CLEVELAND — With the long-awaited Opportunity Corridor on the east side of Cleveland now open, vehicles can travel from Interstate 490/Interstate 77 to University Circle.
On Friday, Joyce Hairston drove part of the Opportunity Corridor for the first time.
Hairston and her husband lived in Slavic Village for years, but they were among those in the neighborhood whose homes were bought up to make room for the new “Opportunity Corridor” project, a connector boulevard. The news wasn’t welcome.
“First, how much money we had put into that house because we had expected we were going to live there and that was it,” Hairston said. “My husband had redone the entire basement, dropped the ceiling, we had remodeled the kitchen. It was gorgeous, and I had flowers everywhere and a garden on the side, and I’m like, ‘Really? I've got to move?’”
She described the neighborhood as being a community where neighbors would do things for one another and check on each other.
“If you’re settled and you’re happy and you’re just going about your business, and all of a sudden somebody says, ‘Hey, pack up, you've got to go. Go find somewhere,’ it’s extremely traumatic and it’s not fun,” Hairston said.
When News 5 interviewed Hairston in 2011, she said her reaction to hearing her home and others would be torn down was “terror, panic, crisis mode, fight or flight.”
Ten years later, she described it as “a shock to all of our systems to have to pack up and just go.”
“We were kind of in limbo for about two years,” she added, noting she wasn’t sure it would really happen because many projects never take shape.
“Until they actually said that they were coming to the table with money and ‘Hey, we had to move,’ we really didn’t feel like it was real,” Hairston said.
Hairston ended up being part of a steering committee, giving input and advice throughout the process. She said they picked “different people who they felt were involved in the communities along the proposed Opportunity Corridor,” enabling her to attend meetings and learn what was being considered for the project.
On Friday, Hairston acknowledged that the road itself looked good, but she did not think the corridor “enriched the lives of the people that lived in the area.”
In particular, she said those behind the project promised jobs and opportunities to the residents affected by the Opportunity Corridor, and she did not think enough had been done.
Hairston also expressed frustration at having to fight and having to get a Legal Aid attorney in order to get a habitable, decent house after she had to leave hers.
She now lives in the Akron area. While she has visited Cleveland since moving there, she hasn’t been near her old home and neighborhood in many years.
“I definitely miss my house. However, I got a better house, and I’m in a better situation so I’m happy with that,” Hairston said.
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