Start Right is a CH success story
Cleveland Heights has problems. It has vacant storefronts. There is chaos at city council meetings. Taxes are high. But, sometimes, there are solutions. Top of the Hill is happening. Lee/Meadowbrook is underway. Taylor Commons has received approvals. Hoorays are in order.
Not as apparent are small and significant success stories. Some involve the renovation of distressed housing stock. Kudos to FutureHeights, the Cuyahoga Land Bank, and the Home Repair Resource Center for their efforts. Additional successes are projects to build new housing undertaken by Start Right Community Development Corporation (CDC), a nonprofit organization.
Rev. Jimmie Hicks Jr. opened a church in the often-neglected Caledonia neighborhood. Under his leadership, its charitable program operates hunger relief programs. It also renovates existing houses. But Hicks believed it could do more.
Start Right entered into an agreement with the city to build new houses on vacant lots in Caledonia. The first, on Nela View Road, is finished. It sold for $250,000—a price nobody thought possible. Financing is almost ready for a second house on Nela View, and for one on Greyton Road. Hicks hopes eventually to build 21 additional houses. The church is busy fulfilling its mission.
Start Right has accomplished even more. In cooperation with the Heights Tree People and the CH city forester, the CDC got about 95 new trees planted on Nela View tree lawns. Many existing trees were pruned. Some residents also got free, new trees on their front lawns. This project shows how a major enhancement to city streets can involve relatively little effort and expense. Hopefully, this will be repeated on other streets throughout Cleveland Heights.
Hicks deserves credit. The city has not found any other developer for its large supply of empty lots. It took courage for Hicks to submit a bid; and working with the city was difficult. The mayor and city council members consistently micromanaged everything. That was frustrating, and shows why Cleveland Heights has a bad reputation in the development community. But Hicks had faith. He persevered. He proved what could be done to improve his community despite a difficult economic and political climate.
Hicks is a homegrown product who graduated from Cleveland Heights High School. We should be proud of him. He is a problem-solver at a time when Caledonia really needs one.
Alan Rapoport is legal advisor to Start Right Community Development Corporation.