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For a chat with Glenville Development director Tracey Kirksey

By Marc Lefkowitz

ML: What are the positive developments in Glenville that most people haven’t heard about on the evening news?

Tracey Kirksey: We’ll reach 500 new residential units this year, which includes market rate, affordable, elderly and rehab, and we’ve seen the first $200K unit.

It’s a new era for us. We’re trying to stabilize some of the pockets where we have high rental rates and provide homeownership opportunities. We have a great example of this on E. 99th St. north of St. Clair. It used to look like jack-o-lantern teeth with all the vacant lots. We did six (housing) units with the Low Income Tax Credit and that attracted developers who built five homes (on speculation) in the range of $160K.

ML: Do you have a larger goal for Glenville in sight?

TK: I hope we’re going back to the days when Glenville was the Gold Coast. When people walked down the street, into shops, could catch a Motown act. There’s a new generation and a lot of cheerleaders who want that too.

ML: What are the biggest challenges and opportunities for community development in Glenville?

TK: Great housing stock, proximity to University Circle, parks, the lake – it’s such a jewel. But it’s also an old community so you have problems with infrastructure, keeping homes up to code, and issues with youth and job training needs. We have historic districts and it’s challenging to find a bridge for the longtime residents who deserve to stay in these family homes and new residents who are preservation minded.

ML: Where are the areas that you are particularly interested in focusing intense community development around?

TK: I’m excited about the Parkside Townhomes being built on Superior Ave between E. 101 and E. 103 close to East Blvd. We assembled the land, got some housing trust fund money for infrastructure, and even asked the Rockefeller trust for some green space for 20 units that are selling in the mid to high 200s. And just north (between E. 100 and E. 101) of that is the site for 2005 Citirama (where 11 different builders will build new model homes).

At the Northeast corner of Superior and E. 105th we’re trying to convince the owner of an abandoned Burger King to sell. We’re speaking with a developer to build a five-story mixed-use project with a ground floor tenant and four levels of residential on top. Five years ago, I couldn’t say to the developer we have $10 million in new residential development just down the street and 300 to 500 new units within a half-mile.

ML: Will the developers receive a tax abatement?

TK: All new construction in the city of Cleveland gets a tax abatement.

ML: When you look at the retail and commercial situation on E. 105th, you think this community is in a state of disrepair—how do you address the issue of so many vacancies and blight on E. 105th?

TK: I do a lot of negotiating. We have owners asking $500K when their property’s valued at $40K. We’ve even considered buying retail franchises as a way of getting the national retailers there and then recruit locals to take them over, create an entrepreneur.

ML: You have the resources to do that?

TK: It depends on where and what day you ask me…if someone called me up and said we have a property to sell on E. 105th…

ML: What national chains are you finding that are interested in locating to a zero setback environment in Glenville?

TK: One of the big issues here is changing the perceptions for national retailers. We only seem to be able to attract the same ones. Doesn’t Starbucks think we drink coffee, or why won’t Bath and Bodyworks consider an urban area? It’s offensive. You have a few retail pioneers who see the value. I had an argument with (a big real estate broker) about how this is the same as a lifestyle center. I told him, ‘haven’t you heard of New Urbanism, dude?’ Look at Zagara’s and Giant Eagle in Cleveland Heights.

ML: So, are you insisting that the project at Superior and 105th get built to the street?

TK: Yeah, we’re trying to drive the bus on that. But, it will need a parking deck in back and that costs a lot of money.

ML: After Tops pulled out of its location on St. Clair and E. 72nd, how did that affect the neighborhood and your prospects of getting a grocery store to anchor a development?

TK: A lot of our residents are hostage to the lower quality corner stores because they don’t have cars. We learned about Tops closing just like everyone else—on the news. They were at the table on the First Interstate (proposed development at the old White Motors Co.), but then Legacy Village happened and Tops pulled out of their store…

ML: …and Steelyard Commons blew up. Anyway, let me ask you about all the churches on E. 105th and the land they lock up with surface parking for weekend parishioners?

TK: I suggested to these church leaders that instead of knocking down all of these storefronts for parking, why not buy a bus and bring them in from one lot. It didn’t get a very warm reception. It saddens me to see all this empty asphalt for one day a week.

ML: Last year, there was talk that the school district made a verbal commitment to make Charles H. Lake Elementary in Glenville a showcase for green building design and technology—have you spoken to anyone at the district about their plans?

TK: We were working with the city…I mean, doesn’t it make sense to have this be the first green school? Wouldn’t it be awesome? They could have Doan Brook and Dike 14 as their learning labs.

ML: Where has the discussion gone since the city’s budget crises worsened?

TK: Unfortunately, it’s been overshadowed (by the budget).

ML: Are you in favor of having Dike 14 as a nature preserve?

TK: It’s a delicate discussion to have because many old-time (Glenville) residents look at Dike 14 as something that was chained off and excluded from them. Some look at these birders as outsiders. It goes back to the new identity of Glenville. Should it be the Spiritual Corridor, the Nature Destination or the Gold Coast? Integrating all of it is our hope.

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"We only seem to be able to attract the same national retailers. Doesn’t Starbucks think we drink coffee?"

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Feature Well?

What would the city look like if the new guard were in charge? Each issue focuses on an area in the city that could benefit from some creative energy with feature articles that offer a vision for a new Cleveland, Q&As with the movers-and-shakers who are making a difference, and visual evidence of how the landscape might look if creatives were calling the shots.

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Do Glenville's churches have space in the collection plate for community development?
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