rustbelt road trip 2009



Itinerary in Brief

Cleveland’s Westside Market

Empowering and Strengthening Ohio’s People, Asheley Diaz

Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization, Matt Lasko

Professor Norm Krumholz, Cleveland State University

Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative

Organization Descriptions

Empowering and Strengthening Ohio’s People

ESOP uses direct action organizing tactics to produce results for community residents most affected by the issues at hand. Community leaders remain at the forefront of these efforts, as they are in the best position to create and implement effective solutions. While much of ESOP’s organizing is related to the foreclosure crisis, active campaigns are also underway in regard to payday lending, vacant properties, and the practices of local developers and brokers.

Foreclosure Prevention Advocacy:

  • ESOP works with homeowners and their lenders to obtain affordable resolutions that preserve homeownership. ESOP uses a Hot Spot Card process, through which homeowners complete documentation and provide financial information relevant to their case, and have the opportunity to make suggestions to the lender for a resolution.
  • ESOP foreclosure prevention advocates use the information obtained from the homeowner to negotiate with the lender for an affordable modification to the loan. Unlike most housing counseling agencies, ESOP has direct points of contact and formal agreements with many lending companies, which produces results in a quick and efficient manner.

Detroit Shoreway

DSCDO guides the physical, economic and social development of the neighborhood toward an improved quality of life.

The Neighborhood

  • West 45th Street to West 85th Street—40 blocks
  • 15,000 residents; 4,000 homes
  • Foreclosures and vacancies wave hit early in 2006, plateau in 2007
    • One of the first neighborhoods to bottom out, rebound earlier

Brief summary of Detroit Shoreway Projects:

Model Blocks Program

  • Under Neighborhood Progress, umbrella organization
  • Anchor project, huge investment to support and stabilize an area

Opportunity Housing

  • Partnership with Neighborhood Progress and Cleveland Housing Network
  • Provide $40k/house
    • Buy, rehab, subsidize price
    • Affordability component, homes sell for $75k
  • 150 rehabs, 300 demolitions
  • Foreclosure and prevention
  • ESOP (Empower and Strengthening Ohio’s People)
    • Create bank agreements

Third Party Rehab Program

  • Negotiate acquisitions and sales
  • First right of refusal
  • Keep local control
    • DS able to direct purchases to “good landlords”
    • 40 properties to date in 6 months
  • DS does not want to act as a flipper, direct projects, control shape of the neighborhood

Chase Westside Housing Center

  • Collaborate with 7 organizations to provide a realm of services for homeowners and create a Westside presence
  • Will also market vacant and abandoned properties

Gordon Square Arts District

  • $30 million investment to renovate the arts district
    • Renovate 2 theaters
    • Stabilize the neighborhood
  • Received City of Cleveland model block program funding

Norman Krumholz, Professor of Urban Planning at Cleveland State University, is former Director of the City of Cleveland Planning Commission and former President of the American Planning Association. He is the recipient of the 1990 National Planning Award for Distinguished Leadership by the American Planning Association.

Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative: The UDC is a community service organization with a professional staff of designers committed to improving the quality of urban places through technical design assistance, research and advocacy. Supported by the Ohio Board of Regents’ Urban University Program and the College of Architecture and Environmental Design at Kent State University, the UDC offers architectural and urban design expertise in the service of urban communities, design professionals, and the planning and public policy work of the state universities in Akron, Youngstown and Cleveland.


Our day in Cleveland spanned several different types of non-profits: an advocacy group, a CDC, an active-academic, and a wise sage who’s done it all. These meetings and tours around the city provided us with the beginnings of an understanding of the interworkings of the elements that come into play in combating challenges of Cleveland. What struck me was the different layers that were present and a lot of things that are going right there—however, without disparaging anything of the work there, there does seem to be a big need for horizontal and vertical collaboration.

The Advocates: Empowering and Strengthening Ohio’s People
Target: The System
Method: Direct Action, Day in Day out

After a great breakfast at the amazing Westside Market we headed to the offices of Empowering and Strengthening Ohio’s People (ESOP) to speak with Ashley Diaz and Jenelle Dame. ESOP is has a multi faceted campaign on foreclosures throughout Ohio. To say that they are targeting the system is an understatement. ESOP uses direct action advocacy to address foreclosures and to organize on vacancy and pay-day lending. They also work on foreclosure prevention through one on one mortgage counseling and targeting trouble lenders to sign agreements directed against subprime and predatory lending. Check them out.

The demand for the direct action that ESOP does far exceeds the staff and resources available; combating the cancer of foreclosure on a house by house basis covering the state that has been considered “ground zero” for foreclosures in the post-industrial Midwest is challenging and the issue is growing. To assist in the fight, ESOP has partnered with organizations like churches, block groups, individual homeowners, and farmer organizations to help legitimize their efforts to people not familiar with the ESOP name and to broaden community support. While natural partnerships have formed in some cities, some officials and community institutions see the issue has something “in the city,” despite the fact that foreclosures are jumping into the ‘burbs. ESOP’s regional level work is a testament to the challenge of a crisis like foreclosures: it jumps boundaries of politics, municipalities, race, and class and efforts to combat it must do the same.

