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Vacant lot turned into real-life storybook in Cleveland through 'Literary Lots' project

Posted at 6:52 AM, Jul 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-25 18:27:33-04

CLEVELAND — Turning an eyesore into a real-life storybook. That is what Cleveland woman is doing through a program called Literary Lots.

According to the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, there are more than 22,000 residential vacant lots sprinkled throughout the city of Cleveland.

Instead of seeing them as blight, Kauser Razvi see the potential.

“When I started this project a few years ago, Cleveland was doing a lot of work on repurposing and reimagining vacant spaces,” Razvi said.

So in 2013, she had the idea to bring books to life — popular bestsellers like " with a Chance of Meatballs and "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" — and convert the vacant, overgrown lots into a pop-up playground for the summer.

This year, the Literary Lot is in Slavic Village and based on the book Wild Robots by Peter Brown.

“The kind of joy and curiosity that happens when you open a book? It was like, what if this lot was kind of like a pop up book?” Razvi said.

Wild Robots is about a robot who gets stranded on an island and has to learn the meaning of being alone — and the power of friendships.

The lot in Slavic Village is filled with 3D art pieces from the book, including a 20-foot robot that stands tall. There are arts and crafts, writing workshops, laser and 3D printing, and plenty of nooks and crannies so that kids can come explore

Fifteen year old Diamond Bottoson helped create it and now works at the playground through her job at Youth Opportunities Unlimited.

“It’s really different, it’s unique, it’s something that was never done in Cleveland before,” Bottoson said. Bottoson said the exposure is a great opportunity to grow social skills, marketing expertise, and even learn some carpentry through building a little free library.

The Literary Lots are funded through grants and donations from groups including the Cleveland Foundation, Arcelormital, Slavic Village Development and others.

The 2019 Literary Lot is on 6600 Union Ave. in Slavic Village and is open every day through August 11. Monday through Friday from 10am to 8pm, and on weekends from 11am to 7pm.

There are activities and writing and art workshops everyday and events on Fridays and Saturdays. It is completely free for kids and families to enjoy.

This story is part of A Better Land, an ongoing series that investigates Northeast Ohio's deep-seated systemic problems. Additionally, it puts a spotlight on the community heroes fighting for positive change in Cleveland and throughout the region. If you have an idea for A Better Land story, tell us here.