By Bryan Radwancky
During one of my last days at my current job, at an antique shop in Columbus’s Short North district, I chatted with a longtime patron. Somehow it came up that he was from Cleveland. I was excited to hear it..
I said “Oh, I’m moving to Cleveland in couple weeks, to Tremont’s historical Duck Island neighborhood!”
He looked at me with confusion and concern. There was a moment of silence as I pondered, from past experience, how uttering the phrase “I’m moving to Cleveland” could ignite the reaction “What the hell are you thinking!?” “Cleveland!?” “Really!!??” “Why!!??”
Then he embarked on a 15-minute tirade about Cleveland, which for a few hours rattled my world and had me questioning my choice. He spent the time pointing out in detail why I shouldn’t be leaving the wonderful, open, and vibrant city of Columbus. He threw facts and opinions at me: “Cleveland ranks 48th in population and Columbus ranks 15th”; “Cleveland is the most conservative and archaic city in Ohio”; “it’s a city that can’t keep people in it because they can’t prepare and grow the future like Columbus does”; “everyone has to be on antidepressants to continue living there”; and, finally ,”It is the worst American city next to Detroit that I’ve ever been in.”
Naturally, I felt my blood pressure rise. I asked him why he felt this way and when he last visited Cleveland.
“Oh, I’m from that godforsaken town and left years ago!” he said. “I got out while the going was good.”
He added that he visited last month, touring Ohio City and downtown, and thought it was miserable and pathetic. He told me I will need antidepressants after living there a month.
I explained that the city is growing now; downtown is undergoing massive redevelopment; and Ohio City and Tremont are taking off. I spoke of the the low residential vacancy rate downtown and the vibrance of West 25th Street.
Nothing could sway this man. He continue his rant, boasting about the Short North and “what a gem it is” and “how happy everyone is here”.
I stood my ground. “Yes, Columbus is great, but Cleveland is great, too, and a lot of changes and growth are happening.”
“That’s what they’ve been trying to make people believe since the 1980’s!” he said. “Ohio City and Tremont are perpetual yo-yo’s and they have a year where they are doing ok, then collapse again. It is bipolar, really, like its people. But they haven’t created a fix for the city and the communities that inhabit it.”
This continued for another 10 minutes or so. I felt defeated, upset and confused. I have been a cheerleader for this gem on Lake Erie for more than two years now. Within 15 minutes, my positivity was crushed by a single man who claimed that Cleveland and its unnecessary pretentiousness and delusional citizens are full of hyperbole and live in denial.
“Young man, you are making the biggest mistake of your life,” he concluded. “Don’t move there. You will only fight for change to sadly be defeated by a bunch of fast-food-eating, non-progressive, homophobes with major self-esteem and city-self-image issues. Cleveland doesn’t know how to grow and overcome–like most cities, they pretend, and their population continues to decrease.”
He walked away, laughing to himself after squeezing in: ” I don’t understand the rivalry between people from Columbus and Cleveland.”
But that wasn’t the end of it. About 10 minutes later, the man walked by with three friends and announced to them that “The poor boy is moving to Cleveland.” They laughed and said things like “You poor thing” and “Get pepper spray.”
My supervisor, who was there for the entire event, asked me if I needed to step off the floor. And I did. Immediately. “What kind of person says all these things to a stranger?” I wondered.
Momentarily sick about my decision, I asked myself whether I had become delusional about what Cleveland is and can become. For the past year, I’d been commuting to Cleveland State University to study urban and environmental planning. Was my dream of being a voice in the city to promote positive change a waste of time? Is the battle too hard to fight? Will I be alone in the fight? All of these negative thoughts began to overwhelm me.
There is a heavy psychological cloud that hovers over those past Cleveland generations who went through the worst of times there. They are like refugees in a way. They left unwillingly due to the economic crash and industry change. Their emotions are confused when they hear of the change. They can’t and don’t want to believe it because how could they? They left, pushed out by a tragic turn in a city’s history.
