Jeff tell about his family immigrating from Italy in 1890 and settling into an ethnic neighborhood. Later moved into what is now called the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood. Jeff talks about the different places he lived as a child including the Lakeview Terrace public housing. He moved to Detroit Shoreway after coming home from college. He likes the diversity of the neighborhood which has strong Italian, Irish, Gay and Lesbian communities. Through Judge Pianka Jeff joined the Detriot Shoreway Developement Co. He talks about all the businesses that used to be in the neighborhood.
Ramsey, Jeff (interviewee)
Heil, Jeff (interviewer)
Mark Souther [00:00:00] So, Jason, when you're ready I'll start it.
Jason Heil [00:00:08] We're meeting with Jeff Ramsey, who is the executive director of the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization. Good afternoon.
Jeff Ramsey [00:00:16] Good afternoon, Jason.
Jason Heil [00:00:17] I'd like to start off with... Could you give us some information on your background and things that brought your family to settle in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood?
Jeff Ramsey [00:00:17] Sure. My family on my mother's side... her paternal grandfather's family came from Italy, Calabria, Italy, actually Nicastro's the name of the city. Her mother's family were the Grecos and her- they moved here on West 67th Street in the 1890s. Her father's family is the Arcuris... Okay, reverse that. Her mother's family are the Grecos, and her father's family Arcuris. And they actually settled in the big Italy section off of Woodland Avenue in Cleveland. And the Arcuris are the family that I am very close to. It's a very close-knit Italian family. They... My grandfather married my grandmother in 1937. They rented a house on West 67th Street, north of Detroit from the Di Bello family.. was a, I think, the second floor of a two-family house. And in fact, they have a China cabinet that was left by the previous owner. It was- it's a beautiful China cabinet with carved wood that was left by the previous owner that I have since restored. It's important because it really belonged to my grandfather. They- my grandfather's family, his mother and father and my grandfather purchased a house on West Clinton Avenue. At that time was called Clinton Avenue in 1940. They were the second Italian family to purchase a house on Clinton Avenue. At that time, the Italian part of our community was predominately north of Detroit. There were two houses on the same lot. My great-grandparents lived in the front house with my grandmother's. My grandfather's two sisters, my Aunt Joan and Aunt Nancy and my Aunt Nancy's son, my cousin Frank. And then my grandfather lived in the back house and he raised his four children there; my grandfather and grandmother. And that really is what I regard as my childhood home. My mother is the oldest child and I was the first grandchild. And I have a very- still have very close relationship with my grandfather. He's 91 today. His birthday's in March but he's is 91 now. My parents lived right around the corner on West 58th and Clinton when I was born and my mother worked, so we spent a lot of time at my grandparent's house and it was a wonderful place. My grandfather built a sandbox for myself and my brother Mark. My brother's a year younger and going to my grandparent's house was like going to Disneyland. My grandfather had all kinds of different animals. He had beavers and raccoons and a turtle in the sandbox. He had a monkey. He had in his dining room 40 different bird cages. My grandmother liked to play pinball, so he bought a pinball machine that they put their dining room. So it was just a wonderful place to grow up as a kid. My parents were separated when I was young, so we- my mom and my brother and I lived at Lakeview Terrace, just public housing. At that time, I had no concept at all that we were poor. I mean, all of my needs were met and was a very happy family. And.. but today, that really has made me appreciate how important public housing is in providing affordable housing for low income families. My mother worked, so we were like many families today where there's a single mom with kids and providing good, safe and decent affordable housing is important for kids and growing up. The Lakeview Terrace was wonderfully designed. It's one of the oldest public housing estates in the country and the buildings were U-shaped and in the center of the U was a playground and the kitchens all face the playground area, so moms could make- be making dinner and watching their kids at the same time. And then the buildings that were all on a center courtyard lined with trees. And it was really a beautiful place to grow up as a kid. And like I said, I spent most of my time at my grandparent's house. At that time, there was no names of Ohio City or Detroit Shoreway. Ohio City is the historic name, but people really didn't start to mention that area is Ohio City until the '70s and Detroit Shoreway's name didn't really come about until the '70s. Also, our organization was founded in 1973. And my perception is that people kind of viewed this as the near west side area. They were very closely knit, very tight, tightly knit neighbors, neighborhoods, people knew all their neighbors on the street. In fact, Judge Pianka once joked to me his family lived on Clinton Avenue, too. My aunt had called the police on him. He was a paper boy and he was out delivering the paper too early in the morning. So he joked around once that my two aunts and his mother formed the Homeland Security before that concept was ever thought about. So as you know, everybody knew their neighbors on the street. It was a very close neighborhood where people walked, everybody. My Aunt Joanne is 10 years younger than my mom and she babysat us a lot as kids. And I remember her taking us down to Hermann Park. There was a wading pool with a fountain and playground equipment there. And we would walk over to Kings Hill and slide down the hill on cardboard. It was just a great place to grow up as a kid. My folks were moved to the suburbs when I was well, actually out by the airport when I was 7 and Parma Heights when I was 10, and I left when I was 18, went off to college. I went to high school at St. Ignatius, so I was very involved in the neighborhood and I am very close to my grandparents. So in high school on Fridays, I stopped at my grandparent's house on the way home and have dinner with