Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Cleveland: What’s Wrong?

Along with Detroit, Cleveland is the poster child for major Midwestern urban decline and a favorite punching bag for the national and international media. But Detroit’s travails are easy to understand. Anyone can look at and attribute them to the auto industry and poor race relations. The reality is more complex, but at least Detroit lends itself to a narrative. Cleveland is a different story. What happened in Cleveland to cause this? Even I cannot come up with a “grand unified theory” of Cleveland, which those of you who read this blog know is very unusual.

I was drawn to start thinking about Cleveland by this “tourism video”:

It’s humorous but also curious. Why would someone, presumably a local, create something like this?

That got me to wondering about Cleveland. I’ve actually never been to Cleveland. That in itself is notable. Out of the 11 Midwestern cities I typically cover in this blog, I’ve been to all but two, and most of them many times. (Kansas City is the other, but it’s a bit out of the way and arguably as much Great Plains as Midwest). Business never took me to Cleveland, another data point. And despite my desire to spend a weekend at least in all these places, Cleveland just never made the cut.

I also haven’t written much about it. I scan the news in every Midwestern metro daily but seldom find much that would cause me to write a major post about Cleveland. While not writing about it certainly plays a role, I get less web traffic from Cleveland than any other of my Midwest cities. I get more hits from New York, LA, SF, Boston, and DC than from Cleveland. It might be the only city in the Midwest where I don’t know of a web site that has linked to me.

It doesn’t appear to just be me either. Jim Russell over at Return to Pittsburgh says, “A better definition of Cleveland is a cul-de-sac of globalization”. He excoriates their lack of regional thinking. He also reminds us that Richard Longworth, author of the seminal work on the challenge of globalization in the Midwest, “Caught in the Middle“, found Cleveland an odd place indeed. Per Longworth:

“In all my travels through the Midwest, Cleveland was the only place, big or small, that seemed heedless of the global challenge. Only 4 percent of its population is foreign-born, in an era that demands new blood; the city government isn’t sure it wants more. One of its leading economists told me, ‘You can’t kill manufacturing–that’s stupid,’ but manufacturing is fleeing and cities need new ways to support themselves.”

Cleveland’s economic development establishment comes in for criticism not just from bloggers like Russell and journalists like Longworth, but from economic development professionals like native Ed Morrison:

“Most of the people doing regional economic development in this town don’t really know what they’re doing. It’s not really that surprising that the region has launched some remarkably unproductive efforts.”

That’s pretty stunning coming from a guy who lives there. I don’t know Morrison, but he works for Purdue University and commutes from Cleveland, where he also founded an open source economic development organization called I-Open that appears to be one of the few things keeping Cleveland’s economy in business. I’m alert for such things, but I don’t think I’ve heard Morrison criticize Indiana’s economic development, or anyone else’s, like that. He actually sounds a bit like a woman scorned, so I’m sure there’s a story in there someplace, but it’s pretty telling nevertheless.

Neither Morrison nor Russell care much for the site selection consultant tours Cleveland has been doing. You can see coverage of them here and here. Russell hits us with an interesting excerpt from the Plain Dealer:

“To distinguish its red-carpet tours, Team NEO crafts attention-grabbing invitations. For the tour during the Rock Hall’s induction weekend, invitees received small guitar cases with invitations tucked inside.

“‘We are competing for these jobs against Indianapolis, Detroit, Pittsburgh,’ said Team NEO’s Carin Rockind, vice president of marketing and communications. ‘We have to break through.'”

I realize gimmicks are par for the course, but does this person really think anyone is going to pick Cleveland over those other cities because of the quality of their swag? Detroit? Michigan is economic kryptonite these days, so that’s no problem. Pittsburgh is a much tougher competitor for jobs these days than a lot of people give them credit for but is still a rather slow growth place dependent on “eds and meds”. Those are easy cities to measure yourself against. But let’s look at Indianapolis and do a quick comparison of the two cities.

Attribute Cleveland Indianapolis
Population Growth Last Year (0.3%), 51 out of 52 large US metros, 10 out of 11 large Midwest 1.3%, 40% higher than national avg, 19th in US large metro, #1 in Midwest large
Migration Negative (net out-migration) Positive (net in-migration)
GDP Growth 2001-2006 21% 26%
Unemployment Rate 9.4% 8.2%

This is just a sample, but will give you a feel. On any relevant measure, Indianapolis beats Cleveland. Most notably, Cleveland’s population is shrinking meaning that the labor force situation is deteriorating over time.

Like almost all other cities, Cleveland is chasing dreams of life sciences, high tech, and green industry. That’s totally undifferentiated, though there is no denying that the Cleveland Clinic is one of the absolute best in the entire world, so anyone in a health care related company that could leverage the Cleveland Clinic connection would have to take a serious look at Cleveland. But beyond that, I couldn’t find much else, nor any indication that there is any strategic depth to the thinking in these spaces, and I spent a lot of time looking. Grass roots organizations like I-Open and E4S seem to be thriving, but it looks like they are just filling the vacuum left by the establishment.

Indianapolis, like most places, also has the same list of industries, but to that you can add things like motorsports and the sports events industry. Also, where that city is shooting for the target sector du jour, it has, in some areas, really taken a look at where it can win and tried to be focused on its target. For example, in the green industry segment, the Energy Systems Network is looking at some very focused areas, with a largely private sector funding model. Interestingly, Ed Morrison helped develop this. In the high tech space, it isn’t just scattershot here and there, but there’s a mini-cluster in internet marketing companies that is one of the nation’s biggest, with over 1,000 employees. The era of the large, megalithic corporation as the engine of growth is coming to a close. Tomorrow’s economy will be powered by clusters of smaller, densely networked firms that in aggregate will add up to what a traditional HQ used to bring. The motorsports and internet marketing clusters are right on point with this.

Plus there are plenty of other emerging sectors. I talked previously about how proximity to Chicago creates unique opportunities for Indy (and Milwaukee). And how the central Indiana region was primed to be a center for BPO. KMPG recently named Indianapolis one of only two US cities as hot spots for BPO (Boise was the other). In fact, the Indianapolis region has some of the most favorable geography of any city for BPO with the region-leading but still low cost downtown in the middle and a ring of ultra low cost small cities ringing it within easy commute distance.

