Gerald Meyer describes changes in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood.
Meyer, Gerald (interviewee)
Hunter, Tiffany (interviewer)
Tiffany Hunter [00:00:00] You know, you're going to give me knowledge because I have no clue what's going on because let me give you a tidbit of my background. I'm not from here. So you're, what you're going to give me is definitely going to be great. So [turning to facilitators], you guys ready?
Gerald Meyer [00:00:16] So where are you from?
Tiffany Hunter [00:00:18] Where am I from? Kentucky. Down south.
Gerald Meyer [00:00:19] Where in Kentucky?
Tiffany Hunter [00:00:21] Where in Kentucky?
Gerald Meyer [00:00:22] Yeah.
Tiffany Hunter [00:00:22] Louisville.
Gerald Meyer [00:00:24] OK.
Tiffany Hunter [00:00:24] Right outside Louisville, Kentucky.
Mark Souther [00:00:26] I'm a southerner myself. I'm from Georgia, actually. But I had a friend who lived in Louisville. Yeah, so I'm a little country girl, so...
Gerald Meyer [00:00:32] And then how do you get along? How do you get to Cleveland to do interviews? You in–
Tiffany Hunter [00:00:35] School.
Gerald Meyer [00:00:36] You're a student at CSU too?
Tiffany Hunter [00:00:37] Yes, I am.
Gerald Meyer [00:00:39] In what program?
Tiffany Hunter [00:00:40] Actually, this is Urban History, Mr. Tebeau's thing. But this totally different than what my field is, but it's pretty interesting.
Gerald Meyer [00:00:48] What's your field?
Tiffany Hunter [00:00:49] It was in Psychology?
Mark Souther [00:00:50] Oh, Psychology.
Gerald Meyer [00:00:50] Oh, in undergraduate school you mean?
Tiffany Hunter [00:00:53] Yes.
Gerald Meyer [00:00:53] Yeah.
Mark Souther [00:00:53] My fiancée teaches at Tri-C.
Tiffany Hunter [00:00:55] Really? That's really cool.
Gerald Meyer [00:00:57] So where did you go to undergrad?
Tiffany Hunter [00:00:59] Oh, I'm still, I still am an undergrad.
Gerald Meyer [00:01:02] Oh, you are an undergrad here?
Tiffany Hunter [00:01:02] Yeah, I still am.
Gerald Meyer [00:01:03] OK. But you took Psychology earlier, you were telling us, huh?
Tiffany Hunter [00:01:08] Yeah, and still am. Still taking it, so...
Gerald Meyer [00:01:10] So what got you to Cleveland?
Tiffany Hunter [00:01:13] Pretty much. It was... This is how it is. It's funny. I'm the type of person not afraid to go out and do, you know, anywhere in the world. So my dad lived in Columbus for a while, all right? And then I was like, well, you know what? Let me try it. Let me get a little bit further from family and go to Cleveland. So that's pretty much how it happened. So. It's pretty funny.
Gerald Meyer [00:01:35] That's normal.
Tiffany Hunter [00:01:37] It is normal. OK. Well, Today is March 30th, 2006. I'm here interviewing Jerry? Or Gerald?
Gerald Meyer [00:01:47] Jerry or Gerald. But Jerry informally. [cross talk].
Tiffany Hunter [00:01:49] Meyers.
Gerald Meyer [00:01:51] And it's actually Meyer.
[00:01:53] Meyer. Yeah. No "S".
Tiffany Hunter [00:01:55] It's a typo.
[00:01:55] M-e-y-e-r is my name.
Tiffany Hunter [00:01:57] Gotcha. Jerry Meyer.
Gerald Meyer [00:01:57] I don't know how you have it spelled.
Tiffany Hunter [00:01:59] I had M-y-e-r-s.
Gerald Meyer [00:02:02] Yeah. But it has. See it has an "E" before the "Y".
Tiffany Hunter [00:02:09] Mmm.
Gerald Meyer [00:02:09] It's M-e-y-e-r.
Mark Souther [00:02:10] It's my mistake. I'm sorry. [cross talk] I think I had it right initially and then...
Tiffany Hunter [00:02:15] Now... [inaudible] Okay. All right. Well, first of all, like when and where were you born?
Gerald Meyer [00:02:24] I was born in 1944 in Wilmington, Delaware.
Tiffany Hunter [00:02:30] So, okay, now I'm going to ask you the question, okay? Wilmington, Delaware. How did you end up in Cleveland or in Detroit?
Gerald Meyer [00:02:38] I grew up in Delaware and Maryland, and I went to high school through there. And then when I got ready to go to college, I looked at liberal arts colleges. And two of them I looked at were in Ohio. One was at the College of Wooster, where I ended up going, and one was at Oberlin. So I ended up in Wooster. And after I graduated from Wooster, I went to the University of Chicago in Chicago for two years to get a Master's in Social Work. And when I was done that I was applying for jobs, I'd had support through graduate school from an international YMCA scholarship. So I wanted to go work for a YMCA. So I looked in Cleveland and around the nation I found a job here, basically, and I ended up back in Cleveland.
Tiffany Hunter [00:03:19] You moved back to Cleveland.
Gerald Meyer [00:03:21] In 1968.
Tiffany Hunter [00:03:22] 1968 in Cleveland? And was it particularly the Detroit Shoreway area? Or did you move...
Gerald Meyer [00:03:26] Well, when I first moved here, I was working at the Brooklyn branch of the YMCA, which is on West 25th and Denison, now called Pearl Road and Dennison, and I lived in the Old Brooklyn neighborhood for two and a half years, say, yeah, about two and a half years, and then I moved to this neighborhood before it was called Detroit Shoreway in 1970.
Tiffany Hunter [00:03:48] So initially before it was just Detroit Avenue, I guess?
Gerald Meyer [00:03:52] Well, actually, the whole area was lumped together with what's now called Ohio City in a city planning district called the Near West Side and everybody called it the Near West Side. Then they sort of lumped everything together that was from the river to 85th Street or further west even. Near West Side.
Tiffany Hunter [00:04:11] So you've been here in the Detroit Shoreway for thirty years perhaps, right?
Gerald Meyer [00:04:16] Thirty-five, almost.
Tiffany Hunter [00:04:17] Thirty-five? So how has the community changed or to you? What's... From, I guess, let's say from the time you came back 'til now, how much has it changed?
