The otherwise unremarkable corner of Detroit Avenue and West 25th
Street is on the verge of a rebirth that will include hundreds of students, the bulk of which will be five years old and under.
"We think Ohio City is a perfect fit for us," says Charles Lawrence, president and CEO of The Music Settlement
, a 103-year old organization that offers music therapy, early childhood education, and music instruction to people of all ages and levels of experience. "Hingetown is an incredibly energetic and engaging area."
His enthusiasm is in response to the prospect of the organization's announcement
last month that it will be expanding into a second location as part of the Snavely Group
's forthcoming mixed-use project
, which will transform the drab intersection with new construction on the north side of Detroit and renovations on the south side in the historic Forest City Bank Building.
The Music Settlement will occupy 19,000 square feet on the first floor of the new building, which will also house retail and apartments on the upper floors. While all of it will positively impact that stretch of Detroit, a school – particularly one with so many very young children – brings a special brand of activity.
"The city and other individuals are looking to make Detroit a walkable street from 25th
to Gordon Square. Our school is busy from six thirty in the morning to nine at night. We're open all the time Monday through Saturday," says Lawrence, adding that such constant activity will improve the presence of pedestrian and family traffic.
"That's a big thing," notes Lawrence.
Slated to open in late summer 2017, the school will serve approximately 150 early childhood program students, 75 music and music therapy students and have about 50 employees. While Lawrence expects the early childhood programs to fill quickly, the music and music therapy sessions are likely to reach capacity more slowly.
"It may be four years before we hit out target numbers," says Lawrence.
Two thirds of the Settlement's space will be dedicated to the early childhood development center catering to preschool children, kindergarteners and day care kids. The balance of the space will house studios and instructional space for the institution's music and music therapy programs. The facility will also have a kitchen and access-controlled outdoor playground.
Funding for the $3 million project is underway and will benefit in part from New Market Tax Credits. The Snavely group is managing the design (with input from The Music Settlement) and construction of the project.
Considering the intersection of Detroit and West 25th
was once home to a go-go club and the site of one of Cleveland's most notorious gang murders
more than 40 years ago, the ideological transformation for those with long memories is no less than staggering, but The Music Settlement is accustomed to a neighborhood in transition.
"We've been in University Circle since 1939," says Lawrence of the organization's home campus, adding that today's desirable University Circle addresses weren't always thusly described. "We've been there in good times and bad times and challenging perceptions of our location. We've persevered through all of it." Lawrence vows that perseverance will extend to the new Detroit Avenue location.
"We're not going about this with a wish and a prayer," he says. "We're in it for the long run. We're going to help to elevate the community and be a key to avoiding the perception that Ohio City is just going to be another Flats, that in 10 years Ohio City will fade." He believes The Music Settlement will become a stalwart anchor with consistent offerings that will help stabilize the area and attract residents and families long term.
Outreach programs are a big part of the Settlement's legacy. To that end, the organization is already engaged in an array of off-site programs on the west side including an after-school orchestra program at Tremont Montessori School
, a music therapy program at Lutheran Hospital
with the Behavioral Health unit and individual music lessons at St. Ignatius High School
, where they are also developing a Latin jazz ensemble that will be open to the community.
"We're going to be meet with representatives of the Spanish speaking community" in order to solicit their input, says Lawrence. He also emphasizes the fit between the Settlement and the unique diversity of the near west side, tagging residents in new and renovated historic housing, in Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority units and the Spanish speaking community.
"That's our DNA," says Lawrence, noting the organization's inherent commitment to serving all members of the community.
Lawrence notes that the project at West 25th
and Detroit has gotten some push back about the issue of gentrification, but he sees the Settlement's move to Ohio City as just the opposite.
"The Settlement has always been an organization that exists for those who can afford it and those who cannot. We're bringing programming and opportunity and access for folks regardless of where they're coming from and what their background is. By bringing that element to the Hingetown area, we're actually counteracting any perception of gentrification," he says.
"We're raising the sea level for everybody."