Councilman Santiago fails to give credit to
Clark Metro Development Corporation for W. 25th Street Master Plan

by Chuck Hoven

(Plain Press, January 2007) A curious contrast exists between two separate reports on the W. 25th Street master plan being developed for the portion of W. 25th Street served by Clark Metro Development Corporation (CMDC).

A headline in Trails and Tracks, the Fall 2006 newsletter of the Ohio Canal Corridor, boldly states “Clark-Metro Sets to Deliver New Vision/New Direction for West 25 Street.”

The first paragraph reads; “The Clark-Metro Development Corporation has begun the much-anticipated retail analysis and master plan for their portion of the West 25 Street/America’s Byway – from Brooklyn Centre/ I-71 to the south to Ohio City/ Columbus Road to the north.”

Ohio Canal Corridor, which helped to fund the W. 25th Street Master Plan along with two financial institutions, acknowledges  Clark Metro Development Corporation’s central role in developing the plan.

In contrast, an article the Winter 2006 issue of The Community Link, Ward 14 Councilman Joe Santiago’s newsletter, spotlights the same plan in an article “A New Vision for W. 25th Street”, but does not mention Clark Metro Development Corporation by name.

Instead, the article says, “Under the direction of urban designer Abe Bruckman, planning began this summer when the local community development corporation teamed with consultants Arkinetics to hold meetings with businesses and residential stakeholders from around W. 25th Street.” The article ends by giving the phone number of Abe Bruckman at Ohio City Near West Development Corporation, where Bruckman now works, and the number of Councilman Joe Santiago’s office as places to call “to find out how you can shape the new vision for the W. 25th Street Corridor.”

Elsewhere in the newsletter, Councilman Santiago’s column states, “My staff and I, along with urban designer Abe Bruckman, the local community corporation and Urban Design Consultants are working together on a neighborhood planning initiative that turns the vision of community residents, business owners, institutions, industries and area stakeholders into concepts for redevelopment for W. 25th Street.” The Councilman again fails to mention Clark Metro Development Corporation by name.

CMDC Executive Director Steve Kruger says the W. 25th Street Plan is a project of Clerk Metro Development Corporation.  Kruger said Abe Bruckman worked on the plan as a CMDC employee. The plan addresses part of W. 25th that lies in the CMDC service area and CMDC contracted with Mark Duluk of Arkinetics to develop the plan. Kruger says CMDC secured funding from two local financial institutions and the Ohio Canal Corridor to pay for the plan. He says no city funds were used to pay for the planning process.

Kruger noted that when Bruckman applied for his current position at Ohio City Near West (OCNW) he spoke to OCNW director Joe Mazzola about the possibility that he may need to assist Clark Metro in finishing the plan. Kruger said that Bruckman offered to finish the plan for a consulting fee. He said CMDC’s Board of Trustees had not yet decided to contract with Bruckman to finish the plan.

Ohio City Near West Executive Director Mazzola confirmed that Bruckman had spoken to him about finishing the plan for Clark Metro Development. He said it is not unusual for development corporation staff to work as consultants on outside jobs. Mazzola said he told Bruckman “to do whatever needs to be done.” Mazzola said he didn’t want to interfere with the completion of such an important plan. “Work needs to be done to finish the plan and he is the most qualified person to finish the report,” said Mazzola.

Mazzola said Bruckman’s role as Director of Real Estate Development at Ohio City Near West will be working primarily on the Lorain Avenue commercial strip and the area south of Lorain along the Lorain Avenue corridor.  Bruckman’s work will be part of a joint planning study for the Lorain corridor funded by the Urban Design Center. He said Bruckman is replacing Sheri Fointno, who went to work for the Greater Cleveland Partnership as Director of Physical Development.

Mazzola said he hadn’t seen the Councilman’s newsletter and is not sure how OCNW’s number got published as a place to call.

Councilman Joe Santiago defended his use of the OCNW phone number in his newsletter as a place to reach Abe Bruckman. Santiago said, “Abe Bruckman was the leader” in developing this plan and “he is going to finish the report.” Santiago said he is looking for funding to pay Abe Bruckman to finish the report. Santiago said, “When we negotiated for Abe to go to OCNW, we talked to Joe Mazzola about finishing this report.”

Mazzola said no negotiations took place with Santiago to hire Bruckman. He said Bruckman was hired because he was the best of a pool of applicants. He said that Councilman Santiago “didn’t know I was interviewing Abe. No one knew.”

Councilman Santiago said private funds to pay for the W. 25th Street plan have already been expended by CMDC and the organization does not have funding to finish the report. He said an additional five thousand dollars are needed to complete the plan by the January deadline.

Santiago says the $5,000 to pay Bruckman would go through CMDC. He said, “The board is well aware. We are working as a team to assure the plan is completed.” Santiago said he met with an executive committee of the board to discuss this.

Kruger says a board committee of Clark Metro Development Corporation did meet with Councilman Santiago. The purpose of that meeting was to present to the councilman a revised business plan for CMDC. He said the business plan included a cut in the executive director’s salary and was meant to show that Clark Metro Development Corporation was making a good faith effort to improve it finances and was willing to work with the Councilman to find money to support Clark Metro Development Corporation.

Kruger says Councilman Santiago was at the Clark Metro Development Corporation Board meeting when the committee reported back to the board as a whole. Committee members Bessy Brettos, George Holakis and Eric Louttit reported that they presented the CMDC’s revised business plan to Santiago. They reported that the Councilman said that at the beginning of 2007 he would look to see how much money was left in the Neighborhood Development Fund for his ward and get back to the Board of Trustees of Clark Metro Development Corporation. Kruger said the committee’s report focused on Clark Metro Development Corporation’s business plan. Funding of the W. 25th Planning effort was not mentioned in the committee report to the board.

 

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