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New Development Approved After Promise To Preserve Club Azteca History

A project called Waverly & Oak will sit on land where Club Azteca now stands. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]
A project called Waverly & Oak will sit on land where Club Azteca now stands. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]

After push back from Cleveland’s LatinX communities, the developers of the Waverly & Oak project in Cleveland’s Gordon Square Arts District have agreed to preserve artifacts and history of Club Azteca, a Mexican-American social club and cultural hub that once occupied a building that still stands on the site.

The building will be razed for the development, a prospect that prompted the Cleveland Landmarks Commission to dealy the new development's approval in February following protests from neighborhood advocates who said it was another example of gentrification wiping out their culture.

The commission yesterday revisitied the plans and approved the residential and commercial development.

At its Feb. 25 meeting, the commission recommended that developers Bond Street Group and those concerned about the demolition take 30 to 60 days to reach a “respectful solution.”

“Obviously development wants to go fast, but we don’t want to go so fast that we forget about something as important as Club Azteca,” Julie Trott, chair of the landmarks commission, said Thursday. 

It look a little more than a month, but Bond Street Group and a coalition of advocates for Club Azteca agreed that the multi-story, multi-use building can proceed after developers promised in writing to find a way to memorialize the club and what it represents in the community.

”I think Bond Street having the opportunity to hear us as historians and to really offer this space to all of the Mexican and Mexican American coalition members was a work that often is not seen,” said Bella Sin of the Mexican American Historical Society.  

The Azteca Coalition included Club Azteca, Inc., Comité Mexicano de Cleveland, Young Latino Network and the Mexican American Historical Society, with support from the Cleveland Foundation.

Trott and other members of the commission praised Bond Street for its efforts to work with the Azteca Coalition. 

Said Justin Strizzi, a Bond Street representative: “It’s important to have knowledgeable experts in that space as part of the process. The Azteca Coalition as a whole has been a phenomenal resource for us in that regard. The project is truly stronger for the conversations that we had and for the coalition being partners in this.”   

The commission gave Bond Street recommendations on the design of the building and on ways to additionally honor Club Azteca before voting unanimously to approve the demolition of the Club Azteca building and Bond Street’s plans for development. 

Gabriel Kramer is a reporter/producer and the host of “NewsDepth,” Ideastream Public Media's news show for kids.