Excitement surrounding downtown areas in Northeast Ohio is not linked to just one specific attraction, amenity, or city. I repeatedly use the oft-cited stat that residential rental occupancy in Cleveland sits at over 96% with 1,000 new units coming in the next 18 months.
I love watching people’s reactions when you tell them you are a downtown Cleveland resident. Eyes widen, shoulders soften, hands gesture outward, and a barrage of positive things are said about downtown life and how far it has come. I’m proud to say that this month marks the third year of my downtown Cleveland residency and the reactions keep getting better.
Excitement surrounding downtown areas in Northeast Ohio is not linked to just one specific attraction, amenity, or city. I repeatedly use the oft-cited stat that residential rental occupancy in Cleveland sits at over 96% with 1,000 new units coming in the next 18 months. But residential growth downtown is not limited to Cleveland. In Akron, my hometown, young people are living downtown in greater numbers than ever before, driven by the University of Akron, with increased student housing like those at 22 Exchange. But Akronites stay downtown beyond college to live in places like the trendy401 Lofts or the Dickson Transfer Building on Maiden Lane . Developers are confident that downtown Akron can handle even more residents, as evidenced by new projects like the East End near Goodyear.
Downtowns in this region are the place to be even if you don’t live there. Cleveland boasts several world-class attractions such as the Horseshoe Casino, three major sports stadiums, and Playhouse Square. As a resident, you become aware of really cool events and places to be that others might not know about. My current favorites are thePop Up Party at the Plaza, the Star Plaza Farmers Market, Cleveland Critical Mass Bike Ride, 5th Street Arcades, and Flats East Bank.
There is similar excitement in Youngstown and Canton. A recent Crain’s article detailed a hopping Saturday night on Federal Street in the heart of downtown Youngstown. The Slavic Festival, Roberto’s Restaurante, and the Lemon Grove played host to a lively summer evening with packed crowds. The new Warehouse 50 adds even more depth to downtown, hosting Parties on the Plaza on Fridays during the summer. Downtown Canton hosts a similar Friday festival called First Friday in the developing Arts District. My mom, who has worked in downtown Canton for 20 years, notes the renovations in the heart of downtown and the addition of green space that make downtown Canton the place to be.
Downtown living has many perks. Easy commutes to work and school (saving money on gas), walking to sporting events and the theater (saving money on parking), being near amazing restaurants (okay I’m not saving money, but at least I’m well fed), and having consistent visitors. Earlier this summer, downtown Cleveland was flooded with participants in the Senior Games. Several of them stopped me to ask for directions or things to do in the region. Most were pleasantly surprised with what Northeast Ohio has to offer.
The lively downtown scene in Northeast Ohio is primed to get even better in the coming years. Even Baby Boomers are getting in on the action, according to this recent article in the Washington Post, about the trend of empty-nesters moving to the city center. Mycommunity garden downtown is the best representation of where I think downtown living is heading. The gardeners are a mix of students, young professionals, and retirees all living downtown with a passion for making the community more livable. Stop by and talk with one of the people watering their plants after work one evening and you’ll discover that downtown living is alive, well, and here to stay.