Cleveland rebounds through collaboration
Cleveland, recently hailed as the “comeback city” of the Mid-west, has wielded a unique combination of public/private partnerships to underwrite much of its recovery from the depths of default in 1978 to the heights of its bicentennial celebration in 1996.
The results reach out beyond the boundaries of downtown Cleveland into its neighborhoods. Since 1990, more than $3.5 billion has been invested in downtown development alone and an impressive $9.2 billion overall in development projects throughout the city.
But it is in the neighborhoods that the real story can be felt – where Cleveland is improving the quality of life for its residents – where they live, where they shop and where they work.
Cleveland’s success has been remarkable enough for Washington to take notice. In 1995, the city was among nine cities chosen to receive $90 million each in supplemental empowerment zone grants. Cleveland’s “Empowerment Zone” encompasses four east-side inner-city neighborhoods. The grants are being used for the creation of new jobs, job training and placement programs and family services.
Cleveland’s progress under public/private cooperation includes Bicentennial Village, a legacy project of the city’s 200th anniversary, funded by The Cleveland Clinic Foundation and National City Bank, which will eventually mean construction of 49 new homes, rehabilitation of 200 owner-occupied homes, storefront renovations, commercial expansions, streetscaping and other public improvements.
While Bicentennial Village is unique, the collaboration behind the project has been rebuilding Cleveland neighborhoods for years. More than 2,000 homes have been built since 1990 – nearly six times the number built during the 1980s and more than in any similar period since the Korean War. Cleveland’s financial institutions have provided tremendous support to this initiative.
Since 1991, eight local financial institutions plus the Fannie Mae Corp., the nation’s largest source of mortgage funds, have committed more than $1.6 billion in reinvestments toward neighborhood revitalization.
Cleveland’s neighborhood revitalization efforts include commercial development as well.
In the past 15 years, eight shopping centers and four strip centers have been built in city neighborhoods, to provide residents easier access to goods and services and bolster inner-city economies. The newest is the $13 million Church Square Shopping Center, built in a badly neglected area with a $2.5 million federal grant and investment from regional banks. Today, the fully occupied center has a waiting list of retailers eager to get into an area they once avoided.
With the assistance of local corporate executives and employers, the Greater Cleveland Growth Association, the city’s Chamber of Commerce, launched a full-time work force readiness program to train unemployed Clevelanders for jobs at companies that cannot find enough qualified workers. The program addresses issues such as linking job-ready workers with employment opportunities, rethinking public transportation routes to assist people in getting to where the jobs are, identifying jobs hardest to fill and improving basic skills such as reading, writing, math and computer skills of entry-level workers.
In the Midtown Corridor, an area between downtown Cleveland and University Circle, a non-profit economic development organization with the same name assists in all aspects of neighborhood revitalization. Examples of projects to help neighborhoods found in this area include Cleveland Advanced Manufacturing Program (CAMP), which helps keep small Cleveland-area manufacturing and industrial companies competitive by bringing the latest manufacturing techniques and skills to companies that otherwise would not be able to afford them.
Vocational Guidance Services collaborates with Midtown Corridor in a program called JOB-MATCH, a partnership to help inner-city companies meet basic employment needs and provide jobs for economically disadvantaged residents. In three-and-a-half years, 650 “matches” have been found for more than 70 companies.
Midtown Corridor is also a managing partner in the Cleveland Industrial Retention Initiative, a citywide program that stimulates economic growth by retaining and expanding businesses region by region. Midtown’s focus is physical redevelopment and land use assessment for a several-mile stretch along one of the city’s major transportation corridors linking a number of neighborhoods.
To the residents of Cleveland’s inner-city neighborhoods, each of these programs represents empowerment and the opportunity to purchase a new home or rehabilitate an old one, shop at a convenient location, start a new business or bring home a paycheck.
To the public/private partners, the programs represent opportunities to recapture Cleveland’s proud history and propel the city to an illustrious future.