them. And when I.. after I left college, I came back here when I was, I think 24 and lived at West 28th and Clinton and then bought a house on West 58th in 1987 and actually I got a job in Detroit Shoreway in the fall of 1987, and then bought my house on West 58th in the summer of 1988. And so I've lived here now in Detroit Shoreway for nearly 20 years and I've been back in the near west side for 25 years or something like that. And you know, I really just love living here. This has been an area that I think is so diverse and that's really one of the strengths of this neighborhood. People from all different signs of all different types of ethnic backgrounds, cultural backgrounds, people of all different kinds of income levels. I'm gay, and so it's important to me to live in a community that embraces diversity and where you can be openly gay and don't have to worry about it. You know, tolerance is important to this neighborhood and we just respect each other as neighbors and try to treat everybody as an individual. And there is a fairly good sized lesbian and gay community here. The chairman, my board, is openly gay. That's just a coincidence. But, you know, it's like no big deal. We're just other members of the community. The Lesbian Gay Community Center is located in our building here. The Gay People's Chronicle is in our neighborhood. They publish; they have an office here. So but we also have the first Mexican-American club founded in the state of Ohio. Club Azteca was founded 70 years ago. Now it's more Puerto Rican and a variety different Hispanic groups. But, you know, the roots go way back. We have the Vietnamese Community Center here, is located at the Gordon Square Arcade, the Vietnamese Buddhist temples on Franklin Boulevard. The Vietnamese Catholics worked- worship at St. Boniface at the Stockyards neighborhood, just a short drive away. We still have a very strong Italian community. They worship at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church and an Irish community that Irish Catholics at Saint Coleman's Church. So diversity is a real important part of what we do in our neighborhood, important component of our neighborhood, I should say. In terms of housing, there's been a lot of... But I'll just pause for a minute and let you... Okay. You know, part of that diversity is maintaining the character of the neighborhood as a mixed income neighborhood. We... this Detroit Shoreway is one of the hotspots for new construction in Northeast Ohio. Cleveland is... The Cleveland area is a weak market city. Our region is not growing. But, the city of Cleveland has led the entire region and housing starts often during the past 10 years. In this neighborhood, Detroit Shoreway, and near West Side, Ohio City Tremont have led the city of Cleveland. So this near West Side Market is one of the strongest areas for new construction of market-rate housing in the entire region. And that's a good thing. The flip side of that is that it's driven up housing prices and made it unaffordable for low income families. So we want to preserve the character of this neighborhood as a mixed income community. And projects like, we had a groundbreaking for yesterday, an 85-unit affordable housing project are really important to offer choice to low income families. There is a buzz word and community element these days. It's called Creating Neighborhoods Of Choice. We want to be able to offer that choice for low income residents to choose to live here if they want to, and to hopefully ensure that people are not being forced out because they can't afford it. You know, some of the cultural diversity continuing on that theme that you'll see in the neighborhood; Minh Anh Vietnamese restaurant, the Harp Irish restaurant just on the other side of West 45th Street. There is Rincon Criollo, which is a Puerto Rican restaurant, Ferris Steakhouse at West 87th. Actually, in that Cudell neighborhood just across our service area boundary, there are two Lebanese owned- Lebanese family and Ferris's has the best steaks in Cleveland, in my opinion. Snickers is a gay-owned restaurant but that caters to a lot of different people. We have an Irish pub opening down the street at the Ballycroix [provisional name for what was ultimately named Stone Mad Pub] that will have a bocce ball court, so... as well as a restaurant. St. Helena's Church across the street, Romanian, there's still a very strong Romanian community here. This neighborhood at the turn of the century had the second highest Romanian population in the world outside of Romania. There's a... They left a rich legacy of architecture in and around the neighborhood. The St. Mary's Church on Detroit was built... It was a rivalry, neck and neck, to see who would build it first. St. Mary's, which was Orthodox, and St. Helena's, which I believe is Byzantine. The Romanian churches and I think St. Helena's was built first 1906, 1907. The St. Mary's is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was a small village church. It's part of the Gordon Square Historic District. That's the National Register Historic District and also a Cleveland landmark district. St. Mary's moved to... on Warren Road in the '50s, and the facility now is part of our... it's slated to be part of the expansion of the Cleveland Public Theatre campus. The Romanians also left the Romanian Press building at West 57th and Detroit. The Romanian Savings and Loan was originally located at West 55th and Detroit. Later, the name changed to Pioneer Savings and Loan, and there across the street, Carpatina Hall on West 58th, which is now the Fraternal Order of Police Hall. So there's a lot of wonderful architecture left here from the original Romanian settlement. What's really interesting is that now there's been another wave of Romanians coming here during the past decade as the communist countries have opened, former communist countries have opened up. And I live on West 64th Street, one block away and I'd say about half the street are Romanian families, a lot of younger families that have children and their middle income working families. So it's nice to see families with children in our neighborhood. Oftentimes that's not the case. Most of the people buying the new construction are either singles and couples 25-45 with no kids or empty nesters coming back to the city. So it's great to see families with children purchasing homes in our neighborhood. So it's a little intro; I'll take a break here. Let you ask your questions.
