Moreland Community Association

Block Building

Since the early 1960s, Moreland's community associations have helped guide the implementation and development of nearly every urban renewal and redevelopment project initiated by the City of Shaker Heights in their neighborhood. Learn how and why a group of community activists reshaped their community in pursuit of integration.

Visitors to the Moreland neighborhood in Shaker Heights are greeted with picturesque sights of an idealized inner ring suburban community. Attractive tree lawns line its residential streets, which lead past rows of well-maintained Cleveland Doubles, American Foursquares and Bungalows. City parks and designated recreation grounds are scattered throughout the neighborhood, with vacant lots appearing to receive the same high level of maintenance as their green space counterparts. Commercial and retail buildings stand along the main throughways, with many of the stores consolidated within a highly uniform suburban shopping strip. A stately civic building, now home to the public library, acts as the symbolic center of the neighborhood. The area seems to effortlessly combine the feel of city life with hallmark traits of suburbia. A tradition of intensive municipal planning and management, however, underlies the history of these commercial, residential and public spaces. The civic engagement of Moreland residents proved key to the success of these efforts. 


Since the early 1960s, Moreland’s community associations helped formulate, shape and implement nearly every urban renewal and redevelopment project initiated by the City of Shaker Heights in the neighborhood. The Moreland Community Association (MCA), established in the spring of 1962, was the first of these groups. The organization acted as the front line for identifying and publicly addressing perceived threats to community stability, and functioned as an intermediary between local residents and governing organizations. From the minutia of announcing everyday community activities to the tackling of contentious social, religious, economic and political matters, MCA had a hand in nearly every aspect of life in Moreland. Their resume of achievements included helping to guide the development of the Shaker Heights Service Center, Chelton Park, the Sutton Townhouse Development Project and Shaker Towne Center. The association also galvanized public support for urban renewal projects, advocated for street improvements, aided in implementing and educating residents about housing code enforcement, offered funds for housing upkeep to low income residents, precipitated a minor barricade controversy, purchased and rehabilitated vacant homes, published newsletters, sponsored public debates and held street fairs. By consolidating and amplifying the voices of neighborhood activists, MCA offered a platform for select residents to have a say in defining the future of their community. 


The establishment of MCA grew from concerns over the impact of integration in the southwestern region of Shaker Heights. A small group of Moreland residents began meeting in the fall of 1961 to discuss what they perceived to be the potential complications and benefits of African American settlement in the neighborhood. Racial tensions had mounted following the emergence of a small African American community in the neighboring community of Ludlow beginning in the mid-1950s. Panic selling ensued, and the garage of an African American resident was bombed in 1956. To further complicate the matter, realtors and banks steered potential white purchasers away from homes in the neighborhood. The Ludlow Community Association, composed of both African American and white residents, was formed in 1957 to quell fears over integration and counteract the institutional forces that discouraged white families from buying houses in the area.

While modeled after the Ludlow Community Association, the community meetings in Moreland were initially only opened to white residents of the neighborhood. The Moreland community was home to a large population of middle- and working-class southern and eastern Europeans and their descendants. The gatherings were meant as a forum for these residents to express concerns over integration, with the goal of dispelling fears and deterring any physical violence against African American community members. The first racially inclusive community meeting of the MCA was held in February, 1962. Nearly 400 residents attended. A statement of purpose was adopted: “It shall be the common goal of the Association to encourage, to develop and to maintain the quality, stability, high standards and community interests of the area, to promote the general welfare of the entire Moreland Community and to achieve these goals through a democratic community open to all races and religions.”  Following the drafting and ratification of a constitution during the next few months, the MCA was officially established. A second public meeting held in April also attracted 400 persons. The organization’s message to the surrounding community was simple: Panic was the only thing they had to fear.


