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June 5, 2014

Urban Affairs promotes preservation of legacy cities

Upcoming event to discuss heritage, future of Cleveland

By Jaclyn Seymour

East Fourth StreetCleveland State University's Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs is teaming up with the Cleveland Restoration Society for the first Historic Preservation in America’s Legacy Cities event.

The three-day event, running June 5-7, will consist of speakers, tours and workshops. There are a total of 24 speaker sessions consisting of three to six speakers each.

Many of the speakers call Cleveland State home including Mark Souther from the history department; Brian Mikelbank and Stephanie Ryberg-Webster from the Urban Studies Department; and Kelly Kinahan and Amelia Caldwell, two doctoral students from the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs.

Stephanie Ryberg-Webster, assistant professor of Urban Studies, said this event is particularly important to Cleveland because Cleveland is an example of a legacy city that faces economic distress.

“This event is important to Cleveland because we are discussing the future of our city and the meaning of our city’s rich heritage,” Ryberg-Webster said.

Along with Cleveland State family, city officials, developers and professionals from across the nation — from as far as Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, even Los Angeles and Seattle — will come to Cleveland to speak about various topics of historic preservation.

“Legacy cities face a number of challenges, including an over-supply of buildings — residential, commercial and industrial — and infrastructure,” Ryberg-Webster said.

“One of the leading strategies to deal with high volumes of vacant and abandoned buildings is demolition. While some demolition is certainly necessary, there are important questions about what we are destroying. Once it is gone, it is gone forever, and how the decision-making about demolition will impact our collective heritage,” Ryber-Webster said.

This project has been in the works for more than a year. In 2012, when Cleveland State proposed a plan that would demolish Viking Hall and the Wolfe Music Building to make room for the Center for Innovation in Health Professions building, the Cleveland Restoration Society and Councilman Jeffrey Johnson were opposed to more demolition on Euclid Avenue.

After a compromise, the demolition was moved forward with the university making compromises, among those being Cleveland State starting a new graduate certificate in Historic Preservation in the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs and an agreement to host this historic preservation conference.

A planning team was then formed and they began working in January 2013. In the fall, they put out an open call for presentations and Ryberg-Webster said they received an overwhelming response.

“This is the first event of its kind, we did not have any idea what kind of response our call would generate,” Ryberg-Webster said.
The session’s topics and issues developed because of the wide-range of responses they received.

“Our mission specifically states that we are engaged in improving opportunities for the citizens of the Greater Cleveland region and the state of Ohio,” Ryberg-Webster said. “As a nationally-ranked college of urban affairs, the Levin College focuses on the future of America’s cities, with a particular emphasis on Northeast Ohio.

This event directly fits within that mission and enhances the College’s stature as a center of thought leadership on pressing issues in legacy cities.”

Attendees can also take one of the five available tours: Downtown Cleveland; Ohio City; Detroit Shoreway; Slavic Village; or Glenville/University Circle/East Cleveland.

There is also a social event on Friday, June 6 at the Cleveland Restoration Society.
The conference will conclude with a limited-participation workshop.

“By hosting this conference on historic preservation, the Levin College is broadening a national conversation about the future of legacy cities,” Ryberg-Webster said. “The event is also important to the college as it is bringing together a rich mix of scholars, practitioners, policy makers, public officials and students.”

The event is free for students, although they are asked to register in advance.
More information about speakers, event and registration can be found at urban.csuohio.edu/conference/LegacyCityPreservation/.