by Chuck Hoven
(Plain Press, October 2014) Advocates for a more inclusive planning process would be pleased with the questions and comments from the audience that the Gordon Square Arts District (GSAD) Community Master Plan meeting held on September 24th at W. 78th Street Studios.
Eighty Detroit Shoreway residents and stakeholders made it clear by their questions and comments that they were concerned about maintaining a diverse neighborhood with amenities for residents of all income levels. The area examined for the plan included the area from W. 45 to W. 85th just a few blocks south of Detroit to Lake Erie on the north.
Representatives of the Columbus based planning firm MKSK had already incorporated public comments from an earlier meeting and online contributions into the plan. The planners, and Ward 15 Councilman Matt Zone, seemed genuinely interested in gathering information from residents present at the meeting to incorporate into the plan. Additional public comments can be made online at GSADMindmixer.com.
Residents who need access to a computer or assistance navigating the internet site for comments were encouraged to call Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization at 961-4242 to schedule some time in their computer lab. Online comments will be collected until October 6th. MKSK plans to present the plan to the Gordon Square Arts District Board of Trustees on November 6th.
While the draft of the plan presented by MKSK had a lot to do with the physical development of the neighborhood and extending the GSAD brand following a successful $30 million capital campaign, residents also talked about increasing opportunities for people living in the neighborhood.
A resident present at the meeting encouraged planners to incorporate more ways to involve Cleveland residents – especially families, youth and children in the arts activities in the neighborhood. She encouraged them to make contacts at local schools to solicit suggestions on ways to involve the children in the local arts activities. A representative of the Walz Library said the library has a program called Imagination Bridge, which is working to get neighborhood children involved in Near West Theatre.
Other residents expressed concern about employment opportunities in the neighborhood and about strategies to create new businesses that would hire local residents. Another resident expressed hope that light industry would continue to have a presence and expand employment opportunities in the neighborhood.
Several people commented on the statistics presented by the planners that 38% of neighborhood residents had incomes below $15,000 a year and 15% were unemployed. There was a concern about finding ways to increase the employment opportunities and skills of neighborhood residents to help them increase their income. Also, one young man asked planners what criterion they were using to judge the stability and desirability of businesses on Detroit Avenue. He said, while he may want to buy organic produce, many low-income people in the neighborhood shop at Save-A-Lot, a grocery that provides a needed service as an affordable grocery option for residents.
Residents also talked about the importance of maintaining a variety of housing options in the neighborhood for people of all incomes and differing lifestyles. They encouraged a variety of transportation options – improving conditions for walking, biking and driving. Also concern was expressed that the neighborhood not be over marketed as a destination to the extent that residential streets would lose their quiet character.
Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization Managing Director Theresa Schneider praised the input of participants at the meeting and said residents had brought up issues of equity, affordability and access that her staff talks about every day. She encourages all to make additional input online.