Clark-Fulton leaders pitch ambitious vision for neighborhood development
by Lee Chilcote
(Plain Press, November 2021) After two years of planning amidst the difficulties of the Covid-19 pandemic, stakeholders in Cleveland’s Clark-Fulton neighborhood on the west side have unveiled the fruits of their labor: a master plan that is aimed at guiding equitable development in the neighborhood.
“Together, residents, stakeholders, and community leaders have charted a new path for our community,” said Ricardo Leon, executive director of Metro West Community Development Corporation, in a release. “We have laid the foundation for a more equitable and inclusive community, and we look forward to continuing to build together.”
The Clark Fulton Together plan seeks to build on the more than $1 billion of investment that is either planned or underway in the area, including Mayor Jackson’s $25 million Neighborhood Transformation Initiative, which targeted Clark-Fulton as one of four neighborhoods to receive funding for revitalization; RTA’s transit-oriented development study on West 25th St.; MetroHealth’s $1 billion campus redevelopment; and the State of Ohio’s FHAct50 program, which is bringing new affordable housing to the area.
Partners in the plan include Ward 14 council member Jasmin Santana, Metro West Community Development Corporation, the MetroHealth System, and the Cleveland Foundation. Resident ambassadors Rodney Lewallen, Rhonda Johes, Ebonie Joiner, Julie Miragliotta, and Yomarie Gonzalez led the community input process. Philadelphia-based firm Wallace, Roberts and Todd (WRT) created the master plan.
“The neighborhoods that you get are the neighborhoods that you plan for,” Leon told the Cleveland Planning Commission presentation on Friday, October 15, highlighting resident involvement. “You have to plan for the outcomes you want.”
Key parts of the plan include:
· Strengthening community places and corridors and creating new open spaces in the community, including Metrohealth’s new 12-acre park on its main campus;
· Fostering healthy living and working with community ambassadors to improve quality of life;
· Preserving homes and building new ones without displacing residents;
· Promoting economic and workforce development in ways that are equitable and inclusive;
·Creating a more connected neighborhood with better public spaces, convenient and safe ways to get around, and equitable access to the internet.
There are seven distinct areas within the overall Clark-Fulton community in the plan: Fenwick, Clark and Walton, Fulton West, Scranton Historic District, MetroHealth Campus, Neighborhood Center (along West 25th Street), and the Jones Home Historic District. The plan seeks to preserve iconic buildings while also identifying sites for future development. The groups are also seeking to create a Community Investment Fund that will help residents to fix up existing homes without being displaced by gentrification.
Under the goal of “fostering health, healing and inclusivity for a strong neighborhood,” the plan seeks to continue the community ambassador program. Key goals include supporting residents’ ability to age in place, fostering dialogues around racial equity and inclusion, and working to ensure a healthy life for all residents.
As new investment has come to Clark-Fulton, property values have risen. To guard against gentrification, the plan recommends providing home repair grants and loans, identifying and supporting responsible contractors, and using code enforcement to support local residents. Stakeholders also want to develop different housing types and price levels to support all residents who live in the community, increase affordable housing, and offer financial incentives to help people purchase and fix up homes.
“We hear it every day: folks want the opportunity to stay here,” Leon told the commission. “We’ve all seen the ‘We buy houses’ signs. They litter any POC (people of color) community. We need to find ways to get those folks out of our communities and give home ownership opportunities to existing residents.”
A longer-term goal of the plan is creating a community land trust in Clark-Fulton, or working with the already existing Near West Land Trust to expand its footprint into the neighborhood. A community land trust is “a nonprofit that creates permanent affordable housing in which a community-controlled organization retains ownership of the land and sells or rents the housing on that land to lower-income households,” according to Shelterforce.org.
Under the banner of helping business owners, the plan seeks to strengthen businesses in the neighborhood while also ensuring residents have access to workforce development opportunities and good jobs. Commercial corridors would also each have their own brand under the plan: Fulton Road, Fulton Gateway, Sackett Avenue, Meyer Avenue, Clark Avenue, and West 25th Street.
“This is work that is already happening, but it needs to happen at a much larger scale, and it needs to be better resourced,” said Leon.
The plan also seeks new parks and revitalized streets, including new green spaces on Clark and Fulton Avenues and bike-, pedestrian-, and transit-friendly streets throughout the neighborhood. Finally, the plan identifies five “catalyst sites” throughout the neighborhood, including the “makers and artist avenue zone” on Clark Avenue and Walton Avenue, which would provide “spaces for makers and artists to showcase and produce their work,” and the “neighborhood center” at W. 25th and Clark Ave., which encompasses the planned Centro Villa 25 business incubator.
Greg Zucca, director of economic and community transformation with MetroHealth, said the new MetroHealth Park on W. 25th will include a .5 mile trail, public art, and a gathering space called the Clark-Fulton Commons. “We wanted it to be integrated into the community,” he said. “We wanted it to be a place where the neighborhood comes together, a place of health and wellbeing, an intergenerational and welcoming space.”
Commission member August Fluker recommended that going forward, every community plan include a youth council. “They’re our greatest asset,” he said. “They’re going to inherit what we’re talking about. And more importantly, they’re going to be in that space and they need to have a voice in it.”
The planning commission unanimously approved the plan at its community meeting at LatinUs Theatre at the Pivot Center for Art, Dance, and Expression.
Editor’s Note: Learn more about the Clark-Fulton Together community plan here: https://www.clarkfultontogether.com/presentations. : This article was produced and provided to the Plain Press by The Land. The Land is an online newsletter that reports on Cleveland neighborhoods and inner ring suburbs. To subscribe to The Land visit: www.thelandcle.org. The author of this article, Lee Chilcote, is editor of The Land.