Indianapolis has its problems to be sure. It is no Sunbelt boomtown by a long shot. But it runs rings around Cleveland, as do other Midwest growth champs like Columbus, Kansas City, and Minneapolis. Having Cleveland compete against any of these cities in most spaces isn’t even a fair fight. It would be interesting to see a study done on average incentives paid for site selections and what the averages are per city. I’d speculate that if Cleveland didn’t have some unique tie in like the Cleveland Clinic, it has to pay much more to win. That is, it has to buy the business.

This must put the state of Ohio in a bind since given an open playing field, most businesses are going to choose already thriving Columbus over Cleveland. But tilting incentives towards Cleveland to compensate would fracture the fragile balance in a state with 7-8 decent sized cities, including three major metros over one million in population. It’s a tough balancing act.

Now obviously the TeamNEO guys aren’t going to flagellate themselves in the media. That would only be material for other cities to use against them. They’ve got to do their best to sell the city and maximize what they can out of its assets such as my favorite, the Cleveland Orchestra (one of the absolute best in the entire world – I love some of their old recordings), the Rock N Roll Museum, the Cleveland Clinic, Lake Erie, and the transit systems they have. (I salute Cleveland for its transit, and especially the new Health Line BRT). But it makes me wonder if they believe their own press.

As I’ve noted of many Midwest cities, there is a legitimate marketing problem out there with vanilla and negative brand images in the marketplace. But it’s not just a marketing problem, it’s a product problem. If Midwest cities want to make themselves attractive to the labor force of tomorrow and new economy businesses, they need to change their aspirational value proposition and start changing the product to match it. I don’t see that happening in Cleveland, except in pockets.

Back at the beginning of the decade the Cleveland Plain Dealer did a fantastic series called “The Quiet Crisis“. You should definitely look at this, but be careful, because it can suck you in and take up tons of time. I spent a few days looking through all these articles. What strikes me is that all of the problems in Cleveland were well known a decade ago, but what has really happened in response? It’s eight years on and the answer is Not Much. To a great extent, it just didn’t seem to resonate locally. I recall again how Longworth recounted the editor of the paper telling him how the sections on globalization and immigration “landed with a thud” and that Cleveland seemed content to sit “sour and crumbling” on the lake.

Again, what is it? What happened here? Lots of large Midwestern cities got walloped by the Rust Belt era and globalization, but few came through as bad as Cleveland and Detroit. Again, the auto industry provides a narrative lens through which to process Detroit. But in Cleveland I’m having trouble grasping it. Was it steel dependency? If so, why did Pittsburgh walk through the valley of the shadow of death and come through it still standing? They aren’t a thriving city by any means, but seem to have bottomed out and even hit the inflection point in a few eras. Pittsburgh is even being touted recently as a role model for Detroit, though I don’t know if I would go that far personally.

There has to be some sort of historical dynamic going on that I’m not aware of. The only angle that makes any sense at all to me is that something poisoned intra-region relations long ago and that carries through to today. Cleveland to me exhibits some of the worst regional cooperation I’ve ever seen, with tons of in-fighting. Jim Russell rails on them for not including Youngstown in Northeast Ohio. But that’s small potatoes. I remember last year when a suburban community called Avon wanted to build an interstate interchange. A developer was even going to pay the cost. But since it was on an interstate highway, it had to be put into the regional transportation plan from the MPO, and since the MPO was controlled by Cuyahoga County, they vetoed it until Avon agreed to a tax sharing deal. In effect, Cleveland is trying to solve its problems by extorting money from its own suburbs at gunpoint. This is terrible. I’ve never seen anything like it anywhere. Whatever one’s opinion of sprawl or regional taxes, this is not the right way to do it.

Cleveland seems to have forgotten that a great city needs great suburbs. We have to bring the city up, not pull the suburbs down. In a region of the country that is too often struggling, every part of a metro area has to bring their A game, and there needs to be a recognition that a rising tide lifts all boats.

Beyond that, Russell’s calling Cleveland a “cul-de-sac” struck a chord. Cleveland just seems curiously disconnected from the rest of Ohio, from the rest of the Midwest, and from what is going on out in the world. Normally if I post an article about a city, it gets forwarded around in that city and I get lots of hits from there. We’ll see if anyone in Cleveland even notices this. In fact, I’ve got to confess, I’m running a bit of an experiment with this one. Will anyone in Cleveland notice? I’ll post a comment in a few days to let you know how it turned out.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear any thoughts you have that explain the Cleveland situation since I will admit to being at a bit of a loss. For more input, Ed Morrison gives his take over at New Geography in a two part series called Cleveland: How the Comeback Collapsed (part one and part two). I should clarify something here. Ed Morrison, Jim Russell, and I all post stuff at New Geography, but we have no financial or other relationship because of that. I know Jim via email through blogging, but I don’t know Ed from Adam, though I read his stuff.

Your take?

Topics: Demographic Analysis, Economic Development, Public Policy, Strategic Planning, Talent Attraction
Cities: Cleveland

148 Responses to “Cleveland: What’s Wrong?”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Anon, yes there are “Gallery Walk” or something like that in Tremont. I don’t know which weekend of the month it is though.

    As for live music, I don’t really know, not my thing.

    As for the comment about overweight, if I’m not mistaken, Columbus and Chicago, along with Detroit are all “heavier” than Cleveland. Definitely Cols and Detroit, but can’t recall particulars for sure.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Multiple inter-related problems exist in Cleveland (and I base this on observations I made while living there for several years). All have to do with mindset.

    1) Many people who live in Cleveland lack global perspective. In the words of my former neighbor who grew up in Cleveland, “People are born there, live there, and die there.” Her back-handed praise of Cleveland was, “It’s a nice place to be from.” The rampant inward focus in Cleveland contributes to the lack of understanding of how other cities are embracing their problems and dealing with them. Hopkins Airport has an insanely low number of local enplanements (i.e. locals taking trips elsewhere) relative to its overall traffic volume. When I was in Cleveland, people were thrilled when it was announced that world-class architect Frank Gehry had been chosen to design a new building on the campus Case Western Reserve University; when the structure was complete it was denounced by the locals as an eyesore and likened to an “overflowing fax machine.” So much for wanting to join the big time.

