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Cleveland’s Kinsman and Buckeye neighborhoods rebuilding around history, housing, community radio

Posted October 12, 2023 in News Items

Cleveland’s Kinsman and Buckeye neighborhoods rebuilding around history, housing, community radio

By Steven Litt of Cleveland.co

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Jae Williams has one of the most unusual community development jobs in Northeast Ohio, and he loves it.

He serves as general manager of WOVU-FM 95.9, the nonprofit radio station launched in 2018 by Burten, Bell, Carr Development Inc., the community development corporation serving the mostly low-income, majority-Black neighborhoods of Central, Kinsman and Buckeye.

Broadcasting from Bridgeport Place, a community service center built in 2008 by BBC at 7201 Kinsman Road, WOVU intersperses Gospel, R&B, and “Holy Hip-Hop’' with shows on personal finance, healthy food, health care, and other topics aimed at improving listeners’ lives.

Reaching a citywide audience, WOVU provides an alternative to commercial radio stations that flood the air with violent hip-hop and other negative portrayals of Black communities, Williams said.

“It’s important that Cleveland has information that educates and causes our community to soar and thrive,’’ he said.

As part of a series of stories about Cleveland neighborhoods, cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer today offer a snapshot of the Kinsman and Buckeye-Woodhill neighborhoods on Cleveland’s East Side.

Kinsman and Buckeye are emblematic of Cleveland’s evolution from a 19th century industrial powerhouse to a shrinking, 21st century city with big opportunities, but also with neighborhoods sharply divided by race, class, and unequal access to natural amenities such as Lake Erie.

Like many East Side neighborhoods, Kinsman and Buckeye have suffered from decades of disinvestment caused by redlining and other forms of systemic racism.

Major investments in housing, schools, and other projects in recent decades haven’t yet triggered the self-perpetuating cycles of redevelopment visible in West Side neighborhoods such as Tremont, Ohio City and Detroit Shoreway.

“We are not beyond the point of inflection,’’ said Tim Tramble, president and CEO of the Saint Luke’s Foundation, based in the renovated former Saint Luke’s Hospital building at 11327 Shaker Blvd. in Buckeye-Woodhill.

Tramble points to Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb’s new initiative to pour city resources into neighborhoods on the Southeast Side as a hopeful sign that the area will now receive the energy and resources it needs “kickstart’' a self-sustaining revival.

Major assets

But while Kinsman and Buckeye suffer from poverty and decay, pride and progress are also evident. Major assets, places and institutions in the neighborhoods include:

  • The Saint Luke’s Foundation, which awarded nearly $4 million in grants to projects in East Side neighborhoods, including Buckeye, in 2022. The foundation is one of numerous organizations based in the renovated former Saint Luke’s Hospital, whose cupola towers over the Buckeye skyline.
  • The East End Neighborhood House at 2749 Woodhill Road. Founded in the early 20th century to serve the largely Hungarian immigrant community in Buckeye, it now provides daycare, senior care, and after-school programs.
  • The Ubuntu Gathering Place, a nearby community park dedicated in June at East 103rd Street and Shaker Boulevard, with dry riverbeds, drifts of ornamental grasses, and a central plaza with a paved map of Africa. The project is one of a series of new parks and public spaces supported by nonprofits including the Western Reserve Land Conservancy.
  • Benedictine High School, a private Catholic prep school for boys with an architecturally imposing campus at 2900 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. Founded in 1927, it serves students from across Northeast Ohio.
  • The headquarters of the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority at 8120 Kinsman Road. Now celebrating its 90th anniversary year, the agency serves more than 55,000 residents with roughly 10,500 affordable housing units and another 15,500 homes subsidized through Housing Choice Vouchers according to its website.
  • BoxSpot, a $1.7 million business incubator made of stacked shipping containers, and built by BBC, opened in September 2019 at 8005 Kinsman Road.
  • Rid-All Green Partnership, established by BBC in 2009 at 8129 Otter Ave. in Kinsman, is a 23-acre urban agriculture innovation and education project aimed at addressing food deserts in Cleveland.

Beyond such assets, Kinsman and Buckeye have a powerful sense of place. Kinsman extends east from the Kingsbury Run Valley, not far from where John D. Rockefeller launched Standard Oil in the 1870s. Laced by rail lines, Kinsman became a haven for other industries, and, in the 1920s, for Jewish immigrants from Europe.

Further east, at East 93rd Street in Buckeye, an escarpment rises gradually and majestically from the floor of the Cuyahoga Valley. Streets and houses often offer glimpses of the downtown skyline.

Buckeye was once heavily populated by Hungarian immigrants, but, like Kinsman, it underwent a rapid transition to a majority-Black population between the mid-20th century, spurred by now illegal practices of block-busting and steering by realtors.

Read more by visiting Cleveland.com