the next must-live cleveland neighborhood is...

What's next?
It's a question we all wish we had the answer to. But for folks looking to settle down and plant roots, that question undoubtedly refers to place. Neighborhood is everything, and selecting the wrong one can be no less painful than choosing the wrong mate.
In this running series, Fresh Water explores emerging Cleveland neighborhoods that are primed for growth. This week, writer Joe Baur examines North Shore Collinwood.
On The Right Track
Different neighborhoods conjure different sentiments. In years past, pretty much any Cleveland neighborhood was looked at dubiously. These days, however, tell someone you’re headed to Tremont, Ohio City or Detroit Shoreway and they’ll probably want to tag along.
Others are on the cusp, specifically neighborhoods Fresh Water has profiled in this series, like Slavic Village and St. Clair Superior. North Shore Collinwood belongs in that very same category. Already known as the epicenter of Cleveland's music scene, the neighborhood also boasts an emerging arts scene, killer indie retail shops and some tasty grub. The new Collinwood Recreation Center is among the best and busiest in the entire city.
Some folks, like long-time residents and neighborhood activists Councilman Michael Polensek and Jack Storey, might argue that North Shore Collinwood is further along than some realize. Others, such as Cleveland’s “recovering ad man” and restaurateur Alan Glazen, think it's primed to be the city’s next must-live neighborhood.
Whatever your belief, there’s no arguing that this dependable Cleveland neighborhood is on the right track. Its natural assets alone, including two miles of lakefront -- the longest in the city---should put North Shore Collinwood in anyone’s relocation conversation.
Transforming the Neighborhood
Jack Storey introduces himself as fourth-generation Collinwood. “My great-grandparents purchased their first home in the neighborhood in 1936 for $8,000,” says the 30-year-old. “We’ve been here ever since.”
It’s a familiar story throughout North Shore Collinwood.
Storey highlights the neighborhood’s diversity and grit as two of its many assets. "There’s nothing fake about it,” he says.
After earning his Masters in Business at Full Sail University, Storey returned home to put his talents and ambition to work for the betterment of his beloved North Shore Collinwood. “I started a small company called Saving Cities in the summer of 2010 with the intention of assisting with economic development, community organization, and other initiatives in Cleveland,” he explains.
That's when Storey began working with Northeast Shores, North Shore Collinwood’s community development corporation led by Executive Director Brian Friedman.
Storey and Friedman work closely together on a variety of programs, including the Artist in Residence Program, which has been successful in attracting artists, who hunger for affordable space and low cost of living. The two-year, $500,000 initiative helps artists buy or rehab homes in the neighborhood, supports their work, and promotes the results in a national marketing campaign.
This is just one of several campaigns led by Northeast Shores since 2000 to help transform North Shore Collinwood, particularly the Waterloo Arts District, into a “unique, eclectic arts district,” says Friedman.
Operation Light Switch
Despite the praise rightly heaped upon Northeast Shores, there’s no disputing that significant change won’t happen without an engaged community. This is a key point with Polensek, who says, “You get the neighborhood you deserve," adding that lack of engagement is a problem citywide.
Still, he contends, there are a few success stories, including one in his own backyard.
“Why is Waterloo changing? Because we’re getting the right people engaged,” he explains, referring to Alan Glazen’s ambitious project Operation Light Switch.
Concocted last year as a long-shot idea, the venture aims to “turn on” Waterloo by opening multiple restaurants and bars at once. Glazen compares the undertaking to the Cleveland International Film Festival, which he helped launch 37 years ago.
“One film on its own wouldn’t work, and we couldn’t afford to promote one at a time. So we packaged seven and called it a festival,” he recalls. “Same as Waterloo. One new spot can’t make it on its own. We need to create density to become a destination.”
Construction on a $5.5-million streetscape project begins in July with several key components already coming together. Waterloo the Tavern, dubbed a bocce bar, will takeover at the Slovenian Workman’s Home, while renovation has begun on the old Harbor Pub next to the Key Bank building.
“There is a major chef from the near-west side who is negotiating the lease for the Key Bank building,” Glazen says. “And that’s just the beginning. Interest is very high, especially among near-west food, drink and music entrepreneurs.”
Glazen and other North Shore Collinwood stakeholders predict that the impact felt by existing business will be enormous. Obvious beneficiaries include the Beachland Ballroom, considered by many to be Cleveland’s best concert venue, and Music Saves, an independent record store.
“Suddenly, they will be surrounded by compatible venues, and customers will be able to spend entire evenings in the area,” Glazen explains.
Plans for an October 2013 launch have been pushed back, but Glazen insists that nobody is slowing down.
Honorable Mention
Left largely out of the conversation has been South Collinwood -- now referred to as Collinwood-Nottingham -- which is physically cut off from its northern sibling thanks to I-90. It’s a distinction some residents of the north side regret and hope to correct.
“I’m really trying to make sure people stop looking at it like that,” Storey says. Friedman adds that efforts are being made to share best practices with their neighbor. “There have been some conversations about our experience broadening into the South Collinwood community.”
Polensek, Cleveland City Council representative of the neighborhood for 35 years, is optimistic, citing business expansion at the Nottingham Village Commerce Park Project. The project will serve as the new headquarters for Manitowoc/Cleveland Range, bringing with it 100 new jobs.
“[North Collinwood] is a microcosm of the city,” Polensek says. “Young and old, black and white, high income and low income,” they’re all in North Shore Collinwood.

Photos Bob Perkoski except where noted

Read more articles by joe baur.

Joe Baur is an author, writer and filmmaker who has worked for a variety of local and national publications including Matador Network, Yahoo! Travel, National Geographic and BBC Travel. In addition to freelance writing, he is the author of Best Hikes Near Cleveland and director of numerous travelogues from across the globe. You'll currently find him working in Ciudad Colón, Costa Rica, because spending the first year of marriage where others vacation seemed like a good idea.