In Cleveland, They’re Cooking Up a Gay Neighborhood From Scratch

Oct 28, 2022 · 157 comments
Mark (OC CA)
This is somewhat interesting, but.... The demographic is, at most, 10% of the population. Can you survive on that? This is an honest question, because while I don't really care who does what with or to whom, as long as it's consensual, do I really want to spend money in a place that's going to annoy me with loud music and drag? Not my thing. Maybe it's yours, and that's fine. But I still have to wonder whether the demographic is large enough. IF or when the attempt fails, don't go down the road of "bigotry" or "homophobia." If you don't appeal to a large enough swath of the average population, well, you'll fail. This is how the market works, as it should.
teresa (Eugene, Oregon)
@Mark I can see how "loud music" can be annoying, but why does the manner of someone else's dress annoy you? Serious question. How does it affect you? Does it make you have troubling thoughts that you're unable to manage? Are you afraid of men in make-up or pretty dresses for some reason? Why judge? There are lots of people who are hurting others, by their actions or words. Let's leave our judgements for those who intentionally hurt others.
Scott (NYC)
@Mark 10% of the population is 33 million people. That's about 4 times the size of New York City. By way of comparison there are only 25 million children under the age of 5 in the US. Think about the vast economy that small group of babies and toddlers generates in the US with dedicated clothing, furniture, toys and books, even daycare. It's a huge market. I think this sort of thing is sustainable.
akamai (New York)
@Mark This is exactly why you need the concentration that Lakewood is trying for.
Judi (North Carolina)
Love it!
Bones (OH, USA)
Gemerally, this project consists of a performance venue that was an early 20th century theatre, some storefronts, a fieldhouse for athletic activities, a community garden, and several restaurants. That's it. It's not "creating" a neighborhood. It's accenting the neighborhood that is already there. It's just on the Lakewood side of the Cleveland/Lakewood border. The area has had a higher than average share of gay folks for decades. Lakewood is very welcoming to gays - our current State House Rep is gay. Lakewood is the most densely populated city between NYC and Chicago - 50K people in 5 square miles. There's plenty of "neighborhoods" and "community" already here. This development just adds to the choices.
Note (Metro Philadelphia)
I wish Lakewood well. But the fate of so many similar communities is that LGBT people have done the heavy lifting to reclaim a dilapidated area, and gotten priced out by gentrification. I hope that cycle doesn't repeat here.
Joe (Ohio)
There has been a large gay population in this neighborhood for decades so I'm not sure what's going on. Gays have been welcome since the late 60s- early 70s. Cleveland hosted the International Gay Games in 2014 and it has always had many gay bars. A lot of gay bars have closed in recent years, but other than that I'm not sure why they need this development. I'm not against it. My son stopped in Saturday and said the joint was hopping with a huge Halloween party.
G. Yeung (Lakewood)
The area where the Fieldhouse is built needed development, it is the first phase of the project to revitalize the area near the border with Cleveland. I look forward to the next phase where the developers will develop the properties adjacent to the Fieldhouse which includes the Phantasy night club.
NolaT (Pass Christian MS)
The gays should really focus on taking over a whole state. I vote for Mississippi. Lots of farmland, inexpensive, good industrial base, resources, beautiful coastal areas, and would not take too many new voters to wrest state government from the current party in power.
Fran (Portland, Or)
I'm disappointed the story neglected to mention the preferred pronouns used by each source in the story.
Scott (Seattle)
I'm a professional Gay landscape gardener and have been self- employed for 40 years. I would join this effort in a heartbeat and enjoy it so very much. I also cook. Celebrate diversity and observe how much fun it could be to evolve and be artistic if you get the opportunity. I love being around Queers. What ever Letter they choose to be. GO CLEVELAND!!!
MCM (Ohio)
@Scott I moved from Seattle to Cleveland in 2020 and I've never had a better quality of life than I do now. This lil city on the shores of Lake Erie is scrappy and proud and a great place to live.
Suzanne F (Upper Upper Manhattan)
Is it just me, or does this seem like ghettoization?
G. Yeung (Lakewood)
Building a place for a community to meet, play and celebrate does not make a ghetto. There is already a notable LGBTQ population in Lakewood. Revitalizing an area that needed development is a good idea.
Maybe (US)
@Suzanne F I think in some ways it is just you, respectfully. People need communities to feel safe and create their own versions of success. You are right; we can hardly limit these "walls" or keep diversity from anywhere else. We need our own and we all need each other too.
John Robert (Baltimore)
I recall some years ago Detroit making a big push to do something similar with ads in papers and other publications with a gay target audience. I doubted it would succeed, and i haven't seen anything about it since then. Here in Baltimore and I hear elsewhere, the gay bars, which are the defining feature of a gayborhood, are nearly extinct. They may be victims of the quarantine. My younger friends tell me it's more the result of online hookup sites making the bars obsolete.
Blossom (The Buckeye State)
@John Robert As many commenters have said, Lakewood has been known as a gay friendly community since at least the 80s. No need to try to attract gay people to Lakewood, because they are already there.
EastBayMan (Georgia)
The gay community has a track record of successes in gentrifying under run communities. They did it in San Francisco, Florida, Canada and other places. They know how to build a community that supports each other, that is visually appealing and that all people (regardless of gender affiliation) love and respect. Great shops, great restaurants, great entertainment and, of course, a great look. I hope this works out for the Cleveland suburb.
