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Dominion East Ohio distributes $110,000 in community-impact awards

CLEVELAND, Ohio --  Dominion East Ohio presented Friday $110,000 in grants to 13 community organizations in its 19th annual Community Impact Awards competition.

"This year's award-winning projects and the organizations that planned, organized and carried them out are making a real difference in their home communities," said Scott Miller, Dominion East Ohio vice president and general manager. "These projects demonstrate the creativity, commitment and community spirit of our region's non-profit and economic development agencies."

A panel of community judges chose the winners from more than 60 entries, submitted by organizations throughout northeast Ohio. The award recognizes cities or organizations that have made an impact. The Dominion Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Dominion Resources Inc., Dominion East Ohio's parent company, funds the Community Impact grants. The Dominion Foundation is dedicated to the economic, physical and social health of the communities that Dominion companies serve.

This year's Community Impact Award winners are:

The St. Clair Superior Development Corporation received $12,500 for its Cleveland Flea program, a monthly collection of venders selling their wares, which has rejuvenated the East Side neighborhood. For example, the 2013 Holiday Flea alone attracted 10,000 shoppers, who generated $100,000 in neighborhood economic activity. Cleveland Flea and other St. Clair Superior Development programs have spawned five new businesses and boosted existing neighborhood enterprises.

Kent State University received $12,500 for its joint efforts with the city of Kent in fostering $110 million in revitalization projects that have linked the school with the city's downtown. Highlights include College Town Kent, a $35 million mixed-use redevelopment block featuring apartments and three anchor corporate tenants. Another major project was the $15 million Kent State University Hotel and Conference Center.

Western Reserve Land Conservancy received $10,000 as winner of the second annual special Environmental Impact Award for its work in helping preserve the Lake Erie Bluffs scenic shoreline in Lake County from planned industrial and commercial development. Working with Lake Metroparks, the Conservancy helped raise more than $10 million needed to purchase a 345-acre tract, which now connects 140 acres of existing parkland to the east and a 115-acre park to the west. The site, located near the Perry Nuclear Power Plant, attracts hikers, kayakers, anglers and birders, along with such wildlife as bald eagles.

LAND Studio received $10,000 for its work in transforming the once neglected Perk Park to an oasis of greenery in the heart of downtown Cleveland. LAND Studio, created in the 2011 merger of ParkWorks and Cleveland Public Art, collaborated with the Downtown Cleveland Alliance to raise $3.5 million for Perk Park redesign and renovation. The reinvigorated Perk Park hosts weekly spring and summer events, such as the popular "Walnut Wednesdays," which regularly attract 1,000 diners to sample the wares of a dozen food truck vendors.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (MOCA Cleveland) received $10,000 in recognition of the positive community and economic impact of its new, 34,000-square foot home in the Uptown District of Cleveland's University Circle. In its first year at the new location, its first permanent home, MOCA Cleveland attracted more than 56,000 visitors, who also boosted the neighborhood's economy by frequenting local restaurants and shops.

Northeast Shores Development Corp. received $10,000 for its work in promoting growth of the Waterloo Arts District in Cleveland's North Shore Collinwood neighborhood. Those efforts include constructing a unique streetscape, featuring murals, and building critically needed, environmentally friendly, parking space to accommodate an increasing number of visitors. The new lots also provided room for pop-up performances and art installations.

Slavic Village Development received $10,000 for its Neighbors Invest in Broadway project, which helps residents purchase and refurbish formerly foreclosed and abandoned homes in this historic Cleveland district. Slavic Village had been a poster child of the nation's urban housing crisis and its associated predatory lending, foreclosures and population loss. In just three years the program has helped 20 new homeowners and saved 31 vacant homes. That has generated increased business for local merchants and an estimated $125,000 increase in property taxes.

Gordon Square Arts District received $10,000 for its role in transforming a once moribund section of Cleveland's Detroit Shoreway neighborhood into a thriving arts district. Major components of a $30 million plan included the renovation and reopening of the 1921-vintage Capitol Theatre, which now draws nearly 60,000 moviegoers a year. Another major project was construction of the new, $7.3 million Near West Theatre. Since 2006, more than 75 new businesses have opened in the neighborhood,  with an estimated 150,000 patrons visiting neighborhood shops, restaurants and entertainment venues from 2012 to 2013.

Ohio City Inc. received $5,000 for developing the Near West Recreation program, which enables city youth a chance to play organized baseball at a family friendly price. If children's families cannot afford the suggested $20 donation, gear will be provided to any child who needs it. The program began in 2012 with a T-ball program for players 4 to 6 years old, attracting 120 players. The program returned in 2013, along with a coach-pitch program for players 7 to 9. Providing such youth programs helps Ohio City attract young families to purchase homes and establish roots in the neighborhood.

Historic Gateway Neighborhood Corp. received $5,000 in honor of its Take a Hike guided tours of Cleveland neighborhoods. The tours are guided by costumed actors, portraying noted local historical figures, such as former U.S. Rep. Frances Payne Bolton, or Milton Kranz, longtime manager of the Hanna Theatre. The tours cover five different downtown neighborhoods, including Gateway, Warehouse District, Playhouse Square, Civic Center, and Canal Basin Park. Guides discuss the area's geography, history, future developments and importance to the city.

Neighborhood Development Services of Barberton received $5,000 for its Lake 8 Movies project, which renovated, modernized and revived a 1938-era downtown cinema. Neighborhood Development Services, a non-profit that revives neighborhoods and communities by attracting and partnering with investors, purchased the closed theatre from the city, and installing state-of-the-art digital audio and projection equipment. The Lake reopened in April 2013, drawing more than 50,000 moviegoers, generating more than $485,000 in revenue and creating 25 jobs, with at least 13 full-time positions.

Stark Education Partnership received $5,000 for its Now We Know program, which helps local school districts track the progress of students beyond graduation. The organization funded subscriptions to the Student Tracker data base for all 17 Stark County school districts, which include nearly 62,000 students. The program helps school officials track who attends college and where and how long it takes them to graduate. So far the program has tracked 13,500 county students. That number is expected to increase by 2,500 to 3,000 each year.

The Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce received $5,000 for its work in brokering a grant of free access to Siemens' Project Lifecycle Management software for Youngstown State University, a gift that carried a $440 million retail market value. Students at YSU's College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics are using the software, which enables them to help manage projects from the design phase all the way to production. Such hands-on experience with software used by 70,000 companies and government agencies, including 800 in Ohio alone, will make YSU graduate more attractive to employers.

Since 1996, Dominion East Ohio has distributed more than $1.2 million in Community Impact Awards to organizations throughout its service area.

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