Despite efforts to stave off panic selling and block-busting, the neighborhood witnessed an unprecedented rise of homes being placed on the resale market by 1962. MCA received a $9,330 grant from the Cleveland Foundation the following year as seed money to fund its operations. To counteract the dissuasion of white families from purchasing homes in the neighborhood by banks and realtors, the community association immediately formed a real estate committee. A listing service was developed to bring together home buyers and sellers, and marked the organization’s first endeavor to proactively attract white residents to rent and buy homes in Moreland. Early efforts to stabilize the community also focused on pressuring the City of Shaker Heights to enforce housing code violations. The City was urged to acquire and demolish homes deemed unsuitable for rehabilitation, thereby increasing the visual desirability of the community while decreasing its population. 


Moreland’s community activists quickly forged an alliance with the City of Shaker Heights through their work with School and Recreation Boards, the Mayor and City Council. As noted in a 1966 newsletter, MCA enlisted municipal help to “maintain a good neighborhood —clean, attractive, convenient, served by good schools, good municipal services, good recreational facilities, and good business establishment.”  The underlying objective of the association’s efforts was to create a stable, attractive and integrated neighborhood. While not presuming “to define by numerical ratio the idea of ‘racial balance,’” MCA advocated for a “neighborhood in which people of many racial, religious, and ethnic groups can live in fellowship and mutual trust.”


The African American community in Moreland continued to grow throughout the 1960s, facilitated by the increased number of homes placed on the resale market. While the integrated community association eased neighborhood tensions during a time of rapid racial transition, its successes in attracting new white home owners to the area were limited. 
 By the mid-1960s, MCA shifted its emphasis to advocating for large-scale urban renewal projects. A task force, composed in part by Moreland residents and representatives of the City, recommended the development of a master plan for the community in 1966. These efforts culminated in the Styche-Hisaka Plan, an ambitious locally funded urban renewal project that focused on the redevelopment of Shaker Heights’ southern neighborhoods. Plans for Moreland included the revitalization of its commercial district, street improvements and the removal of older, high-density housing stock. A civic center, townhouses, park spaces and service center were proposed to replace many residential homes. While the civic center was never realized due to objections by the Moreland community, homes would be demolished to make room for the Shaker Heights Service Center and a park-townhouse development. 


Lateral efforts to renew housing in Moreland were initiated by MCA beginning in 1967. The Shaker Foundation was established by the association to purchase and rehabilitate rundown houses. Properties were then rented or placed on the real estate market for sale. Loans with below-market interest rates were offered by the foundation to entice potential buyers. The community group was also represented in the Shaker Heights Housing Office, which hired one member of the Moreland, Ludlow, Lomond and Sussex community associations to act as housing coordinators. As an arm of the municipal government, the Housing Office’s committee worked to attract white homeowners into the southern region of Shaker Heights and combat practices by realtors and banks that discouraged neighborhood integration. Cooperative work between MCA and the City extended to pursuing private-sector investment for a $2 million revitalization of the Chagrin-Lee-Avalon shopping center in 1969. 


By focusing efforts on these City-sponsored urban renewal efforts, the work of MCA became intertwined with municipal government operations.  The association continued operating as a community group into the 1990s, but efforts to promote both integration and urban renewal projects were increasingly pursued by members through their involvement with City boards and committees. These official mechanisms for promoting the stabilization of Moreland emerged during MCA’s first decade of existence, and were largely a response to work undertaken by the organization. Projects implemented and advocated by the community organization during the 1960s and early 1970s guided the development of the neighborhood over the subsequent three decades, and helped redefine both the physical landscape and character of the Moreland community.

