The future of Cleveland’s Southeast side: How reinvestment can change the neighborhood

Published: Sep. 7, 2023 at 7:28 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Eugene and Delores Brown take pride in their Lee Harvard home they purchased more than 45 years ago. They also raised their five children there.

“We had a shopping center, a blooming shopping center right on Lee Road. We had an elementary school right up the street. So, everything was right here that we needed and made us feel comfortable as a family,” explained Eugene Brown.

The couple has made an investment in their community.

Eugene has been the President of the Lee Harvard Community Association for 30 years, and Delores is the secretary of their street club.

Together the two have been committed to keeping things up, but they say their neighborhood has deteriorated over the years.

Eugene and Delores Brown are residents of the Lee Harvard neighborhood going on 45 years.
Eugene and Delores Brown are residents of the Lee Harvard neighborhood going on 45 years.(Source: WOIO)

“You just don’t feel safe you know going down there anymore. I hear a lot of shooting now. What we see right now is blight,” expressed Delores Brown. “We had a mini police station right down the road and you were constantly seeing police were visible, but that’s not so right now. A lot of seniors have passed on or they’ve gone into a nursing home and the young ones they don’t really want to take care of a house.”

The Browns have considered moving.

Councilman Joseph Jones, who represents the Lee Harvard community, says it has been decades since there have been reinvestments.

“It is so bad in our communities where you can’t even rehabilitate your existing house with a loan from the banks,” described Jones.

The long list of plaguing problems include not enough money for housing or financial improvements, lack of businesses, and growing crime in the Mount Pleasant, Union- Miles and and Lee Harvard neighborhoods.

“Fifteen million is a start and you need to start somewhere, and it’s planting the seed so that we can get other investors to leverage,” said Jones.

But, now there’s hope with a $15 million federally funded solution to the problem. The investment is part of Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb’s Southeast side revitalization plan.

“It’s a significant down payment for a bolder, vibrant, prosperous future,” says Bibb.

In addition to that money, the mayor recently announced a partnership with Key Bank for $2.5 million in grants for home improvements.

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“For me, it’s personal. I was born and raised on 21st and Dove. I remember getting my first bike at Humps bike shop. I remember going to Coneheads on my first date in first grade. I remember getting my hair cut at Darrell’s Barber Shop,” Bibb says. “So, all those these create a sense of community, a sense of pride and we want to restore it to an even more promising a greater future for the residents of the Southeast side.”

“Number one: $5 million to restore some of the Main Street commercial corridors. Because as you know, your main streets determine what happens on your side streets, another 5 million to rehab up to 200 homes in the Southeast side so that our seniors can age in place,” he continued.

Mayor Bibb says another $5 million will go to redeveloping the old John F. Kennedy High School and Rec Center with apartments like Pinecrest. He hopes to have that plan in place by the end of the year.

It is a targeted plan the mayor calls a direct surgical intervention.

Eight representatives from the mayor’s cabinet have a specific task of collaborating with Michael Bloomberg and Harvard University using a data approach to address the structural systemic problems.

“From aging to public works to building and housing, they’re all focused on additional surge investments that we can make in the southeast side from tearing down more abandoned and vacant homes to sweeping up more illegal dumping sites to better coordinating with public health inspections,” Bibb said. “Doing it in a small level, we can learn what works, what doesn’t work, and then go back to the marketplace and replicate that in Glenville, Collinwood, Kamms Corner, Westpark, Buckeye, you name it.”

The Browns say they are determined to not give up on continuing to better their community and hope their list of improvements happens.

“We need a new library a new fire station. That fire station up there is the only one. The shopping center. New homes,” expressed Eugene Brown.

Bibb says he is excited for the future there and will hold himself and his leadership team accountable for the betterment of the community.

In June, the mayor announced the appointment of Marvin Owens, Jr., a new senior strategist who has been tasked with seeing the Southeast side revitalization plan come to fruition.

Eugene and Delores Brown are residents of the Lee Harvard neighborhood going on 45 years.
Eugene and Delores Brown are residents of the Lee Harvard neighborhood going on 45 years.(Source: WOIO)