I am sitting on the deck of a once-derelict building that is now the city’s trendiest microbrewery, watching the sun set over old smokestacks, the arches of early 20th century bridges and a river that once burned, and I am thinking that something intriguing is happening in Cleveland, Ohio.
The city is getting, uh, cool. Cleveland? Yes, Cleveland.
Count me among the most surprised to see amazing stuff happening in the Rust Belt. This old Midwest city of nearly 400,000 residents — thrust into the Industrial Revolution when John D. Rockefeller founded Standard Oil here in 1870 — continues to reinvent itself.
This is where millennial boomerangs are returning and transplants are arriving, bringing with them big ideas. New enterprises are taking over old industrial buildings, people are moving into downtown, and there’s a new energy in the air (which like the Cuyahoga River is no longer filthy).
Food and arts scenes are leading the revival of entire neighborhoods, including the East Bank of the Flats on the river, where the new Collision Bend Brewing Co. is bubbling.
In their revitalized downtown, there are new hotels such as the Kimpton Schofield Hotel, which are in repurposed buildings. And rthe redeveloped waterfront boasts the sparkling new, taxpayer-owned Hilton high-rise, with spectacular views of Lake Erie, especially from Bar 32 on top.
A little farther out in the revitalized Gordon Square Arts District, local artists show off their talents at 78th Street Studios, and in dozens of galleries in the massive, repurposed old American Greetings card manufacturing complex.
Ivan Schwarz, head of the Greater Cleveland Film Commission, compared what’s happening in Cleveland to the renaissance of Portland, Oregon: “Old-time Clevelanders may question the cool factor. I see an untapped gold mine,” he said. “I think we really should shout from the rooftop about the virtues of this city.”
Feature photo of Cleveland via Adobe Stock.