Cleveland: Flats: Demolition by neglect and bulldozer by current property owners and public

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Mon, 05/29/2006 - 21:01.


It is sadly appropriate this old mural "Flasopoly" hints at the end of the Flats as generations knew it... a land grab where the biggest bank account wins. Unfortunately, in NEO right now, the biggest bank accounts are controlled by a new class of leaders who made their money through regional sprawl, driving down the value of our urban core and inner ring. They are now using their rural-sprawl wealth to buy and control "blighted" core property at astounding terms. They're then keeping the worst - the port rock piles, toxic waste and fumes - and adding tents in massive parking lots, for entertainment and gambling, planning a bunch of tasteless condos for the views, and restructuring our freeways to reroute traffic to benefit their development agenda.


This is the best Jacob's has to offer NEO - a gambling tent city, in a gated pay--to-enter parking lot compound - much like the WalMart development model of fellow NEO developer Wolstein's Developers Diversified Realty REIT


In a fair and open community, with healthy competition and a vibrant economy, suburban sprawl developers would need to compete in a dynamic marketplace for the opportunity to develop on a community's most prime land - the riverfront and lakefront - and the city would call all the shots - to preserve architecture and culture, provide mixed income housing and opportunities, integrate public art, demand environmental sustainability, challenge architectural envelop, and serve public good. Because Cleveland has an unhealthy economy and closed planning community, we do not have a dynamic global, competitive development marketplace, and so bad developers thrive and threaten to literally destroy our horizons.



One last remnant of bygone days - Shooters still thrives, at the end of a neglected road, in a community shared only with a strip club and a casino and vast expensive parking lots... gee, why is this area dead?

Who is to blame for this blight of our greatest community asset, the riverfront? It seems the fault of the same people who are allowing the East Bank of the Flats to be demolished by neglect, and who plan to use highly suspect eminent domain processes to take the property of one group of bad property owners to give to one of the worst of the Flats property owners. Big problems are they are destroying many historic buildings, they are eliminating a big part of our cluture, and none of the "leaders" of our community or public care. We need a healthy dose of reality, starting with appreciating the beauty of the East Banks of the Flats, despite demolition by neglect by current property owners, and lax code enforcement by the city of Cleveland and other authorities.


Already, the fabric of the Flats is torn - but the historic infrastructure... lay of the land... and much of the historic asset base and cultural identity and value remain. This is what the current generation of low-quality suburban sprawl developers seek to destroy.



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I know what these developers can do, and we don't want it.

An uncle of mine liked to use the expression "what a crock" when he thought something was particularly offensive. Though I always found that expression irritating, I think it is an appropriate phrase for the "CROCK"er Park like Wolstein/Carney plan for the East Bank of the Flats. Surely you have heard of Crocker Park? I moved to Westlake 20 years ago when it was a quiet farming community with some beautiful historic buildings and two lane roads. Of course there were some housing developments built in the 50s, 60s and later and there were some stores and even a strip mall or two, but I can barely recognize my former home town now that Crocker Park has taken over. Westlake/West Bay has become little more than a shopping Mecca exit from I 90, traffic pours into this rediculous big-box-mega-mall that adds nothing but minimum wage jobs, traffic, pollution, and unattractive, unhealthy buildings to our community. There is little green space left for deer now. They are forced to devour tulips a from flower beds until they get hit in the road. Hummers speed down residential streets to and from their McMansions, which accompanied Crocker Park. This type of develop results in the lowest quality of life for everyone, and once its there, there is no going back.





We can lament the demise of  the urban core in Cleveland – along with the cores of many  US cities – but the responsibility for the evisceration of the cities lays at our own ignorant and lazy feet – not at the feet of today’s hapless developers. 


Starting with General Motors’ clandestine purchase and dismantlement of the electric trolley mass transit systems in  California

urban sprawl has been inevitable.  With Madison Avenue’s help, we suffer from a  clinically certifiable FETISH for automobiles in the US and our corporations and government have now spread the fetish globally.   We allow a tax on gas which the highway construction lobby sees is paid to the highway construction industry so our roads are widened and extended into suburbia so we can drive more miles and put more poisonous gases into the atmosphere for us to breathe. 


CLEVELAND has all the national development problems – and more.   Cleveland, I would venture to say, has considerably more than the national average of corruption.  From the IX- Hopkins deal, to Nat Gray and parking lots, to the Water Department and a million in phony PO’s , to George Forbes’ relative working for the Ohio Workman’s Compensation Bureau, to the Browns getting the City to own their stadium, to the multimillionaire owner of the Cavs getting the Port Authority to put up 20 million so the Cavs can pay less to the school district - it goes on and on.   Much in plain sight, more below the horizon.


If you owned a business, why in the world would you want to locate where this crap was prevalent?  Why would you want to own and operate a business (or a home) in a location where you were at a financial disadvantage from other business owners if you didn’t scheme and scam to obtain real estate tax abatements, money for employee “training”,  and all the other inequitable and regressive and miserably ineffective “economic incentive” give-a-ways that put even greater tax pressure on the politically un-connected  individual taxpayer?


The solution?  Use Madison Avenues techniques to brainwash in the other direction.  We could do that in Cleveland and NEO if we had the broadcast content to disseminate,  the fiber with the bandwidth to broadcast the content (Lev’s One Cleveland in the schools - where are you?) and monitors (on cell phones too) in public places and in all homes to receive the content.


Then, the only two things left to do,  would be   1.         to see that this   crop of the newly brainwashed voters went to the polls,   2.  that the candidates were newly brainwashed. 


If we can bring democracy to Iraq, surely we can do this!