Thursday, July 19, 2007

Cleveland News: Panel Discussion Today at Levin College on Marketing and Improving Our Neighborhoods

Jeff Kipp of Living in Cleveland hosted a lively panel discussion this morning at the Levin College of Urban Studies on marketing and improving Cleveland's neighborhoods. It was the quality of the participants that enticed me although I admit, it was hard not to roll my eyes and say 'oh lordy another attempt to market the City, what will they come up with THIS time.'

Luckily, they dispelled my worries early on by agreeing with Paul Volpe who said he is tired of videos that feature Tower City and the Cleveland Orchestra....and a bunch of 'happy people' who don't really say what is important enough to out-of -towners to bring them here. I breathed a sigh of relief.

I'm going to put out what I thought were the highlights of the discussion:

Paul Volpe's comment that 'culture' and not 'sprawl' are the issues in flight from our city. His (my) generation and earlier thought the signs that you succeeded in life had you progressing from growing up in the City and then moving out to the 'burbs to show you were a productive member of society. He commented that the younger generations seem to be thinking differently and are embracing a life within the City limits. (My clients certainly seem to fit this category.)

David Goldberg says the book The Creative Class should be required reading for everyone, and that personal responsibility NOT marketing is the driving force. He used environmental issues as an example around the Country. The environmental issue is taking off because of a grassroots effort not because of an expensive marketing campaign.

He feels this personal responsibility on all our parts is what will make the difference, not huge money spent on a media campaign. I have to agree. I remember reading Bob Dylan's comment in Rolling Stone recently; leave it to Bob to be on the philosophical cutting edge as always. He said we can't expect our politicians to do what we need to do. It's our fault if things aren't the way we want them, not our political leaders fault. I couldn't help think of this as David Goldberg was talking.

Vickie Johnson exemplified personal responsibility with a great personal story. She of course lives in the Fairfax neighborhood. Her husband is a Cleveland Police Officer with a residency requirement. For years he would lament that they were not able to move anywhere else. She kept quiet, waiting until or if she would have to tackle this issue with him. She never wanted to leave. Then a few years ago, he started talking and thinking differently. Now he does not want to move either.

She also recounted how she felt it was important that her son attend the local public high school. She said she knew him, that he was a good student and would be good for the school and that is what is needed by residents in our neighborhoods. She made some excellent and thought provoking points about this.

She talked about 20 Case Students walking her neighborhood with her. They were mostly from the suburbs or out of town, never having been in that part of the City before. She said that the weekend was full of talking with neighbors and visiting establishments in the neighborhood. That Sunday night the director of the program at Case that brought these students to her for the weekend called: she said they were so impressed with the residents and the neighborhood.

In my opinion, It's all about letting people see the truth of how they live so others don't have to hold onto perceptions from others or from years past.

They all agreed that we, in each of our neighborhoods need to figure out two things: a plan and who is going to be the driving force in facilitating the plan. So it's not all talk. And they also commented on how it needs to be a realistic plan that the City can get behind.

Paul Volpe talked about the work on Prospect he was involved in, taking it, with grassroots efforts by others as well, from a six lane highway to what it is now so that it's a destination and livable and inviting. I don't know if the pretty sight I saw last week was the result of the same kind of effort or a general City plan, but the streetscaping, flowers and guitar art all give the block of East 9th near Huron and Prospect a sense of place in the most inviting way.

India Lee talked about not reinventing the wheel; that our City is divided up into CDCs and that the CDCs would need to be involved in theses grassroots efforts, leading the way in fact, with Living In Cleveland overseeing all of it. Ken Laurie of Rysar mentioned that he also wanted to see entrepreneurial work going on in the neighborhoods.

One part I really got excited about. Apparently (and only recently) The Clinic has been promoting the neighborhoods around it on their website as a way to entice their workers, especially new ones coming into the City, into living there. This is a new trend and shift in thinking. This is what we are looking for yes?

So the conclusion of the panelists was, if major Cleveland employers like the Clinic are promoting a neighborhood on their own, then that is a neighborhood the City should get behind. We cannot afford (they seemed to all agree) to try to promote every neighborhood in the City. We need to be smart about it. And the HR person from the Clinic said there have been quite a few 'hits' on the website about the neighborhood living possibilities.

Ken Laurie brought up an excellent point: Don't spend marketing money until there is a solid plan.

And they asked us to fill out a form if we were willing and able to roll up our sleeves and keep participating along with them and others.

David Goldberg also said he felt the Medical Mart was a once in a lifetime opportunity that we should not give short shrift to (I am paraphrasing). I thought that was interesting.
I'll be sure to let you know when the next panel discussion is scheduled. Or if anything else transpires about all this in the meantime. Peace Out - 3C


Cleveland Desi said...

Excellent summary. I wonder if one bad experience for proponents of 'taking neighborhoods back' is enough to jump off the the bandwagon?

Cleveland Carole Cohen 3C said...

That is always the challenge Desi; and there have been experiences like that. I'm thinking you might agree with me that we can't give up.