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east meets west: a new generation of businesses bridging the old divide

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 12:00am
Ask a millennial about the east-west divide and their eyebrows usually rise and knit over their black frame glasses. These days, west side shops are popping up on the east side, while east side institutions are making inroads west.

what do east and west siders want? (reader poll)

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 12:00am
As local businesses and institutions seek to establish an east-west presence, which ones would you most like to see cross the river? Take our poll, tell us what you think!

city lab says you can buy 1 home in silicon valley -- or 30 in cleveland

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 12:00am
A November 12th story in The Atlantic's City Lab says that Cleveland has emerged as the most affordable housing market in the country, and we are undergoing a "revival." Buy now! "For the second time in three years, Los Altos, California, ranks as the most expensive housing market in the U.S.," writes Kriston Capps. "How expensive? If you're thinking about buying a family home there in Silicon Valley, you may want to keep looking: A four-bedroom, two bathroom home in Los Altos is going to set you back nearly $2 million. For that money, you could buy 30 homes that size in Cleveland. Or, as the report notes, 25 homes plus Cavs tickets for 50 neighbors for nine years." Read the full story here.

university circle a powerful player in the innovation economy (video)

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 12:00am
University Circle Inc.'s recent annual meeting highlighted examples of successful innovation within the district, from Piccadilly Artisan Creamery's liquid nitrogen-fueled ice cream to healthcare startups spinning out of BioEnterprise.

cle orchestra selects slavic village as the site of its next 'at home' residency

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 12:00am
The Cleveland Orchestra has announced that its next neighborhood residency will take place in Broadway Slavic Village. From the press release: "'The Cleveland Orchestra At Home in Broadway Slavic Village' will consist of community activities, musical performances, and education presentations throughout the community in Spring 2015. Broadway Slavic Village was chosen because it is a Cleveland neighborhood that symbolizes both the history and the future of Cleveland. The Broadway Historic District at the intersection of E. 55th street has ethnic roots in the Czech and Polish communities with rich musical heritages.  Broadway Slavic Village was once the center of the foreclosure crisis, but today it is a national leader in reimagining urban land use and is home to people of all ages, races, and income levels, active families, young professionals and empty nesters. The centerpiece of the Orchestra's neighborhood residency in Broadway Slavic Village will be a free, public Cleveland Orchestra concert on Friday evening, April 10, 2015 at Our Lady of Lourdes Church. The residency activities will also include solo and chamber performances in unique locations, education programs at local schools, and a series of new artistic collaborations with neighborhood arts and cultural organizations."

university circle inks deal with zipcar, the world's leading carsharing network

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 12:00am
At the University Circle Incorporated (UCI) annual meeting last week, President Chris Ronayne touted the district's roots in innovation as well as impressive present-day growth. In short, University Circle is now returning full circle and has become an area that's not only rife with arts institutions and top schools, but is also spinning out some of the region's fastest-growing companies and ideas. Ronayne also stated that innovation begins and ends, in many ways, with connectivity, something that University Circle has in spades. "The key to innovation is density, connectivity, diversity and experience," he said. "Creating an environment that is inspiring and pulls people together." Now University Circle is about to get even better connected thanks to a new partnership with Zipcar, the world's leading carshare company. Initially, four vehicles will be available for lease in designated parking spots in the garage at 1980 Ford Road and the University Circle Inc. Lot at 10831 Magnolia Drive. The cars, which will be available 24/7 on demand, can be leased for as low as $7.50 per hour and $69 per day with gas, insurance and up to 180 miles of driving per day included in the rate. College students age 18 and older as well as community members age 21 and older will be able to take advantage of the program. “As University Circle continues to grow, so does its need for innovative transportation,” said Ronayne in a release. “Partnering with Zipcar allows us to address this need by giving students, employees, and community members access to vehicles on a short term basis. It’s a great, sustainable solution.” Community members, students and businesses can join Zipcar here. The Occasional Driving Plan is available for $60 a year or $6 a month, allowing users access to the four Zipcar’s in University Circle as well as more than 10,000 vehicles worldwide. UCI has also helped to establish a special university rate -- college students, faculty and staff at participating universities in the area can join for just $25 to use a set of wheels for as little as an hour or for several days.   There's also a Zipcar for Business program for local businesses that offers discounted driving rates Monday through Friday. The goal of this program is to help businesses save cash, meet sustainability goals, and reduce parking needs by providing employees with access to the cars as a way to get around town. Users can employ their smartphones to make reservations, lock and unlock the vehicle, and even honk the horn to locate their vehicle. Reservations are available over the phone or through Zipcar's website.

