SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio — Two community groups are taking over operations at Shaker Square if the plan is approved by city council. Burton, Bell, Carr Development and Cleveland Neighborhood Progress will use federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan to prop up the East Side shopping center.
"We all want to see Shaker Square and the Shaker Square area really grow," said Johnny Hutton.
Hutton is the owner of Zanzibar. The soul food restaurant is a staple at the square.
The shopping district has not been immune to the economic roller coaster the country has been on the last 19 months.
Stores have abbreviated hours. Handwritten notes usurp the pre-pandemic times painted on the windows. While several have open signs on, there is space available for new vendors. But long-time tenant Hutton said the future of Shaker Square is strong.
"It's still a central place to come," he said.
In a bid to keep it that way, the two groups want to use the federal money for the next two or three years, said Tania Menesse, CEO of Cleveland Neighborhood Progress.
Hutton likes the plan to bring the books up to speed but said the pandemic-fueled recession will take a while to figure out.
"But I would like to see a strategy in place that's really going to include a longer-term solution," he said.
This plan is not long-term, Menesse said. While it doesn't have an official sunset, it's meant to revitalize the area so that private investors turn their focus to Shaker Square.
"While it is an intermediary step it shows great vision by the city of Cleveland and others," she said.
Menesse said if the plan is not approved by city council, "likely Shaker Square will go to Sherrif's sale by either end of the year or early into next."