Those who know NEO know "ITS A NEW DAY IN EAST CLEVELAND"

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Wed, 03/07/2007 - 02:09.

As a core group of innovative urban planners and developers move forward creating a new way in East Cleveland, it is exciting to look back along the main street that brought us to today, and that will take so many deserving citizens past those with little insight who have driven so much of this region into poverty. Looking back, and forward, here is a powerful set of perspectives from CIA graduate and Kent Urban Design graduate student Joe Stanley, of NEO Main Street, from two years ago, under a former administration. Now, under Mayor Brewer and his staff, redevelopment of this community is underway  - thanks for your vision and keeping the faith, Joe!

"ITS A NEW DAY IN EAST CLEVELAND"


Indeed, it is a new day…. In East Cleveland. Those of you who are familiar with the North East Ohio area are probably a bit puzzled by this optimistic proclamation because the overall outside perception of this area is one of intense squalor and crime. I bet that nobody would guess though that East Cleveland’s police dept. has technologies that rival the Cleveland police dept.

Certainly, I am pleased with the attitudes of Mayor Saratha Goggins and her council at City Hall. When I took part in a presentation with REALNEO at the June 4th town hall meeting doing my best to extol the virtues of the new urbanism and traditional neighborhood development (TND) Mayor Goggins had been working with the city clean up since 7 AM that morning. During her closing remarks before someone kindly blessed the food and we had lunch, she said something that compelled me to do one of those closed fist arm pump reactions. She said that we’re going to start doing things the old way… we’re going to bring back the welcome wagon for new residents of East Cleveland. I was impressed. You just don’t hear of or see these kinds of things coming out of city halls anymore. I am extremely excited about the prospects of this city and am particularly pleased by the warm reaction my new urbanism and historical preservation ideas are getting.

After tooling around the city I’ve come to find that this city is a bit of a special case. As far as their physical landscape is concerned, probably 80% of their old early 20th century or so urban infrastructure still exists. A little rough around the edges, but that’s minor details. Well made buildings of brick, stone and wood tend to be quite reparable… we wouldn’t have historical preservation societies otherwise. This leads me to the conclusion that we need to celebrate the fact that alot of this great architecture has not been torn down for fry pits and strip malls by taking the approach of the new urbanism movement in design and planning. The adoption of a (TND) ordinance to replace the municipal zoning codes, which, not incidentally, are entirely responsible for fry pits and strip malls, would facilitate the kind of architectural growth that would infill the already existing historical patterns of East Cleveland. (TND) planning is the most intelligent and most exciting movement in planning and design that this country has ever seen. It would, by its very nature, encourage the development of East Cleveland into a city with a well defined traditional downtown area along the Euclid Avenue corridor serving as the social, economic, cultural and spiritual center of the city. Secondary mixed-use streets of a smaller scale – i.e.: main streets – would then branch off of the downtown corridor. These “main streets�? would then segue into real, identifiable neighborhoods consisting of mixed type housing for the needs of the various citizens. Throw in some green space - Forrest Hills Park - and some neighborhood parks/play-lots and some industry - Nela Park- and there you have it… A dynamic human scaled transit oriented city with a bustling downtown, walkable identifiable neighborhoods that are serviced by the “main streets�? and places of repose in the form of large and small parks. Toss in a direct line - Red Line and Euclid Corridor- to downtown Cleveland and University Circle 5 minutes away, and really…what could anyone ask for? I know that I would live there. As a matter of fact. I’m already looking. Its not like the suburbs have anything to offer besides 5 lane roads, mega malls, lube huts, vinyl tract housing, perpetual motoring, and of course, plenty of free parking. And that’s what’s really exciting about this city. They’ve got the old stuff. It just needs a little cleaning up and some new architectural infill to finish off the existing patterns. East Cleveland is already largely set up for the main street plan described above. The compactness… the overall size of the city… the presence of public transport… its all there just waiting to be discovered and put back to use. Everything that I just described about the future of East Cleveland fills me with great hope and optimism. You just simply could not build this kind of exciting and dynamic human settlement in any of our suburbs without, well… burning them all down first. Someone even told me that the best way to fix East Cleveland is to burn it all down first. I, and quite a few others, however have some different feelings about this little gem in the rough. East Cleveland is a city with great potential and a real future. It is located in a strategic position just north of University Circle… you know, home of the Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland Institute of Art, the Botanical Gardens, The Museum of Natural History, the Cleveland Institute of Music, CASE, the Kelvin Smith Library, The University Hospitals and lets not forget the Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall. By the way, Little Italy is just a stone’s throw east. The city of East Cleveland also has transit access via the Red Line and eventually the Euclid Corridor to downtown Cleveland and this will be vitally important to the future development of a downtown East Cleveland, but I’ll get into that later.

