly. Moreover, Schmitt argued that there aren’t enough intersections (13 are planned).

Although Opportunity Corridor proponents refuted Schmitt’s notion that the roadway represents dated thinking, some agree that more planning is needed to get it right. “Angie is right that we’ve got to plan this thing at the intersection level,” Ronayne commented, lamenting a short timeline and lack of funding for alternative plans.  

Architect Jennifer Coleman commented that the City of Cleveland needs to develop a form-based zoning plan for the area in order to foster the kind of development that will lead to community revitalization. “We can do better,” she said in response to drawings showing single-story, office-park development on the vacant land around the roadway.

Moderator Steve Litt called on panelists to lead a community-based planning process and present an alternative plan to the Ohio Department of Transportation, which has awarded $331 million to the corridor. The project is expected to start in fall of 2014.


Source: Angie Schmitt, Chris Ronayne, Vicki Eaton-Johnson, Steve Litt
Writer: Lee Chilcote

downtown cleveland alliance hosts first all-ohio BID conference

As millenials, empty nesters and other demographic groups flock to downtowns across Ohio, business improvement districts -- or BIDs -- are playing an important role in ensuring that these areas are clean and safe and that residents, office workers and property owners have the amenities they need to thrive.

A business improvement district is a defined area in which property owners pay an additional tax in order to fund projects and services that enhance the area. Downtown Cleveland has a BID, and the organization provides basic "clean and safe" services, organizes events and markets downtown to prospective residents, visitors and businesses.

This week, Downtown Cleveland Alliance, which manages the downtown BID, organized the first all-Ohio BID conference, bringing together BID leaders from across the state to network and learn about issues they share in common.

"It came from the idea that there's not a unifying organization or conference for BIDs," says Anna Beyerle with DCA. "We can learn a lot from other BIDs across Ohio. The idea was to get in the same room and throw out ideas and best practices."

Topics included food truck legislation, downtown transportation, farmers markets, placemaking, and office and retail recruitment strategies.

Participants also enjoyed several tours of downtown Cleveland and the surrounding area and had a chance to learn from Cleveland's redevelopment.

Beyerle says the conference will help BIDs, such as the one in downtown Cleveland, to become more effective. "We're up for renewal in a couple years, and we're looking at how we can improve."


Source: Anna Beyerle
Writer: Lee Chilcote

high-profile merger will help community development efforts across city, leaders say

Three prominent community development groups in Cleveland have merged, and staffers say the resulting alliance will help strengthen community revitalization efforts across the city, foster more unified advocacy, and allow for greater efficiency in citywide efforts.

Neighborhood Progress Inc. (NPI), a community development intermediary that provides grants and technical assistance to community development corporations (CDCs), has merged with Cleveland Neighborhood Development Coalition (CNDC) and LiveCleveland. CNDC is a trade association of CDCs; LiveCleveland helps to market city neighborhoods.

That might sound like a mouthful of acronyms to the average city resident, but Joel Ratner, President of NPI, says the collaboration really is about improving Cleveland's neighborhoods.

"We'll have a greater ability to coordinate the marketing of neighborhoods along with advocacy, capacity building and all the other things we've traditionally done," he says. "This is really about uniting the strands of community development across the city in a way that's integrated and strategic rather than separate."

For example, says Ratner, CDCs will be able to have a stronger voice in education reform and other efforts that affect the entire city, residents will see an increased marketing presence, and CDC employees will benefit from shared services like healthcare. It adds up to more effective efforts to improve all of Cleveland.

"Our mission is to foster communities of choice and opportunity throughout Cleveland," says Ratner, who acknowledges that NPI will still only have resources to provide core operating support to a subset of city neighborhoods. "There are lots of ways we can play a role in lifting up all CDCs and neighborhoods."

CNDC Director Colleen Gilson says that while the merger idea was far from popular among CDCs at first -- they feared losing their independence -- individual leaders saw the value in fostering a citywide community development network that provides more effective services to all neighborhoods, not just a select few.

The merger will be publicly rolled out in September, with NPI moving into its new offices in the Saint Luke's project at Shaker Boulevard and E. 116th by January.


Source: Joel Ratner
Writer: Lee Chilcote

next city leaders ask if cle, other cities can diversify beyond the 'cupcake economy'

Young urbanist leaders who were in Cleveland this week for Next City's annual Vanguard conference were asked a provocative question about this city's future. With new development activity happening in neighborhoods across a city that still is devastatingly poor, how can we do a better job of ensuring that these projects will benefit our poorest residents?

"I'm a little concerned that as we build projects, we're creating a city for yuppies and a city for everyone else," commented Ari Maron of MRN Ltd. in a presentation to 40 leaders from across the U.S. and Canada engaged in fields such as urban planning, entrepreneurship and sustainability. "How many cupcake and yogurt shops can a city sustain?"

Heads nodded and attendees laughed as Maron admitted the challenge was as much to himself as others, since MRN owns three of the city's most prominent new developments, E. Fourth Street in downtown Cleveland, Uptown in University Circle and property along W. 25th in Ohio City.

Several attendees noted that they were surprised by how few of the city's larger developments have translated into prosperity for surrounding neighborhoods. Sitting in the newly-built Museum of Contemporary Art at University Circle, leaders asked how that area's success could benefit its low-income neighbors.

Maron cited the Greater University Circle Initiative and local hiring and procuring efforts by University Hospitals and others. MRN has committed to hiring local residents for its projects, and the company now employs 285 city residents.

"When people from the neighborhood work here, they take ownership of the project because it's their neighborhood," he said, citing DoubleTree Hotel as one example of a University Circle project that employees many local residents.

An attendee from Chicago noted that Cleveland appears to be behind in adding bike-friendly infrastructure. He cited the recent addition of separated bicycle lanes to Surmac Avenue in Chicago as a game-changing project for his city. "Cleveland needs to do one really good pilot project," said the attendee.

Next City is a national nonprofit media organization that organizes the Vanguard conference to highlight best urban practices and develop young urban leaders. Updates from the conference are being posted on Next City's daily blog.


Source: Next City, Ari Maron
Writer: Lee Chilcote
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