Gerald Meyer [00:04:31] Well, I don't know. It's hard to quantify amount of change, but it's changed a lot, obviously. When I moved to the neighborhood in 1970, I would describe it as being heavily ethnic oriented, ethnic at that point being Italian, Romanian, some German, some old-line Scotch-Irish. But the ethnicity influence was heavily Italian and German and Romanian, particularly on the streets and in the neighborhoods just around Detroit Avenue. Mount Carmel Church, being an Italian parish, attracted a lot of Italians or Italians had come from certain small towns in Italy and settled in the area, particularly north of Detroit. And they were beginning to move south of Detroit onto Clinton Avenue, where I live. And they were... There were some there by the time I moved there. And then St. Mary's Church, which had been here, and St. Helena's and a couple of others had attracted Romanian families. So there were a number of Romanian families on the street, old-line Romanian families. Some had been there a long time, some were relatively new. And then one of my immediate neighbors was Irish, who actually his family at that point, he wasn't the guy, the gentleman who lives there now but anyway, the house has been in the same family ever since it was built sometime in the late 1800s, early 1900s, the street I live on was mostly built between 1895 and 1910 probably. But his family's owned the house all the time and that's an Irish family and they were connected with St. Colman's more, but a lot of Irish in the neighborhood too. And then another lady on the other side was German who had immigrated in early '50s after World War II, maybe late '40s. And she was a widow by the time we met her in the '70s, but she had immigrated with her husband from Germany after World War II. So you had a real mix of ethnicities around the neighborhood.
Tiffany Hunter [00:06:36] So like as if walking down Detroit Avenue or the Detroit Shoreway area towards let's say the Arcade, is that the same... the Gordon Square Arcade, is that the same ethnicity that you still see like in this area?
Gerald Meyer [00:06:52] Well you'd see some of that in the area, but you'd see much... The change from them would be that the Italian emigres have dispersed more and moved to the suburbs and now you have some Hispanic, you know, largely Puerto Rican, but a mixture of Hispanic emigres to the area, Puerto Ricans not necessarily being not Americans since they're U.S. citizens. But we also have Asians on our street from primarily Vietnam, but I think in the neighborhood generally there's a group of Cambodians and others. And the Hispanic emigres to the area have broadened. So, for instance, my church, which is Bethany Presbyterian Church, we've had a Hispanic ministry and do a lot of bilingual stuff. And we've had a large group of Nicaraguans, Guatemalans, people from Central America in the church for... They did not live in this neighborhood necessarily. And actually, lately, a number of them have moved to Florida, so they've left the community. But there was a fairly significant Nicaraguan, Guatemalan, El Salvadorian population in the general community, which wasn't here in 1970 at all. You know, basically it came after 1990. Came after the wars in Central America in the '80s. And a lot of people came in the '90s. [cross talk]. So there's been a lot of change, you know. But there's also a lot of stability in this neighborhood in that some of the old-line families are still on my street. You know, my neighbor who's Irish who's in his, probably 70 now, his family's been here a long time, and now his children, who would be the grandchildren of the original, or maybe the great grandchildren, but anyway his children are talking about taking over his house if he needs to move or dies and fixing it up now. Whether it's a good idea or not, it's not... But, you know, you've got the stability. These people identify with this neighborhood.
Tiffany Hunter [00:08:50] I'm going to shift gears a little bit and ask why did you get involved with the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization?
Gerald Meyer [00:09:00] Well, when I moved to the neighborhood, my training and my interest was in community work and I was trained as a social worker, but I was trained particularly in group work and community... what was called community organizing at that time. And when I moved to the Detroit Shoreway community, I moved to work for the West Side Ecumenical Ministry, now located at 52nd and Detroit, but at that point its offices were on Bridge Avenue, about 44th Street, and I was like a community organizer for them with church groups in the various neighborhoods on the West Side and we split the neighborhood into four different segments. This segment, 65th Street Cluster we called it, which was churches around West 65th Street, was a very strong segment and there was a lot of leadership from Bethany Presbyterian Church, Calvary Reformed Church, Hope—what's now Hope Wesley Methodist—but was, I think, just Hope. There've been mergers, so the names have changed. And there was a little involvement always from Mount Carmel and from St. Colman's, and from St. Stephen's actually too, which was the German parish in the neighborhood. So I got very involved with the neighborhood and people in the neighborhood and was working a lot with programs to involve youth. Eventually in my job, I helped organize some of the first elderly meals programs in the neighborhood under the Older Americans Act of sometime in the late '60s that passed and we used church sites to run those from. They're now consolidated into one site, I think. But anyway. So I was involved in the neighborhood in my work and I lived in the neighborhood and I always was interested in political activity. And the other, besides the churches, the other main organizing factor in the neighborhood that time was the Political Ward Club. What was then Ward 3 of the city of Cleveland had a fairly strong Democratic ward club and I got active in it and I was sort of a threat to the old-line people because I was young and aggressive. But Mike Zone, who was the councilman at that time, whose son Matthew Zone is now the councilman, Mike was very interested in community organizing and doing things positive. He was he was an old-line Italian from the old-line Italian community, but he was open to working with anybody. So he and I became friends and I began to work with him a bit. And actually, I'd been helping him organize things and doing things. And one day, actually in the Gordon Square Arcade here, there was a barbershop. He had his travel... His family had a travel agency, he and his wife had established a travel agency a few years before it was in the Gordon Square Arcade in one of the storefronts, and he's down the street having his haircut in the barbershop, you know, next door. And I was walking down the street and he waves to me and waves me in. And while he's sittin' gettin' his haircut he says, Guys down at City Hall want me to form a business organization, an industrial organization, in this neighborhood. The economic development department down there—which at that point was probably four people or less, it was a small organization—have formed a group over on the East Side called LADCO, Lakeside Area Development Corporation, and it is a coalition of the businesses in that neighborhood, and they want to do the same thing in this neighborhood. And Mike and I talked about it a bit. I asked him more about it. Eventually I said to him, Well, Mike, I think it's a good idea, but you've got a real difference between that neighborhood, LADCO, and this neighborhood and that is that that neighborhood is almost 100 percent industrial, commercial, industrial, frankly. This neighborhood, the industry's along the railroad tracks and up toward the lake, but you've got streets running up to it. And at that point in 1970 Census, probably 15 percent of the people in the neighborhood walked to work. They walked to their factory jobs. You know, people on my street worked at Union Carbide, which is now where Battery Park's going in. And they'd walk to Union Carbide. A guy on my street, an Italian and his wife, owned the bar that was right next to Union Carbide's battery plant, and they served lunch to a lot of those workers, you know. And it was that kind of neighborhood. People walked to work. People in the neighborhood who owned the local restaurants, you know what there was of them, there weren't as many restaurants as we think. It would be more neighborhood bars that served food. But it was that kind of neighborhood. So I said to him, I think if you're going to form an organization here, it ought to be a mixed organization. It ought to involve the residents, it ought to involve the commercial strip, people on Detroit Avenue that were retail merchants, and the industrial leaders, you know, the people that run the factories, basically. So from that and some discussions, we incorporated the organization. And I was one of the first board members representing the community, I guess. I don't remember. I remember some of the early board members and one of the early board chairmen was the human resource director at Union Carbide.
