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Bruce blog

Welcome to the Bruce blog—a weekly update on news, events and issues affecting life in Cleveland. Reporting as it happens on transit, development, planning, environment and arts & culture.

Basically, we write about creative ideas forming, talk to the people who have an inside track on the issues, and sometimes offer a commentary of our own. (For disclosure purposes, Bruce blog is a local, independent writer who also works part-time with nonprofit organization EcoCity Cleveland. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of EcoCity or any other organization).

Oct. 20-Nov. 3, 2005

Coventry merchants regain street's cred

The times, they are a changin’ for Coventry Road, but everything’s gonna’ be all right. That’s the message Big Fun owner and Coventry Merchants Association co-chair Steve Presser wants people to hear and see.

Responding to last week’s blog item on the struggling retail scene on Coventry, Presser contacted Bruce blog to assert that favoritism did not play a role in his getting the former High Tide, Rock Bottom space, and that efforts to remake one of the eastside’s favorite commercial districts are still in progress.

“Tommy is a minority owner (with the other merchants of the block of buildings that included High Tide),” Presser said. “I had to be voted into that space. If two other owners didn’t want me to be there, I would be out.”

The move will allow Big Fun to expand, which will be a boon to the street, he adds.

An anemic economy and competition from new ‘lifestyle centers’—not the comings or goings of shops—have put the hurt on commercial districts like Coventry, Shaker Square, and Tremont, Presser says.

“More people are spending time and money going to big box stores. They’re forgetting their roots. For independent merchants, it’s definitely a fight for the dollar. We need support from the community. We should be screaming: Support your local retail.”

The $2.5 million streetscape that the Coventry Special Improvement District and the City of Cleveland Heights created in 2004 makes a better first impression. It also increased the value of buildings, and assessment costs from the streetscape are passed on to tenants.

That makes it difficult for start-ups or independents to come to Coventry. Stepping in their shoes has been a rash of sports bars and fast food joints.

Higher rents and the lousy economy have had an effect on the tenant mix, Presser admits. “But it’s the cost of doing business. We can’t go to a landlord and ask them to drop their rent.” Although rent concessions have been a topic of conversation, he says.

Presser and Tommy Fellow have been evangelistic about Coventry for more than a decade. Recently, they revived the beloved street fairs, went the extra mile on artistic details like the wrought-iron planters, and are working with landlords to find retail and specialty food operators like a bakery.

Their efforts are slowly bearing fruit.

Presser informs Bruce blog that Coventry will have its first clothing operator since Renaissance Parlour closed two years ago. Last week, national chain American Apparel signed a lease at 1782 Coventry Rd., a 5,500 sq. ft. space formerly occupied by an appliance store (on the northwest end of the street).

“It’s upscale, a la Urban Outfitters, they’re conscientious about what they’re doing (using only American made, fairly traded products) and we think it will pull in people from outer regions.”

Meanwhile, Walgreens announced this week that it will acquire Medic and its 23 stores. Word is reaching Presser that Walgreens will close the Medic on Coventry. Despite it being a high performer, a Walgreens at nearby Mayfield and Superior make the case for the Medic store to go dark. Presser has already initiated a conversation with the building’s owner (which is not Medic) about redeveloping the space.

“We’re sad and we’re excited. It’s a major retail space, an anchor. Something like this could jump-start the street.””

Candidate wants more progress in Cleveland Heights

On Monday, October 10th, Cleveland Heights City Council candidate Mark Tumeo spoke to a group of Heights residents gathered at the home of Sarah and Gordon Wean.

Tumeo is a reform-minded candidate who is currently Vice Provost for Research and Dean of Graduate Studies at Cleveland State University. He also holds a J.D., a Ph.D. and has an array of political and legislative experience. Tumeo has lived in Cleveland Heights for the past eight years. He co-founded Heights Families for Equality and spent five years on the Cleveland Heights Citizen’s Advisory Committee on Block Grants.