    2) Many people who live in Cleveland are obsessed with the “good old days” when things were better. Just about anything one reads about Cleveland is anchored in the past. For example, even today, Clevelanders are very quick to point out that Terminal Tower was the tallest building in North America outside of New York City from 1930 until 1964. But does anyone really care? People are always anxious to mention that “at one time, Cleveland was home to more Fortune 500 companies than any other city except New York.” Again, nice trivia, but totally irrelevant and yawn-inducing in 2009.

    3) Many people in Cleveland are convinced that the nice attributes that the city offers are unique and should be celebrated and ooh-ed and aah-ed over by the rest of the world. Just about any city of Cleveland’s size and stature has a zoo, nice parks, decent museums, a symphony, sports teams, and an entertainment district, plus a couple stand-out institutions such as the Cleveland Clinic or Rock Hall. Yet, these are NORMAL urban attributes, not something to crow and gloat about, but don’t try telling that to anyone in Cleveland. As a result of this mentality, many people seem to fail to grasp that Cleveland has a LOT of work to do to be competitive with other towns and cannot simply rest on its allegedly profound laurels. Remember when Ohio had “The Heart of It All” on its license plates? Aside from the vagueness and hollowness of the slogan, it was simply baseless and lacking in meaning to the point of being laughable. And don’t get me started on “Birthplace of Aviation” which flies in the face of what every elementary school child knows to be the location of the seminal part of the Wright Brothers’ work: North Carolina (which had, decades before, already laid claim to a Wright Brothers-themed license plate slogan of “First in Flight”).

    4) This is related to number 3 — many folks in Cleveland have an enormous inferiority complex. Perhaps this is understandable based on having lived through the “mistake on the lake” years (or decades) of derision, perhaps it’s not. Regardless, it also combines with an unwillingness to acknowledge that Cleveland has serious flaws; acting like the city’s shortcomings don’t exist and trying to bury them won’t make things any better.

    5) The “all about me” mentality of every little town and hamlet in the suburbs. This balkanized set-up contributes to the inability to do things on a collective basis for the greater good of the region. Ask any car magazine reader what’s important to know about Cleveland, and chances are they’ll be most familiar with the notorious Lindale, Ohio speed trap on I-71 which brings no-end of bad press to the area. Most urban areas under central control have enough trouble getting themselves organized behind a common goal, but I can’t imagine what must be involved to organize the 10 or more townships along an artery like Mayfield Road.

    6) As others have pointed out, there’s a definitely “Bang a wrench, drink some beer and watch the game, then go home” blue collar mindset in Cleveland. It’s hard to convince uneducated people that education is something that’s going to be important to getting the city out of its rut and for future generations. Sure, political leaders are always interested in assuring people that the blue collar jobs are going to come back (while chasing high tech jobs behind the scenes), but it’s much easier said than done, especially if the masses not only don’t get the point, but may feel threatened by change and potential evolution to something better.

  3. Alon Levy says:

    Anon: points 2 and 4, and to some extent 3, are symptoms of decline, rather than harbingers. The ordinary chain of causation is that an area declines, and as a result its residents start crowing about the golden age when things were better. Point 1 is probably a result of the fact that Continental uses Hopkins as a hub; I’ll be surprised if Cleveland is very different in this regard from Las Vegas, St. Louis, and even Atlanta. And points 5 and 6 aren’t unique to Cleveland – the Bay Area and Greater Atlanta are as balkanized, and blue-collar workers resent any kind of non-blue-collar employment everywhere.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Many people in most cities lack a global perspective. In most cities there is also a group of people fretting over the fact that most people in their community don't have a global perspective.

    I doubt its the lack of global that is creating the blight in Cleveland.

    The more proximate cause is the continued collapse of the auto industry and that lack of people and skills to create new jobs that pay as well as the ones that are disappearing.

    My hunch is that improving the local education attainments levels is a specific concrete reasonably attainable goal that might work. Whereas creating a global perspective probably won't bring employment to the area and might be to amphorous of a civic goal to lead to any concrete improvement.

    While you are correct that Clevelands local features are commonplace for regions of its size. The cost of living in Cleveland is unusually cheap for a region of its size.

    Compare Sacramento and Cleveland. Sacramento has had it symphony go under a couple of times. Outside of the colleges, there really isn't much local theater. In terms of professional sports, its pretty much just the Kings. Sacramento is also much more expensive than Cleveland.

    The value proposition that Cleveland offers is the benefits of urban living for much less money than the rest of the country.

    My hunch is that Cleveland could be very effective in recruiting companies and employees away from Sacramento based on the affordibility of high quality housing with strong schools for young employees as well as the attributes of urban living.

    People in Sacramento are spending almost twice as much of their income on housing as they do in Cleveland and this is the cheapest housing has been in Sacramento relative to incomes in my live time.

    In the Sacramento region, the areas that have been the most successful have been the smaller towns and suburbs. Places like Lincoln, Roseville, Folsom and Elk Grove. HP moved out to Roseville, Intel went out to Folsom and Apple and JVC went out to Elk Grove.

    The City of Sacramento has been spectularly unsuccessful at actually recruiting employers to the area. It built out the Natomas community of about 60K homes with the hope of luring some major employer to the area. So far nothing. The smaller cities were more responsive to working with the employers to lure them to the area, provided better government services and lower taxes.

    Ed in Sac

  5. Jason says:

    Part of the forward-looking issue as well is that Cleveland presently lacks a “hook” to get people to take it seriously. When the state of Ohio ran its recent string of WSJ ads about why Ohio was such a great place to which to move a family or business, I can’t say that any of them jumped out at me. If the ads had included 10-year tax-free zone incentives, that would have made me (and others) notice.

    Moreover, Cleveland also likely suffers from a “Fool me once, fool me twice” issue. A lot of people sat up and took notice when Cleveland appeared to be pulling itself up off the mat in the late 90s; I remember NBC Nightly News doing a big story one evening on how the city was on a roll and that “Mistake on the Lake” was very outdated and misinformed, but now that much of that progress has faded away (i.e. the Flats businesses have largely folded and even Hooters shut down — how can a town like Cleveland not support Hooters for heaven’s sake?!?!?!) I think a lot of people are probably looking and saying, “Flash in the pan, they tried and failed once, I’m not going to put money on an even more likely second revival.”

