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slavic village native son returns home to champion neighborhood redevelopment


Anthony Trzaska was born and raised in Slavic Village, where his family owns Fortuna Funeral Home. He left Cleveland to go to college, then returned home and settled in Lakewood.

Exploring the city as a young twentysomething, he became actively involved in efforts to improve Slavic Village. He watched as areas like Ohio City boomed with new development, and yet his beloved neighborhood continued to slide downhill.

"Every year, it was a much different neighborhood," says Trzaska, describing the foreclosure epidemic that devastated the streets where he'd once played as a kid. "I graduated from law school in the worst economy since the Great Recession, and that was layered on top of what was happening with the neighborhood."

Today, Trzaska is a business attorney who has reinvested in Slavic Village. He serves on the board of the Slovenian National Home (The Nash) and purchased a building on Fleet Avenue that he plans to fix up for a new commercial tenant. He doesn't believe that Slavic Village needs to be Ohio City, but rather, "the new wave of the Old World," where the past is respected yet change is embraced.

"I look at what's happening with the regentrification of historic neighborhoods, and I think that makes what I'm doing more probable and even likely," he says.

Trzaska's efforts to open up the Nash to more people and make it a joint that welcomes everybody from hipsters to longtime regulars recently was detailed in Scene.

The Nash's Facebook "likes" jumped by 42 percent thanks to that article, Trzaska says. He's expecting a good crowd at Friday's Open Bowl, where $10 buys you shoe rental and all-you-can-bowl for three hours. There's a cash bar, good tunes and Lebowski on the television. Trzaska himself has introduced Nash Nosh, updated versions of classic Slovenian food like stuffed and fried pierogis.

Trzaska also is heavily involved in revitalizing Fleet Avenue, which he views as one of Slavic Village's best shots at renewal. The city soon will spend about $8 million to transform Fleet into its first complete-and-green street, including bike infrastructure and green infrastructure, and there's already been some new investment in the area, he says, in the form of properties changing hands.  

Fleet Avenue already is home to classic ethnic delis like Seven Roses and butcher shops like Krusinski's. Trzaska sees an opportunity to add newer businesses to the mix, including an updated, younger version of the butcher shop. His building at 5014-16 Fleet Avenue will house the construction crew during the streetscape rebuilding. Once it's been completed, Trzaska will bring in a new tenant.

While there are many challenges to redeveloping Fleet Avenue, including convincing existing owners that change is needed, Trzaska sees the area as one with potential. With projects like Slavic Village Recovery underway, he believes that he can leverage neighborhood activity to achieve a new vision for the area.


Source: Anthony Trzaska
Writer: Lee Chilcote
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