Scott (Seattle)
@EastBayMan DC Gays pushed east from Dupont Circle and expanded the fabulousness.
Joe (Ohio)
@EastBayMan There's been a gay neighborhood in this area for decades. This article makes it sound Cleveland lives in the dark ages. Cleveland hosted the Gay Games in 2014! We are also not much of a working class city anymore with The Cleveland Clinic being the largest employer.
Maybe (US)
Good for you all, my home town. Proud to hear of such a concrete, well thought-out welcome. This story made me feel happy!
Kensluck (Ft. Florida)
Lakewood, Ohio, it appears to me to have been a gay community for a couple of decades and now new developers are putting money into new venues for positive results. This is very similar of Wilton Manors in the Fort Lauderdale, Fl. area. Gays moved into Wilton Manors beginning about 30 years ago. It is now a thriving and much improved city within a city thanks to the gays. Gay Investors have opened new businesses, restaurants, sports bars, gyms, theaters next many older gay establishments. The Police department and City Municipal buildings and parks are all brand new thanks to this thriving gay community. I will say that gays are as diverse as the rest of humankind and Wilton Manors is just as typical of that as I am sure Lakewood is. This article pictorially seems to focus on the drag and trans aspects of gayness but should also have included the rest of the gayborhood; the sports gays, the leather gays, bears, cubs, the lesbian ladies, theater gays, the gay parents, fathers and mothers and their children, and yes even the straights that live among them. That is what you'll see on a typical day in Wilton Manor and I'm sure you'll see the same in Lakewood, Ohio. Congratulations to Lakewood and their many new enterprises. May they prosper and thrive into the future and be free from harassment.
Tony Mannicotti (Utqiagvik Alaska)
I remember when the West Village and then Eighth Avenue between 14th and 23rd was a gay neighborhood in New York which was later overshadowed by Hells Kitchen as gay community responds to housing availability and pricing in different neighborhoods. Which leads me to wonder if Cleveland can really create a "gay neighborhood" with staying power or if same forces will be at play there.
Joe (Ohio)
@Tony Mannicotti We've had a gay neighborhood here for 50 years so I'm not sure the purpose of this development. It sounds great, though, and I'm all for it.
Purple Spain (Cherry Hill, NJ)
I think it is a charming idea that people of Lakewood are creating a gayborhood. Enjoy it while it lasts. As soon as the neighborhood is cleaned up and gay restaurants, bars, and boutiques open up, straight real estate speculators will move in and drive up the property values and rent and drive the gay people out because they can no longer afford to live in the community they created.
Blossom (The Buckeye State)
@Purple Spain I live in the Cleveland area, although I am an east sider - Lakewood is west side. Lakewood has been gentrifying for years now. The average house in Lakewood sells for $280k, well above the average sales price in Cuyahoga County. The large Lakewood homes on Lake Erie go for $500k and up. The article calling Lakewood working class isn't entirely accurate.
G. Yeung (Lakewood, OH)
As a Lakewood resident, I love how this city is in the spotlight for positive civic developments. Lakewood has long been a welcoming city for many people. It is notable that the first LGBT State representative to Ohio's general Assembly Nickie Antonio lives in Lakewood and served in its city council before she won state-level office. Another item of note is that not far down the street is A Place for Us which is the first senior living development that caters to aging LGBTQ individuals so they can live independently and not have to hide their identity. While there is concern about gentrification I think the Fieldhouse will be a wonderful place for all people to be in the community. The Fieldhouse itself is a nice facility and is a nice reuse of the existing buildings in an industrial block on the east side of Lakewood near the border with Cleveland. My wife and I went to Muse for our anniversary celebration and we admired the decor which shows the industrial structure of the building while we were not fans of the loud music playing in the restaurant the staff was very accommodating and helpful. We had an order of paella with chimichurri beef which was flavorful and wonderfully presented. Our dinner including an appetizer a main course for 2 and 2 well drinks totaled $60 which is not bad for a night out.
A.L. (Chicago)
I foresee a boom across the Midwest this century. Beautiful lakes and forests, cool old housing, land for new housing, plentiful water resources, and - so far - no fire or hurricane season. And for those of you who hate the cold, the winters are (sadly due to climate trends) notably warmer now. A few Midwest states still allow women to make medical decisions for themselves. Maybe an influx of new folks can help to keep it that way.
Bob Williams (Texas)
Only about 10 states allow women to make medical decisions for themselves when it comes to physician assisted suicide. Thanks to the Supreme Court decision of RBG and other anti-choice justices, Washington v Glucksberg women in about 40 states have to suffer under mostly-male legislators dictating what they can and cannot do with their own bodies.
c (Pennsyltucky)
Hasn't Lakewood always been gay?
Krissy (Brooklyn)
@c It was actually in the original edition of Trivial Pursuit. For real. The question was something like "What is the gayest city per capita?" I tried to find the exact question online, all I could find was somebody saying it was a hoax, but it wasn't. I can confirm that we discovered it playing the game as a kid, and we were thrilled when our friend read the answer, as Lakewood was within biking distance of our house, and we thought it was so cool.
Joe (Ohio)
@c Lakewood has been gay for 50 years at least.
