Clark Fulton neighborhood plan seeks input from target area residents and stakeholders
by Chuck Hoven
(Plain Press, July 2020) MetroWest Community Development Organization has joined in partnership with Ward 14 Councilwoman Jasmin Santana, the City of Cleveland, MetroHealth Medical Center, and the Cleveland Foundation to develop a master plan for a target area that includes all of the Clark Fulton neighborhood plus a portion of the Tremont and Brooklyn Centre neighborhoods. The target area for the master plan stretches from I-90 on the North to I-71 on the South and from I-71 on the East to W. 44th on the West. The planning area includes both sides of W. 44th Street
MetroWest Community Development Organization Executive Director Ricardo Leon says the effort to develop a master plan began 18 months ago in December of 2018. He said the five partners all had planning projects underway. They met and decided to put their personal agendas aside and work together so their “collective impact would be more significant.”
Councilwoman Santana noted some of the planning efforts underway in the target area that are now collaborating on the Master Plan: The City of Cleveland’s $65 million Neighborhood Transformation Initiative; MetroHealth’s $1 billion dollar Transformation Plan; Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s MetroHealth Line Plan which includes Transit Oriented Development; and FHAct50 dollars which promise to build 180 units of affordable housing in the neighborhood. Councilwoman Santana also mentioned plans to upgrade Meyer Park by Lincoln West High School and a variety of initiatives in the neighborhood which directly invest in people. Those people oriented initiatives include a women’s empowerment initiative, investment in dumpsters throughout the neighborhood to reduce unsightly garbage in the neighborhood, neighborhood art projects and movie nights for family oriented fun for residents.
The partnership has hired an urban planning and design firm called WRT, which is headquartered in Philadelphia, but works on projects throughout the United States. Part of WRT’s Master Planning Team includes Cleveland based Neighborhood Connections which will be helping with outreach efforts; WSP’s Cleveland based transportation planning team; the Reinvestment Fund, a Philadelphia based Community Development Financial Institution.
While the partners hosted some public meetings late last year and early this year, the outreach effort has had to take a different tack due to the advent of the COVID-19 Corona Virus Pandemic. Planners are now reaching out via a website with an interactive video, various forms of social media, post cards, phone calls and neighborhood ambassadors to name a few of the means they are using to engage neighborhood residents in the planning process.
The principal representatives of each of the five partners all have connections to the neighborhood—Councilwoman Santana, Executive Director Leon, City of Cleveland Planning Director Freddy Collier, and Cleveland Foundation Program Officer Keisha Gonzalez – all live in the target neighborhood area. Greg Zucca, MetroHealth’s representative, works in the area and lives on the Near West Side.
All of the principal organizations will have additional staff engaged in the planning effort. In addition, neighborhood ambassadors have been recruited to help reach out to get public input to the planning process. The planning is currently in a phase where they are reaching out to residents through a survey to listen and learn what residents want to happen in the neighborhood. They are also asking residents to send pictures of places they would like to see improved and engage in planning for those places.
Ricardo Leon spoke of the commitment of the planners to make sure residents are included in the planning process. “As the neighborhood changes, residents must have a voice at the table and be empowered to shape the future of the community. Working with WRT throughout this planning process will allow us to partner directly with residents to develop a diverse, inclusive, and equitable community that actually delivers on their wants and needs,” he said.
A video has been posted online where residents with online access can view a presentation by various members of the master planning effort and also contribute to an online survey.
The themes of the planning effort call for equity, health, sustainability and resilience.
Input from residents and stakeholders thus far calls for balanced neighborhood reinvestment that includes housing options for people of all income, commercial corridor revitalization, arts and culture, health and wellness, livable transportation and sustainable infrastructure, and community engagement and capacity building.
Residents want the planning process to be inclusive and equitable, have a clear vision and strategic goals, enhanced job opportunities, increased prosperity and community wealth, and support of existing businesses and entrepreneurs.
Places that people in the neighborhood said they cared about, that needed more attention or would like to see added to the neighborhood included: restaurants and bakeries, homes/houses, businesses, parks and recreation center, schools, libraries, streets and allies, gardens, communal spaces and churches.
People would like to see more opportunities for both youth and adult sports, and outdoor dining.
Residents say qualities they like about their neighborhood include its welcoming of immigrants and newcomers, the Hispanic and Latina Culture, its multicultural diversity and murals and public art.
Challenges in the neighborhood listed so far include: absentee or disengaged property owners or landlords; homeowners struggling with maintenance; fragility and vulnerability of small business owners due to the pandemic; and lack of access to recreational space.
Residents would like to see streets that are safer for those walking, bicycling, using a wheelchair or taking out a child in a stroller. They say they would like to see a greater variety of businesses in the commercial areas and better maintenance of private property.
The planning process is divided into four phases. The first phase which involves listening and learning will last through August of this year; the second phase scheduled from August through December of this year involves exploring issues, opportunities and initial design ideas; the third phase involves deciding on plan recommendations to be shared at a Community Open House in January through March of 2021; and the fourth phase in March and April of next year involves documentation and creation of a draft plan. The goal is to have the new master plan completed by June of 2021, says Ricardo Leon.
Residents or stakeholders in the target area that would like to offer their input in the planning process can visit the website online at: www.ClarkFultonTogether.com or www.ClarkFultonJuntos.com; make contact by email at: email@example.com or call 216-961-9073, ext. 228. Residents and stakeholders can also sign up for a newsletter at www.ClarkFultonTogether.com/newsletter. Access is also available via social media such as Facebook, Instagram and You Tube under Clark Fulton Together.