“DOWNTOWN EAST CLEVELAND…THE EUCLID AVENUE CORRIDOR�?

As you can see here, I’ve envisioned a downtown East Cleveland as something of a smaller scaled agreeable place with some streetcars servicing the area, which in turn would cut down on the car use and the ridiculous parking infrastructure required by the automobile monoculture. Currently, the Euclid Avenue corridor is the one part of the city that has been successfully torn apart by modern sprawl style development. Right now its pretty tragic with all of the typical equipment of predatory chain style development. 1 story strip malls with parking in the front… intersections with 2 gas stations and cars everywhere. This whole area is not walkable by any stretch of the imagination, and the average 1 to 2 story architecture is entirely too low for the width of Euclid Avenue. It exhibits the overall charm and character that I would liken to drinking a glass of sand. There is absolutely no sense of this corridor actually being a corridor… a large aesthetically pleasing tree-lined outdoor room full of activity, i.e. hoards of actual people walking around doing stuff. As per my advocacy of the new urbanism and a (TND) ordinance, the city would then require that all new architectural development in this area to be appropriate to the creation of a real downtown. Well made densely packed buildings ranging from 2 to 7 stories close to the street, mixed use in their orientation with the pedestrian and transit mode of transportation taking precedent. Cars are permitted, but designated to rear lots and alleys. This downtown would be home to most of the city’s shopping/retail. -local preferred of course- Anything from small retail shops to eating places to multi-story department stores would live here. Remember the May Co. and Sterling Lindner? How’s about downtown Christmas shopping in East Cleveland? Wouldn’t that be sweet? Commercial office space would exist in these buildings along with apartments and condos. This is where the action would be so to speak. The focal point, a public square, or something like that would be the place to bring together the city’s civic institutions. A City Hall, a Post Office, an arts district or a new MLK civic center. Downtown is where you would go to work, meet someone at café bistro for brunch, buy clothing, see a play at the East Cleveland Community Theater, enjoy the local street musicians, just meandering about meeting new friends or hop the corridor to downtown or University Circle. This is what (TND) means for downtown East Cleveland and all of the regular people’s daily activities. Sounds good to me. By the way, notice the conspicuous absence of car dependency and all of the unfortunate consequences that it implies.

“MAIN STREET�?

Here is an example of one of the “main streets�? that would branch off of the Euclid Avenue downtown area on Eddy Road. These “main streets�? for the most part would radiate out in a perpendicular fashion from Euclid Avenue and serve as a buffer between the busy downtown and the neighborhoods. A transition area of sorts. Eddy Road, Superior Avenue and a handful of other smaller scale mixed-use streets would serve the local needs of the neighborhoods for the most part. This is where the convenience stores, hardware shops, café’s, and some light industry would live. A furniture maker, a metal smith and perhaps a shoemaker or two. By the way, some of these local entrepreneurs might have a showroom downtown. This would help to tie these two areas together. Once again… like downtown, cars are permitted but not allowed to dominate the physical landscape. Pedestrian activity would take precedent. Afterall, isn’t it good for business when people network? Each of these little centers of densely packed mixed-use buildings ranging from 2 to 4 stories would be the focal point of their adjacent neighborhoods. They will help to create a bit of a boundary between the neighborhoods so that they are smaller and more individually unique/identifiable. It would be like having a bunch of Little Italy’s in East Cleveland without all of the cars.

