Guest Commentary: Let’s Rethink the Kmart Site

Guest Commentary: Let’s Rethink the Kmart Site, Cleveland, OH, West Park, Redevelopment, City Planning, News, West Park Times, Opinion, Column

By Mandy Metcalf

City planner and Ward 17 resident

The owner of the former Kmart site at West 150th Street and Lorain Avenue is proposing some new tenants for the site, but the vision for the redevelopment of the property should be bolder and more compatible with the historic neighborhood character of West Park than what is being proposed.

I’ve lived in the Kamm’s Corners neighborhood for 15 years. One of the things I love most is its traditional character. Originally a streetcar suburb, as it grew, the West Park area was built to accommodate cars, but not at the expense of people. Details like placing garages behind houses help to create its walkable feel. Preserved clusters of historic commercial and mixed-use buildings built close to Lorain Avenue create a unique neighborhood identity to take pride in. The Kmart development, in contrast, was a product of a different time, when car-oriented convenience took precedence over placemaking across the country.

These days, brick-and-mortar shopping centers are struggling with on-line competition. Those that are successful have once again positioned themselves as community destinations that contribute to neighborhood character, with spaces designed for people as well as for cars. The International Council of Shopping Centers report Envision 2020: The Future of the Shopping Center Industry calls for shopping centers to take on a role as cultural centers and fully integrate into surrounding communities by creating places that offer memorable experiences.

The City of Philadelphia published some helpful guidelines on reimagining shopping centers as community spaces in January 2021. Included are the following ideas:

·         Make them safer. Build walkways through the parking lot and separate them from traffic with trees and shrubs. 

·         Make them more welcoming. Turn areas outside store entrances into public open space that connects the street to the store. 

·         Make them more active. Allowing apartments, offices, and hotels will add more life – and more shoppers – to the centers. Adding small parks, benches, and outdoor dining will create spaces for people to stay instead of grab-and-go.

·         Make them greener. Trees and other plants separate pedestrians from cars, offer shade, and soak up stormwater.

·         Create “Main Streets.” Orienting buildings towards walkways, drive aisles, and green spaces can make shoppers feel like they are downtown.

The West Park Shopping Center site design needs to be rethought to include public gathering places and more mixed uses. This would create a safer, more welcome environment for families and seniors. There are a number of ways this could be accomplished on the site while reusing the existing buildings.

Additional buildings on outparcels could”

A) be arranged around a community green or plaza, or

B) be oriented to create a traditional “Main Street” retail area within the site, or

C) be oriented toward Lorain Avenue in conjunction with roadway and streetscape enhancements to improve the pedestrian experience on Lorain Avenue. 

New buildings could incorporate mixed use, multiple levels, or rooftop dining. The outparcels could be leased by community organizations that would manage some buildings and spaces. 

Importantly, the historic mixed-use Marquard building needs to be saved intact and incorporated into the site. This building should be the inspiration for the character of the shopping center. If a redevelopment of the site cannot manage to include this building, then it is a development that is not able to be compatible with or contributing to the character of West Park.

TLM Realty is working with an architectural consultant, Onyx Creative, that has the capacity to create a high-quality design for the site. We need to raise the expectations for this project. It will have a lasting impact on the character of West Park. Attend the virtual public meeting on April 14 to express your concerns.

Mandy Metcalf is a city planner for Greater Cleveland RTA. She previously worked for Environmental Health Watch, Cleveland EcoVillage, and the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative. She served on the Lorain Variety Design Review Committee and received a James Marston Fitch fellowship for independent study in historic preservation. Her views are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of her employer, any organization or The West Park Times.

Survey finds teens feel financial anxieties because of COVID-19

By Jessie Schoonover 

The process for student lending has not changed. However, the conversation around going to college and borrowing certainly has. 

A recent survey completed by 1,000 of our nation’s teens, between ages 13 and 18 (not currently attending college), found many feel mounting anxieties related to their family’s financial situation, as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. 

Citizens Bank and Junior Achievement USA conducted a survey with Wakefield Research Group, titled “The JA COVID Impact Survey.”

Key findings of this survey indicate the following: 


  • More than half of the teens surveyed (57%) are concerned about how COVID-19 will impact their plans for the future.
  • Forty-four percent of high school juniors and seniors say COVID-19 has impacted their plans to pay for college, with a majority of those affected (58%) saying they are now likely to take out student loans to help pay for college.


