During the last few years, new businesses, housing, and arts organizations have opened along E. 105th St. in Glenville, bringing new life to the area. But most of this new development has been concentrated between Wade Park and Ashbury in the area near University Circle, and while the development is impressive, further north along E. 105th St. new development has been slow.
Glenville was identified as a “target neighborhood” under former Mayor Frank Jackson’s $65 million Neighborhood Transformation Initiative (NTI), which was created to bring new investment and economic opportunities to distressed neighborhoods across Cleveland. Other neighborhoods included in the initiative were Fairfax and Clark-Fulton.
Ward 9 council member Kevin Conwell, who has represented the area for 20 years, said Mayor Jackson’s initiative has brought new investment to the community. He cited the $16 million Glenville Circle North and GlenVillage projects, a re-do of the streetscape along E. 105th which Conwell says cost $21.5 million, a storefront renovation program with grants and loans for businesses, new mixed use commercial developments, and an entrepreneur and workforce development program, to name a few.
More recently, he said, the Churchill Gateway affordable housing project broke ground on E. 105th St. and the Sara J. Harper Village for female veterans will celebrate its completion with a ribbon cutting this fall.
Economic development in Glenville started along E. 105th St. near Wade Park Avenue because “you build from your strength, which is University Circle,” said Conwell.
This vision is evident in the attractive shops at GlenVillage, where Black-owned businesses like Zanzibar Express, Cleveland Cold Brew, Vitiman Kandie Cafe, Premier Barber Lounge, House of Jewels, iSpecz Eyewear, and Pipe’n Hot Grill have taken up residence. On a recent visit, the businesses had a small but steady stream of customers. Unfortunately, the coworking spaces at CleWorx were almost completely empty because of the impact of the pandemic.
Yet while Conwell said the area has the potential to be “the new Black Wall Street,” that vision has not yet come to fruition north of Superior Avenue, where the Storefront Renovation Program (SRP) did not complete any projects from 2017-2022, according to Sarah Johnson, a spokesperson for the city. The 2017 My Glenville plan called for new commercial and residential development north of Superior.
Results of investment
The Land requested an update from the city on investments along E. 105th St. since Mayor Jackson announced the Neighborhood Transformation Initiative in 2017. Johnson, the city’s Chief Communications Officer, said the city provided grants or loans to 40 housing units off of E. 105th between Ashbury and Superior, and between E. 105th and E. 120th Streets. These residents were provided with senior home repair assistance, vacant home rehabilitation, down payment assistance, and homebuyer education using $3 million in housing bonds.
Additionally, Johnson said $2.5 million in tax incentives, capital improvements, and UDAG (Urban Development Action Grant) funds were provided to the Glenville Circle North projects, the Glenville Circle North public greenspace, and street resurfacing and infrastructure on E. 105th. And $3.83 million in commercial bonds and UDAG funds were provided for small business and entrepreneurship activities including the GlenVillage incubator buildout, operational support, and small business assistance through agencies like the Urban League of Greater Cleveland.
Glenville has also seen a lot of private investment south of Superior, including The Davis, a low-income housing project at E. 105th and Churchill; Mikros Smart Suites at E. 115th and Ashbury; a 16-unit apartment rehab at E. 114th and Itasca; and construction of 10 homes and 18 townhomes by the homebuilder Knez Homes off of Ashbury Ave.
Yet when it comes to business development, most of the activity has been concentrated near University Circle, while redevelopment of E. 105th St. between Superior and St. Clair Avenues has notably lagged behind. All of the businesses that have been assisted have been in or around GlenVillage. Additionally, one business further south, Al’s Deli, was assisted by the Storefront Renovation Program.
“The Storefront Renovation Program did not complete any projects on E. 105th Street between Chester Avenue and Lake Erie in Glenville between the time period of 2017-22,” Johnson stated in an email.
Progress against plans
Johnson said that the GlenVillage project, the greenspace at E. 105th and Ashbury, the Churchill Gateway project, and the planned mixed-income, mixed-use development at the southeast corner of E. 105th and Superior are all part of the realization of the 2017 My Glenville plan.
The Land reached out to Famicos Foundation , the community development corporation (CDC) serving the area, as well as Briana Butler, coordinator of the city’s Neighborhood Transformation Initiative, for this article. Within the past six months, several commercial development staff members have left Famicos, including real estate director Khrys Shefton, and their positions haven’t yet been filled. John Anoliefo, executive director of Famicos, was not available for an interview.
Yet Johnson said the city has made progress against the My Glenville plan, citing the developments south of Superior, the activation of GlenVillage, and additional housing units in the area. She also cited new greenspace at the corner of E. 105th St. and Ashbury, and a planned mixed-income, mixed-use development at the southeast corner of E. 105th and Superior led by Famicos.
Daniel Gray-Kontar of Twelve Literary Arts, which moved to E. 105th St. to be part of the area’s renaissance two years ago, said that a partnership between residents, businesses, the local community development corporation, and the city is needed for Glenville to realize its economic development vision. Right now, he said, that doesn’t exist. “When it comes to economic development, the question for Glenville is, who will set the agenda?” he said.
Gray-Kontar relocated Twelve from North Collinwood to a renovated house at 1484 E. 105th St. two years ago. The organization provides literary arts instruction and leadership development to elementary and high school aged youth as well as programming for adult poets, writers, and storytellers. The move to Glenville came after a pitch from the Cleveland Foundation, Famicos Foundation, and Third Space Action Lab.
The entrepreneur said Glenville could model its economic development efforts after other successful areas. “From my experience and what I have seen in other areas such as Gordon Square and the Waterloo Arts District, there must be a convener who gathers the stakeholders and together they devise a plan based on a shared belief of what the community will look like,” he said.
Third Space Action Lab, which opened at 1464 E. 105th St. in 2018, was co-founded by Evelyn Burnett and Mordecai Cargill. Third Space is another group that moved to Glenville, occupying the Glenville Arts Building and opening a gallery and community space on the first floor. The company’s objective is to create “third spaces,” or spaces where people of color can gather outside of home or work. They use evidence-based strategies from grassroots research to try to disrupt the cycle of disinvestment and displacement of low-income communities of color. Burnett said.
Third Space connects with the Glenville community through its Chocolate City Cleveland (CCC) Initiative, Intergenerational Luncheons, newsletter, and Racial Equity Institute (REI) workshops. CCC is a project that “reimagines the Black Map of Cleveland and lifts up the stories of Black Clevelanders that will inspire visions of a liberated Black Future,” said Burnett. The purpose of the Intergenerational Luncheons is “to confirm the stories of the past with people who were around then and connect with current people who are making a difference in their community.”
During these luncheons, “people like me sit at the feet of elders, hear their stories, and get their recommendations,” she said.
For Glenville to be successful, Cleveland needs to normalize Black entrepreneurship, Burnett said. “We have to change what people think about Black people, and what Black people think about themselves,” she said, adding that “narrative change” is at the heart of Third Space’s work. “We need more Black entrepreneurs and businesses that are thriving and able to hire people full-time. We have to normalize $40,000-70,000 annual salary jobs at Black-owned businesses.”
GlenVillage is located at E. 105th St. and Ashbury Ave. in Glenville. Learn more at https://glenvillagecle.com.
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