The apartments above the shops on “main street�? would be the city’s affordable housing. Young college graduates/students… seniors on a fixed income who don’t feel like taking care of a whole house… couples without children…empty nesters…this is a good place for them. They are more likely to meet people in this socially enriched environment. Mixes housing types give people more choices. Its good for a city to have this attribute. It increases their ability to attract the whole range of people, which only supports the magic of the city. Main Street would be an active and interesting place like downtown on a smaller scale serving mostly the local population. Altogether these “main streets�? would help to create the larger patterns of what constitutes a self-sufficient real city with a strong local economy.

“AFFORDABLE SENIOR HOUSING�?

It seems that in the United States these days the only place that we can conceive of to put our senior citizens is some sort of concrete filing cabinet at the edge of town nowhere near anyone or anything of worth. We just sort of remorselessly “store�? them there. Those who have done just about everything for 40, 50, or 60 years, those who raised us and have the long life experience, those who are still vital to the success and life of the community. They may cup their hand behind their ear and ask you to speak up… they may walk a bit slower, but who cares!? What they have to offer to a community is something grand that only they can offer. Their grey hair is a noble crown to be worn proudly. If there is any group of grossly underutilized population, its our seniors.

Retired seniors are capable of doing any number of worthwhile things for a community. Aside from just adding to the mix of people that contributes to the magic of the city, they can look after/mentor children. This is a great opportunity for the children and seniors both. The children keep the seniors young at heart and the children benefit from the knowledge and gentile behavior of the seniors… a sort of win-win proposition. I myself have benefited greatly from my interaction with senior citizens. I learned woodcarving from someone named Ed who has been carving for about 70 years! You just cannot beat that kind of decades long practical experience. So, I feel that we need to respect our elders and bring them into a vital relationship with the community in the form of affordable, smaller, thus easier to manage housing. Apartment style would be good for social and senior to senior interaction. This would also be facilitated by the sharing of common spaces and ground for gardening etc. etc. As far as the children are concerned, blessing our seniors back into existence will cut down on the need for those homogeneous fenced in medium security day care facilities that our kids are caged up in now. Going to Mrs. Johnson’s apartment after school to help with the shopping, gardening or canning of veggies is something that all children should experience. It helps to build that sense of community that we’re all after and it helps children to become responsible and dignified. It creates real bonds between the generations. Perhaps the next generation will shudder at the very idea of filing our seniors away the way that we are so willing to do now.

So, with all of that said, I believe that the city of East Cleveland has a tremendous opportunity at hand. They can easily facilitate this sort of interactive/independent environment for the city’s senior population by renovating some abandoned buildings on E. 133rd street. Right now there are a handful of these buildings with a smattering of vacant lots between them. My recommendation would be to restore the existing these buildings and retrofit them with sod roofs for the purpose of increased social space and gardens/greenhouses. Infilling the vacant lots with similar type buildings would add architectural continuity to the whole street and give this area a strong identity and sense of place along with a well defined street wall.

As you can see by this concept drawing the restoration of these buildings would include landscape architecture which would create a transition from the public realm of the street to the semi-private realm of the areas directly in front of the buildings to the private realm of the corridors in between the buildings defined pleasantly by a low iron fence and an arched gateway. Like all of my other concepts for the city, the pedestrian and transit orientation would take precedent. Parking and other vehicular needs would be designated to the backs of the buildings in the form of small inconspicuous lots and alleys. By the way, this 133rd street complex is right in the middle of a neighborhood. Probably lots of children around. 133rd street would also be a magnificent place for an annual senior arts and crafts show… tents, refreshments, the whole shootin match. It’ll be great.

“ONE SPECIAL MAIN STREET�?