lake affect artists' studios, event venue coming to campus district

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 12:00am
A hip new studio space adjacent to the trendy ArtCraft building in the Campus District will soon be filled with artists. Professional photographers Dan LaGuardia and his partner Amanda Sinkey expect to open Lake Affect Studios, 1615 East 25th Street, in the first quarter 2015.   While a $30,000 vacant property grant from the city of Cleveland is pending, the two purchased the 30,000-square-foot building in March 2013 for $400,000 with funds from family. The space, which is actually three connected buildings, had been on the market since 2008 and had previously housed a manufacturer of display units and a mop factory. The oldest of the three structures was built in the early 1900s, and the newest was erected in the 1990s. The other building dates to the mid-1900's.   Eleven studio spaces are currently under construction, ranging from 535- to 1400-square feet with rents starting at $0.60 per square foot. Hence, monthly rents will start at $321 with an additional shared utility fee, prorated on the percentage of square footage each studio occupies.   "We wanted to get together a like-minded community of creative people that have a lot of energy and want to work together and bounce ideas off each other," says LaGuardia. Six tenants are already on the waiting list. They include photographers, a sculptor and a video production operation. LaGuardia and Sinkey will be "studio natives," occupying space other than the 11 units for lease. Their vision for the venture is reflected in the name. "Lake Affect is kind of a play on words that alludes to how we would like to 'affect' the area around us," says LaGuardia.   Sinkey works mostly with personal portraits and weddings. LaGuardia is a commercial photographer with clients such as JoAnne Fabric & Craft Stores, Philip Morris and Red Model Management. His work often requires travel, so why Cleveland?   "I was born in Cleveland and I wouldn't go anywhere else. I love it here," he says. "I can work regionally from Cleveland and still have my home base here." His work often takes him to Chicago and New York, which poses no problem. "Both are just a short plane ride away." As for the cultural comparison, "Cleveland is cheap and affordable. It offers every thing New York or Chicago could offer, just on a smaller scale."   The 6,000-square foot event space will be adjacent to an art gallery, which will serve as a cocktail area for event attendees and showcase for resident artists. LaGuardia has fielded healthy interest in the event space but one date, September 19, 2015, is already booked—for LaGuardia's and Sinkey's wedding reception. Decisions such as buttercream vs. fondant, however, will have to wait. For now, it's all about bringing Lake Affect to life.   "Our success depends on what we do from here on out," says LaGuardia. "I'm excited to get to work and pound the pavement and get the word out about this place and fill it up."    

rust belt riders' waste-to-compost business on a roll with new customers, funding

