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A cultural mecca, for many

Posted August 18, 2014 in Articles

Author: Chrissy Kadleck

Trading their house in the suburbs for a three-story townhome in the heart of University Circle is just the residential about-face Fred and Nissa Franks plan to make this fall with their children.

The urban switch-up dovetails perfectly into the couple’s desire to drive less, walk more and offer their boys – 6 and 7 – an engaging homeschool education surrounded by arts and culture.

Living across from a baseball field doesn’t hurt either.

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Welcome to the fastest-growing employment district in Northeast Ohio and the city's fastest-growing residential neighborhood outside of downtown.

It's no surprise and certainly no accident that this square mile is in its third wave of growth and development, said Chris Ronayne, president of University Circle Inc., the nonprofit that has led the strategic advancement of University Circle by leveraging anchor eds, meds and arts organizations and helping to develop a spectrum of residential projects that capture a growing number of professionals, millennials and internationals. In fact, UCI is on track to accomplish its goal set in 2007 to create 1,000 new housing units in 10 years.

“It really is a showplace for re-energizing an urban community,” he said. “It's been strategic, building off improvements like the Euclid Corridor, building off the millennials' return to cities, building off internationals' interest in being a part of a transit-oriented neighborhood and working off strategic policy initiatives like the Greater Circle Living program to incent workers to live here.” The Greater Circle Living program offers one month's free rent or up to $30,000 in forgivable mortgage assistance to those who move to University Circle or adjacent neighborhoods.

Ronanye's more than proud to rattle off an impressive list of job and population gains that have been essential building blocks of University Circle's transformation into a vibrant mixed-use district that rivals coveted live-work-play metropolitan areas.

“This city feels like a cosmopolitan 21st century, diverse, international, transit-oriented walking city,” he said. “In our neighborhood of University Circle, you could be in Shanghai, you could be in New York, you could be in Chicago, you could be in Bogota, but you're in Cleveland. It's exciting.”

From 2000 to 2010, the area grew 17% from its base population and is now home to some 9,366 residents. Demographic trends show the area is drawing those who are younger and international, Ronayne said.

“But the reality is we are diverse in race and age, and we're one of the most diverse in the state of Ohio,” he said. Recent data from one new development in the area revealed that 95% of residents were from outside the state and coming to go to school or work at one of the institutions, and of that total, 25% are from out of the country.

Job growth in the “eds and meds” has led to an increasing population, according to Ronanye, who added that it's growth “we have captured in this marketplace by providing quality upscale new product or renovated product in an exciting neighborhood ... We think we're up over 50,000 employees now.”

Think physicians, nurses, researchers, specialists, university professionals, fellows, residents, hospital administrators and graduate students, among many others.

“Circulating in this district is what we call the complete neighborhood where everything can be accessed including a job in a 20-minute walk,” he said. “There are a lot of people living and working in the district who are attracted to a high-density, walking, transit-oriented neighborhood. We also have empty nesters and young professionals working downtown but living in the Circle.”

The Franks are a great example of that. Fred, 33, who works as the chief information officer for FIT Technologies downtown, said the couple was interested in moving closer to his job and slashing his long commute from Bath Township. Once they move into their University Place townhouse he plans to sell his car and take the RTA's HealthLine or bike to work.

Since Nissa, 31, homeschools their boys they had the freedom to buy in any nearby neighborhood without having to worry about proximity to public or private schools.

“We see it as a good investment and we really love the location because it's across from the Case campus. We have the cemetery behind us and it feels like there is a lot of green space over there and nice walkable streets,” Nissa said. “I can walk 10 minutes and be at the botanical garden, art museum or natural history museum. Everything that I could need is right out my front door. I could walk to Constantino's market. If I don't feel like making lunch I can go to Panera. Or if I am having a dinner party, I can go grab some flowers at the corner. It just seems simpler than getting the car out and loading in the kids.”

Original Article: http://www.crainscleveland.com/article/20140816/SUB1/308179992/a-cultural-mecca-for-many

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