Jason Heil [00:12:38] Ok, you talked about all the cultural diversity. Is that what brought you back to the neighborhood?
Jeff Ramsey [00:12:43] It's one of the things for sure. Absolutely. But I wanted to be close to downtown. I want to be where the action is- the hotspot. And I think that's what brings a lot of people to our neighborhood and to the near west side is just the feeling that this is where it's at. You know, the suburbs, in my opinion, are oftentimes the strip mall architecture, the tract housing is lifeless and spiritless. And so, the community here has a character and a texture to it that you can't find in the suburbs. You know, I shop every.. plus the amenities that are here. I shop every Marc's [on] Saturday at the Westside Market and I love it. You know, the fresh produce and just the experience and being in a European-style market hall and I pay half of what you pay at the grocery store for good, quality fresh produce and meats. I walked Edgewater Park in the summer. We've got a beautiful bike tunnel that has public art on both sides of the entrance and mosaic tiles. And you know, where else can you walk to the lake? There's not too many places that people can walk to the lake in the Cleveland area. So there's lots of wonderful things here. And just the fact that there's a lot of historic architecture, too, that's another thing that I've been attracted to and that I really like.
Jason Heil [00:13:56] [inaudible] Edgewater Park a little bit. Do you have any fond memories of growing up, going to Edgewater Park?
Jeff Ramsey [00:13:57] Oh, sure, my dad was.. played in a baseball league and they had their games down at Edgewater Park. I remember going there to watch him play. The fireworks in the summertime was always a lot of fun to be able to walk down there and watch the fireworks. My aunt would take us to swim at the beach. So yeah, it was a great place to go. You know? And it still is, it's a huge resource for people [who] live here.
Jason Heil [00:14:30] You were part of... You worked with Progressive Urban Real Estate for a while. Can you talk about how you got started with that, and some of the goals that they came up with?
Jeff Ramsey [00:14:42] Sure. Well, I was in my 20s after I got out of college, was a young partier and I was turning 29 and finally realized, "well, you know, I better get serious about getting a career. I'll be turning 30 soon- 30 soon." So I started praying and I asked God to direct me and use my talents and abilities. And I prayed for a year and a half, and about a year through that period, I decided to become a realtor. And I started with Progressive Urban Real Estate and they were young [a] company in Tremont. And they were, you know, their ads in the old Cleveland Edition, were fun. They poked fun at the suburbs and they were humorous. The person who actually put their ads together, Charlotte Pressler, is an English professor and they were just really wonderful, witty ads compared to suburban ads, which would say, you know, "Dollhouse, must see!" that kind of crap that you.. non-creative people. Charlotte was- Charlotte was a very creative person. So that's what attracted me to Progressive. And plus there office was here on the near west side. This is where I wanted to be and the kinds of houses that I want to be in. I like old houses and I like working with people. So I really didn't know what to do for a career. I got a real estate license and started working with Progressive and I loved it. One couple that I had sold a house to, and the people that I worked with were, you know, houses at that time were selling for $10,000, $20,000. So, you know, it wasn't people. It was young people who wanted to be in the city, but also, you know, working people who couldn't afford a lot. And I had sold a house, had signed a purchase agreement with one family to buy a house for $20,000. But the bank denied it because the appraiser said that the bathroom was off the kitchen and it was functionally obsolete. So it really made me mad because this was a house in good condition this family could afford and it was a fine house. At that time, there was a practice called redlining, where banks didn't want to lend money in urban neighborhoods and they would take a map of the city and they would literally draw a red line and say, we won't lend in this area. So the city of Cleveland was considering legislation called the Bank on Cleveland Ordinance. It was sponsored by Ray Pianka, who was at that time the councilman. He was the founding executive director of Detroit Shoreway, and by Jay Westbrook, the councilman for Ward 18. And what the Bank on Cleveland Ordinance did was the city put had a half billion dollars every year that they put on deposit with banks. They want to put that money and reward banks that were lending in the city. So I went to testify at this hearing, and the councilman Pianka liked what I had to say, and I met him afterwards and we talked and he told me about a job opportunity at Detroit Shoreway. And so I started here full time in November of 1987. And that's when I really knew that my prayers had been answered. And, you know, I viewed this job as a calling and I felt that I was called and really had been planted here. And it's now 18 years since I