Designing our Future

Submitted by lmcshane on Fri, 07/17/2020 - 10:38.

See the trees and the grasses in this photo? This is not a natural landscape. It was designed by a landscape architect to help save 60+ year old English Oaks in a city park that underwent a massive reconstruction project in Cleveland, Ohio. It was a very political and stressful situation for residents.

Saving these trees was a personal victory for me. I trained as a landscape architect, but never formally practiced, after trying - but giving up in frustration. I even worked for the City of Cleveland in the department that designed and managed park properties. If I had stayed on - I might have helped design these tree wells, constructed to adjust the grade that was elevated 2' around the trunks of the oak trees.

Today I was reminded of my earlier career ambitions and I had a good little cry when I read this free picture book--Green Trees and Sam by Shannon Gapp:The book is part of wonderful mentorship program that encourages high school students to dream big and leave a legacy in their world. Please SEE:

I learned about the program when a student, who studied at Cleveland Public Library and lives in my neighborhood won a $40K scholarship to study design and construction management at Kent State University.   I know Diego. He is a bright light!


I don't know the landscape architect who SAVED our park trees, but it makes me happy to know this person helped our neighborhood. The grasses are beautiful and keep the operators of heavy grass cutting machinery from damaging the trees (and sinking in the gravel).

Life doesn't always turn out the way you planned, but it still goes on! Don't give up! LISTEN to Diego!

Advice for incoming ninth graders: “Don’t try to fit in. Your time will come where people come to you for help.”

Quote: “I want to start my own business, leave a mark and give back to the community. We are only here for a short time. If you are not hustling to leave a mark on the world, what’s the point?”



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WE Saved these TREES !

  Just a reminder - Tony Brancatelli is EVIL and wanted to kill every tree in our city park.  WE stopped him.  Mabeldog deserves the lion's share of the credit as she charmed Michael Cox, who then went to Darnell Brown and made our case. 

Parks will figure into the future of our city.  Parks and Recreation Centers, along with library locations, can be WiFi hotspots for families to connect with their schools and other vital resources during this pandemic.  Outdoors.  We have a municipally-owned public utility.  Digital Inclusion IS not insurmountable.

Diego attended CMSD Scranton - and Metrohealth Wellness Camp

Notable: Participated in the ACE Mentorship program, representing the architecture, construction and engineering industries. Received $40,000 ACE National 2020 CMiC – Allen Berg Memorial Scholarship, which is named for the founder of the CMiC construction software company and given to talented, deserving ACE seniors who pursue education and training that leads to careers in architecture, engineering, construction or skilled crafts. Ran cross-country and indoor and outdoor track for the John Hay Campus, finishing third in the Senate League cross-country championship meet. Also played soccer, earning his team’s MVP trophy.

Plans for the future: Attend Kent state university to study construction management. Become a construction manager for a large construction company and eventually start his own construction company in Northeast Ohio.

Challenges faced: Standing out from the crowd.

Impact of the coronavirus: “I feel bad it ended this way, but that just meant I got to work more on myself."

Who helped him succeed: His father, who came to the United States from Mexico to give his children a better life, and ACE mentors who introduced him to opportunities in the construction industry and inspired his career choice.

Advice for incoming ninth graders: “Don’t try to fit in. Your time will come where people come to you for help.”

Quote: “I want to start my own business, leave a mark and give back to the community. We are only here for a short time. If you are not hustling to leave a mark on the world, what’s the point?”

Almost there!

I worked at TWDC in the nineties - first as a contract employee and then as a board member.  I submitted and was awarded an Ohio Arts Council Grant that allowed the CDC to explore development of a trail along the Tremont bluff.  The proposed project was called the Tremont Promenade and was part of the redevelopment of vacant land (mostly due to arson) held by the City of Cleveland Land Bank.  At that time, I actually got along with Tim Donovan and there was discussion of using the vacated W 4th St. right-of-way for the extension of the towpath north to Canal Basin Park and the Hart Crane park that Ohio Canal Corridor, now Canalway, had purchased in the flats.

Canalway would not exist if not for the federal monies provided throught the National Heritage Area. In Akron - the federal monies also support the Ohio and Erie Canalway Coalition staff.  I am grateful to finally see the trail extension - mis-labeled as the "towpath" - extended to Canal Basin Park.  The real towpath ran along the east side of the Cuyahoga River, but that route was ruled out b/c of the obstacle posed by LTV Steel - now ArcellorMittal.  I don't know if I will live to actually see the benefits of the National Heritage Area proposed for my neighborhood - Brooklyn Centre.  I do resent the politics that have made this project such a real estate racket. 

I consider Lennie Stover one of the real true heroes of this trail network.  His work on the Red Line Greenway SUPERCHARGED the Cleveland Metroparks into finally making the north-south connection to Akron possible.  Without the federal TIGER grant - which hinged on the Redline Greenway element of the proposal - Cleveland Metroparks would not have had the funding to make this completion finally happen.   Thank you Lennie.  Thank you, too - to NOACA's Grace Galucci for first recognizing the potential of the Red Line Greenway trail as a key element to the west side trail network.

