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Cleveland Rising Summit Attendees Imagine the City's Future

Jessica Virant, Bob Jaquay, and Travis Howard at table 57 of the Cleveland Rising Summit. [Annie Wu / ideastream]
Attendees at the Cleveland Rising Summit: Jessica Virant, Bob Jaquay, and Travis Howard

Hundreds of people concerned about the future of Cleveland gathered downtown at Public Auditorium Tuesday for the first day of a three-day summit to discuss their hopes for the city.

At table 67, Lynn Milliner, a pediatrician at MetroHealth, said the divide between the East Side and the West Side is an opportunity to play up both sides’ strengths.

“I think it makes the city unique,” said Milliner. “I think the older mentality about East Side/West Side was not a positive – it was us versus them, and I think we’ve done a great job about minimizing that. But I think we can also go further by, what makes the East Side unique and what makes the West Side unique?”

At the same table, Steve Lorenz, the former executive director of Kamm’s Corner Neighborhood Development, expressed frustration with the many local governments in Northeast Ohio.

“A big vision for the future is flattening out all this government,” said Lorenz. “We have 58 municipalities. We have a county government system that lays over the top of all of that, and there are just too many people doing the same thing 52 different ways.”

Participants talked in small groups about the city's strengths and struggles at Public Auditorium Tuesday. [Annie Wu / ideastream]

A few feet away at table 57, Travis Howard a fellow with the George Gund Foundation said he wants to see diversity in retail that reflects the city’s population.

“The more people we have that can open local businesses, that can create a bigger pool of diverse stores, that people can get out and enjoy – that adds to the culture of Cleveland,” said Howard, a Cleveland native. “I think this is the opportunity that we’re trying to figure out, how do we create more equity and entrepreneurship?”

Howard’s colleague at the Gund Foundation, Bob Jacquay said he’s optimistic about potential new businesses and the future for jobs along the Opportunity Corridor – a stretch of road connecting I-490 with University Circle.

"I’m hopeful that the land that’s vacant around the now-being-constructed Opportunity Corridor [in 2030] has been redeveloped into businesses that connect employment to the immediate nearby neighborhoods,” he said. “And that places like Kinsman and Glenville and Buckeye have much higher workforce participation rates, lower poverty rates, higher wages and that people stay in those places and enjoy walk to work neighborhoods that existed there 100 years ago.”

The summit continues all day Wednesday and concludes Thursday with a plan of action.

Annie Wu is the Deputy Editor - Digital Content for Ideastream Public Media.