started. My first job responsibilities- my title was the Ward 17 development specialist with a very small staff, six people. So I did Stauffer Innovation and community organizing with block clubs and home repair and merchant outreach. It was, you know, a lot of work, but I got it. I really learned every job within the organization. I was promoted in 1990 to become the project manager heading up a real estate department. I was the real estate department and I didn't know beans about real estate development. I had experience in real estate sales, but I went to lot of specialized trainings from the National Development Council. I took Urban Development Finance at Cleveland State and brought my skills up to speed. And we took on some small projects and then gradually began to build steam. And I think that people acknowledged that Detroit Shoreway's real estate program is one of the most successful of any CDC in Cleveland. And we really changed the real estate market. I became the assistant director in 1995 and then the executive director in 2003. So part of our work in using real estate as an intervention tool was to stimulate the real estate market. And I want to stress before we start talking a lot about real estate and housing development, we are a community organization. Real estate development is a tool that we use to achieve our mission. We're not real estate developers. We are real estate developers, but it's really- it's the purpose of it is to achieve our mission of creating change in the community. In the 1990 census, the median sales price in the neighborhood was $16,500. People couldn't sell their homes. They couldn't get appraisals to borrow money, to do home repair if they wanted to. And certainly nobody was building new housing except for Father Marino of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, who was a visionary and just a wonderful man. The.. so that was our job, to kind of stimulate this real estate market. So we did a number of new housing projects, Tilman Park on West 49th and Tillman. We started the planning work in the mid-90s and began construction. And this.. I think this in 1997.. completed construction in August of 1998. At that time, Franklin Green was the first new construction on the near west side in the Ohio City neighborhood. The average price was $135. So we were being very aggressive and our base- we thought we're being aggressive with a base price of $150.99. At closing, the average sales price was $200,000. So that tells us that we really undershot the market. And it confirmed 2 studies that Professor Tom Buyer had done at Cleveland State. Professor Buyer, one of his studies said that there is a demand for upper income people, but not enough housing to meet that demand. The right type of housing. So this is the success that Tillman Park confirmed that. Tillman Park was the first project to have roof decks in the city of Cleveland, taking advantage of the lake and downtown views. Today, those units are reselling between 250 to 300 thousand. The success of that project is that it created a market for new housing in the neighborhood. Professor Buyer did a second study identi- in the early 90s identifying the top 10 sites in the city of Cleveland for that development. And this area north of Detroit, which we call the Bluffs, was selected as one of the top 10 sites. It's called the Bluffs because Detroit Avenue is a ridge that- the hillside runs down towards the lake. So you get wonderful views looking out over this hillside. Since the completion of Tillman Park, we've had a lot of new housing- 400 housing units in the past decade. Most of that was done by the nonprofit Detroit Shoreway or our sister organization, Lasko Housing. That's the development arm of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church that Father Marino founded that built the Casa Belvedere on West 69th and Father Caruso Boulevard. That- so again, the two nonprofits built the housing in the 90s. Today, we have 500 housing units planned or under construction right now. It took 15 years to get 500 housing units built to be rehabbed. Right now today, there are 500 units planned or under construction and almost all of it is by the private sector and it's being built without subsidy. So we did our job as a nonprofit to stimulate the housing market and create private sector investment. So we have reexamined- are taking a look at that and are focusing our resources on creating affordable housing, because we don't really need to do market rate housing. There is the western third of our neighborhood, the Weed & Seed area, that is still a weak market area. We're meeting prices around $35,000. So there the appropriate intervention is to do market rate housing. And we have a grant from the city of Cleveland Housing Trust Fund to build and rehab new housing in that area.
Jason Heil [00:22:49] When I was looking on the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization website, it said the mission is.. it guides physical, economic, social development of the neighborhood tours, improve toward and improve quality of life. Can you hit on the physical? You hit on the economic a little bit in the social development; and how the organization works to guide the physical and social development?
