For the Love of Cleveland; Fundraiser for Cleveland City Councilperson Phyllis Cleveland
On Tuesday, July 25th, we went to the last program in the City Club's "For the Love of Cleveland" six part series conducted in Public Square.
On this day, the discussion centered on the Ohio City and downtown Cleveland neighborhoods so the panelists were Mr. Justin M. Bibb, Senior Advisor for "Gallup" and downtown Cleveland resident; Cleveland City Councilperson Kerry McCormack (Ward 3 that includes Ohio City and the downtown; Mr. Richard Y. Pace, President of "Cumberland Real Estate Development"; and Ms. Terry Schwaz, Director of Kent State University Urban Design Collaborative. The moderator, of course, was Mr. Rick Jackson of "Ideastream"."
What we took from the ensuing dialogue is, as we have written before, that community input through such vehicles asblock clubs, public forums, and the electoral process is vital to a neighborhood's success but also important are the leadership of its elected officials and a private sector willing to explore longterm possibilities instead of quick ways to profit.
Mr. Pace explained how important it is for a balance to be found between the various entities in order that a developer might realize a profit by upgrading a neighborhood while at the same time preserving the flavor of the neighborhood.
Other points made by the panelists on this day included:
***Ms. Schwarz talked about how the success of neighborhoods such as Downtown Cleveland and Ohio City is a continuous process and so far things are go welling because the Downtown Cleveland area now has 14,000 people living there and is well within the reach of the 20,000 goal that just a few years ago everyone thought was unattainable. She would like to see more linkages between the neighborhoods so that people could travel back and forth more easily. Neighborhood "anchors" like the Westside Market can be tremendously useful in terms of holding a neighborhood together. In terms of small businesses/storefronts, we must realize what a challenge online shopping has imposed.
***Mr. Bibb; who had lived in Washington, D.C., New York City, and London; was greatly impressed by the "energy, diversity, and momentum" displayed in the downtown Cleveland area. As for the more troubled neighborhoods, he would like to see very carefully targeted investment and publicly funded projects. He said that the day of the backroom political deal has passed so accordingly, he would like to see future planning being initiated from the bottom up instead of the top down.
***Councilperson McCormack spoke of the need to recognize that neighborhoods are not one size fits all; all neighborhoods are different and people, depending on their taste and financial position, will choose to live in certain places instead of others and there is nothing wrong with that. But he, himself, liked public spaces and greenery and he was striving to create more of this in his ward. For him, it was important that a neighborhoods' assets be evaluated and used to propel it forward. He realized that the downtown area was mostly attracting young professionals and "empty nesters" and so he spoke of the need for quality schools and recreational projects for youngsters as a means of attracting young families to a neighborhood and talked about how this was being done in Ohio City. He pointed out that what really draws business to a location is the local talents that it can utilize.
***Mr. Pace said that he would like to see more diversity in the Lakefront area and thus he was working with CMSD to establish a K-8 school there. To rebuild a neighborhood that was slipping, he believed that tax credits to developers and businesses could play an important role but were not the entire answer; as was stated earlier, he was of the opinion that government/private sector/community input was paramount. As far as the future of small businesses, he observed that the "boutique" atmosphere created in places like the "5th Street Arcade" can produce good results because the shopper gets something from that ambiance that he/she cannot find online. Along these lines, the West 25th Street/Clark Avenue area has an excellent chance of revitalizing itself by making use of its neighborhood talents to establish Hispanic flavored boutiques and restaurants comparable to Little Italy. Mr. Pace urged us to look at other cities and not be afraid to replicate their successful projects if they can indeed be applicable to Cleveland. For example, he cited how a frozen canal in Buffalo was turned into a wintertime hockey rink used by kids of all ages. Above all, a collective vision is needed and he applauded Mayor Frank Jackson for being so on top of what is needed and following through on his commitments.
We got to spend some time after the program talking with both Mr. Bibb and Mr. Robert Kilo, candidate for Mayor of Cleveland, about the potential of immigrants to transform a region, perhaps to even help Cleveland get to the 20,000 population mark.
Before the program, we talked with Mr. Daca who told us that at one point his firm employed architects from all over the world. He also accepted quite a few international students as interns and even helped several of them obtain H1B visas. He certainly believed that the H1B process could have been easier but the young internationals were such hard workers that he considered it worthwhile.
Our other event for Tuesday was a fundraiser for Cleveland City Councilperson Phyllis Cleveland (Ward 5) that took place in the early evening hours in the Penthouse of "Skylight Financial" on West 25th Street.
We rode the elevator up to the party with her fellow City Councilperson Tony Brancatelli(Ward 12) and once again, we got to say "hello" to former councilpersons Ms. Helen K. Smith and Mr. John Zayac who we had met the previous week at the fundraiser for Councilperson Cummins (Ward 14).
We met and exchanged contact information with a young man who immigrated to the United States from India and now owns a business in Councilperson Cleveland's ward. We also encountered Mr. Benny Bonanno who now works for a local firm that has made use of the services of"Margaret W. Wong and Associates" several times over the years.
Other good conversations that we had were with Mr. Omar Quadir, a photo journalist with the "East Side Daily News" and Ms. Sarah Sherrod who accompanied him. Mr. Quadir has known Councilperson Cleveland since they were both seven years old and he acted as the official photographer for her first campaign for Cleveland City Council.
Just before the councilperson spoke, we introduced ourselves to Mr. Bob Knox who formed "Passion for Fishing" which introduces young people to the sport. In fact, Mr. Knox planned to take some 50 youngsters to Edgewater Park for an outing the next day.
During her short address, Councilperson Cleveland observed that there are a lot of great things going on in Cleveland at this time but serious challenges ahead. She there asked us to do all that we could to ensure Mayor Jackson's re-election as well as that of the current city councilpersons such as herself because they have formed a great team. If we "took our hands off the wheel now" she contended, the results could be "disastrous" like what is happening in Washington, D.C.
Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC