by Chuck Hoven
(Plain Press, May 2011) About eighty residents and stakeholders gathered at the St. Ignatius High School Breen Center for the annual meeting of Ohio City Incorporated. Ohio City neighbors mingled in the lobby enjoying food prepared by the Touch Supper Club and were entertained by the Singers Club of Cleveland prior to the meeting.
Board President Damon Taseff, announced the changing of the name of the development corporation from Ohio City Near West Development Corporation to Ohio City Incorporated. He described the progress the organization was making toward the strategic plan developed last year. Taseff stressed the importance of the identity of the organization. The identity of the organization, he said, was defined by the type of leaders it chooses, the people who comprise the team and the businesses and interests you represent.
Taseff said in the past year the organization added three key ex-officio positions to its board representing three key institutions in the neighborhood– St. Ignatius High School, Lutheran Hospital and Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority. Taseff said having them all at the table allowed collaboration and dialogue on key issues involving all the institutions in the neighborhood.
Board President Taseff praised Executive Director Eric Wobser and the staff of Ohio City Incorporated for their energy and productivity in implementing the organization’s plans.
Taseff said while the organization was still proud to be a Near West neighborhood, it decided to “change the name to better clarify the businesses and interests we represent and identify who we are as an organization.”
Ohio City Executive Director Eric Wobser said a local Ohio City company, Twist Creative, won the contract to help with the re-branding of Ohio City. Michael Ozan, President of TWIST Creative, narrated a video previewing the ways the new “OHIO CITY Cleveland”s Artisan Neighborhood” brand could be used to market the neighborhood and its website.
Wobser said one of the questions Ohio City sought to answer in creating its image was, “Who are we going after as our target audience?” Wobser said the Ohio City neighborhood is an “Artisan Neighborhood.” He noted the work of sociologist Richard Florida who describes a “creative class” which is “responsible for the revitalization of the urban core.” Wobser said Portland State Professor Charles Heying refers to these entrepreneurs as “artisans.” Wobser says these street level artisans cater to people who want to buy locally made goods and support local service providers.
Wobser said Ohio City Incorporated also wants to target city savvy business decision makers. People, he says, who have lived, or worked, in other big cities, and desire to be in the environment created by the artisan entrepreneurs.
Wobser says Ohio City can be marketed nationally as Cleveland’s Artisan neighborhood. He says it will attract “artisans who want to be with like-minded people.” Wobser Ohio City neighborhood can be marketed as a complete local where you can live, work and shop without having to leave the neighborhood.
Wobser said the trend is to promote shopping at locally owned businesses, and as the City of Cleveland begins to tell its story, it is going to be told in Ohio City because of the West Side Market. He noted there are over 150 small businesses in the Market District and over 100 of them are merchants at the West Side Market. Wobser noted Cleveland was chosen in an international competition to host the International Public Markets Conference in 2012 during the West Side Market’s Centennial Celebration.
Wobser says a committee set up to create a Special Improvement District in the Market District has gained the support of local merchants and is ready to be presented to Cleveland City Council. The Special District will allow businesses to collaborate in directing special tax dollars toward neighborhood services and improvements for the Market District.
Ward 15 Councilman Matt Zone praised Executive Director Wobser for his hard work and dedication to the organization.
Ward 3 Councilman Joe Cimperman marveled at the youth of the Ohio City staff. He praised neighborhood leaders for their focus on the future.
Zone and Cimperman joined in their praise of Ohio City’s Safety and Outreach Coordinator Bob Shores for his hard work and dedication to the Ohio City neighborhood. Shores, after five years on the staff of the development corporation, says he decided to resign from his staff position, but will still remain active in the neighborhood.
Ohio City Incorporated gave a number of awards to citizens and businesses for their contributions to the neighborhood.
The Residential Renovation Award went to Jen and David Hovis and their family for the restoration of a home at 1723 W. 32nd Street across from Fairview Park.
The Commercial Renovation Award went to Great Lakes Brewing Company for investing $500,000 in the renovation of the Elton Building on W. 26th and Market as the company’s corporate headquarters.
Ohio City Board Member Fay Harris accepted an Arts and Cultural Award for her efforts to bring snowflake lights to decorate W. 25h Street near the West Side Market for the Christmas season.
Dan Saltzman, manager of Dave’s Market in Ohio City, accepted the Legacy Award on behalf of his family. The award acknowledges the owners of Dave’s, the Saltzman family, and their many contributions to the neighborhood. Ohio City Board Member Helen Smith praised Dave’s Market for providing “a variety of items most grocery stores don’t carry in a mix that Dave’s does in Ohio City.”
Ken Marblestone of Charter One Bank accepted the President’s Award for Charter One’s investment in the Market District, which helped to fill business vacancies along W. 25th Street. Charter One’s Growing Communities Initiative has helped a number of small businesses get started in the Ohio City neighborhood.
Board President Taseff announced the re-election of four board members running unopposed in the election: himself, Vice President Helen Smith, Secretary Joel Wimbiscus and Natalie Leek-Nelson.