About 25 city officials, business owners and representatives from local nonprofits gathered at on Monday morning to discuss how to improve and market a Cedar and Taylor roads business district.
Mayors Ed Kelley and Susan Infeld as well as the police chiefs from both Cleveland Heights and University Heights attended.
Howard Thompson, economic development director for Cleveland Heights, started the meeting by . Business owners had said that lighting, parking and crime were hurdles to developing the area.
Thompson said the city was conducting studies and working on improving lighting in the area.
Conversations and ideas ping-ponged from one person to another the entire morning.
One attendee suggested that the city eliminate parking meters. That way, people wouldn’t be deterred by the charges and time limits.
Kelley said that once you remove meters, people will park there all day long, and there would be no turnover, which is crucial for businesses in the area.
Another merchant said that when people smoke outside of his store, it makes the area look bad. He suggested adding benches.
“I’m not going to foster the problem,” said Kelley, who added that benches would only encourage smokers. He said to be direct and tell them to stop.
Megan Johnson, interim director of the Heights Independent Business Alliance, which is an organization that aims to form a partnership among local businesses in Cleveland Heights and University Heights, chimed in later. Benches, like the ones on Coventry, could beautify the area and encourage neighbors to talk to one another, she said.
The district could have artists design them and make them "funky" like those in Coventry added Calvin Singleton, who owns the Singleton Professional Center on Cedar. When people tagged his building, he installed basketball hoops and started talking to the kids in the neighborhood, which helped “promote community” and decrease crime, he said.
Unlike the last meeting, not as many people brought up concerns about safety in the area, other than suggesting that one of the cities assign a beat cop to the area and consider adding cameras like the ones on Cedar and Lee.
“I read every report and do the logs, and I have seen a decrease of activity in this neighborhood. Maybe that’s because more people are here,” said Cleveland Heights Police Chief Jeffrey Robertson.
Later on in the meeting, Kelley said the city is considering adding a permanent police fixture.
"We're looking at a beat cop very seriously to make this area even safer than it is now," he said.
Alex Quintana, who co-chairs the Heights Independent Business Alliance (HIBA) and owns , said he’s not nervous or afraid when incidents happen, but it's important for businesses to know about crime and be aware.
Much of what he said that morning focused on improving the aesthetics of the area, and he suggested business owners pitch in to have flowers planted, and use local businesses like Bremec’s. He also said the HIBA is working to decorate vacant storefronts with posters designed by local artists.
Several people suggested adding murals throughout the area, like the ones in Cedar Fairmount and Cedar Lee.
"It's a good idea, we've done it in other areas. We're more than happy to work with you," Kelley said. "We have a lot of good energy, a lot of things are happening here. We have 10, 11 thousand people coming to Melt every week, roughly."
Deanna Bremer Fisher, executive director of , suggested the district create a merchant’s association, and after the meeting, like many, credited Melt for bringing energy back into the area.
“It finally has some momentum that hadn’t been here before … this district can do it just like the others,” she said. “People should get together, not be disconnected, and come up with a comprehensive plan.”
Bob Gould, general manager of Melt, appropriately summarized the meeting this way.
“We are throwing things against the wall until something sticks."