Among the ideas that Tumeo is pushing:

  • Expand the economic and tax base of Cleveland Heights by more actively promoting business development, retention and recruitment;
  • Use his position as Councilperson to more actively support and promote the Cleveland Heights-University Heights schools;
  • Actively review the performance of the City Manager of Cleveland Heights in order to ensure accountability of the chief city administrator;
  • Seek to develop new housing that is more accessible to the city’s aging population, including lower price points and such amenities as one-floor living.
  • Strengthen and safeguard the city’s historic housing and commercial districts through creating local historic districts, where appropriate.

Although Tumeo is not actively campaigning against Jimmy Hicks, he has criticized Hicks’ decision to sue the city of Cleveland Heights over its approved Domestic Partner Registry. (Hicks lost the suit in court.) Tumeo has called this lawsuit “disrespectful towards the voters of Cleveland Heights.”

Despite the fact that he did not decide to run until summer of 2005 and has never held political office before, Tumeo’s campaign seems to be picking up steam, as he canvasses the city.

FutureHeights is hosting a public forum for the five candidates running for Cleveland Heights city council on Thursday, 10/27, 7- 9 pm at Forest Hill Church, 3031 Monticello Blvd. Free and open to the public. The program, which will be moderated by Rev. John Lentz, will focus on issues related to urban planning, economic development and historic preservation.

Also, the fall issue of FutureHeights News has the five candidates’ statements responding to the question, "What is your vision for the city ten years from now and how do you propose we get there."

Dike 14 friends warn, don't mess with Mother Nature

When Jane Campbell first campaigned to be mayor, she promised to look at the lakefront in a different light. And the Lakefront Plan was born. A grand vision to reconnect with the water and to spur development, the plan (which received a Smart Growth Education Fund award this week) includes designating new parks at Whiskey Island and Dike 14. Both park proposals have turned into somewhat contentious fights over highest and best use.

Of the two, Dike 14 has been given more of a fighting chance. It’s less pristine than Whiskey Island, but also not at the maw of the industrial Flats. An 88-acre pile of river dredge at the northern end of MLK Drive, Dike 14's surface is dotted with forests, fields and hundreds of species of migratory birds. Unlike Whiskey Island where Ed Hauser and his grassroots Friends of Whiskey Island are advocating for creation of a natural park, Dike 14 has the firepower of environmental groups like Nature Center at Shaker Lakes and the Museum of Natural History pushing the city (as well as the port and the state, which own various leases on the land) to make good on its promise of a pastoral sanctuary in the city.

The groups formed the Dike 14 Nature Preserve Committee and, with the city and its grant from Ohio Department of Natural Resources, began exploring a master plan for Dike 14. The planning grant was used to hire Maryland firm Biohabitats Incorporated, which released its preliminary report this week.

Commenting on the report, the committee takes issue with a number of proposals, including a massive paved driveway and parking lot, moving and widening the trail entry point, and building a multipurpose structure in the park as opposed just outside of it. In addition, it opposes constructing a riparian corridor that would contain a day lit Doan Brook.

“Doan Brook Reconstruction is totally unrealistic because it involves the breach of the basic design and function of the Dike, and the purpose for which it was created,” the committee notes.

Instead, the committee would like to open the Nature Preserve to the public in “a safe manner, while preserving the existing habitats…” The biggest issue has been how to deal with the toxins in the soil without destroying the habitat. It appears that the committee is taking a prudent approach, advocating for low-impact development similar to what can be found at the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes, and is firing a warning shot about developing by bulldozer.

Dike 14 Nature Preserve Committee meets on Thursday, October 27 from 6-8 pm at the Noble Neighborhood Library, 2800 Noble Rd, Cleveland Hts.

Have you heard of...shrinkage?

Speaking of the need for green urbanism, guests at The Shrinking Cites Symposium last week at CSU’s Levin College pondered the post-industrial landscape as an opportunity to “go from grey to green,” in the words of panelist and former Cleveland Planning director Hunter Morrison. Once-big cities like Detroit and Cleveland but also areas in the Northeast, the Great Plains and older suburbs everywhere are still in denial that the reality of no growth could be a strategy for reintroducing healthy, green places. Representative from the city of Youngstown were present, introducing their new master plan, which acknowledges shrinkage and looks at it as a positive framework for planning to turn vast and utterly spent urban spaces into neighborhoods that offer practical solutions.

