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Mission Possible: MidTown is transforming into Cleveland’s next hot spot

A five-year plan will change this pass-through commercial district into a vibrant, bustling, innovative neighborhood.

CLEVELAND — Last year, several international and local artists painted 20 murals in Cleveland’s MidTown. The project called Cleveland Walls beautified commercial buildings. It was part of a larger plan to transform the neighborhood. And it is working, the landscape of MidTown is changing.

Over the years, many have viewed Cleveland's MidTown from their cars while traveling to and from downtown and University Circle. But a transformation is underway.

“People driving through MidTown are going to see an incredible amount of development,” said Richard Barga, the managing director of MidTown Cleveland. “We have amazing projects happening, over a hundred million direct investment into our own neighborhood."

MidTown is at the intersection of neighborhoods such as AsiaTown, Hough, Central, Fairfax and downtown. A visionary plan would change it from a pass-through commercial district, into a destination community in five years.

"We've really outlined a number of different program areas that we've been working on to help reduce housing stress, create more parks and green space for our residents," said Barga.

The Cleveland Foundation's new headquarters is being built in the heart of MidTown, with a new focus on doing more with the community and not just for it.

"We looked at how we could engage with neighborhoods, particularly neighborhoods and communities that have been underserved. MidTown was at the top of the list," said Connie Hill-Johnson, the Chairperson of the Board of Directors for the Cleveland Foundation.

A first-floor café, artist space and community meeting area are part of the plan.

"People will feel drawn to coming in,” says Hill-Johnson. “They will know the design of it was very intentional the first floor is going to be open and transparent."

Even before they move in, change is underway right across the street. The MidTown Collaboration Center will house research and programming from major partners, including Case Western Reserve University, University Hospitals, a Hyland Software training center, and a Cleveland Institute of Art media lab.

"It was all about equity with the individuals too and the organization that had the same vision in terms of serving those neighborhoods and community members who are typically left out and typically left out and don't have access to what now is going to be in this new building," stated Hill-Johnson.

MAGNET is also building a new home, turning an old school building into a state-of-the-art operational manufacturing facility and education center, full of the latest technology.

"And then there is going to be students every signal day,” said Ethan Karp, the President and CEO of MAGNET. “We hope we get thousands of students coming on field trips to make remote-controlled cars and mix their own paint and see what this career could mean to them."

It's not just multi-million dollar projects, small business owners have their eye on midtown too, like Mary Johnson, owner of Vitiman Kandie Café.

"I'm super excited because the location I'm going into has 162 apartments that are like 90% rented out already," said Johnson.

Johnson started the café featuring vegan food, in a Glenville neighborhood incubator. She saw the potential of MidTown firsthand and is excited to open a second location.

"MidTown is going to allow me to have my own personal space with an outdoor patio. And also be able to use the space as a meeting hub or a place to rent,” said Johnson.

The excitement about MidTown is building as it recasts itself, from a pass-thru neighborhood to a vibrant destination.

“It is in the neighborhood that is absolutely on the rise. That’s why we are there, and we hope we are sparking something that’s really going to take off over the next 20 years,” stated Karp.

“This is the hot spot now. I would love to see this MidTown area be what University Circle was when it was starting to come to life,” echoed Hill-Johnson.

“I couldn’t be more excited about the future of MidTown,” said Barga.  

EDITOR'S NOTE: The video above previously aired on 3News on June 19, 2022.     

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