My wife and I are planning a family move in 2018, relocating from Denver to Cleveland. There’s no one thing that’s pushing or pulling us, really. Many things aligned to make this a good time to consider a move. She went to college at Case Western Reserve University, so she has some familiarity with the city. She’s always had good things to say about it. Until recently though, I had the typical outsider attitude: “Rust Belt city? Why would I be interested in that?” We weren’t planning a move from Denver, and even if we were — I wasn’t interested in any Midwest city.
A musician friend from Denver moved there last year and I didn’t notice. But this summer, she posted something on Facebook along the lines of “I expected to tolerate it, but I actually love it.” My interest was piqued. And the more I looked into it, the better it sounded.
As of August 2018 my wife and I have talked it through repeatedly, done a bunch of research, and spent some time in Cleveland. We have decided to move our family there. Below are the reasons. (For why I’m ready to leave Denver, see here.)
Cleveland has everything you want in a city. A big, beautiful, clean, vibrant downtown area, loads of theaters and free museums, good transit (including lightrail), a diverse economy, and lots of little pockets of interesting things to do, see, and eat .
I work with software in the aerospace domain, and a number of my peers work in or near Cleveland. The NASA Glenn Research Center is located in Cleveland, and the Plum Brook research center is just fifty miles west. There are several great universities in the area, as well as numerous technology companies and large (Fortune 500) companies with internal software teams. Cleveland was a center for technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship long before internet technologies were even conceived. That spirit is still strong.
Arts and Culture
Since the early days of the Rockefeller empire (John D. started Standard Oil in Cleveland) and the industrial revolution, wealthy patrons have invested heavily in arts and culture for the city, and have made it a point to keep most things free for the public. Cleveland’s art museum and symphony are both among the best in the world, and downtown boasts Playhouse Square, which is the largest performing arts center in the US, outside of NYC. It has an excellent zoo and aquarium, as well.
Outdoor Activities Abound
The city’s Metroparks system is large and beautiful. The city manages 18 park reserves, 8 lakefront parks, and 300 miles of all-purpose hiking and biking trails. The system also includes eight golf courses, five nature centers, and an excellent zoo. The beautiful Cuyahoga Valley National Park is at the city’s doorstep just 20 miles to the south, and there are countless state parks, lakes, rivers, and other adventures available within a 2-3 hour drive from the city. Even more remote mountain adventures lie just 4 hours east in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny National Forest.
Cleveland has a thriving food scene, with many locavore and farm-to-table options . The excellent West Side Market which has been operating since 1840 and is home to over a hundred vendors offering meats, seafood, fruits, vegetables, baked goods, dairy, flowers, sandwiches, and more.
When we visited this summer, we ate dinner at a restaurant which sources 80% of its food from small sustainable farms within 150 miles of the city. A large portion of the menu features food grown on their farm in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and the back of the menu features a map showing where specific ingredients are grown on the farm.
Home prices in and around Cleveland are low, especially compared to our current home (Denver). Prices dropped significantly in 2008 and have not fully recovered. They continued to fall until 2012, then stayed flat into 2016. 2016 and 2017 saw a significant uptick in Cleveland and surrounding suburbs [3,4,5]. Even in the most desirable neighborhoods, prices for a modest, quality home in the Cleveland metro area are under $200k.
When we visited in August of this year, we were able to verify this in person. We saw very reasonable prices for a solid 4-bedroom home in good condition, all over the city. Of course, bigger houses and more desirable neighborhoods are (relatively) more expensive, but they are all pretty reasonable compared to Denver. We found lots of great meals for $10-15 (versus $20+ in Denver).
Close to Family
Most of my wife’s family is not far to the west, in Toledo Ohio. If they were elsewhere, I am sure we wouldn’t have looked so closely at Cleveland and I might be more resistant to the prospect of northern Ohio winters. We have been in Colorado quite a while, and we’ve already gotten through the most exhausting diaper and preschool years with our kids. However, we’re pretty excited to have easier access to grandparents, family reunions, and just the general enjoyment of having our kids grow up knowing their cousins. All the doting from aunts, uncles, and others is certainly nice, too. We’ve been raising these kids solo for six years and we’re looking forward to some village support. Besides, we already spend Christmas and part of the summer here.
A New Adventure
There’s something nice about enjoying a thing that’s great but not yet popular. That quirky hole-in-the-wall restaurant with a great reuben, or that crazy band with the tuba that was just passing through on their way from New Orleans to California, or just a quiet, unexpected bench on the forest path. There’s a special joy to be had, with a thing you love… that you’ve discovered on your own — not because of a giant billboard or a huge crowd. For me, that’s Cleveland.
If you’d like to learn more about my current thoughts on Denver, see the companion post “Why I’m Leaving Denver.”
Sources “Cleveland, once call the Mistake on the Lake, is on the cusp of cool.” July 2017, LA Times, http://www.latimes.com/travel/la-tr-cleveland-20170716-story.html
 “Hot new dining city: Cleveland?!”, 2017, LA Times, http://www.latimes.com/travel/la-trw-trvmain3-wk3-story.html
 “Home prices up in most Cuyahoga County towns in 2016”, January 2017, Cleveland.com, http://www.cleveland.com/datacentral/index.ssf/2017/01/home_prices_up_in_most_cuyahog_3.html
 “Cleveland home price analysis finds 2016 sales topping $100,000 in several neighborhoods”, January 2017, Cleveland.com, http://www.cleveland.com/datacentral/index.ssf/2017/01/cleveland_home_price_analysis.html
 “Cleveland Home Prices and Values”, July 2017, Zillow, https://www.zillow.com/cleveland-oh/home-values/