Sonia Wegel (Chesterland, OH)
@c Lakewood has been known for having at least one neighborhood with a large gay population, the Gold Coast, since the 70's. But Lakewood has never been majority gay. It may just be more welcoming than a lot of the other suburbs of Cleveland.
Padonna (Berlin)
I have to think of the Will & Grace episode "Sour Balls" (19th episode of the seventh season and the 165th overall): Stuck in the Middleborough "Jack takes Will to see the up-and-coming gay neighborhood Middleborough, planning on owning property. While admiring a potential house, Jack reveals that he had already bought it using some money from Will, making them co-owners. However, they soon realize Jack had made a mistake and they are actually in the wrong neighborhood. "The townspeople come over and express excitement for their neighbors, stating that "when the gays come, the property values shoot up". When Will tells them they had made a mistake and are not actually staying, the townspeople threaten them and force them to stay by showering them with gifts and treats."
music observer (nj)
@Padonna *lo*. I forgot that episode, but it is very true. A good friend of mine is from Chicago, and he said the mayors office had a liason group to the gay community, that basically was there to encourage them to settle in areas of Chicago to help stablize them. Gay men especially are willing to live in marginal areas (often I will add through economic necessity ie cheap living costs; despite the stereotype, lot of gay folks aren't rich). When gays moved into the west village, which started well before WWII, the area was a kind of run down, bohemian area. When they started moving to Chelsea when the village became too chic, it again was a kind of gritty place. Asbury Park in NJ is another area like that, known as south bronx by the sea for how rundown it was. The sad irony of course is once the gays help establish the neighborhood, it generally becomes the land of condos, expensive houses and sky high rents, and they move to another place. In the mid 70's my uncles, in the construction business, could have gotten buildings for like 20,000 dollars in the west village, today they would be worth 30 million.
Padonna (Berlin)
@music observer I always thought that this would be a good marketing campaign for North St. Louis: attracting the gays who have been priced out of Chicago. St. Louis is FANTASTIC -- museums to rival the Met, a central park to rival Central Park, Central West End to rival Central Park West. Anybody with contacts to Mayor Tishaura Jones?
Bill (Cleveland)
Nice article but it’s a bit misleading as this has been a gay area for decades. 
Kathy White (Las Vegas)
Good for Cleveland!!
ESG (WI)
I sort forgot drag was subversive, because it's everywhere these days. But this comment section snapped me back to reality. A lot of folks still can't handle the thought of someone playing around with gender, apparently.
A Patriotic American (USA)
While I whole kindheartedly support the effort to 'normalize' LBGTQ lifestyles, and the related creation of enclaves they will feel comfortable in, it's a stretch to put this article in the Food Section. Lifestyle? Yup....Food Section? Not a good placement.
Kensluck (Ft. Florida)
@A Patriotic American Maybe the Business Section. They are opening new businesses to better a community.
Gery Katona (San Diego)
Well, gay people are disproportionately creative and educated, so it could be a good way to revitalize an area.
Joe (Ohio)
@Gery Katona That neighborhood has been gay for decades. It's a nice development, though.
NoOneKnows (San Francisco)
I think these developers must have just left their cocoon. We have gay marriage legalized. We don’t need segregated gay communities. Keep the restaurants and food farms and loose the LGBTQ segregated community. It is 21st century.
Mr. Bentley (East Side)
@NoOneKnows . . . You do realize that not all of us "gays" admire or desire the boring monogamy that marriage implies, or the stultifying tedium of social media coupling, right?
Chris (CbusOH)
@NoOneKnows it's not legally segregated lol... it's a neighborhood catering to the lgbtq community.. where they can and will be comfortable in their own skin. believe it or not, there are certain sections of this country who would make them feel very unwelcome.
Kensluck (Ft. Florida)
@NoOneKnows If the rabid right has its' way they may be segregating us into separate communities in the very near future. They are even threatening gay marriage.
Gerard GVM (Germany)
"...visitors scarfed down burgers with goat cheese..." Couldn't they have just eaten them?
Jack (Midwest)
Always great to see more development and cities now more openly embracing LGTBQ dollars. Follow the money. We can either chose to be poor homophobes or rich and inclusive... Cleveland is quite an underrated city in my opinion from my time when I lived in Ohio. Columbus definitely gets the lion's share of attention, but there's a quaint, homey feel to Cleveland that I enjoyed when I visited.
John Marus (Tucson, AZ)
@Jack Look at Boys Town in Chicago. Thriving and many very successful businesses.
Jack (Midwest)
@John Marus Yes, I'm aware of it, but we're talking about Ohio cities.
Pathfox (Kansas)
Love this! How ironic that Lakewood is on Cleveland's conservative west side. :)
Tim (Cleveland)
Lakewood and the other northwest suburbs have voted for each democratic presidential candidate by significant margins this century. What an absurd comment.
Mike (Chicago)
@Pathfox Despite what this article would have you believe Lakewood has been known as a gay enclave since at least the 1980s.
Blossom (The Buckeye State)
@Tim Fellow Clevelander and Dem here. It's absolutely not absurd. The majority of Dems in Cuyahoga County do indeed live on the east side. That's a fact. Of course, that's mainly due to the east side having the largest black population in the county, vs the west side being predominantly white.
damon walton (clarksville, tn)
Communities thrive when they lay down roots and welcome all who want to live in harmony with their neighbors.
