by: Ed Zdolshek, City Fellow, CEOs for Cities //
The City of Cleveland is on the rise. Not just because its sports teams are winning championships or because the Republican National Convention brought an influx of economic opportunities and people into the city. But because the city is experiencing a revitalization in many of its neighborhoods that have long been dormant. Some of these neighborhoods have already begun their ascension, including Ohio City, Tremont, and the Flats. It looks like Slavic Village will be next.
Slavic Village, centered on East 55th Street and Broadway Avenue, was settled in 1796 by settlers who saw the fresh water source of Mill Creek as an opportunity to draw power to the new settlement. During the 1870s and 1880s the area saw an arrival of Czech and Polish immigrants who were brought to the area by the industrial opportunities it offered and thus, in return; influenced the neighborhood with their religion and culture. By the 1920s, commercial development in Slavic Village was rivaled only by Downtown Cleveland and the East 105th Street area.
Unfortunately, much like the rest of the city, from the 1950s onward Slavic Village saw many of its residents move out of this unique area and beyond the city limits towards the suburbs. Slavic Village was scrutinized in a 2007 Cleveland Magazine article citing its crime rates and abandoned homes caused by the late 2000s housing crisis as one of the reasons this once proud and prosperous area was searching for its identity. With many of the area’s proud former residents still visiting the local landmarks such as the Shrine Church of St. Stanislaus, Seven Roses Deli, and Red Chimney, the love of this neighborhood was still there.
The perception of Slavic Village started to change with the initiation of a home rehabilitation program and an Active Living program. Just over two years ago Chris Alvarado began his tenure as executive director of Slavic Village Development and continued these projects as well as implemented his own ideas and energy to the area. As executive director, Chris focuses on housing development, commercial and economic development and community development. In addition, Chris is in charge of ensuring the rest of his staff follows true to the mission statement of working with and for its residents, businesses, and institutions to promote civic engagement, community empowerment, and neighborhood investment.
A major project that is transforming Slavic Village is the $8.4 million Fleet Avenue Streetscape. The City of Cleveland is the lead for this project in addition to Slavic Village Development team who helps keep the project moving forward. After construction is complete by the end of the 2016 summer, Fleet Avenue will be the first complete green street in the city. The street will be lined with plants and flowers and will be able to serve all users including cars, bicycles and pedestrians. Additionally, Fleet Avenue is being constructed so that storm water will be retained to water green areas along the route.
Another goal of Slavic Village Development is to establish Fleet Avenue, East 55th Street and Broadway Avenue as a thriving commercial business district area. Marilyn Mosinski, who joined the Slavic Village Development team two years ago as director of business development believes this may happen sooner rather than later. A Slavic Village native and current resident, Marilyn is responsible for recruitment, expansion and bringing new businesses to the area as well as retaining businesses that already call Slavic Village home.
Some of the new businesses that Marilyn has helped usher into the area include Saucisson, which is a female owned and operated butcher shop set to open on Fleet Avenue by Christmas 2016. Another business set to open by Easter of 2017 is Campbell’s Sweets Factory, whose production facility will also be located on Fleet Avenue. Marilyn hopes the excitement and buzz of these new businesses will encourage some of the one hundred or so home based businesses already located in Slavic Village homes to take up commercial residence in the heart of Slavic Village on Broadway Avenue or Fleet Avenue. With the existing commercial buildings, at the intersection of Broadway and East 55th, predating World War I, the opportunity to provide the area with a nostalgic yet bustling village square will only aid in Slavic Village’s revitalization.
The Slavic Village is a unique area in the city of Cleveland in which one can experience an energetic Village Market that takes place every Monday this summer through August 29th from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm on Fleet Avenue at East 52nd Street. For those who like the serenity and beauty of nature, Slavic Village is also home to Mill Creek Falls, the tallest waterfall in Cuyahoga Country. Chris believes this natural landmark sums up Slavic Village perfectly, saying, “the waterfall defies expectations in the sense that an active environment can have such a beautiful and natural piece of nature tucked into the community.” Similar to Mill Creek Falls, the staff at Slavic Village Development is set on defying expectations that this once forgotten area of Cleveland will return to the prideful and prosperous neighborhood that Slavic Village is certainly capable of.