Opinion: FutureHeights declares its intent to become the CDC for Cleveland Heights
On April 21, the FutureHeights Board of Directors unanimously and enthusiastically approved a resolution declaring the intent of the organization to become the Community Development Corporation (CDC) for Cleveland Heights. FutureHeights has been in discussion with city leaders about becoming the CDC for more than a year, and feels that now is the time to move forward.
Consistent with our name, for 15 years FutureHeights’ mission has been to promote a vibrant and sustainable “future” for Cleveland Heights (and University Heights, since 2008), through innovative ideas and civic engagement.
Throughout its history, FutureHeights has incorporated the following values into its programming and activities: organize informed citizen participation in community decision making; generate innovative ideas in addressing the challenges of our inner-ring community; stimulate open and effective communication and partnerships among nonprofits, schools, local business, city government and citizens; assist in achieving a thriving local business community; promote historic neighborhoods and commercial districts; advocate for high quality and sustainability in design and architecture; and take a regional approach to innovation, planning and development.
Last January, FutureHeights Executive Director Deanna Bremer Fisher and then Board President Richard Stewart met with newly elected City Council President Cheryl Stephens and City Manager Tanisha Briley, to begin the conversation about the need for a CDC. Mayor Stephens requested that the group create a business plan to develop the idea.
Over several months, FutureHeights staff conducted research and interviewed other CDCs in the Cleveland area, including those in nearby inner-ring suburbs. FutureHeights presented a plan to the mayor on Aug. 15, 2016 and continued its talks with city officials, including meeting with each council member individually to seek their opinions on a CDC. FutureHeights also continued to communicate with the city manager, drafting two letters stating, more specifically, what we intend to accomplish as a CDC
In the meantime, consistent with our expectations, the city of Cleveland Heights has confirmed the need for a CDC to enable it to achieve its full potential as a vibrant first-ring suburb. The city’s Economic Development Advisory Committee, which was appointed by City Council in 2016, has recommended, as its first priority, that Cleveland Heights have a community development corporation. City Council also formally adopted its Master Plan, which encourages the city to partner with a nonprofit community development organization to help spearhead the plan’s implementation and make it a priority.
By adopting this resolution, FutureHeights wishes to publicly announce its intention to accept this critically important responsibility of officially being recognized as the CDC for the city of Cleveland Heights.
Along with our advocacy work, which includes publishing the Heights Observer, presenting the Heights Music Hop, working with neighborhood leaders and groups, and hosting public forums, lectures, workshops and tours, FutureHeights is busily engaging in the areas of civic engagement, neighborhood planning, neighborhood revitalization and place-making improvements—in other words, doing what CDCs do.
Members of the FutureHeights Board of Directors and its board-led committees are all residents of the Heights or business owners, and have experience and expertise related to the operation of CDCs and community development activities. They include bankers, city planners, architects, developers, university scholars, community builders, data analysts, community planners, and committed, active citizens.
FutureHeights recognizes that, as CDCs are constituent-driven and a product of the community, partnering with city government is essential to our mission and responsibility. As a result, we are committed to creatively participating in the planning and civic engagement processes that will guide the policies and ultimate implementation of development projects and neighborhood revitalization initiatives.
We invite Heights residents to learn more about our specific plans and strategies at the 2017 FutureHeights Annual Meeting, which will take place on May 24 at our offices in the Coventry School building.
FutureHeights Board of Directors
This statement of intent was collaboratively written by members of the FutureHeights Board of Directors. Julia Kious-Zabell is president of the FutureHeights Board of Directors; Deanna Bremer Fisher is the executive director of Future Heights, and publisher of the Heights Observer.