For the Love of Cleveland
On Tuesday, June 20th, we went to Public Square for the second program in the City Club's "For the Love of Cleveland" luncheon series presented in partnership with the Cleveland Foundation concerning "what can-and should-we be doing differently to ensure all Cleveland neighborhoods are structurally sound, equitable and sustainable?"
The program on this day concerned reinvestment and opportunity from the perspective of the Clark-Fulton, Fairfax and Hough neighborhoods. Accordingly, it was in the form of a panel discussion moderated by Mr. Dan Mouthrop, City Club CEO, and the panelists were Cleveland City Councilpersons Brian Cummins (Ward 14) and Blaine A. Griffith (Ward 6); Ms. Keisha Gonzalez, Managing Director of the Metro West Community Development Office; and Ms. Denise Van Leer, Executive Director of the Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation.
Concerning immigration, before the program started we spoke to Ms. Van Leer who told us that the area had quite a few foreign born people living there who work at the Cleveland Clinic which has been an excellent resource (aka anchor institution) in terms of offering employment to local residents and business opportunities for local firms. Ms. Van Lee said that the challenge was to get people connected and to help them become knowledgeable about options available to them.
What she said to us set the tone for the discussion that was introduced by Ms. Stephanie Hicks Thompson, Marketing and Communications Officer for the Cleveland Foundation, who talked about how some neighborhoods were doing better than others in terms of economic recovery. Like Ms. Van Leer, she believed part of the answer was connecting local residents with the anchor institutions/economic drivers in the community.
In the course of the ensuing discussion, particular anchor institutions (i.e. the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, MetroHealth, Karamu House, La Villa Hispana, etc.) as well as the local CDC's were discussed as well as their past, present, and possible future contributions to the community. Of course, it all comes down to what is needed in the eyes of the local residents and thus it was said that it was important for the citizens and/or its representatives to know what they want and to be able to articulate their vision in such a way that its benefits to all parties involved will be apparent. Examples of how the people and the institutions/organizations have come together to produce worthwhile results are the Langston-Hughes Community Education Center and the PNC Fairfax Connection.
One risky subject that was brought up in the Q and A was gentrification, and all of the panelists agreed that mixed neighborhoods containing different levels of housing (in terms of size and price) were to the benefit of concerned.
In terms of enhancing economic prospects, it was mentioned that "Seeds of Literacy" has done a lot to help people acquire the basic skills needed for lucrative employment and that West 25th Street is being revitalized in a way that celebrates the Hispanic culture and hopes are high for family-owned businesses and immigrant entrepreneurs.
Another person we enjoyed speaking with before the discussion started was Mr. Tino Go who immigrated to the United States from Indonesia in 1969 and has recently founded "Dimensionally Yours, LLC" which can construct bookcases, cupboards, closets, and other such storage units to fit the size of a specific room/space. For those of us who have struggled to make things fit into a moderately sized apartment, condo or mobile home his services should be welcomed indeed.
Just like the other people who attended this gathering in Public Square, Mr. Go, a very upbeat guy, was taking a break and enjoying his lunch while learning important things about Cleveland, a place that means a lot to him.
Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC