Time to Celebrate Collinwood

I’ve been brooding over Phillip Morris’ PD column last Friday (April 24) in which he (and the headline writer) referred to our neighborhood as “further distanced” and suffering from ‘the nervous insecurity that comes with a neighborhood's implosion.” I’ve only lived in Collinwood for 30 years (to speak with real authority, you have to be third generation) but I am not seeing implosion. I’m seeing a neighborhood whose residents went into shock when their factory-based way of life evaporated, some so much so that they moved “farther out.” But those who stayed in this family-friendly community of sturdy affordable homes, direct access to the lake, active churches and block clubs, pulled themselves together and began to forge a new path.

I speak from the middle of the forging, having been one of the founders of Waterloo Arts, an organization built entirely out of neighborhood effort.  Local artists rallied round, of course; so did lovers of the arts. And so did long-time residents who couldn’t tell a Michelangelo from a Modigliani, and don’t much want to – but who could recognize neighborhood action when they see it.
That was the DIY spirit that led Cindy Barber to start the Waterloo transformation by opening the Beachland Ballroom, that has encouraged nearly 20 years of grass-roots enterprise in arts-related businesses along Waterloo, backed by Northeast Shores’ infusion of grants and artist housing program. Meanwhile, our lakeshore parks are enjoying new life under Metroparks management; our Salvation Army temple has doubled its footprint and its programs; charter schools have expanded parents’ education choices; and long-neglected E185 is getting the attention it deserves. Bracketed as we are by Bratenahl and Euclid, it’s good to know that Bratenahl is stable and Euclid, like Collinwood, is building its way out of a vanished Rust Belt past.
Meanwhile, with every killing in the country reported 24/7 on social media, it’s hard not to feel we’re living in a jungle; a murder in San Francisco is as scary as one in Cleveland. There is no denying that too many of the nation’s murders are happening in Cleveland – but not all of them. We don’t have to react by turning our backs on the problem and running away. Indeed, many residents take these attacks on the fabric of neighborhood life as a call to action, a reason to get closer to their neighbors, more involved in the community, more active in volunteering. That’s why Collinwood is not imploding, but solidifying.

Don’t just take my word for it: the Cleveland Playhouse has put up an advertising billboard at the corner of Waterloo and E152; the Playhouse sees Collinwood as a potential audience, not a jungle.

Nan Kennedy

Resident of neighborhood since 1956. Worked on East 185th street since 1970.

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Volume 9, Issue 5, Posted 4:02 PM, 05.07.2017