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MetroHealth helps spur development on W. 25th Street corridor

by Gabriella Tomaro & Karen Mowls

(Plain Press, June 2011) MetroHealth Medical Center is attracting new businesses and projects to the surrounding areas east of W. 25th Street, an area on the cusp of recovery.

“Metro Health as an institution has turned itself around,” said Abe Bruckman, grants coordinator for the city of Mentor.  “It was operating at a loss and turned itself around and is now [operating] at a gain.”

Bruckman is an urban planner who lived on Cleveland’s near west side for 17 years and, during that time, was actively involved with three Community Development Corporations (CDC), serving parts of the W. 25th corridor. He is also one of the primary authors of a completed planning project for a portion of the corridor that was adopted by Cleveland Planning Commission last November.

“The hospital employs more than 6,000 people and is the biggest employment generator in that area,” said Bruckman.

The hospital’s growth has attracted several recovery projects.

South Pointe Commons, a $12 million project by Emerald Development and Economic Network Inc., has increased traffic in the area. The 82-unit Housing First project, located on W. 25th Street near MetroHealth Medical Center, serves the homeless and disabled population.  South Pointe Commons opened its doors in September 2008.

The social service agency, Hispanic Urban Minority Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Outreach Program (HUMADAP), has undergone a modest upgrade including new fencing and landscaping, funded by the City of Cleveland’s Storefront Renovation.  HUMADAP is thrilled to have new projects in the neighborhood, said Bruckman.

“The whole corridor was recently a subject of a couple different planning projects,” said Bruckman.

The area has potential for transition, said Bruckman, but “there is not much commercial activity.” He said two factors play into the problem of recovery in the area.

The first is the large commercial strip mall, Steelyard Commons. “Eight hundred thousand square feet of retail makes it difficult for neighborhood scale retail to compete,” said Bruckman.

The other problem is that MetroHealth hospital patrons stay within its campus. “More often than not people are not shopping nearby,” said Bruckman.

Because W.25th Street is a high traffic corridor, it is a great place for business. Bruckman said, “[It is] appealing to commuters, to the hospital and to the surrounding neighborhoods.”

The hospital’s location is exactly why Maha and Sam Zayed decided to expand their West Side Market falafel business to W. 25th Street.

“We came here because of the potential buyers,” said Sam Zayed.  The close vicinity to MetroHealth has kept their restaurant, Maha’s Café, growing strong since they moved to the area last year.

While new businesses are popping up, some of the historical buildings in the area aren’t being put to use.  An example is the Aragon building, Cleveland’s last surviving ballroom from the big-band era.  The business lasted until the 1960s and was “declared a historic site by the Cleveland Landmarks Commission in 1980. The latest attempt to revive a business there was in 1991 and it failed so the building sits empty on W. 25th Street.

John Corlett, vice president of government relations and community affairs at MetroHealth Medical Center, said MetroHealth would be expanding after the Cleveland Psychiatric Hospital closes. The hospital will take over the land, and Corlett says that he supports any improvements made in the surrounding neighborhood.

Cleveland Councilman Brian Cummins of Ward 14 is also doing his part to clean up the area. He is working to cover up the graffiti that pollutes the area. He said that while it’s a small group that’s making the mess, it’s affecting a large community of people.

Bruckman said MetroHealth Medical Center and the surrounding area is interesting because the area has not had huge gains or losses in population. Also, being a traditionally Latino area, it has become more diverse over the years and the different population demographics affect the change in business.

MetroHealth purchased the Deaconess Hospital in Old Brooklyn and expanded its campus to create the MetroHealth Senior Health and Wellness Center. The facility is about a mile south of the Main Campus, and with it brought new job opportunities to other Cleveland areas.

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