John Balliet has done the full Lakewood tour. He rented a duplex there as a young professional. When he got married, he and his wife, Jan, bought a starter home in the near West suburb. After raising a family in an Olmsted Falls McMansion, the couple opted for the close quarters they loved in their younger years.
“The kids left, and she wanted to be back in Lakewood,” says John of returning in 2005. “No argument from me.”
John attributes the city’s allure to propinquity. “It means nearness or close by,” he says. Living in Lakewood puts them close to attractions such as Sarita, the couple’s favorite restaurant, and Lakewood Park, which they frequent for access to the Lake Erie shore. In a single three-quarter-mile walk on Detroit Avenue, there are dozens of restaurants and shops. Lakewood seems to be close to nearly everything else too, sitting less than 15 minutes from downtown. But the togetherness John sought and found in Lakewood also has a human touch.
“Lakewood is a broad cross section of nationalities, but it also has broad age diversification,” John says. “We wanted to be back in a neighborhood where kids were running around. It’s neat to see young people walk down the street with strollers. It’s fun to hand out Halloween candy.”
Unlike its post-World War II counterparts, many of which encouraged a retreat to the backyard, Lakewood is built around a prewar streetcar design, which ensures the city was laid out with plenty of walkable area for the people of the community to be out and about. Most Lakewood houses also boast bungalow-style front porches, where residents sit back and watch pedestrians traverse the city’s 180 miles of sidewalks. For the 70-year-old power walkers, that means plenty of opportunities for casual chitchat with neighbors.
“Everyone is walking up and down the street and saying hello,” John says. “It’s a very social way of doing things.”
For active empty nesters looking to taste the liveliness of a youthful city, Lakewood offers the hip factor of an Ohio City or Tremont, the comforts of the suburbs and the accessibility of life in the center of the city — all for an affordable median home sale price of $139,500.
“I want to live in a vibrant city,” says John. “Not some Sun City in Florida where everybody is 55 or older.”
2016 Total Home Sales: 1,009
2016 Median Home Sale Price: $139,500
Education Ranking: 33
Safety Ranking: 52