Fairfax’s roots run deep. As the neighborhood undergoes a renaissance, projects like Griot Village and Innovation Square are serving not only to attract new residents but to convince the next generation to make Fairfax a permanent home.
Raising the future of Fairfax
One of only seven facilities of its kind in the country, Griot Village has become a respite for visitors and residents alike. Inside this 40-townhome intergenerational village, grandparents raise their grandchildren in a supportive, collaborative environment with necessary support services (including an on-site social worker). Children range in age from six months to 17 years and can live there while they are in school.
Griot Village, at East 82nd Street and Central Avenue, was constructed in 2014 via a partnership between Fairfax Renaissance Development Corp. and Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority.
Tomatoes, squash and flowers grown by Griot Village residentsFor resident JoAnne McWhorten, living in Griot Village has been a blessing. She first arrived at Griot Village three years ago after suddenly gaining custody of her then 3- and 5-year-old granddaughters. “When I got here, things started falling into place,” she says. “Everything is at your fingertips.”
While grandmothers gather in support groups to discuss their challenges and journeys, children get the support of a well-rounded education. Volunteers from the city of Cleveland developed an individualized curriculum specifically for children living at Griot Village. Tutors from John Carroll University and volunteers from Antioch Baptist Church provide tutoring, homework help, and snacks. Children can work in the on-campus computer lab any time it is open.
Outdoors, tree-lined pathways lead to an enclosed playground—which children at Griot Village designed—and plentiful vegetable and flower gardens, which the children and their grandparents maintain. A “Little Library” stands outside the main office, making up for the lack of a local public library, and the Hospice of the Western Reserve offers art and trauma therapy. Fairfax Recreation Center is across the street, offering more services, classes, and a swimming pool.
For children whose lives may feel unsettled or in turmoil, Griot Village offers a calm environment and supplemental educational opportunities.
"It's been a very pleasant journey here," McWhorten says. In addition to spending time with her grandchildren, she enjoys dressing up her front yard with flowers; participating in outings and events; and taking cooking classes.
"Fairfax is just great energy," says Catondra Noye, assistant director of Fairfax Renaissance Development Corp. "The seniors are the backbone of Griot Village."
Playground at Griot Village
Finding equitable living solutions
August Fluker moved to Fairfax 20 years ago from Cleveland Heights and has a vested interest in bringing businesses and families back to the area. His 17-year-old son was born in Fairfax and lives with him.
“I believe in strengthening the core of the city," says Fluker, a principal with City Architecture.
Fluker is doing just that by planning the architecture and land use for Innovation Square. It will consist of roughly 500 new units, including higher-density single apartments, lower-density single-family townhomes, and new single-family homes. (Current homeowners in the area will ideally be offered access to the resources to update their homes, too.)
Although most of the space is still in pre-development, Playwright Park is complete. Art murals, which residents helped paint during a community meeting on July 16, will be installed in the fall.
Fluker's goal is remaining inclusive and equitable as the walkable community continues to develop. "The reason we are where we are is [because of] institutional racism, redlining, et cetera," Fluker says. "For people who don't have the means—no matter their persuasion or ethnicity—we have to bring them along."
Innovation Square Renderings
As Ward 6 councilman Blaine Griffin sees it, projects like Innovation Square and Griot Village will be key in attracting residents of all walks of life to the neighborhood and helping reverse Cleveland’s overall population decline. “Fairfax is the right neighborhood to really give Cleveland a boost in the arm as far as population increase,” he says.
Moving forward, Griffin and other Fairfax stakeholders hope to retain people who grew up in the neighborhood, welcome those who are new to the area, and even provide ways for those who have left to make their way back—on Saturday, Aug. 17, current and former residents will meet for a Fairfax Reunion at the Fairfax Recreation Center.
The overall mission is to support and enhance the quality of life for second- and third-generation residents and anyone else looking to build up the community. “The community really cherishes the relationships families have [built] with each other,” says Griffin.
This article is part of our On the Ground - Fairfax community reporting project in partnership with Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation, Cleveland Clinic, PNC Bank, Greater Cleveland Partnership, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, and Cleveland Development Advisors. Read the rest of our coverage here.