(Plain Press, April, 2016) At the Ohio City Incorporated annual meeting on March 22 at Urban Community School, the organization offered an update on its efforts in the neighborhood and presented a number of awards for those making special contributions to the neighborhood. The event was sponsored by Dave’s Markets and the keynote speaker was Jennifer Coleman of the George Gund Foundation.
Sponsors of the event, Dan Saltzman of Dave’s Markets and his son Aaron, provided the community with an update on a major upgrade underway at their Ohio City market. The upgrade includes the remodeling of the Produce, Bakery and Meat department. The store will offer quick meal alternatives. It will have a sushi chef on staff, made to order sandwiches at City Subs, it will offer soups, and chicken and beef kabobs.
Plans call for the deli area to feature fresh salads as well as an array of cheeses with an opportunity for customers to sample various cheeses.
On the south side of Dave’s, an extension is being built for a Liquor Store.
Keynote Speaker Jennifer Coleman, Senior Program Officer of Arts at the George Gund Foundation, spoke of the critical role of arts and culture in contributing to the vibrancy and development of a city. She noted that the arts can be a source of gentrification and displacement or a stabilizing force that knits a neighborhood together. She noted the potential of the Snavely Group’s development at the corner of W. 25th and Detroit which, in addition to mixed income apartments, will include a west side presence of the Music School Settlement. Coleman said this has the potential to help link the public housing to the north at Lakeview to the arts programing. She challenged the community to help forge this connection. She also challenged the Ohio City neighborhood, as it becomes more densely developed, to be a springboard for the conversation on how to use the arts and the increasing density of the neighborhood as a force to knit the neighborhood together rather than as a vehicle for displacement and gentrification.
Ohio City Executive Director Tom McNair highlighted some of the organization’s recent accomplishments and outlined some plans in the works. He noted the dramatic growth of Near West Recreation which started four years ago with 68 kids, this year had a thousand children participate in the basketball league. McNair said the program, which partners with Tremont West Development Corporation, Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization, Stockyard Clark Fulton Brooklyn Centre Community Development Program Office, the Cleveland Transformation Alliance, Ohio Savings Bank and many parents, volunteers and kids, offers a variety of recreational programs including soccer, baseball, bowling and a creative writers club.
McNair said when the neighborhood was surveyed residents said their number one priority was safety. To that end, OCI partnered with the Second Police District to offer residents free safety audits. Residents were offered matching grants to help implement security recommendations from the audits which resulted in $4,500 in investments in 18 Ohio City homes, said McNair.
In addition, McNair said the Ohio City Safety Camera Program launched with a $2,000 grant from Neighborhood Connections secured by the Bridge Carroll Block Club, raised $20,000 from neighborhood institutions for a safety camera initiative that will include nine zones in the neighborhood.
The special improvement tax, created to fund the Market District Improvement District in 2012, opened the doors for investments in a several block area surrounding the West Side Market, said McNair. He noted that commercial vacancies in the area have decreased dramatically in the past few years. He said discussion is underway to expand the special improvement district. He hopes expansion of the district would increase the budget from $140,000 to $240,000 per year and allow the addition of late night safety ambassadors as well as the snow blowing of the sidewalks in the winter.
McNair mentioned the approval by the City Planning Commission of two-way separated bike lanes on Lorain Avenue. He said OCI hopes to raise $2.4 million to get the project funded this year.
Outlining OCI’s real estate development strategy, McNair said the goal is to increase density with apartments along the major corridors of Detroit Avenue, W. 25th and Lorain Avenue. He cited examples such as the 62-unit Mariner’s Watch and the Edge 32 Apartments on Detroit Avenue, the W. 25th Lofts at W. 25th and Church Avenue and the proposed Snavely Group’s development at the corner of W. 25th and Detroit Avenue. The plan also calls for infill of neighborhood streets with single-family homes. He noted the goal is to make 10% of the new apartments and homes affordable housing. He also noted a new program to offer pre-approved homes to be built on vacant lots with a choice of façade for middle income families wishing to move into the Ohio City neighborhood.
McNair also painted a picture with a large green space within easy access of the Ohio City neighborhood. He said, Ohio Ctiy Inc. is working with a number of partners to help create a 16-acre waterfront park at Irish Town Bend.
