About the street where we live

The elephant in the room

Every time a Healthline bus passes by on Euclid, look, and you will not miss the words “University Circle” written on its side. Among the other “Cleveland neighborhoods,” including Midtown, Downtown and East Cleveland, University Circle reminds us of the small area we call home. But what is University Circle?

Ask people in Cleveland about it, and the answers vary wildly. Most everyone knows about the university part, but even that is not a given. After all, Case Western Reserve University is a “Division III nerd school,” the way someone described it to me the other day. Some people are more likely to remember Cleveland State, despite CWRU’s couple-hundred-point advantage per US News.

Most everyone here has heard about University Hospitals. But leave the Northeast Ohio region, and all anyone knows is the Cleveland Clinic.

It would seem that most people even know about the Cleveland Museum of Art. But then again, when I arrived, I could not have accurately told anyone about the treasures inside.

University Circle is a lot more than those three anchor institutions. There are, of course, others: the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, the Western Reserve Historical Society and Severance Hall. But more than the institutions, there’s the culture. Little Italy remains one of the most culturally pure and authentic neighborhoods in the U.S. The existence of the university brings exciting new restaurant concepts that try to capture the attention of “young people.” A short drive away, Coventry, Cedar-Lee, Cedar-Fairmount and the Cultural Gardens provide vastly different locales and entertainment options.

So, we reach the question again. What is University Circle? It is the intersection of many different cultures. The median income in University Circle is only $14,000 (presumably due to the massive overabundance of students), but nearby the average incomes range from $12,000 in East Cleveland to nearly $40,000 in some of the Shaker-area suburbs. The University Circle population has different racial breakdowns as compared to any other area of the city—55 percent Caucasian, 23 percent African American, 18 percent Asian, according to the City of Cleveland. The districts surrounding University Circle, according to the City, are all more than 81 percent black, with the Glenville District to the North at nearly 97 percent.

But University Circle is not merely different from its surroundings either. A walk down Euclid Avenue from 115th to Stokes will obviously show that. At one end, eyes averted from East Cleveland, you are within view of new “uppity” installations like Piccadilly Artisan Creamery, a made-while-you-wait ice cream shop employing liquid nitrogen, or Crop Kitchen, a locally-sourced restaurant dedicated to “culinary responsibility.” But as you continue down the road, you run into “older” concepts and businesses that do not fit with the new residents of the neighborhood, things like Circle Convenience, Rascal House Pizza and Falafel Café.

And the culture of the neighborhood is changing. The newest additions all fall in the former category. New concepts like Trentina, the aforementioned Crop Kitchen and even Happy Dog, to some extent, cater to a more affluent audience than the rest of the nearby organizations. Add those to the already existing higher-scale restaurants in the area (L’Albatros, Washington Place, Mia Bella), and you can make an argument that the University Circle is an up-and-coming nouveau riche area. Then again, we face the reality that by all accounts, this area is generally “poor.”

There are quite a few facts here to review. University Circle, perhaps appropriately, is drastically different from any other area around it. Unless a student grew up on campus, it is safe to say that living here, let alone traveling off campus, is a new life experience. As the neighborhood continues to change—and it will—it is important to remember that the “culture” of our home is still in flux. Maybe the next few years will alter that, but as of now it is still up to us.

Andrew Breland, senior, writes a weekly Opinion column. Contact him at awb69@case.edu.