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what neighborhoods need: burgs strive for that elusive formula for lasting success





Cleveland State University in the Campus District







What makes a neighborhood thrive? Is it a coffee shop? A fistful of chef-owned bistros? What about a grocery store and dry cleaners? When it comes to Cleveland's various neighborhoods, some seem to have all the pieces in place. Ohio City, Tremont, Detroit Shoreway… these budding burgs appear to have everything a resident could want and need.
 
But do they?
 
Fresh Water decided to survey the folks who spend their days thinking about Cleveland’s neighborhoods to see what -- if anything -- is missing. Where there’s a need, there’s an opportunity. Calling all entrepreneurs!
 
Strolling along W. 25th Street in Ohio City, it’s easy to see that this neighborhood is on a roll. This year, the West Side Market will celebrate its 100th birthday and the surrounding area, dubbed the Market District, is bursting with new boutiques, bars, and cafes.
 
But hold on, says Eric Wobser, executive director of Ohio City Inc.
 
While the Market District indeed is booming, there’s still plenty that residents could use. “We’d like to see businesses along Lorain Avenue that meet everyday needs,” says Wobser. Just a sampling of what residents are hankering for: a dry cleaner, a pharmacy, a hardware and garden supply store, plus restaurants that cater to the growing number of families in the neighborhood. A comics store for St. Ignatius students would also be appreciated.
 
Like Ohio City, Tremont appears to be flourishing, with a robust mix of restaurants, bars and art galleries. Michael Symon launched his culinary empire right here, and before long others followed. The Tremont ArtWalk and hip boutiques like Evie Lou and Banyan Tree also are a big draws.
 
"But we’d love a market, a dry cleaner, a deli," says Cory Riordan, executive director of Tremont West Development Corp., sounding a lot like Ohio City’s Wobser. Indeed, as neighborhoods like Tremont and Ohio City become fashionable places to live -- not just visit -- it's the everyday service providers that often are the last to the party. To that end, Tremont West has launched a storefront incubator to help businesses move from blueprint to brick-and-mortar spots in the historic neighborhood.
 
When the Cleveland Public Theatre took up residence in Detroit Shoreway in the mid-90s, it sparked a slow and steady revival of the neighborhood that of late has really picked up speed. These days, Gordon Square Arts District is a vibrant assortment of boutiques, studios, restaurants, galleries, cafes, and bars that stretches from W. 58th to W. 78th. More recently, Capitol Theater, an indie movie house with three screens, opened in a rehabbed 1920s-era theater on W. 65th and the Near West Theater group is planning its own theater in the district.
 
Still, even with all this -- did we mention the $3 million in streetscape improvements -- there’s room for more. “We’d like more retail,” says Jeff Ramsey, executive director of the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization. “Businesses that are unique and bring people in from across the region.” They’ll sure be in good company, with neighbors like home apparel shop duoHome, vintage clothing store Turnstyle, and Yellowcake, which features clothing designed by Project Runway alum Valerie Mayen.
 
“We have 10,500 residents living Downtown. There is so much energy on the street when you walk around here!” exclaims Downtown Cleveland Alliance’s director of marketing Gina Morris. In fact, the number of Clevelanders living in the district has almost doubled since 1995, straining the area housing market with a 96-percent occupancy rate. More housing? Yes, please.
 
Meanwhile, with more than 100,000 folks commuting downtown for work, and tens of thousands more arriving on weekends to enjoy the area’s cultural attractions, take in a game, or dine at the restaurants along E. 4th Street, Morris says that downtown could use more retail. “C.L.E. Clothing just opened a shop on E. 4th. We have Dredgers Union. We think retail can be successful downtown.”
 
Campus District is home to Cleveland State University, Tri-C’s Metro Campus, St. Vincent Charity Medical Center, and hundreds of other businesses, including Allegro Realty Advisors, which just moved to the area this month from the south suburbs. There’s even an artist community -- part of the up-and-coming area known as the Arts Quarter is in the Campus District -- centered around the Tower Press and Artcraft buildings on Superior Avenue.
 
But E. 22nd, which many call the "spine" of the neighborhood, doesn’t exactly teem with activity. To the contrary, “the roadway is not particularly pedestrian friendly,” explains Rockette Richardson, executive director of Campus District Inc. “For lunch, there’s a McDonalds or Kentucky Fried Chicken,” laments one Tri-C employee. A planned $4 million facelift for E. 22nd should help. In fact, Richardson anticipates the improvements could spur upwards of $100 million in new development along the boulevard. Let’s hope that includes a late-night coffee shop and a bistro or two for the 25,000 students who attend classes here.
 
Let's start with what is available in St. Clair/AsiaTown. Retail? Check. Bustling restaurants? You bet, including some of the best Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean food in the region. Grocery stores? Almost too many to count, with the area home to Dave's and a bevy of Asian markets. More than 1,000 businesses, employing upwards of 10,000 people in areas ranging from manufacturing to biotech, are here. And home to most of the city's live-work spaces, the neighborhood teems with creative folks.
 
