By Gennifer Harding-Gosnell
The City of Cleveland Planning Commission’s East Design Review Advisory Committee has approved the final design plans presented by City Architecture for the renovation and re-construction of Woodhill Homes at the corner of Buckeye and Woodhill Rds.
Woodhill Homes was built in 1940 and is the second-oldest public housing complex in Cleveland. There is little internet access in the area, and broken equipment leaving residents with no water or heat is common. Plans have been developed over the last couple of years to demolish and rebuild the area, leading to the final design plans approved by the Committee today.
Alex Pesta and Philip Migas of City Architecture presented the final designs to the Committee and explained their plans for the new complex, including a rooftop terrace and a pergola. There will be a roundabout in the front of the new building surrounded by street lighting, and the bus transit stops will be located closer to the building’s exits. Amenities like a playground and social area will be in a central area of the courtyard.
Residents have been interviewed by officials several times for their input. “One of the requests was for fruit trees,” said Migas, “so we’ll be bringing some apple trees so residents can actually go straight to the trees and pull off fruit.”
Pesta, who is also a Committee member and has recused himself from the vote, said part of the plan is to provide new living opportunities for current Woodhill residents. “We have 487 units,” he said. “It must be replaced one for one. It provides a ‘move once’ option for folks in the neighborhood…we ultimately have to empty out those 487 units, but we want to make sure we do that so we’re not displacing people outside of the neighborhood if they choose to stay, and we certainly don’t want them moving somewhere else temporarily and then have to move back. The neighborhood plan is really key to ensuring some of these off-site redevelopments provide quality housing.”
The long-neglected area of Woodhill was a victim of “redlining” in the 1930s, the now-illegal practice of rejecting mortgage and finance loans to people living in poor neighborhoods. A 2018 study inadvertently discovered that “Neighborhoods redlined eighty years ago reflected patterns of poor internet access, almost to the exact same borders,” suggesting not much has changed for the area financially in the eighty years since.
Pesta believes the new housing design will help to eliminate stigmas, encourage mixed-income housing in the neighborhood, and put an end to the leftover remnants of redlining. “We know the residents at Woodhill deserve this type of housing,” he said, “but to do it as indistinguishable from market rate [buildings], it’s important to us, and it’s important to our clients.”
The East Design Review Committee’s recommendation for approval now heads to the City Planning Commission for the final sign-off.
This story was written with information obtained from Documenters.org and their coverage of local government meetings.