Euclid

Portrait of a city: Euclid is busy writing its next chapter

On Sept. 28, longtime Euclid residents Audrey and Victor Goodman gathered approximately 70 Euclidians at Shore Cultural Centre to give voice to everything from litter concerns to road resurfacing to police presence. Residents shared suggestions and proposed solutions with Mayor Kirsten Holzheimer Gail, Euclid police chief Scott Meyer, and Euclid City Schools interim superintendent Christopher Papouras.

Like many Euclidians, the Goodmans believe that residents will be a powerful force in moving Euclid forward, and they’re willing to do the work to get there.

Why are residents so invested? Because they know that there are two views of Euclid—the one from the inside and the one from the outside—and that the Euclid depicted in statistics doesn’t always reflect the experience of its people.

For instance, pick up a copy of Cleveland Magazine’s Rating the Suburbs, and one might see numbers that reflect a city with low safety rankings and a struggling school system. Yet residents hail Euclid’s friendly neighborhoods, attainable lakefront New construction is underway on Euclid High Schoolproperty, proximity to downtown, and ample recreational resources (including an ice rink, fishing pier, and disc golf course) among the reasons it tops their own lists of places to live.

The school system is another compelling study in contrasts. Though Euclid City Schools have received failing grades on the Ohio school report card in recent years, the district also offers a celebrated welding program and unique culinary bistro operated by students. Ambitious construction projects are underway amid completed projects such as a new football stadium and Early Learning Village facility, and academic improvement appears to be on the horizon with a rating increase to a “D” grade and a “Gap Closing” measure increase of almost 40% heading into the 2019-2020 school year.

So what’s true in the tale of two Euclids? The city is busy navigating those realities to write its next chapter. This week, the former Euclid Square Mall site officially takes on new life as the Amazon fulfillment center (bringing 2,000 new jobs to the area), and the city is also seeing new commercial investment thanks to five designated opportunity zones.

Later this year, Euclid will celebrate substantial completion of the second phase of its groundbreaking waterfront trail project, and construction on Euclid High School is set for completion in time for the 2020-2021 school year.

Euclid Waterfront Trail site in August 2018

Euclid Waterfront Trail in September 2019 is near completion

 

But what it will take to turn the rest of Greater Cleveland—and, yes, some of Euclid’s own residents—into believers is yet to be determined.

“The most pressing issue facing Euclid right now is perception,” says Taneika Hill, Ward 3 councilwoman for the city of Euclid. “All of the wonderful things about Euclid don’t get mentioned outside of Euclid.”

For now, the city is squarely focused on strengthening from within, addressing the challenges that remain, and celebrating the progress that is steadily taking shape. FreshWater’s On The Ground—Euclid series will cover all of these developments—along with the people, places, and projects driving them.

As for Euclid’s next chapter, our first feature covers three of the characters helping to shift the narrative.


Taneika Hill

 

When Taneika Hill moved into a side-by-side townhouse in Euclid in August 2010, she expected to befriend her immediate neighbor right away, but it didn’t quite happen like that.

 

“We used to be the hangout house in our old neighborhood, and here, our neighbor wouldn’t speak to us,” says Hill. “It literally brought me to tears.”


Hill decided the best way to make her new house a home was to get more involved in the city, and she started calling neighborhood engagement specialist Kristal Grida on a regular basis to share her ideas for a community garden, school activities, and more. “It got to the point where I had all these ideas, and she started to call me,” Hill says with a laugh.

Taneika Hill

Hill got a chance to put those ideas into action when she was elected Ward 3 councilwoman in 2015. Since then, she has helped to engage the community through outdoor movie nights, rib cook-offs, and a resident-led initiative to improve Simon’s Supermarket (which offers affordable fresh food in low-income neighborhoods).

“I’m all about community engagement,” says Hill. “Give people something to invest in, they will want to invest.”

 

Hill has also utilized her time as a council member to help pass impactful legislation, such as reducing penalties for low-level marijuana possession and passing the Tobacco 21 law (prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 21 years old). Though Cleveland was technically the first major city in Ohio to pass Tobacco 21, Euclid is recognized as the first city to actually enforce it. “We’re trying to pass legislation that focuses on healthier, safer residents,” says Hill.

 

Looking forward, Hill believes the city’s forthcoming waterfront improvements have the most transformational potential—both in recreational reach and economic impact. “It will bring families away from their screens outside enjoying the fresh air and green space, doing activities like paddleboarding and jet-skiing,” says Hill. “[The project will also] open up opportunity for new retail spaces and restaurants.”