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 12:00am
When Daniel Brown and his partners, Michael Robinson, John Stone and Mikey Ericsson, formed Rust Belt Riders last year, the purpose was to nourish their community garden. The soil needed to be enriched, and compost was the way to create a rich, growing soil.   “We were running a garden on E. 40th Street and St. Clair Avenue and we realized before we could grow anything with success we had to cultivate the soil,” Brown says. “A lot of gardeners in town are in the same situation. We realized that cheap, nutrient-rich soil was the common thread and that started with composting at home.”   With that, Rust Belt Riders was born in June. The group collects compost – fruit and vegetable peels and scraps, coffee grinds, tea bags, garden and lawn waste – from clients, who are given five-gallon buckets. The team rides bicycles around a 10 square mile area in the Detroit Shoreway, Tremont and Ohio City, picking up the buckets on a set schedule. Rust Belt Riders then delivers the compost to eight area community gardens. The company currently has 35 subscribers, with five more coming on at the end of the month. So far, Rust Belt Riders has collected more than 18,000 pounds of compost.   The concept is so innovative, it earned Rust Belt Riders one of 13 spots in the SEA Change Accelerator, a collaboration that supports social enterprise businesses, access to support services and mentoring and a chance to crowd fund through Kiva Zip, a micro-lending website. “We quickly realized we had no idea what we were doing running a business,” recalls Brown. “We thought it would be worthwhile to apply and get some business acumen going.”   Brown and his partners went through the six-week SEA Change program, learning about business law, accounting, branding and marketing and creating a business plan.   “We selected Rust Belt Riders as one of the twelve participants because they are addressing a clear social issue (waste reduction/sustainability) and have high commercial potential through two prominent revenue streams: waste removal and sale of compost,” says Mike Shafarenko, manager of community engagement, web and social media at ideastream. “In our mind, that is a recipe for a strong and sustainable social enterprise down the road.”    Now Rust Belt Riders are meeting with mentors Shafarenko, Bill Leamon with the Business of Good Foundation and assistant professor of marketing at Notre Dame College and Bryan Mauk of Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries.  The company is preparing for a "Shark Tank" type pitch competition with the other 12 SEA Change companies in January, in which the winning company can win $50,000.   Rust Belt Riders will launch their Kiva Zip campaign in the next couple of months. If they raise at least $1,000 in their fundraising, the Business of Good Foundation will match $1,000. The company is also eligible to receive some of the $50,000 SEA Change will award to some of the 12 finalists in the program.

'cluster economy' can create a critical mass of expertise in cleveland

Tue, 11/11/2014 - 12:00am
Greater Cleveland's workforce is highly educated, with 17 percent of its workforce boasting a graduate or professional degree. Demographer and urban planner Richey Piiparinen believes Cleveland can take advantage of those big brains through creation of high-density areas of expertise.

cleveland must get moving in the race to attract immigrants

Tue, 11/11/2014 - 12:00am
According to 2010 census figures, the city's population is just 5 percent foreign-born, less than half the nationwide average. This decade also witnessed our city's population slip below 400,000, a decline that advocates believe can be reversed by attracting newcomers, including immigrants.

become a part of soup: cleveland celebrates its second grassroots micro-grant dinner party

Tue, 11/11/2014 - 12:00am
There are various ways for Clevelanders to apply for grant money for creative projects, but few are as simple, community-driven or tasty as SOUP, a grant program designed for funding small to medium sized creative projects over a yummy potluck meal. Cleveland’s inaugural event began with 100 guests packed into the Ohio City home of Marika Shioiri-Clark and her partner and soup co-host, Graham Veysey. “SOUP builds excitement around community. It’s all about talking about great ideas over dinner,” says Shiori-Clark. The first SOUP event resulted in a $2,000 micro-grant to Rust Belt Riders, a pedal-powered waste removal company that delivers compost to local community gardens.   You’re invited to meet your Cleveland neighbors and pitch an innovative project to the community at SOUP, Vol. 2 on Thursday, November 20th. Pitches can range from fixing a pothole to funding a community art project to building sustainable housing.   Here’s how it works:   Attendees donate $20 (cash please) at the door, meet, mingle and bring a dish to share. Participants can submit proposals for community projects in Cleveland that they would like funded. Shiori-Clark and Veysey will pick about five projects to present at the dinner. Selected projects will have four minutes each to pitch their project during the dinner and four minutes to answer questions from the audience. Attendees vote anonymously during dinner on the project they think will most benefit the community. The entry donations are given directly to the winning project! Here are the details:   Thursday, November 20th, 6-9pm  St. John's Episcopal Church parish hall (the building on the left) 2600 Church Street, Ohio City   Please RSVP to clevesoup@gmail.com and include the dish you plan to bring. If you're interested in pitching a project, please also reply with “Cleveland SOUP Pitch” in the subject line by November 15th.    Below are four questions to briefly answer in your email if you have a project you'd like funded: 1. What is your project? (try to explain a tangible outcome you would be able to achieve with the money you would receive at SOUP) 2. How does this project benefit the Cleveland community? 3. What is your time frame for the project and how could you report progress/completion at a future SOUP dinner? 4. How will you use money raised from SOUP?  