Tiffany Hunter [00:14:13] Amazing. You kind of tornadoed into all this stuff, right? Or just kind of fell into it?
Gerald Meyer [00:14:17] Well, you sort of get into it if you show leadership. This is still true. I mean, I always said in those community organizing days and I was doing it both in my work and in the neighborhood for it because I was in the neighborhood, 10 percent of the people usually got involved in things and 10 percent of the people could make a difference in things because if they got involved, they'd make things happen. You know, you'd never have a community engagement that gets 100 percent of the people involved. It Just doesn't happen. But if you can get 10 percent actively involved in something, things will change. Things will happen.
Tiffany Hunter [00:14:52] You had mentioned the Union Carbide Company. And what I would like to know about that particular area is the Alkaline Battery, or you know, the Eveready Battery factory, it's pretty much had a lot of history, so–.
Gerald Meyer [00:15:07] Yeah, Union Carbide became Everready Battery Company and now it's Energizer Inc., and its research facility, which is the outgrowth of what was here is out in Westlake. The battery plant basically closed and battery production was transferred. Otherwise, though, the location here did have the research in it too before it moved to Westlake. Research and development, I guess you'd call it, is what's out in Westlake. So, you know, as it has transitioned, that building probably went vacant 10 years ago is my guess—I don't remember the exact dates, but sometime in the '90s—and now it's been taken down and the site's being redeveloped as housing.
Tiffany Hunter [00:15:50] Yeah, I actually had visited that site and looked at it and it's what like 14 acres?
Gerald Meyer [00:15:56] Probably about that.
Tiffany Hunter [00:15:58] So I mean, what is Battery Park going to offer to Detroit?
Gerald Meyer [00:16:02] To the neighborhood?
Tiffany Hunter [00:16:04] To the neighborhood.
Gerald Meyer [00:16:05] Well, along with a lot of other things, since 1990, the city's developed a lot of relatively new housing or renovated housing and, you know, we've had a lot of it in this neighborhood, partly because we have a very... Detroit Shoreway, being a strong economic development group, has been able to acquire land and financing and get things built and sell 'em. And I think Battery Park's a continuation of that. The Battery Park project will allow you to have a new product, which is some people want a new house, not an old house. I mean, I happen to live in an old house and like having fixed it up even though I spent a fair amount of money on it. But it's still a good deal in my mind and it's a lot more character and probably last several hundred years if people maintain it. But anyway, you know, people want new products so I think that's what it mainly offers. And it offers you a chance to... I mean, one of things that it offers too is to integrate the community northward toward the lake. And as long as you can overcome the barrier of the railroad tracks and the Shoreway, Battery Park's advantage is that one of the underpasses under the Shoreway is right there at 76th Street and it's from 73rd to 76th. So if that underpass is cleaned up and made more attractive, it gets a good access directly to Edgewater. it runs right to the beach, actually. I mean, you could literally walk through that tunnel and end up on Edgewater's beach and, to give you an example, in 1969 when I moved here, no in 1968, when I moved to the city, Carl Stokes had just been elected mayor. The city that summer, because of the amount of pollution in Lake Erie, would not let anybody swim at Edgewater Park until they put a curtain in around the swimming area and chlorinated it artificially to kill the bacteria. So Edgewater Park in 1968 was really unhealthy to swim in. By today's standards, they probably shouldn't have even done that. They probably should've just said nobody can go in, but they couldn't keep people from going in because people go down there and go swimming. I mean they walk from their houses. In the summer this neighborhood sees lots of families and kids walking in their swimsuits to Edgewater Park to use either go fishing or to use the walking paths or at that point or to swim. At that point they were swimming there and there was baseball fields on that park. There weren't fishing piers and stuff. It wasn't developed as it is now. But anyway. So at that point, the lake was so polluted and particularly from runoff from the sewage plant, there's a sewage treatment plant right next to it, basically. And from the stuff that came down rivers and out of the storm sewer system that aren't separated in town, when they'd overflow it'd get too polluted. Thank goodness it's clean enough now, you don't have to do that.
Tiffany Hunter [00:19:02] You never would even know there's a sewage plant next door dumping all this water and all this pollution into the water.
Gerald Meyer [00:19:11] Well, one of the impetus for the environmental legislation of the late '70s was "Lake Erie is Dead." There was a famous, I don't remember whether it was in Time magazine or Newsweek, but one of the newsmagazines had on the front of the cover of the thing, "Lake Erie is Dead." And it documented how the pollution had killed the active... Well, polluted it so you shouldn't swim but also killed a lot of the fish and created algae bloom in the bottom and all that stuff. And you know over... since we passed legislation and began to clean up the pollution sources that did all that, the lake, Lake Erie's come back rather significantly. Still has problems, but it's much, much better than it was. But Lake Erie being dead was a big... That and maybe fires on the Cuyahoga River, which there was one of. You don't know that story?
Tiffany Hunter [00:20:00] No, no, no, so...
Gerald Meyer [00:20:02] In the late '60s, one of the railway trestles that crossed Cuyahoga River was, I think basically too polluted by, would you call it creosote or oils of some type, and there was an oil slick on the river and basically a train went by and a spark lit it up and the surface of the water burned because there was oil on it or oils on it, and the fire boat had to go down and put the fire out on the river.
Tiffany Hunter [00:20:36] Oh boy.
Gerald Meyer [00:20:38] So it's another example of... It's one of the reasons in the late '60s and early '70s, Cleveland became the butt of a lot of national jokes. Lake Erie is dead. Its river burns. Mayor Perk was opening a trade show and he used an acetylene torch to cut the ribbon and set his hair on fire. So we had a mayor with his hair on fire. And then in 1979, we had young boy mayor, Dennis Kucinich, who's now congressman. And Dennis was 32 or something. I remember that. I remember that race very well if you want to talk politics sometime because... But Dennis and the city defaulted on the bonds to the banks, and so we were in default. And even though it was technical default—we always paid our interest, the banks just hadn't rolled the notes over—we got another bad black eye.
Tiffany Hunter [00:21:22] Mm hmm.
Gerald Meyer [00:21:24] So through the '70s, Cleveland got a lot of black eyes in public forums, you know, nationally. If you traveled during that time, people would say, well, how are you from Cleveland? And my son, who's 31 now, was born in '74, he remembers a T-shirt that I think I may still have that said, I'm from Cleveland. I've survived the tough times, or something like that. It had a very positive slogan, but it was referring to Cleveland as a tough place and the tough get going. You know, Cleveland is a tough place, but the tough get things going. We're trying to give positive spin to the negative view.
