Vibrant City Awards recap: Meet the changemakers shaping Cleveland for the better

Right next to the newly christened Euclid Beach Pier, more than 550 community leaders gathered lakeside for the fifth annual Vibrant City Awards—presented by Cleveland Neighborhood Progress (CNP) and Delta Dental and highlighting the best in local urban revitalization efforts.


After welcome remarks by Cleveland Metroparks CEO Brian Zimmerman and CNP president Joel Ratner, CNP’s Erika Anthony led the attendees in an interactive text-to-vote poll to kick off the festivities. Poll questions included everything from “one word that best describes city living” to whether participants live and/or work in the city of Cleveland. (Fun fact: 71 percent of respondents said if they relocated that they would move to Cleveland proper.)


The voting continued into the first award, when the nominees for the CDC Neighborhood Branding & Marketing Award gave live pitches as to why they should win. Burten Bell Carr Development landed over half of the vote, snagging the award and $2,500 for their efforts to launch community radio station WOVU 95.9 serving the Central and Kinsman neighborhoods.


Taking home the vaunted Morton L. Mandel Leadership in Community Development Award was Norm Krumholz, a former planning director for the city and professor at Cleveland State University’s Levin College of Urban Affairs. “It is the prime objective here in the city of Cleveland to lift those neighborhoods that have fallen behind and lift the people that live in those neighborhoods,” Krumholz told the crowd via video acceptance speech.


Zack Bruell Events provided the lunch fare for the crowd—partnering with Cleveland Neighborhood Progress’ Climate Resiliency staff, the City of Cleveland’s Office of Sustainability, and Rust Belt Riders to make the VCA ceremony a zero-waste event. The partners were able to divert 328 pounds of trash and food waste away from landfills and donate 14 trays of leftover food to local charities.


Other award winners included Metro West Community Development Organization (CDC Economic Opportunity Award) for its work on Las Tienditas del Mercado; University Circle, Inc. (CDC Neighborhood Placemaking Award) for its work on the Nord Family Greenway; and First Interstate Properties (Urban Developer Award) for its work on One University Circle. Anita Gardner took home the Civic Champion Award to recognize her formation of the Concerned Citizens Community Council, a resident-led advocacy group in Mount Pleasant.

Congratulations to all of the dedicated civic and community leaders who were recognized!

Jen Jones Donatelli
Jen Jones Donatelli

About the Author: Jen Jones Donatelli

As an enthusiastic CLE-vangelist, Jen Jones Donatelli enjoys diving headfirst into her work with FreshWater Cleveland. Upon moving back to Cleveland after 16 years in Los Angeles, Jen served as FreshWater's managing editor for two years (2017-2019) and continues her work with the publication as a contributing editor and host of the FreshFaces podcast.

When not typing the day away at her laptop, she teaches writing and creativity classes through her small business Creative Groove, as well as Literary Cleveland, Cleveland State University, and more. Jen is a proud graduate of Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.