cuyahoga county now the 'gold standard' for abandoned property reclamation

Tue, 11/11/2014 - 12:00am
Some of the most significant strides in Cleveland's renaissance come from the quietest corners, where people with rolled sleeves toil behind desks, taking on daunting challenges. While their accomplishments aren't often regaled with flashy grand openings and popping champagne corks, their impact is unmistakable.   Hence, when the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corp (or more commonly, the Cuyahoga Land Bank) quietly celebrated the passage of Senate Bill 172 earlier this month, few noticed. The legislation, which was authored by Douglas Sawyer, special projects and policy counsel for the Cuyahoga Land Bank and Gus Frangos, the organization's president and general council, is an important link in an ongoing effort that has catapulted Cuyahoga County from the infamous "ground zero" of the foreclosure crisis to a nationally recognized pioneer in expediting and processing vacant and abandoned property.   "Cuyahoga County is considered the gold standard," says Sawyer of the county's reputation as a leader in the area of abandoned property reclamation. "It's really a credit to the city and county. All of the different players realized how big the problem was here and have come together to try and tackle these problems."   SB 172 improves and streamlines processes previously established in House Bill 294 (2006). That legislation included a nationally groundbreaking alternative to the traditional judicial tax foreclosure process for abandoned properties: the administrative tax foreclosure hearing. The administrative process, performed by the Cuyahoga County Board of Revision, takes between six and 12 months, whereas the customary judicial process can go on for one or two years. Once a property is foreclosed, it is essentially cleansed of delinquent taxes and other financial encumbrances, and can make its way into "someone's hands that can do some thing good with it" by way of the land bank, says Sawyer.   The original 2006 legislation, however, allowed for any number of entities such as lien holders or banks to "move to dismiss"—essentially putting the kibosh on an administrative foreclosure—and sending the case back to the judicial system completely anew.   "That's not good," says Sawyer, noting that the county invests much preparation, due diligence and funding (approximately $1,500) into each administrative foreclosure case. SB 172 saves all of that, allowing the case to remain intact and simply transfer into the court system along with all the associated documentation.   Sawyer describes another thing he likes about SB 172. The legislation removes the obligation for a local municipality, county or county land bank to obtain permission from owners of properties that have been forfeited to the state--who are often difficult (if not impossible) to find--in order to assess those properties. He cites the tiny Village of Glenwillow.   "Glenwillow is getting onto a property that was forfeited to the state," says Sawyer. "They're doing some environmental testing and as long as there's not something really really bad on it, they'll pull it from the forfeiture list through our land bank and they're going to do some good things on the property." Without SB 172, he adds, "they wouldn't have any ability to do that."   Since its inception in 2009, the Cuyahoga Lank Bank has transacted 4,600 properties, demolished 2,960 and facilitated the renovations of 980. It currently holds title to 1,330 properties. A founder of the land bank, former County Treasurer Jim Rokakis, went on to create the Thriving Communities Institute, a region-wide effort to help revitalize urban centers by transforming vacant properties.   "We are really one of the leaders," says Sawyer. "If you want to be doing this kind of work, this is a great place to be doing it. This is the cutting edge."

forest city resource group aims to unite hispanic workers

Tue, 11/11/2014 - 12:00am
UNIDOS is a Hispanic resource group that strives to foster a diverse and welcoming workplace culture. The group aims to be the vehicle to pull in Hispanic talent from colleges and job fairs, a cogent point considering diversity is among Forest City's core values.

