Surge: Armond Budish plans to pump resources into Central neighborhood in pilot program

In an effort to revitalize Cleveland’s urban core one neighborhood at a time, Cuyahoga County executive Armond Budish announced last week that he is launching a new pilot program, the Neighborhood Surge program—an initiative designed to transform the underserved and overlooked neighborhoods by focusing concentrated resources into one community at a time.

The program kicks off in the Central neighborhood, and Budish says the planning is already underway. “We provide all different kinds of services all throughout the County,” he says. “There are plenty of needs out there and we try to address them all. But they're not unlimited resources, so we try to spread them out.”

Earlier this year, Budish says his chief of staff, Bill Mason, had an idea: to focus on one community and address all the needs at once. “We’re trying to see if by surging resources in one area, they will get the support they need,” says Budish. “We’re hoping to really transform a community.” He plans to accomplish this revitalization within one year.

Budish admits that surging a neighborhood requires a lot of support. “Any project like this requires a lot of coordination,” he says. “We already have a very good relationship with the key players in the Central area. It makes a lot of sense because in most places you spread the resources as widely as possible. We’ll still do that, but to make a deep impact you need to focus on [one area].”

Budish says he has partnered with former Cleveland City Council member Phyllis Cleveland, new Cleveland Councilperson Delores Gray, and County Council President Pernel Jones, Jr. to work on the program, and he says he is coordinating with the City of Cleveland.

Budish says the Neighborhood Surge program in Central has 10 focus areas:
 
  1. Provide job training for in-demand jobs, working with Burten, Bell, Carr Development; Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA); and Ohio Means Jobs.
  2. Work with sector partnership employers to hire employees living in Central.
  3. Cuyahoga County will dedicate 20 summer positions for a youth summer jobs program.
  4. Prepare vacant lots for shovel-ready development.
  5. Create ongoing partnerships with organizations that provide loans to support existing small business and also foster entrepreneurship among residents, working with small business assistance partners Economic Community Development Institute (ECDI), the National Development Council, JumpStart, and the Urban League of Greater Cleveland.
  6. Work with Digital C to close the digital divide and other government agencies use the receiving American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to increase internet coverage so that 70% of the neighborhood is connected (2,500 Central household to not have internet connections).
  7. Work on road improvements.
  8. Work with Holden Forests & Gardens on a tree planting program.
  9. Work with the City of Cleveland to improve the Cleveland Central Recreation Center.
  10. Work with KeyBank on a financial literacy program.

“We’re trying to cover as much as we can,” says Budish. “We’re trying to make a significant impact in a neighborhood.”

Budish and his team are already considering what neighborhood to tackle in a year, he says, with Maple Heights and East Cleveland among the list of contenders. But for now, he is optimistic about the transformation of Central.

“Lifting up a community like Central, if we can accomplish it here, the impact will be much broader than just Central,” he says. “Maybe we’ll look back in five years and say, ‘look what we’ve done.’”

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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