1 month ago
Visiting Cleveland, it’s hard to imagine how a city could have tried harder to armor itself against the economic and political forces that pulled many other rustbelt cities apart. Here, there and everywhere is evidence of initiatives started by people trying very hard to do the right thing. On a strip of park space across from the otherwise denuded Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, there’s a plaque honoring the leaders of a now-defucnt “CLEAN-land” trash reduction initiative, that at one time reduced litter on train tracks and roadsides. On the transit map is a stop called “Lorraine/ Eco-Village.” When you visit the stop, you can see the fingerprints of the beautiful idea behind the stop’s name-- the idea that an ecological focus could re-center a challenged community. Though it’s hard to find someone on the street that knows WHY it’s called the “Eco Village”, you can see that the idea did prevent dissolution... Fourteen years after the concept was initiated, the “eco” components are a partially hidden by overgrowth, but they are still there. Several ecologically sensible, affordable housing projects dot the neighborhood. There’s a wonderful park with a splash pad, filled with kids on a hot day. The pollinator garden had grown tall and the flowers in it are about to burst forth, rangy and wild-- just the way pollinators like it.
If you hop the train, and travel to the central transit station, though—it’s hard not to feel that the main thing missing in Cleveland is people. The station feels robust enough to be in New York or Boston, but midday on a week day, it’s empty. Compared to the crowding on transit in Toronto where we’d spend the prior week, the absence of users for all this sustainable infrastructure was stark. Numbers bear this situation out-- population in the City of Cleveland declined from over 500,000 residents in 1990 to 380,000 last year, and by 57% since the city’s peak population in the 1950s.
If Cleveland has done so much right, why did everyone leave? You could say it was the weather-- but then you look at Toronto or Chicago, where the weather is arguably just as bad. >> (ct’d in comments)