Cuyahoga County Neighborhood Surge Program pilot in Central

By Dawn Glasco

In July 2021, residents, stakeholders, Promise ambassadors, and grassroots organizations joined together to form a Central Surge Steering Committee.

The Committee investigates and develops practices and systems that lead to more people participating in, benefiting from, and succeeding in the Surge’s areas of focus. Burten, Bell, Carr Development, Inc. serves as the fiscal agent for the Central Surge project and is the lead convener of the bi-weekly steering committee meetings.

The steering committee is focused on ensuring the county funds are allocated appropriately and used in ways that can make a true transformation in the neighborhood. The committee serves as an accountability partner to one another and to the county that is focused on strengthening resident participation and leadership to cultivate a more vibrant community.

The program aims to revitalize Cleveland’s communities, starting with the Central neighborhood. It is designed to transform the underserved and overlooked neighborhoods by focusing concentrated resources on one community at a time.

Some components of the plan include workforce development, financial education, increased community engagement, tree canopy expansion, digital justice, food access, entrepreneurship, and small business support. Several organizations, including Ohio Means Jobs, Key Bank, ConnectedNEO, Rainbow Terrace, Promise, Digital C, Ohio Means Jobs, Holden Arboretum, Kings and Queens of Art, United Labor Agency, The Friendly Inn, CMHA, and others have partnered to support these efforts.

The steering committee is working with partners and county representatives to understand:

  • What does success look like and how are we measuring it?
  • How can we ensure jobs offer a livable wage to cover the loss of subsidies due to increased income? (Costs of childcare and rent rise significantly after transitioning from unemployed to working status.)
  • How can county resources align with local resources to address neighborhood crime?
  • What resources from the county surge are available to Central homeowners?
  • What’s the timeline for the Central surge?

Grassroots leaders advocated for an extensive community engagement plan, a cooperative option for broadband services, a neighborhood laundromat, a community resource center, and a food cooperative. Central champion, Bridgette Smith-Jackson, a Rainbow Terrace Apartments executive, has begun efforts to provide gap services around youth employment. Some challenges faced by families include a need for birth certificates, Wi-Fi connection, completing an online job application, transportation, and childcare.

“We believe that if we create a more connected, trusting, supportive and informed community, including residents and institutions, where people know their value and their opportunities, then we will have a neighborhood that is thriving, and all people can thrive,” stated the steering committee.

The Central surge steering committee, made up of residents, community stakeholders, and organizational reps meets bi-weekly on Tuesdays from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Anyone interested in participating in a conversation, or the committee should contact Tiffany Allen-White at Burten, Bell, Carr at