Residents take vacant lots into their own hands with the hopes of generating economic growth

Posted at 10:00 AM, May 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-21 10:07:44-04

For months, News 5 has been reporting on the abandoned areas and trash around the City of Cleveland.

Once the homes are demolished, they leave holes that some say make their neighborhoods look incomplete.

As part of our year-long Cleveland Abandoned series, we’re taking a look at solutions from other cities.

Cities like Detroit have changed the game for blight management simply by planting trees. Not only do the neighborhoods look better, there’s new potential for economic growth.

And it’s a model for Cleveland that’s slowly taking shape.

“I think it’s depressing, I mean I live here, I know that it really gets you down some days,” said Marlane Weslian, neighborhood development officer for Slavic Village.

She said her and others like Carol Platta in the neighborhood are tired of the blight and the empty lots.

“Nothing’s happening,” said Platte.

That’s why Platta has been taking matters into her own hands, mowing the lot next to her for the past two years, begging the city to let her build on it.

“And I wanted to you know maybe later fence it in,” she said.

That’s the ownership Weslian and her Slavic village team want to encourage, but it’s not enough, so they started looking for other solutions to the blight that's dotting her neighborhood.

“Sometimes it’s just sort of like a smile, other times there’s like three or four in a row,” she said.

Her search took her to Detroit.

“It’s a commitment, a real commitment to mission, and a lot of patience, and a lot of dialogue with the city,” said Mike Score, President of Hantz Farms in Detroit.

Over the last four years, their green space project has planted more than 25,000 on vacant lots transforming them into little miniature forests.

“We’ve already had conversations with close to a half a dozen developers,” Score said.

And Weslian would like to see Cleveland take the idea even further.

“First looking at different strategies because not every strategy fits every neighborhood,” she said.

In Slavic Village, they've already used a unique strategy, creating a green space on Broadway Avenue, with a built-in system to reuse rainwater for the trees and plants there.