Tiffany Hunter [00:22:03] So with what you were doing with the development, would that kind of have suppressed the rumors and things like that from, you know, people not visiting... [cross talk]
Gerald Meyer [00:22:12] Well. Yeah. You know, one of the things that's always true, and this is true even now, the image of a community, whether it be a small community like Detroit Shoreway or the image of a city nationally in the press is usually either a lot better than its reality or a lot worse than its reality. It's never always matched. And during the '70s, we always said when we traveled, you know, we always got asked about all these problems. But when we'd tell people, hey, it's a nice city, we got a lot of great people, the economy's not doing badly. 'Til the... We had an economic depression in the '80s, it kind of hurt us, particularly when the interest rates went up nationally. But Cleveland's always been a very friendly, outgoing city. You know, a neighborly city. You know, we had good neighbors. We liked people in the neighborhood we liked working with. You know, you got great assets here. And just to mention one of them nearby, the West Side Market was one. We'd always promote the people when they'd come, we'd go take them there and they'd say, We have nothing like this in our city. You know, we don't have a market that's municipally owned that has all these vendors and you can hear 15, 16 different languages being spoken. You know, back then it was largely European languages. Today you go you're gonna hear Arabic and Thai or you're going to hear most anything from the vendors and the customers, Indian dialects, whatever. So anyway, there's always a lot of assets and people usually have a worst damage or better image than the neighborhood or the community. They don't have a right on one, you know.
Tiffany Hunter [00:23:49] So I feel like that worst-best image is Battery Park, you know, are the residents really wanting something like Battery Park to have? Are they resistant to it or, you know, is it...
Gerald Meyer [00:23:58] Well, I don't know specific resistance to it. I think generally most residents that are aware of what's going on are positive about it. Then they'll be some other residents who frankly don't know. To give you an example. Matthew Zone, one of the things that he's done as a councilman recently is organized a Ward 17 forum, and my wife's involved in the leadership of it. She knows a lot more than I do about it, but I know generally about it. One of the things they did in that forum last year in the fall was organize a trolley tour of the Ward 17, which is broader than Detroit Shoreway. But Detroit Shoreway is a good example. And that trolley tour was going to show people both redevelopment sites and what was going on in the neighborhood, what either had happened already or was likely to happen. Battery Park was one of the places I think they went by and they had a narrative with it to explain what was going on. And they got about 70 residents to go. And they were from different streets in the neighborhood. Now, that's 70 out of, what, 5,000 residents or something. But those 70 people, a lot of them, they know a little bit about what is going on their street but they didn't hear about Battery Park or if they lived up this way, they might not have known anything about the development down on the old Joseph and Feiss factory at 53ird and Walworth, where they're putting in housing. They had a fire a week or two ago and burned six units that hadn't been finished. But anyway, that development they didn't know about. So people went on that tour and learned a lot and most people were very excited to find out so much was going on. And they had so much in common with their neighbors, their neighbors being from different sections of the ward area. One of the things to go back to Detroit Shoreway, originally, the Detroit Shoreway boundaries were very limited. They were originally were just 65th, or actually 45th to 85th, but south to Franklin Boulevard. And we actually created the name. We meaning Mike Zone and I and maybe a few other people. Because there wasn't a name for the neighborhood. And we said, well, what are the most common landmarks? How can we identify it? And Ohio City was beginning to be used as a name for the area around 25th and Fulton Road and Lorain and stuff. And it was a historic name because Ohio City actually was an incorporated city back in the 1800s before it merged into Cleveland. But this neighborhood had only been developed in the late 1800s or early 1900s and it never had a separate name. So we picked Detroit Avenue and the Shoreway as the identifying characteristics and used that name. And then later on Detroit Shoreway expanded the boundaries south at least to Lorain. I think they may have broader boundaries now. They might go south to Clark or even south of Clark they go to. But you know, the the boundaries of the organization were expanded.
Tiffany Hunter [00:26:59] So Detroit stretches to Lakewood too, right?
Gerald Meyer [00:27:00] It goes, yeah, it goes through Lakewood.
Tiffany Hunter [00:27:01] Pretty far. Okay.
Gerald Meyer [00:27:03] Detroit Road was the main road that went to the city of Detroit at one time. You know, it was the farmers path to Detroit. Yeah. [cross talk] That's the reason it was named Detroit. Well, that's... And Lorain Road went to Lorain County. I mean...
Tiffany Hunter [00:27:19] Interesting.
Gerald Meyer [00:27:19] That's the reason Euclid went to Euclid, Ohio, a suburb. I don't know whether St. Clair had anything that or not. St. Clair and Superior I think just came from the Great Lakes. [cross talk]We can tell you some other history, too, about the city.
Tiffany Hunter [00:27:40] Okay. [laughs].
Gerald Meyer [00:27:40] Well, one of the things that's funny about the city is that in the 1910s, I think it was, originally the city had no numbered streets. So you didn't have a 65th Street. You didn't have an 85th Street or a 58th Street. All the streets were named. Even the names... 65th Street, I forget what the name of it was, but some of the downtown streets. On what's now Ontario was Ontario. That's one. But Ninth Street, I think, was Erie. And there's the Erie Street Cemetery across from Jacobs Field. And that name comes from the street I think. But in the 1910s or something , they changed all the street names that ran north–south to numbered streets so the postal system would work better and people could identify where they lived better. But because the city had grown up not with a regular pattern, the street numbers didn't actually come out consistent. It's one of the reasons you get streets that skip in town.
Tiffany Hunter [00:28:37] Yeah, they do skip.
Gerald Meyer [00:28:38] You get a lot of that.
Tiffany Hunter [00:28:39] Exactly. They skip, you know, it's like you're driving down...
Gerald Meyer [00:28:46] You'll go from from Ontario to Fourth Street downtown and then to Ninth Street and there'll be no intervening street, you know, or maybe Sixth is in there someplace. But there'll be some numbers that are always missed. Yeah.
Tiffany Hunter [00:28:59] So I'm going to go back to some of the redevelopments. What are the other redevelopments that you guys or that your organization is doing around the...
