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A trip to Ohio City

Katie Kooser

Issue date: 9/10/10 Section: Focus
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[Click to enlarge]
Great Lakes Brewing Company, which serves up dinner in addition to its signature, award-winning brews, is located at the heart of Ohio City.
Great Lakes Brewing Company, which serves up dinner in addition to its signature, award-winning brews, is located at the heart of Ohio City.
[Click to enlarge]
One of Cleveland's oldest historic neighborhoods, Ohio City, lies west of the Cuyahoga River from Downtown. While university students may be familiar with the downtown area, few have taken the leap across the river (or, more efficiently, the ride on the RTA) to experience a neighborhood steeped in culture and tradition.

Jeffrey T. Verespej, Ohio City resident, CWRU alumnus, and director of operations and advocacy at Ohio City Near West Development, summed up what he considers Ohio City's key features, and touched on the neighborhood's history (it became independent in 1836 next to Cleveland, and remained an independent city until 1854)."The neighborhood has the most complete and impressive collection of Victorian-era homes in Cleveland, and that is what drew many people back towards its reinvestment in the 1970's," Verespej said.

CWRU senior Jasmine Jordan visited Ohio City as one of the Center for Civic Engagement and Learning's Civic Engagement Fellows this past summer. She remarked, "Although I am from Cleveland [proper], I did enjoy learning about the rich history of Ohio City." She also noticed the neighborhood's diversity - "I am not just speaking about diversity along racial and ethnic lines, but diversity among the types of housing properties." With over 9,000 people representing over 15 ethnic groups, the neighborhood has much to offer both residents and visitors - especially those interested in diversity, history, and unique shops, restaurants, and nightspots.

Verespej elaborated on Ohio City's most exciting features, which certainly warrant a visit: "It's a complete place. Its most well-known attraction is the West Side Market, named one of the top 10 public spaces in America for 2008 and the number-one food lover's market by the Food Network. Truly a sight to behold - culturally, gastronomically, and architecturally - especially on Saturdays, where you are likely to hear many languages and see food from all cultures, as it attracts over one million people per year."

Fans of the Great Lakes Brewing Company are no strangers to the neighborhood. As the 23rd-largest brewery in the United States, and Ohio's first and most award-winning microbrewery, GLBC is dedicated to serving world-class beers and, employing the "Triple Bottom Line" - a commitment to engage in economic, social, and environmental practices that achieve a sustainable yet profitable business.

The neighborhood's delicious food and drink repertoire does not end with the nationally known West Side Market and the Great Lakes Brewing Company, but continues with a plethora of delightful restaurants and eateries all around the neighborhood. For example, Momocho is a modern-Mexican restaurant that has also been featured on Food Network program Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Verespej says, "In addition to many restaurants that serve local food, such as ABC the Tavern, Bar Cento, GLBC, Flying Fig, Souper Market, et cetera, we have many community gardens where our residents grow food for their families and some that grow to sell commercially. Kentucky Gardens is one of the oldest and largest community gardens in Cleveland, and numerous CWRU staff members have plots there. What is most exciting, though, is the Ohio City Farm. This six-acre plot is the largest contiguous urban farm in the country and has been receiving national press. In its first season, it grew over 100 different heirloom varieties of vegetables and, through a unique partnership, has provided local produce for restaurants and work for refugees who have recently relocated to Cleveland."

A variety of activities occur in Ohio City throughout the year, including "Weekend in Ohio City" - one of the premiere 'home tours' in Cleveland that has been going on for over 20 years and attracts thousands of people every May. An annual Christmas Walk takes place in December, and the "Open Air in Market Square," a bazaar with music and vendors, is held every summer Saturday across the street from the West Side Market.

Whether you drop in for weekend or choose to stay for a lifetime, Ohio City has much to offer. The area is deceivingly accessible as well; a trip on the Rapid's Red Line, letting off at West 25th St., puts riders right across the street from West Side Market. Ohio City's dedication to historical preservation, urban farming, local produce, and unique markets and restaurants and to welcoming to all ethnicities and refugees is certainly reason enough for potential residents, students, and visitors to check out the neighborhood.
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