  6. Jason says:

    Make that even more “UNlikely” second revival in my previous comment.

  7. The Urbanophile says:

    3) Many people in Cleveland are convinced that the nice attributes that the city offers are unique and should be celebrated and ooh-ed and aah-ed over by the rest of the world. Just about any city of Cleveland’s size and stature has a zoo, nice parks, decent museums, a symphony, sports teams, and an entertainment district, plus a couple stand-out institutions such as the Cleveland Clinic or Rock Hall. Yet, these are NORMAL urban attributes, not something to crow and gloat about, but don’t try telling that to anyone in Cleveland.anon 1:10, you just described most cities. Read their CVB marketing materials and it is a bunch of stuff every place has. Almost every Midwest city has a mansion district, some restored movie palaces, etc. None of that is differentiating. Unfortunately, few people get it than this stuff does not impress.

  8. Jason says:

    Speaking of tax free zones, it’s amazing (and probably indicative of what keeps other problems from getting solved) that Cleveland can’t manage to lure a decent grocery store downtown. I mean, this ought to be a slam-dunk no-brainer as a way to get people to roll the dice on bringing people back from the suburbs. But for some reason, it never gets done.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Pete-rock’s comment about “it’s our turn” government is, sadly, so true. It’s such a killer everywhere. Cleveland, Detroit, DC, etc. And even when the one taking “the turn” screws things up (Kwame Kilpatrick in Motown, Marion Barry in DC), they get sent back because “they deserve another chance.” Tragic.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Ed in Sac mentioned that the cost of living in Cleveland is very low for a city its size. That’s very true, but it all can be chalked-up to supply and demand. One might argue that the cost of living is SO low in Cleveland that it scares people away; people don’t see a bargain, they see defective merchandise. And last time I checked, Sacramento was in California (a state with good weather and a generally positive reputation) whereas Cleveland is in Ohio (a state with not-so-great weather and a not-so-great reputation).

  11. Anonymous says:

    According the US census american factfinder site, in the Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor MSA, the median family income in 2007 was $61,193. In the Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Roseville MSA, the median family income in 2007 was $68,928.

    According to the NAR, the median price of a single family home in the Cleveland MSA was 108.5K in 2008. In the Sacramento MSA the median home in 2008 was 216.7.

    In Cleveland, housing prices are roughly half of what they are in Sacramento, but incomes are only 8K higher in Sacramento.

    The difference is probably a function of difference in educational attainment. In Cleveland 26.3% of the population has a bacherlors degree or higher and in Sac the comparable number is 29.6%

    I think low wages might scare people off, but I think a low cost of living is an inducement to get people to move to Cleveland. The thing is that wages aren't that low in Cleveland. What is low is the cost of buying a home and starting a family.

    Being able to spend half as much on housing is quite an inducement to get people to move to an area.

    Housing is incredibly cheap in Cleveland, but incomes aren't that bad in Cleveland.

    In terms of housing costs versus incomes, the data outlier here is Cleveland, not Sacramento.

    Generally big cities are expensive places to live, but in the case of Cleveland that just isn't the case. You have the inducements of big cities like lots of professional sports, but the cost structure of a much smaller community.

    If I was in Cleveland, I would be trying to recruit away employers based upon the premise of much cheaper housing prices.

    Ed in Sac

  12. thundermutt says:


    Except for this: you’d have to move to Cleveland, where you would also find a high percentage of abandoned housing. That kind of blight is what keeps the median price (and the prices of the still-good houses) down

    As Jason points out, a city without a downtown grocery store does not offer “urban living”.

  13. Alon Levy says:

    Ed, if housing is the only thing that costs more in Sacramento, then the difference in discretionary income disappears. At a 5% interest rate, the difference between $216k and $108k translates to $10k per year versus $5k per year. This $5k difference is more than covered by the $8k difference in income.

    And Sacramento itself isn’t the most successful city out there – it’s sustained by taxing the Bay Area and Greater LA. It attracts educated people for the same reason all capitals do, but it has none of the high-tech industry that Raleigh and Austin have developed.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Cleveland does have a downtown grocery store. Two, actually.

  15. Anonymous says:

    For what it’s worth Chicago does not have a full service grocery store in The Loop.

    There are a few in the south loop and the near north side if you count those as “downtown” though.

  16. Anonymous says:


    The City of Sacramento has been extraordinarily ineffective about recruiting companies to the area. But the region itself has been much more successful. HP has a large facility employing several thousand people in Roseville. Intel and a memory chip spin off Numonyx both employ several thousand people in Folsom. Apple Computer has a plant in Elk Grove.

    In addition you have smaller companies that have been spun off or support these companies.

    Ebay's e-commerce software is something called Prostores. That software was developed by a start up in Folsom that was subsequently aquired by Ebay. There is a bunch of these type of companies in the region as well.

    One of the early pioneers in television graphics was a company called the Grass Valley Group. In the Grass Valley/Nevada City region, there have been several companies that have been spun off from that creating another cluster.

    There is a fairly large high tech industry in the region. Just not much in city of Sacramento proper.

    Here is a list of counties in California by income as well as housing prices. The bay area in general does fairly well in terms of income. But incomes lag in Southern California.

    Compare that with incomes here. Notice how compared to the rest of California Sacramento does pretty well in terms of affordible housing relative to incomes. Its only when compared to Cleveland that Sacramento seems to have expensive housing.

    Of the four counties in the Sacramento MSA, two El Dorado and Placer County are in the top ten in the state for income.

    While there is a lot of people in Southern California and there is a concentration of wealth, Southern Cal as a whole really isn't that wealthy. Notice how incomes in Sacramento County are higher than incomes in Santa Barbara, LA, Riverside or San Bernadino counties.