Jeff Ramsey [00:23:15] Well, we talked a little bit about the physical, too, with new housing, but some of the things like the bike trail, getting that connection here, we've got this great resource in Lake Erie and Edgewater Park, but no way to get to it. So the bike tunnel was very important to make that happen. I think the Campbell administration was very visionary in creating the Lakefront Plan and we very much supported that and helped us convene community meetings to get the community's input on it. And that's going to radically change the dynamics of this neighborhood. There'll be 4 new streets cut in to connect with the new boulevard. The Shoreway was actually built around the turn of the century- was called the Edgewater Parkway. And it was a park road. It was a road to get people from the city to Edgewater Park. And so converting it back to a boulevard, 35 mile per hour really is returning it to what it was meant to be. And the 4 new streets will help to provide access for people in our neighborhood to get there and really continue to help support our housing market. Physical development; we look at the Eco-Village. The Eco-Village, the national model, to teach about green building and sustainability. How can we do development that respects the environment? So incorporating energy costs, energy efficiency, recycled materials, materials that promote health- human health like nontoxic carpeting that doesn't emit toxins or paint that don't emit toxins. Those are all things that the Eco-Village has helped demonstrate. The first new construction project in the Eco-Village; Detroit Shoreway built Eco-Village townhouses. The homeowners heat and cool their units for 40 bucks a month. So, you know, that's, I don't know, four or five hundred bucks for a year. Some people pay that in a month for [a] gas bill. So it's really teaching people and new developers a new way to do development. And during the construction period, thanks to support by the Gund Foundation, the Cleveland Foundation, we were able to host a lot of educational seminars in cooperation with the Green Building Coalition that taught architects and developers, CDC, other nonprofit developers how to incorporate green building and sustainability. And now I think Cleveland really is, from what I understand, leading the country in many regards in green building and sustainability. And in fact, the city now has a sustainability director Andrew Watterson, who was actually an intern here at Detroit Shoreway when he was getting- when he got out of college. So that's one way we look at physical development. The R.. convincing RTA to build a new.. our rapid station. They wanted to close that rapid station because it had the lowest ridership on the west side- second lowest ridership. 65 people a day were riding the red line at that stop. The other, the lowest was at the Tri-C stop where there is, I think, 30 people a day that board. We had a community meeting, and we turned out 150 people at the basement of Saint Colman's Church. And RTA said that's the biggest turnout they'd ever had. And we convinced them that people would ride the rapid if they made a station that was safe and attractive. And RTA was a wonderful partner. They incorporated green building into the station; it's glass enclosed. People feel safe. It's a heated environment, so people waiting for trains aren't out in the weather. And we did a survey recently; counted the numbers of riders boarding the train. And there were 350 people that use the train a day. So, you know, it really confirms that people will use public transit if it's, you know, in a safe environment that's helps them to stay heated and warm and all that stuff. So, and the reason that the station is important is that it's also an anchor for Lorain Avenue in the Eco-Village. We're trying to create a- it's called a Transit Oriented Development, using public transit as a catalyst to fuel development around that area. Across the street is Zone Recreation Center. Again, people look for quality of life when they move to a community. Zone Rec is named after Councilman Matt Zone's father, Michael Zone, who was the councilman here for many, many years in the 60s and early 70s. He passed away in office in 1974 and his wife, Mary, Matt's mother, took over his council seat. And so Mayor Voinovich, when the city wanted to build- decide to build a rec center there, asked to name it in honor of Michael Zone. And the plans are now today to invest for it. We've just completed a planning study for the Zone Rec Center to put over four million dollars of improvements into it; recreation combining the best and passive green space preservation. So on site, there will be stormwater retention ponds instead of putting all that stormwater back into our sewer system. You know, our sewer district is spending a billion dollars, a billion, putting money into new storm sewers. You know, you'll go out to some suburban shopping centers and you look at the sea of asphalt and think of why are we paying for these shopping centers to do that? So this is again, educating people in a different way to do things as well as creating an recreational amenity. There'll be new baseball diamonds and tennis court and picnic areas and all kinds of things. So it's gonna be a state of the art rec center. You know, you hear about rec centers in Westlake, in Middleburg Heights and other places. Well, we in the city, we want quality rec access to recreation, too. So this is what we have to do to compete. And I'm really glad that under Matt Zone's leadership, we're moving ahead with that. So that's kind of physical development, quality of life. The.. our plans for the Detroit Avenue streetscape in the Gordon Square Arts District; one of the great things about living in the city is that it's walkable. It's pedestrian friendly. You out to some suburbs, they don't even have sidewalks or lights. You know, here you can walk anywhere you want. And we are.. have secured funding with Matt Zone's work to redo the Detroit Avenue streetscape. In a 4-block stretch, we're actually narrowing the streets. The parking lanes will be narrowed 2 feet on either side. And that enables us to expand the sidewalks, put in street trees. We're going to get all the wiring underground, put in historic lighting, public art. So it's going to be a really beautiful, attractive, pedestrian friendly district. And the streetscape improvements will extend all the way from West 58th to West 75th. The narrowing part is just in the 4-block stretch, but Trade Avenue is going to be a beautiful street. So economic development; our plans for the arts, the Gordon Square Arts district. This neighborhood was built up right around the turn of the century and the Gordon Square Theater was built in 1911. It was originally built as a repertory theater, and then became a vaudeville theater and later a movie theater. Today, it's the oldest standing theater in the city of Cleveland; predates the Playhouse Square theaters- were built in the 20s. The Gordon Square theaters owned by Cleveland Public Theater, and it's their main stage where they have their bigger shows. They also own a building next door, which was at one time, McLaughlin Stance Hall later became an Irish American club. The second floor that they have there, a black box seat or the James Levin Theater. The ground floor is a really fine bookstore. The Capitol Theater is here in part of the Gordon Square Arcade complex. It was built in 1920 as a 1,200-seat movie theater. We planed to redevelop it as a 4-screen theater featuring art and independent films and then finally near West Theater, they currently perform in Ohio City. They're more of a mainstream community theater with a mission to helping empower young people through the theater arts. They plan to build a new auditorium at West 67th and Detroit. So the three organizations are partnering on a capital campaign. And including the streetscape, this is a 20 million dollar effort. So that's economic development, physical development, quality of life. You know, you can't just pick and choose one thing over the other. And I think that's one of the strengths of Detroit Shoreway, is that we've been able to help improve the neighborhood a number of different ways. Steps to a Healthier Cleveland is an initiative by the Cleveland Department of Health. We're very honored that they picked Detroit Shoreway as one of the organizations to participate in that program. So it's.. there are a number of different initiatives in there to help people stop smoking, addressing diabetes, asthma through education, healthy lifestyle initiatives. So those types of things are really important. It's not just about bricks and mortar. It's about the people who live here and helping to create a good neighborhood.
