A better way to redevelop Oakwood


This letter presents an idea for a Center of Excellence along the "healthy-life/healthy-planet" continuum. It’s an idea that could better serve the common good—one that addresses pressing social, economic and environmental needs of the region. Just as important, it taps into the creativity of the community's leaders. Although conceptual in nature, it has enough substance to start a dialogue.

First Interstate Properties wants to bring a group of discount retailers and chain restaurants to the portion of Oakwood Country Club it just purchased. Its plans depend on getting the land rezoned, but that effort may not work. Alternatively, other parties want all of the land maintained as green space. While that has merit, it ignores the importance of creating jobs now.

Interrelated needs

Too many of us are in poor health because of lifestyle choices. As a result, our healthcare costs are out of control and our economic future is in doubt. We need to educate ourselves about ways to live healthier lives, and we need to remove as many barriers as practicable to help one another live sustainably.

Our community suffers from high unemployment in general, and even higher unemployment among those without a post-secondary education. We need to enhance the capabilities of our workforce so that it can compete for good jobs in traditional settings and become more entrepreneurial, as well.

The health of our planet is in jeopardy because our stewardship is lacking. We need to rethink our approach to monitoring and protecting the natural environment, and we need to do this on both an individual and collective basis.

Integrated response

Redevelop Oakwood Country Club, clubhouse and related buildings, into a Center of Excellence along the healthy-life\ healthy-planet continuum. This center could operate as a joint venture between three of our community's leading organizations with each leveraging its respective strengths in the areas of healthcare, education and philanthropy.

At its core, this joint venture could deliver real and lasting value by using the community's intellectual and financial capital in new and novel ways. It could take a holistic approach to making our community more sustainable. It could make us all healthier, more employable and more responsible. Its healthcare partner could leverage the science of healthy living, which is known to be critical to the effort to control runaway healthcare costs.

Its education partner could leverage the science of workforce development in plant science and landscape technology, hospitality management and dietary management. Its philanthropy partner could leverage the science of community organizing and of promoting entrepreneurship in the emerging parts of the economy.

Ready infrastructure

Oakwood Country Club sits on approximately 150 acres, ranging from flat terrain to gently rolling hills. First Interstate recently purchased the roughly 60 acres comprising the flat portion of the golf course. The remaining land has a more parklike feel than the land just sold, and it provides the setting for a full complement of useable structures, including a clubhouse and large indoor tennis facility. The paved golf cart paths provide easy access to the interior of the parcel.

Operational highlights

The proposed Center of Excellence would concentrate on the basic interplay between health and wealth at the individual level, as well as at the community level. Instead of being an exclusive preserve, the center would aspire to improve the prospects of people in every socioeconomic group. It would utilize a tailored set of reinforcing mechanisms to change the way in which people manage their lives and the environment in very practical terms.

The existing clubhouse building could be repurposed to accommodate:

1) a treatment area for stress management, weight management, anger management, addiction management and smoking cessation services offered by the healthcare partner;

2) a healthy-eating restaurant operated as a learning laboratory and a profit-making enterprise by the hospitality and dietary management students of the education partner;

3) leasable space for businesses providing healthy cooking instruction, yoga instruction, massage therapy and fitness training;

4) a business incubator with a clear healthy-life\healthy-planet focus.

The existing golf course could be repurposed to accommodate:

1) walking trails, exercise stations, meditation gardens and play areas designed by the healthcare partner and maintained by the education partner's plant science and landscape technology students;

2) a field station for the education partner's plant science and landscape technology students;

3) demonstration projects developed and maintained by the education partner's plant science and landscape technology students, with the goal of fostering broader environmental stewardship;

4) rent-paying urban farms to supply an on-site farmer's market and restaurant.

The existing indoor tennis facility could be repurposed to accommodate a year-round farmer's market offering space for rent-paying vendors selling goods from the on-site farms and other independent farming operations in the greater Cleveland area.

Community benefits

The social return on investment for this Center of Excellence is noteworthy as it could change the way people manage themselves and the environment. It could improve the health of individuals by helping them resist a high-fat, high-salt and low-fiber diet, cope with life's stressors and live fuller, more active lives. It could improve the wealth of individuals by providing them with integrated educational, employment and entrepreneurial opportunities and by enhancing their health-driven capacity to perform work. It could improve the health and wealth of the community by educating the public about the need to protect the environment and, by making it easier for people to become much effective stewards of the environment.

Partner benefits

This Center of Excellence would benefit every member of the partnership. The healthcare partner would benefit from the opportunity to address the healthy-living deficits of our community at an elemental, grassroots level. It would receive revenue from the delivery of on-site patient services (e.g. smoking cessation) and from referrals to its other facilities. It would have the opportunity to shape and refine the capabilities of its prospective employees in both hospitality and dietary management.

The education partner would benefit from the opportunity to strengthen the learning experience of its students in the fast-growing wellness sector of the economy. It would have the opportunity to further its educational mission at a time when the economy needs a more capable and creative workforce.

The philanthropy partner would benefit from the opportunity to enhance the community's ability to thrive in an economy in which each person's success will be determined by the quality of his or her unique talents and efforts. It would have the opportunity to make people more self-reliant and the community more sustainable.

William Cimino is a resident of Cleveland Heights, a concerned citizen of the world and a management consultant.

Read More on Letters To The Editor
Volume 4, Issue 2, Posted 1:18 PM, 01.13.2011