Calendar

Sarah Sutton – "New Paintings and Drawings" at raw & co gallery, 1009 Kenilworth Ave. in Tremont from 10/21-11/27. “Sarah's paintings...suggest connections with other arts such as music, cinema, and literature,” according to a gallery release. Sutton has a BFA from John Carroll and is in the MFA program at Kent State. Opening receptions: This Friday 10/21 from 6-10 pm and 11/11 from 6-10 pm. For more info. call 216.235.5511.

1300 Gallery hosts "untitled"– The show, which runs from 10/21-11/20, features paintings and drawings from Thomas M. Lowery and Tim Callaghan, two of the hot young talents on the Northeast Ohio art scene. Opening reception this Friday, 10/21 from 7-10 pm at 1300 Gallery, 1330 W. 78th St.

Hero Tomorrow & Myley Fashion Show, 10/28 – 8:30 pm. Fee. MOCA Cleveland screens a portion of Hero Tomorrow, a new feature-length film based, shot and edited entirely in Northeast Ohio. The brainchild of local filmmakers Ted Sikora and Milo Miller, Hero Tomorrow is a dark comedy about a young man's fantasy of becoming a comix super hero colliding with a young woman's dreams of high fashion and romance. A festive fashion showcase opens with two of the film's Cleveland-based collaborators: Myley and its spring 2006 collection and Alexandra Underhill, designer of the film's comics-inspired costumes.

Day of the Dead Celebration 2005 – On Saturday, 10/29 at Josaphat Arts Hall, 1433 E. 33rd St. join Greater Cleveland artists from various Latino backgrounds as they share their interpretation of a traditional offering in honor of their dearly departed. Special presentation by curator Salvador Gonzales (3 pm), mariachi band and face painters (4 pm), performance by Tepehuani Nelli and parade (5 pm), and art exhibit at 7:30 pm.

The Akron Art Museum hosts Wolf Prix, co-founder of COOP HIMMELB(L)AU, the firm responsible for the stunning design of the new Akron Art Museum. Wolf will speak about the new museum design at the Akron-Summit County Public Library, 60 South High St. on Thusday, 11/3 at 6:30 pm. Fee.

Reader Letters

This past summer, volunteers and work crews led by Green Energy Ohio installed a wind-monitoring tower on the Cleveland Water Crib to obtain data that will help determine the viability of off-shore wind power on Lake Erie. The 125 ft., 6000 lb tower (containing wind monitoring equipment at different heights and more than 20 sensors in all) was airlifted in two sections out to the crib via helicopter.

The project’s been in the works for more than four years, with major funding from Cleveland, Gund and Steffee foundations and the City of Cleveland with several partners involved.

In mid-September, volunteers installed the data logger and set up a real-time wireless transmission system to beam the data ashore. The study will run for two years with data available to the public. Boaters and others may find the wind speed and web cam on the tower useful as well.

It is important to note that this project is not a mandate for wind turbines on Lake Erie. During the study period Green Energy Ohio will convene public meetings of stakeholders to discuss the data and the implications of wind development since the lake is a resource to be shared by all in the region.

Simultaneous to the off-shore project, GEO is installing instruments on radio and cell towers at six locations around the state to verify the Ohio Wind Map and provide power projections for large on-shore turbines. The first two monitoring towers are installed at Wapakoneta and Bryan, Ohio.

—Fletcher J. Miller
Green Energy Ohio

[Editor's Note: Miller has not yet analyzed the first month’s crib data, but plans to run some comparisons with shore locations. As for conversations with GE’s top exec. as reported in the last Bruce blog, Miller “was not invited to the meeting they held downtown, so I can't say what their plans are. I do have a contact there, so I'm going to try to find out.”]

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