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Guide To Kulchur set to expand to larger digs in Gordon Square

Next week, Guide to Kulchur (GTK), the quirky bookstore and self-described "incubator for emerging and marginalized voices" will move from its tiny storefront at 1386 West 65th Street to roomier digs at 5900 Detroit Avenue.
 
"It's part of our 20 job initiative," says GTK founder RA Washington. "We're adding 20 jobs over the course of 18 months. We're going to target the youth first and set aside jobs for kids with juvenile records." He plans to start by hiring six people, with some future slots slated for recently released prison inmates.
 
The new 1,800-square foot space will feature more of what Gordon Square loves about GTK and then some, with a large stock of new books, a performance space, outside seating and even a coffee spot that will offer snacks made off site. And there's more to come.
 
"In the next 18 months, we'll take over the second floor and that will be an artist in residence space," says Washington, adding that the additional 1,800 square feet will also house a community/meeting area.
 
GTK's old home on 65th Street will transform into a regional warehouse for the Cleveland Books 2 Prisoners operation, which furnishes books to prisoners in Ohio, although Washington notes, "we get letters all the way from Texas, Indiana, Pennsylvania." He also supplies books to the homeless and invites community organizations and social justice advocates to take books free of charge for distribution from the warehouse. Regular janes and joes are free to peruse the stacks as well.
 
"People can also buy books at a pay-what-you-want rate," says Washington.
 
Amid all this development, Washington has recently launched GTK Press, which he also plans to expand at the new location in the 500-square-foot garage with more advanced equipment for printing and binding. Once established, he aims to bring in more youth employees to learn about publishing and the associated skills, from on-screen design to binding.
 
He estimates that total cost of the endeavor at $23,000. Although he is still $7,000 short of his goal, an Indiegogo campaign helped raise nearly $7,000. GTK's pitch performance at last month's Startup Scaleup event garnered an additional $5,000. Washington has also worked with Kent State to get funding via the Common Wealth Revolving Loan Fund, which helps sole proprietorships such as GTK to transform into cooperatives.
 
"The final step of the expansion is to transform Guide to Kulchur from a sole prop. to a worker owned co-op," says Washington.
 
The grand opening of the new space is slated for September 4.

 

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."

Esperanza Threads offers organic handmade goods in Detroit Shoreway

Last month, a small business with a big heart opened a storefront in the Gordon Square neighborhood. Founded in 2000 by Sister Mary Eileen Boyle, Esperanza Threads sells 100 percent organic cotton clothing, baby items, towels and blankets that are handcrafted right across the street. Esperanza had heretofore offered their goods online and at local craft and fair trade events.
 
"We use the funding we get from that to fund our real mission," says Lucretia Bohnsack, Esperanza's executive director, "which is to train people in the art of industrial sewing and help them get jobs."
 
Stepping into the Esperanza's retail shop at 6515 Detroit (formerly Retropolitan) is like stepping back in time. The superlative quality of the fabrics and handcrafted composition is unlike anything lining the shelves of Target or Macy's. The lush cotton begs to be touched. Pricing is surprisingly reasonable. Washcloths are just $5.50. An adult tee shirt featuring a design by Cleveland artist Kevin Fernandez or Chuck Wimmer (among others) goes for $24. Considering this irresistible hooded baby bath blanket will last long enough to swaddle three generations (or more) of clean wet babies, the $28 price tag is a bargain. Other offerings include a catnip cat toy, scarves, robes and a few items made by different suppliers such as socks.
 
Shop hours are 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, although Bohnsack is happy to accommodate other time slots by appointment (call 216-961-9009 between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday through Friday). The storefront venture, which is a collaborative effort between Esperanza and the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Corporation, will be open through October, after which plans are tentative.
 
"We'll see what happens," says Bohnsack. "We'll see if we're able to stay."
 
All of Esperanza's items are made by a staff of four sewers in a shop adjacent to the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish. Three of them are graduates of Esperanza's unique training program, which gives a leg up to the most vulnerable among us: international refugees and locals in need of a helping hand. Approximately 75 percent of the trainees are refugees from other parts of the world and 25 percent are from Northeast Ohio.
 
The program gives Sister Mary Eileen and Bohnsack a different perspective on the horrors unfolding in countries such as Syria or Afghanistan or Sudan, which so many of us watch from the comfort of our living rooms.
 
"We get those people here," says Bohnsack, recalling the day one trainee learned that his entire village had been destroyed and his family killed. Sister Mary Eileen describes another woman from the West African nation of Benin.
 
"She came here on her own seeking asylum because she had been in a very abusive situation all her life," she says, adding that the woman is scheduled for an interview at National Safety Apparel this week. "Hopefully she'll get the job."
 
The program takes in six people every six weeks for a three-week training course.
 