There is much work to be done on east side trail connections.  I hope that the Mill Creek and West Creek watersheds will finally be connected to the towpath trail.  The historical elements preserved in Newburgh and Brooklyn townships were the justification for the National Heritage Area designation.  These elements have been shamefully ignored in the development of the project from the end of the actual towpath at Old Harvard.  I hope that the new board members at Canalway will help rectify this injustice.


Cleveland Neighborhood Progress

We will not be satisfied until all Cleveland residents are living in a Neighborhood that meets their needs. This is how we measure Progress.

Worthy ideals.  Sadly - CNP seeems to think that priming publicly owned lands for developers is their real mission:

From a local Hough resident:  "The company that have build the apartments, don't own the land, because Tania Menesse who was the boss of land bank (city land bank), didn't let them do it. CNP acted as corruption fixer for this situation. Basheer Jones also have got the kickback(100K) from this deal. And it is not the only example. Overall it is impossible to get land from land bank without engaging some kind of corruption facilitation and paying politicians and city workers."

The complex will be built on what is now Orr Park, and the city plans to build a new public park using proceeds from the sale (~$580,000) and an additional donation from the developer, Signet Real Estate (~$300,000). Among other projects, Signet developed Canal Park Stadium, home of the Akron Rubber Ducks.

But Signet won't be purchasing the land outright. They've agreed to a long-term lease with the New Village Corporation, a subsidiary of the community development corporation Cleveland Neighborhood Progress that facilitates complex real estate transactions with public and private partners. New Village Corporation will make the payment using proceeds from that lease, and will use additional funds to create a neighborhood land trust, controlled by a community board of Hough residents, for the development of other real estate projects.




So - there has also been a shake up at CNP aka NPI - the next wave of development will stress housing next to parks - so Andrew - please don't let this organization use your identity to camouflage dirty land deals.


Staff 2018:









  • Dione Alexander – President, Village Capital Corporation
  • Erika Anthony – VP of Government Relations & Strategy
  • Erskine Bevel Chief Financial Officer & VP of Administration
  • Evelyn Burnett VP of Economic Opportunity
  • Bianca ButtsManager of Climate Resiliency & Sustainability
  • Mordecai Cargill – Director of Strategy, Research & Impact
  • Aida Colon Loan Portfolio and Program Administrator
  • Sheri Dozier – Director of Asset Building & Community Financial Centers
  • Justin Fleming Director of Real Estate Services
  • Colleen Gilson – VP of CDC Advancement
  • Andrew Harris – Manager of Fund Development
  • Renee Harris – Community Financial Centers Services Manager
  • Nina HolzerManager of CDC Advancement
  • Jeff Kipp – Director of Neighborhood Marketing
  • Arnold Lockett – Senior Loan Officer
  • Walter Morris III – Community Financial Centers Services Manager
  • Wayne Mortensen – Director of Design & Development
  • Nick Patrone – Manager of Marketing Design
  • Don Pattison – Business Development Officer
  • Marjorie Piccolomini – Community Financial Centers Services Manager
  • Christine Rafalke – Bookkeeper/Finance Administrator
  • Joel Ratner – President & CEO
  • Rae Shea – Executive Assistant/Office Manager
  • Jenny Swanson – Sr. Accountant & VCC Finance Manager
  • Linda Warren – Sr. VP of Placemaking
  • Arleesha Wilson – Real Estate Portfolio Manager

Staff  2020:

  • Dione Alexander – President, Village Capital Corporation
  • Linda Bailey – Loan Portfolio and Program Administrator
  • Erskine Bevel Chief Financial Officer & VP of Administration
  • Aida Colon Bookkeeper & Financial Administrator
  • Jose Colon  Community Financial Centers Services Manager
  • Sheri Dozier – Director of Economic Opportunity & Community Financial Centers
  • Michael Elliott – Director of Economic Development
  • Justin Fleming Director of Real Estate Services
  • Melinda Gigante  Senior Manager of CDC Advancement
  • Colleen Gilson – VP of CDC Advancement
  • Andrew Harris – Manager of Fund Development
  • Renee Harris – Community Financial Centers Services Manager
  • Arnold Lockett – Senior Loan Officer
  • Stephanie McHenry – VP of Government Relations & Strategy
  • Walter Morris III – Community Financial Centers Services Manager
  • Nick Patrone – Senior Manager of Marketing Design
  • Marjorie Piccolomini – Community Financial Centers Services Manager
  • Joel Ratner – President & CEO   (Tania Menesse will be the new President and CEO)
  • Divya Sridhar – Climate Resiliency Fellow
  • Phillip Studmire Real Estate Portfolio Manager
  • Jenny Swanson – Sr. Accountant & VCC Finance Manager
  • Linda Warren – Sr. VP of Placemaking
  • Toni White Executive Assistant/Office Manager
  • Kandis WilliamsVP of Economic Opportunity

Tremont Promenade

So, as I have noted before - in the 90s, I worked for Tremont West as a contract employee, then as a board member.     My qualifications at that time included a liberal arts undergraduate degree and a masters degree in landscape architecture and coursework in real estate law taken at the University of Michigan and Syracuse University. But, that was obviously not important during my post hiring interview with a Flats Oxbow and Tremont West board member who took me out to lunch at Lockkeeper's.  It was one of many occasions were I learned that I was not to express an opinion - I was to get on board with the program.