Jason Heil [00:32:03] We've had pretty much hit on all the questions that I had.
Mark Souther [00:32:09] I have a few questions I'd like to add and they are rather wide ranging or subtle things here and there. You said that I wanted to know a little more about. For one thing, I just want to go back to the naming of Detroit Shoreway. It strikes me that one of the interesting things about neighborhoods and urban development over time is how people conceive of the place and how that changes over time. So it interested me to hear you say that Detroit Shoreway and Ohio City were names that, well Ohio City was a forgotten name. Detroit Shoreway was something that didn't exist. And it was over on the West Side. How responsible was the Detroit Shoreway CEO for giving the sacred name Detroit Shoreway? Where did that name come from?
Jeff Ramsey [00:32:55] It came from Detroit Shoreway- from the organization. This neighborhood in the '60s had the second highest number of people who walked to work in the state of Ohio. There was Ever Ready battery company, Westinghouse, Otis Elevator. A lot of... American Greetings. A lot of major employers were here. Well, those factories were built around the turn of the century along the railroad line that runs along the northern edge of the neighborhood. That railroad line was the second real world line constructed in Cleveland; was the lakeshore southern Michigan. Along the southern end of our neighborhood was the first railroad line, the Cleveland Cincinnati Columbus line that runs along where Trina Avenue is today, approximately where I-90 is right below I-90. So along those railroad lines came factories; next to the factories were workers' housing. Well, these factories were built at a time before the automobile and so land was very scarce and they built up. Well, those vertical buildings don't work as factories today, you know, with labor cost. You know, it's not affordable to take raw materials off of a train car, put it on an elevator, ship it upstairs and then do the same thing in reverse. So the factories were functionally obsolete, so the jobs were leaving the neighborhood, and that's what created the need for an organization like Detroit Shoreway, and really focusing on this industrial base here north of Detroit. So the name came from the two streets that bounded the area: the Shoreway and Detroit. Not a terribly creative name, in my opinion. I would prefer something a little bit more historic or that related to the topography of the neighborhood. The commercial district is known as Gordon Square. West 65th was originally Gordon Street, but that's the name we have and that's how the area became named in the early '80s. The service area boundary was extended south of Franklin Boulevard and then in the early '90s, South I-90. And that's where our service area boundary is today, from the Shoreway to I-90 from West 45th to West 85th. We're about two square miles, a population of about 17,000 people.
Mark Souther [00:35:15] Also changing gears a bit, some people might argue that with the built environment of Cleveland and all the many old houses on the West Side, why build new construction, why not focus efforts on renovating and restoring? What would you say to people who might have that?
Jeff Ramsey [00:35:38] Well, I don't like to view things as either or, you know, I think there are the need to do both. One of the wonderful things about our neighborhood are the fact that we have a lot of wonderful historic architecture. And so historic preservation is one of the core values of our organization. And we try to rehab historic buildings whenever we can. Detroit and West 65th is one of the only intersections in Cleveland. I can't think of any others actually that have all 4 original buildings standing from the early 20th century, so it's.. and we've.. Detroit Shoreway has purchased and rehabed 3 of those buildings. We sponsored the initiative to create the Gordon Square Historic District and also to create the Franklin Boulevard West Clinton Historic District. So historic preservation is very important. At the same time, many people want new construction. They don't want to live in an old house. And some of the housing, frankly, that was built years ago was not the best quality housing. It was built for working class families and so was- some of them were shacks and they were not well constructed, but third basements. And frankly, they need to be demolished. Additionally, you know, Cleveland being the fourth city, the homes were all built out of wood. And as disinvestment occurred, some of the homes had deteriorated to such a point where they really can't be salvaged. So we need new construction to meet the needs of modern consumers who want that type of a product. You can't get a roof deck on a historic house. And that's one of the things that people want to buy. What I'll say is that most of the new construction of that sort, that has been built has been built where former factories, industrial sites or on vacant land, so it's totally appropriate that we do it. It is the law supply and demand, though. You know, we had a groundbreaking yesterday for 85 affordable housing units that we're doing here on Detroit Avenue. We contacted the media and got a lot of good media turn out but when I called the Plain Dealer. They told me, "well, we don't cover groundbreakings typically." And yet in yesterday's Plain Dealer, I saw in the business section on the front of the business section, I saw an article about the Coral Company, Peter Rubin's plans to build a hundred and twenty two new units out of Crocker Park. So, again, it's that focus of suburban development that I think the Plain Dealer continues to look at and a lot of the media does, frankly. And we need to educate consumers about choices that they have and given, helping to increase that awareness and given the choice, we're seeing that people are choosing to move back to the city because of what we have to offer here. So, again, to answer your question, I think it's not an either or we need to do both.