Sam (Stanford)
This writer appears to not have done any historical research, as Lakewood has been a gay enclave since at least the 1970s when my parents had their first apartment there. Acting like a developer wanting to play up Lakewood's queer side--which has been there as long as I remember--is somehow the "birth" of LGBTQ awareness in Cleveland is completely getting the story wrong.
W.R. (Santa Fe)
@Sam Agreed.
AB (Brooklyn)
“That means amenities that are affordable and appeal to families, with an emphasis on food.” But gay. This is laughable. Developers don’t make neighborhoods. You end up with silly facsimiles.
R. David Heileman (Berea, Ohio)
@AB The neighborhood already exists (and in fact, has for years). This is just a move to help further solidify it and provide it with a focal point.
Rick (Seattle)
This article gives me hope.
Howard G (New York)
Back in the mid-seventies - I spent two summers living in Cleveland - in the University Circle area - while studying with a member of the great Cleveland Orchestra - an opportunity for which I am eternally grateful -- However - Cleveland on a sweltering July summer Sunday afternoon in 1974 -- At least I also got to see the Yankees play the (the) Indians in that cavernous stadium they used to play in - And I have the stripes to prove it ...
Davarino (Cleveland, OH)
@Howard G However - Cleveland on a sweltering July summer Sunday afternoon in 1974 -- But no hurricanes, fires, earthquakes, excessive heat, very few tornados/floods, plus the most and best water anywhere. Four distinct enjoyable seasons. Ever been to Texas or St. Louis in summer? Many will come north in coming decades.
RichPFromDC (Washington, DC)
Nice stereotyping of LGBTQ culture with that mainpic of a drag show. Is that really the most substantive and accurate symbol of LGBTQ culture? Doesn't that outrage LGBTQ people?
Rick (Seattle)
Drag queens are often the most ostracized members of the community, and by nature, are the ones to fight back first. In this uplifting article, it's interesting that is what you focus on.
Seán M Hingston (New York City)
The LGBTQ community is a culture that accepts everybody. Even curious and/or critical straight folks. Everyone is celebrated in equality through love of our fellow man. I’m an atheist but I think Jesus would have approved.
Annalee (Bay Area)
@Rick Just as an aside to the comment about the drag queens, media and society does seem to "privilege" the images and presence of transgender women over those of transgender men and I wonder why that is? More interesting somehow in that there is more to do to present oneself as a woman? (i.e. makeup, hair, clothing) The transgression by a "privileged" male into less "privileged" female status?
WillDaBeast (DC)
I am grateful that the author is taking the time to write about a unique and interesting project in Cleveland. I support my home city and I support the LGBTQ community! However, as many others have pointed out, why are we celebrating the efforts to profit by a wealthy few, including the wealthy son of the chief executive of the county?  Once again, the real headline should be “Wealthy entrenched developers figure out an area of need and interest, and capitalize on it with expensive project”. 
Steven Miller (Boston)
@WillDaBeast Right. We wouldn't want people with money to invest in bettering the situation of less fortunate people. That would be immoral.
WillDaBeast (DC)
@Steven Miller How are rich, politically connected people profiting from real estate development "Bettering the situation of less fortunate people"? (And I know of what I speak. Mr. Budish the elder prepared my parents' estate back when he was not-so-famous.)
LucyDog (Boston MA)
I love Cleveland!!! the Art Museum, R&R Hall of Fame, the people, the lake; Lakewood is a cool area. As a young girl, I loved all the Bonne Bell cosmetics; I think based in Lakewood. And yes, gays are always economic drivers for any city looking to reclaim some of its former glory and that wants to grow its population. This complex sounds awesome. RE in sections of metro Cleveland would just blow your mind as far as being affordable. Nice story.
Dave The Magnificent (Here and there)
@LucyDog This. The fact that the LGBTQ+ community wants to go to Cleveland and leave their stamp there is a positive thing for a city that could use some more positivity. I don't understand all the haters posting here; some of them sound like they all read The Handmaid's Tale and took it as an instruction manual.
MA (Cleveland, Ohio)
I lived in Lakewood for 10 years and it has long been a gay enclave in the Edgewater area. Prior to that, I lived in German Village in Columbus which has one of the largest gay communities in the Midwest. My husband and I did not choose to live in gay communities rather we found gay communities so much more appealing than suburban tract neighborhoods. I highly recommend having gay neighbors, dining in gay establishments, and residing in a gay neighborhood even if you are straight. And, by the way, I know many avid gay sports fans who are decked out in team logos and flying the colors of their team. I also know many of them who are Republicans.
macrol (usa)
@MA good post . Who wouldn't want to live in this neighborhood is the question .
Ginger (Lakewood, CO)
From Lakewood, CO; good stuff! Anywhere that people feel safe, nurtured and loved!
srwdm (Boston)
Can we ask a simple direct question— WHY has the word "gay" (we have too few words like gay and joy) been allowed to be expropriated (with of course the crucial consent of the major media)? What is wrong with the term homosexual? It is straightforward and accurate. As is the phrase "same sex orientation". [And of course there is a magnificent array of permutations and combinations, as there is in any human behavior or characteristic.]