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Moreland on the Move Community Association Moreland Community Association (MCA) merged with Moreland on the Move (MOM) in 1994 to form Moreland on the Move Community Association (MOMCA). MOM, established in 1991, aimed to refocus activism in the neighborhood at the grassroots level. Free from ties to the City, the group was formed to give an independent platform for Moreland residents to voice their concerns. Over the years, work of the more formally structured MCA had been closely associated with municipal government. The groups voted to merge in order to strengthen membership and "speak with one voice." Pictured is the City of Shaker Heights Fire Department offering Moreland youth a chance to climb aboard a fire truck at an annual MOMCA block party . Source: Shaker Heights Public Library, Local History Collection
MCA Funding, 1968 Following a review of Moreland Community Association's work promoting integration in Shaker Heights, the Cleveland Foundation re-approved and increased its funding for the organization in 1968. Source: Cleveland History Center of the Western Reserve Historical Society
Community Membership, 1968 Moreland Commuity Association claimed a membership of 400 families in 1968. While joining the association only cost two dollars per year, the membership role enabled MCA leadership to claim that they spoke as a unified voice for the community. Source: Cleveland History Center of the Western Reserve Historical Society
Styche-Hisaka Plan, 1967 While Moreland Community Association advocated for the development of the Styche-Hisaka Plan, they also played a valuable role in hosting public forums and documenting residents' opinions once the renewal efforts were released. The community association presented the concerns expressed by community members to City officials, which eventually led to the creation of a revised master plan in 1968. Source: Cleveland History Center of the Western Reserve Historical Society
Block Clubs Moreland Community Association depended on the input and community activism of neighborhood block and street clubs. Street clubs were represented by two elected delegates and a president, which sat on MCA's committees and governing board. Source: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections
Coretta Scott King Collection Dedication, 1995 In 1995, Moreland on the Move Community Association presented the Shaker Heights Library Board a check for $2000 to establish a collection of children's books that had received the Coretta Scott King Award. The award is given to African American authors and illustrators of books for children that promote an understanding and appreciation of world cultures. Actors from Karamu Theater performed readings from the award winning books at the dedication of the Coretta Scott King Collection. Coretta Scott King, wife of Martin Luther King Jr., was an activist, civil rights leader and author. The first award was presented in 1970. Source: Shaker Heights Public Library, Local History Collection
Home Beautification Awards The Southwest Investment Target Area (SWITA) inspected homes for code violations in Moreland and Lomond communities since 1992. SWITA also allocated grant money to residents for exterior repairs to help alleviate costs of rectifying violations, and offered annual awards for home improvements. In 1995, Moreland on the Move Community Association partnered with SWITA in requesting the City of Shaker Heights increase funding for its grant program. The City agreed to match resident expenditures up to $2000. Five hundred seventy seven of 745 houses in the Moreland area were cited with violations the following year. Source: Shaker Heights Public Library, Local History Collection
Outdoor Education Moreland on the Move Community Association holds an annual block party, usually in Chelton Park. Along with free food and entertainment, the event offers educational materials associated with neighborhood upkeep. Source: Shaker Heights Public Library, Local History Collection
Netta Berman and Al Foster, 2010 Netta Berman, who intermittently acted as President and Vice President of the Moreland Community Association (MCA) during the 1960s, was also an active member of the Moreland on the Move (MOM) and Moreland on the Move Community Association (MOMCA). Berman played a prominent role in advocating for the development of recreation spaces in the Moreland neighborhood and the creation of Chelton Park. Al Foster served as president of MOM and MOMCA prior to be being elected to Shaker Heights City Council in 1995, and was active in the redevelopment of Chelton Park during the early 1990s. Source: Laurie Berman
First Phase in Giant Renewal, 1967 The Styche Hisaka Plan initially called for the creation of a community civic center to be placed in the Moreland neighborhood. Following public outcry over the placement of the proposed center, which would have required the demolition of a number of residential homes, this first phase of renewal was discarded. Source: "Shaker Plans Civic Center, First Phase in Giant Renewal." Cleveland Plain Dealer, 24 January 1967.
Mayor Pat Mearns and MOMCA Through years of association, Moreland's community associations forged close relationships with municipal officials. Pictured are Al Foster (back middle) and Netta Berman (back right), both longtime community activists in the Moreland neighborhood, attending a small get-together where Pat Mearns announced that should would not run for Mayor of Shaker Heights for a third term. Berman, when recalling her early years with Moreland Community Assocation. recalled one key to the group's success - they dealt "directly with the people who have power...If we wanted to talk to the mayor, we talked to the mayor. That's been an effective strategy." Source: Laurie Berman

Location

Metadata

Richard Raponi, “Moreland Community Association,” Cleveland Historical, accessed September 25, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/index.php/items/show/844.