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In-Depth: Cleveland business owners hope for pandemic funds after arson fire

In-Depth: CLE business owners hope for pandemic funds after arson fire
In-Depth: CLE business owners hope for pandemic funds after arson fire
In-Depth: CLE business owners hope for pandemic funds after arson fire
Posted at 9:48 PM, May 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-17 23:18:01-04

CLEVELAND — Some Fleet Avenue business owners are hoping some of the $511 million in federal pandemic relief funds coming to Cleveland this year will be used to help the cities key business districts.

Chester Cuiksa, who owns several businesses and properties along the corridor, told News 5 a May 13 arson fire at a vacant auto repair shop at East 55th Street and Fleet Avenue is another example of why business districts desperately need some of those federal dollars.

“The property been an eyesore for all of those years, they use to have the tires back here, then it got wet and then the mosquitoes came in," Cuisak said.

“As soon as the properties are vacant, they come in, they steal the plumbing, they steal the furnace, they got to the point they’re stealing the wiring.”

“We could sure use some of that federal funding for grants and low-interest loans to starting taking these storefronts that are vacant and getting people in to open up some businesses.”

Ward 12 Cleveland Councilman Tony Brancatelli agrees some of the funding should go to business districts. Brancatelli and other members of Cleveland City Council are in the process of taking resident input on how the federal funds should be used.

Brancatelli said high on the list is money for city demolition of condemned properties, city road and bridge renovation, along with funding park and recreation center improvements.

“The more we get rid of these messes, the more we set the table for new investments, Brancatelli said.

"The funding should also be used on the digital divide and bridging broadband technology. We saw during the pandemic the divide between our Cleveland residents and our Cleveland students.”

Brancatelli said half of the federal funds will come to Cleveland later this week and will be initially used to pay off $80 million in city pandemic losses. He said the other half should come to Cleveland in early or mid-2022.

Cleveland fire investigators said they are still looking for suspects in the arson fire, if you have information on the fire call 216-664-6380, or contact Crimestoppers, which is offering a $2,500 reward for a tip that leads to an arrest.

Brancatelli said he hopes to expedite the demolition of the burned-out property.

“You just can’t roll up and knock it down, you’ve got to get EPA clearance, but we hope to have this down within a week," Brancatelli said.

News 5 reached out to the owner of the burned-out property we're still waiting for a response.

Meanwhile, Cuisak agrees some of the funds should go to demolitions.

“So many properties need demolition in this neighborhood, you can drive down some of these streets,” Cuisak said.

“It’s been one of the problems, a lot of times when people are doing the arson and vandalism, people don’t want to get involved.”