A better place: Northwest Neighborhoods CDC creating a master plan for equitable, affordable living

Since last fall, Northwest Neighborhoods CDC (NWN) has been engaging residents in the Cudell, Detroit Shoreway, and Edgewater neighborhoods, studying demographic data, and talking to community businesses to develop a strategic plan to make the near west side an equitable, affordable, and attractive place to live, work, and play. 

“It was really an in-depth effort to get people’s thoughts, to hear what they’re interested in,” says Anna Perlmutter, NWN board president. “It’s been a wonderful process. People have been really honest about the feedback they’ve been giving.”

With support from the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation, NWN hired Sangfroid Strategy, a local data-driven strategy firm, and The Center for Poverty and Community Development at Case Western Reserve University to conduct research, data analysis, and surveys of residents and stakeholders.

“We’ve been gathering feedback from all over the service area,” says Perlmutter. “We’ve been getting feedback from residents, businesses, and social services agencies using all kinds of methods, like door knocking and lawn signs with a link to the survey.”

The survey process began last fall and concluded at the end of 2022. Perlmutter says they are now in the analysis phase, with the Poverty Center team conducting ongoing aggregated data collection about the service area while Sangfroid Strategy meets regularly with stakeholders in small group interviews and in community meetings.

Additionally, Sangfroid continues to have conversations with the NWN staff, board, partners, tenants, and community members to gather information.

The resulting strategic plan will establish shared values and a mission statement for NWN. Unlike a neighborhood master plan focused on physical properties, the strategic plan will guide the NWN’s larger priorities and programs—such as affordable housing, fresh and affordable food, access to resources, and adequate greenspace.

Perlmutter says housing has emerged as a priority, including NWN’s portfolio of more than 300 affordable units as well as a tough private market, absentee landlords, and residents struggling to maintain their homes.

“We need to increase and maintain affordable housing, look at what kinds of support services are needed in different communities, and help make our neighborhoods accessible and inclusive. Residents want to see more greenspace, walkability, and safe places to thrive” says Perlmutter. “It’s not just housing. Healthy neighborhoods need to include affordable options for groceries, childcare, and social supports. Everyone should be made to feel welcome here.”

She adds that lead poisoning and deteriorating housing stock is an ongoing issue that the CDC hopes to continue working with property owners to resolve.

Perlmutter says over 28% of the 28,000 people living in the NWN service area live in poverty. Poverty rates are higher for residents in the Cudell (34%) and Detroit Shoreway (31%) neighborhoods, and lower in the Edgewater area (less than 20%).

“We are refining our commitment to equitably serving residents and stakeholders across all of our service areas,” Perlmutter says. “We want to use our resources to do this work well and examine how to most effectively build thriving communities in the three neighborhoods. There's a lot of need and limited resources, so we are digging deep, always learning, and dedicated to models of placemaking that are intentional and equitable.”

Perlmutter says NWN plans to release the final strategic plan May.

Karin Connelly Rice
Karin Connelly Rice

About the Author: 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.