Groups break ground on Ubuntu Gathering Place in Buckeye-Woodland Hills neighborhood

On Thursday, Sep. 30 a collaborative effort launched the project that many had been envisioning for more than 15 years: A place where neighbors could gather, socialize, play, and be a community.

East End Neighborhood HouseBurten, Bell, Carr Development, Western Reserve Land Conservancy, and the City of Cleveland Mayor’s Office of Sustainability came together to broke ground on Ubuntu Gathering Place on the vacant lot at East 103rd Street and Shaker Boulevard that once was home to a Saab dealership.

“It went so well,” says Kelly McCarthy, urban projects manager with Western Reserve Land Conservancy. “It was an awesome, organic outpouring of support from the community.”

About 40 people gathered for the groundbreaking last Friday, including East End Neighborhood House CEO Zulma Zabala, who says the Nguni Bantu term “Ubuntu” symbolizes the connection that can exist between people who are open to seeing each other in each other.

Ubuntu was first conceived back around 2013 by East End Neighborhood House to bring greenspace, community, and joy to the neighborhood that has seen blight in recent years, facing high poverty rates, unemployment, poor health outcomes, crime, and racism.

In July Partners for Places, a program of The Funders Network, made a $75,000 grant for the construction of Ubuntu, which is in addition to funding from the Saint Luke’s Foundation, which exceeded the required match by donating $200,000 towards the $550,000 project.

The park will include trees, a plaza with a depiction of the continent of Africa, bioretention cells, a green infrastructure outdoor education space, locally commissioned art walls, and an obelisk, which is part of the Elevate the East public art project.

McCarthy says the project price tag increased to $409,000 to $550,000 since July, because funding for aspects like the obelisk came through. “We’ve received enough funding to do that,” she says. “The design has evolved, and we have a green infrastructure with bioswales.”

Phase I of construction is expected to begin later this year, while phase II is scheduled to begin in 2022.

McCarthy says she is pleased with the progress the collective groups are making in this project. “Seeing everyone involved in the project from the start means so much to me,” she says, adding that she was just a staff member with the Land Conservancy when the vision first emerged when the car dealership lot came up for sale. “I’m humbled and honored to be a part of it.”

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.