Arts and parks, lots of jobs and a touch of Italy - all within a walk in and around University Circle
Posted October 09, 2023 in Articles
Author: Paris Wolfe, Cleveland.com
The University area of Cleveland’s East Side is a little less than 2 square miles with multiple microcosms within.
There’s University Circle and it’s world-class cultural and arts institutions next door to Little Italy, known perhaps mostly for its unique collection of restaurants and shops along Mayfield Road. Plus there’s Case Western Reserve University and major health care facilities with their many jobs, a variety of greenspaces and more throughout.
The residential supply contains new condos, apartments and large historic homes. That housing ranges from affordable to luxury. Strolling the neighborhood, visitors can experience historical architectural styles and modern buildings – both commercial and residential -- next door to each other.
Janice Gerda, who works at Case Western Reserve University, moved to an apartment in the area, seven years ago. “The biggest pragmatic advantage is that my work ‘commute’ is, on foot, about 10 minutes, and involves walking past Wade Lagoon of the Cleveland Museum of Art and past iconic architecture,” Gerda said.
“Beyond the commute, it is truly wonderful to live and work among the cultural institutions and gardens of University Circle. I try very hard to not take it for granted. In the summer on days when the art museum is open late, instead of walking directly home, it is a short detour to walk through the museum, eat dinner at the cafe, and visit a favorite gallery.”
This is part of a series of stories from cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer exploring Cleveland’s neighborhoods. Follow ongoing coverage at Get to Know Cleveland’s Neighborhoods.
“Sometimes I take a book and read in the Cleveland Botanical Garden or visit the otters at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History,” she says. “For an orchestra concert, I can decide to go at the last minute and still be seated in time for the first notes, and be home before the rest of the audience has gotten out of the parking garage.”
And Gerda just barely touches on the entertainment, cultural and education opportunities in the area.
Kate Borders, the new president of University Circle Inc., reinforces Gerda’s observations. Borders is new to Cleveland. She moved from Tempe, Arizona, to Northeast Ohio in May to take the University Circle job.
“You can be in this neighborhood and get a world-class education, eat amazing food, treat health problems,” says Borders “You can get all of that taken care of right here. There’s a full system to live and thrive.”
Borders anticipates that development may slow down.
“It feels to me like we’re built out,” she says. “It’s hard to have massive development where the land is already taken by existing properties. There’s not a lot of room for growth. We’re tweaking the assets we have. Because everything is so built out, an organization like ours will play a big role in connecting spaces.”
University Circle is more than the built environment. It has an engaged diverse and vibrant population. Becky Voldrich, senior director of communications and events for UCI, references the expansive programming done by various groups, including Parade the Circle by the Cleveland Art Museum, ice skating in the winter, the Feast of the Assumption in Little Italy and so much more.
“It feels to me like a neighborhood that’s evolving,” says Borders. “It has a beautiful history.”
Part of the broader development scheme, and an effort to connect spaces in the community, will be the new Martin Luther King Jr. branch of the Cleveland Public Library. Not far from the current branch library, the new one is planned to open in 2024 on Euclid Avenue between Stokes Boulevard and East 105th Street. The new library will occupy the first two floors of a 10-story building. The upper floors will be apartments known as Library Lofts.
“It’s going to be much larger than we have there now,” says Jean McFarren, director of library innovation. “The MLK campus will be the regional anchor on the East Side with more space, more meeting rooms and more opportunities.”
Little Italy is a neighborhood inside the University neighborhood. It started in the late 19th century when Giuseppe Carabelli opened a sculpting and stone masonry business and brought employees from the Abruzzi region of Italy. Their friends and family joined them in the area south of Lake View Cemetery. Soon the area was dominated by people of Italian ancestry.
Today, the area is crowded with shops and mostly Italian restaurants that attract people from around Northeast Ohio, especially on weekends. Italian culture and pride are still visible around the Mayfield and Murray Hill crossroads.
For a more personal look into the University area take one of the CircleWalk tours through the neighborhood. You’ll explore the unique history through 40 stops. From parks to museums and more these are some of the most iconic and important places in the entire city.
Visitors can park once and use the CircleLink – a free shuttle -- to travel among destinations in the neighborhood.
Underground Railroad: Dating back to 1853, the Cozad-Bates House is University Circle’s only remaining pre-Civil War building and a link in the Underground Railroad.
Wade Park Zoo: Wade Oval once housed the Wade Park Zoo. It was Cleveland’s first zoo and exhibited bears, lions, deer, sea lions, elks, rabbits and other animals.
The Glidden House: The Glidden House, a historic boutique hotel, started as the 1910 home of Francis K. Glidden, heir to the Glidden Varnish Company.
Lake View Cemetery: At the eastern edge of Little Italy, Lake View Cemetery is modeled after 18th-century garden cemeteries of Europe. Founded in 1869, it covers 285 acres and has more than 108,000 people buried there including President James A. Garfield and former Cleveland Mayor Carl B. Stokes, the first black mayor of a major American city. The cemetery spans portions of Cleveland, Cleveland Heights and East Cleveland.Back to News