Cleveland Landmarks Commission Rejects Little Italy Development

Hemingway Development presented this design to the Cleveland Landmarks Commission.
Hemingway Development presented this design to the Cleveland Landmarks Commission. [Hemingway Development, Cleveland Landmarks]
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Cleveland’s Landmarks Commission voted against a proposed apartment development in the city’s Little Italy neighborhood Thursday.

Hemingway Development had proposed building a 50-unit building near the Washington Place Bistro and Inn. The developer would demolish two houses on Cornell and rehabilitate three others on Murray Hill, building mostly on a parking lot by the inn.

The commission voted 6-2 against the project, with some saying it was too big for the area. Chair Julie Trott said the developers could rethink the project and present it again.

This was already the second time the project has been before the Landmarks Commission. Developer Michael Panzica said the team retooled its proposal after hearing feedback from the public and commission members, reducing project from 66 units to 50.

Cleveland Planning Director Freddy Collier, who sits on the commission, said Mayor Frank Jackson’s administration also opposed the project. Collier cited opposition he’d heard from people in the Little Italy community.

“We’re going to continue to develop this city, we’re going to continue to grow neighborhoods on the East Side,” Collier said. “But we also look at these issues on a case-by-case basis, and in this case, to everyone, we do not support this.”

Councilman Blaine Griffin, who represents the area, also opposed the project, saying he was concerned it would set a precedent for demolition.

“I’m very concerned that this is one of the last ethnic enclaves in the city of Cleveland,” Griffin said, “and we have to protect the historical context of this area.”

Supporters at the meeting said it would bring foot traffic, new population and a bigger tax base to the neighborhood. They pitched it as an attractive new investment for young people hoping to move to the city.

“Are we going to build a city of the future that engages young Cleveland enthusiasts on a path to civic reinvestment?” Chris Ronayne of University Circle Incorporated asked. “Or are we going to protect the status quo of decline?”

Carmen Petrello, who would sell his house to be demolished for the project, said the neighborhood should welcome an influx of new residents.

“We all know the face of Little Italy has changed over the years,” Petrello said. “Families are gone, rentals are in. And how has Little Italy sustained itself? With the investment, with the people that are moving in.”

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