    If you look at the four counties in the Sacramento MSA,(Sac, El Dorado, Placer and Yolo) Government employment is concentrated in Sacramento and Yolo counties. The main industries in Yolo county are agriculture and higher education. Davis is home to the local branch of the University of California. Sacramento County is where the government workers live. Placer and El Dorado County are where the people working for the high tech firms live. This is why incomes are so much higher in Placer and El Dorado vs Sacramento and Yolo.

    There are few sectors like Firefighters and law enforcement that are well paid with strong unions, but a lot of the government employment in Sacramento isn't that well paid. Unfortunately for the region the high paid government employment is distributed statewide and not concentrated as much in Sacramento. In Sacramento you have a lot of secretaries and paper pushers doing work that in the private sector would be shipped overseas. Its done locally but its not knowledge work and it doesn't pay well.

    The money in the region is in Placer County and El Dorado County. Those are the areas locally where the knowledge work is being done and that money isn't from government.

    Ed in Sac

  17. Anonymous says:

    Constantino’s is downtown. It’s a full grocery store. There’s Reserve Square, which is somewhere between convenient store and grocery store. Beyond that, there’s Asian grocers around E 40th and the west side market – incredible selection but limited hours.

    I heard somewhere it takes 25,000 people to support a regular grocery store. We’ve got a few thousand downtown, maybe?

    I have been shopping for a house in Cleveland. There are tons of beautiful inexpensive homes, but we are worried about our investment and children (we’re planning on private schools).

    In most city neighborhoods, the distinctive homes are mixed in with abandoned homes and tons of renters in doubles and four flats. North Collinwood, Detroit Shoreway, Ohio City, Edgewater all *should* be excellent neighborhoods.

    Every suburb, excluding the exurbs, seems in danger of flipping into ghetto. That’s not to say they all will, but are you going to bet $200K that Euclid will survive? Cleveland Heights? Parma? Lakewood?

    Cheap housing is a curse as well as a blessing. If housing is too cheap how do you keep out slum lords and the criminals they rent to? Price is supposed to be the screening mechanism. You buy into a good neighborhood with a steady income and 20% down.

    Anyone with ideas, please share.

  18. Anonymous says:

    It’s me again — Anon — who posted items 1-6 on May 7.

    I still maintain that there’s something about the collective mentality in Cleveland that makes the city a strange case and that hobbles its chances for serious introspection that might lead to and escape from the morass (or at least put a stop to the bleeding).

    I encountered a comment the other day from a Clevelander which in essence said, “LeBron and the Cavaliers are doing so well in the NBA playoffs, but people are still making unkind comments about Cleveland.” As if there was some correlation. That remark had elements of another statement I heard not too long ago from another Clevelander who said, in effect, “Maybe when the Cavaliers win the NBA championship, people will start taking Cleveland (the city) more seriously and that help us get back on the map.”

    That type of thinking reminds me the mindset I encountered VERY often while living in Cleveland when the Drew Carey show was still on network prime time. I lost track of how many people I encountered in Cleveland who were simply bursting with pride about the fact that the show was set in Cleveland. There was no recognition of the fact that the show was ultimately all about dead ends — dead end characters in dead end jobs/life circumstances in a dead end town. Nobody had any concept of the fact that “Cleveland Rocks!” was in many ways an unflattering parody and not a way of lifting up the city, but rather, symptomatic of the mentality under discussion here: insular and inwardly focused, lacking in real-world perspective, and bordering on delusional. I was once denounced when once made a comparison between the backhandedly-unflattering aspects of the Drew Carey and the backhandedly-unflattering aspects of WKRP in Cincinnati (complete with Les Nesman and his hog reports, etc.) Again, it’s the mentality of “everyone else is to blame for the fact that Cleveland doesn’t get any respect.” Same thing with Amy Poehler’s “Parks and Recreation” show — it’s not a tribute to Pawnee, Indiana; if anything, it’s a backhanded, polite form of insult and ridicule.

    Speaking of Drew Carey, I think people are sadly mistaken when they assert that having Drew Carey host The Price is Right is in any way, shape, or form a nod to Cleveland or a feather in the city’s cap (and even if it were, would that be worthy of celebrating?). Somehow I doubt seriously that the folks in Los Angeles wanted to throw Cleveland a bone when they picked Bob Barker’s replacement.

    On the subject of shopping, where are these alleged grocery stores in downtown Cleveland? Surely people aren’t counting the 7-11-esque place at Reserve Square and/or Gallucci’s (which is one of my favorite stores in the whole universe)…

  19. Anonymous says:

    To anonymous who posted on May 8 about grocery stores. The ones you listed (Constantino’s, etc.) are OK, but they still don’t carry the same signal value and “confidence in the community” value as would Giant Eagle or something of similar ilk (e.g. Kroger, Safeway, etc.).

    Granted, urban grocery stores are a horrible nut to crack; shrinkage (i.e. damage and outright theft) is awful and many of the people who cause the problems are destitute and already have police records, which makes them immune to threats of prosecution. Property taxes on the store are usually high. “Normal” people who shop there don’t like dealing with their fellow riff-raff customers in the store. Finding competent, reliable employees is a nightmare, and if you can recruit managers, they are probably going to want combat pay.

    As for suburbs flipping into ghettos, the pressure is already enormous and many of the candidate neighborhoods you listed are ripe for trouble. Take, for example, Cleveland Heights (poor cousin to Shaker Heights) which is desperately trying to keep East Cleveland and its problems at bay. Cleveland Heights is trying to do it through it’s take-no-prisoners, zero-tolerance approach to policing and and fining and jailing (and housing code enforcement, etc.) which, I’m sure they hope, will make CH unappealing to undesirables and people who have no real business in CH, but one questions how long it can hold out. You can’t put a cop on every corner (although sometimes it seems like CH is trying!).

    And discussion of rolling the dice is exactly right, because ultimately it all comes down to dollars. And that is where government should come in by leveling the playing field financially for businesses and residents. Look at Delaware, which is unremarkable as a state in the way that Cleveland is unremarkable as a city, but which has huge numbers of corporations HQed there. The bottom line is that government has made Delaware an attractive place to set up shop; Cleveland needs to figure out how to do something similar.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Ask anyone who lives downtown — grocery stores ain’t the problem. If you don’t like what you have at nearby Constantino’s and Reserve Square, you can drive like 10 minutes to the behemoth Giant Eagle on 117th Street. I’d bet many people in Strongsville and Solon drive longer than that to their local Giant Eagles.

