Traveling has become different for me. Besides the simple fun of a change of scenery, I look at places in a new way. I enjoy the place for what it is and what it has, while I look for what that place does well. And how that idea can be used in and for Cleveland.
Last week I went back to Chicago, a city I’ve visited before and love. For the first time, I looked at what makes Chicago stand out.
Chicago is the model Midwest/Great Lakes/Rust Belt city that all others try to live up to. Not surprising looking at Chicago’s past. The city suffered from job and population loss and the transition away from industry that hurt so many other Rust Belt cities. Unlike those others, Chicago remained relevant and one of the most influential cities in the country.
So what sticks out?
Chicago’s geography is another aspect that allows us a good analogy. Like our own fair city, Chicago sits on a river and alongside a Great Lake. Where Cleveland has failed miserably in taking advantage of location, Chicago shines.
The Riverwalk, a series of pathways situated along the Chicago River, allows pedestrians a place to get away from the city streets for a picturesque stroll. Though closed for the season during my visit, a number of food stands are strung among the paths. Those same paths downtown workers used as office escapes during the day, runners dashed along for evening workouts.
Runners, as well as walkers and bikers, also take advantage of the trails on the shore of Lake Michigan. The Lakefront Trail stretches for miles and runs past notable Chicago landmarks. A number of parks are also found near the shore, linked by the trail. All together, these become a corridor of green allowing residents and visitors to enjoy the lake.
Cleveland’s development of the waterfronts always seems in flux, or coming soon. Right now there is some hope on the Cuyahoga with the recent addition of the aquarium, and the Towpath Trail extension currently under construction. Recent interest in the Detroit-Superior Bridge lower level is also encouraging.
But more can be done and not too out of the blue. Use this path to connect to Tower City and Gateway as well. Find ways to develop the lake and connect to that too. Imagine a path from Edgewater to the Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve, with offshoots down the Towpath and even to Wade Oval through the Cultural Gardens.
Then ask what can be added on the way to enhance the experience. Is that making it a series of parks and recreational opportunities, such as Chicago, or adding variety with commercial areas? With an open mind the options are limitless.
Chicago is famous for its architecture. A number of architecture tours run through the city. Foodies flock to the city for its culinary scene. Beyond the deep-dish and “dragged through the garden” hot dogs, it is a center of avant-garde cuisine in the U.S.
Chicago knows that it has something unique in these areas, and that this uniqueness brings people in. Cleveland can use that idea. Find ways to make the city unique. Find out what we can do, or what we have, and make it known to the world. Use what makes us different, and find ways to be different, in order to bring in that tourist trade.