On the hunt: A Gen Zer goes in search of his first apartment in downtown Cleveland

Ian Meadows wants to walk or bike to work. A city planner, he lives with his parents in Mentor and works in downtown Cleveland, where he began hunting for an apartment in November. This is the story of his search.

Meadows, 23, graduated from Ohio State University in 2019, majoring in city and regional planning and minoring in landscape architecture. He parlayed a summer 2018 internship with City Architecture into a full-time job with the Cleveland firm. As an assistant city planner and marketing coordinator, he does research, mapping, design, graphics, and more while handling the company's social media accounts.

Ian MeadowsIt’s a terrific first job for the Mentor High School graduate, but moving back home—plus working at home during the coronavirus crisis—is less than ideal. He gets along great, he says, with his parents, Jim and Terri Meadows. But Mentor is a suburb of married couples, with few singles in his age group.

Meadows says he yearns to join the urban migration that is expected to result in 20,000 people living downtown this year.

“It would be cool to be part of this wave of people who are moving into downtown and trying to make it a better, more vibrant place,” he says. “I just love the energy, the excitement, that big city feel, the architecture.”

There’s the work side. “From a professional level, being able to live in a place and have a lifestyle that I advocate for all the time through my work, actually being able to live there every day, is something that I would really love to do,” Meadows says.

And there’s the personal side. “From a convenience standpoint, being able to just walk out your door and walk down the street to go to the grocery store or hop on your bike to get to all the networks and trails, or take the bus to work, you have all these endless possibilities,” he says.

Living downtown also would spare him the daily half-hour commute each way. In fact, he plans to ditch his car entirely when he moves into the city.

He’s looking to rent a studio apartment for less than $1,000 a month. “But I looked at places up to around $1,400 to get a comprehensive understanding of what is available, what I get for my money, and just out of curiosity, to see some of these buildings,” he says. “I have a particular love and interest in historic preservation and love the city’s architecture and transformation of so many of its historic buildings into residences.”

Meadows' search criteria includes a fitness center, pet friendly environs for future companion possibilities, and community spaces. How a place looks and feels also matter to him. “I wanted something updated and with modern amenities but with some historic character," he says. "Natural light is a big one too, and having an open living and kitchen space.”

Living alone, Meadows says he’d prefer a studio apartment. “I think they’re efficient, more affordable and practical for someone like myself, so I can enjoy a lifestyle of exploring the city and saving money to travel. Plus, they’re just cool.”

Meadows considered Ohio City and Asiatown. “But at the end of the day, I’ve always had my heart set on downtown so pretty much stuck there,” he says.

The hunt began late last year with a special event—a guided tour of three downtown buildings by the Historic Gateway Neighborhood Corp. After that, Meadows visited places on his own.

Here in his own words are his impressions of each place he visited—followed by his decision.

Residences at HalleFirst outing

1. Residences at Halle: The first downtown property that I toured, Residences at Halle set the bar for downtown living possibilities. While rent would be higher than my current budget, the historic legacy of this building and apartment interiors make it stand out. My favorite aspects of the spacious units include the very tall ceilings and massive windows—the apartment sizes, natural light, and elegance are huge perks.

2. The Residences at 668: I was surprised and impressed with this building. The units appeared to be very quiet, and the location is very central along Euclid Avenue in the heart of downtown—the convenience is great. I had not really known much about this building before touring it, and I think it is a great option for downtown living. While finishes and units were not as high end and spacious as Residences at Halle, units were still updated and cozy, and the price was more affordable for what I’m looking for.

3. The Terminal Tower Residences: As an architecture lover, let me begin by saying the Terminal Tower is one of my favorite buildings, not just in Cleveland, but in any city. I’ve always loved its beauty and elegance as it towers over downtown. Due to this personal attachment to it, its impeccable access to transit (with RTA’s Tower City Rapid station within the building), and beautiful apartments, it is a premier downtown residential possibility. There was also a special charm and coziness to the units that made me feel at home. How cool would it be to live in Cleveland’s most iconic skyscraper?

Second outing

4. The Residences at Hanna: This building in Playhouse Square has a desirable location and was also the closest to my job. Units were spacious, updated, and had plenty of natural light. While it lacked the larger fitness centers and community rooms of some of the other properties I toured, it gives a very homey yet modern feel. Also, while I currently am (excitedly) planning on being car-free when I move to downtown to live a sustainable, active and transit-supportive lifestyle, I did make note that parking in the reserved lot across the street was one of the cheapest parking options in all of downtown for apartments that I toured.

5. The Statler: My love of historic buildings meant that the Statler’s beautiful recent renovations (ironically enough which the firm I work for, City Architecture, was involved with) were huge draws for me. The building’s original character and architectural features are gorgeous–the exterior is prominent along Euclid Avenue, and the grand lobby evokes the elegance of the early 20th century. Plenty of great amenities (the community room with a beer tap for residents, plus an outdoor courtyard and roof deck) were perks. The unit that best matched my budget was an unrenovated studio, although it still felt relatively fresh and roomy, with large windows overlooking Euclid Avenue.

Residences at LeaderThird outing

6. Residences at Leader: “Wow” is the first word that comes to mind when trying to sum up my thoughts on the Leader Building. The location: Central to everything downtown, plus super close to the beautiful Malls and Public Square for green space. The Euclid Arcade (one of my other favorite buildings) is next to it and houses Rising Star coffee (one of my favorite coffee shops), plus the large number of additional restaurants nearby and the Cleveland Public Library across the street make for an abundance of amenities out my door. Inside, gorgeous historic interiors, a massive fitness center, community spaces, private bike storage, and even a dog wash station were perks, and the units themselves were gorgeous. Beautifully restored with modern updates, they are bright, airy and cozy. Best of all, the studio apartments were the most affordable of any units I toured and offer a great bang for your buck.

