Talk to anyone in Cleveland about the up and coming neighborhoods and you will no doubt hear the usual suspects, Downtown, Ohio City, Tremont, Detroit Shoreway. Now, you can add Collinwood (Waterloo Road) to the mix. Downtown has seen billions of dollars investment and has nearly 100 percent apartment occupancy. Ohio City, anchored by the West Side Market, has seen growing investments and made a name for itself in the food scene. I could go on, but each neighborhood has identified anchors and developed a niche around them. As a result, each neighborhood has garnered a nearly cult following and private investment has followed, bringing new housing options, new amenities and improved reputation in a kind of upward spiral.
This is all great news. As a Cleveland cheerleader and urban planner, I am happy that Cleveland is attractive to a younger generation who are reinhabiting the city and creating new employment opportunities for all. But I’ve got to admit. I’m a little hesitant to join the battle cry promoting these neighborhoods.
Why is that? Well, these neighborhoods only cater to a specific demographic. For Cleveland to truly be considered a “comeback city” there has to be new opportunities and development for all. We need to be talking about the renaissance of Kinsman or Clark-Fulton, traditionally black and Hispanic neighborhoods, respectively. Right now, the most conversations about traditionally black east side neighborhoods centers around demolition, rather than revitalization. W. 25th Street through Clark-Fulton could certainly use some sprucing up. Right now it stands a no-man’s land between the West Side Market and the Zoo.
In a dream world, Clark-Fulton would embrace and celebrate its Hispanic heritage, much like Little Italy, it should be the place to go for Hispanic cuisine. As an African-American, it is painful to hear stories from my grandparents and parents about the jazz and dance halls that used to exist in Central and Fairfax. Try finding any of that in the black neighborhoods today.
None of this will happen overnight. Ask anyone involved in Detroit-Shoreway’s comeback and they will tell you it took decades to get where they are today. Like many of the celebrated neighborhoods of today, it will take almost a grassroots effort of committed residents who are willing to fight the good fight and help rebuild the neighborhood from within.
Copyright © 2013 Jason Russell; available under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License.
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