Executive director Tom Yablonsky describes the residential audience as falling into two categories. The largest group, composed of 20- to 40-year-olds, is first-time home buyers and renters. The 50-plus age group is residents who are downsizing, the majority of whom are empty nesters. What differentiates them from other downtown dwellers is the fact that many of them are buyers, not renters. “This homeowner is more sustainable,” Yablonsky explains. “They are here for the longer term. They are home-based in the community.” Most make their home on West Ninth Street, in condominiums and apartments that overlook the Flats, Cuyahoga River Valley and Lake Erie.
As far as new residential development is concerned, the Wolstein Flats East Bank Project, with its proposed construction of 600 housing units, is targeting Front and Main from 10th streets to the river. Yablonsky said the Flats and Warehouse District are working collaboratively on this project, which is slated to open in mid-2010.
When he returned to Cleveland after graduating from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Kevin J. O’Hare thought he would live on the East Side. As an associate consultant at enlight, a boutique management consulting firm in Beachwood, he assumed that living and working in the same area would make sense.
“I rarely hung out downtown and didn’t know much about it, but when I looked at some places, almost on a whim, I was hooked.” There were a number of factors that contributed to his decision, including the big city feel, the diversity, the number of people his age and what he describes as the “vibe and cool factors.”
O’Hare purchased a one-bedroom loft condominium in Water Street on West Ninth Street. “Owning vs. renting made sense because of the benefits of ownership. I’m proud of the fact that I’m building equity in my place rather than using monthly payments for rent. When I’m ready to go to business school in a few years, I can sell it or keep it and rent it out as an investment. In the meantime, I’m free to decorate and upgrade as I please.” He also predicts his investment will increase in value, based on the popularity of the Flats and other projects that are on the books.
Since making the decision, O’Hare has never looked back. He’s convinced the Historic Warehouse District has the greatest concentration of young professionals from different walks of life. He’s met lots of people, not only from Cleveland but also from throughout Ohio, as well as Boston and Chicago. “I’ve never run out of options since I’ve moved here. Things are constantly changing or moving. There are new businesses, new people and life happening before my eyes. The suburbs are far more complacent. Downtown is more vibrant.”
It’s not just fun and games here. O’Hare has become active in the young professional and Cleveland business communities. He attends talks at the City Club, meetings with colleagues at the Club at Key Center, and various Cleveland Bridge Builders and Cleveland Professional 20/30 Club events downtown.
An avid sports fan, he loves the fact that he’s within walking distance of catching the latest Indians, Browns or Cavs matchup. “I probably go to most of the Browns games, at least 20 Indians games and a handful of Cavs [games],” he says, admitting that the number of games he’s attended has increased since moving downtown. “It was easier to stay home and watch before. Now I can hear the crowds at Browns Stadium and I want to be there.”
O’Hare also jogs around town. He runs through the Flats, something he compares to running on water. “It’s scenic. People usually don’t get to see those areas from the roads they travel.”
His favorite neighborhood hangout is The Map Room on West Ninth Street, “a very laid back place to go with friends and have a beer and talk.” He adds the celebrity sightings are an unexpected perk of the neighborhood. “You can’t help but see someone famous walking around West Sixth Street during the summer.”
With all of the fine cuisine and high-end restaurants packed into the area, the Warehouse District’s annual street festival is “the best true taste of Cleveland,” according to Tom Yablonsky, executive director of the Historic Warehouse District Development Corporation. The street fair is held every August on West Sixth Street, and features lots of food and drinks, live entertainment, artist’s booths and other special events. It developed from a collection of smaller art festivals to a single, massive event that draws as many as 15,000 people. The festival’s walking tours offer an even closer look at this historic neighborhood.