Partners go “All-In” on collaborative Clark-Fulton master plan

December 2, 2021 — A vibrant Clark-Fulton that embraces current neighborhood residents, amenities, and culture, strengthens and creates new community places and designations, and attracts new residents and businesses are the key tenets of a master plan that is the first-ever developed for this diverse near west side Cleveland neighborhood.

An aerial view of Cleveland’s Clark-Fulton neighborhood.

Five partnering organizations collaborated with neighborhood stakeholders over two years to create the Clark-Fulton Together Neighborhood Plan, which was approved by Cleveland City Planning Commission on Oct. 15. A community engagement process was launched just months before the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted business as usual, requiring the partners to be nimble, creative, and resolute in adjusting plans on how to receive meaningful public engagement.

Also approved at the Oct. 15 planning commission was RTA’s 25Connects plan. RTA is targeting a 3-mile stretch of West 25th for an enhanced bus-rapid transit line with development opportunities.

Three of those involved in these plans recently spoke about Clark-Fulton on Ideastream’s Sound of Ideas (SOI) program. They were Ricardo Leon, Executive Director of Metro West Community Development; India Birdsong, General Manager and CEO of RTA; and Greg Zucca, director of economic and community transformation for The MetroHealth System.

Not on the program, but part of the planning process, are Councilwoman Jasmin Santana, the City of Cleveland, and Cleveland Foundation.

Leon told SOI that putting together the master plan was two-plus years of hard work. Creating the plan and submitting it to the Planning Commission is just the start.

“The real work? Taking this playbook and making it into a reality,’’ he said. “I think we are hopeful that together we can continue bringing resources and interventions to the table that allow this community to grow and prosper and help those longtime residents of the community as well.’’

In 2018, Leon said Clark-Fulton had a windfall of opportunities, including MetroHealth announcing its $1 billion campus transformation and Mayor Frank Jackson selecting Clark-Fulton for his neighborhood transformation program. Leon said many partners thought they could accomplish so much more if they worked collectively.

Zucca agreed. “I think all too often in the community development space we come together to work on a specific project and then everybody kind of goes back to their offices once that project is completed,’’ he said. “We see this master plan as a starting point.’’

Transportation is a key ingredient in transforming the neighborhood, said Birdsong. “Transportation is and should be always considered more of an economic and community investment driver.’’

The West 25th routes are one of RTA’s largest boarding locations. RTA heard from Clark-Fulton residents that they want faster speeds, better connectivity, and more reliability,’’ with safety a concern as well.

Leon noted that 28 to 30 percent of the community residents don’t have access to a vehicle full time. “Having the ability hop on a bus and get into downtown in just 10-15 minutes is going to be a game-changer for folks,’’ he said, noting that RTA plans will help alleviate traffic congestion on 25th and Clark.

The West 25th Street Corridor and the diverse neighborhoods through which it traverses present some distinct opportunities and strategies for economic and community development on Cleveland’s near west side. MetroHealth’s $1 billion campus transformation is also not being done in a vacuum. There is a $60 million adjacent mixed-use development (housing, retail, and a workforce development center) and the nation’s first hospital led EcoDistrict, which calls for building a neighborhood using smart, inclusive, sustainable, and creative community development which ensures development provides a voice to people who live in the community.

Listen to the recorded program from Ideastream Public Media.