(Plain Press, April 2017) At the Ohio City Incorporated (OCI) annual meeting on March 21, both Board President Chris Schmitt and Executive Director Tom McNair called for the organization to improve its connection to people in the community.
Board President Schmitt called for creating an “environment that is welcoming and supportive to families of all types.” He said the organization is working to “physically connect” the neighborhood with special attention to Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority housing. He said OCI believes in inclusion and diversity, but must do a better job of communicating with residents. He urged residents to get to know the staff and board better this year and reach out to them. “We want to be connected to you,” he said. He urged residents to reach out to board and staff members with their questions and concerns.
Executive Director Tom McNair talked about the demographics of the neighborhood that is 54% white, 34% African American and 18% Hispanic. He noted that in a neighborhood of 10,000 residents, 2000 of those residents lived in public housing and 80% of the public housing residents are African American. He talked about the challenge to connect the neighborhood better physically, but also to “start talking with each other.”
McNair challenged the organization to “evolve from outreach to engagement.” He noted while information was available at block club meetings, a lot of people never go to block club meetings. McNair promised to hold quarterly community forums and to form a Community Engagement Committee “to help reach other people we are not reaching.”
McNair talked about efforts by OCI to improve the walkability and connectivity of the whole neighborhood, efforts to attract and retain businesses, work to increase housing density along the main transit corridors, and some of the promotion efforts by OCI. He noted the success of Near West Recreation in increasing the number of children it serves.
McNair said OCI is concerned about affordability of retail space and has a program to help businesses with a line of spaces that are 500 square feet.
Speaking of some of the accomplishments of the organization, McNair said of the 622 new or planned units of housing in the neighborhood 60 were deemed affordable. He noted the OCI work with the Creative Fusion project in bringing international artists to the neighborhood to work with local artists and CMHA residents in creating murals in the neighborhood.
The award ceremony followed the remarks by McNair.
Cristine King, a Dave’s Supermarket employee, received the Hospitality Leader Award for welcoming engagement with customers over the years.
Rick Foran and Chris Smythe received the Commercial Preservation Award for their work on West 25th Street Lofts.
Bob and Kathy Strickland received the residential preservation award for the efforts in rehabbing a house at 3806 Clinton Avenue. The couple said they found a buyer for the house before they even put it up for sale.
John Gill accepted the Community Service Award on behalf of the Arrupe Neighborhood Partnership of St. Ignatius High School from which student volunteers work with over 150 children in the neighborhood through a variety of after school programs.
Enrique Muniz Jr., owner of La Boricana Foods, accepted the Outstanding Small Business Award for 23 years of bringing foods from a variety of countries to the neighborhood as well as being a source of employment to refugees.
Mark Raymond, a resident and business owner received the Resident Leader Award for his involvement in the neighborhood. Raymond is the owner of the Ohio City Hostel and the Passenger Café.
Kathleen Williams received the Legacy Award for her service to youths and adults through her work at the Lakeview Community Center.
Dr. Donald Malone Jr., Presidents of Lutheran Hospital, received the Presidential Award for his efforts to involve Lutheran Hospital in the community.
Lillian Kuri of the Cleveland Foundation accepted the Arts & Culture Award for the involvement of the Cleveland Foundation’s International artist residency program’s Creative Fusion with Ohio City Inc and Hingetown. Kuri invited artists involved in the project on stage to participate in the acceptance of the award. Artists, involved in the Creative Fusion project, created several murals along the Detroit Avenue corridor and surrounding streets in the Hingetown area of Ohio City. Kuri said that one of the murals, which sits across from Lakeview Tower, is the largest in the State of Ohio.