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port authority hears call of nature, re-opens lakefront preserve

The month of May has brought a stretch of warm weather to Northeast Ohio. The presence of sunny days is a happy coincidence for folks wanting to visit the Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve, re-opened by the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority on May 1.

The 88-acre wildlife haven had been temporarily closed during environmental remediation of five acres on the site. New soil and seeds were added to the acreage, while a loop trail meandering through the space has also been re-opened to the public.

Since the park's comeback, about 200 nature lovers already have visited the preserve, reports Brian Lynch, the port authority's vice president for planning and development. May is the beginning of the spring bird migration season and a prime time for visitors to walk the trails of the former dredging containment facility along Lake Erie.

Feathered creatures aren't the only animals flocking through the park. According to the port authority, the preserve is also packed with various species of mammals, reptiles and insects, not to mention a healthy stock of plants, trees and shrubs.

"The life cycle is remarkable," says Lynch.

The preserve remediation project was conducted by the port in partnership with Cuyahoga County, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Ohio EPA, and the Cuyahoga Soil and Water Conservation District. Once the newly refurbished five acres officially becomes green space, Lynch can see the entire park becoming an even bigger destination for birders and people wanting to access the lakefront.

"It's great having this green space on the lake," he says.
 
 
SOURCE: Brian Lynch
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

aquarium lecture series takes education to new depths

The third Saturday of every month might go swimmingly for folks fascinated with underwater life.

The Greater Cleveland Aquarium's "Discovery Lecture Series" features aquatic experts and aquarium partners who will share their knowledge with guests. Programs are directed at visitors of all ages interested in the denizens of the briny (or freshwater) depths, says Kayla Ott, aquarium marketing and sponsorship manager.

The programming has no theme beyond the aquatic, but the lecture series will offer something different every week, notes Ott. "People love these kinds of special events," she says. "They will walk away learning something new."

The first opportunity for learning takes place April 20. Ellen Whitehouse, executive director of the Noah's Lost Ark Exotic Animal Sanctuary, will share her group's mission of caring for exotic animals. The aquarium had previously partnered with the organization to house 10 African spurred tortoises last winter.

Future happenings include a presentation on "live rock" in the Florida Keys. In aquatic terms, live rock is rock from the ocean that has been introduced to a saltwater habitat and integrates itself into the closed marine system. The event will be built around the Cleveland aquarium opening its coastal and live rock exhibit later this spring.

The rest of 2013 will be dedicated to similar educational programming, which aligns nicely with the aquarium's mission.
"We often work with children and students, but the lecture series allows everyday people to expand their knowledge of the aquatic industry," Ott says.

 
SOURCE: Kayla Ott
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

greening of cleveland's building sector gets help from grant

A nonprofit seeking to create environmentally sound, high-performance building districts in Cleveland recently got a hand with its city-greening mission.

The Cleveland 2030 District, a group that would like downtown edifices to consume less energy and water and produce less greenhouse gases, received a $175,000 grant from The Kresge Foundation, funding that will go in part to the salary of the organization's first executive director as well as additional staff support.

The new executive director is Jon Reidy, who has been with the group of architects and engineers since 2011. The bulk of the grant will allow the group to intensify efforts put forth by the national Architecture 2030 project, which aims to reduce climate-changing emissions from the global building sector.

"We're creating a demand downtown for energy efficient projects in the interest of business development," says Reidy, a 15-year veteran of the architecture industry.

The Cleveland group is an offshoot of Mayor Frank Jackson’s Sustainability 2019 project, an effort to transform the city’s economy by "building a green city on a blue lake."

Cleveland 2030 works with owners, managers and developers within the downtown district to expand the number of buildings participating in the project. Five property owners controlling approximately 3.5 million square feet of Cleveland's brick and mortar are signed up so far.

Reidy hopes more area building owners share the project's vision of a future Cleveland where energy efficiency and a cleaner environment are the norm.

"Sustainability can be the foundation for rebuilding our economy," he says.

 
SOURCE: Jon Reidy
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

aquarium to bring its fish story to cleveland schools this spring

The Greater Cleveland Aquarium (GCA) has a fish story to tell. Starting this spring, the aquarium will bring its compelling undersea tale to students throughout the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD).

GCA has partnered with the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD) for the education outreach program designed to teach kids the deep interconnection that Ohio has with its freshwater systems. This will be accomplished through Native-American lore, one-on-one time with native Ohio fish and reptiles, and hands-on activities that teach students the importance of protecting the area's local waterways.

