What makes a City great? They all have banks, hospitals, great institutions of higher learning, and entertainment venues. Why are some cities regarded better than others?
While I was in Boston this fall I shared a ride with a young millennial from the area. When I told her I was from Cleveland she said she heard that Cleveland is ‘up and coming.’ What makes Cleveland ‘up and coming??’
Many factors make a City great, and up and coming. Street life is a very important factor. Activity on the street makes a City seem vibrant, safe, friendly and a place people want to be. Cleveland is beginning to see the benefits of an active street life, so much so that it is now considered up and coming to non-Clevelanders.
And how does a City maintain and promote an active street life? People. Having more people on the street makes the street more active. The safer a street feels. The friendlier it feels. When you walk out of Tribe game late at night, in the dark, it feels safe and friendly. If you walk that same street when it’s not a game night you can’t possibly feel the same sense of safety and friendliness.
So if we have more people on the street then we can have safer, friendlier streets. And how do we attract more people to the street? We add more housing density.
I was in Vancouver this spring. Vancouver has a vibrant street life. There are people stacked 5 to 10 deep waiting to cross the street. Why is that? Density. It seems every corner in Vancouver has a high-rise apartment building loaded with people that walk to get where they are going.
Yet over and over again we see resistance to density. At the Cleveland State’s Real Estate Conference I heard a story of a Developer who tried to build new apartment units in Tremont. He presented his initial concept to the community. It was 30 units with 16 parking spaces. The Community resisted. They were concerned about parking. The Developer modified his project from 30 units with 16 parking spots to 8 units with 16 parking spaces.
That’s at least 24 fewer people, and probably more with significant others and roommates, to walk the street. It’s a lot fewer people helping to keep the streets safe and friendly.
Tremont would be better with more residents and fewer cars. More residents mean more people walking the streets and more eyes on the street. The streets would be more vibrant and safer. With more people it’s likely that Tremont can support more coffee shops and cafes. The Farmer’s Market would attract more shoppers and then more vendors.
Downtown Cleveland will also be better with more residents and fewer cars. I urge our Community leaders to be influential on this issue. Adopt policies that promote more housing density. Challenge communities that want more cars and fewer people. Narrow the streets to make them friendlier to bikers and pedestrians. Keep our City up and coming!