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Community Center construction in the old Astrup Awning Factory continues during COVID

Posted at 6:30 AM, May 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-03 12:02:03-04

CLEVELAND — Seymour Avenue is one of those locations Clevelanders will never forget.

The memory of Gina DeJesus, Amanda Berry and Michelle Knight being held captive on Seymour Avenue is a dark piece of the city’s history.

But a big construction project right next door is helping reclaim the neighborhood.

“To have the opportunity to do something that wasn’t just making money, that was helping the community, I wanted to be a part of it,” said Local 38 Foreman Steven Sinko.

Sinko isn’t alone.

He and a small army of workers are turning what used to be an awning factory and manufacturing space into a community center.

“All the guys on my crew feel a little more pride in what they’re doing because at the end of the day, we’re doing something that really matters,” said Sinko.

Eventually, the building will house organizations like the Cleveland Museum of Art, Inlet Dance Theater, LatinUs Theater Company, Gina DeJesus’s Cleveland Family Center for Missing Children and Adults.

“These are all things that are designed to serve the local community,” said developer Rick Foran.

Foran says work has continued through the pandemic, now with proper social distancing measures and masks inside.

It’s made the work slightly harder, but Foran says it’s a big part of the reason why the project is still on schedule to be completed towards the end of 2020.

“[When the girls were found,] I couldn’t believe the satellite trucks,” said Foran, talking about the national attention the case got. “It made me so angry. “This is the Cleveland that the world is seeing, and I said to myself, ‘This isn’t Cleveland, this isn’t what Cleveland is about.”

See News 5 Cleveland's previous coverage of this project here.

"If we do something like this, then we bring hope to people on the street," said DeJesus, talking about chasing office space next to where she had been held captive for roughly a decade.

The Cleveland Rape Crisis Center is taking a similar approach with their new location nearly finished in the building.

“This neighborhood has a history that we never want to forget but Cleveland Rape Crisis Center also wants to be part of it’s future,” said Cleveland Rape Crisis Center President and CEO Sondra Miller. “Once they come into our office it’s a bit a cocoon, we hope people feel safe, we hope people understand this is a place they can talk about things they can’t talk about with anybody else.”

Foran says construction is expected to take up much of 2020, but the center is expected to be open near the end of the year or in early 2021.

A few years after the project is off the ground, Foran says tenants will have the opportunity to buy their space and not just rent it out. He says that will help these artistic institutions build equity and not have to fight rising rents when the rest of the neighborhood gets more expensive.

Have you ever noticed something interesting in Northeast Ohio and wondered, “Hey…what’s going on there?”

Us, too. We love learning more about what shapes the world around us -- the buildings, the spaces and the ways we move between them.

Have you ever noticed something interesting in Northeast Ohio and wondered, “Hey…what’s going on there?”