Mark Souther [00:38:13] Also with the streets, streetscape renovation of Detroit Avenue, is there any danger that this could become sort of a Disney-vibe or Legacy Village-eque?
Jeff Ramsey [00:38:28] No, because this is the real deal. This neighborhood was built from 1890 and 1920. So these are the original buildings. And what we're doing is preserving and restoring the character of this neighborhood. So it's not going to be that exactly, as you mentioned, Mark, a Legacy Village or Crocker Park. This is the real deal right here.
Mark Souther [00:38:52] One other question involves the diversity of the neighborhood, you mentioned the remaining community in the St. Mary's Church, for example, which you mentioned moved to Warren Road in the 1950s. I'm not familiar with Warren Road. Where is that?
Jeff Ramsey [00:39:04] It's West 150th Street. And it's.. the church is located south of I-90, in Cleveland.
Mark Souther [00:39:13] Is there still any connection between that church and the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood or are they both generally people who moved to suburbia?
Jeff Ramsey [00:39:24] Some connection, the Craciun family, for example, is involved in that church. [Turns briefly to respond to a co-worker] The Craciun family, for example, they still operate the Craciun Funeral Home here and they're involved in St. Mary's and very, very committed to our neighborhood. In fact, one or another member of the Craciun family has been on Detroit Shoreway's Board of Trustees since we were founded. Currently, it's Joe Craciun. Before that, it was his mother, Yolanda, who is our trustee, a wonderful person for many, many years. So a lot of the newer Romanian families that are moving here to our neighborhood attend St. Mary's, but live here in our neighborhood. So there is still a Romanian connection. Virginia Barson, who is the head of Pioneer Savings and Loan across the street- was actually her mother, Virginia Peters. Mrs. Peters is 85 now. She lives on Clinton Avenue here in our neighborhood. So, yes, there still is an active Romanian population that's committed to this neighborhood.
Mark Souther [00:40:27] And you need to go to your next meeting?
Jeff Ramsey [00:40:29] No, we're ok.
Mark Souther [00:40:32] A couple more questions then. One is about the Pressroom New Real Estate, as you mentioned. Were these in the late 1970's?
Jeff Ramsey [00:40:41] 1986, the company was founded in 1986. Yes, they recently just celebrated in December their 20th anniversary, and I was actually the introductory speaker. I introduced Keith Brown, the broker at Pressroom New Real Estate, who founded Progressive, was a good friend of mine. And Dave Sharkey, the other broker is also a very good friend.
Mark Souther [00:41:03] As you mentioned, were they located in the Plain Dealer?
Jeff Ramsey [00:41:06] No, it was that.. the alternative publications, the Cleveland Edition at that time was the precursor to the Free Times, [pause] and the Gay People's Chronicle and other poetry magazines at Cleveland State. The market here are young people, people 25 to 45, who are looking for something different than what the suburbs have to offer. So, you know, the vehicle to reach that market are alternative publications.
Mark Souther [00:41:40] How many of those publications are based in a neighborhood? Are there any particular ones that you want to talk about?
Jeff Ramsey [00:41:48] Well, the Gay People's Chronicle is on.. their offices on West 73rd; the Plain Press is on West 25th. Those are the only 2 that I'm aware of that are right in the neighborhood.
Mark Souther [00:42:05] One other thing you mentioned, one of the follow-up questions was the presence of the different factories, such as Everready and Otis Elevator and Westinghouse and American Greetings. Do you know about when those different companies closed on Detroit Shoreway?
Jeff Ramsey [00:42:18] Started in the '60s, really picked up steam in the '70s. Everready closed their manufacturing operations in the late '70s. They kept about a small administrative and research crew, about 200 people there until 1998 when they shut it down completely. Interestingly enough, my grandmother worked at the.. before Everready, the company was Union Carbide. My grandmother and great grandmother worked at the Union Carbide plant during World War II. My grandmother- my grandfather made my grandmother quit when he came home from the Navy. He didn't believe that women should work, but she had earned enough money to put new Venetian blinds in the house. She was very proud of that. And just this past summer, we celebrated the groundbreaking of Battery Park, which is a 320-unit new housing development that Rousse development is building on the site of the Ever Ready plant. So, you know, times change the need, but with that change for us, at least, it's good change. The neighborhood is really coming back to life.
