The Glenville Plan

"Urban renewal is black removal." So said 24th Ward Councilman Leo Jackson, a fiery African American politician who advocated for the advancement of his ward. This short but poignant quote summarized his feelings about urban renewal projects in Cleveland, which Jackson believed "created a market for slum operators" and forced African Americans out of their homes. The councilman is known for his efforts in fighting against slum operators and for his attempts to abolish the Zoning Board of Appeals, which unfortunately never came to fruition. The solution, according to Jackson, was to enforce strict zoning standards within Glenville in order to fight urban blight because assisting the community from within was less harmful to the well-being of urban residents than removing Glenville's existing structures and starting from scratch. For these reasons and the unsuccessful attempts to implement urban renewal in the Hough and Central neighborhoods, Councilman Jackson did not support urban renewal, especially "The Glenville Plan."

In the mid-twentieth century, African Americans were moving into Glenville and the Jewish population of Glenville, the former majority in the area, was moving out. This shift a common trend in the United States during the era of the Second Great Migration, when African Americans moved into northern cities such as Detroit, Chicago, and Cleveland. As the African American population in Glenville soared, the neighborhood suffered from overcrowding and deteriorating buildings due to the greed and neglect of the landlords who divided single-family homes into multi-family dwellings and failed to maintain their rental properties. The population shift also led to businesses leaving the Glenville neighborhood as they followed the Jewish population into the suburbs. On a national level, as urban areas decayed, plans for urban renewal emerged. Proposed in 1964, the Glenville Plan was created to remedy the urban blight that was creeping its way into the neighborhood as the demographics of the area were changing.

Like the federally funded University-Euclid urban renewal project to its south and west, the Glenville Plan claimed to be able to transform the crowded, disordered, and unplanned neighborhood to a planned, well-ordered place that was both pleasant and livable. Although the Plan claimed to preserve most residential neighborhoods, it would have altered the residential makeup of the area by reconfiguring residential neighborhoods. In addition, new housing would also have included tall-tower apartments, rowhouses, and walk-up apartments by razing the structures along the southeast corner of Glenville and along Lakeview Road.

Along with housing, other features of Glenville's urban renewal included the creation of a new shopping center, improving existing traffic patterns, and a new school that would also be utilized as a neighborhood center. To accommodate the retail decline, the Plan designed a shopping center along East 105th Street. The design of the center included two new buildings and ample off-street parking. The Plan also aimed to improve east-west travel by widening the streets of Greenlawn and Parkgate into three lanes and creating through streets to better connect the city. Finally, the Plan would have removed Parkwood School on East 110th Street and constructed a larger school with athletic fields and walkways for community use to promote student safety and community involvement. Most importantly, Glenville residents were encouraged, within the Plan, to begin the urban renewal process in their own homes by performing maintenance on their properties.

However, the Glenville Plan became just another urban fairytale. Not only did Leo Jackson spearhead opposition, so did the black professional class who had moved up into the large homes of the East Boulevard and Wade Park sections, which they tended to see as separate from Glenville. Fearing that Glenville might become "another Hough" if subjected to urban renewal, they spoke out. Ultimately, however, the plan faltered because after 1966, Cleveland had fallen out of favor with the federal government for its abysmal record of urban renewal failures, and then the Glenville Shootout turned the neighborhood into a war zone in the summer of 1968, dashing any lingering hopes of action. Like the plans for the Hough and Central neighborhoods where there were good intentions on paper, the Glenville Plan never became a reality.

Audio

You Could See the Migration Les Jones recalls businesses leaving Glenville as the population changed. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection

Images

Councilman Leo Jackson 24th Ward Councilman Leo Jackson worked to promote equality in the Cleveland area and fought against plans for urban renewal in Cleveland neighborhoods. Source: Cleveland State University. Special Collections. Cleveland Memory Project.
Blighted Apartment Building, 1966 Vacant and vandalized three-story apartment building located at 615 East 106th Street in August 1966. Image courtesy of Cleveland State University. Special Collections. Cleveland Memory Project
Neighborhood Dump, 1965 Cluttered yard located at 620 East 101st Street in April 1965. Image courtesy of Cleveland State University. Special Collections. Cleveland Memory Project
Vacant Storefronts, 1964 Vacant shopping strip and storefront church located at St. Clair Avenue and East 101st Street in August 1964. Image courtesy of Cleveland State University. Special Collections. Cleveland Memory Project
Blighted School, 1965 Elementary school playground near the remainder of a vacant, vandalized, and fire-gutted building located at 815 Lenin Drive in April 1965. Image courtesy of Cleveland State University. Special Collections. Cleveland Memory Project
Crowded... Disordered... Unplanned... Map of Glenville in 1965 Cleveland Community Planning Folder of Glenville. The folder was created to present the current issues of Glenville and the details of the Glenville Plan and how the plan would help the community. Image courtesy of Western Reserve Historical Society. Cleveland Community Planning Folder No. 1, Pam Z941
Planned... Well-Ordered... Pleasant and Livable... The Glenville Plan, if implemented, promised new residential areas and traffic patterns. Image courtesy of Western Reserve Historical Society. Cleveland Community Planning Folder No. 1, Pam Z941.
Proposed School Plans for the removal of Parkwood School on East 110th Street and construction of a larger school (red) in a new location, off street parking (yellow), and an additional street west of the proposed school (yellow). This layout also included spaces for extracurricular activities and sidewalks for the location to become a neighborhood center as well. Image courtesy of Western Reserve Historical Society. Cleveland Community Planning Folder No. 1, Pam Z941
Proposed Shopping Center Plans for a new shopping center (red) with off-street parking (yellow) would have accommodated two to three times as many customers as could park in the area as it stood. Image courtesy of Western Reserve Historical Society. Cleveland Community Planning Folder No. 1, Pam Z941
East Boulevard Homes East Boulevard, whose large early twentieth-century homes overlooked Rockefeller Park, became a favored destination for upwardly mobile African American professionals, who took a dim view toward the idea of urban renewal with its slum connotations. Image courtesy of Cleveland State University. Special Collections. Cleveland Memory Project
Glenville on Fire, 1968 If opposition by citizens and politicians and an inability to obtain federal support were not enough, the Glenville Shootout in July 1968 destroyed whatever lingering support might have launched the Glenville Plan, leaving the neighborhood to suffer decades of abandonment as thousands of residents sought more stable neighborhoods in the eastern suburbs. Image courtesy of Cleveland State University. Special Collections. Cleveland Memory Project

Location

Metadata

Marilyn Miller, “The Glenville Plan,” Cleveland Historical, accessed January 23, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/638.