Cleveland champion Albert Ratner was recently recognized for a lifetime of service to the city with the 2017 Cleveland Heritage Medal.
Mr. Ratner, the co-chairman emeritus of Forest City Enterprises and a founder of Global Cleveland, accepted his award September 14 at a ceremony at Cleveland City Hall. Also honored with the Heritage Medal were former Greater Cleveland Growth Association President Carole Hoover, former Cleveland Mayor Michael White, and Sam Miller, the co-chairman emeritus of Forest City Realty Trust.
Ratner and Miller, longtime friends and business partners, helped transform Forest City from a lumber supply company to a nationwide real estate development company. As they rose with the business, each man poured his passion and energy into community service, contributing to charities and leading civic projects that spanned cultures and stressed community bridge building.
Even at age 89, Albert Ratner remains one of Cleveland’s most active and recognizable civic leaders.
“Albert is Cleveland personified,” said Joe Cimperman, the president of Global Cleveland. “He never forgot his family’s immigrant roots, and he honors everybody else’s. There is so much that Albert does for this city, and so much that people don’t even know about. He is truly a man who believes in helping his sisters and brothers, from all over the world, and he helps those who are born here and those who make their way to our great community.”
Mr. Ratner was a primary architect of Global Cleveland, which seeks to revitalize the city and boost the regional economy by welcoming immigrants and international students.
An urban design expert, Mr. Ratner helped to create landmark developments across the country. Forest City is best known locally for the restoration of the Terminal Tower and the creation of Tower City, which opened in 1990. Still, he takes more pride in the people he helped and the causes he furthered.
“I don’t judge cities by buildings,” Mr. Ratner said upon accepting his award. “I judge cities by people. So I look around and say ‘I think we understand each other better and I think we’re doing better but we can do much better.’”
In addition to serving on the executive committee of Global Cleveland’s board of directors, he has been active in the Cleveland Plan to transform the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, the revitalization of the Gordon Square Arts District, Karamu House and Ohio’s Third Frontier Advisory Board. He has also driven Forest City’s investments into the Slavic Village Restoration Project.