Mark Souther [00:43:27] Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Jeff Ramsey [00:43:32] I think.. I thought about it less and I think we've covered most of the things here. The one thing I would talk- did want to talk some about is community involvement. When the organization was founded, we really took a holistic approach that we needed to involve residents, businesses, industries and other nonprofits like institutions, churches, so that every stakeholder in the neighborhood had a role in shaping the future of the neighborhood. And I think that's one of the strengths of Detroit Shoreway. There are some CDCs, and we're a membership organization. Every year, the members elect our Board of Trustees. There are some CDCs where it's the board that elect new trustees and they don't have members involved. We have.. one of the foundation of our organization is our network, a network of block clubs and our merchant organizations. We have a full time community organizer who works with residents to form block clubs, and they're autonomous groups. They address quality of life issues within their neighborhood. And we go.. they also serve another purpose, of when we- when there is a new development proposed, we run it by the block club to get their feedback on it and help us to shape how development should be built and really shaping the vision for the neighborhood and for our organization. So that's the foundation of our organization, is that its the resident involvement and the merchant involvement; all kinds of different activities that neighbors get involved in like park programing in the summer, neighborhood cleanups and Halloween parties and summer picnics and garage sales. You know, when back when the communities were being built up, it was the neighborhood church that was really the center of community life. Well, that's- it's not as strong as it used to be. And I think block clubs and community organizations like Detroit Shoreway now helped create the fabric of the neighborhood and unite and bring people together. I think it's really one of the reasons why we haven't had a lot of the conflict or change over the years is because this is a very diverse neighborhood and the leadership of this neighborhood embraced diversity. You know, Michael Zone and his wife, Mary Zone, early on made it clear that we were colorblind in this neighborhood and everybody was welcome here. Ray Pianka continued that in the late 80s when there was a lot of change occurring. Ray went to the Greater Cleveland Roundtable and we published a number of not flyers, but little brochures talking about change in a way that was non-threatening and really talking about how this always has been a diverse neighborhood. So we've been proactive in embracing diversity and, getting residents to come together around block clubs or a summer picnic. There's nothing like food that get people to come together and get to know their neighbors. And that creates safety. You know, I may not know everybody on my street. I know most of them by face, but we watch out for each other and it creates for a safer neighborhood. So I think that's really one of the strengths of Detroit Shoreway, is that we involve a lot of different people in the decision making process and in helping to bring people together to talk about issues.
Mark Souther [00:46:52] What challenges do immigrants who speak of writing different languages and your apparantly new to the area, you said, for bringing people together? How successful has Detriot Shoreway been in incorporating immigrants?
Jeff Ramsey [00:47:03] Well, it's- that is a challenge when there's a language barrier. About 25 percent of our neighborhood is Hispanic and so we have a special outreach to Hispanic families. We want to make sure that our staff reflects the diversity of the neighborhood. So we have a number of people on our staff who are bilingual and we publish flyers, one side English, the other side Spanish. We meet people where they're at, like La Sagrada Familia Church, having meetings at a church to help people feel comfortable. We have now.. Liberian refugees are coming to the neighborhood and Saint Colman's Church is really working with Liberian refugees to help them get settled. And we're trying to help identify housing. That's oftentimes one of the big needs of people moving to the neighborhood. So that's a little bit about that.
Mark Souther [00:48:03] What sorts of jobs do immigrants take when they come to the West Side of Cleveland now? I understand that other cities, of course, are far ahead of Cleveland in terms of the sheer numbers of immigrants, places like Atlanta and Houston and Dallas, and you could name others, Miami. What attracts people to Cleveland? What do they do when they come here? We have a depressed economy. What kinds of jobs do they find?
Jeff Ramsey [00:48:27] It really depends on their skill level. People from the Middle East, for example, they have, you know, it's a community that's been very well established in Cleveland, and they oftentimes see them in the grocery business and various other types of businesses like that, which were typically immigrant-run businesses. You know, the turn of the century, it was Lebanese and Italians that a lot of times were the produce vendors. And you go to the West Side Market on a Saturday, you'll see that many of the vendors there are Middle Eastern or Hispanic or from different minority groups. So I think, you know, it depends on their skill level. There are some other immigrant populations that are very highly skilled as engineers and computers. You know, Vietnamese communities, Chinese immigrants have a lot of skills in those areas. So really depends on their skill level.
Mark Souther [00:49:22] I think that's all my questions for now.
Jeff Ramsey [00:49:24] Ok, great. Well, thank you. Nice to meet you.
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"Jeff Ramsey Interview, 2006" (2006). Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection. Interview 955001_304004.