I know that I have already covered the “main streets�? earlier in this writing, but here is a special place that is worth talking about. It is the Coit Farmer’s Market main street concept. Currently the Coit market does not consist of much. It’s a noble idea, but the architecture does not speak of local food production being an indispensable civic institution. Local food production is something that carries a tremendous amount of value in my opinion and I feel as though the market should be a building that expresses this most important attribute. Putting one’s hands in the soil and growing food is probably the greatest way for anyone to feel a sense of connectivity to their homeland. So, I would advocate that the market become one of the city’s most important “main streets�?

“WHAT’S SO SPECIAL ABOUT A (TND) ORDINANCE ANYWAY?�?

A Traditional Neighborhood Development ordinance is the fundamental and necessary component of a walkable, transit oriented “main street�? style town or city, without which, all of the other pieces of the puzzle so to speak simply can not come together. This is similar to the premise by which all of our existing “main street�? came from, except that we did not have any kind of building codes prior to zoning. We built cities and towns based upon a popular, local consensus, so if we want more, well… I think we need to do it the way it was done in the past prior to the post war zoning laws, except for the fact that this time we will need to codify the popular consensus into a (TND) ordinance because few people in this country even know what a well planned town looks or works like. This ordinance will serve as the good neighborhood 101 manual, so to speak, until good placemaking becomes part of the mainstream building practice again. Attempting to actually develop a town or city under the philosophy of the new urbanism without this absolutely necessary politically backed consensus would be an exercise in futility. There will be too many forces militating against us otherwise. Little Italy is just this type of pre war, pre zoning pattern. The neighborhood, composed of a nice mix of building types and uses without a single national chain retailer to be found, furiously resists the kind of development that compromises their vision and they are certainly better for it. During this writing I am at Algebra Tea House on Murray Hill Road, a nice old red brick street, surrounded by a group of houses and an apartment building or two. This locally owned tea house has an eclectic aesthetic. Interesting hand made furniture, some oddly shaped ceramic cups probably from a CIA student. Right now there is a group of fiddlers and banjo players in the middle of a catchy tune and the resident siamese cat -Frank Rizzo- is hanging around. You wont find this at any chain establishments. Any new development in Little Italy must jibe nicely with the existing structures and philosophy of the neighborhood. That is specifically how it stays in tact and does not succumb to destructive developmental practices. This is what (TND) means. It gives the town or city a vision. A set of developmental parameters that are easy to follow and administer for all of the hundreds of developers, builders etc.etc. to work within. This sort of “vision�? or set of loosely defined parameters are exactly what gets everyone on the same page so that they can work together and actually get something done. You don’t need a bunch of demographic studies , traffic studies or all of the other bureaucratic paper shuffling and permit filing along with all of the other useless, overcomplicated and expensive constraints that usually kill things before they can ever start. Just build a good city and the people will come. That’s not a hard concept to grasp. A city does not develop from some sort of highly developed “master plan�?. It is foolish to even think that it can happen that way. Cities grow organically over the course of time. Different people at different times contribute to the growth of a city. This organic development is precisely what gives a city its character and charm. The odd little triangle shaped buildings on a sliver of land, the old church between two 5 story retail and commercial buildings, a house by public square. Its all self organizing and self re-enforcing. These things can’t be planned. Trying too hard to dictate the architectural plans and details instead of developing a parameter based consensus is what leads to a homogeneous kind of “plan�? that will in all likelihood never get built. Basically, a city should be laying the fundamental groundwork for the development patterns of the city in the form of an enforceable law based ordinance and let the individual designers, architects and planners build the city in a piecemeal and creative way within the defined parameters of the (TND) ordinance.