women's business center, food buggy program to launch in midtown cleveland

Mon, 11/10/2014 - 12:00am
After operating a successful Women’s Business Center in Columbus for the past two years, ECDI is about to open its own center in Cleveland. The women’s business center is designed to give women entrepreneurs the resources they need to get a business idea off the ground.   “Women start businesses for different reasons than men do,” explains Eric Diamond, executive vice president of lending at ECDI Cleveland. “The issue really is understanding the way women open businesses and the resources they need.  Men typically start businesses for wealth and power. We see women opening businesses for passion, creativity and to create a work life balance.  Also, we have found that men take the attitude of ‘go it alone’ when starting businesses, where women enjoy being part of a group of other women also creating their own businesses.”   With these factors in mind, the WBC created a center around women and the way they operate. Members of the business center have access to shared workspace, laptops and printers, while also accessing training and workshops, mentors and coaches and referrals to loans and grants. “We’re teaching women the big plans and strategies of an idea,” says Diamond.   The Columbus office recently received the SBA Award of Excellence and a five-year contract. Due in part to the organization’s outcomes and programs we initiated and the new programs planned. “Our Professional Advisory Network (PAN) connects experts in the community who volunteer time to assist members with their specialty areas, such as legal, marketing, and accounting,” says Diamond. “Programs such as those for women veterans, PEARL for formerly incarcerated women, and specialized training programs with proven curriculum are just getting underway.”   Diamond adds that testimony from members who regularly use the center for their office space meeting rooms, printing and computing needs also lead to the SBA recognition.   With the Columbus center’s successes, ECDI decided to open a similar office in Cleveland. “We figured out that it’s easily replicable,” says Diamond. The Cleveland Foundation recently awarded a $70,000 grant to ECDI, some of which will be used in the business center.   The Cleveland center, which will be located in Suite 620 of ECDI's current building at 2800 Euclid, will start with five entrepreneurs in a soft launch. If all goes well, ECDI will launch a full program in January with a four-week training program. Meanwhile, ECDI continues its involvement in the Cleveland Culinary Launch and Kitchen (CCLK). To help food entrepreneurs get their products on the market, the CCLK is considering starting a private label brand that would be distributed to area grocery stores.   ECDI purchased two food buggies – smaller, more affordable and portable versions of their much larger food truck counterparts -- last week to further help the food entrepreneurs. Participants would go through the CCLK’s food accelerator program and then have the opportunity to lease one of the buggies. “It’s a great way to test the market,” says Diamond. “It’s a great year-round business because you can bring the buggies into lobbies.”   The program would start in early spring 2015. Right now, potential participants are being identified. “If it’s going well, we will sell the buggy to the entrepreneur at a discounted price,” says Diamond. “Then we’ll go out and buy another one.”

all aboard the west side shuffle for a safe way to bar and restaurant hop

Mon, 11/10/2014 - 12:00am
Chris Tarr has a vision of uniting Cleveland’s west side neighborhoods into one large playground of great restaurants and tasty beers. The establishments already exist, but getting around safely, affordably and easily is another challenge.   After being stranded at Brew 133 in Lakewood during a snow storm last year, Tarr came up with the idea for the West Side Shuffle – a black school bus with a big white sign advertising the phone number to call to get on board -- that takes passengers from Lakewood to Ohio City and everywhere in between. The bus runs from 9pm to 2:45am on Friday and Saturday nights.   “I had this idea to unify all of these neighborhoods,” Tarr explains of his plan. “You should be able to go to any of the bars and restaurants in the neighborhood. People who live here love it here, and I wanted them to be more connected to the area.”   Tarr has been running the West Side Shuffle for the past two weekends, and by Saturday night he had turned a profit. “Saturday was fantastic,” he says. “We filled the bus two times. Some people called our number for a pickup; some people flagged us down on our route. People were very receptive, and everyone was nice and courteous.”   While Tarr rides the bus, collects the fares and mingles with the passengers, he employs a head driver, insured with a commercial driver’s license, and has two back-up drivers.   After two weekends, Tarr has already made some changes, based on riders’ requests. He is in the process of creating route maps, flyers and easier access to the Shuffle’s phone number – (216) 673-4222. He’s been working with some of the bars to create coasters with the number on them. Tarr also now allows riders to play their own music from their phones on the bus’ sound system.   While the normal fare is $4 cash or $6 with a credit card, Tarr has instituted a discount deal for certain bars. If riders are already on W. 25th, they can ride the West Side Shuffle to Porco Lounge and Tikki RoomPlatform Beer Co. or Jukebox for just $2.   As business grows, Tarr plans to expand service to West Park, W. 6th Street and W. 4th Street.