The pain and resentment must run deep for this man and others I’ve heard say similar things about CLE. To hear it’s doing well is unbelievable to them. They’ve been through so much since they’ve left their families, friends and jobs. They’ve removed themselves for better opportunities.
Although this man gloats of his success in Columbus, I think my positive comments about how Cleveland is growing triggered his negative response. He validated his leaving by attacking me. I did notice that somewhere in his tirade, however, he mentioned that he missed the lake.
Bryan Radwancky works at Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative and has recently moved to Duck Island in Tremont, where he resides with his partner (a term he doesn’t like, but deals with). He has no plans to move back to Columbus.
Sorry to hear that… I’ve been here since 2000 and love it more and more every year. The great thing about a large city is the incredibly diverse perspectives people can have about the same place, but too bad some have to be so dismissive. I can understand a level of negativity, because no place is perfect. But that level of dismissiveness I see from a lot of natives here, though many natives that I know who moved away are moving back.
I’d take Cleveland’s vibrant and rich culture, neighborhoods and people any day over the nation’s top test market for consumerism. 😉
Oh, and there are so many better music venues here…
Thanks for the comment Roger. I’m really happy to be here and am excited to continue discovering all this great city has to offer. I’m also looking forward to partake and to watch the evolution unfold. I believe it is important that during a renaissance of sorts it is important to have a voice and to listen to those around you. Belt is such an amazing vehicle for that. A dialogue and exchange is what keeps us all moving forward rather then moving backward as the gentleman in Columbus who was saturated with negative energy.
I lived in Upstate NY in the Nineties, and there were many “refugees” from NYC up there, all of whom told me what a disaster of a city New York was. Much like you with your Columbus tormentor, I assumed they must have escaped during the Seventies when NYC was indeed having serious issues, and that era would forever be their image of the place. So, I wouldn’t worry about people like that – their viewpoint is usually a couple of decades behind.
Welcome to Cleveland Bryan. I am one of those native Clevelanders who consider themselves an unofficial ambassador because I care deeply about and love this city. Naysayers will always be around – they just can’t see what we see. Columbus is fine, but it lacks character and interest to me. Sounds like that guy also lacks character and interest – hahaha.
Let me know if there is anything in town you are looking for that I might help with. Vinyl records? Stand Up Paddleboarding? Dog parks? Ethnic food? Disc golf? Yeah, that’s right – because Cleveland has SOMETHING for everyone, not just strip malls like Columbus ; )
Like you, I will be moving into the city very soon. I want to be in the thick of it. I want to be ingrained in it. Sure, Columbus may have more (A&F and Express wearin’) people, newer and shiner things but they will never have the culture or toughness of the people here. The majority of people who knock it, have never spent any significant time here, or have never even stepped foot in this fine city.
Love this, Roger— “I’d take Cleveland’s vibrant and rich culture, neighborhoods and people any day over the nation’s top test market for consumerism.”
I received a similar reaction from people throughout Columbus when I decided to move to Cleveland after graduating. The economy in Columbus is much, much better for young college grads. Outside of health care, Cleveland doesn’t have much going for it compared to the economy of cities like Columbus.
Cleveland is a huge city — some new restaurants in Ohio City or Tremont are hardly indicative of a thriving a city or a place on a big upswing. These areas represent less then 5% of the city. Upper middle class kids from the ‘burbs who have moved to Ohio City or the Shoreway have to realize their view of Cleveland is much much different then reality for the vast majority of the city’s residents.
Great getting all the comments and perspectives. Agreeable and/or disagreeable. Thanks for input on the topic.
I lived in Cleveland for 5 years and loved it–and that was 1975-80, not particular her golden years. My best friends are still there and I have visited many times in the last 30+ years, which afforded me the opportunity to observe all the great changes that have occured over the years.. It has much to offer for anyone willing to make the effort. I hope you enjoy your time there!!
