I lived in metro Cleveland for a number of years (on both the east and west side, as odd as that is), and my partner (protip: marry up kids, it’s the best way to go) grew up there, but we have embraced Akron as our home these days and haven’t looked back (much).
That said, Cleveland is still pretty doggone close, and when we got rained out of our outdoor plans for the weekend, we headed north and spent a beautiful Saturday in the land of Cleves, as tourists.
Our tourism was perhaps a bit different (we paddle-boarded at Edgewater, drank beers in an area that used to contain the Cleveland Public Theater and not much else, played pinball at SuperElectric, and had dinner at Nuevo’s and not an “American” food restaurant), but it was still a tourist excursion.
As we toured we noticed that we have far different memories of Cleveland than those invoked by these changed places…in fact, we have both seen a far different Cleveland, one rougher and more desperate and hopeless. She grew up on the near West Side (shout-out to Old Brooklyn and the Zoo), and has the city and street smarts that suburban boy me can only dream about. I lived here in the dark days of the mid-late eighties and early nineties, when the bite of displaced manufacturing was particularly crushing, white folks had completed their moves to the suburbs on the west side, and some of us were moving back in. We had lived out West in Oregon and Arizona and didn’t know if we would come back, but the lures of family drew us, and after a little bit of scuffling we are now the proud Akronites that I earlier claimed.
The changes are ones that we embrace, even if we long a bit for the bad old days for very specific reasons…and it doesn’t mean that the city of Cleveland doesn’t have its draws that are not associated with gentrification.
In general, I think the revitalization of cities is a good thing – the economic possibilities, environmental sanity, and so on all make it so – but of course when it’s done in these times of great income inequality there will be consequences, even when done by smart, committed people, and done intentionally. I’ve written about this before (on this blog and in other places), and I felt a bit of odd nostalgia for the old Cleveland. The Gordon Square Arts District felt particularly troubling – the neighborhood around it used to function, even if Detroit Ave. itself could be a bit sketchy, and I had great conversations with regulars at several places like the Odd Egg that no longer exist. The improvements are fantastic in many ways, and the fact that they draw young people to the city is another beautiful thing…I only hope that folks are coming for the right reasons…