Buckeye Renaissance: Burten, Bell, Carr develops master plan to boost neighborhood assets

The Buckeye-Shaker and Buckeye-Woodland neighborhoods on Cleveland’s East side have for years seen poverty structural racism, a large amount a vacant land, and vacant houses, and the subsequent disinvestment that comes with such blight.

Burten, Bell, Carr Development (BBC), the Community Development Corporation (CDC) that covers four square miles through various Cleveland neighborhoods on the eastern outskirts of the city, is continuously working to turn this community in a positive direction.

BBC covers the Central, Kinsman, and Buckeye neighborhoods; portions of the Fairfax and Union-Miles neighborhoods; and in 2019 the organization brought in Shaker Square and Larchmere.

“We literally doubled our service area within two years,” says Dawn Mayes, BBC director of community planning and engagement. “I think we have the largest service area—I don’t think any other CDC has this much.”

12607 Larchmere: 28 New ApartmentsOver the years, the organization has implemented master plans for thorough neighborhood development in many of the communities it serves. But it is now time to focus on the Buckeye neighborhood, says Mayes.

“So, now we are in the process of rolling out a comprehensive service model for all of Buckeye,” she says.

In April, BBC issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to create a master plan for the Greater Buckeye Community that will put the neighborhoods on a trajectory to create desirable, affordable housing and successful, sustainable business in an attractive business corridor that competes with surrounding business centers.  

Mayes says they received three proposals by the April 30 deadline, and they are currently interviewing the candidates.

My first impression of the submissions is excitement that we are one step closer to a neighborhood plan,” says Mayes. “I'm also highly impressed at the collaborative teams' makeup and how they intend to deliver on this project.”

Mayes adds that the submitting teams are made up of a combination of urban planners, architecture firms, community engagement companies, and consultants that have come together as a team to execute the project.

BBC officials expect to choose a candidate by Friday, June 11and have a contract in place by July 1.

Shaker SquareThe vision
Mayes stresses that the master plan is for both neighborhood development and commercial development in the area. And they want to hear from the residents about what they want.
The neighborhood was hit hard by the 2008 real estate crisis, and a lot of people just walked away from their homes, Mayes says, which led to decaying homes and demolitions. “You have some streets where five or six houses have been demolished,” she says. “In addition to those five houses demolished you have two houses where the roofs are collapsing and need to be demoed but there aren’t any more funds.”

As they focus on rebuilding, Mayes says she hopes the master plan will help with a vision for the residential aspects.

“[We want to know] what kind of housing they want to see—infill housing, more community gardens, more single-family homes, are they open to new duplexes being built, or open to something totally innovative and new that nobody has seen that will put Buckeye on the map as a new destination simply because of new single-family construction that hasn’t been seen before,” she says.

With the business sector, Mayes says she hopes to see a more focused district that will attract foot traffic.

Our goal is for this to become our blueprint of redevelopment within the Buckeye community, whether it’s public or private, and it also helps our residents to start shaping what the identity this neighborhood is going to be in the future,” says Mayes.

For instance, she says she envisions a solid commercial corridor, “instead of a hodgepodge of neighborhood businesses that don’t make sense being together,” and a new residential vision that will make the Buckeye area a destination.

121 Larchmere Micro unitsThe groundwork has been laid
The organization has already made impressive steps in improving the neighborhoods it serves, says Mayes. “BBC has made strides toward the immediate needs of the community including safety, business resources, youth and resident initiatives,” she says. “This has included Light up Buckeye, working with the utility company to fix the broken streetlights along the entire commercial corridor; and hosting a sit-down dinner with the fourth district police to discuss safety, racial discrimination, and commonalities among officers and residents.”

BBC has also focused on the area youth and empowerment, as well as the local small business scene.

“We've partnered with Youth Opportunities Unlimited (Y.O.U.) to match up our local students with job experience, youth programming including yoga, a game night, and teen summit,” Mayes continues. “We've reconvened the Buckeye Merchants monthly to have dialogue around safety and how to scale up their businesses. And we've created a Buckeye Resident Resource Guide that includes important numbers for government, utilities, and local resources.”

Building on the momentum
Mayes says she hopes the master plan and the organizations they work with will keep driving the community forward. “This is only a start, and we look forward to building off the momentum of development coming to the service area,” she says.

BBC wants to use its master plan to create additional green space development, real estate development, health and wellness programming, and social enterprise formation to grow and strengthen the neighborhood.

Mayes says there are plenty of examples to follow, including the Larchmere commercial corridor, for instance. “When you go there, it’s not just random stuff—It’s very intentional and strategic,” she says. “I want the Buckeye commercial corridor to also have that strategic feel in being intentional in what we are conveying to outside developers or investors that this is what we’re looking for.”

Mayes also cites outdoor events in other Cleveland neighborhoods—like pop up yoga classes on St. Luke’s lawn, or in Tremont, and Mall C. “We have beautiful properties here, why not do it in Buckeye,” she says. “Having those events just reimagines the space.”

In fact, it is already happening in Buckeye, Mayes concedes, pointing to Adam Lubkin at Ibis Development Group. He is currently renovating Buckeye Plaza, turning it into The Shoppes of Buckeye.  

Providence HouseShe says Lubkin is getting a larger sign for the shopping center and even hosted a drive-in movie theater in the parking lot.  “People were so floored because they never thought that space could be activated into a family-friendly community space to watch a movie,” Mayes says. “He’s very cooperative and wants to bring awareness and be a center for the community. This is what it takes—it takes community partnerships and collaboration.”

Mayes calls the plan Buckeye Renaissance. “You just have to be ready for it, she says. “We’re going to think bigger and better and think beyond what we are seeing and trying to realize the great potential the neighborhood has.”

If all goes accordingly, the master plan would be completed by the end of this year.

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.
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