Stephen (OH)
@srwdm The word "gay" is still used to denote "joy." Words often have multiple meanings. "Intimate," for example... it can mean "close and/or personal," or it can mean "insinuate, hint at." If you feel uncomfortable using the word "gay" in other ways than the meaning "homosexual," then you feel insecure about something. I get it though. The word "gay," meaning "homosexual," btw has a long history stretching back at least 100 years.
Voyager (Nyack, NY)
And why should our community have to resort to words and terms developed by the medical, psychological or god forbid, the evangelical community? All of which have been used to shame us for centuries? The term “gay” has been used within our community for decades, but the Stonewall era brought a reclamation of our own terminology—including “gay”. But we’re a pretty inclusive group. Happy to share the word with others, and hope that it brings you joy.
William (Cleveland)
@Stephen Nobody uses “gay” to denote joy anymore, that’s silly. Don’t be a mooncalf, Stephen.
“Reclaiming” Slurs Has Never Worked (NJ)
I just want to say, as an LGB person, how relieved I am to see “gay” in this headline instead of the Q slur. Many in the media have taken to using the Q slur to refer to our community, but they never asked us if we were OK with it. Many of us are not. We were bullied with this word and it’s still a slur.
CowtownGrrl (Columbus)
@“Reclaiming” Slurs Has Never Worked I know many people in the LGBTQ+2 community who self-identify as "Queer" and do so proudly, so who are we to say it's a slur? I think it is now just a generational difference.
RichPFromDC (Washington, DC)
"[T]hey never asked us if we were OK with it"? Is there a president or CEO of the LGBT community? We have one in the straight community, but it's a secret
music observer (nj)
@“Reclaiming” Slurs Has Never Worked The term gay was once derogatory as well, it was used as a stereotype of gay men as being light on their feet, swishy, prancing all over (one suggestion I have heard was it came from the lyric in "I feel Pretty" in westside story that says "I feel pretty, and witty, and gay", intimating that gay men are like that.....I think it went back further than that). people reclaimed that as they did queer.
Mom2Three (Wayland, MA)
Adding to the chorus of Lakewood natives here. So many things about this article are so wrong. When I grew up in Lakewood in the 80’s and 90’s Lakewood had a strong, consistent and visible gay community in Edgewater. I see that this is another type of development but the idea that there wasn’t an organic gay community in this exact area is ignoring something real and important. Next…Cleveland. I spent a lot of time in Cleveland growing up and went to school on the East Side for awhile. Lakewood is so so so so so different from Cleveland. It’s like calling Newton, Boston. Or Nyack, Manhattan. It makes no sense. Finally, while yes, people are very into sports the author kind of makes it seem like there is nothing going on in Cleveland, instead of an amazing orchestra, tons of love music, the FREE and incredible art museum, etc. The University. Just like why.
Blossom (The Buckeye State)
@Mom2Three Clevelander here. I agree. It also paints Lakewood as a rough around the edges, working class city, just beginning to see revival and development. It's not. It's solidly middle class suburb, that, unlike most inner ring Cleveland suburbs, is gaining rather than losing population. The average home sales price in Lakewood is higher than the county average. The beautiful, large, historic houses by the lake sell for $500k and up, a fortune for Ohio.
J (New Orleans)
Rings of GENTRIFICATION, higher home and rent prices, pushing people put. Land grabbers, that is what the article reeks of. Shame on NY Times for not calling this what it is.
Olmsted (Falls)
Nope. Lakewood has been a coveted community for decades since "the gays" started rescuing it back in the 1970s.
WillDaBeast (DC)
Sorry, but when you see the word developer, you should exactly be thinking land grab . It doesn’t matter who the development is targeted at. It could be any minority group or any majority group. It’s still a land grab and profiteering.
Jtk (Cleveland)
@WillDaBeast The original gay neighborhood has been run over by a very sleazy developer who renamed it hingetown. Only one shop left to tell the tale.
Gregoire7 (Paris Of The Mind)
Lakewood is a great city. And one that I have been told by natives has long had a strong gay-friendly vibe, like for 40 years. There are many correct objections to the laziness of the writer’s tags for the area, and many correct concerns about gentrification. Which is why the single thing that sticks out as just absolute laziness and indifference on this article’s part is calling Lakewood a “solidly working class city.” A look at local coverage of, much less county records of, Lakewood’s housing market over the last 10 years, as well as census data, would have told you how much the city has been overtaken by high costs and inflated home values, and therefore become the target of developers and out of state real estate investors. Because of its size (the densest city in Ohio, with 50,000 people) it may be that income-wise it remains working class. But the housing market is oppressive and exclusionary to anyone not pulling in large incomes and with ready access to loans. Which is to say, exactly the kind of people who think public giveaways to developers are good for everyone.
Eric (Na)
I took it to mean Cleveland as working class. It’s a blurry line between Cleveland and its immediate suburbs in that way.
ag (mt holly)
@Gregoire7 Compared to the rest of the suburb towns west of Cleveland Lakewood was and still is working class.
Gregoire7 (Paris Of The Mind)
If your criterion is “compared to Bay Village and Westlake” it’s working class, you and I have a very different understanding of what “working class” means.
Lakewood (USA)
Having lived in Lakewood, OH, most of my life, the notion that this community is being built "from scratch" is misleading and stings. Lakewood has flown pride flags as long as I can remember, and has been known locally as a hub for LGBTQ+ life for years. Large dollar investments, while cautiously welcome, are no panacea. I agree with other posters and push back on the article's tone. Lakewood was and still is great and welcoming. Shiny developments do not build a community from scratch: people do.
