A photo of Janet Williams, president of the Shaker Lee Block Club, as she advocates for green space in the Lee-Harvard neighborhood and the May 23 Cleveland City Council Zoning-Development, Planning and Sustainability Committee meeting.
Janet Williams, president of the Shaker Lee Block Club, advocates for green space in the Lee-Harvard neighborhood. Credit: Cleveland City Council YouTube

Covered by Documenters Kellie Morris and Regina Samuels

The Southeast Side: Cleveland wants to invest $15 million of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money on the Southeast Side. The initiative would support neighborhoods that Mayor Justin Bibb’s administration says the public and private sectors have neglected. The city is honing in on Lee-Harvard, Mt. Pleasant and Union-Miles. The committee discussed three $5 million proposals for:

Leery of lending: The Cleveland City Council’s Zoning Development, Planning and Sustainability Committee advanced the three proposals. But some members expressed concern about projects relying on loans. Council Member Anthony Hairston asked why the city would provide more money for home repair loans than it would for rehab grants ($4 million to $1 million). Jeff Epstein, a city official, said the loans for home repair would be forgivable.

Other council members expressed skepticism about banks lending to residents to begin with. Council Member Joe Jones, whose Ward 1 includes Lee-Harvard, said residents often cannot get a loan to buy a neighboring property. Outside investors can, he said.

Council Member Kerry McCormack said systemic racism has influenced lending practices. He asked how the city can ensure these proposals are successful. “If a Ward 1 resident in three years still can’t get a loan, none of this conversation matters,” he said.

Progress starts with the city showing banks that it has a concrete plan for the investment, according to Director of Community Development Alyssa Hernandez.

Green space at Gracemount: Janet Williams, president of the Shaker Lee Block Club, made a public comment. Williams urged officials to maintain green space at Gracemount, a closed elementary school in Lee-Harvard. She also expressed concerns about traffic congestion.

Read the Twitter thread by Documenter Regina Samuels:

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Assignment Editor (he/him)
Doug, a Cleveland Documenter since 2020, has been a copy editor and reporter. His work includes: The Pace of Passage about how quickly Cleveland City Council passes legislation; a look at the challenges of the city’s Exterior Home Paint program; and University Circle Police Department’s complaint-review process. Doug has also written explainers and guides and launched #CLEDocsAnswers, which answers questions Documenters have about local government.