Ensuring economic upward mobility for the predominantly Hispanic-Latino residents in Cleveland’s Clark-Fulton neighborhood, many of them recent immigrants, is the mission of the Northeast Ohio Hispanic Center for Economic Development, or NEOHCED. The organization’s latest project to spur business development in Clark-Fulton is CentroVilla25, a reimagining of a vacant warehouse as a cultural and economic hub.
When the 32,500-square-foot multi-purpose space is fully renovated, it will house a commercial kitchen, 20 retail stalls, coworking space, a specialty grocer and an outdoor plaza. “We want to create a place where the community can find everything they need,” says Randy Cedeño, NEOHCED’s director of small business development. The heart of CentroVilla25 will be the mercado, a space for 20 micro-retailers. “We want to provide easier access and affordable space for entrepreneurs to start businesses,” says Cedeño. “It’s all about creating opportunities.” The commercial kitchen will provide a low-cost professional setting for residents who have traditionally cooked and sold goods from their homes. NEOHCED expects to work with an additional 40 entrepreneurs annually through the commercial kitchen.
While the space is under construction, both new and experienced entrepreneurs who hope to become tenants of CentroVilla25 will participate in Barrio Progreso, a NEOHCED program that has provided bilingual — including Spanglish — technical assistance and training to hundreds of businesses in the area. That includes developing a comprehensive business plan, establishing capital needs, and working with traditional and nontraditional lenders.
With this additional training, Barrio Progreso seeks to help community members build and grow sustainable businesses that are rooted in the Latino community, part of NEOHCED’s goal of creating economic opportunities without displacing the diverse cultural makeup of neighborhoods.
Bank of America is supporting Barrio Progreso’s work in CentroVilla25, part of its $1.25 billion, five-year commitment to advance racial equality and economic opportunity. “Support from the private sector, just like that of Bank of America, is what keeps the hopes and dreams alive for our community,” says Cedeño.