Even though Cleveland’s population continues to decrease, there’s no denying the city has made a comeback with vibrant neighborhoods attracting millennials and professionals.
Perhaps the next step towards the Rock Hall City’s revitalization is reshaping its image and perception within Northeast Ohio. That’s where the Cleveland Neighborhood Progress comes in.
The local community development funding intermediary, with decades of experience investing in community revitalization work in the city of Cleveland, has released its new book This Is Where I Live: Cleveland People and Their Neighborhoods.
The 127-page book, which was written by local author Justin Glanville and former Cleveland planning director Bob Brown, features short stories, articles and interviews all promoting city living. More so, it acts as a celebration of people and place in the city of Cleveland.
CoolCleveland talked to Cleveland Neighborhood Progress director of neighborhood marketing Jeff Kipp about the book.
First of all, tell us a little bit about Cleveland Neighborhood Progress.
We are a community development intermediary and really kind of what that means is we were created nearly 30 years ago by the major foundations in Cleveland to help set the agenda for neighborhood revitalization in the city of Cleveland. We’re funded primarily by the George Gund Foundation and the Mandel Foundation. We are intermediaries that offer support the entire pool of community development corporations located in the city of Cleveland. There are 27 of them. We’ll provide core operation support to them, a lot of training and capacity building opportunities, and then as a staff of 26, we also provide an array of services and programs around place-making and also economic opportunity for the city’s residents.
So how does the Cleveland Neighborhood Progress’ mission feed into the book?
Neighborhood Progress was an organization that worked on the physical environment of neighborhoods. So in place-making we worked on real estate, neighborhood greening and anything that’s going to beautify our neighborhoods. And then more recently, about four or five years ago, we created our economic opportunity package, which is all about the human capital side of the equations. Things with the understanding that we could build the most beautiful neighborhoods in the world, but if our city residents can’t thrive in them, then it’s not really doing them much good. So we do a lot of work to promote neighborhoods, their livability to get more people to come into our neighborhoods and spend their dollars and ultimately to live in the city. When you combine our mission with our marketing approach, that’s where this book folds in, because this is a phenomenal way to tell the story of people that are living in Cleveland. It’s like their little personal slice of life stories.
What was the criteria for listing people’s stories in the book?
We wanted to make sure we weren’t just telling the story of people who were “the celebrities” of Cleveland. We’re not talking to the top chefs or the professional athletes. We’re talking to the average, every-day people. It may be someone who is affluent. It may be someone who is poor. Someone with a master’s degree or never graduated high school. And it’s just the fact that — and it goes to the bigger sales pitch we put out for the city — every single street is filled with diverse, unique individuals.
Can you give us a couple of examples of people profiled in the book?
From Old Brooklyn, we feature Amy Pickel, who runs small start-up business, a tenting company, with her husband. It’s the story of them as a family, how they were living in the suburbs, opted to move into the city and have a perfect life for them. We have the story of Frank Austin who lives in the Slavic Village. He’s very active with the Boys and Girls Club. It really kind of outlines his typical walk that he does to and from the club every day. It’s about youth and the need for activities.
What role do you hope This Is Where I Live: Cleveland People and Their Neighborhoods plays for Cleveland Neighborhood Progress?
We feel through our other marketing efforts, we cover the neighborhoods really well if people are trying to find out information. We run the Live Cleveland Campaign. We produce an annual magazine that talks all about the A to Z of Cleveland neighborhoods. This is really a celebration of the people who are choosing to live in those neighborhoods and call those neighborhoods home.
What do you hope people take away from the book?
We’re a pretty complex community development group. We tackle a lot of very challenging issues, but this is really why we do the work — to help us tell the personal side of our story. So much of our work is really based on improving perceptions of urban neighborhoods and getting a better appreciation for those who choose to call the city home. Again, those trends are moving in our favor. We’re seeing a lot more people moving to the city, investment from new people, but we want to make sure people in Northeast Ohio understand and recognize and appreciate the fact that diverse communities, people of all walks of life, all skin colors, all religions and all income levels can happily coexist. And superficial judgment shouldn’t be made. And that’s what this book celebrates, the fact that these are all people living side by side with each other that have incredibly unique stories to share.