A decade of news and views in the Heights
FutureHeights published the first issue of the Heights Observer 10 years ago, on April 10, 2008. To commemorate this 10-year anniversary, members of the Heights Observer Advisory Committee will take a look back at the stories that appeared in the last 10 issues for each month. I get to start us off by looking back at the 10 April issues we have published. We envisioned the Observer as a forum for Heights residents to share information about issues that were important to them. And many of the issues we were talking about in 2008 we are still talking about 10 years later.
The top story of the April 2008 issue mused about the future of the former Coventry school property. The school district had closed the elementary school in 2007, the building was sitting vacant, and neighbors were concerned about it attracting crime and driving down property values. A group formed to study the possibility of the site becoming an arts center. Today, April 1, 2018, the future of the Coventry property looks brighter as it is rebranded Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Campus and the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library System officially takes possession of it, with the intention of preserving the park, the green space and the building that is now home to several arts and culture organizations.
Another story on the inaugural issue’s front page was about Big Fun and how the iconic Coventry Village business left its customers smiling. In 2018, we are facing the sad news that the store’s 27-year run is coming to an end. Big Fun will be closing, but Steve Presser has at least one more trick up his sleeve: he is selling T-shirts that will help fund new public art in Coventry Village (view the story at http://www.heightsobserver.org/read/2018/03/20/big-fun-commemorative-tshirts-benefit-district).
In 2008, Cleveland Heights city government was facing major budget cuts due to the fact that voters rejected a proposed income tax increase that appeared on the March 2008 ballot. Voters did eventually approve an increase in 2015, and the city has restored several of the services and positions it had cut, but not all. (Remember when we had an animal control officer?) It also has added positions, such as two economic development jobs, that it didn’t have in 2008.
Issues of concern to Heights residents have occupied the pages of the Heights Observer, either as news stories or opinion pieces. In 2009, residents in the Oxford and Severance neighborhoods of Cleveland Heights were forming groups to address crime and other issues. The city of University Heights began a charter review process in which it considered changing from a mayoral to a city administrator form of government. (Now Cleveland Heights’ charter review process is considering if that city should change from a council-manager to mayoral form.) When a ballot issue failed in 2009, Concerned Citizens of University Heights formed to promote “civic engagement through openness and transparency." Hmm. That sounds like a familiar theme.
In 2009, the future of the former Oakwood Country Club property, the majority of which lies in the city of South Euclid, with a smaller portion located in Cleveland Heights, sparked several articles, opinions and letters to the editor. In the end, Walmart moved from Severance to a major new commercial development on the South Euclid portion of the property. Not until 2015 was the future of the Cleveland Heights section settled, when Hebrew Academy of Cleveland purchased it for its pre-K through 12 boys school. We are still awaiting a new future for Severance.
Over the years, issues such as the renovation and reconfiguration of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District’s facilities, crime statistics and storefront vacancies have filled the front pages of the Heights Observer. The paper also documented the opening of new businesses (Sweet Melissa in 2014; Barrio in 2017) and the closure of old favorites (Heights Guitars in 2014; Revive in 2017). Neighborhood groups, such as Cain Park Neighborhood Association, Cedar Taylor Development Association and Noble Neighbors, came into existence and promoted their activities. April is the time for Heights schools’ spring concerts, and several senior soloists have been featured in Heights Observer stories over the years (check out this spring’s soloists at http://www.heightsobserver.org/read/2018/03/31/heights-high-symphony-concert-will-feature-two-senior-soloists).
As I look back at 10 years of community history in these pages, I see that, yes, we are still talking about many of the same issues. I also see the hope for a bright future, one in which the community continues to renew itself, successfully tackles its challenges, and remains the kind of place that we can be proud to call home.
Deanna Bremer Fisher
Deanna Bremer Fisher is executive director of FutureHeights and publisher of the Heights Observer.