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Mission Possible: CentroVilla25 to celebrate culture and grow Clark-Fulton economy

In celebration of Northeast Ohio's range of cultures, one group is ensuring Latino customs, art and food will be experienced by our region for decades to come.

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cha’Firo restaurant opened its doors at the beginning of June. Featuring vegan and vegetarian friendly Puerto Rican food, but there are items for meat lovers as well.

“It’s my passion to feed people. It just feels good, and I want to see people enjoying the food and the community coming together," said Peggy Cruz, Owner and Chef at Cha'Firo. 

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Its location is well known in the Clark Fulton neighborhood. Once a Caribbean grocery, the Northeast Ohio Hispanic Center for Economic Development made it into a business incubator to honor the past owner. It launched 9 businesses before Cha’Firo took over the space.

“We could open up a hundred and fifty restaurants yesterday, if we had the infrastructure. But we don’t," said Randy Cedeño, Director of the Small Business Development Center at the Northeast Ohio Hispanic Center for Economic Development. 

That is why neighborhood will soon see a bolder plan called CentroVilla25.

“Our intent with Centro Villa is to activate this neighborhood and provide affordable retail space for entrepreneurs," said Jenice Contreras, NEOHCED's Executive Director.

The goal, transform this old warehouse into a vibrant shopping and community center, with a specialty grocery store and 20 retailers.

“Seven of the retailers will be food based. So, you can come here for lunch, dinner, breakfast, really anytime and have a diversity of options," Contreras shared. 

Also, the new home of the Hispanic Center and to other anchor organizations.

 “So, this area, on the outside, is where we are intending to have our outdoor plaza space. Really for gathering arts and culture events. Really open it up to the neighborhood. Think summer concerts a permeant home for La Placita which is our open-air market," Contreras said during a exterior walking tour. 

“We have way more people interested than spaces we have available," cautioned Cedeño who says Latinos represent the biggest sector of growth for new business in the state of Ohio. 

“So, it is going to be incredibly difficult to figure out who is going to come in and who is not going to be come in. Cause we want to give everybody an opportunity, it’s just we don’t have enough," said Cedeño.

CentroVilla25 is a 10-million-dollar investment into the community. Funds are still being raised with the hope of breaking ground this year. With some programing in 2023, and fully open in 2024. Clark-Fulton is Ohio’s densest population of Hispanics, according to the 2020 Census.

For Contreras, this is personal. The house she grew up in is just behind where CentroVilla25 will soon stand.

“For me as much as this is a professional achievement, it is a personal achievement to make our place a better place, right? Not to sound caliche but to really improve the conditions of this neighbor for generations to come," she said. 

Not only to make it home but a destination. 

“This is our neighborhood, right? This is where we are at, and this is where you can find us. This is where our products are at, this is where we are going to celebrate our culture our people,” said Cedeño. 

“CentroVilla is going to be a hub and it is going to be a very important staple to our neighborhood and I’m glad it is coming," Cruz said. 

Editor's Note: The video above is from a previous Mission Possible story.

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