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Fund for the Future of Shaker Heights Ceases Operations, Transfers Assets to City Nonprofit

The city's nonprofit organization, the Shaker Heights Development Corporation, receives $500,000 as the Fund for the Future of Shaker Heights dissolves after 27 years

Editor's note: This story was updated at 9:30 a.m.

Shaker Heights officials smiled early and often during the city council meeting on Monday night.

A check for $500,000 will do that for you.

Representatives from the Fund for the Future of Shaker Heights presented an out-sized to the city in a gesture to mark the dissolving of the 27-year-old charity organization and the transfer of its assets to the Shaker Heights Development Corp. In return, the city presented a resolution of honor to the Fund's board members.

The Fund's board made the decision to cease operations in March. As a result, the city's nonprofit arm augments its support of "seed" businesses and job creation by half of $1 million.

"We've all decided that this is the right thing to do," Fund Board of Trustees Gigi Benjamin said. "The purpose of The Fund was to affect positive change in the city, and we weren't doing it with a bunch of money sitting in the bank.

"So, we're going to give our bunch of money to the Shaker Heights Development Corporation in hopes that you will work to improve neighborhoods in this city in a variety of methods."

The SHDC became a 501c3 charity 13 months ago. That move was made to support a public-private partnership with Shaker LaunchHouse, the shared-office business accelerator on Lee Road. Since July, the SHDC has provided LaunchHouse with $650,000 for renovations of the former Zalud Oldsmobile dealership, environmental remediation and a second-floor buildout.

About 30 small businesses call the property home. The firms employ roughly 50 people. In February, the Ohio Third Frontier ONEFund Accelerator program named Shaker LaunchHouse one of four premier accelerators in the state.

It's too early for the city to say what kind of businesses it will aide and promote, but Mayor Earl Leiken said economic development could be achieved through grants or loans to small businesses.

"One of the things that neighborhood leadership in Moreland and Lomond have emphasized, and we agree, is the importance of commercial development along Lee Road and in the Chagrin (Blvd.) and Lee areas," Leiken said. "The more (development) in those areas, the stronger those neighborhoods are going to be."

The Fund for the Future of Shaker Heights was founded in 1985 as a charitable organization to promote racial integration in the city and its school district. The Fund operated a down-payment loan program to assist minority families moving into the city. The organization also offered a matching grant program to property owners on Avalon, Daleford and Winslow roads and to the Lomond Association.

During its years of operation, the Fund provided 425 loans for more than $2.7 million. The city also attributed the organization with leveraging more than $1.3 million in neighborhood improvements after receiving $565,318 in grant money.

In August, four of the Fund's board members joined the SHDC board, along with two citizen appointees, bringing the total to 11. The board also has a LaunchHouse appointed member, be Morris Wheeler, founder of Clarion Capitol.

The SHDC will long be tied to LaunchHouse, but board member Jack Boyle said the organization would promote commercial development in other areas of the city.
 
"There's no such thing as strong neighborhoods without strong commercial areas," said Boyle, a senior fellow at Cleveland State University's Levin College of Urban Affairs.

"That's going to be our emphasis, and it really is for the betterment of Shaker Heights. "

Mark Zetzer October 23, 2012 at 12:26 PM
Great, more money to grow Shaker's list of crony capitalists. Local entrepreneurs would to well to learn how to schmooze the likes of the SHDC to get ahead. They can forget about trying to build a profitable product or service that will actually grow the local economy. Best they build what the brilliant business types at City Hall deem trendy and cool, like "green" stuff, fancy boutiques, pet consulting firms and street cars.

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