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Meeting notes - 524 Cafe, June 16, 2010

Posted by Elwin Green on June 17, 2010 at 5:48 AM

It's 5:48, and I have been up for three hours.

Yesterday evening, I attended a meeting after work, got home around 9, ate dinner and conked out on the loveseat in our living room. Woke up at about 2:45 and crawled into bed. And did not go back to sleep.

I didn;t go back to sleep for three reasons: my allergies were acting up, some person outside was being loud, and my mind was abuzz with thoughts of how to advance the work in Homewood, especially on Race Street.

The meeting yesterday evening did that to me. It was held to inform nearby residents of the plans being made for the 524 Cafe, as well as to solicit their input for the project.

When John Wallace told me about the meeting, I congratulated him on even having the idea for the meeting. We have had several conversations over the years about when and how to go public with information about stuff in the works. My inclination is to say, let as many as possible know as early as possible. His inclination is to keep things pretty much under wraps until a project is as well-developed as it can be, because people in Homewood have heard so many promises that have gone unfulfilled. He doesn't want to be the guy who gets people's hopes up with something unless he's super confident that it has an excellent chance of succeeding.

To which I respond that the best way not to wind up with a bunch of unfulfilled promises is by not making promises. Simply declare intentions: say what you want to do, without promising results. And we, John and I, go back and forth.

Anyway, there we were yesterday evening, inside 524 N. Homewood: John Wallace; John Folan (the CMU architecture professor heading the architectural work); Deborah Chapman Edwards, a management consultant; 13 CMU architecture students  who have been working on the project; and about a dozen neighbors. Kiva Fisher-Green, Aliya Durham and Oliver Byrd were also there for the session

Rev. Wallace began with a short presentation about the Homewood Children's Village. Then Ms. Edwards spoke at greater length about how the ownership of the building might be structured so that Homewood residents can buy shares.

I nearly fell out of my chair. Finally, somebody besides myself was talking about residents owning a project.

Rather than even trying to describe her presentation further, I will ask her if she is willing to share it here somehow.

John Folan and one of the students, Elise Kuwahara, spoke about the architectural aspects of the project.

There was a question and answer session. No one yelled. No one made demands. No one fulminated against the City. We did not digress into dissertations about Homewood's history (although there was one interestng

historical question which I'll get to). Residents simply asked questions, raised concerns, received answers and made suggestions.

The question of historical interest was, and I am paraphrasing, why did earlier attempts to redevelop Homewood fail?

I found John Wallace's response remarkable in its elegance. I believe it was sufficient without being exhaustive, and that it was easy to grasp.  He said that HBRDC had tremendous resources, but that its work suffered from "a lack of community engagement and ownership," while HBCCO, which began with excellent community engagement, lacked resources to execute its plan. And that we who are working on this project hope to bring both pieces, resources and community engagement, together.

Simple, huh?

If only everything simple were easy....

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1 Comment

Reply PDavis
8:46 AM on June 20, 2010 
It may not be easy but we do know that anything worth having is worth working for. Let's get to work and can we post these meetings on the wonderful calendar with this site?