Bridge Brigade transforms neighborhood blemish into work of beauty

Ohio City resident Andria Loczi was tired of seeing the vacant building that once was home to Gillota Fuel Products, Inc. at the corner of West 48th Street and Bridge Avenue detracting from the neighborhood she loves.

 

So, as chair of her local block club, the Bridge Brigade, Loczi set out to revamp the building as one of the group’s many improvement efforts in the neighborhood.

 

Thanks to a grant from Neighborhood Connections, and support from the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Corporation (DSCDC), as well as Cleveland city councilperson Matt Zone, the block club members had already painted 22 telephone polls in vibrant colors, and now the group was ready to move on to phase two—painting that vacant building.

 

Block club representatives reached out to the building owners (who, Loczi says, are currently looking for a tenant) and got their blessing on painting a 100-foot mural on the building. “It was kind of an eyesore in the neighborhood,” Loczi says. “It was an eyesore, and we were turning it into eye candy.”

 

With $3,000 in Neighborhood Connections grant money and a team of eager volunteers, the Bridge Brigade commissioned local artist Garrett Weider to design and paint the mural on the Gillota building.

 

“Really, our main focus has been beautification projects like this,” Loczi says. “We use artwork to create an even better neighborhood than we had.”

 

This past week Weider put the finishing touches on the mural that spans a 100-foot wall and rounds the corner for another 30-foot stretch. Instead of being a blemish on the landscape, the building now sprouts a garden of colorful flowers.

 

Loczi says Weider got the community involved in the mural by taking a “paint-by-numbers” approach—hand-drawing the outline of the design and then telling volunteers what colors to use for each section.

 

The Sherwin-Williams store on St. Clair gave the group a discount on the paint. “The discount helped a lot,” says Loczi.

 

Bridge Blooms mural by artist Garrett WeierLoczi says they spent this past week dodging raindrops to complete an anti-graffiti clearcoat on the mural, and it’s is now complete. The corner is now an eye-catching attraction.

 

“[Weider] made it look inviting and exciting,” says Loczi. “We’ve had a wedding party and a homecoming group take photos. It’s [nice] to see people stopping by.”

 

The Bridge Brigade will now move on to the third phase of its beautification project—one that involves installing metal benches, planters, and flowers along Bridge Avenue. 

 

“It’s been a really fun project,” Loczi says. “It’s been a community effort, for sure, and it’s exciting to keep going.”

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.
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