Gerald Meyer [00:29:09] Well, I'm not I'm not on the board at Detroit Shoreway anymore, [cross talk] so I wouldn't claim responsibility for it. But Detroit Shoreway... One of the redevelopments early on, in fact, one of the early investments, was to actually acquire this building that we're sitting in, the Gordon Square Arcade, from an owner who'd let it deteriorate to the point that the parapet roof on the outside over on the side of 65th Street fell off into the street. Literally the outside edge just collapsed into the street because they hadn't tuckpointed the bricks for so many years. In the 1980s, the organization then directed by Ray Pianka worked out a deal with a developer together to buy the building. I think since then I think Detroit Shoreway may own the building wholly now or a related corporation, but they bought the building and began to fix it up. You know, stabilize the brick wall, get it rebuilt, rehabbed the apartments upstairs where there'd been a residence for a long number of years. Actually, there'd been more in the earlier years in the '30s there'd been offices up there too like dental offices. When I first moved here, there was a bunch of dental... Denison Doctors had their offices on the second floor. And actually where we're sitting, there used to be a food market. This area was a food market. There wasn't a grocery store in the area of the type we know today, you know, big grocery store with lots of stuff. There were smaller ones, but there was a food market in this building. Well, there's still an arcade inside. You mean. Yeah. But you'd walk down an arcade and come to the food market. For instance.
Tiffany Hunter [00:30:53] I have another question. Is it [pronounced] EE-co Village or Echo Village?
Gerald Meyer [00:30:53] I say Eco-Village myself [cross talk] because it's supposed to be Ecological Village, but other people may pronounce it differently. [cross talk] It's supposed to be Ecological Village.
Tiffany Hunter [00:31:05] Do you know anything about that particular area? I mean what it is meant by green building? Because I read a little about...
Gerald Meyer [00:31:13] Well, let me give you some background on that that goes back to my history. After I moved here and was working for the West Side Ecumenical Ministry, a group was formed in the community in Cleveland. It was the 15th of these programs and they were called Neighborhood Housing Services. It was a housing rehab organization that combined a partnership of... Actually it was being formed about the time we were forming detroit Shoreway... Was a partnership of lenders, which at that point was banks and savings and loans, city government, and residents to select a neighborhood or two in the city to have some concentrated focus on housing renovation and stabilization. The idea was that we had a lot of solid neighborhoods with solid citizens similar to Detroit Shoreway and that we would work together to fix it up and the city would contribute some money to a pool. But the banks and savings and loans would also make loans in a neighborhood and contribute leadership, and the residents in the neighborhood would agree to reinvest in their neighborhood, organize, clean things up, that kind of thing. That was formed in 1975 and I became the first director of it and part of the area selected to be in the neighborhood, the neighborhood that was selected was from West 58th Street to West 41st Street and Randall Road to Franklin, south across Lorain to Walworth, which is south of I-90. And I-90 had been cleared at that time and actually was almost finished. It was built. It had been cleared in the late '60s. So the freeway cut that neighborhood apart. But anyway, what's now Eco-Village at 58th and Lorain, basically between Lorain and Madison, was in that neighborhood. And the area where Eco-Village is was basically very bad housing stock. Small. It was usually one floor level, what you'd call shotgun houses, meaning with a front door. And you'd look down and you could see out the back door because there were just a series of rooms with no hallway, really, just an opening between them. So they were small and they were probably some of the least desirable housing in the neighborhood. We started our activities in that program further east—52nd Street, 50th Street, some of the more solid areas—and were going to build off the solid and move out. We could never figure out what to do with the area between Madison and Lorain on 58th. We got some activity on 57th, but we never got any on 58th in that area because it was vacant land and a lot of it was vacant. It was owned by different people, it was hard to acquire, etc. In the '80s, actually, we did help some people buy other vacant lots in the neighborhood and build a few houses. We built two or three over a four-year period. It was hard to do because there weren't any incentives for it. There weren't any programs for it. It wasn't being encouraged. It was sort of, but we did it because we had somebody that was interested in doing it. Now, Eco-Village really came out of the concentrated action of Detroit Shoreway and David Beach, who actually... David Beach is the director of Eco-Cleveland, I guess it's called, Ecological Cleveland or whatever his group is. Well when he first moved to Cleveland, he lived in the NHS neighborhood on 54th Street, and we helped he and his wife buy his first house. So we helped him buy his first house. This was sometime in the late '70s, early '80s, you know, 15, 20 years later he comes back with the idea to Detroit Shoreway, let's take an area near the Rapid Transit that's near 65th Street Station, which was being rebuilt at that time, buy some land and build ecological friendly housing that one will be using recycled materials, be using things that are nonpolluting materials, you know, instead of using carpets that give off gases or odors, give, you know, have things that are ambient, not a problem and are well insulated so they'll use low utility use, low gas and electric use, and make it near the rapid transit station so if people want to they can ride to work someplace. They can they can use the public transit system easily. And Detroit Shoreway hired... You've had a couple of different... three different people be a coordinator for that project since then with the idea of completing the housing, but also helping get the people who bought houses in that area and were residents involved in the community. So I know one of the early things they did is after a few people had moved in is they organized a visit to the West Side Market on a Saturday and had people ride the rapid from 65th to 25th, get off and go to the market, come home. So it's really an attempt to have an ecological friendly housing market, but also ecologically friendly transportation patterns, all the kind of things you ought to do for good urban development.
Tiffany Hunter [00:36:23] I actually see... I go past the RTA, the big station that was built...
Gerald Meyer [00:36:24] At 65th Street?
Tiffany Hunter [00:36:25] On 65th Street and I said, Oh, because I'd never seen it there before of course....
Gerald Meyer [00:36:28] It's about...
Tiffany Hunter [00:36:29] It's really nice. [Yeah.] Very neat looking.
Gerald Meyer [00:36:32] It's very nicely done. They did a good job in designing it, and they used a lot of community participation with people from the neighborhood. St. Colman's Church is right next door. They used that as a meeting place. Yeah.
Tiffany Hunter [00:36:48] Over the years that, you know, you've seen Detroit Shoreway grow, you know, and the things around it, you know, grow and the community grow, now commercial-wise, in the '70s was there a lot of commercial in this area compared to now?
Gerald Meyer [00:37:04] Yes.
Tiffany Hunter [00:37:08] Yes.
Gerald Meyer [00:37:10] Yeah, absolutely.
Tiffany Hunter [00:37:13] So, now, so compared to the '70s is it the same, has it changed?
