Partners for Places, a project of The Funders Network, has awarded Western Reserve Land Conservancy, Famicos Foundation, Village Family Farms, Little Africa Food Co-Op and Cuyahoga County $180,000 for the construction of a new park at the currently vacant site of the former John W. Raper School in Cleveland’s Hough neighborhood.
These funds are being matched 1:1 by a group of local philanthropic funders, including the FirstEnergy Foundation, Bank of America, Reinberger Foundation, and Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation, bringing the total raised from this grant to $360,000. So far, the project partners have raised about half of the $1.6 million needed to complete this community asset.
The Hough Community Green Space project will create a safe and accessible park for community events and gatherings, enhancing the already tight social fabric of the neighborhood. It will also demonstrate a public investment towards an amenity serving a historically marginalized neighborhood, where such investments were previously rare.
Hough neighborhood residents gather at one of seven public meetings to discuss plans for the new park
“We are so grateful to The Funders Network for their generous support of the Hough Green Space Project,” said Ellen Matlock, development officer at Western Reserve Land Conservancy. “The Hough Green Space is a great example of what can be accomplished when people work together towards a shared goal. Community engagement and resident decision-making has been at the center of our efforts, and we are proud to partner with Famicos Foundation, Village Family Farms and Little Africa Food Co-Op, and community leaders like Cuyahoga County Director of Sustainability Mike Foley and the Cleveland City Council to bring a much-needed green space to the Hough neighborhood to promote community development and equitable climate action.”
“We are elated to see this transformative project bring high-quality green space, designed for all ages, to our service area,” said Ava Schmidt, neighborhood development planner at Famicos Foundation. “Famicos Foundation will continue to collaborate with all partners to ensure the Hough Community Green Space reflects resident needs and desires and expands opportunities for neighborhood stabilization, equitable development, safe outdoor recreation, and social connection.”
“Little Africa Food Co-op collaborative efforts led to residents learning more about the cooperative culture in food and land access,” said Makanya “Ms. Mikki” Smith, executive team member for the Little Africa Food Cooperative. “While our goals are to ensure the space is created for generations to come, we take ownership in creating the cooperative models that will encourage the residents to use this space as an opportunity to demonstrate cooperative community. The community will become the stewards of these urban models that focus on education, wellness and food nutrition.”
“We are excited about the work Western Reserve Land Conservancy will be doing with the Hough community,” said Mike Foley, Cuyahoga County Director of Sustainability. “Creating more green space and involving residents and the community to do it is fantastic for Hough, the City of Cleveland, and our whole region.”
Project partners held seven neighborhood meetings to receive feedback on the park construction. A group of students from Cornell University’s Departments of Planning and Landscape Architecture, led by Professor Mitchell Glass, have aided in further conceptualizing designs that capture the resident’s collective vision. Through the collaborative feedback collected from productive community conversations, site plans are nearly complete. Hough Community Green Space will simultaneously beautify vacant land while offering accessibility to high-quality green space that can positively impact health outcomes, improve safety, and attract future investment in the Hough neighborhood.
Cornell University students offered ideas for a new public park in the Hough neighborhood
This project will strategically tie into current neighborhood assets such as the adjacent Thurgood Marshall Recreation Center and its outdoor sporting facilities, creating a robust campus featuring green space and recreational amenities that would greatly benefit residents. The project also seeks to discover how leveraging environmental assets in vacant land reuse can provide intersecting benefits of neighborhood revitalization alongside increased climate resilience for a formerly redlined community.
“Many legacy cities nationwide are facing similar issues to Cleveland and this project could serve as a model for equitable intervention,” Matlock said.
About Partners for Places
Partners for Places, a joint effort by The Funders Network (TFN) and the Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN), aims to enhance local capacity to build equitable and sustainable communities in the United States and Canada.
Partners for Places is a successful matching grant program that advances equitable and sustainable communities through collaborative partnerships. The fund does this by requiring local government leaders, place-based funders, and frontline community partnerships, and by pairing national and local philanthropic funding sources. These one-to-one matching awards support equitable, sustainable climate action and green stormwater infrastructure projects.
National funders invest in local projects to promote a healthy environment, a strong economy, and the well-being of all residents. Through these projects, Partners for Places fosters long-term relationships that make our communities more sustainable, prosperous and just. Partners for Places’ general grant program is supported by The JPB Foundation, The Kendeda Fund, The Kresge Foundation, New York Community Trust, and the Pisces Foundation. These matching awards provide partnership investments between $45,000 and $150,000 for one-year projects, or between $75,000 and $180,000 for two-year projects, with one or more local foundations required to provide at least a 50% matching grant.
To date, Partners for Places has awarded $9 million across North America in this successful matching grant program, leading to more than $19 million in investments.