Clark Metro celebrates 30 years of community service

(Plain Press, May 2005) Clark Metro Development Corporation (CMDC) celebrated thirty years of community service at its annual meeting on Thursday, April 21 reminiscing about the past, outlining plans to tackle problems of the present and sharing hopes for the future.

Sixty people gathered at Gargano’s Restaurant  for the annual meeting. CMDC Board President Randy Buchko said that,  while reviewing newsletters from the past 30 years, he discovered many of the issues the organization was facing 30 years ago ring true today. Problems of thirty years ago included safety, security, road maintenance and efforts to get the community involved. Buchko said, “Clark Metro can shine a light on those problems and help people in the community fix them. We will work as hard as we did 30 years ago to fix the problems you are concerned about.”

CMDC Executive Director Steve Kruger said community development was equally as important as commercial and residential development. He said the number one priority of community development for CMDC is to “try to engage the community in getting involved in the schools.” He urged residents, businesses and stakeholders in the community to attend some of the meetings on school closings and to tell the school board what they thought.

Kruger then addressed the issue that was on many peoples’ minds, the recent closing of Tops grocery on Clark Avenue. He urged CMDC members to attend an April 28th 6:30 pm meeting at Redeemer Lutheran Church on Walton to discuss the issue. He promised that CMDC would work to assure that there would be some kind of supermarket at the Tops site.

Kruger highlighted some neighborhood successes. He noted that the pilot neighborhood security patrol, consisting of two officers walking a beat in the neighborhood, has already resulted in one thwarted kidnapping attempt outside the Dairy Queen on Clark Avenue before it reopened. The officers have also made several drug busts, said Kruger.

CMDC VP of Commercial Development Abraham Bruckman noted that in the 2000 census the 6 square mile Clark Metro service area was “the most ethnically diverse area in the State of Ohio.” He noted that there were 24 commercial projects over the past two years in the 6 planning areas of CMDC. He said nearby smaller neighborhoods such as Ohio City, Tremont and Brooklyn Centre have been able to target investment to make a visible difference. Bruckman said in a neighborhood as large as Clark Metro it is hard to make that kind of visible impact. However, he said, “This neighborhood will benefit from that same process.”

Bruckman cited the high amount of traffic along the W. 25th and Clark Avenue corridors as the reason for twelve national or regional franchises being located along those corridors. He said 26,000 vehicles travel daily through the neighborhood on W. 25th Street and 20,000 vehicles travel daily through the neighborhood on Clark Avenue. Bruckman noted that some of RTA’s most used buses traveled along W. 25th and Clark Avenues.

The crowd at Gargano’s erupted in applause when Bruckman stated one of the goals of the community-based planning process would be to change commuters’ impression of the neighborhood they are passing through. “This is the next neighborhood to change. It will not be the same as Tremont or Ohio Ctiy, but it is going to happen here, and it is going to happen here with us working with you.”

Patrick Christie-Mizell, CMDC VP Community Service, noted the home repair Helping Hands program available to qualified residents of Ward 15 and the technical assistance and home repair classes offered by CMDC.  He urged attendance at the upcoming Cinco de Mayo celebration on May 7th outside the US Bank building and noted there was a Ward 15 cleanup scheduled for May 14th.

CMDC VP of Housing Development John Fennelly said CMDC is constantly involved in code enforcement. With one of the highest foreclosure rate in the country, he noted, Cleveland has a lot of abandoned houses in need of constant attention.

Fennelly noted that Neighborhood Housing Services, Cleveland Housing Network and habitat for Humanity were all involved in building or rehabbing houses in the neighborhood this past year. In addition ,Fennelly said five market rate houses planned for Marvin Avenue are all pre-sold. Two have been constructed thus far, he said.

Ward 14 Councilman Nelson Cintron, Jr. and Ward 15 Councilwoman Merle Gordon both thanked CMDC for work on successful projects in their wards. Cintron explained his persistence in saving the Belkin Building on W. 25th and Clark Avenue after it was the victim of two fires. Cintron said he fought with City Hall to get funds for the partnership that is saving the building because he remembered reading in the Plain Press as a kid that the intersection of Clark and W. 25th was one of the few intersections in the city with the original buildings on each of the four corners.

A number of citizens were honored with awards. A new award, the Sandi Gerena Community Service Award was dedicated in the memory of long-time community activist Sandi Gerena, who passed away on December 7th.

Charles Cramer, a long-time co-owner of R.J Heating and Cooling Company on Clark Avenue, who passed away in March of 2005, was honored with the Board Member of the Year Award.

Rocco Oliverio received an award “for his dedication and commitment to the business and residential community.” VP of Housing Development John Fennelly called Oliverio the “eyes and ears of the community” and particularly praised him for watching out for senior citizens in the community. In accepting the award Oliverio praised the CMDC staff for their willingness to help residents tackle problems such as backed-up sewers, getting utilities turned back on and accessing city or county services.

George Hlakis of Soap Opera Laundry received the Commercial Service award. Community service awards went to Miguel Torres of Home Depot, Moises Cintron for the Puerto Rican Day Float, and Vicki Csornak of Cuyahoga County Children and Family Services. Housing Service awards went to Sue Ann Mackay for code enforcement and to Igor Kmits for rehab.

Two new board members were elected: Anthony Ripepi and Cynthia Jillek. Ripepi, one of the founding members of the organization 30 years ago, said he was “proud to come back as a board member.”


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