Cleveland’s East Side Market closed in 2007, leaving behind an empty building in the heart of the Glenville neighborhood. Now a plan is underway to reopen the municipally owned facility, which launched in 1988 as a fresh foods market for the city’s northeastern neighborhoods, as a full-service grocery store, health clinic and hub for food-related businesses.
At the request of Cleveland City Council members Kevin Conwell, Jeff Johnson and Mike Polensek, council at a Sept. 14 meeting approved leasing the property to Northeast Ohio Neighborhood Health Services (NEON), a nonprofit that operates community health centers in Cleveland and East Cleveland. The city will lease the property at East 105th and St. Clair for just $1 per year. Using both public and private funds, NEON aims to complete a $3.5 million renovation that it says will create at least 103 jobs.
The most significant part of the project is the fact that it will bring a new fresh foods market to an area that is considered a food desert. A family-owned grocer has signed a letter of intent to lease 13,000 square feet of the property at a price of $15 per square foot. The new grocery will be stocked with fresh meats, seafood and fruits and vegetables and will also have a small outdoor café with Wi-Fi.
NEON also plans to open a 2,000 square foot satellite health clinic there. In addition, a portion of the exterior will be transformed into an outdoor market for food vendors in the summer months. The project also includes plans for a demonstration kitchen that would be used to teach residents how to prepare healthy foods, community event space, specialty kiosks that can be leased to local vendors, and refrigerated storage and distribution space for small food businesses.
Project leaders say the East Side Market deal is a big win for a neighborhood where the only grocery stores are corner stores or limited service chains like Sav-a-Lot. Many Glenville residents shop at Dave’s Supermarket at 3301 Payne Avenue, even though it’s nearly four miles away, according to Ward 9 Councilman Kevin Conwell.
“They’re happy, they’re excited, they’re clapping,” said Conwell of how his constituents were reacting to the project. “They can’t wait.”
“This is a real coup,” added Ward 8 Councilman Mike Polensek, who represents Collinwood and worked on the project as part of the Northeast Neighborhoods Coalition, an alliance he formed with Johnson and Conwell to work on issues across ward boundaries after the 2013 election. “We know the hip neighborhoods — Tremont, Detroit Shoreway, Ohio City — we read it enough, we hear it enough. But if we’re going to redevelop the St. Clair corridor, it will be one block at a time. It will take risk-takers and believers, that’s the only way it’s going to work.”The project will be supported by a $750,000 capital grant from the State of Ohio and $166,000 from the City of Cleveland. NEON officials aim to foot the bill for the remaining $2.6 million using bank financing or internal sources. Ongoing funding may be needed in the future, but their goal is to make the project self-sufficient. NEON’s lease is for five years with an option to renew.“We’re interested in holistic health — housing, jobs nutrition,” said Willie Austin, president and CEO of NEON, who has worked at the nonprofit since 1967 and has led the agency since 2003. “There’s no place in the area to get fresh food. One constituent told Councilman Conwell, ‘I’d be happy if I could just buy an apple.’ That really illustrates the problem that we’re having.” “We believe this could be an economic engine that spurs more economic development,” added Arthur Fayne, vice president of Community Integrated Services, a NEON subsidiary that deals with programming and land and asset management. “NEON has made the business decision to help rebuild the community around it.”Conwell agreed, stressing that the East Side Market must be more than just a grocery store, but also a destination. The intersection of East 105th Street and St. Clair is the historic heart of downtown Glenville, he said, yet today it is surrounded by retail strip centers that have high vacancy rates. “We believe this is something that will drive traffic to the other tenants,” said Conwell. “If you’re a retailer and looking for a vibrant area, this will bring it.
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