Last summer, MidTown Cleveland hired Karis Tzeng to be AsiaTown project manager—the first staff member to be fully dedicated to serving the AsiaTown community and bringing improvements to the Cleveland neighborhood—and she’s already been busy making an impact.
Tzeng’s latest effort will shine Saturday, Dec. 7, when AsiaTown unveils Stanley Eng Way—the honorary street signs at East 30th Street between Payne and Superior avenues named after the late community leader, known for his work with poor and elderly residents.
The signs are the first of their kind to honor a Chinese American and be printed in both English and Chinese, Tzeng says.
Stanley Eng Way sign in Asia TownEng (1926-2004), a U.S. Army World War II veteran and chemist, served Cleveland as an advocate in the Chinese and Asian American community—leading organizations like the Cleveland Chinese Senior Citizens Association. He spearheaded efforts to provide housing for senior Chinese Americans with the Asian Evergreen Apartments on Payne Avenue, started a meal program for seniors at Li Wah restaurant, served as a translator, and taught English language courses at the Cleveland Chinese Christian Church.
Eng also helped establish the first AsiaTown health center in Asia Plaza and founded the Chinese Newcomers Service Center.
“Stanley Eng was a community leader in AsiaTown who was very modest and humble and did a lot for the community—especially the elderly and low-low income [residents],” says Tzeng. “He was a father figure and an amazing leader.”
The Stanley Eng Way dedication ceremony will be held Dec. 7 at 11 a.m. at Asia Plaza, 2999 Payne Ave., where attendees will then walk to the sign at East 30th and Payne.
Tzeng, a Cleveland boomerang who returned to her hometown from the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation, has a background in urban planning and holds a masters degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Michigan. Her goal is to implement placemaking through streetscapes and artwork and make AsiaTown a more walkable neighborhood, she says.
Other projects Tzeng has worked on include a pop-up park in September in the former Dave’s Market parking lot to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival, a traditional Asian holiday. About 200 residents gathered to eat mooncakes, watch tai chi demonstrations and listen to erhu music (a traditional Chinese stringed instrument).
“It really showed the need for a public gathering space,” says Tzeng. “OCA-Greater Cleveland helped residents register to vote in their native Cantonese.”
The utility box wrap at Payne Avenue and East 30th Street, titled “Sakuya-Hime” by Jordan Wong (WONGFACE).New artwork installations along Payne Avenue are brightening the corridor through four utility boxes covered in wraps designed by artists Jordan Wong, Mitzi Lai, Kathleen Marcotte, and Julia Kuo. “It brings awareness to the neighborhood,” says Tzeng. “[These efforts] bring a physical sense of identity.”
Last week, in partnership with Cleveland’s Community Relations and Economic Development Departments, MidTown held its second in a series of meetings at Margaret Wong & Associates to connect business owners with resources.
In the coming months, MidTown Cleveland plans to hire a part-time AsiaTown community organizer to assist Tzeng. The AsiaTown team will coordinate with St. Clair Superior Development Corporation, Campus District, Cleveland Asian Festival, and Asian Services in Action to continue projects that highlight the neighborhood’s identity through strategic planning, public art and public space planning, small business support, and real estate endeavors in the community. Tzeng says the groups plan to organize a network of resident leaders in AsiaTown
“My hope is to dedicate resources to the neighborhood,” says Tzeng. “Citywide, my hope is to organize more of the ongoing work that’s focused on the neighborhood.”