    I think the grocery store tangent was started by someone who said something to the effect that offering “urban living” without having a downtown grocery store is laughable. If it were true that there were no downtown grocery stores, I’d agree. But it’s not true.

  21. Alon Levy says:

    Anon at 8:32: Morningside Heights has 20,000 people, and 3 full-service supermarkets open 24/7 plus 2.5 that close late – all within walking range, none a national chain (though 4.5 are local or regional chains, and only 2 are independently owned). Hell, in Monaco, they seem to average one early-closing supermarket per neighborhood of about 3,000-4,000 people – again, always within walking distance, even if nothing else is.

    As for low prices, is there any evidence that they promote crime? The other direction of causation is pretty clear, but has anyone shown that neighborhoods that are too affordable attract social problems? The examples I know in Manhattan suggest that they don’t – the Upper East Side is quite affordable, and has a murder rate slightly over 1 per 100,000 people. I think it’s far more likely that suburbanites just don’t want poor and working class people to be able to afford living nearby because of ordinary fear of people who are different from them.

    Anon at 8:59: Delaware has no corporate taxes. Essentially, it’s the state equivalent of a tax haven. That’s why so many companies locate there. It has nothing to do with proximity to DC.

  22. Anonymous says:

    I’m not saying low prices promote crime, I’m saying they allow the movement of criminals. Lots of cities have areas where wealthy residential neighborhoods border crime plagued areas. The criminals can come in to commit crimes, but they can’t move in if rents are high enough.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Alon — I wasn’t suggesting that Delaware is anything other than a tax haven — I agree that its proximity to DC is not relevant. My point about Delaware was that the state has found itself a “hook” that draws corporate HQs, and I was suggesting that Cleveland’s public officials need to do something similar — the region needs to identify or create something that makes it unique and attractive (and even more, it needs to find a hook that encourages people to overlook the region’s negative attributes). If the city of Cleveland would do something like promise to waive 10 years of property taxes on new downtown construction, I’m confident that developers would sit up and take notice.

    In response to the comment about being able to drive 10 minutes to get to a grocery store, that kind of defeats the point, doesn’t it? People who live in downtown areas don’t WANT to have to drive anywhere — they want to be able to walk or take safe, reliable public transit (preferably not the bus) from homw to work, from home to entertainment, and from home to shopping (and in regards to all three of those destinations, Cleveland’s downtown is headed in the wrong direction because stuff is shutting down, not opening). If you’re going to have to get in your car and go places, then you might as well live in a suburb.

  24. Alon Levy says:

    This is still not true. The Upper East Side’s rents aren’t very high by the standards of the Village, or other gentrified neighborhoods; the crime rate is still close to rock bottom. Washington Heights is the most affordable neighborhood in Manhattan, far more so than Harlem to its south; its crime rate is somewhat less than city average, despite the fact that even in good economic times it has 15% unemployment and 30% poverty.

  25. Anonymous says:

    On crime and the standard of living:

    There are plenty of places in the world where the standard of living and the crime rate are both low. Living in a low income area doesn’t imply that there’s automatically crime, but what’s more true is that living in a crime-ridden area will likely lead to the area sooner or later developing a lower standard of living. This relates to the earlier point about Cleveland Heights being armed to the teeth as the leaders in Cleveland Heights likely know that if the East Cleveland behavior starts to take hold in Cleveland Heights, it’s game over for Cleveland Heights as a place people want to live.

    This is probably why University Circle also has their own police department — if the East Cleveland way of life starts to rear its head around the university and the museums, you can pretty much write the area off as a destination for people who might go to school there or want to see the orchestra, etc.

  26. Alon Levy says:

    Anon: I don’t disagree about low standards of living and crime – I just disagree that keeping an area too affordable causes the crime rate to go up. It doesn’t, outside the imaginations of people who just don’t like minorities to be able to move in or even visit.

  27. thundermutt says:

    Keeping a distinct and definable area affordable in the strict HUD definition, if done by City policy, does indeed promote crime (from a strictly demographic point of view).

    “Affordable” housing buyers or renters are defined as “low-to-moderate income”, at less than 80% of the area median income adjusted for family size. This demographic skews heavily to single-parent households with one or more children. And single-parent households are far and away more likely to be headed by a single working mother.

    Again, on a general demographic basis, single-mom-headed households are far more likely to have children or dependents in trouble with the law.

    Trouble follows concentrations of “affordable” housing. That’s the general reason why housing agencies everywhere are breaking up their concentrations of low-income housing and substituting mixed-income opportunities.

    Much also depends on how a particular city handles its HUD entitlement grants for creating affordable homeownership opportunities in inner-city areas. Perhaps a knowledgeable source from Cleveland would comment upon that aspect of city policy here.

    To the extent that policy is focused on tight geographic areas, then the policies may reinforce existing concentrations of low-to-moderate income households and bring increased risk of crime.

    This only addresses market-created affordable housing concentrations, i.e. relatively stable lower and middle-middle-class neighborhoods insofar as a City is active in developing low-mod homeownership opportunities there.

  28. Alon Levy says:

    This is different from what Anon is saying, which is that an existing middle-class area needs to be unaffordable to the lower middle class to avoid having crime problems.

    And even if it weren’t, there’s no evidence that affordability causes crime. Low-income housing projects cause crime; having poor people live in the neighborhood doesn’t – again, look to Washington Heights for inspiration. Or for that matter Santa Ana, where 25% of the population consists of illegal immigrants and still the murder rate is barely above the national average.

  29. thundermutt says:

    There are other social factors, Alon, in both of your examples. Aren’t both populated with tight immigrant or religious communities?

    In most US non-world cities, which covers all in the American Midwest besides Chicago, I believe fringe neighborhoods are either rising or declining based upon a complex set of factors that include:

    …housing stock variables (age, size, sturdiness, maintenance, median price per square foot),

    …geographic variables (“beachfront” features such as views, terrain or water; distance from amenities; transit availability, infrastructure),

    …demographics and economics (white collar vs. blue, gray, or pink collar; predominant race and ethnicity; median age; median income),

    …social/political factors (schools, taxes, governance, crime/public safety).

