MANSFIELD: Who Speaks for Hough?

Dunham Tavern

Cutting-edge thinking around the country in the world of philanthropy posits that foundations should consider jettisoning their “ivory tower” headquarters and move out into one of the communities where they are attempting to have a societal impact. The Cleveland Foundation is at the forefront of this new thinking, and accordingly, its board of directors has approved of an effort to relocate from its long-time location in the Hanna Building to east side of E. 66th Street, between the main thoroughfares of Euclid and Chester Avenues.

Let me state right from the beginning that my wife and I reside one block to the north, on E. 66th and Hough, and our vineyard and winery is located right across the street from our home. So to say that I have a dog in this race is a huge understatement. I’ve got real skin in the game.

Nonetheless, even if my wife and I had not been so farsighted in terms of site selection when we built our home almost two decades ago, the location the foundation has selected, immediately west of the historic Dunham Tavern Museum, is the absolute right choice since it’s almost exactly equidistant between downtown and University Circle. I did already mention how smart my wife and I happened to be 20 years ago when we selected the location to build our dream home, right?

But anyway, no good deed goes unpunished. While the board of directors of Dunham Tavern (which, by the way, is the oldest building Cleveland, built by Rufus and Jane Pratt Dunham in 1824 and used as a stagecoach stop on the Buffalo Stage Road) voted to approve the sale of part of a parcel of vacant land adjacent to the museum that it has owned for over a decade and didn’t have the financial wherewithal to develop, a few dissidents (one who actually had no standing since she is neither a board member or a financial supporter of the institution) opposed the sale of the property, saying that it should be used for a park for “the good of the community.”

Really? Since my residence will actually be a mere three houses from the foundation’s new home once it’s built, I suppose one could say that I’m a part of the community, but I don’t recall anyone reaching out to me or anyone else in Hough to discuss this issue. However, I did hear that the dissidents were collecting signatures in front of the Cleveland Heights Public Library on Lee Road to oppose the proposed project, which is a long way from my community of Hough.

But the fact is, there still will be enough land left over after the sale of the parcel to build the Foundation’s headquarters for a park, if indeed, that’s what anyone in the community so desires. But my question is, who in the community have any of the dissidents spoken with?

There’s a land-use theory of “highest and best use” for a particular parcel of land. In other words, what is the highest use for the most people? Utilizing that yardstick, the building of the foundation’s new home at the proposed location makes all of the sense in the world. It will jumpstart the redevelopment of an area of town that could complete the link between downtown and University Circle.

The opponents of the project demonstrate their complete ignorance of the area and its needs by stating that another nearby location could be used for the headquarters. Where? I know this stretch of land, this part of town, like the back of my hand, and there really is no comparable location within miles. The fact that these naysayers are invoking the words “for the good of the community,” thereby attempting to clothe their narrow-minded opposition in the raiment of concern for the black community, is sickening to the point of being disingenuous at best, and downright racist at worse.

From CoolCleveland correspondent Mansfield B. Frazier Frazier’s From Behind The Wall: Commentary on Crime, Punishment, Race and the Underclass by a Prison Inmate is available in hardback. Snag your copy and have it signed by the author at http://NeighborhoodSolutionsInc.

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