by Chuck Hoven
(January 2019, Plain Press) About eighty Ohio City residents gathered at Franklin Circle Church on December 6thfor the first of three community meetings designed to gather input toward creating an Ohio City Neighborhood Vision.
At the beginning of the meeting Ward 3 Councilman Kerry McCormack said the Ohio City Neighborhood Vision Process hope to “capture things really important to you so we can set an agenda for the future.” He asked residents to record their thoughts, opinions, concerns to create an emotional and thoughtful vision of the neighborhood. McCormack asked those in attendance to let them know of others that need a call or visit so they can “cast as wide a net as possible in a balanced and equitable way for all our community members.”
Tom NcNair, Executive Director of Ohio City Incorporated introduced a design consultant that he said would help facilitate the process and develop the next steps in the process of developing design guidelines informed by the stakeholders.
Rather than directly addressing design and zoning concerns, those attending the meeting were given a list of neighborhood characteristics and asked to choose the five that were most important to them. They were also asked why they lived in the neighborhood; to list their favorite places in the neighborhood; to list what features or locations in the neighborhood they brag about; and to list what features would help to keep them living in the neighborhood for the next five, fifteen, or thirty years. Residents were also asked to consider what neighborhood links and city connections were important to them – where they go in the city and how they get there.
Ohio City Incorporated, which sponsored the meeting, also listed the names of 26 neighborhood residents on a Steering Committee which will also be engaged in developing design recommendations. The Steering Committee will meet prior to each of the scheduled community meetings. Two future Community Meetings are planned: one at Urban Community School on January 31stbilled as an Interactive Design Charrette and one at St. Malachi Parish on March 6thwhere Final Recommendations and Next Steps will be the agenda.
Outlining the purpose of creating Ohio City Neighborhood Design Guidelines, in a statement passed out at the meeting, Ohio City Incorporated explains it has “set out on this project to ensure the Ohio City neighborhood maintains its historic integrity, long-term affordability, and walkable, transit-connected urban character. The intention is to conduct this process in a community driven, equitable manner that examines the variety of factors that affect the Ohio City neighborhood. This process will culminate in the creation of the new design guidelines, with a focus on infill development opportunities, housing typologies, long-term affordability, and preservation of the community’s architectural character.”
The list of neighborhood characteristics those in attendance were given to choose their top five from, included the following items: access to public transportation; well-rounded neighborhood where needs can be met within the community; highway access/connections; proximity to downtown; neighborhood character (architecture, streets, tree canopy); safety; shopping, restaurants, entertainment, etc. in walking distance; neighborhood diversity; mixture of housing types and values; ability to age in place; sense of community; affordable housing; historic assets; proximity to the lake and recreation options; parks and green space; educational options and quality schools; supportive neighborhood services; and other.
Residents were also given the opportunity to list concerns they had about the neighborhood.
Following checking off their top five neighborhood characteristics and listing their concerns, residents and stakeholders in attendance visited five different stations set up around the room where they were invited to make comments based on the theme of each station.
At Station One, residents were asked to complete the sentence, “I live in Ohio City because…” Some of the comments by residents were: services for poor/homeless; diversity; my network of friends/institutions; my kids live there/family; I can walk anywhere; friendly neighbors/businesses; love it; of Christian community; of my church and neighbors; my wife made me downsize from Cleveland Heights and our grandchildren are down the street; walkability; restaurants; friendly neighbors; local businesses; Fairview gardens; and a sense of a community that plans together.
At Station Two, residents were asked to complete the sentence, “My favorite place in Ohio City is…” Some of the comments by residents were: Momocho; Market Avenue Wine Bar; W. 38thStreet; Carnegie Library; Phoenix; Bike Coop; Cleveland Tea Revival; West Side Market; Mitchell’s; MetroPark on the Cuyahoga River; Old Angle; Market Square Park; Petite Triangle; Hingetown; Vision Yoga; Dave’s Liquor Department; Whitman Avenue; Mason’s Creamery; and W. 29thand Church in the Autumn.
At Station Three, residents were asked to complete the sentence, “When I brag about Ohio City, I talk about…” Some of the comments were: walkability; trail along the Cuyahoga River; sculling on the river; West Side Market; Ohio City Farm Market; diversity; Market Avenue; Jim Schlecht; and neighbors.
At Station Four, residents were asked to complete the sentence “What will keep you in Ohio City for 5, 15 & 30 years…” Some responses included: schools; affordability; diversity; parking/better public transit; good schools; more trees; more four to six bedroom homes; bike paths that are safe; taxes affordable and crime down; parking on W. 38th; don’t screw up Franklin Circle; affordable property taxes; less crime; safety, housing options; tree canopy; affordable houses; kids programs; parks & green space; Lorain Avenue Bikeway; Riverview Towers; rental housing; being able to walk places; recycling and composting efforts; green street/lawns/flowers; and socioeconomic and racial diversity.
At Station Five, residents were asked to give input on “Neighborhood Links and City Connections” – places where they went and how they got there. Places visited by residents included: grocery, West Side Market, Lakefront, park, library, employment, church, health care, special events and schools. Means of transportation included driving, walking, public transit, bicycle and Uber or Lift.
As they were filling out forms and moving from station to station people chatted about the process and their concerns. Residents seemed comfortable that the people whose names were listed on the steering committee were good choices and would represent their concerns.
Steering Committee members include: Tim Barrett, Freddy Collier, Carl Cook, Jade Davis, Karen Desotell, David Ellison, Alan Fodor, Alex Frondorf, Kathleen Knittel, Lakisha Legg, Al Mancuso, Srinivas Merugu, Annie Pease, Jerry Peña, Mitch Pollack, Helen Qin, Patty Roberts, Priscilla Rocha, Megan Rubado, Roger Scheve, Julia Sieck, Cynthia Triplett, Julie Trott, Ramonita Vargas, Krissie Wells, and Joel Wimbiscus.
However, comments from residents indicated a skepticism about whether or not the advice of the Steering Committee and the information gathered at the public meetings would be adhered to by the City of Cleveland and Ohio City Incorporated when developing design guidelines and zoning for the neighborhood. A good number of those present expressed concern that developers wishes would prevail over those of residents. They also commented that new units in developments listed as affordable housing are not truly affordable for low-and-moderate income Clevelanders. Some people lamented the recent loss of low-income residents with the closing of Vantage Place on Franklin Boulevard, which resulted in the relocation of many long-term neighborhood residents to assisted living and nursing home locations throughout Cuyahoga County.
Editor’s Note:Ohio City Inc. has a web form available on their website at ohiocity.org for residents to provide additional input into the planning process. Access the web form under the Neighborhood Vision tab.