I commend you for keeping your composure – I would have had a hard time doing so myself.
Funny how static some people’s mental images of a place can be. I’ve had similar encounters with people out here on the East Coast, who look visibly ill at the sound of me saying “you know, one day I’d like to move back to Cleveland.” Funny to then note that these same people have either never been to Cleveland, or haven’t visited for over 10 years. They simply cannot fathom the prospect of things “getting better” there.
It is a strange phenomenon that people cannot “fathom the prospect of things getting better” here. I know exactly what you are talking about. Even people who’ve never stepped foot here. I think it has a lot to do with how media has portrayed the city over the years during economic crisis and even older – the various river fires and pollution of the industry (that isn’t even here anymore) on the contrary, the cuyahoga river is the cleanest its been in decades and researchers have declared a hike in fish populations.
I mean David Letterman would knock on Cle. a lot during the 80’s and 90’s. (just an example), giving people such an impression. Like all growing cities, things take time, and evolution/progression takes time and it also take those living in a place to step forward and challenge political policy and advocate for change in order for it to become more like a place you want to be. That is exactly what is happening here. Downtown residency has gone from 4,000 to 12,000 in the past 10 years. They expect 16,000-18,00 by 2020 with the demand of more Apts. (and they are at 97% occupancy right now so more are being developed or re-developed) Ohio City, Tremont, Detroit Shoreway and University Circle have been undergoing amazing changes with the new residence moving in. Those aren’t the only neighborhoods that are seeing some progress. People are making it what they want here. That’s what excites and ignites me. I hope you get a chance to come back and visit. I always recommend doing research. There are so many video’s and websites that are discussing and participating in the progression in Cleveland (good and bad of course). Thanks again.
Thank you. I go to school near Columbus (Denison University) and people are always perplexed when I tell them how much I love Cleveland. Even people that are from the town insist that its an awful, run-down town. I whole heartedly agree though that Cleveland is on the rise and I still believe its one of the best cities ever. Long live the 216!
I agree in some aspects,it is hard to listen to all the boosterism and plans and still not see actual significant change.The insecurities seem to lead to defensiveness then resistance to change.Newness and new ideas are not affront to Cleveland, people need to embrace newness,not worry that it reflects badly on them.That said, it is gorgeous here.It is a very inspiring place to be a creative person.It has amazing institutions.All the bones are there,the infrastructure is sound-we just need more openness and progressive thought.The bar needs to be raised higher.On another subject, I am gay and have never ever experienced any homophobia here.My partner(hate the word too),our kid and myself have only experienced positive things Cleveland is very liberal.Your encounter with that person seems to reflect more of his background than the overall Cleveland experience.
Those people are so annoying. I grew up in Akron and went to school out East as well as studied abroad in Paris. It wasn’t until I moved back after college that I discovered my own home town. I lived in Tremont for about 3.5 years, and in the short time I was there, I saw the area transform. And it’s NOT because of some city initiative – it’s because of the awesome individuals who see opportunity and who want to see things improve. The naysayers may cite statistics of doom and gloom, but how about seeing the glass half-full? What benefit does focusing on the negative and bashing the change agents do? I also find it funny how many “native Clevelanders” talk about how awful the city is, and when you ask them “when’s the last time you’ve been downtown” or “what do you do for fun?” they tell me the only thing they do is drink at the run-down sports bar around the corner in whatever suburb they actually live in. There is SO much going on in Cleveland – sometimes I feel like people never even give it a chance, because we’re made to think there is nothing going on worth paying attention to. All it takes is opening your eyes and getting out of the house!
One thing he is factually incorrect about is the population argument. Columbus includes the ENTIRE Columbus metro area in its population numbers, while Cleveland does not. If Cleveland were to do what Columbus does, The city of Parma alone would push us above Columbus, not to mention the highly populated cities just west and east of the city. IT sounds like someone has a lot of issues with his friends and or family in Cleveland and he ran away scared. I would be more willing to accept his comments if he had moved somewhere besides Columbus. Columbus is a cool city, but to try and say its SO much better than Cleveland is laughable. I think the guy needs to experience life outside the midwest for once.