Currently, in the United States, there are two kinds of planning methods. (1) conventional sprawl-style development, most clearly seen in anything built after the war, and (2) traditional neighborhood development, “main street�?… walkable, wonderful, charming tree lined mainstreet. Under the patterns of sprawl-style development the municipal zoning laws that call for the extreme separation of building uses and segregation of people by income into their specific single type housing pods, the thinning of population density and absolute automobile dependence based off of the standardized off the shelf methods of planning are by no means tailored to the real needs of a town or city. This hierarchal and experimental method of planning is completely responsible for facilitating cheap, homogeneous, rampantly ugly, environmentally destructive and degrading anti-community development. It is predicated on the idea that planning decisions should not be left up to the individual city and its inhabitants. Funny that this idea took hold because Little Italy’s decisions are made by the people who live there and look at what they have in the form of a neighborhood that really works and people love it. Zoning laws specifically allow for the destruction of local economic networks by actually promoting the growth of large national chain retailers like Wal Mart and Target along with overabundant gas stations and stripmalls. These kinds of retailers put local entrepreneurs out of business, you know the Mom and Pop corner stores, the local furniture makers, and small grocery stores who all generally maintain higher levels of product and service because the live in the community that they are doing business with. Zoning destroys historic architecture and neighborhoods, contributes to sprawl by the creation of low 1 or 2 story single use buildings and parking lots, which then aggravates the need for more cars and facilitates wider streets which in turn lowers the population density which then lowers the tax base and then of course there is less and less money available for the budgets of the city’s civic needs… police…fire…schools…you name it. And if that isn’t enough, for absolutely nothing more than a handful of unskilled low wage service jobs, these retailers funnel large amounts of money straight out of the community. All of this mind numbing hyper-entropic activity is perfectly alright under the reign of short-sighted and I’ll even say mindless municipal zoning laws. As a matter of fact, all of the above is the only kind of development allowed under the zoning laws! Main Street is… get this… a violation of zoning laws and illegal to build anymore! Even though existing “main streets�? like Mayfield road in Little Italy or Coventry are wildly popular, that’s why no new one’s are being built…. They can’t be….until the laws are actually changed.

Any town or city that continues down this unfortunate type of developmental path is doomed to the meager helpless and hopeless position of a low wage service economy filled with wide streets, horrific architecture, compulsive motoring, an alienated citizenry and a complete and total lack of any kind of real economy based on the production of various local goods and services for the local population. i.e.: a sustainable economy. Basically, this sort of development practice is the full scale 180 degree contradiction to the “main street�? pattern of development that is appropriate to a successful urban setting, a mixed use, mixed income, multiple housing type, densely populated area with industry and other economies dispersed throughout the city all of which is serviced by pedestrians and transit lines. Conventional sprawl-style development destroys cities. It is predatory, destructive, and unsustainable. The downward spiral incurred by this pattern just absolutely can not co-exist with the “main street�? pattern of development (TND)…Don’t even try.

Traditional Neighborhood Development is the emphatic 100% opposite pattern of development and planning prescribed by the zoning laws. I will be stubborn in my promotion of this ordinance in my East Cleveland vision simply due to the fact that this city and any other for that fact must have a vision supported by a law based consensus if they want to attract future development and investments in the city’s future. If they do not create a new urbanist “main street�? vision and stay the course by replacing their zoning with a (TND) ordinance, there will be a lack of faith and trust from the standpoint of developers and investors. The city needs this as a sort of incentive to those who have the power to actually build buildings. Visions on paper are great, but that’s not going to be enough to leverage real money. If a developer builds a “main street�? along Superior Avenue which would be a magnet for people and then Wal Mart can just prey on this opportunity with one of its supercenters only a stone’s throw from “main street�? then the integrity of everything that was done on Superior Avenue will be thrown out the window and the “main street�? suffers losses in closed local businesses and increased car use. Without City Hall saying “Here’s our vision and we’re stickin to it�? like the people in Little Italy do, all of the planners in the world can work until they are blue in the face coming up with “visions�? but nothing will come of it. Let’s face it… designing a city on the “main street�? pattern is just not that difficult. A few moderately intelligent planners can create a well realized vision. It is the political will of the city that will determine if it is going to happen. If there is no (TND) ordinance to protect the investments of developers, local entrepreneurs and citizens, what is going to stop the sprawl from continuing to tear the physical landscape apart? Remember what I said before. Sprawl and “main street�? don’t mix.

