If not feeling Uptown, don’t rule out downtown


Courtesy WikiMedia Commons

When Uptown fails to excite, don’t forget that downtown is just a short train ride away.

Euclid Avenue’s Uptown has never been as vibrant as it will be this fall. In my two years at Case Western Reserve University, I have often found myself trapped when choosing what to eat for dinner, debating which part of the roadway’s white, tall enclosure to visit. Seriously, this fall will be really confusing. I now have to decide between two sushi places, one that also serves burgers, while the other includes a bubble tea outlet. The excellent part about these shops is that they feel integrated with our campus; everyone else is not a customer, just a fellow classmate. We identify with these eateries and consider them our own.

That is where the problem begins. If to us they are simply part of the conglomerate, then to be at one of these places is just like staying at home.

After two years at CWRU, I believe that one cause of our campus’ unofficial motto, “there is nothing to do at here,” stems not from a lack of choices on Euclid Avenue, but a lack knowledge about how to get away from the campus area itself. Grueling college endeavors take a huge toll, and make us crave a simple evening away. While Little Italy and Coventry give us this in some fashion, they are still the neighbors of our neighbors.

The only remaining locale well known to the CWRU student is Tower City. But we don’t realize that the mall is just part of something greater. When you enter Tower City from the Red Line, you immediately take a right to the first escalator. The darkened cafeteria and even darker theater are often the destination. There’s no need to go left; the moving-steps go up one floor too many. From when you have accidentally end up there in the past, you know that the glowish orange-yellow of Tower City will give way to white light.

It’s the doorway that we are afraid to cross. It’s not scary because it’s unknown, it’s intimidating because we fear that there is nothing on the other side. To us, it’s just like the entrance to Grab It!; waiting to go through that line can really be pointless sometimes.

So one day in early June with a friend in tow, I crossed the threshold.

I knew that the orange-yellow glow of the mall would fade, but not what truly lay ahead of the golden-brown gateway that let daylight in. Therein lay a dilemma. I needed a destination, but it was impossible to think of one. If downtown was what I thought it was, then anything on Google Maps would only be fluff.  Fearing an overpriced meal or maybe just a lack of one, I ate at Tower City before leaving.

As for our conundrum, we realized that the only location that wouldn’t oversell itself was the lake. The second we exited Tower City, we would open our phone’s maps, and make a beeline to the blue.

We found our way through West 3rd St., a four-lane avenue that shot straight to the lake, after essentially going left out of Tower City. On the avenue is the tan mammoth of the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office along with various parking lots. Halfway through we could see the lake and taking a right at the Browns’ stadium, we found ourselves sitting behind the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Voinovich Bicentennial Park, while no bigger than our main quad, became the end of a change in setting I had needed during the year.

The next evening, I ended up at East 4th Street, a cozy pedestrians-only brick street five minutes to the right of Tower City. It’s crowded with bars, coffee shops and nice-looking restaurants. Along with two friends this time, I wounded my way past the outdoor seating areas, and ended up on Prospect Avenue, a four-lane roadway that felt busier, but smaller than CWRU’s Euclid. Heading east, we found a cluster of bars at the intersection with Huron road. While the food wasn’t exactly gourmet, it was still a tasty bar meal and I have craved The Clevelander’s burger since.

A few weeks later, my friend came over, and we found ourselves looking to downtown again. This time we took Superior Avenue and then East 9th Street. Some students may have already been to the Great Lakes Science Center; it is right next to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It’s really a place for children, but there was a neat exhibit in that basement that portrayed a braggart of a robotic arm solving a Rubik’s Cube. The center’s Omnimax theater plays reruns as well as science movies. “Batman Begins” in Omnimax was a great birthday present.

Before dinner, we took a fifteen-minute walk to West 6th, and relaxed outside at a Starbucks. We ended up eating near that block; restaurants surrounded the area. If we had wanted to go back to Tower City, it would have taken us a mere five minutes.

I had been wrong. To the CWRU student, Cleveland’s stereotypes might mark it a barren city and, once on campus, downtown seems like it would only contain corporate fodder. Ironically, the small size of Cleveland’s downtown makes it conducive to walk-only college students. If I superimposed the CWRU campus onto downtown, it would stretch from Tower City to the lake.

Spending an evening downtown is a time commitment and depending on what you do expensive, but that is what makes it different. Walking through it is a much-needed change in scenery. You can take the quick walk back to the mall to catch your dinner and movie.

Like a lot of my fellow classmates, I keep myself busy. I can’t see myself doing this more than once a month. For my other outings, I’m more than content with our new Euclid Avenue. For some this is not often enough, for others it’s too much, but being aware that the opportunity is present was necessary. Not knowing the existence of these locations made it difficult to see downtown’s benefits.

That is not that case anymore. That line has been crossed.

Kushagra Gupta spent part of the summer at CWRU. He has a feeling that he is really going to get into sushi this fall.