Gerald Meyer [00:37:20] Oh, it's changed. It's changed tremendously. I mean, first of all, in the in the '60s and '70s, you had a lot more neighborhood shopping in all neighborhoods in Cleveland. You didn't have... Well, you had some malls around, i.e. Westgate probably had been built in Rocky River, but there wasn't as much draw to go shop at them or you'd go downtown to the department store downtown if you wanted to go to a department store, because there was Higbee's and May's and Halle's down there. But in the neighborhood, to give you an example, there was a grocery store at Detroit and Lake, which now has the lot that was there. It was actually a big, huge five-level apartment building—similar in style, not in style, but similar in some ways to the Gordon Square Arcade where we sit—that had a grocery store in the first floor. Well, that grocery store moved out and the building went vacant and eventually the buildings were all torn down and you now have a fast food place there. But the whole street of Detroit Avenue is basically retail shopping, you know, small grocery store, which might've been a chain, but was, you know, 15,000 square feet. And today they want 80,000 square feet, you know? At the corner of 65th and Franklin, where a CVS store just closed, that was a Pick n Pay supermarket, which was a predecessor to one of the current change. Blanking on which one they went into. But anyway, Pick n Pay was at that location and that was the neighborhood grocery store for this neighborhood. And it was only developed in the '60s. They tore down a bunch of beautiful houses on Franklin Boulevard and built a big lot. But by the mid '80s, that had closed. And then CVS's predecessor was in there as a drug store and a small grocery, the same one that's on Detroit over here at 59th or so. What's in there? The Lave a lot, the discount people, people that do no-frills stuff. Well, Save a Lot had a store there and they had a store here and eventually they consolidated them in the Detroit store. But anyway, the whole street was small shops of grocery store, you know, very... There was a... Behind my house, McDonald's had been developed directly by my house. But next to it was Detroit Auto Parts. Very active auto parts store and a place you can get anything, and they had a parking lot and stuff. And the neighborhood had its funeral homes, some of which are still here. And, you know, in the lower levels, there were usually small restaurants or, you know, a barber shop or, you know, the local hardware store. Well, retail in this world has changed. And now it's all malls or it's in discount stores or it's at Home Depot. You know, and the neighborhood, shopping strips like this throughout the city and every place in the nation have suffered with limited exception. This neighborhood did, too. Now, what's the transition? The transition is to what can you do that's unique? You know, can you do something that's unusual and unique? So you're trying to find unique retailers that can draw. And there's not as many people in the neighborhood to shop there either, because the neighborhood, in terms of... One of my neighbors had 13 children. You don't see families with 13 children anymore. You know, if you have, I had one child. Now it's my wife and I, you know, and whoever lived in my house before might have been five people. So there's less people in the neighborhood to shop too, and you're less likely to walk to shopping. You now get in your car and drive to shopping. It used to be that you'd walk to West 65th and Leader Drug was on the corner where there's an empty store front now. Across the street was a bar where Zone Travel Agents used to be and Matt Zone has his office. And in this building there were a whole series of retail places. So you walked to them, you know.
Tiffany Hunter [00:41:24] I would've liked to see it then. It really was kind of amazing, you know. Are they doing anything now to bring the commercial back?
Gerald Meyer [00:41:37] Absolutely. There are efforts. It's difficult because the shopping patterns have changed, and frankly, you've got to think about how can you change the uses. So the main efforts now are around creating an arts district and a theater district along Detroit, building off the success of Cleveland Public Theatre, which has taken over two full buildings, one of which was an old vaudeville house. The theater that's closest, the furthest... It's about 60... Well, about 63rd and Detroit, that was a vaudeville house that actually had been there since the 1900s and Bob Hope used to perform in. You ever heard that?
Tiffany Hunter [00:42:15] Mmm mmm.
Gerald Meyer [00:42:15] You should get some history in this neighborhood.
Tiffany Hunter [00:42:18] Yeah, I need to.
Gerald Meyer [00:42:18] You know, Bob Hope is right.
Tiffany Hunter [00:42:20] Yes, I do.
Gerald Meyer [00:42:20] You know, he's born in Cleveland, grew up in Cleveland. Bob Hope's father was an immigrant from Ireland, I believe, and they grew up on the East Side. But Bob Hope's father was a stonecutter who worked on the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge. You know, the bridge that has the pylons with the symbols of transportation on them? Well, it's called the Hope Memorial Bridge because Bob Hope's father, his name wasn't Hope, it was something else and was actually Bob's name was Packy something [Packy East] too. And Bob Hope when he was a kid, I think a teenager, used to box. He was a boxer. Packy Hope was his name, or Packy something. But he didn't box very well. So became a comedian. And he performed in this neighborhood, you know, as did other traveling things came through here. But at that point, and actually you go around the neighborhood and if you pick up... There's a historical study that was done of the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood by the Kent State architectural design thing early in the Detroit Shoreway history—sometime between '74 and '78, I think it was done, it was probably more like '76 to '78—and that documented a lot of the old uses of buildings. And in this neighborhood, there were at least three or four old vaudeville houses. Now, by that time, vaudeville houses had become other things. So one of 'em, the one over here that's now a theater again, was being used by somebody as a machine shop, I think. One down at 78th and Lake, which is next door across the street from St. Luke's Episcopal Church, has been an auto repair place forever, I think. But you know, there's there's a bunch of old buildings around that were vaudeville houses and didn't survive the '30s and they were turned into something else.
Tiffany Hunter [00:44:08] When you say vaudeville, what is meant by vaudeville?
Gerald Meyer [00:44:08] Live performance.
Tiffany Hunter [00:44:11] Live performance.
Gerald Meyer [00:44:12] Yeah. You don't know what vaudeville was, do you?
Tiffany Hunter [00:44:14] No sir, no sir.
Gerald Meyer [00:44:15] Vaudeville was when people traveled around and did live performance, sing, dance, comedy. And usually they did all three. I mean, they had to be good, and maybe magic. You know, that kind of stuff. And they'd do them and, you know, you'd go pay 50 cents to see a show at night and some would be local performances and some would be national performers. And all your cities in the United States had numerous vaudeville houses that preceded movie theaters. They might have changed to movie theaters or had silent movies too before they had talkies in the '20s. But all of those went out of existence probably... Well, they might have made it through World War II, but they certainly went out of existence after World War II when suburban movies came... Movie theaters came in, and people had TV after a while. They didn't have TV right away, but radio and TV. So anyway.
Tiffany Hunter [00:45:18] You're giving me a lot of history. I'm kind of, like, overwhelmed by it, so it's like, wow, you know.
Gerald Meyer [00:45:23] The commercial areas changed a lot [cross talk] and it will never be the same as it was before. IYou know, it's now service organizations. Oh, the other thing is a lot of, along Detroit Avenue you had a lot of businesses that were manufacturing product and stuff—some of 'em are still there—or distributing product, but some are still around but a lot of them have moved or have moved on. And how do you reuse their properties? Well, an arts district's one idea. Arts and theater districts. So Cleveland Public Theatre, they've got a building down here that to be a furniture store called Lou's Furniture on 67th just just west of the Arcade that hopefully the Near West Theatre group will go into and have be their theater, and then upstairs will be some apartments, I think. So one of the things you're doing all over the city is converting upper levels to housing, whereas they might have in stores or offices before and then lower levels you're trying to find a use that can use them and make them look nice and create some pedestrian traffic too, but not like you used to have.
