What does a place that has been invested in look like? It can end up looking a lot like Ohio City, a thriving Investment Ready Place (IRP) in the Near West Side of Cleveland, Ohio. Let’s view Ohio City as a case study of Investment Ready Places. We will use the checklist to show why investment makes sense for this neighborhood and we will document previous investments.
The neighborhood is and has been anchored by the West Side Market, celebrating its 100th anniversary this week. In 2004, the city invested in the market with a major renovation of the building, its interiors, and the exterior arcade. This investment has only strengthened the market’s role as a meaningful part of the neighborhood’s economy. Residents can do most of their food shopping there, and many residents own market stalls.
Across the street from the market is Great Lakes Brewing Company. The brewery was founded in 1988, a time when starting a company in Ohio City likely “turned a few heads.” Twenty years later, the local craft brewery has remained a dedicated resident and has become part of the neighborhood’s identity. These two important food investments have helped to make West 25th Street a “Food Corridor.” Several local restaurateurs have opened shop on the street, including Market Garden, Flying Fig, Bar Cento, Bier Markt, Mitchell’s Ice Cream, and many more.
Food in Ohio City goes beyond just the market and restaurants. The neighborhood has one of the largest urban farms in the country. The Ohio City Farm is a six-acre urban farm that is located one mile from downtown Cleveland. A vacant hillside has become one of the city’s largest sources of locally produced food. Outside of the farm, the neighborhood also includes smaller community gardens in addition to residents’ home gardens.
This neighborhood enhances food at all levels - from production, economy, and consumption. It is a celebrated and valued part of the local culture.
Of all the criteria of an Investment Ready Place, Ohio City seems to be lacking investment in water. The neighborhood is adjacent to both Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River, but for numerous reasons has not been able to fully embrace these two assets. The Cleveland Memorial Shoreway and the industrial infrastructure that lines the waterways are two barriers that have prevented the neighborhood from connecting to the water. There is also a stigma, though a diminishing one, attached to the river. Great Lakes Brewing Company doesn’t call it the Burning River Pale Ale for nothing. Future investments in Ohio City would benefit greatly by diminishing these and others barriers. Capitalizing on the neighborhood’s proximity to water and the land surrounding it can only strengthen the community.
The neighborhood has a strong housing stock built upon a compact street network. West 25th, Lorain, Bridge, and Detroit provide the street framework for residential blocks. These blocks are full of historic homes that have been invested in. Many are still waiting for investment. The size and compact nature of the streets allows for them to be easily maintained over time. In addition to the architecturally-significant buildings, the road infrastructure is celebrated at key moments in the neighborhood. Who can deny the grandeur of the “Guardians of Traffic” on the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge?
The infrastructure mentioned above plays a key role in Ohio City’s network. The neighborhood is directly connected to downtown Cleveland. The Detroit-Shoreway and Tremont neighborhoods, two more of the region’s Investment Ready Places, are also linked to Ohio City. These connections occur on multi-modal streets that encourage auto, bike, and pedestrian use. The neighborhood is connected to the rest of the city through Cleveland’s Regional Transit Authority (RTA). Several bus routes run through the neighborhood and there is a rapid transit stop adjacent to the Market. Connections even occur at the regional and national level with the neighborhood’s proximity to I-90.
Looking back at the neighborhood scale, the street network allows for Ohio City to be compact and walkable. The mix of old and new housing, apartment buildings to single-family homes, promotes a place with a range of building types and price points.
A Creative Knowledge exists in Ohio City and will continue to expand. Artisans make up an important part of the neighborhood economy. They are setting up business in the neighborhood and educating on their skills and craft. These artisans include bikeshop owners, glass blowers, boutiques, and the numerous restaurateurs. Professionals from architects to lawyers run their businesses in the offices located above the streets’ retail shops. Organizations like Ohio City Inc. and LAND Studio promote the neighborhood and the region. These are all great additions to the knowledge culture of the neighborhood.
A more obvious manifestation of knowledge is schools. The neighborhood is anchored by St. Ignatius High School, which has been investing in the neighborhood for over 100 years. Other schools range from elementary and charter schools to more technical ones, such as the All State Barber College.
All of the above criteria add up to the distinct culture of Ohio City. We have already discussed how the neighborhood has evolved into a “foodie” culture that embraces some of Ohio City’s best assets. Residents embrace the distinct architecture of the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge. The newly renovated Market Square adds to the dynamic atmosphere that the West Side Market fosters and can be programmed with community events. Off of the commercial streets, neighborhood blocks allow for residents to live a complete life - one that is walkable, connected, and part of a larger community.
Ohio City is a neighborhood that exhibits all the criteria of an IRP, but seems to distinguish itself around Food. Future investments can capitalize on the neighborhood’s proximity to water. Stretches of the neighborhood’s commercial streets are waiting for new projects. One example would be the intersection of West 25th and Lorain, where a suburbanized strip center diminishes this important corner. On the residential blocks, there are homes that are in need of renovation and vacant lots can be turned into neighborhood assets.
The West Side Market may be the neighborhood’s greatest asset and has allowed for a number of related investment opportunities. On any Saturday morning, residents and visitors can see the dynamic system of trade that the market has created. It is a beloved institution that distinguishes Ohio City as an Investment Ready Place.