“A lot of what Citizens (Bank) has been about is encouraging families to talk about their finances with their teenage kids in order for them to be prepared for how much money they have to spend for college; how is the family going to be able to afford this and what does it mean from a financial standpoint,” says head of student lending at Citizens Bank, Christine Roberts. 

“What’s very encouraging from this survey is that over 70% of the students that responded said that they are having this conversation with their parents, that they are actively having conversations around the family’s finances— how COVID-19 has affected their family’s finances— and then they are actually taking that and thinking about it in terms of now what does that mean for the next round of decisions that I need to make,” she says. 

Roberts says this can translate to the following: 

  • Do I go to a different school, public vs. private? 
  • Am I going to go someplace that is less expensive but still really good? 
  • Am I going to go closer to home? 
  • Is it better for me to stay close to home to save money and avoid any pandemic issues related to travel in the future? 
  • Do I take a gap year and wait it out since I do not necessarily want to change the school of my choice? 
  • Do I need to take out additional money or more than expected in loans to cover college costs? 

“It is a lot in some ways, but I think it’s great that these families are having these conversations,” Roberts says. 

According to Joe Faulhaber president of Junior Achievement of Greater Cleveland, “our hope was to shed a light on some of the anxieties and challenges these kids have identified, as they think about their next steps in their educational journey. But, also, in the way they think about work and summer jobs and paying for college, and whether or not they go to college right away, if they are a graduating senior, or take a gap year. That was really the crux of it,” he says regarding the survey. 

“In general, really what we’re seeing is a not insignificant amount of teens that are either being relied upon already to financially contribute to their household— and given mass layoffs that we’re seeing in the news every day; our continued negative job outlook for the broader economy overall— teens are being asked and really forced to take on a more active role in the finances in their household.” 


*Survey conducted April 2020.


Visit some parks, not playgrounds, CDC recommends

While getting outdoors is important any time of the year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says do not visit playgrounds.

“Do not use playgrounds, including water playgrounds, located within local, state, or national parks,” says the CDC. 

The CDC states: “Using playgrounds might lead to the spread of COVID-19 because:

  • They are often crowded and could easily exceed recommended guidance for gatherings.
  • It can be challenging to keep surfaces clean and disinfected.
  • The virus can spread when young children touch contaminated equipment and then touch their hands to their eyes, nose, or mouth.”

Visiting a playground is advised against until further notice. However, select state and local parks remain open. Remember to practice safe social distancing practices no matter where you are, including at all public parks which remain open.

According to the Cleveland Metroparks, its ’18 reservations’ currently remains open and golf course hours are limited (9 a.m. to 5 p.m), depending on the weather. Find information regarding their updates here. To protect employees, they are asking individuals to ‘pack in, pack out.’ This means bring your own garbage container (bag) and bring any garbage with you when you leave.

The Cleveland Metroparks website does note: “Avoid playgrounds: all playgrounds and outdoor fitness stations are closed for safety.”

Swimming for now appears to be safe, given individuals continue taking appropriate measures to avoid shared spaces, etc. According to the CDC, there is no proof that currently exists indicating COVID-19 can be transmitted via water or swimming.

“There is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread to humans through the water. Proper operation, maintenance, and disinfection (with chlorine or bromine) of pools should kill COVID-19,” states the CDC’s web page.

It is NOT recommended to use water parks or playgrounds, or hot tubs, says the CDC.

Getting out isn’t impossible during COVID-19 but it is still important to continue safe social distancing; practicing adequate hygiene habits, and additional precautions such as wearing a mask.

Find information from the National Parks Service regarding individual parks here. 


Inside the Zen Center of Cleveland

West Park Times CloudWater Zendo Article

A Special Report by the West Park Times

Teachings come in many different forms.
CloudWater Zendo, The Zen Center of Cleveland, is a place for all to learn and be calm.
“The interesting thing about the Buddhist tradition is that it’s flexible enough to allow people to practice it the way they want,” says the Ven. Shih Ying-Fa, instructor, and founder of CloudWater Zendo.