    I don’t think it’s as simple as “keeping property values up to keep undesirables out” because there’s no one prescription for doing so, and because sometimes “the undesirables” look just like our sisters and daughters who need places to live with their kids after the family breaks up (or never forms) and move right back in.

  30. Alon Levy says:

    Yes, both are populated with tightly-knit immigrant communities. But that in itself doesn’t guarantee low crime rates: East Harlem has tight ethnic ties, too, but its murder rate is 18, compared with 6 in Washington Heights and 7 in Santa Ana. And even a moderate amount of entrenched poverty can coexist with low crime rates even without such community ties, as in Yonkers (whose murder rate is 5) and Albany (whose murder rate is 3).

  31. Alon Levy says:

    On a related note: black Americans have plenty of religious ties, based on historically black churches; the way it’s portrayed on The Wire, church is the only place that inner-city gangs respect as inviolate. And yet, crime rates among black Americans are very high. Conversely, Asians are relatively secular and less tightly knit, with Chinese-Americans often comparing themselves negatively with Jews; however, their crime rate is relatively low, even in poor areas like New York’s Chinatown (which has a lot of property crime and a lot of organized crime, but few murders).

  32. Anonymous says:

    Where do the successful African Americans live in Cleveland?

    Are they moving out to the suburbs? How welcome are they there? Would their kids see many other children who look like them?

    Or is there a community such as the Baldwin Hills community in Los Angeles that historically had been African American, but the middle class African Americans congregated in and that neighborhood genitrified or is gentrifing?

    Or are the more successful and better educated African Americans just fleeing the region completely for greener pastures such as Chicago or Atlanta?

    When African Americans in the region graduate from college where do they move? Where would they be welcomed to move into their communties?

    Ed in Sac

  33. Alon Levy says:

    On a completely different note, the BLS reports that Cleveland’s unemployment rate fell from 9.4% in February to 8.7% in March, the largest fall of any major metro area. To find larger reductions, you’ll have to go to places like Valdosta, Georgia, and Ocean City, New Jersey. In the same time period most Midwestern metro areas saw increases in unemployment – e.g. Indy went from 8.2% to 8.7%, Chicago from 9.2% to 9.4%, and Columbus from 7.9% to 8.1%.

  34. Anonymous says:

    Thundermutt’s comment was getting at what I’m thinking about. We have tons of ammenities, but they are all very close to housing that is vacant or available for dirt cheap. People with little or no income can move into *any* neighborhood, and they are. Lakewood, Edgewater, Old Brooklyn, Parma, Lyndhurst, Shaker, Euclid. Is there any neighborhood in the city or inner ring suburbs where crime hasn’t gone up since 2000?

    The nieghborhoods that were gentrifying were low-income white neighborhoods in the 70s and 80s. Tremont, Ohio City, Detroit Shoreway. I’ve heard Slavic village was looking up too in the late 1990s, but the low-doc no-doc loans brought in hundreds of lower income African Americans from bordering neighborhoods. Now its hundreds of foreclosures and vacancies. If the 2010 Census shows Slavic Village is 75 or 80% African American, who is going to reinvest there? I don’t see why middle class Blacks would move there rather than near University Circle. What would draw middle class whites there? Or immigrants?

    On the west side, there is a lot of new construction, and tons of trendy restuarants. But outside Tremont, 8 out of 10 people on the street appear to be lower-income Blacks (pants falling off, hats on bandanas, no suits or dockers, so I’m just guessing…). Which way will these neighborhoods go? The ones with lake access should have a chance, but what hope is there for Cudell? West Boulevard?

    How can we avoid situations like North Collinwood, where you have middle class families (Black and White) in single family homes, with private beach clubs, who can’t walk past the end of their blocks?

  35. David P. says:

    People keep talking about the cost of living in Cleveland as though it’s this huge, overlooked factor that makes Cleveland a complete bargain compared to elsewhere.

    However, consider the following cities where the cost of living in decent neighborhoods is quite high: Tokyo, Hong Kong, Honolulu, San Francisco, Washington, New York, London. Notice a pattern? They are all highly-desirable places to live. You get what you pay for. You can buy yourself a 1982 Chevrolet and brag about how little it cost, but the fact is you’re still driving an ’82 Chevy and everybody knows it.

    One other point about population decline is that, unless I’m mistaken, population figures are NOT adjusted for the normal population growth rate (which in the USA is about 1% annually IIRC). In other words, if your population growth rate is 1%, you’re keeping up with everybody else, if it’s 0%, people are leaving, and if it’s almost -3% as it is in the Cleveland MSA, people are really packing their bags.

    People in Cleveland need to get out of their Pollyanna mindset and face reality before things get even worse. Can anyone point to evidence that Cleveland WON’T end up like Detroit before it’s all said and done?

  36. Alon Levy says:

    Is there any neighborhood in the city or inner ring suburbs where crime hasn’t gone up since 2000?

    In most US cities, crime has gone up since 2000. Boston deserves special mention – its murder rate is twice what it was in the late 1990s.

  37. Anonymous says:

    It is still possible for Cleveland to avoid Detroit’s state. This is because Cleveland has been able to reinvest and hang up long enough to survive to an era that will favor cities.

    As of today, we have six or seven neighborhoods that have enough amenities to be desirable to the upper income urban households (young professionals, childless couples, adventurous retirees). They are reasonably safe. And we have a major research university within the city limits. Homes are being built, rehabbed and purchased. Businesses are opening. Professionals are moving in.

    I don’t know enough about Detroit to know if it has any desirable, safe neighborhoods left. I do see that it has a major university pulling people 45 minutes away from the central city.

    I think twenty to forty years ago the majority of Americans really thought we could live in suburbs surrounding dead central cities. Today, even people who live in exurbs and hate cities acknowledge that you have to have a vital central city to have a decent economy and quality of life. They are supporting public policies that help the cities. New York, Chicago, DC, etc. have proven that it is possible and desirable for middle class people to push back into neighborhoods that had been low-income and crime plagued. Every metro area is trying to reproduce this trend, and Cleveland has made major steps in that direction.

