Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Cleveland's Dying Neighborhoods

Many of us who work in the city but live in the suburbs, find our way into the center of town each day along the well-traveled commuter routes. Most folks follow a freeway and avoid any close encounter with Cleveland's neighborhoods, the rest of us can drive downtown via one of the busy thoroughfares like Chester or Lorain Avenue, and curse the red-light cameras that interfere with our race with the minute hand toward our place of employment, or conversely back to the comfort of home and hearth.

Rarely will we venture off the main drag...Rumour has it, that could be dangerous.

As I make my daily trip from Cleveland Heights to Cleveland's near west side, part of my regular route to the Shoreway takes me through the east side neighborhoods of Cleveland along Eddy Road.

Lately, I have noticed more and more houses are being boarded up on the street, which is mostly residential. So this weekend I decided to take my camera on a little reconnaissance mission off my beaten path to see how the foreclosure crisis is affecting the Cleveland neighborhoods north of the Heights.

I drove around Glenville first, just a few blocks away from Case Western Reserve University, and was immediately struck by the number of commercial buildings that have been boarded. It appeared that far more storefronts are vacant than have businesses operating out of them.

The streets were very quiet Saturday morning as I traveled slowly up and down the blocks. The weather was bitter cold, so I stayed inside my car to take snap shots.

Several police cars raced past me, silently, while I sat curbside. I wondered what the hurry was at such an early hour. Driving around the corner to the next block, I found the answer to my question. About a dozen police cars surrounded a small boarded-up building. Officers, with guns drawn, scurried out of their vehicles. I paused mine a few moments to click the shutter a few times, then thought it prudent to move along.

What I saw as I drove up and down the side streets of Glenville and then South Collinwood, was truly heart rending. Some streets looked like ghost towns, filled with vacant houses. In only two hours my memory card was full. Nearly three hundred photographs of boarded-up houses.

Solid neighborhoods, busy with families decades ago, have been abandoned. Homes, once lovingly cared for, now scavenged by scrappers. The immensity of the problem has to be seen firsthand to be realized. And the experts say things will get worse before they get better.

How will my city ever recover?

This is a small sample of what I saw. Click on the photos above to enlarge the pictures.

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thatgirl said...

i drove through there a couple times this past weekend (one time through the central/quincy area and then glenville) and the same thing struck me as well.

being from the west side, i rarely get over to the neighborhoods on the other side, and it made me so sad to see what's been happening to these once life-filled areas over the years.

marybeth said...

People who don't travel into these neighborhoods don't realize how many homes are being boarded up. I'm starting to see the increase week to week. It's alarming.

Bill Barrow said...

My family passed through this area before WWII, living progressively eastward from East 65th to 152nd, and this was always a series of working-class neighborhoods, some better than others. Sad to see what poverty and mortgage scams have done to them.

You could put all or many of these shots up in Flickr and link back to your blog. The Cleveland-related group members could then see them.

Wendy Hoke said...

This is tragic, Marybeth, but nice job bringing it to everyone's attention. I travel from west to east and have often thought of doing the same kind of thing. Thanks for taking the time.

Dave said...

You can see the same thing happening on the near west side. I live around Lorain and West Blvd and on my "nice" street, the house next to me is now abandoned, but not yet boarded, another house, two houses down, is abandoned and the roof of the garage has caved in. There is another boarded up house about 5 houses away. And I just bought this house two years ago and thought I was moving into a nice neighborhood. This city is dying and I don't think anyone can save it. I'm moving in summer after I sell my house for a tremendous loss.

Bill Barrow said...

On the other hand, we're reading in the PD that the suburbs may be facing a reverse demographic of retirees, empty nesters and new urbanites moving into the city. If so, then we may be witnessing the recycling of inner city neighborhoods, clearing spaces for new, high-end infill construction that can already be seen in some areas. The housing bust and mortgage crisis won't go on forever and this may partially be a necessary step in a cycle of rejuvenation. I'm trying not to be too much of a Pollyanna about our problems, which are severe, but I do think 6 quadrillion gallons of fresh water, a moderating climate and a host of top-drawer cultural amenities aren't to be ignored in forecasting our future. Sure, it's sad to see old Cleveland doubles decaying, but it would be sad to see people sell at the bottom of the market, too.

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