The program, called Keepin' It Fresh, will be rolled out in local schools at the beginning of May, says Kayla Ott, aquarium marketing and sponsorship manager.

The multi-grade level presentations "will reach communities unable to come to the aquarium due to funding," Ott says. GCA is planning 75 school visits for 2013, and in future years hopes to educate up to 10,000 students annually. What's more, the program falls in line with Ohio academic standards in the realm of science.

"Teachers will be excited to jump on board," says Ott. "They'll be building their curriculums and lesson plans by offering this program."

Generating passion about aquatic life and water conservation is GCA's stated mission. With the sewer district's assistance, the aquarium can now bring this mission to Cleveland impressionable youth. 

"We're so fortunate to have a lake right here," Ott says. "Lake Erie is a huge piece of Cleveland. We're teaching students how to protect that resource."

 
SOURCE: Kayla Ott
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

clevelander makes waves through water sustainability education

In recent years, Mentor native Erin Huber has flown 7,000 miles just to get the population of a small Ugandan village a drop to drink. That effort is part of a larger endeavor to promote water sustainability both locally and globally.

Huber, founder of Drink Local Drink Tap, a nonprofit organization seeking to connect Clevelanders to local water through art installations and free environmental education, traveled to Africa the last two summers with the mission of getting an impoverished people access to clean water.

The first trip, in 2011, found the activist journeying throughout East Africa to learn about the water situation. Her visit to a rural Ugandan town was particularly eye-opening. Children in the village had to walk over a mile to find a nearby water source, and the water wasn't clean or safe.

Last summer, Huber and her small team returned to Uganda, where they drilled a 70-meter hole into a water table to bring drinkable water to the people of the tiny African community. They filmed their efforts for the documentary Making Waves from Cleveland to Uganda, which Huber hopes to screen at the Cleveland International Film Festival.

"We struck water 'gold,'" she says of the Africa venture, which now supplies fresh drinking water to about 1,500 villagers.

Huber, with a master's degree in environmental studies from Cleveland State University and fond memories of a childhood spent camping next to lakes, streams and rivers, has three more water-related projects set for a future jaunt to Uganda. Meanwhile, she will continue to educate Cleveland's youth and adults about the enormous local fresh water resource known as the Great Lakes.

"We have to realize how fortunate we are," Huber says. "Everything we see needs water to exist."
  
 
SOURCE: Erin Huber
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

cpac roundtable asks how arts can foster sustained economic prosperity for cleveland

Arts and culture can define a community, creating a critical mass that translates into jobs, business opportunities and, ideally, sustained economic prosperity. These were the words of Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium Initiative (NEOSCC) director Hunter Morrison during a January 25 roundtable hosted by the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture (CPAC).

These also are words that CPAC president and CEO Tom Schorgl likes to hear. The focus of the roundtable event was sustainability, and how the arts and culture community can assist the region as it evolves through population and land use shifts. The local arts sector becoming engaged in these issues can help keep Northeast Ohio resilient, vibrant and sustainable, said Morrison, a notion that the CPAC president shares.

"We have cultural clusters throughout the region, and the ability to communicate on a larger basis with the population about those clusters," says Schorgl. "We need to continue to reach our audience."

The roundtable, which drew over 50 attendees to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History's main gallery, was CPAC's first such event of the year. The nonprofit will sponsor similar forums through November, with an overall aim of connecting the arts and culture realm with professionals from sectors including community development and health and human services. Past roundtable speakers have included Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon, and City of Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson.

"The idea is to provide a forum for new ideas around a common cause," Schorgl says.

 
SOURCE: Tom Schorgl
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

judi feniger ready to roll as gordon square arts district's new executive director

Cleveland's Gordon Square Arts District (GSAD) is supported by a strong backbone of dedicated institutions, corporations, merchants, residents and philanthropists, says Judi Feniger, newly named executive director of the West Side arts enclave.

Feniger planned to spend this week meeting with these groups, and looks forward to continuing the relationships that will help make the district even stronger. "It's a dynamic area," says Feniger, successor to GSAD founding executive director Joy Roller, who earlier this month became president of Global Cleveland. "I need to get a sense of what's going on."

What's been happening in recent years is new loft housing, an enhanced Detroit Avenue streetscape, new retail and gallery ventures, and the renovation of the Cleveland Public Theatre complex and Capitol Theatre. The latest milestone occurred in November with the groundbreaking for the Near West Theatre’s first permanent performance venue.

"Gordon Square is a growing part of Cleveland that attracting young residents," says Feniger. "How can we take these great assets and show them to our community?"

