The third article of a series on the Strategic Alliance
by Victoria Shea
(Plain Press, September 2018) Tuesday, July 31 found members of Cudell Improvement and Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization packed into the Brothers Lounge for a Community Meeting regarding the organizations’ recent forming of their Strategic Alliance.
Master of Ceremonies that evening was Matt Zone, Ward 15 Councilman. Joining him to speak were members from both organizations as well as Michael Graham from Strategic Design Partners.
“The word of the day is gentrification,” said Chris Riemenschneider, co-owner of Brothers Lounge as he introduced the evening. “That’s what’s happening on this side of town.” He also mentioned that the evening was about bringing together the two organizations saying, “We are bringing together Cudell and Detroit Shoreway…and this is [the] brilliant part of town that has yet to see its potential.”
Turning the floor over to Councilman Zone, he acknowledged the turnout of members and those interested in the Strategic Alliance, before giving both boards praise for their abilities to come together to form the Alliance. Zone also reflected on the changes of the neighborhood community developments in the sixteen and a half years he’s served as councilman as well as the challenges faced by each Community Development Corporation.
“Crime prevention…crime, pollution, housing issues, policy issues-they don’t stop at a ward boundary. They don’t stop at a neighborhood boundary,” Zone stressed. “They are something that affects all of us and if we can come together as a community to figure out a way to make the community stronger, that’s how we really advance the agenda of the work that we do.”
Before turning the floor over to Cudell Improvement Board President Dan Berry, Zone stated that the process to form the Alliance began when Zone was made aware that Cudell Improvement wanted discussions about entering into an alliance with another entity to better themselves.
When Cudell Improvement Board President Dan Berry spoke, he explained that the process started between two and three years ago as the Cudell board realized that their resources were starting to evaporate. In an effort for Cudell to use their money more wisely, they entered into the Shared Services Agreement with Detroit Shoreway which would allow them to achieve their goal.
Detroit Shoreway Board Member, Chris Warren continued, explaining that the groups “probably met twenty times” during the planning for the formation of the Alliance.
“When it started, both groups were involved in their own strategic planning process through our elected boards of trustees,” said Warren. “We were able to arrange some money to obtain Michael Graham and Strategic Design Partners to help us with the process.”
Warren then reaffirmed previous statements about the Alliance being a service agreement between Cudell and Detroit Shoreway for services related to neighborhood safety, housing, etc.
Cudell Improvement Vice President, Brian Jereb spoke, explaining what the month of July had seen with the Alliance since it had taken place on July 1. Jereb said that an incredible amount of work had taken place in the month. One of the big things that had taken place, Jereb said, was that the boards had been interviewing potential candidates to fill the Economic Development and Marketing position, which according to the Additional FAQs released at the meeting, will be a position that “will work exclusively within the Cudell and Edgewater neighborhoods.” He stated that the other event that has taken place was a walkthrough of the Cudell orchards, where a cleanup process will be started soon.
Jereb also dispelled the rumors that Cudell Improvement’s board has not been “engaged” in the process of the Strategic Alliance and confirmed that the board will be hopefully providing better services to their neighborhoods.
Michael Graham, from Strategic Design Partners, then spoke, providing an overview of the Strategic Alliance Planning Process and Contract for Services. During his presentation, Graham touched on important topics that face CDC’s today, including diminishing support and funding for individual CDC’s. He also explained that the alliance between Cudell Improvement and Detroit Shoreway was not uncommon with Cleveland CDC’s, stating that “overall, total CDCs in Cleveland have fallen from over 40 to less than 30,” and that overall, many nonprofits over the years have formed mergers or alliances to survive.
When explaining why Cudell and Detroit Shoreway were good organizations to form an alliance, Graham touched on points such as the shared assets; community characteristics and values; borders and markets. He also explained in greater detail the overall process with the forming of the Alliance, even stating that deep conversations included lively dialogue, negotiations and a spirit of partnership.
As Cudell was the one who was looking to enter into an agreement for services with Detroit Shoreway, Graham explained that there were some key points for Cudell which included items like maintaining their identity and physical presence in the neighborhood as well as being able to deliver the best possible services to their residents and constituents.
Lastly, he reviewed the Shared Services Agreement, explaining the key terms of the agreement including: there would be no merger–each organization would retain their own boards, membership, financial books and corporate statuses; there would be no exchange of assets or real estate; the service area will be north of I-90, in the Cudell and Edgewater neighborhoods; the length of the term is three years with the ability to terminate in 180 days; and community development services would include housing, community outreach and engagement, economic development and marketing and planning.
Jenny Spencer, the Managing Director of Detroit Shoreway Neighborhood staff and staff of the Shared Services Area spoke, stating that “at the end of the day, this is about service delivery, this is about getting more services out to our three neighborhoods.” Noting that staff is one of the most important parts in providing service, Spencer introduced the staff, whose contact information is provided in the sidebar.
During the staff introductions, those attending were introduced to the different service departments including Housing and Planning and Safety and Community Outreach. For Housing and Planning, the staff spoke about their one and two-family housing rehab program, as well as code enforcement. Safety and Community Outreach explained items they cover including handling graffiti and vandalism, the coordination of block groups, and the work conducted with First District police. Lastly, Spencer and her staff explained the new position of Economic Development and Marketing and what the position would entail.
Before handling questions, Zone clarified that while many in the room had attended dozens of meetings regarding the alliance, he had attended only two, one at the beginning and one at the end, stating that he doesn’t run Detroit Shoreway or Cudell just because he is a councilman and provided funding to the organizations. He explained that he considers himself a partner. He also stressed that at the first meeting, he stated that the “Cudell name is not going away. That the brand, identify, the feel, the presences are gonna remain.”
Zone also explained that 100% of the funds he was getting as councilman were going to Detroit Shoreway and Cudell but that the funds were being fragmented. He also commented that the “strongest CDCs are the ones willing to change.” He mentioned that during challenging times, Detroit Shoreway has succeeded as an organization because they were willing to take risks while delivering good services. Zone also guaranteed that as long as he remains the councilman for Ward 15, superior service would take place and be given.
The last part of the evening was the question and answer session, which allowed those who attended a chance to voice their opinions, ask questions and clarify answers. Questions and concerns focused on clarifying positions staff would hold, to housing and real estate information, Ward 15 programs, services and the area Cudell would and would not be serving and funding issues just to name a few.
However, it was interesting to note that when the question of who formed the committee from each organization, Berry noted that former Executive Director Anita Brindza was not a part of the Cudell committee. When questioned, Berry clarified himself, stating that Brindza was involved in the first few meetings before Zone took over to acknowledge Brindza’s dedication and service to Cudell Improvement.
“Anita Brindza worked at Cudell for nearly forty years, she gave forty years of her life to that organization and neighborhood,” Zone stated. “so, I just want to publicly thank Anita for her years…” before the crowd drowned him out with applause.
Editor Note: The Plain Press has received a copy of the Strategic Alliance powerpoint presentation from that evening that was used by Michael Graham and the staff of the two organizations which, in addition to PDF copies of the initial announcement letter, FAQs, Additional FAQs and Staff Contact Information, will be posted online at plainpress.wordpress.com in the upcoming days. In addition, audio recording of the July 31 Community Meeting will be posted to the website in the near future so those who were unable to attend the meeting can hear it in its entirety.