Richey Piiparinen at Rust Wire has a really interesting article about reverse gentrification in Cleveland. Basically, in the Rust Belt resident patterns are flipping normal patterns. With a declining population and huge home vacancy rates, African-Americans are leaving Cleveland for the suburbs because they see now as the time to snatch their piece of the American dream. Meanwhile, young college-educated white people are moving into the neighborhoods around downtown Cleveland because of their cool atmosphere and low housing prices. How low? You can buy this house with admittedly awful interior decoration (purple carpet!!!!) in the very cool Tremont neighborhood–for $32,000! Estimated monthly home payment–$117!!!!! And what can you do in Tremont? Walk to some very awesome bars, restaurants, and gastropubs. Spend time in super cool parks. Stroll around the neighborhood. It’s a great place. I would move to Cleveland in a heartbeat, easily the best city in Ohio if you get to know it. And young people are doing just that, turning it into a very underrated city on the American landscape. What’s actually happening is the creation of racially mixed neighborhoods. That may be the future, or it may not. I’m probably a little less sold on the Jay-Z theory of racial harmony than Piiparinen, but maybe we are seeing long-term changes in the the racial makeup of neighborhoods.
Don’t get me wrong–it’s not like Cleveland has any forward political and planning thinking on these matters. The city’s political leadership wishes it was 1955 again and are totally clueless in taking advantage of things that might help spur on the city’s revival, such as taking advantage of Obama’s Sustainable Communities Initiative to help create a more sustainable 21st century city. But there’s a lot of vested interests in northeast Ohio who are very uncomfortable making that happen.
Yet central planning rarely makes a great city–many of our greatest cities spring up organically and often because low property values attract alternative types (see Austin in the 1960s). And maybe a similar thing is happening in Cleveland.