"In 2014, we had a 72 percent hiring rate," reports Sister Mary Eileen.
 
Esperanza works with a network of organizations to identify candidates for the program, including Catholic Charities Migration and Refugee Services, Building Hope in the City, US Together, Asian Services in Action and West Bethel Baptist Church. They also take referrals from satisfied clients.
 
It all culminates with the honorable ideologies driving Esperanza: fair wages, a safe and welcoming working environment, sustainability, hard work, products and practices that respect the Earth and, most importantly, people helping people.
 
"If every one of us did something little to make a difference," says Bohnsack, "the world would be a better place."
 

Cafe Miami reopens in Old Brooklyn with new menu, owner

Café Miami, 4517 State Road, which Yelpers have deemed a "best kept secret" and neighborhood "gem," is back in business with a new owner after having been closed since January. The path that brought Mariela Paz to Cleveland, however, was anything but linear in both a professional and geographic sense.
 
Less than two years ago, Paz was the head graphic designer for a silkscreening company in Miami. Prior to immigrating to the United States in 2001, she was a marketing manager for a bank, television channel and real estate development firm in Honduras.
 
"I have a bachelor's degree in media and advertising," notes Paz.
 
But in fall of 2013, she was looking for a change and decided to come to Cleveland, which her sister and mother call home.
 
"Why not?" recalls Paz of her response when her family urged her to move. The change seemed uncomplicated. "I just had my dog and two love birds." She had also been to Cleveland several times over the years and was enamored of the area, particularly Café Miami's Old Brooklyn environs. "I love this neighborhood," says the uterine cancer survivor, adding that the staff and services at Metro are top notch.
 
Opportunities for the graphic designer, however, were slim to zero, so she took a job in home health care to get by.
 
"I'm not afraid to work," says Paz. "As long as it's work, I'm proud of that."
 
But she couldn't make ends meet, and by February, she was ready to throw in the towel and move back to Miami. Then she had a conversation with the previous owner of Café Miami, Larry Fields.
 
"I believe everything happens for a reason," says Paz, and when she realized that proprietorship was within her grasp, "I started crying. Café Miami--that's the place that I want."
 
So she struck a deal with Fields, got her vendor's license, designed a new logo and opened the doors in April. Thus far, business has been brisk with a diverse customer base, although Paz hopes to launch an advertising campaign soon.
 
Hours are Tuesday through Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with extended hours on Friday evenings. Paz has added a coffee station and other equipment and has brightened the charming and eclectic space, which seats 35 to 40, with flowers and pieces of her art. She's also updated the menu.
 
"The Tropi Chop is one of my favorites," she says. The dish features yellow rice, choice of grilled chicken or pork, black beans, pico de gallo and curry sauce. Other items include a go-to breakfast selection, empanadas, baked sweet plantains and a Cubano sandwich.
 
"I've cooked since I was a little girl," says Paz. "Cooking is art. Cooking is passion. Everything I do, I do with passion."
 
Paz plans to add more commercial equipment and is working on a permit to import Honduran coffee. Currently she relies on traveling family members to bring her the signature Cafe Don Maury, with which she brews a heavenly Cuban Latte so rich and creamy, it blows the crown off of that Starbucks mermaid. She also wants to add small tables with umbrellas out front. But mostly, she aims to make Café Miami her signature spot, and become a stalwart member of the Old Brooklyn community.
 
"I'm so happy," says Paz. "I think I will stay here in Cleveland for a long time. I like this place. I love this place."
 

CPL 'book bike' set to ride this summer

Engaging with patrons and the community has always been a priority for Cleveland Public Library, says youth services librarian Maria Estrella. CPL is taking this all-important mission on the road this summer with a brand new "book bike."

The bike, actually an oversized orange tricycle, will serve nearby neighborhoods as a roving book depository and checkout station. Community members will be able to sign up for library cards on the spot, and search for reading materials in the system catalog thanks to the bike's capability as a traveling Wi-Fi hotspot.

"We'll have popular books and new releases as well as children's books," says Estrella.

The bike, introduced to the public on May 29 in the main library's Eastman Reading Garden, will act as a roaming literacy advocate and outreach tool at downtown events like Walnut Wednesday. Daycare and school visits will also be part of the bike's hot weather agenda.

"Local branches can borrow the bike, too," says Estrella. "It's going to be all over the place."

The three-wheeled library joins CPL's BookBox, a mobile unit of the main library that will offer its wares this summer at University Circle for the Wade Oval Wednesdays concert series. Both book-distributing entities are meant to reach communities lacking easy library access, with the hope of catching interest from downtown Cleveland pedestrians.

Ultimately, CPL's newest initiative is pedaling a creative way to implement library services, Estrella maintains.

"The bike is a wonderful opportunity to get information to people and show them what we're about," she says. "It's great to be able to bring the library to the community." 

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
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