    I think in the future, most middle class people will spend their twenties in a central city. Many will spend their retirement in a central city. Those who don’t have children will spend their whole life there. Whether married couples with kids stay will depend on whether the city has family neighborhoods (larger homes and yards, mostly owner occupied, inexpensive enough to allow for private school tuition or good charter/magnet school options). Lower income people will be pushed into the less desirable suburbs, as in Europe.

    If the trends move this way nationally, Cleveland is capable of taking advantage of them. Pittsburgh, Rochester, Buffalo, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, etc. will all make it if Cleveland does.

  38. Anonymous says:

    “Every metro area is trying to reproduce this trend, and Cleveland has made major steps in that direction.”

    Any stats to back up these claims? None of the stats for Cleveland show any kind of positive trends.

  39. Anonymous says:

    We don’t get counts of people by ed and income between the censuses. That would really prove what we want to know. ACS only gives the metro area with larger errors. So all we can do is look around.

    Things that exist now that didn’t ten years ago
    -the warehouse district with hundreds of units occupied
    -East 4th with diners in the seats
    -Wendy Park open to the public
    -Euclid Corridor is complete, the BRT running, and people are cycling to work from the Heights.
    -Tremont with galleries up and down professor, and five or six blocks of new homes sold.
    -New condos in Ohio city, built and sold
    -Battery Park – phase I built and almost sold out
    -Steelyard commons – yeah its a strip mall, but it saves dozens of trips to the suburbs.
    -Heritage Lane homes completed and half sold.
    -Avenue district’s first building is up and there are residents in it. Tower Press lofts, and new student center are open near CSU.
    -Lofts in West Tech, the Little Italy lofts, the Painter’s Lofts complete and occupied. Construction is progressing on Chicle development, the Franklin Lofts, and the Gospel Press Building.
    -I’m in another Ohio City loft building, 220 units, high rents for the area, and its full.

    In the last week, I’ve seen fifty people playing volleyball at Battery Park, dozens of people at some rowing event on the river, and 400+ at a City Music concert in Slavic Village. None of these people have to be here. They could all stay out in the suburbs or move away.

    From what I can see, lofts, condos, and townhomes fill when they are available. I know for sure that there are people in the restuarants and coffee shops because I see them everyday. People want to be in Cleveland.

  40. Anonymous says:

    Anon 2:42 on May 14 said: “I know for sure that there are people in the restuarants and coffee shops because I see them everyday. People want to be in Cleveland.”

    By this logic and anecdotal evidence, one could look at the Detroit Auto Show attendance, attendance at the Detroit Super Bowl and All Star Game, number of patrons at Detroit Casinos or the Fox Theatre, presence of General Motors at the Renaissance Center, and renovation of the Book Cadillac Hotel (now a Westin) and make the statement that “People want to be in Detroit.” And even if the Cleveland-oriented statements are true, one could have looked at the Flats or Tower City 10 years ago and talked about how downtown Cleveland was a hot destination; but everybody knows that blip of optimism proved fleeting. The population statistics show that people do NOT want to be in Detroit OR in Cleveland; it’s not just a case of people not moving to those areas, it’s a case of people who are already there heading for the exits.

    On a different note speaking of Detroit, let’s not forget that Detroit’s dire straits are in part the result of 1960s riots, which, with the exception of the Hough riots, didn’t take too much of a toll on Cleveland.

    Overall, most “we’re not Detroit” statements made in Cleveland strike me as kind of like saying “Yeah, I weigh 400 lbs, but I’m not as overweight as somebody I know who weighs 450 lbs.” Still not an enviable position to be in.

  41. Jim Russell says:

    The Rust Belt’s Greatest Inferiority Complex continues:

  42. Alon Levy says:

    Anon: wow! Cleveland has good research hospitals! It’s larger than Indianapolis (though not for long)! And it has inside jokes nobody else gets! Clearly, it’s booming.

    The only point in that article that’s even semi-reasonable is “Ohio has several large cities – Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo, Dayton, and Cincinnati – who are all pitted against eachother in a battle for jobs, funding, eminence, and tourists.” It’s completely wrong – Texas, Florida, and California are doing fine with multiple cities – but at least it addresses the subject matter at hand.

  43. Anonymous says:

    Alon 1:32

    “Not for long”…hmmm, 20 years for MSA…much longer for CSA.

    The one thing that bugs me about this blog the most is that Indy is somehow viewed as Oz in the Midwest.

    Whatever challenges that Cleveland and Cinci may have…I vastly prefer either to Indy

  44. Alon Levy says:

    Anon: if we extrapolate from 2000-07 trend, it’ll take until 2031 for the CSAs to have the same population.

    And although Aaron engages in Indy boosterism now, until about a year ago most Indy-related posts lamented that the city was ill-positioned for a global economy and compared it negatively with Minneapolis and Kansas City.

    (I accidentally posted this under my girlfriend’s account; this is the deleted comment above.)

  45. Anonymous says:

    The article at is also very interesting AND it's written by a local.

  46. Anonymous says:

    cleveland was about machine tools. thats y we have no identity. bcuz people understand cars-detroit, tires-akron, and steel-pittsburgh, but not the machines that make the final product which the consumer sees. thats what cleveland did. and without her u couldnt use any of these products bcuz they wouolnt exist!

  47. Anonymous says:

    Anonymous 5/13 10:15PM said…
    "'Every metro area is trying to reproduce this trend, and Cleveland has made major steps in that direction.'

    Any stats to back up these claims? None of the stats for Cleveland show any kind of positive trends."

    The subsequent poster listed several individual developments to prove their point. One other thing to remember about many of the population stats for Cleveland is that much of the out-migration from the city proper is coming from the poorer, largely minority wards like Hough, Mount Pleasant, Stockyards, etc. My guess is that when we get the 2010 census info we'll see that several districts actually show population growth over the decade. This may not sound like much, but almost no wards had population growth from census to census since 1950. In 2000, only the downtown district showed growth (off a small base). I'd bet that in 2010 at least Downtown, Tremont, and Ohio City will show growth. Detroit-Shoreway has probably blossomed too late in the decade to overcome the population decline in the earlier years. These won't be enough to offset the general decline in city population, but are glimmers of progress.

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