As one of Cleveland’s oldest neighborhoods, Slavic Village has seen its share of ups and downs. By the end of World War II, the area settled by Polish and Czech immigrants on the southeast side was booming with nearly 100,000 residents.
Today, Slavic Village is one of the poorest Cleveland neighborhoods—with a 62% child poverty rate—a slew of vacant properties and land, and only 22,000 residents.
The neighborhood’s University Settlement, originally founded under a different name in 1926, provides case management and critical resources, assistance for homebound seniors, and provides free, fresh produce to those in need.
NRP Group Breaks Ground on 5115 at The Rising, a multifamily property in Cleveland's Broadway-Slavic Village Neighborhood. “Of the 22,000 residents and Slavic Village, we literally served 12,000 of them in 2019,” says University Settlement executive director Earl Pike. “The majority of people in our community get services from us at some point during the year.”
To further help the neighborhood, Pike and other community organizers are working to revitalize Slavic Village with a four-part recovery plan, “Broadway Rising,” that begins with a new facility for University Settlement and affordable housing for Slavic Village residents.
Last week University Settlement, working with multifamily housing developer and builder The NRP Group, broke ground on 5115 at The Rising—a $20 million mixed-use, mixed-income multifamily housing development and new 20,000-square foot home to University Settlement.
“It's literally the largest investment in this part of Slavic Village in 20 years and the overall project is probably the largest investment in all of Slavic Village since World War II,” says Pike, who adds that University Settlement’s current facility is in a state of disrepair. “It really is a game-changer.”
New home, new beginnings
Located at 5115 Broadway Ave. on the site of the former St. Alexis Hospital (and later St. Michael Hospital), the project will bring 78 affordable apartments and 10 townhomes to the neighborhood. In total 5115 at The Rising will comprise 18 one-bedroom, 48 two-bedroom, and 22 three-bedroom units.
The first floor of the four-story building will house University Settlement’s facility, as well as 3,000 square feet of retail space. The apartments will be on the upper three floors, while the townhomes will flank the larger building.
Aaron Pechota, senior vice president of development at NRP says rents will be calculated based on 30% to 60% of area median income, working out to between $360 per month for a one-bedroom unit to $1,100 per month for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom unit. Pechota says most the units will be in the $600 to $700 range.
Pechota says the vacant land and long-term disinvestment in this portion of Broadway Avenue makes the site perfect for an investment like 5115 at The Rising.
“The whole concept is kind of like a rising of a phoenix, the rising of this neighborhood—rising tides, rising bread, things growing, getting better,” Pechota says. “It’s going to be ongoing, not just one deal or one development or one opportunity, but around this 5115 there are additional opportunities for development and around the neighborhood as whole, additional opportunities for investment and that’s what we’re hoping to spur on with this first piece of a hopefully much larger puzzle.”
Saint Alexis Hospital 1951A multi-faceted approach
In addition to the residential units and new facilities for University Settlement, Pike outlines three additional initiatives for the neighborhood.
A second segment of Broadway Rising calls for a lead remediation program called the Slavic Village Healthy Homes Initiative.
The Slavic Village Healthy Homes initiative is committed to defeating the lead and asthma triggers in all 250 homes in the immediate vicinity, which literally creates the first lead-safe neighborhood in Cleveland,” explains Pike. “[In 2018] the lead toxicity rate was 30%, and if you know anything about lead, you know, that that's permanent cognitive impairment.”
Pechota says the site is considered a brownfield because it’s the site of the formal hospital. “There’s definitely subsurface work, both geothermal and environmental, that we need to do on the site,” he says. “A good amount of the hospital was demolished, and things were left on the site. There’s debris, construction [debris], and garbage that needs to be taken out from the site.”
A third facet of University Settlement’s plan is to implement a Sanctuary Model of care— a trauma-informed approach to helping residents overcome hardships and obstacles. Pike says the certification process takes three years, and the entire University Settlement staff will undergo the training
The fourth component Pike calls “No Return to Normal,” He says the community doesn’t want to return to what is considered normal for the neighborhood. “Saying return to normal in a community like Slavic Village is actually kind of an indictment, it's not an aspiration,” he says. “So, we sort of started toying with the idea of ‘return to better.’”
Pike says they have created a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) to ensure the tax credits serve the residents, not the developers, and that the project benefits the community. He says Cleveland Ward 5 councilperson Phyllis Cleveland is currently reviewing the CBA.
Pike says they are also working with Mark Joseph, director of the National Initiative on Mixed-Income Communities, to ensure the neighborhood does not become gentrified, and equity is a priority throughout the process.