The experienced arts and business leader plans to answer that question thanks to a philanthropy and arts background that includes leadership stints with the American Red Cross and most recently the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage.

"I've been to Gordon Square many times," Feniger says. "It will be exciting to build on the foundation and bring more activity and awareness to the things going on here."

The district's potent combination of housing, new businesses, the arts and neighborhood beautification is attracting national attention and drawing audiences and visitors from throughout the region, notes the new executive director.

"There are many great things to do in Cleveland," says Feniger. "Our challenge will be to get a share of people's time and mind."

 
SOURCE: Judi Feniger
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

expansion allows providence house to help more of the region's neglected children

Providence House has spread its arms just a little bit wider to Northeast Ohio abused and neglected children with the recent expansion of its facilities.

The Ohio City-based agency, which stands as the first crisis nursery in Ohio, renovated its current at W. 32nd Street and Lorain Avenue location and added 6,500 square feet of space, which combines the children’s shelter and services. As a result of its growth, Providence House will be able to serve an additional 125 at-risk children each year, notes executive director Natalie Leek-Nelson.

"All of our kids are moved over," Leek-Nelson says.

The expansion is the first part of a $2 million, three-phase project designed to allow the nonprofit agency to better serve Northeast Ohio families in crisis. Providence House has raised $2.3 million since launching its "Protect the Promise" campaign in spring 2011. Not only will the agency be able to provide more short-term housing for kids unsafe in their homes, it will also increase the ages of children served from newborn to six up to the age of 10.

"Now the older brothers and sisters in the same crises as their younger siblings will be helped," says Leek-Nelson. "We've created unique educational spaces with computers and academic resources so these kids can catch up on their schoolwork."

The second phase of the “Protect the Promise” capital campaign will include a new family center that will take over an existing building across the street from the expanded facility. The third and final phase involves construction of a 60,000-square-foot children and family campus.

 
SOURCE: Natalie Leek-Nelson
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

foundation looks to transform masonic space into technologically advanced media center

The imposing brick structure of the Cleveland Masonic and Performance Arts Center (CMPAC) has stood in Midtown Cleveland for a century. A local charity seeking to purchase the building sees a unique opportunity to harness CMPAC's historic legacy and create something new and distinctive. 

The Mason Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization structured "to promote the arts and academic excellence in Northeast Ohio," is working to buy the facility, which it would refurbish into a technologically advanced media center while also improving the performance space.

"We want to elevate the entire community," says foundation founder Gregory Mason, pointing to CMPAC's Midtown location as virtually equidistant to downtown and University Circle.

The foundation is now involved in engineering and architecture surveys on the site. The building's current owner is the Cleveland chapter of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, and Mason believes his organization will be ready to purchase the facility before the end of the year.

The centerpiece of the new venture is the "Towne Hall," a 24/7 data center and public space participants can use to access civic and library resources. Other plans include renovating CMPAC's "acoustically perfect" performance space, while the building would also host creative arts classes. Current tenants like the American Red Cross would remain and could even benefit from Mason Foundation backing, says the organization founder.

"We want to help nonprofits reach some of the resources they can't access now," Mason says.

Restoration will cost $30 million, a figure Mason hopes to accrue through grants, donors and private investors. The cost is worth it to unite civic, academic and arts resources in one place, Mason believes.
 
 
SOURCE: Gregory Mason
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

(i)cleveland connects college students to city's live, work and play opportunities

The current generation of soon-to-graduate college students is not just looking for a job, but also a fun and dynamic city that suits its lifestyle needs, says Christy Walkuski, director of (i)Cleveland.

This reality is the impetus behind an upcoming city-centric event hosted by Cleveland Leadership Center. On January 4, (i)Cleveland, a program of the leadership center, will welcome 150 college students and recent graduates to connect with career, civic and social opportunities in Cleveland.

The Winter Edition event will include a networking lunch with downtown executives, a meet with Cleveland's entrenched young professional community, behind-the-scenes tours of East 4th Street's amenities, and an "employer showcase" of current internship and job opportunities.

Combining job and leadership possibilities with highlights of Cleveland lifestyle trumpets a single, distinct message: "The city wants you here," says Walkuski. "Young people have the ability to make their mark on Cleveland."

Walkuski has read the worrisome headlines about young people leaving Northeast Ohio for the bright lights of bigger cities. The (i)Cleveland director herself lived in Chicago and Florida before returning to her home city.

"When I came back, I saw Cleveland with new eyes," says Walkuski.

