WELCOME TO CENTRAL/KINSMAN
By Carissa Woytach
The neighborhoods of Central and Kinsman share a similar, but rich ethnic history on the city’s east side. While the area has a high poverty rate, it still boasts a community college, budding agricultural zone and community investments in healthy foods and education.Both neighborhoods receive their names from the major streets running through them — Central Avenue cutting through the middle of the northern-most district, while Kinsman Road runs vertically through its similarly named neighborhood. Fairfax and Buckeye-Woodhill border the neighborhoods to the east, while Cuyahoga Valley and Slavic Village are to the west.
The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s rapid red line runs between the two neighborhoods, making both easily accessible from other major parts of the city.
While much of Cleveland prospered through the industrial age, Kinsman and Central have consistently been lower-income areas, with many residents enrolled in public assistance programs.
One hundred years ago, Central housed the city’s largest population of Italian and Jewish immigrants, making it an ethnically well-integrated area throughout much of its history, reflected in the mixed-race enrollment at East Technical High School in the early 1900s. During this time, the area was home to a healthy amount of retail, with bakeries and grocers lining the streets.
But, as European immigration dropped during World War I, the area’s African American population grew and — facing work and housing discrimination — so did the poverty level.
During the last 50 years, both neighborhoods’ populations have declined, leaving high vacancy, poverty and crime rates in their wake. The New Deal Public Works Administration built several public housing projects in the area in the mid-1930s, including Outhwaite and Cedar-Central.
In 2011, Central alone was home to nine different housing projects. But the area does offer opportunity, as Central is home to the metro campus of Cuyahoga Community College. Designed to provide quality skill and academic training to low-income students, the campus opened in 1966. While it provides students with the training they need to obtain an associate’s degree, transfer to a four-year institution or receive state certification for vocational programs, it is also a cultural center for the community, with the nationally-renowned Tri-C JazzFest held annually. It houses an art gallery to showcase professional and student work,, a full-service recreation center and offers a host of community service and youth programing.
Central is also home to Cleveland Central Recreation, on East 22nd and Central Avenue. Housed in one of Cleveland’s four historic bath houses, the center offers 24-hour services to residents of the nearby housing projects, as well as children’s arts and recreational programming.
While much of these neighborhoods are still in the depth of poverty, community development corporation Burten, Bell, Carr Development, Inc. is in the process of combating these long-time issues. During the last decade, the non-profit organization began creating a master plan to revitalize the neighborhood with investment.
Conducting a series of meetings to gain community feedback from residents and stakeholders in the region, the CDC looks at issues related to housing, transportation, safety, health and recreation.
By Carissa Woytach
In the Garden Valley section of the Kinsman neighborhood on Cleveland’s east side, new construction has brought a much-needed $2.2 million development to the impoverished area.
At the corner of Kinsman Road and East 72nd Street, Bridgeport Place opened in 2008. Housing the area’s Community Development Corporation, Burten, Bell, Carr Development, Inc. (BBC), it is also home to the Bridgeport Café, a Cleveland Public Library branch and, most notably, CornUcopia Place.
CornUcopia opened in October 2012 as part of the neighborhood’s Healthy Food Access Initiative. The initiative works to combat the urban area’s lack of fresh produce versus the overabundance of fast food restaurants.
CornUcopia Place provides the community with a state-of-the-art kitchen facility, offering cooking classes and demonstrations, nutrition education, a rental space for events and a harvest preparation station. Classes offered focus on educating residents on the importance of healthy eating, as well as giving them the tools needed to prepare their own healthy meals. Guest experts from The Ohio State University, Cuyahoga County Community College, University Hospitals and Greater Cleveland Diabetes Association have partnered with BBC to educate the community.
Educating residents includes introducing them to fruits or vegetables that they may not have experienced before.
“If you give someone an eggplant that was grown in a community garden, but they’ve never had an eggplant — they don’t know what it is, what it tastes like, its nutritional value or how to prepare it — then they may as well not have it,” says Joy Johnson, associate director of BBC. “You can have a garden next to your house but if you don’t understand the value of fresh fruits and vegetables, then access alone won’t address your health issues.”
In conjunction with CornUcopia, BBC started the Bridgeport Mobile Market, which is a refrigerated food truck that delivers fresh produce options to Cleveland’s east side. The truck accepts cash, credit and food stamp payments, making these healthy options as accessible as possible — 46 percent of Kinsman and 64 percent of Central residents received food stamps, according to the 2014 City Planning Commission’s fact sheets.
To continue provide healthy options to residents, CornUcopia, in partnership with the Bridgeport Café, occasionally offers fresh produce for sale. These items are grown by residents and harvested from the nearby Urban Agriculture Innovation Zone on East 82nd Street.
Urban Agricultural Innovation Zone
By Carissa Woytach
To further combat the common instance of food deserts in low-income urban areas, Burten, Bell, Carr Development Inc. transformed 28 acres of vacant land into one of the largest, most innovative urban agricultural districts in the United States.
Currently, two entities have made use of the ample acreage provided. Rid-All Green Partnership and Ohio State University Extension’s Kinsman Farm both serve the Central/Kinsman communities by providing fresh produce, farming education and employment to residents.
Rid-All Green Partnership occupies an acre-and-a-half lot off of Otter Avenue and East 82nd Street. Childhood friends Damien Forshe, G. Keymah Durden III and Randy McShepard, founded the Rid All Green Partnership in 2011.
Between two greenhouses and four hoop houses, the group raises tilapia in a closed aquaponics system — planning to add perch, blue gill and bass soon — as well as harvesting corn, tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, celery, collard greens, kale, broccoli and various herbs.
They also cultivate compost, called “black gold.” Made from spoiled produce from the Cleveland Food Bank, wood chips from the city’s forestry department, coffee grounds from several local cafes and the leftover hops from Little Mountain Brewery in Kirtland and Black Box Brewery in Westlake, Rid-All uses the compost on their crops.
Recently, the group joined in an Environmental Protection Agency-funded collaboration with the Buckeye Shaker Square Development Corp., the city of Cleveland and Environmental Health Watch to participate in the “Greenhouses & Green Houses” program.
The program works with Buckeye homeowners and tenants to revitalize their neighborhoods, including removing health hazards in homes, promoting energy efficiency, managing storm water and creating community gardens. Four community gardens and 15 backyards used Rid-All’s compost-rich soil.
In 2012, the partnership harvested more than 14,000 pounds of produce and cultivated 1,200 cubic yards of compost. They also educated adults and youth about environmental sustainability and growing practices.
The Ohio State University Extension takes up six acres of the Innovation Zone, paid for by a $1.1 million grant from the USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. Established in 2010, the program invites 12 market gardeners to produce crops on a quarter-acre plot of land each. They can then sell the produce at farmers’ markets, or to restaurants or to use in other products.
This “incubator” farm provides new, inexperienced farmers with the infrastructure and education to reduce the risk of starting a farming business. Participants must complete OSU’s Extension’s Market Gardener Training Program and have their business plan approved to receive space at Kinsman Farm. In exchange for land use, farmers must help with general upkeep and farm maintenance.
Alongside these two initiatives, a decorative orchard and 20-foot-tall steel sign mark the start of the Innovation Zone at the corner of Kinsman Road and East 81st Street. Projects planned include storm water diversion and green energy creation.