ScottC (Fayetteville, NY)
For those of you who are denigrating drag queens, I suggest you watch the recent Ru Paul’s Drag Race season. You will discover that many of these folks are incredibly imaginative entertainers. They sing beautifully, write amazing skits, dance and choreograph beautiful dances, and yes they do it all wearing outrageously imaginative, hand-tailored clothing and sometimes fake breasts. These drag queens are following in the tradition of Charles Ludlum, Charles Busch and Leigh Bowery, they are not drag queens performing at local bars. Open your eyes, hearts and minds to a pretty remarkable phenomenon.
ag (mt holly)
@ScottC My issue with drag is straight people can tend to think being trans is a performance. And that trans people are the court jesters of the LGBTQ community. There's always been an element of the minstrel show in drag that is off-putting.
bill (Boston)
I love that the gay community is full of diversity in and of itself. And, while the headline is about a “gay” neighborhood, and yet the top photo is of a drag show. I think our diverse community is struggling with broad brush lables that try to define a coalition of identites. I think of myself as gay and do sometimes wish for some seperation in identity with drag entertainers and Trans gender folks. Never mind that I would never self identify as queer and that while i support individuals with fluid identities i am not up for using improper grammer regarding pronouns. That step in solidarity is too much for me.
music observer (nj)
@ag I have my own issues with drag ( more than a bit of it is misogynistic in my opinion) but conflating drag queens with being transgender is problematic in of itself. Some drag queens are transgender (generally if a drag queen has their own breasts, they are more likely trans) and they do drag to make a living, but most are gay men who do this as performers (and like anything in real life, there are all kinds of shades of gray with this). I really doubt that the straights who hate trans people do it because of drag, they hate trans people because they are trans, the same way some gay men and women hate trans people, along with feminists of all sexualities (interesting note, most of it is dumped on trans women, not men. Saddest thing I ever saw was trans men who denigrated transwomen as being poseurs...).
Mike (Ohio)
For those of you who don't live near here, for several years lake Erie is a destination for tourism. This is a lake from community with lovely park system, bike paths, lake and river access points. The city of Cleveland and the inner ring suburbs, Lakewood, are growing at an obvious rate again. This neighborhood is close enough to the city center to access all the services there. Housing prices have almost quadrupled in the last decade. This why this is happening.
Voyager (Nyack, NY)
Dear Cleveland, this is Milwaukee. Give me a call and we can dish about people ignoring all we beautiful lakeside cities have to offer. Congrats on this project!
Bones (OH, USA)
@Voyager When they all run out of water, they'll be back. And the Great Lakes is protected by an international treaty. You want water, you're welcome to move here.
James Jones (Inside The beltway)
There's something cynical here but I can't quite put my finger on it. Is it the assumption that all gay people are the same or possibly the offer of self-segregation to Cleveland's LGBTQ residents.
music observer (nj)
@James Jones I don't think it assumes all gay people are the same. I can't think of any gay area or whatever you want to call it that was monochromatic, the gay west village of the 1970's wasn't the stereotype that it was all gay male clones, leather gays and a smattering of femme boys. Lot of LGBT people would prefer to live in an area that isn't all gay, and in fact the west village for example was very diverse, as was chelsea, because there are a lot of people of all kinds who like living in an area with a strong LGBT presence. On the other hand, there is still enough discrimination out there, enough idiots, that there are still a lot of LGBT people out there who feel safer in a neighborhood where they can be open. Especially in this day of Trump, even in relatively live and let live suburbia, the Trumpies and the GOP in general can make openly LGBT people feel unsafe.
Brad (West Coast)
I grew up in Lakewood, Ohio, 50 years ago. As an LGBTQ ally, I applaud this, much different than the Lakewood I remember! That said, I agree with many commentators that this also feels like a land grab, and I worry about poor people being pushed out of the 117th Street corridor with Cleveland to make way. As for comments taking umbrage at Cleveland being one of the poorest US cities, sorry but true. Check out the link referenced in the article to Cleveland.com. It was published in September of 2022, and cites a study that confirms we were just a little ahead of Detroit.
Cathy (Cleveland Heights)
"...sports-crazy Northeast Ohio" Cringe! Yes, Clevelanders love our sports, but we're also a big arts, music, and literary center. The Cleveland Museum of Art is consistently listed among the top art museums in the country. The Cleveland Orchestra--seventh in the world. Playhouse Square--home to multiple live theaters. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Anisfield Wolf Book Awards. Karamu House. Literary Cleveland and the largest free literary conference in the country, along with many other literary organizations and our excellent libraries. Also home to the Cleveland Metroparks, recently named the best-run park system in the country. We're not one-dimensional.
Gregoire7 (Paris Of The Mind)
@Cathy agreed. CMA is the only museum I've been to in the US that is on par with the Met for size and depth of collection. And Playhouse Square is literally the largest performing arts space in America except for Lincoln Center.
sedanchair (Tacoma WA)
@Cathy "Clevelanders love our sports, but we're also a big arts, music, and literary center." No you're not, let's not kid ourselves. A good orchestra and a few endowed museums does not a center make.
Gregoire7 (Paris Of The Mind)
How would you know?
