One Cleveland neighborhood working to become a cultural hub

CLEVELAND - Celebrating their culture while giving the near West Side of Cleveland a much-needed economic boost.   

We continue our "A Better Land" series with a look at the transformation underway in the Fulton-Clark neighborhood.

People who live and work along the West 25th Street corridor in-between Ohio City and Brooklyn aren't waiting around for someone else to come in and spark change, they're doing it themselves.

Inside a two-story building on the corner of Seymour Avenue and W. 25th Street, a glimpse into the future.

"People are excited about the movement that is happening," said Lalo Rodriguez.

Rodriguez is the co-owner of Cafe Social.

“We're just Latin-American coffee," said Rodriguez.

The coffee shop is one of three new Latino-owned businesses now open inside this incubator.

"A lot of people have commented about 'oh my God we definitely needed this restaurant, this coffee shop here,'" said Rodriguez.

The space to help make dreams a reality is part of a bigger push to bring prosperity back to the Clark-Fulton neighborhood.

"The central part of the W. 25th corridor is the most underdeveloped," said Jenice Contreras, Northeast Ohio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

La Villa Hispana is a multimillion-dollar project designed by the people who already call this part of town home.

"It helps that they know we live in the community and that we're trying to push the community forward," said Rodriguez.

The first phase of the redevelopment will transform the old H.J. Weber building into a 48,000 square foot public market.

"When you want some great Latino food or want to dance salsa or do an arts and culture activity there is no doubt on where to go," said Contreras.

Beyond the market, which is where Cafe Social will eventually move to, there are more than a dozen other projects on tap to create a cultural hub.

"We're trying to promote that Latin-American culture," said Rodriguez.

According to Cleveland State University, the investment will pay off. The university's Center for Economic Development said La Villa Hispana will generate nearly $30 million in annual labor income and support 500 jobs over the next five years.

"We're not trying to gentrify by any means, we're not push the community that already lives here away," said Rodriguez.

Contreras said that is their top priority.

"That is the reason why that we are redeveloping the neighborhood ourselves with the support of community development partners. We don't want restaurants or businesses that the people in this neighborhood can't shop at or can't afford or can't work at or can't own,” said Contreras.

The market project is expected to break ground after the first of the year and is slated to be up and running in the Spring of 2020.

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