But most of this vitality seems to take place under the radar. “There is an acknowledgement here that there is a lot going on. But it doesn’t register visually,” says Jamar Doyle, assistant director of St. Claire Superior Development Corp. “There are these old industrial buildings, and they still look like old industrial buildings. But you go inside and it’s been converted to lofts or it’s a shopping plaza or whatever.”
 
To add bustling street activity where there is little to none, plans call for a new Main Street of sorts to run along Superior Avenue, with improved signage, a bike lane, and -- hopefully -- green space. “We’re okay from a retail perspective, but we need green space,” says Doyle.
 
Smack dab in the middle of the Health Tech Corridor -- the three-mile med-tech hub that connects the Theater District and University Circle -- sits MidTown. More than 2,000 Clevelanders call this neighborhood home, while another 18,000 commute to the more than 600 businesses here. 
 
"MidTown is on a roll," boasts James A. Haviland, executive director of MidTown Cleveland Inc. With more than 50 acres slated to be redeveloped over the next few years, plans for infrastructure improvements (particularly in the gateway area at E. 55th and Euclid), and the neighborhood's recent designation as a Hub of Innovation & Opportunity -- one of only eight in Ohio -- MidTown certainly is poised for major growth.
 
What’s needed? More restaurants that cater to area employees, for a start. One of the first to arrive at the table is Jae Stulock, owner of the popular food truck Umami Moto, who this month opened The Hipp in the Agora Theater, pleasing the lunch and happy-hour crowd.
 
University Circle has topped the list of can't-miss Cleveland neighborhoods since its founding in the late 19th century. But these days, the neighborhood -- particularly the Uptown district -- is emerging as one more of the city’s up-and-coming places to live and work. University Circle’s population grew by 11 percent in the last census, the same period during which the city as a whole declined by 17 percent.
 
In the coming months, Uptown will get a Constantino’s Market, Barnes and Noble, fast-casual dining from Panera and Chipotle, and new restaurants by Cleveland chefs Jonathon Sawyer and Scott Kim. On top of all that, the Museum of Contemporary Art is about to open its new $27 million showpiece at Euclid and Mayfield.
 
“You’re really going to feel this year that the neighborhood is taking shape,” notes Chris Ronayne, president of University Circle Inc.
 
So what else? “There’s the feeling that we need a critical mass of restaurants and pubs and cafes,” says Ronayne. Recent arrivals like India Flame are feeling the love. And Ohio City’s ABC the Tavern will open a second location in the area. But there still are some storefronts in the area that are ripe for the proverbial picking.
 
Ascend Murray Hill from University Circle and you're in Little Italy, which was settled more than 100 years ago by Italian immigrants working in the nearby Lakeview Marble Works. While still distinctly Italian-American in flavor, the neighborhood now boasts a diverse population of residents, many of whom work down the hill in University Circle.
 
“But it still feels like it did in the old days,” says Ray Kristosik, executive director of Little Italy Redevelopment Corp. But more amenities are needed. “We could use a dry cleaner, a bank, even a grocery store,” suggests Kristosik. “There used to be more than 30 mom-and-pop grocery stores here.” 
 
“We’re not picky. We’ll eat anything,” jokes Brian Friedman, executive director of Northeast Shores Development Corp. “This is a neighborhood that is desirous of more food options.”
 
He’s talking about Waterloo/Collinwood, which has almost all the makings of a neighborhood on the rise. Once home to thousands of laborers who toiled in nearby factories, the neighborhood today has become a haven for artists seeking low-cost space to live and work. Waterloo Road boasts a funky mix of record shops -- yes, those still exist -- cafes, bars, and cool boutiques like Star Pop and Native Cleveland. Anchoring it all is the Beachland Ballroom, one of the country’s top live music venues, which brings in a steady stream of musicians and fans from across the region most days of the week.
 
Finding space for artists -- and maybe a recording studio -- is what keeps Friedman busy, but also high on his list: businesses that build upon the success of the Beachland in drawing visitors to the neighborhood for entertainment. “We have a one-screen movie theater that is vacant, the Lasalle Theater. We’d like a bookstore, a brewery, maybe a sports bar.”
 
Calling all entrepreneurs!

Photos Bob Perkoski
- Image 1: Civilization Coffee in Tremont
- Image 2: West Side Market in Ohio City
- Image 3: Capitol Theater in Gordon Square
- Image 4: Tremont Scoops in Tremont
- Image 5: Cleveland State University
- Image 6: Tink Holl in Asia Town
- Image 7: Agora Theater in Mid Town
- Image 8: University Circle
- Image 9: La Dolce Vita in Little Italy
- Image 10: Waterloo/Collinwood
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