Returning to the City

Cleveland used to have a population of over a million. Now we have 390,000. Of course, this happened when people moved to the suburbs and businesses fled to the Sun Belt. So here we sit with lots of empty buildings.

But wait! You may have noticed that things are changing in downtown Cleveland. For one thing, WKYC reported in August that 36 new restaurants have opened in the past 18 months.  (They didn’t say how many closed in that same period).  Heinens is going to open a grocery store on the corner of Euclid and 9th. The Hanna Building, on the corner of Euclid and 14th St., has converted its space to apartments. Last I heard there was only one apartment left. The Flats along Cuyahoga River is coming back to life with new restaurants like Ken Stewart’s East Bank and Lago.

Heinens new location

Heinens new location

The enchantment with the suburbs is waning. There is poverty out there. It takes a long time to commute to jobs and entertainment and parking is expensive when you get there. Walking door to door in the ‘burbs means walking out in the road. Kids have to be transported everywhere by car. Of course, this has always been true of the suburbs, but now cities are waking up to the fact that if we want people to live inside a large metropolis, we have to offer the things a suburb does.  That is why our downtown is offering more grocery stores and other services that people need to live without relying on cars.

All this activity has been happening in the 15-20 blocks surrounding Public Square on both sides of the river. But, when you look closely, you’ll see that new life is coming back to the old buildings further away. Where the old warehouses that were once used for bookbinding and light manufacturing stood, now artists, students, and young professionals are moving in.

The Hanna Building

The Hanna Building

People want to live near where there are so many amenities. Developers, seeing this, are looking at these old buildings with a clear eye on the bottom line. They’ve done their marketing and know that students and faculty want to live and play near where they study and work. The same is true near the Cleveland Clinic, by the way.

Our neighborhood is a prime example. We are two blocks from Cleveland State, four blocks from Playhouse Square, less than a mile from Public Square, and we are in the midst of Asia Town.  We have multiple ways to use public transportation and one option- the trolley- is free

I’d say the only thing missing downtown for young families would be really good schools. There are some independent schools at University Circle, but they are geared to older students.

Nevertheless, people who live in this town are excited. Lots of leaders and civic groups are working together. With the economy in full, if slow, recovery, residents have adopted the hopeful excitement that there are good things happening around here.

Do you feel it?