So, I was hired to help bring folks on board with the City Architecture and Progressive Urban development of city land bank parcels on W. 7th.  I first became aware of Cleveland Housing Network at the organization.  It was one of many "umbrella" groups that I would become aware of operating in Tremont.  Another group with long tentacles - the settlement house:  I had to do a wayback search for a more accurate history :

Merrick House is a "home" for hundreds of people each year, from infants 6 months old to seniors in their nineties. Through the years, Merrick House has opened its doors and welcomed all people. Whether it be by teaching English to immigrants, providing child care to working parents or organizing a block club, Merrick House continues to provide the support, encouragement and guidance people need to function more independently through life.

Merrick House is a Settlement House neighborhood center located in Tremont and serving the Clark-Fulton-Denison and Tremont neighborhoods. It was founded in 1919 by the Christ Child Society and the Catholic Charities, whose mission is to respect cultural diversity while encouraging community harmony. Their purpose is to enable and empower residents to utilize the democratic process to promote social justice by:

  • Providing educational, social, and recreational programs;
  • Advocating for the individual, the family, and the community; and
  • Supporting other community and governmental programs and services that are consistent with these ideas.

Merrick House is funded by United Way Services; the City of Cleveland; Catholic Charities Services Corporation; Cuyahoga County; the State of Ohio; foundations; individual and corporate donors; and program service fees.

Whatever - I only know I butted heads with the "saintly" Gail Long, when I worked with Cindy Needham to make youth sports continue in the neighborhood.  I was told in so many words - get with the program.  What program?  There was no support of a summer softball league in Tremont.  We made it work (it was originally promoted by Karen Moss and other downtown folks - I was recruited by a high school friend from Rocky River).  Snide comments circulated.

I was living with an attorney who was embroiled in this whole non-profit industry.  That is a whole other nightmare that I will never revisit on REALNEO.  Suffice to say, I learned A LOT.  I also spent most of my time at Tremont West sorting out the record keeping for membership.  My skill set was developed as a data manager at Metrohealth.  And, it is still my skill set as a librarian.  Record keeping.

In any case, the MOTHER of all umbrella organizations operating in Tremont at the time - was Cleveland Neighborhood Development Corporation, now incorporated under Cleveland Neighborhood Progress aka Neighborhood Progress Inc.  Do you see how name changes play a role in this operation?

I committed the ultimate CRIME in the CDC world - I applied for a statewide grant for the Tremont Promenade Park (and got it) without asking for permission from NPI/CNDC.  At the time - the CNDC was run by a real charlatan (he was later quietly canned and has moved out of state - careful not to reveal his history in Cleveland).  I wondered what I had done that was soooooooooo terrible to be chastised by the person running this organization.  Turns out NPI is a shadow real estate operation in Northeast Ohio and the CDCs play a critical role in priming "development" that has been approved by the shadow folks who control real estate in NEO.  Wayne Mortensen, who just left NPI/CNP, warned someone on FB that I will give my justification for NOT voting on Issue 68 - as part of my conspiracy theory on the "cabal" (Basically - the Ratners w/slimeball former CLE council rats on board : Rokakis, Frangos, Brancatelli, Cimperman...and sadly - Matt Zone, now part of WRLC with his salary paid for by taxpayers).

I busted NPI's attempt to swindle taxpayers with a giveaway of the Cleveland Public Library Lakeshore (read Lakefront) property. 

Of course, Wayne Mortensen ghosts me and commented on my Issue 68 opinion.  I am over caring - sorry, I am NOT "liked" - and a lot of folks proudly proclaim their "dislike" of Candace Owens.  Well - wake up people - this is America.  I have a right to an opinion and I don't have to ask you whether it fits the "program."


Climate Mayor Pretends to CARE about TREES

Great work by City of Euclid and Akron, Bowling Green, Canton, Circleville, Coshocton, Dayton, Fostoria, Green, Lyndhurst, Obetz, Port Clinton, Stow, Toledo, Xenia, and nonprofits who applied including Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation $5M


Cleveland applied along with "7 regional partners" - AND did not get funded.  I learned from an inside source that the "ask" was ridiculously high.


SIGN the Petition and FIGHT like hell