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A Welcome to Cleveland 

12-09-2015 17:35

Cleveland has made great strides since the National Trust held its conference in Cleveland in 1973. And, in fact, historic preservation has been a critical component of Cleveland’s rebirth because, the way we look at it, historic buildings are a strong point for our city, together with our lakefront. And our lake and our historic structures provide an incredibly strong venue that puts us at a competitive advantage because they give Cleveland character -- character that’s not found in some of the newer communities. For us, the federal historic rehabilitation tax credits and historic easements have been critical components of financing historic preservation.

We have also supplemented those initiatives with various financing packages at the local level. Now we have 22 historic districts, and within those historic districts we have designated more than 170 individual landmarks. And what that does is provide for the neighborhood a mechanism by which to review proposals for changes or new construction. When telling the story of historic preservation in Cleveland, you would find that the Catholic diocese has been integral in many places. There were neighborhoods where nothing stood but the Catholic Church, which stayed as the Polish church, or the Romanian church, or the Italian church. And that church as it was restored helped to restore the entire neighborhood.

Protecting Cleveland’s Historic Neighborhoods

When I was doing neighborhood development, I was the executive director of the Friends of Shaker Square. And we were dealing with a neighborhood that was an edge community between the cities of Cleveland and Shaker Heights, one of our neighboring suburbs. We believed it was possible to save Shaker Square, but it was really a community on the edge in the early 1980s. There was concern about white flight; there was concern about safety. But in the middle of that community was the second planned shopping center in America. So we got Shaker Square, the facility, listed in the National Register of Historic Places. We then created a national district followed by a local district, which gave us the tools to make sure that the neighborhood investments supported the historic renovation.

There was one developer who was absolutely sure he was going to make his mark and make his money by building double-wide trailers along South Woodland, right on the edge of a historic district. There were few open properties, but the ones that were developed were English Tudors. A double-wide would have been a problem. Under the city zoning code, nothing could be done because it was zoned single-family, and he was going to put double-wides in as single-family units. But because we had created a historic district, the neighborhood organization was able to use our neighborhood design review tools to say that a double- wide trailer was not the right thing to put there. He did not build it.

And, ultimately, a home for people who are mentally retarded and their caregivers was built on the site. But the facility is built in a way that it fits architecturally within the neighborhood. And so we were able to incorporate the kind of facilities that you do need within our neighborhood. That is a real story of why it is important to create historic districts, and how districts can really contribute to the absolute quality of life in communities.

If you tour Cleveland you will find that our historic districts are part of the liveliness of this community. If you go over to West 25th Street and see the West Side Market, you will see that West 25th Street has become a mixed-use neighborhood where we have apartments and retail and offices all functioning together, anchored by the historic market.

At Shaker Square, not only is the historic shopping center renovated but also the historic apartments. And renovation fever is now beginning to creep about four blocks down where there’s an apartment dwelling that was, frankly, problematic. It was built in the 1950s with lots of building, not much place for people, and a lot of chaos. And that building is now being rebuilt and downsized in order to fit within the neighborhood.

The changes came about because we were able to establish the historic district. So, for us, historic preservation has worked. Whether it’s the fire station, or the historic church, or the historic shopping center, we have strategically selected those precious buildings to save and to build around.

I’m delighted that you chose Cleveland as the place for your conference. I think you can see examples of success throughout our community. And I hope you will see them. And I hope while you are here, you will stay many nights and spend lots of money because, I’ll tell you what, we need all the help we can get in this economy. Thank you for coming.

Publication Date: Winter 2003

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Author(s):Mayor Jane L. Campbell
Volume:17
Issue:2

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