A (TND) ordinance is absolutely imperative to the long term success of the city of East Cleveland. Mayors, Councils, Planners , Architects and everyone else associated with the building and maintenance of a city come and go. We are all just temporary players in the great life of the city. For the Mayor and City Hall to have the insight to develop a set a developmental parameters that transcend time and personal agendas, they will have done something that will allow the City of East Cleveland to take charge of its manifest destiny and define itself rather that allowing itself to be defined by the uncoordinated and often greedy desires of others who do not care about the city and its future. Little Italy was, is and shall continue to be one of the great neighborhoods in North East Ohio. East Cleveland is not all that different in its physical structuring. The potential is there just waiting to be discovered.

WOW !

WOW !!!

I know these streets, specfically some of these very buildings.  I can remember 30 years ago when that apartment buiding was the cats meow.  I was envying my sister-in-law that had one of the upper units with its sunroom in the front.

But I'm a little turned around - and admit that I speed read a good portion of this article - but it seemed that the article was writtien a long time ago.  Coggins has been gone for what, 18 months?, now?  Didn't really know the lady, but I'd like to hope this same kind of ideas can happen under our new Mayor Brewer.  I didn't support him at first, but I've become positivly intregued.  Just hope we can get some movement on the city council as well.

But how much of these renderings, ideas for redevlopment, etc. are coming from outside East Cleveland (NOT saying that is bad), and how much of it is being embraced and given even a tiny bit of first steps towards making it happen IN East Cleveland?

I'd LOVE to see this happen.

Thanks

KMaCK
*************

Welcome back KMaCK

These are renderings by Joe Stanley - a really excellent planner from the Cleveland Institute of Art - see http://neomainstreet.comr. I'm specifically working on a neighborhood development project centered around the Hough Bakeries on Lakeview - see http://7gen.us/en/Star

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Technical difficultues

I wasn't able to get into neomainstreet.comr.  Should the "r" be there?

Also regarding your own 7gen.us/en/Star  ...  I must be doing something wrong, but I had trouble getting in to make a comment.  I'm still very exhausted from Friday and yesterday and don't have the spare energy to tackle what is probably avery simple something I over looked, so I'm responding to you here.

Regarding your comment ...
"The area in the city of East Cleveland and Cleveland that is most certainly blighted is the corner bounded by Euclid Avenue on the North and Lake View Cemetery on the west and south,..."

Have you been down Hayden Avenue, and most especially on 1st, 2nd and 3rd Ave that runs north west off of Hayden? 

KMaCK

Hayden is a beautiful street

I visited Hayden on two occasions.  Once with my employer at the time--Connelly Landscaping.  Mr. Connelly went to Shaw and he gave me a tour of his old neighborhood.  Forest Hills Park is nearby and the outdoor pool is great (there is a theme here).  I remember bacci ball courts, but I could be confusing my memory with the park that straddles East Cleveland/Cleveland Heights.  The second time I visited Hayden was to help my neighbor clear out her grandfather's house after his death.  I tend to anthropomorphize, but the old furnace (original coal-modified/minivolt pilot-no electric current needed to kick start it) with huge ducts made me think of the house as an old strongman that refused to be put down. 
See the map http://digbig.com/4sqqc

I know other side of Eddy better

I know Hayden at Eddy - there are some very interesting abandoned brick commercial and multiunit residentials around there - need major investments - but Rozelle Park and the neighborhood around that is very nice - I've been to Councilwoman Thomas' house around there and it is awesome.

the URL for NEO Mainstreet is http://neomainstreet.com - I'm not sure how it is set up for commenting and creating accounts... you should feel free to email Joe Stanley - I'm sure his email address is up there

For 7GEN you should just set up a new account there - it has some interesting modules set up there,

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