Opening the eyes of college students requires a community-wide effort. The "Winter Edition" program aligns with (i)Cleveland's mission of using local assets to build relationships and foster lifelong civic engagement. Registration is limited, so Walkuski suggests prospective participants sign up as soon as possible.

"We have a huge education base here," she says. "We must continue to engage this (college-aged) population, because if we don't recruit them, someone else will."

 
SOURCE: Christy Walkuski
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

muscle house set to strengthen young students through music lessons

The musCLE house may not be a gym or cable-access bodybuilding show, but it does give Cleveland students the opportunity to flex their musical talents in exchange for a bit of their free time.

Students taking part in the program receive one hour of free music lessons in exchange for volunteering one hour toward philanthropic involvement or community service, says musCLE house co-founder Eric Kogelschatz.

The Detroit native created the program with his wife Hallie Bram Kogelschatz and Cleveland Institute of Music alums Ariel Clayton and Carlos Javier. The musCLE house works with students from Cleveland Municipal School District, although its co-founder would like to expand the program to other districts.

"Music is a basic building block of intelligence," Kogelschatz explains. Due to school districts cutting music programs, "not enough young people have exposure to it."

The musCLE house launched its fundraising campaign this week. Kogelschatz aims to raise $55,000 over the next two months to finance more than 600 hours of music lessons from paid instructors, along with the procurement of instruments, sheet music and more.

With its volunteerism aspect, the program has the tenet of community building at its core, says Kogelschatz. Adding music to the mix is a bonus for the Shaker Heights resident, who grew up playing the saxophone and clarinet.

"We're encouraging kids to get involved with their communities," he says. "Students get to see the change taking place around them, and they're getting a reward."

 
SOURCE: Eric Kogelschatz
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

s. euclid housing project to give injured war vet the dream of home ownership

Soldiers are trained to not leave their comrades behind on the battlefield. That commitment shouldn't be relinquished by the public once combat veterans return from war, say supporters of housing solution organization Purple Heart Homes.
The City of South Euclid is partnering with the North Carolina-based nonprofit to build a home for Clevelander Demond Taylor, a veteran of the U.S. campaign in Iraq now suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The city, along with Purple Heart Homes, One South Euclid Community Development Corporation, and the Cuyahoga Land Bank, will renovate the home located at 1171 Avondale Road. While Purple Heart Homes was founded in 2008 by two Iraq combat veterans, the idea to use their services locally was that of retired South Euclid service director and Vietnam veteran Ed Gallagher, says director of community services Keith Ari Benjamin.

The home has not been lived in for several years and needs new windows, flooring, interior walls, plumbing and more. South Euclid is taking cash donations as well as in-kind donations like paint. Contractors willing to help rebuild the home on a volunteer basis are also needed

South Euclid held a mission kickoff event on Monday, November 12, with the eventual aim of  raising $60,000 to $70,000 to refurbish the house. The program drew over 100 people, some of whom have already stepped forward to give of their money or time. "It's great to see so many folks wanting to get involved, but we're going to need more," says Benjamin.

South Euclid has set up a website and Facebook page for those wanting to contribute. Purple Heart Homes immediately contributed $20,000, which will allow work on the house to begin as soon as next week. Construction should be completed by the spring.

The city has implemented several home rehab projects since the housing crisis began. Says Benjamin, It's an honor for South Euclid to give the dream of home ownership to someone who's sacrificed so much.

"Our goal is to welcome veterans like Demond," he says. "We want to take care of him like he took care of us when he served our country."

 
SOURCE: Keith Ari Benjamin
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

block group founder thrilled to be part of detroit shoreway renewal

It can be said that not only did Buck Harris live and work in Cleveland's Detroit Shoreway neighborhood before it was cool, he also had a hand in making the community cool in the first place.

Harris, a Lakewood native, has lived in the near west side neighborhood for 35 years, opening in 2002 a yoga studio called There’s No Place Like Om. Running a business at that time was a risk, but it wasn't the first Harris has taken when it comes to his beloved community. In 1992, he founded Bridge Brigade, "a guerilla-type community action group" created to push back against the crime that was inundating Bridge Avenue between W. 45th and W. 58th streets.

In those days, street corners were manned by gangs, drug dealers and prostitutes, while the surrounding neighborhood was blighted with dilapidated homes. Bridge Brigade members would patrol the streets in specially marked cars, using a CB radio to inform police of blatant criminal activity. Members also put up signs throughout the neighborhood to let drug dealers know they were being watched.

"We got chased a couple times," says Harris. "Things could get pretty hairy."

