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Local Latinx Communities Hope To Stop Demolition Of Historic Club Azteca

For decades, Club Azteca was a place for meetings and celebrations for Cleveland’s Mexican American communities.

But the now-vacant building has been proposed for demolition. Members of Cleveland’s Latinx communities gathered in front of the club Wednesday hoping to stop its destruction.

“There is a growing movement nationwide to preserve historic places for communities of color because ours are always just erased while other narratives are saved,” said Veronica Dahlberg, executive director of HOLA Ohio.

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Veronica Dahlberg (right) is the executive director of HOLA Ohio. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]

The Bond Street Group development company intends to raze the building to make way for a mixed-use building with retail, offices and 122 apartments. Bond Street is calling the Gordon Square project Waverly & Oak.

Dahlberg said the effort to demolish Club Azteca is a prime example of how gentrification can wipe out cultures in a city.

She compared the neglect for the building to the preservation of other historic buildings that have stayed upright in Cleveland – an East Side house that legendary writer Langston Hughes once called home and the birthplace of John Heisman, the namesake of college football’s Heisman Trophy Award.

“People are saying, well usually the owners are supposed to save a building. I don't think that's the case. I don't think Heisman or Langston Hughes was alive when his house was saved,” Dahlberg said. “I believe that it has to do with public officials identifying what they value that tells the story of their place. And clearly they do not include us in that story.”

The Cleveland Landmarks Commission is considering the project and will discuss it at a Thursday morning meeting. HOLA Ohio representatives and others from Wednesday’s Club Azteca gathering committed to attending.

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Rendering of the Waverly & Oak project. [Bond Street Group]

Angel Galvan has lived in the neighborhood about 30 years and likens the Club Azteca building to other beloved and historic buildings nearby.

“This is as historic as the Capitol Theater or the Cleveland Public Theatre,” Galvan said. “These landmarks are important for the vitality of Cleveland.”

The building has historical significance to Clevelanders, especially Mexican American Clevelanders. The building itself has stood since 1900 and Club Azteca, incorporated in 1945, was a cultural hub and social hall for Cleveland's Mexican American community, which purchased the Detroit Avenue building in 1951.

“This is tied to the efforts to make Cleveland more multi-cultural, more multi-culturally friendly. These are the things and the words that the politicians, the civic leaders are advocating and living by,” Galvan said. “But by the demolition of this building, those end up being lies.”

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Angel Galvan immigrated from Mexico and has lived in Cleveland for about 60 years. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]

Although Linda Hernandez just recently learned about Club Azteca's history, she still thinks that preserving historical landmarks like this one would make Cleveland a more attractive place.

“A lot of the young people do end up leaving because Cleveland isn't representing or giving enough of that,” Hernandez said. “So if they keep stuff like this and give us an opportunity to bring in culture, bring a vibrance, then more people will stay and change the city and make it better.”

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Linda Hernandez has lived in Northeast Ohio for about 10 years. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]

According to the Bond Street website, the owners of a Vietnamese market and a barbershop that neighbor Club Azteca have already agreed to sell their properties to the developers.

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These businesses would meet the wrecking ball along with Club Azteca if the Waverly & Oak project goes through. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]

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