City Fields Blythe Oldfield

Blythe area holds potential for future

By BRIAN GRAVES

Posted 3/19/18

The Blythe Oldfield community is three to five years away from “the tipping point.”

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City Fields Blythe Oldfield

Blythe area holds potential for future

Posted

The Blythe Oldfield community is three to five years away from “the tipping point.”

That is the phrase used by City Fields (formerly Impact Cleveland) Executive Director Dustin Tommey uses to describe the point in time when “we work ourselves out of a job” and that neighborhood rises to the standard of living enjoyed by other sections of Cleveland.

Tommey spoke to the MainStreet Cleveland luncheon Monday afternoon and revealed some new details about what City Fields is doing now and what it is already working on with an eye to the future.

“I had an acquaintance go to a local real estate company and told them what he could afford,” Tommey said. “This person was told by a real estate professional you don’t want to live there (Blythe-Oldfield). He told acquaintance, ‘I don’t care what they do. This neighborhood will never change.’”

“I can say that story has stuck with me the last three or four years and has motivated me to change that narrative to where it is a desirable place for people to move and live,” he said.

By all standards, what has been and is being accomplished in the Blythe-Oldfield neighborhood has been nothing short of remarkable.

“We have seen tremendous change that has happened there in the last four years – really in the face of a lot of doubters, “ Tommey said. “When we first started on a very gracious, but limited budget. We didn’t know what was in store for us.”

Eighteen months after Impact Cleveland started, TVA “recognizing we were good stewards and doing a very good thing” awarded the organization $3.7 million to do an energy home improvement project that has saved people more than 25 percent on their energy bills.

“We were highly performing in that, so they awarded us another $1 million to do another 100 homes,” Tommey said.

He said once that grant was completed, they were awarded the NeighborWorks grants which allowed for the renovations of five homes and six businesses.

“That catapulted us to the radar of the Lyndhurst Foundation, which with the help of the United Way, and our neighborhood has gotten $75,000 to do master planning that will lay the foundation for the next decade of work,” Tommey said.

He revealed some of those initial draft master plan drawings from Lyndhurst he had only received this past weekend, emphasizing these were merely conceptual in nature using ideas gathered from the community.

Tommey added these graphics were intended only to spark conversation about the reuse potential of brownfield sites in and around Blythe-Oldfield.

“We held meetings back in January with an urban design team of about eight people and we had 13 different meetings where community residents, business leaders, educators, police – every sector of society was represented,” he said. “This is not unlike the same type of planning the city is growing through with the downtown master plan.”

Tommey said the big factor for change is the Whirlpool property “which we don’t have ownership of.”

“You might wonder if that neighborhood can come up. If something happens with the Whirlpool property. It’s inevitable. It could potentially be the next “Southside” like Chattanooga,” he said noting several ideas came up through those meetings.

“We plan on spending the next decade of our time in Cleveland helping to make some of these ideas a reality,’ Tommey said.

The plan shows a much-enlarged park area, a pond, new homes, a bike trail, pickleball courts, an amphitheater, a skate park, a carousel, basketball courts, a community center, and a cannery.

The draft master plan also new streetscapes that will make the community even more attractive.

“We have the new park which previously had equipment that had been unattended for decades,” he added. “Now, we have a community park we think is the best there is.”

Tommey also spoke of the homes and businesses which are being refurbished, and the businesses which are getting new facades worth up to $30,000 with the commitment they will remain in business for at least five years.

“If you are going to achieve transformation, you have to have a vision,” Tommey said. “We aren’t going to sit idly and just sitting on our hands and not dream about what this could be. We are going to keep pushing the rock up the hill and we are going to advocate for things that better our city.”

He said City Fields has already been communicating with the residents of the College Hill area which will be the next area for the organization’s focus.

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