Ohio City Board President Erika McLaughlin joined with McNair to give awards to a number of individuals and organizations for their contributions to the neighborhood.
Donald Hughes, a Market District Ambassador since 2012, was awarded the Hospitality Leader Award. Hughes and his team work in the market district to clean up litter, remove graffiti, provide safety escorts and assist motorists and pedestrians.
Tom Gillespie received the Commercial Preservation Award for his efforts in restoring the Ohio City Post Office Building on Jay Avenue.
The Residential Preservation Award was accepted by Marge Misak on behalf of Neighborhood Housing Services for their work in restoring a house at 1788 W 45th Street. Misak said that three refugee families and one single parent family have found a home in the restored house. She thanked the neighborhood for being so welcoming to the new families.
Providence House was awarded the Community Service Award for the creation of Elizabeth House, a 24-hour medical wellness nursery.
The Single Family New Construction award was given to Pat and Melissa Sullivan for construction of their new home at 2927 Jay Avenue. The couple, who became enamored with the neighborhood when their sons were attending St. Ignatius High School, built a house on a vacant lot that blends in with the architecture in the neighborhood.
The Outstanding Small Business Award went to the Jukebox on W. 29th in Hingetown and its owner Alex Budin. The Jukebox was praised as a neighborhood institution where everyone feels comfortable and for their involvement in the community.
Patty & Steve Roberts were honored with the resident leader award. Patty is coordinator for the Bridge Carroll Jay Block Club. Steve is also active in the block club. He also tends the flower beds at the entrance of the West Side Market. Both participate the annual Ohio City Clean Up Day. Steve volunteers as a soccer coach and is working to help bring Make Music Cleveland programming to the neighborhood this summer. In accepting the award Steve reminded residents to participate in the neighborhood Cleanup on Saturday April 30th noting there will be two dumpsters at St. Patrick’s Church. Steve also asked people to note that Make Music Day will be on June 21st.
St. John’s Episcopal Church and Cleveland Public Theatre were awarded the Arts and Culture Award for their production of Station Hope. Project Hope celebrates the history of St. John’s as a stop on the underground railroad for individuals and families fleeing slavery making their way north to freedom in Canada. The project features music, dance, theatre, storytelling, music and art. In accepting the award Cleveland Public Theatre’s Raymond Bobgan said he was especially proud of the Road to Hope performance at Lakeview Terrace which gave residents of Lakeview Terrace a sneak peak of what to expect at Station Hope. Bobgan referenced keynote speaker Jennifer Coleman’s remarks about using the arts to stabilize neighborhoods rather than contribute to gentrification saying, “The arts can be an incredible path that we can use to come together…”
Fred and Laura Bidwell received the Presidential Award for their contribution to helping Ohio City to grow as an arts community with the creation of a neighborhood venue for displaying art at the Transformer Station. Fred Bidwell was also a member of the Action Committee for Arts and Culture to promote Issue 8, the arts and culture levy. The couple recently purchased the Van Rooy Coffee building on Detroit Avenue at W. 29. They plan to live on the top floor and rent the first and second floors to retail tenants and cultural organizations.
Ward 3 Councilman Joe Cimperman was awarded the Legacy Award for his nearly 19 years of service as a representative in Cleveland City Council. Ward 15 Councilman Matt Zone introduced Cimperman and offered praise to his colleague for a number of initiatives such as arts legislation that required the set aside of 1.5% for the arts from large development projects, and reminded residents “we have chickens and bees in our community, thanks to Joe.”
Cimperman, who plans to step down from Cleveland City Council and take a job as president of Global Cleveland, said he plans to stay in the neighborhood. “Why would you leave the best place that welcomes you?” he asked.
In wrapping up the meeting Ohio City staff noted that beginning on April 3rd the West Side Market would be open on Sundays from noon to 6 p.m. A member of the South of Lorain Block Club said she will be visiting all block clubs to invite members to contribute to a donation to the Neighborhood Housing Services housing for refugees on W. 45th & Franklin. The donations will serve as a tribute to Councilman Joe Cimperman upon his leaving Cleveland City Council.
Ohio City staff members reminded residents that the election for new board members would be held on May 3rd from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. at Franklin Circle Church, 1688 Fulton Road.