Cathy Penroe (Westpark)
“LAKEWOOD, Ohio — If you’re building an entertainment center in sports-crazy Northeast Ohio, it makes sense to go heavy on athletics. That was clear when the Fieldhouse, a 30,000-square-foot complex opened last weekend in this suburb that shares a border with Cleveland. Thousands of people turned out to scale an outdoor climbing wall, sign up for fitness classes and wander a gymnasium where youth and adult sports leagues will compete. But there were signs of a detour from the sports playbook: On Saturday night, the gym hosted a show headlined by the “RuPaul’s Drag Race” stars Monét X Change and Trinity the Tuck.” Did most of you literally miss the first three paragraphs of this article? No mention of cooking or food. Anyway, there seemed to be a lot of getting off the track here. I always cringe when reading any article (especially from NY) about Cleveland. Born and raised here. I used to live in adjoining Lakewood for 10 years. I have gay/lesbian relatives and friends. I lived in the Lakewood area’s most closely associated with the most vibrant of “gay friendly” living. (I’m trying real hard here to not say anything insensitive). I think what this project may be trying to accomplish is to have what the first three above paragraphs outlined. It encompasses more than just a bunch of gay bars, which many gays may not want as a main hangout.
Brie (Ohio)
Of course. Does the NYT really think this is anything other than gentrification but with a rainbow flag? I hate to break this to the NYT, but the three major cities of Ohio are in fact very LGBTQ+ friendly. This isn't exactly new. All that's happening here is gentrifying with rainbow washing to make it look less like throwing out the existing residents. And even THAT isn't new to our cities. PBS had a great documentary years ago about the gentrification of a traditionally Black neighborhood called Flag Wars. And oh my was it war. The affluent LGBTQ+ moved in and subsequently forced out the POC and poor LGBTQ+ who already lived there. Ohio's rental and housing market is already inching closer to housing costs of more desirable costal cities. All this will do is contribute to raising costs in a previously affordable neighborhood. Once the poor and middle (and upper middle class with student loans) are forced out, where shall we go? My friends and I have plenty to do and places to go. This article has all the feel of "Christopher Columbus 'discovered' America" and "Ohio's so bumkin they needed a place for teh gayz to be themselves." I assure you this is not the case, even in a place like Cleveland. What we don't have is enough housing, for gay and straight, poor and middle class, and every day, some greedy developer is coming in and either making formerly affordable places unaffordable or taking available land and putting up more commercial buildings. This article's a miss.
ag (mt holly)
@Brie I went to law school in Cleveland in the early 80's for 3 years that often felt like 6 years and can't recall any queer venues or queer visibility, so actually the NYT author is correct.
Michael McConnell (Atlanta)
@ag There was visibility then and there is visibility now, and the difference is significant. I was also in Cleveland in the early 80's and as I recall, the LGB part, at least, of the Greater Community was, in comparison to the rest of the United States (outside of NYC or San Francisco) very visible to anyone who bothered to be even a little proactive in their search for it. If you missed out, it is because law school kept you way busy or you had unfulfilled expectations that queer visibility was going to come looking for you. And when, before the very recent past, did that ever happen?
A.L. (Chicago)
This is a limited point of view. 3 years in school does not a home make. The gay scene and those of other marginalized groups in small cities tend to be quiet for many reasons. Predjudice is one, but also a smaller population means it's simply harder to meet people. You can't expect a small city to provide the limitless connections and bustling scenes of a big city. They are there, and if you'd grown up in or built a life in Cleveland you would have found your people.
akamai (New York)
I wish this effort all the best. As a New Yorker, I know how comfortable it can feel having a lot of LGBT people around you. In spite of previous Times articles, New York and San Francisco still have "Gay" neighborhoods. Just check where the bars are. They're not in the suburbs. They're in very specific neighborhoods where they've been for decades. You need enough density for them to operate. And LGBT people don't move just anywhere. There have long been areas and towns with an LGBT presence: Park Slope, Williamsburg, Jackson Heights, Montclair, Maplewood, Asbury Park. With the exception of Cold Spring and Garrison, you would not want to live in Putnam County, which is very right-wing. With New York's northern outpouring, there are specific towns and their environs, Hudson, NY being the most dramatic. Hudson is actually a self-made version of what Lakewood is trying to accomplish deliberately.
Brie (Ohio)
@akamai When I lived in NYC, I lived in a bubble. Ohio is, within the C/C/C areas, very LGBTQ friendly and pretty well mingled. There are already "gay neighborhoods” but even 15-20 years ago, Columbus had domestic partnership benefits from most employers. It also has one of the largest lesbian populations in the US. Cincinnati had one of the first gay mayors. Pride month has always been a big celebration and it's not hard to throw a stone and find a gay bar or restaurant or entertainment venue. Or even swingers clubs for every demographic, rich and poor. I know when I lived in NYC, there were a lot of preconceptions that Ohio was a wasteland devoid of culture, but that is simply not true. We lack the NY Phil but have the Cleveland Orchestra. We have the Cleveland Clinic. Each of the major cities have large immigrant populations with wonderful authentic restaurants and community centers. And we do in fact have gay bars and establishments in the suburbs here, going into downtown is not necessary if one chooses to stay within the community. Lakewood has always been pretty progressive and always had a strong LGBTQ presence. This is just advertising a massive commercial development and pretending we don't already exist in the city. This article just plays into hurtful stereotypes that only straight country bumpkins live in Ohio. Do I prefer Brooklyn? Yes, but for entirely different reasons, not because there are no gay neighborhoods in Ohio. Sheesh.