Tiffany Hunter [00:46:31] Definitely not, from what you said [inaudible]... It's amazing.
Gerald Meyer [00:46:37] Now, if gas prices will go to five dollars a gallon, I'll guarantee you people come back to the city, not necessarily right away but gradually, and you'll see a lot of that redevelop somewhat if people don't feel they can drive as readily as they do today. And Eco-Village will be very valuable [cross talk] because people can live close to the rapid transit and get the jobs, hopefully get the jobs, get the shopping, that kind of stuff.
Tiffany Hunter [00:47:07] Very interesting. Now, in closing because we're going to close here, is there anything else about you and about Detroit, anything that stands out that you've accomplished or that you've done to help out the community, anything?
Gerald Meyer [00:47:29] I don't have anything special I had thought of that I want to talk about if that's what you mean, I don't have a particular...
Tiffany Hunter [00:47:36] Because to me, you've done a lot.
Gerald Meyer [00:47:40] I've been around to do a lot. And I've, you know, I was active in Detroit Shoreway in the early years, but I chose not to be as active in the later years, but several people who worked for me in NHS have now worked for Detroit Shoreway. You know, I'm kind of proud when people stick around and keep doing good things. One of my good friend's sons is the housing director at Detroit Shoreway. You know, I mean, that's the kind of history I guess you like to hear, know about.
Tiffany Hunter [00:48:10] It's definitely amazing, you know, like I said, coming from the outside, seeing what I see now and not being able to see what was here before, just your stories and what you said is just amazing...
Gerald Meyer [00:48:25] But let me tell you one other thing I think is important. And this is something to have some personal pride in. I mentioned that Kent State University did a study of the neighborhood in sometime in the late '70s, which basically tried to document the history but also lay out where development could go on. Well, that study, as I remember it, recommended a lot of different sites for new housing, for instance, for redevelopment and things, based on the history and location and stuff. And a lot of that stuff didn't happen 'til twenty years later. You know, that was late '70s. Some of that stuff might not happen until the '90s or late '90s, early 2000s even. But that study... And one of the things you might want to take a look at... Is that study pre-positioned certain developments that have now happened twenty years later. So one of my messages would be that good planning, good thoughtful planning, can lead to results even though it's over a long period of time. So the key example I would give you is that near Max Hayes High School, just north of it on Tillman and 49th, there's a set of condos now or townhouses. And that site was a vacant area and a parking lot. The high school would use it for overflow parking in the '60s when they had more students who drove in or came to trade school there. That area was redeveloped in the late '90s as these condos that now sell for 250,000 dollars because they have lake views and they can see downtown and the lake. So that's the one thing I'd leave you with is that I think good planning by Detroit Shoreway and then consistent staffing has made a difference in keeping the neighborhood vibrant. Now, I'll give you one other recent example of that. I work for the Greater Cleveland Partnership now as a director of business development. At our annual meeting recently, we had a guy use Google Earth technology to show Cleveland from the air and then move around Cleveland and zoom in on certain sites for–
Tiffany Hunter [00:50:38] I know what you're talking about.
[00:50:39] –and to show where development was gonna happen. And the first site they went to was the West Shoreway and the redevelopment of the West Shoreway, based on turning it into a boulevard. You know, as an example, when I moved here, that street was used heavily because I-90 wasn't even finished. And a lot of people commuted downtown from the West Side suburbs to work on the Shoreway. Well, today, it's not used nearly as much as it used to be because I-90's taken in a lot of the jobs downtown and moved away, and it could be a much less heavily... I mean it is less heavily traveled. It would be redesigned as a much more nice boulevard. So anyway, that's the plan. And the next thing they looked at was Battery Park and they zoomed in on Battery Park, showed a rendering of what it might be like and said started now, three hundred units of housing or whatever. And then for about ten minutes, this thing moved around the city and showed all the different developments in the city and tied them together and showed how many dollars were involved and how many housing units and how much redesign and stuff. Well, within within eight hours of showing that video that morning at our annual meeting and you know probably a hundred fifty people there, there wasn't a huge crowd, somebody who saw that video called a woman who lives in this neighborhood who works for a small business in Willoughby, it's her family company but she's married to a guy and they live here. And they're very active in this Ward 17 forum. The couple, Mike Emereth. Her name's Alana, I think. But Alana got a call from somebody who said, you live in a cool neighborhood. That was what... and seen the video. I saw your neighborhood. It's a cool neighborhood and chic. She e-mailed or called Matt Zone and said, I hear that our neighborhood was focused in on a video by the Greater Cleveland Partnership. And Matt Zone e-mails my wife saying, can you get a copy of this video for me from Jerry? Within four, 48 hours of showing it.
Tiffany Hunter [00:52:33] That's pretty neat.
Gerald Meyer [00:52:34] So that's the kind of networking pattern you set up in a neighborhood. And if a lot of other neighborhoods could do it, it'd be successful too. So.
Tiffany Hunter [00:52:44] So this would be a place that in the future would be a very, very, very nice place for the family?
Gerald Meyer [00:52:47] Well, I think it's already nice and good for families, I'd tell you that. [cross talk] It still has its issues, but it's already nice and great for families. And, you know, I raised a son here. You know, my granddaughter was recently here. She walks around the street here with us and stuff. You know.
Mark Souther [00:53:07] Before we close... Do you have any other questions?
Tiffany Hunter [00:53:13] No, you know what? No, I mean, I'm just overwhelmed, like I said, with all the information, I'm like wow!
Mark Souther [00:53:18] I just have a couple of questions since you're doing your project on Battery Park and what led up to it. Jerry, I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about the closure of the factory. Any recollections about that time? You said it was probably in the early to mid 1990s?
Gerald Meyer [00:53:31] Well, frankly, most relocation decisions happen gradually. These don't happen all at once. You know. That location had as many industrial sites in the city, probably had six or eight buildings on it, which they used for different things. And as I remember, the research group relocated to Westlake maybe in the '70s, in the '80s probably. So anyway, one group went out of there fairly early, you know, and they were still producing batteries there or other products, I believe. And I don't have a specific recollection of when that exactly closed, you know, but I'm sure gradually they just reduced production. Reduced production and, you know, it closed and it was a big site with a lot of buildings on it. The main issue about redevelopment was that everybody thought it was polluted. Now, how much that was based on fact or how much it was based on actual knowledge or how much it was based on people's perception that old factories are always polluted, I don't know for sure because I never saw studies on it and I know that I review environmental studies in my work often so I know what they're like. But anyway, there was an issue around it being somewhat contaminated and who was going to clean it up, and Congressman Kucinich got involved in it. And there was a big public meeting and a big brouhaha in the paper where, frankly, Congressman Kucinich didn't make himself any friends at Energizer. I've heard about this from people I know at Energizer. They, I think they as a corporation were willing to demolish the buildings and clean it up always. But they made a big issue out of it. Whether it could be cleaned up to the point of using for housing. And only in the last year did all the buildings get taken down. And only within the last six months did they start putting in the roadway and stuff they need to do to put the housing in. So it was vacant, fenced off and not particularly a problem for a number of years, maybe 10. That's what I recall. Now, there are other people that were more actively involved in discussions with Energizer and stuff than I was.