trailside homes in slavic village gains momentum as fifth buyer takes the keys

Mon, 11/10/2014 - 12:00am
Adding to a small but growing group of new Slavic Village residents, the fifth homebuyer moved into the Trailside Homes development earlier this month. Slavic Village Development Executive Director Chris Alvarado says the group of new homeowners represents the neighborhood and then some.   "This is reflective of the entire city," says Alvarado. "We're bringing folks in from the suburbs as well," he adds, noting that the newcomers are young couples and singles that have also come from Cleveland proper. They've been moving in since late 2013.   The newest resident discovered the project during a Rooms to Let event earlier this year, which coincided with an open house at Trailside.   The homes range from $119,000 to $132,000 and 1,155 to 1,367 square feet. Financial incentives include down payment assistance and 15 year tax abatement.   "These are all energy star homes," says Alvarado, with estimated maximum utility bills of $70 per month, which includes winter heating. "You're talking about less than $700 a month for all of your home expenses."   Construction of Trailside started in 2013, with work focusing on streets, infrastructure, connections to Morgana Trail, and construction of the first ten homes. The development could eventually include between 70 and 100 homes, although the next construction phase is still in the planning stage. The project has been in the works for years, and the developers hope that sales will now pick up.   Third Federal Savings & Loan has driven the project and owns the unsold homes and future lots, which lie north of the organization's 175,000-square-foot Broadway Avenue corporate headquarters.   "Third Fed financed the entire project," says Alvarado, adding that they started back in 2011 when "the market wasn't that great." He lauds the company's commitment to the neighborhood.   "The partnership with them is not just in terms of expanding their campus and building Trailside," says Alvarado. "They have a foundation that is heavily invested in youth development and working with the schools." Other partners on the Trailside collaboration include Zaremba Builders and Progressive Urban Real Estate. The Trailside project represents Slavic Village Development's vision for the entire Broadway/Slavic Village area, which offers a level of affordability that is largely unavailable in downtown Cleveland or trendier neighborhoods like Tremont. As the community slowly recovers from the devastation of the housing crisis, advocates hope that the neighborhood's assets will eventually drive growth.   "In order for us to stabilize the neighborhood and help people stay here and thrive, they need to have all the things that are a part of a strong neighborhood," says Alvarado, citing strong schools, youth programs and a "dense network of partners that work with one another so that whatever needs you have as a family, we're able to meet those needs and do it in an affordable way." Perhaps the most unique feature of the Trailside project is that it backs up to Morgana Run, a two mile bicycling and walking path. The Towpath is also easily accessible, and plans are in the works to connect the trail to downtown.   "I want to make sure that this is a neighborhood that is beautiful," Alvarado says, "and has all the services and amenities you could possibly want."  

i live here (now): daniel gray-kontar, teacher and artist

Thu, 11/06/2014 - 12:00am
Cleveland almost lost native son Daniel Gray-Kontar to California's charms. But this writer, poet, performer and father has come home and into his own as an educator and stalwart youth advocate.

local nonprofit celebrates 40th anniversary of building hope, peace and justice abroad

Thu, 11/06/2014 - 12:00am
The Cleveland-based nonprofit International Partners in Mission has worked on projects in more than 40 countries around the world. Last month, it held a weeklong series of events to celebrate its milestone anniversary.