Plain Press, December 2015 Over 140 people gathered at Lincoln West High School on November 4th to learn more about three catalytic community projects: La Villa Hispana, the Dream Neighborhood and the West 25th Street Corridor.
Ward 14 Councilman Brian Cummins stressed that all three projects involved building on existing resources and assets. He said Villa Hispana represents an opportunity to build on what we have –noting Cleveland has the largest Hispanic population in the state of Ohio. The Dream Neighborhood concept he said is based on taking advantage of a unique resource, the Thomas Jefferson Newcomers Academy that serves 600 students. The West 25th Street Corridor includes a 4-mile stretch in Cleveland that presents an opportunity for many organizations to work collaboratively to build on its assets.
La Villa Hispana
Jenice Contreras, Executive Director of the Hispanic Business Center, says the neighborhoods around the intersection of W. 25th and Clark that will serve as the central point for La Villa Hispana have the largest density of Latino residents in the State of Ohio. The goal of La Villa Hispana she said is to help keep those residents here – preserving and maintaining them. She noted that 9,000 Hispanics live in Ward 14 and many others are scattered in nearby wards. She called for creating a cultural and economic hub that will use pillar institutions in the community to help meet the equity challenges faced by Cleveland Hispanic community which include low levels of educational attainment, high rates of poverty and environmental related health challenges such as lead poisoning and asthma.
Contreras outlined eight strategic goals to include in developing a master plan for Villa Hispana. She noted that the La Villa Hispana Executive Committee has contracted with the National Association of Latino Community Asset Builders to help create the master plan for the area, and urged community involvement in the process. Strategic Goals for the project include: supporting new and existing businesses; improving streetscape and aesthetics, promoting arts and culture, ensuring safety, developing catalytic real estate projects, marketing La Villa Hispana, engaging the community at a grass-roots level, supporting economic empowerment of the residents.
Lourdes Negrón-McDaniel, Director of Inclusion and Diversity at the MetroHealth System and a member of the LaVilla Steering Committee spoke of the role MetroHealth can help play in the community as it implements its $1.2 billion plan to rebuild 75% of its main campus over the next ten to twelve years. Negrón-McDaniel highlighted MetroHealth involvement in a Build Health Challenge grant to create “Healthy Home Zones” in the Stockyard, Clark-Fulton, Brooklyn Centre neighborhood adjacent to MetroHealth. The program will also expand interventions in households where members have asthma.
Samantha Peddicord, Executive Assistant for Ward 3 Councilman Joe Cimperman, explained the concept of the Dream Neighborhood. She noted that the Thomas Jefferson International Newcomers Academy serves children newly arrived to Cleveland for whom English is a second language. She said children from the school speak 19 different languages and represent 23 different nationalities. Peddicord said that when refugee and immigrant families are resettled in Cleveland, there is often little time to find housing. They often end up in housing that is in a neighborhood from which it is difficult to travel to Thomas Jefferson where their children will attend school. The Dream Neighborhood project is designed to provide those families affordable housing near the Thomas Jefferson so the children can walk to school.
Peddicord noted that within a half-mile radius of Thomas Jefferson (W. 46th just south of Clark) there are 162 vacant properties, 57 active condemnations and 53 active foreclosures.
The plan for the Dream Neighborhood as outlined in a slide presentation and a summary of the meeting provided by Stockyard, Clark-Fulton & Brooklyn Centre Neighborhood Development Office (SCFBC) Program Director Adam Staldler calls for using existing housing programs to rehabilitate housing in the vicinity of Thomas Jefferson International Newcomers Academy. SCFBC contacts the lending institutions and owners to get any liens on the property released on properties in the neighborhood that have been abandoned. The houses are then transferred to the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corporation (CCLRC) to check to see if the titles are clear. Then SCGBC acquires the properties from CCLRC and makes them available to rehabbers through the SCFBC Single-Family Rehabilitation Program.
For those rehabbers that choose to participate in this program and have the required resources and expertise, SCFBC enters into restrictive covenants to ensure the quality of the work, that the work is done in a timely manner and that once complete, the property is properly maintained. The covenants also are designed to assure that rehabbers lease the properties at affordable rents to low-and-moderate-income families for at least 10 years following the rehab of the house.
When the houses are rehabbed and ready to rent, SCFBC will work to connect landlords to agencies that work with refugees and immigrants such as Catholic Charities, International Services Center and US Together. The agencies will help to assure landlords in the Dream Neighborhood have a pool of potential tenants to rent their properties.
Peddicord noted that an effort will be made to infuse additional social services and recreational opportunities into Clark Recreation Center, increase the frequency of RTA buses, increase the bike ability of the neighborhood and work with medical institutions to provide health and wellness education. There will also be an effort to work with the International Village Block Club to connect newcomers to existing neighbors with welcome wagons and access to participating in neighborhood gardening programs.
According to the summary of the meeting, another feature in the Dream Neighborhood concept involves using funds allocated by the City of Cleveland to the Economic Community Development Institute to make loans to new and existing businesses owned by immigrants and refugees. Peddicord hopes this program will help to reduce storefront vacancies in the neighborhood.
- 25th Street Corridor
Adam Stalder, Managing Director of SCFBC, described some of the assets of the W. 25th street corridor, which he described as one of the most important street in the city of Cleveland. He noted that for the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) W. 25th has the second highest ridership rate of streets in Cleveland; the street, with MetroHealth and Lutheran Hospital, is also second in the region for concentration of health care jobs. Other assets he noted were the West Side Market, Cleveland Metro Park Zoo, Nestle, Voss Industries, Great Lakes Brewery and access to three major highways.
Stalder noted the acceptance Pedestrian Retail Overlay and Transit Oriented Design plans for W. 25th by the Cleveland Planning Commission. He noted that there is over one million square feet of building stock in the neighborhood and a 20 percent vacancy rate. There are 14 acres of vacant land along the corridor. He said a number of investments are underway or planned for the neighborhood and talked about key development sites along the corridor that he hoped would attract new businesses.
Stalder said a lot of people work in the neighborhood, but 90% live elsewhere. He talked about improving housing in the neighborhood and working with employers to encourage employer assisted down payment programs to help workers interested in living in the neighborhood.
Another initiative along the corridor is to work with RTA to improve bus service. Stalder noted that 20% of residents in the area have no car.
The plans for the W. 25th Corridor include wealth building initiatives such as encouraging neighborhood residents to open savings accounts, apply for earned income tax credits and get involved in starting up small businesses in the neighborhood.
Noting the infrastructure improvements already in progress along the W. 25th Corridor, Stalder said future streetscape projects will occur when La Villa Hispana, Metro Health development and Clark Avenue streetscape plans come to fruition.