7. The Grant: Another building I did not know much about previously yet left me very impressed. It was undergoing a large renovation to totally transform all of the units and common spaces. What a great location as well, and the model updated unit was beautiful. The finishes and design aesthetics were unique from any other building I toured–everything was very chic, modern and classy, with a fun vibe to it. There’s a great shared courtyard patio as well. The studio I toured was under renovation but will eventually feature the same finishes as the model unit. It had massive windows that let in an abundance of natural light and had its own private deck (!!) that I never would have expected to find, especially for my budget. That alone made me really love this building and specific unit.

8. Bridgeview Apartments: Switching gears from the heart of downtown’s bustling center over to the historic Warehouse District, I was excited to tour Bridgeview, one of the many former downtown warehouses that have been converted into loft-style apartments (often with an elevated bedroom area or partial walls, creating a cool industrial, open feel). This building was very unique, with beautiful wooden beams and brick walls throughout. Shared laundry rooms instead of in-unit washers and dryers and a little less natural light than some other buildings were the main drawbacks. However, the incredible warehouse aesthetic and historic character made this a cool place to consider.

9. The Bingham Apartment Homes: Directly next door to Bridgeview, the Bingham also is a former warehouse and features spacious industrial apartments in generally more updated spaces. The units had great open floor plans with large windows, and the views from the rooftop decks and party room were gorgeous. Even better, the building is directly attached to a grocery store, Constantino’s. Can’t beat that convenience, along with being near all of the other Warehouse District and Flats bars, restaurants and entertainment. However, due to the amenities and finishes, this building was on the more expensive side.

10. East 4th Street Apartments: Downtown’s car-free hub for lively restaurants, outdoor dining and trendy bars, East Fourth Street is also lined with apartments. I toured units in two separate buildings along the street, since they are all owned by the same management company. The first had large windows directly overlooking the busy pedestrian street (which I loved), and the second had a quieter location but a very cozy feel with plenty of bright natural light. You can’t beat the location here to literally be living in the middle of all of the downtown action and night life, although units were not as renovated as others, plus they lacked amenities such as community spaces, a fitness center and in-unit washers and dryers.

The AthlonFourth outing

11. The Athlon: What a stunning building! The architectural details and historic legacy of the former Cleveland Athletic Club have been preserved and restored beautifully after just finishing a massive renovation. Living here is living in history, yet with all of the luxury amenities and modern living spaces desired today. Beautiful community spaces including a two-story fitness center and an indoor pool were highlights, and the units themselves were very modern and featured unique floor plans. The Euclid Avenue location back in the heart of downtown is perfect as well.

12. The Schofield Residences: I’ve always admired this stunning building at the prime corner of Euclid Avenue and East Ninth Street after it was restored to its historic glory a few years ago. Since part of the building is a hotel, residents also get to enjoy hotel amenities like room service and the fitness center. Units radiated modern elegance, and while not necessarily featuring an abundance of historic elements, they had beautiful finishes and a clean aesthetic that I appreciated.

13. The Ivory on Euclid: Another building that I had not heard too much about and that I believe is a hidden gem, the Ivory on Euclid features a small community of residential units just down the street from the Athlon. A very cool rooftop deck space, separate sustainable green roof (that I was really impressed with due to my sustainability interests and urban planning background), and large, updated units left me with a great opinion of the building. Amenity spaces like the fitness center were on the smaller side, but units themselves were spacious, had large windows and tall ceilings, and demonstrated chic urban living.

Ian Meadows carefully researched the options before choosing his downtown Cleveland apartment.The winner: Residences at Leader

From the moment I first stepped inside the building, I felt an immediate sense of belonging. I wasn’t just touring a city apartment building, I was touring an inviting community that I could call home. The location is central to everything downtown has to offer, being in close proximity to green space, dining, night life, shopping and transit. I can easily take a bus on the RTA HealthLine one block away, hop on my bike and connect on the miles of ever-expanding citywide trail networks, enjoy a good book at the library or on a cozy bench in Public Square, walk to get groceries at Heinen’s, and enjoy the lively bars and restaurants on East Fourth Street and beyond.

This building is very popular, which is easy to understand, as I had to go on a wait list. After about a month, I received notice that one of my ideal studio units would be available June 7. Not wanting to miss my chance at my dream apartment in my dream downtown residence, I excitedly confirmed and locked in my unit.

After an exhausting yet exhilarating apartment hunting process, it’s still surreal knowing I actually found my perfect first post-college apartment. I cannot wait to experience what life has to offer as a downtown dweller, and I hope that through my journey, others can be inspired to join the continuously growing population of residents here. I love this city dearly and am excited to turn the page of a new life chapter to begin in my amazing downtown digs.

Postscript:

Meadows moved into his new place June 7, eight days after thousands protested downtown against police brutality. While the area saw extensive damage, Meadows says he remains committed to urban living and to helping with the healing process, which appears to have begun.

Read more articles by Chris Ball.

Chris Ball became managing editor of FreshWater Cleveland in August 2019 after more than 20 years of editing and writing for The Plain Dealer. A graduate of Hawken School and Oberlin College, he previously worked for Crain Communications, the Lorain Morning Journal, The Free Times and The Cleveland Edition. A lover of Frisbee and film, Ball wrote a DVD review column for The PD for 15 years. He won a Press Club of Cleveland award in 2018 for Best Headline Writer in Ohio. Ball stepped down as managing editor of FreshWater in April 2020.
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