The image of the city rising out of the Flats is not unfamiliar. In fact, it is the most pictured view of downtown, according to Flats executive director Tom Newman. He should know. Newman has been involved with the Flats for more than 30 years as a property owner, volunteer and staff member at Flats Oxbow and resident of Apartments at Nautica.
What he sees today in the Flats is “activity.” A number of residential developments are cropping up, from Flats East Bank (the Wolstein development) to Stonebridge, as well as a host of rental, leasing, condominium and freestanding homes.
“There are hundreds of acres available for commercial and manufacturing development,” Newman says. “Properties for river-dependent industries are at a premium. Clubs, new restaurants, grocery stores and movie theaters are all being considered. More’s a-comin’ every day.”
From behind his nine-foot warehouse windows, Talib Mahdi looks out on a spectacular view of the downtown skyline, including the Terminal Tower, Key Tower and Federal buildings. He had initially considered moving to the Warehouse District, but fell in love with this area instead. It’s a love affair that was sparked by a view that includes the massive Detroit Superior Bridge. When Mahdi first moved to the Apartments at Nautica, its lights weren’t turned on at night. But they came on last winter. “It’s a spectacular sight when it snows and there’s a haze over the sky. You can barely see the city. It’s very romantic.”
Mahdi moved to Cleveland from Florida about 10 years ago. He lived in Warrensville Heights, Euclid and Willoughby — a lifestyle that included a commute to his job as a data specialist at Catholic Charities at West 78th Street and Detroit. Since his move to the Flats, he doesn’t mind it any more. Mahdi just hops on the Shoreway and he’s at work in minutes.
He says he’s convinced he couldn’t find an apartment like this in the suburbs. It’s an open, airy two-bedroom space with a living room and 14-foot ceilings with visible duct work. It includes central air conditioning and indoor parking in the building’s garage. And then there’s the water nearby. “There’s nothing more calming,” Mahdi says.
He also loves to walk. He walks along the banks of the Cuyahoga until it reaches the shores of Lake Erie. He walks to the West Side Market and appreciates the easy access to West 25th Street, its stores and restaurants. He walks to malls B and C and to Playhouse Square. When he wants to catch a movie, he goes to Tower City.
He enjoys stopping by the Rock Hall, and loves to catch some jazz at the Bop Stop or his newest hangout, the 20/20 Martini Bar. He can be found at the Cleveland Chophouse in the Warehouse District or Winking Lizard in Gateway.
Mahdi has made some friends since moving here, something he considers part of the process of adjusting to a new neighborhood. And he makes the extra effort, attending block parties and other neighborhood get-togethers.
As a resident of the Flats, he says he’s looking forward to construction of more residential properties. “Everything adds to the residential atmosphere. It takes on a different feel when you live here. We’re stockholders who are concerned about what’s happening in our neighborhood. Additional residential won’t change the places there are to go. It will temper the atmosphere. It will mean more places to eat and rebuilding buildings. It will mean more people will come to shop and hang out. And I shall continue to enjoy watching all of these changes happen.”
Flats Oxbow Association
The buildings of downtown rise up into the nighttime sky, lit up like Christmas trees. A metal bridge stands straight up out of the Cuyahoga River, raised to allow tall boats to float underneath. Such is a typical view from atop the Superior Viaduct. It was opened in 1878 to bridge downtown to the West Side. After the Veterans Memorial Bridge was opened in 1918, it was closed and its eastern half was demolished. Check out the beautiful, uninterrupted view through Italian restaurant Ponte Vecchio’s giant windows or from the patio.