WOODMERE — Community identity came to the forefront as the village Steering Committee met regarding a master plan. After the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission held a public meeting in March to hear feedback about the village from community stakeholders, steering committee members discussed possible misconceptions people may have about Woodmere.

At the public meeting in March, community members were asked to write their responses to various questions on sticky notes. In response to the question on how Woodmere is viewed by other communities, one person wrote, “perceived as a poor, minority community.”

The committee disagreed on whether this is a misconception. Valeri Furst of Furst Communications said that some people do view the village that way. Committee member Johnny Williams explained that if people see Woodmere as a poor, minority community, it is likely from a historical perspective. Mr. Williams said that when Orange Township was still intact, the area that is now Woodmere had less expensive housing than the other neighborhoods, including what are now Hunting Valley, Moreland Hills, Orange Village and Pepper Pike. He said that caretakers for large houses in the other communities lived in the neighborhood that is now Woodmere.

“That comment doesn’t surprise me,” he said. “It’s from a historical perspective.”

Planner Rachel Novak said that Woodmere is surrounded by affluent communities and has a higher minority population than its neighbors.

Ms. Furst said that people must rethink how they view Woodmere. She pointed out that although there is this misconception, she and her friends and colleagues often visit high-end restaurants in Woodmere.

“We’re here to change that perspective,” said Nakeshia Nickerson, a committee member and Woodmere resident.

The committee noted specific possibilities for how to improve the village’s identity. Ms. Furst said that Village Hall does not have the same appealing look that others do, such as Orange Village Hall and Pepper Pike City Hall. She said that Woodmere is a very small area but has many different types of architecture. Consistency in architecture throughout the village would be beneficial, she said, but difficult to accomplish since buildings have different owners with individual style preferences.

One of the members of the steering committee is John Goodman, who owns Village Square on Chagrin Boulevard. Village Square used to be home to Whole Foods, until the grocery store moved to Pinecrest in Orange Village recently.

“There’s a fork in the road for what will fill that space,” Mr. Williams said. Finding a new tenant for that anchor spot in Village Square plays a huge role in the future of Woodmere, he added.

Mr. Goodman said that many people have expressed interest in the former Whole Foods space with some commenting on the demographics of high-end shoppers.

Nate Phillips, committee member and president of No Limit Leaders Youth Organization, said that he has a vision for Woodmere. Woodmere could be similar to Chagrin Falls and have a unique “feeling” when someone enters the village, he said. To make the architecture consistent, he recalled Cleveland’s storefront renovation program, which was meant to improve the aesthetics of various buildings around the city. He suggested that Woodmere may need a storefront renovation incentive.

The county planning commission is considering hosting another public meeting in July or August.

Julie Hullett has been a reporter for the Chagrin Valley Times since August of 2018 and covers Gates Mills, Hunting Valley, Moreland Hills, Orange, Pepper Pike and Woodmere. She graduated from John Carroll University with a journalism degree in 2018.

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