Mark Souther [00:56:02] Could you tell us some people that might be good to interview specifically on that?
Gerald Meyer [00:56:06] Well, on that, I would think Jeff Ramsey would be the one, or other people Detroit Shoreway that were actively involved in the... I think Jeff would be the key one. I'm not sure of anybody else that I know first firsthand. He could probably direct you to others. The other people that would be particularly knowledgeable or interesting to talk to about it would be people from the West 76th Street Block Club who are active in its leadership now. People I know are long dead. [laughs] At least the specific people I knew have died. But because that street would be the most active block group and they're right there and they obviously were concerned about what's happening with it.
Mark Souther [00:56:56] There could be some people in that block club still that might be...
Gerald Meyer [00:56:58] Oh, I'm sure there will be, that will remember at least the discussions about pollution and what was going to happen to it, that stuff, they'd know that for sure. There may even be people that lived there, you know, and remember when it was a active plant. I don't know. I don't know who's left on the street.
Mark Souther [00:57:19] Do you remember any discussions when the plant was downsizing and when it was closing about... My recollection from interviewing Jeff Ramsey, and at the time I didn't focus much on the Eveready plant, but I think I remember his talking about that. I'm trying to get a better sense of the context for that because it seems that I recall that a lot of the plants along that strip near where the Eveready plant was were either downsizing or closing in those years. So I'm just wondering what kind of effect there was in terms of the, well, the block clubs. What kind of conversation was going on or discourses going on in block clubs? Do you have a sense of how people were taking this transition in the neighborhood?
Gerald Meyer [00:58:03] Well, it is correct that during the period of time from, say, late '70s, particularly in early '80s, and then again in the '90s, there was a lot of the factories along here that downsized and their original owners moved or relocated or whatever. And in some cases, there were replacement tenants who came in fairly quickly so you didn't have a vacant building, for instance. To give you an example, one would be at 54th and the Shoreway is that what's known as the Westinghouse Building, it doesn't have Big W anymore, but it's now owned by a guy that does metal stamping and is Albanian. I forget what the name of his company is, but anyway, that building I don't think after Westinghouse vacated it was vacant that long. So if a building's vacant, it tends to become more of an issue to the local neighbors. If the jobs just relocate, you know, and move, that's maybe not quite as much an issue to the local neighbors. In fact, they may even prefer that because one of the issues that we often had conflicts about in the '70s was the traffic on the residential streets going to and from the factories. And obviously, as factories downsized the traffic flow, either people who worked there that were driving there or delivery trucks and other trucks, you know, left. Now. There's always a little bit of neighborhood industrial conflict around a factory no matter what. I mean, whether it's traffic or just that we don't know who's there or, you know, that kind of thing. So I'd say that's always around a little bit, though, in this neighborhood it's kind of, because there's been less activity in those old factories, there's less conflict now than there used to be. And I would think generally and in answer to your earlier question about Battery Park, people say, well, it's going to be housing. That's good. That's part of the neighborhood that reconfirms the neighborhood as it is. You know, we know those places aren't gonna be factories employing several hundred people like they used to be. And if you go further west in Detroit Shoreway, along between Lake Avenue and 80th Street, 83rd Street, there's a couple of real active businesses in there now, ones called Alcon. Alcon... I don't know what Alcon's last name is, but anyway, they're a foundry, very relatively dirty metal forming, pouring metal into molds in the sand and knocking the sand off and then making stuff. And they've got an expansion plan going on and they need help with expansion. Now, there aren't a lot of residents right near them. There is one street that has some residences on it. But, you know, one of their issues is how they get control of their site more so people don't get into it and cause vandalism or steal things out of cars or whatever. So I don't remember specific discussions about plant closings usually. You know, you hear about 'em once in a while. They happen gradually is the other thing.
Mark Souther [01:01:30] Do you think that compared to, say, Pittsburgh or Baltimore or some other cities that deindustrialized more completely and more suddenly probably than Cleveland did, do you think that Cleveland...
Gerald Meyer [01:01:41] That deindustrialized more completely?
Mark Souther [01:01:43] Well, that, yeah, that deindustrialized more completely, that now have a much lower percentage of their workforce in manufacturing, do you think that Cleveland is a city that continues to think of itself as an industrial city, or do you think that the mentality is moving toward one of the so-called post-industrial city that we hear so much about? Hard question to answer...
Gerald Meyer [01:02:07] Well, I think that the public perception is you're moving toward a post-industrial city and the perception in the press is that manufacturing is not here anymore. I think that's the perception in the press. That's not true in terms of I mean, we still have, as you said, a higher proportion of our population in the region working in manufacturing than in the nation. I think we're about 14 or 15 percent of the population works manufacturing. Nationwide it's like 11 percent now. Well, ever since about 20 years I've been in economic development, that percentage gap is almost always been 3 to 4 percent. We've been higher than the nation. We shrink with the nation.
Mark Souther [01:02:49] I'm just wondering if there was more of an industrial mentality...
Gerald Meyer [01:02:52] Well, I think there is a little bit. I mean, I agree with that a little bit. I grew up near Baltimore. And I don't know. I mean, I guess I do remember when I was growing up that it was an industrial city. But it also did a lot of things to change its image and reconverted earlier in the '80s and early in the '70s even, than we started doing. You know, I remember touring Baltimore once with my friend that ran the ran the housing organization there and going down to the waterfront and saying, what makes this development work down here? And he said, Water is gold. Says the description is people want be near water and it's gold. And I says, Well, we haven't learned that in Cleveland yet. You know, because we hadn't begun to transition any of our lakefront significantly to entertainment or shopping or things that would attract people other than recreation. Lakefront parks we always had.
Mark Souther [01:03:55] That's all of my questions. Thank you.
Gerald Meyer [01:03:58] You're welcome.
Tiffany Hunter [01:03:58] Thank you so much. It was nice to meet you.
Gerald Meyer [01:04:00] It's nice to meet with all of you.
Tiffany Hunter [01:04:04] It was great. Great.
Gerald Meyer [01:04:04] Now you've got to get a hold of and interview [cross talk] my neighbors that have been around longer than I have. You've got to read... [tape ends]
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"Gerald Meyer interview, 30 March 2006" (2006). Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection. Interview 955005_304008.