Panel discusses prospects for East Side
A panel of five East Siders, including three Cleveland Heights residents, discussed “East Side Redevelopment: Prospects for Reinvention,” at the Lee Road Library on May 9.
Terry Schwarz, of Kent State University’s Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative, moderated the panel. Joining her were Mansfield Frazier, who operates the winemaking operation Chateau Hough; Wayne Mortensen of Cleveland Neighborhood Progress; Rick Semersky of VIP Restoration; and Joyce Braverman, development director for the city of Shaker Heights.
More than 60 people attended the event, which was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland, Case Western Reserve University’s Siegal Lifelong Learning Program, and the Plain Dealer.
Though a theme of the panel was the prevailing view that the West Side is outperforming the East in terms of new development and vitality, Schwarz pointed out that it was “not an east-versus-west debate.” She used a few maps, some of which can be viewed at https://cleveland.makeloveland.com, to show concentrated economic stress on the East Side, particularly in a swath she referred to as the “Cleveland crescent.”
Schwarz discussed historical occurrences, such as redlining—the practice of using a red marker to indicate neighborhoods that banks and other lenders would not provide financing to—that contributed to the disinvestment leading to today’s conditions in troubled parts of the East Side.
The areas marked not worthy of lending on a redlining map from the 1930s were strikingly similar to those shown on more recent maps.
Frazier spoke about his Chateau Hough winemaking operation, which he established in Hough so that people would take note of the neighborhood. He said no one would think twice of such an operation in a prosperous community, but it has caused a reaction in Hough.
Frazier noted that the country had been built on slavery and credit and that, while one of the two was gone, credit—or, specifically, a lack of access to credit—was still a problem.
He talked about a phenomenon of investment that began with the construction of a large home in Hough in 1989—a project that was followed by the construction of several more homes by African Americans experiencing a “pent-up demand for their own community.”
He said development in Hough came to a halt during the foreclosure crisis of 2008, and lenders have not returned. A lack of credit, rather than lack of demand, has stalled the neighborhood.
Frazier also blamed limited philanthropic participation for the struggles of the well-situated neighborhoods of the East Side.
He made the point that he is an “integrationist,” but that integration can only happen when there is a desire for integration in both of the groups to be integrated.
As the lone private developer on the panel, Semersky talked about his work reviving the neighborhood around the intersection of East 55th Street and St. Clair Avenue, which includes his revival of the 62-year-old Sterle’s Country House.
He talked about the uphill battle of rebuilding the East Side, but also expressed hope based on his observation that other investors are joining him and neighborhood stalwarts, such as St. Martin de Porres Family Center, in “starting to notice” the area.
Mortensen talked about the ongoing redevelopment of the old St. Luke’s Hospital campus under the leadership of Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, and pointed to some positive trends emerging on the East Side.
Most neighborhoods that were hit by the foreclosure crisis have begun to stabilize, he said, with some of them showing signs of rebounding.
Mortensen made the only notable reference to Cleveland Heights when he described the walkable and accessible nature of Cedar Fairmount, where he and his family reside.
Braverman focused on the redevelopment of the Van Aken District in Shaker Heights and the planning and negotiation that preceded the project. Though construction has only begun, advance leasing of office space and commitments from retailers and restaurants seem to indicate that success lies ahead.
She went on to briefly describe several other development projects that are underway in the city of Shaker Heights
The entire panel discussion can be viewed at http://lwvgreatercleveland.org/public-policy-forums/, and Steven Litt’s take on the event can be viewed at www.cleveland.com/architecture.
Vince Reddy is a FutureHeights board member and a 20-year resident of Cleveland Heights.