(Captain’s Note: The sudden emptying of Cleveland Park sparked some conversations between my pal Suburban Sweetheart who happens to live in the neighborhood. I invited her to share with us her unique take on the situation. I hope you enjoy and I encourage you to check her out. Well check out her blog at least- but she’s pretty cute too.)
I’m from the Cleveland area, so I know what it’s like to hear the hometown you love trashed by others who feel that their place of residence is superior to yours. Nearly everyone seems to hate “The Mistake on the Lake.” Haven’t you seen the videos? And believe you me: When King James (LeBron, of course) finally abandons the Cavs’ ship, you can bet our beloved city will resume its spot right back at the bottom of pile of Cities Other People Love to Not Live In.
But it’s a new Cleveland’s turn to be bashed – and I happen to live in this one, too. DC’s own Cleveland Park, once a bustling ‘hood full of local amenities & friendly faces is dying. Hey, it may even be dead – I declared it so in a blog post on my own site, Suburban Sweetheart, just days before local media outlets began reporting on the tragic & mysterious demise of Cleveland Park.
Our Cold Stone Creamery closed first, hanging a curious sign that read “Closed Until Further Notice,” though all the ice cream topping remained on the counters & the logo signs still hang in the windows. But that was just the beginning. Our friendly neighborhood stores have, one by one, closed up shopped & shipped right on out of Cleveland Park:
- The consignment shop went under soon after. My reaction? “Oh, hey, I’ll miss the weird shoe-shaped chairs you sometimes displayed on the sidewalk.”
- Next, Magruder’s farmers market went out of business, sending a ripple of fury across the Internets. “It’s an institution!” folks yelled, but were they giving that institution their patronage or buying their groceries at the nearby (cheaper) Brookville Market, like me? That’s what I thought.
- And then the unthinkable happened. Two bastions of consumerism & capitalism went under. In June, we said goodbye to Starbucks. In July, we bid adieu to 7/11.
- Two more are on their way out: Supercuts is taking off, and so is the tailor next to that vacant Cold Stone. Who’s next?
That makes for eight vacant storefronts in little old Cleveland Park, not a very large strip of neighborhood to begin with. (PS: If you were counting, you’ll only have noted seven closings, but an old McDonald’s has been vacant for five years.)
In fairness to remaining vendors, Cleveland Park still has lots going for it – t’ain’t no better spot for a blockbuster than the Uptown, & Brookville has the kosher meat market cornered. I eat at Paragon Thai weekly, indulge in Yogiberry closer to daily & live so close to the library that I hang my head in shame at my exorbitant fines.
But what gives? Some say Cleveland Park is racist; maybe this is our karma. Some say it’s the parking, but that hasn’t hindered growth in other neighborhoods. Some say the Cleveland Park Citizens Association charges too much for retail space, which seems like the most likely culprit. Will realtors & landlords be able to continue charge as much as they currently do for apartments in a neighborhood suddenly lacking in luster & amenities? Who pays $1,200 a month to live in a ‘hood void of Starbucks AND Slurpees? (Me, I guess.)
I moved to Cleveland Park because its subtle vibrancy & friendly, suburban feel made me feel like I could live an Ohioan’s life in a Washingtonian’s land. But as my adopted neighborhood begins to go under, I’m left wondering: Is it worth it? Take note, Cleveland Park. It’s time to reassess your value & reinvent yourself. As neighborhoods like Columbia Heights and Mount Pleasant gain go-to tenant traction, Cleveland Park is losing both its relevancy and its luster, & even the most devoted among us are beginning to reassess.