Pittsburgh has had to deal with the same negativity, though thankfully it’s eased a bit in the last 10 years. It seems to me like people over 45 wrote Pittsburgh off decades ago, while people under 35 are at least willing to give the city a chance. (Between 35 and 45 could go either way.) It’s probably because people over 45 came of age as the city collapsed, and believe that it can’t possibly have rebounded in any way. On the other hand, people under 35 remember little or nothing of it, but instead see a bunch of old buildings that could be fixed up, not unlike people fixing up a classic car.
From what I can tell by reading some Cleveland-centric articles, blogs and message boards, the mood in Cleveland now seems similar to the mood in Pittsburgh during the late 1990’s or early 2000’s: a few ardent supporters who see its potential versus a lot of detractors who have given up on the city and refuse to believe it’s salvageable. Trust me when I say that the supporters are ahead of the curve here, and the detractors are behind the curve. Pittsburgh just kept doing its thing despite the noise, and it’s really begun to pay off in the last five to 10 years.
I moved here from Portland, OR. I received, and still receive, gasps from people when I mention that. “You LEFT Portland to come HERE?!” I used to nod my head, and sadly acknowledge the fact that I took a job here that was a promotion but I only planned to stay until I earned enough time there to move on. I sort of subscribed to all these people’s negative thinking about this city. I went along with their cynical views of the people, the weather, the “suburbs.”
But it’s been 10 years now. I still acknowledge how nice Portland was, but then I follow up by saying I’ve made a good life in Cleveland, and proudly now say, “I’m from Cleveland!” Unlike many people who have negative opinions of Cleveland, people who have never lived here, sometimes never have even visited… I’ve actually lived it and love it. I’m proud to be an ardent supporter and discovering there are a lot of people like me here.
I think that is great Matt. I have been her 3 months and I definitely still encounter people asking me why I moved here after recently living in both Chicago (6 years) and New Orleans (1 year) and I have a difficult time with some of the pessimistic civic psychology of the city and from outsiders as well. (This crazy cold winter isn’t helping matters). But I know Cleveland is just as great as any other exciting and stimulating city. I get a strong sense people here are really staking claims to improve and innovate and really embrace the power of community efforts and making voices heard. I get excited when I meet other who have moved here from other great cities and really love it here. It feels good to see that others are seeing what I’m seeing and I think it’s important to keep that dialogue going. I always hope that my perspective can contribute to another way of looking at a city and what it offers. Now I’m actually encountering a lot of negative responses from locals, but I get it. I understand the disappointments. Look at what this city has had to endure over the past few decades. I can see why locals are skeptical of it’s growth and vibrancy. When that happens I always offer solutions or offer some insight on what good is happening.
This article really resonates with me so much …
I am a native Clevelander who became disillusioned with Cleveland back in 2008 when we were at the height of the economic recession. I was unemployed and desperate to secure a job, which at that time was virtually impossible … So, I set my sights on Columbus, a city that was pretty much unknown to me at the time. I departed Cleveland in early 2009, feeling certain that I had made a wise decision … I was in for a rude awakening, however.