“It can be a way of life,” he says. “You don’t have to be Buddhist to practice Buddhism. There are non-Buddhists who come here to meditate. So, you’ve got the religious aspect, the philosophical aspect, the way of life aspect, and the system of education aspect. Our attitude is if there is something that we have that you think you can use to assist you in life and to assist you to alleviate whatever suffering you may be experiencing- please take it- no strings attached.”

Every Saturday, the Zen Center of Cleveland, located at 4436 Puritas Ave., holds group Zen meditation with formal Zen tea from 8:30 a.m. until 9:30 a.m. This does not cost anything and is open to the public. There will also be a free introduction to Zen meditation class starting at 7 p.m. every Monday throughout the month of April.
Looking for something in particular or of a different variety? A full listing of events can be found on the calendar page of the CloudWater Zendo website, at:
So, what does the name, CloudWater Zendo, mean exactly?
“The name of this temple is from an old term, which started in China and got popular in Japan… in Chinese Feng Shui which means clouds and water because Zen monks were expected to float like clouds and flow like water. It’s freedom and activity but all flowing together.”
West Park is lucky not only to have the Zen Center, but Ying-Fa also, as a resident.
“I love West Park,” he says. “I’ve lived here since 1990.”
According to Ying-Fa, the original Zendo was founded in 1994 at the intersection of Triskett and Warren.
There are several Buddhist stereotypes which exist. However, despite any pervading misconceptions, CloudWater Zendo focuses on teaching the history and truth of Buddhism.
“A lot of people don’t know a lot about this tradition,” says Ying-Fa.
“I think having an understanding of the history enhances what you do but it’s not necessary going in,” he says.
“We teach an eight-week class that we’re in the middle of right now. It’s eight classes. It’s called the ‘Basics of Buddhism’ and it’s a survey class- it covers the history, the formation of the traditions, the teachings and all that other sort of thing. We do that twice a year,” he says. “Two of the eight classes are about history because there is such a misunderstanding about Buddhist history in the west… Buddhism can be very complicated. Not because it’s roots are complicated but it’s outgrowths became complicated. It’s going through so many cultures and picking up terminology and history from there.”
According to Ying-Fa there are three major divisions of Buddhism: “the original Buddhism that started in India, the Theravada (teaching of the elders); the Mahayana, a wider vehicle was an outgrowth of the original Theravada and it’s the Buddhism that prevailed in East Asia. Then the third major division didn’t come along until the eighth century of the Common Era and that was Himalayan Buddhism. Westerners call it Tibetan Buddhism because it was the most influential country. But there were more countries than that involved.”
According to Ying-Fa, his career in the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA), is what led him to Cleveland. It also influenced his future involvement with the Buddhist tradition.
“The VA is what brought me here,” he says. “And the VA is what kick-started my Buddhist path because I was a very stress-laden individual. . It was very difficult working in that environment back then, I can’t speak to it now- but for me it was a little bit rough. So, I began the practice of meditation which then led me to the fellow who was my first teacher who was the priest of the

Cleveland Buddhist temple in Euclid. And, after meeting and talking with him it was like a big bell just went off in my whole being that said this is where you need to be. Thirty-two years later, here I am.”
Meditation is helpful for many to manage stress while promoting self-awareness.
How does meditation do all of this?
According to Ying-Fa, meditation is helpful because: “if a person can find five minutes a day in which to meditate-what that does, is, a a term I commonly use, it’s lamination. Lamination is thin layers built up over time. In meditation it’s layers of concentration that built up over time.
“It’s like eating a sandwich,” he says. “You eat the sandwich and all the components of the sandwich don’t go to your bloodstream, or your tissues or your bones right away. It’s a process of getting it there.”
Meditation can allow your mind to focus more on the present; manage stress while building skills to manage stress; increase imagination, tolerance, patience, and creativity, say the Mayo Clinic.
There are several different types of meditation. Some are guided, while others focus on mindfulness and mantras, or the silent repetition of a phrase or word. There is also Qi gong, tai chi, and transcendental meditation.

For approximately two decades, Ying-Fa has been providing an invaluable service to the world from his home-base in West Park.
Ying-Fa is known for his quick and helpful responses, with a typical response time of 24 hours.
Do you have a question for the Ven. Shih Ying-Fa? Visit the “Ask a Monk” form at:
You may even indicate how soon you would like a response.
Classes and additional event information may be found at: