Developer helps revitalize town at “epicenter” of 2008 economic crash

When Anthony Trzaska hears the words “Slavic Village” in news reports, he knows what is coming next. “It’s almost like when the media reports anything on Slavic Village, it’s followed with: ‘Comma, where the foreclosure crisis in America started,’” says the 31-year-old resident.

Cleveland’s Slavic Village is widely perceived as the epicenter of the Great Recession. Trzaska is working to bring it back.

The property developer is a native: his family still operates a funeral home in Slavic Village, an old neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio. Now he is buying up property to market to small businesses. The focus is on Fleet Avenue, which is currently being torn up as part of a $9 million renovation project to be completed this year.

His firm, Sonny Day Development, is hoping to encourage small businesses to take root in the old neighborhood, with retail on street level and housing above – an old model that has fallen out of favor.

Slavic Village is playing the cards it has been dealt,” Trzaska says. “But I can see millennials approaching [local life] more in the way our grandparents did. It’s not just that they want things close together – their work and social life, and stores they support – but they want to be a part of a neighborhood. They didn’t have that growing up in the suburbs.”

Eight years since it was written off, the housing market in Slavic Village seems to be on the up. Owning a three-bedroom home, 10 minutes from downtown, has practical market value. And retail follows rooftops that have people underneath them – shops and housing are each one half of an equation, both dependent on the other.

I’m pretty optimistic the worst is over for Slavic Village,”says Trzaska. “This neighborhood has value, and that’s what it was based on historically. I’m seeing people realize that part of it once again.

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