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Journey from Suburbia to Central City: One Blogger's Story

Today’s guest post is written by Melinda Urick. Mel runs Pursuit Writing Services and regularly blogs at Life, Liberty & Pursuit of Your Boyfriend. She has lived in Northeast Ohio for almost the entirety of her life. -Rob

I spent most of my teens and twenties bouncing around suburban Cleveland. I crossed the Cuyahoga River, living in properties ranging from an attic on the east side to a big side-by-side house on the west side. It wasn’t until my early 30s that I finally found a neighborhood in Cleveland that really fits. And the neighborhood was right under my nose the entire time – Downtown.

(from Flickr user Sideshow Bruce)

I grew up in Mentor. And even at an early age, I found this affluent east-side suburb incredibly dull and laden with pretentiousness. I knew it was NOT “better in Mentor.”

Halfway through high school, we moved to Ashtabula – which is an extreme eastern drive from Cleveland. Although I enjoyed greatly being exposed to a more urban lifestyle – living what most would consider “inner city” – there was a tight-knit, somewhat backward undertone to the community. My time there had a positive impact, specifically with my exposure to people and cultures. Mentor is about as white bread as it gets. In Ashtabula, the high school educated an equal mix of White and African-American (and a prominent and growing Spanish community).

After high school, I returned to Mentor for a short time while I finished my two-year degree program at Lakeland Community College. I also resided in Strongsville and Parma for short durations, while I bounced around different sets of roommates and retail management jobs.

I remained on the west side for less than two years, before playing house with my then-boyfriend in Solon.

Solon is a great place… if you have kids and want a big McMansion. The location itself wasn’t horrible – 20 minutes of drive time to all points of the Cleveland area. But this southeast suburb is incredibly segregated and snobbish. Ironically, it was much like what I was exposed to growing up in Mentor. And I hated it. I never experienced the sort of comfortability expected from my family and neighbors with their endless compliments of the area. It just did not fit me.

I stayed (uncomfortably) in Solon for about three-and-a-half years, before renting out an attic apartment space in a South Euclid bungalow (finding the place on While I was definitely more relaxed in my surroundings – and within walking distance of shopping and some bars – it was MILES away from easy access to any freeway.

After six short months, I moved to a massive side-by-side house in Lakewood on Clifton. I wish I had discovered this near-west suburb of Cleveland sooner! Our neighborhood was great – I was finally walking to places instead of driving. The community was busy and safe. And more importantly (for a college student), CHEAP.

I rented a couple different houses in Lakewood for another few years, while I finished school at Cleveland State. One of the things I realized as I reached the end of my 20s was that I was quickly tiring of the college-aged drinking scene – more so, the drunks who knew I lived within walking distance of said bars.

With all intentions to move again to another house in Lakewood, I found a one-bedroom condo for sale in Rocky River. At the time, River had everything around that matched with my personality – including being a safe neighborhood for living on my own for the first time. Within a year of moving in, I quickly tired of the suburban boredom. I loved the core of Cleveland, and even a 15-minute drive felt too far. I liked to walk to places. I was shopping the West Side Market every Saturday (even though there was a Giant Eagle behind my building); I hate chain restaurants and fast food (and these pollute the suburbs regardless what side of the river you live). My nightlife was all centered in Ohio City, Tremont and East 4th. I wanted to ride my bike (and not meet a strip mall entrance with inattentive drivers at every intersection). Outside of the Metroparks, the attitude of alternate means of transportation changed.

Nobody appeared to be “like me” in Rocky River.

I lived in that condo for four years, but six months ago, I finally moved into an apartment downtown. The East 4th neighborhood has its positives and negatives as with anywhere else I have lived, but I finally felt a belonging to my surroundings. The only inconvenience in living downtown is paying to park your vehicle safely in a garage. Downtown is safe, regardless of the horror stories suburbanites like to expel. These are people who likely have been downtown once or twice in the last couple of years.

Yes, there is grocery shopping nearby, and I will walk the eight blocks to the store with no complaints. I will walk seven blocks to my ATM. The library is a mere walk through the Arcade. I can leave my building and choose from a variety of local restaurants for any meal, as well as several local coffee shops. I can easily bike to the Market or even skate to the lakefront.

There is everything of interest in my current life nearby.

And it fits.


Rob Pitingolo said…
Mel, thanks for sharing your story. One thing I’ve noticed about Cleveland is that twenty-somethings don’t seem to share the same enthusiasm about living 'in the city' as young people in other cities. When I think about graduating from college and potentially living in Cleveland, I get excited about possibly living downtown, but occasionally I get discouraged with friends that seem to have little or no interest in doing the same.
Darin said…
Cool story -- I enjoyed reading this. It reminds me of our situation in Atlanta. A few years ago my wife and I were living in a one-bedroom place in one of the inner suburbs of the city when our little boy was born. To get an extra bedroom we could have moved to one of the outer suburbs like so many parents do, but we love walkable urban areas so we ended up moving to the central urban area of Midtown in a condo that is in walkable distance to groceries, transit and parks. That fits for us too and I'm so glad we have had that option.

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