This year marked two milestones for Harris and his Bridge Brigade. The block group celebrated its 20th anniversary last summer with a street festival. In early November, the group's founder received an award for his good work from the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization.

Harris, who shared the community service award with life partner and fellow Bridge Brigade member Michael O'Connor, is proud to be one of Detroit Shoreway's "urban pioneers," he says. Along with the yoga studio, Harris also owned a restaurant in the neighborhood, and he's been thrilled to have been at ground zero for such area revitalization efforts as the Gordon Square Arts District.

Bridge Avenue, in particular, has seen an upswing with new townhouse projects and more. "I never would have believed the street would look like what it does today," says Harris. "There are people out jogging and walking. There was a time when people were afraid to walk around."

Ironically, the community's renewal is doing well to make Bridge Brigade nearly obsolete. "Attendance has definitely dropped," Harris says. "There's no longer a threat to fight."

That is not a bad problem to have, notes the block group founder. "I love the diversity here, and the proximity to West Side Market," says Harris. "Helping to create a neighborhood is a nice feather in my cap."

 
SOURCE: Buck Harris
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

abeo turns reclaimed materials into distinctive workstations

Daniel Cuffaro has been working in design for 20 years. He knows how an inspiring, eclectic workspace can act as fuel for creative minds, promoting interaction among those who essentially use their imagination for a living.

Such was the idea behind Cuffaro's founding of Abeo Design, a Lakewood-based company that builds aesthetically distinctive office/studio workstations with a sustainable bent. Unlike your typical office furniture, the spindly "Hive" workstations are designed with both functionality and adaptability in mind, Cuffaro says.

Each station is comprised of a work surface and storage shelf embedded with LED lighting. The entire unit is on wheels, making a studio or office easy to reconfigure as projects or teams change, notes Cuffaro. This is not something you could readily do with a set of hard-to-move cubicles.

"Our product is a dynamic and customizable alternative,” he says.

The workstations also fulfill a practical need. They are made of wood and other building materials reclaimed from abandoned Cleveland houses deconstructed during the foreclosure crisis. Cuffaro, head of the industrial design program at The Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA), first got the idea for Abeo in 2009 when he was developing the layout for the school's design studio. At the time, there was a growing market for raw materials harvested from foreclosed homes, so why not build CIA's studio furniture with those resources?

"I had a desire to turn a bad situation into something salvageable," Cuffaro says.

His first customer also happens to be his current employer. CIA recently purchased a handful of the $6,000-and-up workstations from Abeo, which works with Northeast Ohio companies A Piece of Cleveland and Benchmark Craftsmen to make the product a reality.

A portion of Abeo's profits will support CIA programs. Meanwhile, Cuffaro will continue to live by the company's name. In Latin, Abeo ( pronounced "a-bay-o") means "change" or "transformation." Turning trash into something of value is good for both the company and a sustainable Cleveland, he says.

 
SOURCE: Daniel Cuffaro
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

'gardens that teach' contest imparts to local students the importance of healthy eating

A school garden is a real, living world, a type of lab that offers teachers a way to embed creativity, collaboration and love for nature into their curriculum, believes Carlton Jackson, a farmer, self-described "food evangelist" and proprietor of Tunnel Vision Hoops, a provider of hoop houses that allow for year-round food production.
 
The Cleveland-based company is offering Cuyahoga County public school students grades K-8 a chance to win a hoop house for their school. The Gardens that Teach contest, which runs through February, asks students a series of questions about the preparation, construction and maintenance of a theoretical school garden. Answers will be reviewed by a panel of experts from the realms of food policy, botany and community gardening.
 
The winning school will receive the greenhouse-like hoop house, while the other participants will learn about the benefits of plants, year-round gardening and healthy eating, says Jackson. "We wanted kids to use their math skills," he adds. For example, "how many pounds of tomatoes can they get? What will the do with the food once it's grown?"
 
Hoop houses provide a high-temperature environment that protects crops from strong winds, cold and frost, allowing fruits and vegetables to grow during gardening's so-called "off-season," Jackson says.
 
The concept also is in line with the city's Sustainable Cleveland 2019 project, a movement that in part aims to increase the percentage of locally produced food. Mayor Frank Jackson also proclaimed October 24 to be Food Day, a national venture with the overriding objective of "eating real" and promoting healthy diets among the population.
 
The Gardens That Teach contest is certainly a nourishing exercise for Northeast Ohio's young students, says Jackson.
 
"There's a wonderment in watching something grow," he says. "If we can kids back to that, it would be a beautiful thing."
 

SOURCE: Carlton Jackson
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth
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