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East Cleveland: Despite problems, some see better future

10:09 PM, Aug 16, 2013   |    comments
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EAST CLEVELAND -- Longtime East Cleveland resident Gwen Miller and new resident Roosevelt  James have one thing in common.

They both think the problem-plagued city is on the way to turning the corner to a brighter future.

"I think it's getting better. It's going to get better. That's why I'm not going nowhere," Miller said.

James, who just moved into a new building in the city, said, "It's improving. I think they are trying to get it right."

The city has many longstanding pluses. Wealthy John D. Rockefeller called East Cleveland home and bequeathed it lots of land.

Forest Hills Park is a majestic space in need of better upkeep.

East Cleveland has more "millionaires' row" mansions than Cleveland. Some of the region's richest VIPs called the city home.

And new housing may lead a possible comeback.

The city is positioned next door to thriving University Circle, which has little space to develop new housing for the army of workers at hospitals, museums and Case Western Reserve University.

University Circle Inc. just partnered to develop a complex of apartments in East Cleveland for workers and students.

Univercity Circle's head Chris Ronayne said, "We leased up immediately. East Cleveland was and will be again a home for a University Circle work force."

There's talk of possible expansion. Ronayne claims a half dozen developers are checking out East Cleveland sites.

Lots of abandoned properties in East Cleveland are being demolished to make way for possible development. Cuyahoga County's Land Bank is involved.

Both candidates for mayor see a brighter city future amid the development.

Incumbent Mayor Gary Norton said, "I think we're going to be in much better shape in 10 years. We will look different."

Council president and Norton's chief opponent, Dr. Joy Jordan, said, "I've fallen in love with this community. I believe we can turn this around. ... I want to be a change agent for the future."

Whoever wins, the mayor will have to juggle solving present massive problems with developing potential projects.

Norton said, "It's like performing emergency surgery on a patient to save them so you can build the hospital around them."

East Cleveland's other pluses include the new Stephanie Tubbs-Jones Health Care Center, being on the RTA Health Line linking the city's two biggest job centers, downtown and University Circle, General Electric's long-term presence at its Nela Park complex and a renowned and stirring Shaw High School marching band.

"Superb," Miller calls it.

Poverty, crime, blight and a City Hall government that often seems to be more of a problem than problem-solver remain overwhelming issues. But East Cleveland's decline didn't happen overnight. And any rebound and recovery will take time too. 

Read more from our weeklong series about East Cleveland:

East Cleveland copes with police layoffs

Dangers for children walking to school in East Cleveland

East Cleveland employees caught in budget battle

East Cleveland residents adjust to loss of hospital

Despite problems, some see a brighter future for East Cleveland

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