 

Barb Pistillo

 

As an interior designer, Barb Pistillo knows a thing or two about beautifying spaces—and she puts it into practice as a volunteer for Keep Euclid Beautiful, a citizen committee that works on beautification, planting, and cleanup projects around Barb Pistillothe city. Each year, she participates in The Big Clean, an annual contest between Collinwood and Euclid to see which area can pick up the most litter.

 

Pistillo also held an active role on the recently disbanded Euclid Housing Task Force, spearheading a housing fair to promote home ownership and helping give renters more resources and education on home improvement and maintenance—important initiatives in a city comprised of 52.1% renters.

 

“The more that can be done, the better Euclid looks,” says Pistillo. “A few flower beds, a little trimming goes a long way and ups the value of your house, your neighbors’ houses, and the whole street. We try to make Euclid worth more than it was the day before.”

 

Pistillo has also worked to elevate Euclid’s neighborhood experience through Wednesdays on the Porch, a unique series of gatherings each summer throughout the city. Inspired by a similar event in Columbus, Pistillo initially launched the event on her own street around 2005, then took it citywide in 2013 with the help of a $500 Engage Euclid grant.

 

The concept is simple: people interested in hosting a porch gathering take a yard sign, then advertise the gathering to their neighbors, all of whom bring beverages and snacks. It’s been incredibly popular, with Ward 2 Councilman Reverend Brian T. Moore recently taking five signs to distribute among interested constituents.

 

Pistillo plans to continue the Wednesdays on the Porch gatherings next year and beyond—she sees it and her work with Keep Euclid Beautiful as a labor of love. Says Pistillo, “It’s all part of a circle, getting to know your neighbors and helping them out.”

 

Ryan Weaver

 

For Ryan Weaver, moving to Euclid was a happy accident. When he and his partner, Nichole Kathol, relocated from the small town of Rice Lake, Wisconsin, in May 2016, they chose Euclid for its central location and affordability—but Weaver says they’ve gotten a lot more than what they bargained for by plugging into Euclid’s beach club culture.

 

Their house is in the Moss Point Beach Club neighborhood, populated with modest one-time summer vacation cottages that are now permanent residences. Many of the neighborhood’s residents belong to the beach club—one of several tight-knit social clubs along Euclid’s shoreline including Utopia, Edgecliff, Arcadia, Noble Beach, and more that many consider Euclid’s best-kept secrets.

 

Ryan Weaver and his partner, Nichole, relocated from the small town of Rice Lake, Wisconsin, to Euclid's Moss Point Beach neighborhood. “We’re not wealthy people, so to spend $100,000 on a house and have a small ownership stake in lakefront property sort of blew our minds,”  Weaver says. “It’s really turned out to be the best thing about our lives here. Everyone has a little stake in that parcel of land at the end of the street, protecting and caring for it.”

 

Weaver says he does his part by mowing the club’s lawn and participating in beach cleanups, while Kathol has joined the club’s board as the secretary. Together they’ve enjoyed sunset watch parties, chili cook-offs and homemade dip contests, and polka picnics.

 

They also made another unique discovery when they moved in: Their house is reputed to be the one-time residence of Eliot Ness. “No fewer than a dozen people said that to us when we moved in,” says Weaver. “Who knows how folklore and legends get started, but it’s been a cool story to tell at parties. I hope one day when we’re repainting or get a hole in the wall that we find his name etched on a two-by-four.”

 

Overall, Weaver says the pleasant surprises about their new home have echoed their overall experience in Euclid.

“Growing up in Canton, I’d heard all the stereotypes and warnings about the east side of Cleveland,” says Weaver. “I thought this would be a rundown ghost town, that Euclid had its heyday half a century ago, but I’ve found it to be the exact opposite of that. I’ve been amazed at the amount of involvement people have in this community and how much pride people take in it.”


This article is part of our On the Ground - Euclid community reporting project in partnership with City of Euclid, Euclid City Schools, Tri-C, and Cuyahoga County Board of Health. Read the rest of our coverage here.

Read more articles by Jen Jones Donatelli.

As a Cleveland native and enthusiast, Jen Jones Donatelli is thrilled to take on the managing editor role at FreshWater. As a full-time freelance writer and editor for more than a decade, Jen has contributed to publications including Redbook, Budget Travel, GOOD, Playboy, Thrillist, Cleveland Magazine, Los Angeles Confidential, San Francisco, Ohio Today, and many more. She is also a contributing editor for Destination Cleveland and a proud graduate of Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.
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