Jenelle and Ashley’s work seems tireless; despite door-to-door advocacy, one-on-one counseling, and state and federal lobbying, a system that was structured to fail is still doing just that.

The CDC: Detroit Shoreway Community Development Corporation
The Target: Neighborhood Strength
The Method: Community-based Development Projects

Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization (DSCDO) sees the vacant lands scattered through the southwest Cleveland area as building blocks for a new way of approaching the neighborhood. Over foot-high burgers at the locally owned and operated Latitude 41 we spoke with Matt Lasko and Lilah Zautner about the organization’s history and their vision for Detroit Shoreway and for Cleveland.

DSCDO has many projects! One of the organization’s most innovative projects is the EcoVillage, an area withing Detroit Shoreway that is targeted for transit oriented, sustainable, mixed income community led design. Between pocket parks, more pervious parking surfaces, and energy efficient cottages, the EcoVillage is build neighborhood level opportunities that hold benefits city-wide.

IMG_0012Ten years ago, one of the people on our trip was taking a tour of EcoVillage before anything had ever been built. At that time, the tour guide said more than once, “Imagine a transit stop here….Imagine green homes that are affordable to residents who currently live in the neighborhood…” Well, it looks like a lot of people imagined and believed and worked to get this far. It speaks to the importance a patient, consistent, and forward moving comprehensive vision for a neighborhood that sees vacancies as assets to build from. These greening policies are building amenities for the city and by taking advantage of a “weak market” to create public spaces, organizations like DSCDO are making neighborhoods and cities better for the community.

The Active Academic: Terry Schwarz, Cleveland Urban Design Center
The Target: Vacant Structures
The Method: Pop Up Cleveland

Terry Schwarz is active in Cleveland. As the director of the Cleveland Urban Design Center through Kent State, her work in envisioning alternative design in cities Cleveland and cities like Cleveland has gained world-wide attention. After meeting with Leadership Pittsburgh Inc. and hearing about their plan for Pop Up Pittsburgh, we were so intrigued that we decided to go straight to the source when we were in Cleveland. Terry was a wonderful last minute addition to our packed schedule in Cleveland.

Pop Ups are “Temporary events and installations that occupy vacant buildings and activate vacant land in ways that shine a spotlight on some of Cleveland’s spectacular but underutilized properties.” Every Pop Up event, Terry explains, is intended to foreshadow a future design alternative. And while Pop Ups have multiple goals that future design alternative is part of a city-wide, long-term vacant land strategy. While that vision is still being formulated, it is clear that Pop Up events—as temporary installations—call for people to also imagine innovative long-term solutions.

‘That’s never going got happen’ because that’s what we always say! For one night we get people to think, ‘Maybe this can happen.’ A dent in the cynicism is worth it. One step at a time we change perceptions of the city.”

At one point Terry explained part of the thought process for these events and it seemed to me that this innovation that we keep seeing in every city is a product of extreme challenges. Challenges that force every person who walks in the city to rethink our systems and approaches to these challenges, but it’s difficult when you consider long standing ward politics, challenges of collaboration, lack of funding, you know the litany.

Terry’s vision helps Clevelanders and others who see these events begin that rethinking. She told us, “For so long people in P1010375Cleveland have said, ‘That’s never going got happen’ because that’s what we always say! For one night we get people to think, ‘Maybe this can happen.’ A dent in the cynicism is worth it. One step at a time we change perceptions of the city.”

What I saw in each of these organizations was a clear understanding of the system of challenges at hand and a commitment to creating a system of solutions. The challenges of Cleveland and of its neighborhoods, do not know city boundaries, do not know CDC or ward boundaries. What we heard in Cleveland and have heard in other cities is that old, institutional, and political borders are becoming less relevant in terms of the issues but their relevance in decision making has not followed. Neighborhoods, CDCs, city/suburban boundaries need to be thought of as opportunities for collaboration or efforts will be less efective. When I asked Lilah of DSCDO about regional aspects of the work they are doing she noted, “It’s a challenge changing people’s perception of the metropolitan area, let alone the larger mega-region.” But, the world we knew no longer exists and the full system at work here doesn’t believe in politcal or institutional boundaries. In some ways, we can’t either.

Note: Our group was also able to meet with Norm Krumholz. Dr. Krumholz is well-known for his work in equity and advocacy planning. He served as Planning Director in Cleveland for many years and has immense knowledge and wisdom not only on Cleveland, but on the over arching challenges of post-industrial cities. We were fortunate to be able to pick his brain. More will be written on our conversation with him in the next few days.



Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative

Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization


Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs, Cleveland State University


1 Comment »

  1. […] Cleveland […]

    Pingback by Rustbelt Road Trip! « rust belt road trip 2009 — 08/30/2009 @ 7:11 pm | Reply

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