I landed in Columbus after attaining a very good paying job, I settled in an up n coming area known as “Olde Town East” located just east of Downtown Columbus. Initially, I was somewhat pleased with my decision to choose Columbus … The Short North was always so vibrant, I loved hanging out at quaint coffee shops in German Village and shopping at the glitzy Easton Town Center on the city’s north side … But, something became inescapable to me. I started to miss so much about Cleveland within 4 months of arriving in Columbus. I am an avid fan of the arts, so after visiting the “postage sized” Columbus Art Museum, I felt so completely deflated and underwhelmed … rightfully so, the Cleveland Museum of Art is ENORMOUS in size and prestige when compared to it’s much smaller counterpart in Columbus. I began to miss the glorious sunsets at Edgewater Park, the cool and refreshing Lake Erie breezes … all of which were unobtainable in a flat, sprawling city such as Columbus. I tried to be inspired by the muddy, sludge laden Scioto River in Downtown Columbus, but it was no comparison to Lake Erie … The flatness of Columbus was equally uninspiring to me. In Cleveland there are hills, valleys, deeply wooded ravines and gorges … waterfalls and rocky ledges. The Columbus metro parks were no comparison to the “Emerald Necklace” (Cleveland MetroParks) that I now longed to experience again.
The people of Columbus were nauseating, too! Whenever I mentioned being a Cleveland native, I would get this “Deer in a Headlights” look from most everybody I encountered … Of course, they would begin this tirade against Cleveland, which always amazed me because most of what their thoughts were about the city did not match up to the facts of a city I had known my whole life.
Needless to say, I had started to become disillusioned with Columbus … I began to drive home on weekends to see my friends and family in Cleveland. Something amazing had happened …. I began to take notice of significant and very positive changes occurring in THE CLE with each visit. There were positive press releases and articles virtually every single day …. THIS BECAME INESCAPAPABLE to me! I began to wonder to myself, could I SAVE FACE and make the journey back home?
I could no longer deny that HOME is where I needed and wanted to be, so just after a year in Columbus, I made a decision to resign my position and return to a much more improved Cleveland & metro region.
There’s not a day that I ever felt that coming back to Cleveland was a mistake, this city and region offers such a superb quality of life … I have friends in lofty cities that include Chicago, LA and NYC …. they are all openly (sometimes covertly) envious of the lifestyle I am afforded with in Cleveland, with an emphasis on the term AFFORD-ED.
Cleveland is a city that is very much worth taking your chances with, making sacrifices and discovering.
LONG LIVE, “THA CLE”!!!!
It is a shithole, simple and plain, from dead man’s curve to edgewater’s biohazard water, Cleveland is a polluted, corrupt, evil city that will feed on all of the urban-white people bullshit ambition above and spit you out in 5 years the same as the guy who prompted this article. Lie to yourself if you want, but every morning you wake up in Cleveland could have been a better day somewhere else…
True. Once you cut through all the mental grease and grime, the click bait and well written editorial that folks try and put out there to somehow justify their horrible decision making, and focus on the numbers alone, you realize that it is still in fact going in the wrong direction, quickly. That’s not being negative, that’s being honest.
I would beg to differ on this topic. As I read through all of the comments on this posting if I didn’t know any better I would think that Cleveland is the new age city of the future. I lived here for most of the 2000’s and left years ago for a gov’t job in DC. I liked Cleveland when I first moved here but over time it had deteriorated and I felt trapped in the demise. Due to an accident I became disabled and could not work so I decided to give Cleveland another try since the cost of living was so much cheaper and commuting was not as bad. I kept saying to myself and my kids that maybe we overlooked something special about the city. We were excited to move back but just as quickly as we moved back, we were ready to move again. Cleveland has made some remarkable changes primarily in the downtown and uptown neighborhoods. Cleveland Clinic , UH and Metro hospitals have expanded to meet the needs of the people in this area tremendously. But there’s more to this area outside of these things. Empty shopping malls/plazas, closed restaurants and affordable rented houses where landlords only barely piece together for living. Yes rent is affordable but you pay for what you get. Cheaper is not always better. I’d rather pay almost $2K for a 4 bedroom house where if something breaks down, it is almost illegal not to address the issue within 24 hours instead of paying $1K and you barely see or hear from the landlord unless you’re a day late on the rent. Then there’s the lack of professionalism all around and in every aspect. This lack of is not limited to any race, gender or economic class. It’s quite miserable living here but kudos to those who have not experienced the same issues that I have,