Peter (Ohio)
@akamai this reminds me of the New Yorker cover showing a New Yorkers view of America. Two decades ago I was told Lakewood had the highest percent of LBGTQ residents of ANY city in America. I never looked for the data and it IS a small city but the assertion rings true. I lived in NYC and it's great too but the condescension just screams ignorance. And this article was probably pitched by a developer because again, none of this is news.
coolcrosby (NYC)
Lakewood, Ohio has ALWAYS been a gay-friendly neighborhood. There was a homophobic joke that outsiders used about Lakewood about dropping a lighter and having to kick it to the next western suburb before bending over to pick it up. I moved here 40 years ago and that was Lakewood's reputation then and that is it's reputation now. Largely thanks to Lakewood's LGBT community, Lakewood is the hippest community in Cleveland.
Ciscokid (Cleveland)
That's a nice sound bite Crosby. However, it is only partially true. if I had to put a percentage on it, the LGBTQ community is probably a quarter of the reason that Lakewood has become such a desirable location. The main reason is it's beautiful old housing stock, low crime and a ton of investors who are turning these beautiful old homes into showplaces. However, I agree that renewal was overdue for that area. The plan that Budish and Figgie put together appears to be just what the doctor ordered.
kathy (columbus)
@coolcrosby yes I agree. I lived in Lakewood for 10 years. I am a boomer and all my lesbian friends refer to that area as the gay ghetto, called it that for years. Its a nice community with lots of diversity. Too densely populated for me.
Brie (Ohio)
@kathy @coolkid Thank you for saying this. It was a gay enclave back 30+ years ago. Columbus is more friendly, I would argue, but these developers are just banking on stereotypes to justify gentrification. Personally, we'd be better off if it stayed as it is.
Schuyler (Ohio)
Thank you NYTimes for the free tourism marketing, but I take issue with Erik Piepenburg’s writing that drips with East Coast condescension. Cleveland and the surrounding area have a strong economy. And Lakewood, which is where the Studio West 117 is located, is a particularly thriving and diverse area. I cringe at the general feel of this article that we poor, backwards, “blue-collar” simpletons needs rich developers to swoop in and save us with their tax-credit filled projects. Cleveland has its issues, as all cities do. But can we move past the decrepit, dying, rust belt imagery that these national articles seem to enjoy invoking? The city has so much more to offer.
akamai (New York)
@Schuyler He doesn't say that anywhere, although with Ohio's recent turn to the Far Right, I think it might lose of its appeal. I certainly wouldn't live there now. JD Vance anyone? Governor DeWine "heartbeat" = person. Uh, no.
Brie (Ohio)
@akamai Well, perhaps if Democrats actually VOTED, we wouldn't be in this mess. Ohio, in the cities, is very progressive, has been for decades, and has MORE registered Dems than Repubs. It's entirely Ohio Dems' and the DNCC's fault Ohio fell to the GOP. Investment would've prevented this. We were a solidly blue state when I was growing up, and did vote for the Obama x2.
MiamiHeatFan (Miami)
@Schuyler Erik Piepenburg is from Cleveland, I believe, and has in interviews has described himself as a "cheerleader" for the city. I lived in Lakewood long ago -- it was always very gay. But people who say they're worried so much about gentrification overlook that in both Lakewood and Cuyahoga's County the population is down almost 30% since 1970. Cleveland needs new people and new development. I was struck by the fact that the promised restaurants weren't yet open. I with them well, but I finsihed the article wondering whether this project is feasible.
Helene (Long Beach California)
As a person who was born and raised in Cleveland, but moved away, I am thrilled that they are establishing an LGBTQ neighborhood. Go Cleveland!
Matt F (Cleveland Ohio)
As a gay male in Cleveland, I have to say this may be the absolute dumbest thing I've read in a very long time. I live in an Eastside suburb, that, like most Eastside suburbs, is very diverse. There are pride flags here and there, two people on our street have flags supporting women's rights, there are plenty of households of all colors with Black Lives Matter signs, the city itself specifically calls out and celebrates pride all June, people of all colors, shapes, and sizes live here and get along very well, together. The city has a very strong sense of community from the city services to those that live and work here, all get along feeling like the belong. Our police force was just recognized for excellence in community policing and engagement. The last thing I or anyone I know wants is some silly segregated neighborhood for one group or another, history is littered with examples of how bad that idea is. I love that my neighbors are gay, straight, married, single, and all different colors and backgrounds. The neighborhoods in big cities long known for being "gayborhoods" are disappearing because we, the LGBT community, are FINALLY accomplishing the goals we set out with so long ago; to be recognized as equal. I don't want to be special and I don't want to be segregated, I want to be accepted.
suzan (cleveland)
@Matt F Reading your comment Matt really made me homesick for my hometown. Stuck in God forsaken Florida.
Helene (Long Beach California)
@Matt A neighborhood like this will definitely help tourists to come to Cleveland. I have already met people who have traveled to Cleveland just to attend a concert by its world-renowned orchestra, and/or visit its incredible Museum of Art, and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Think more diversely.
John (SF)
@Matt F: "The neighborhoods in big cities long known for being "gayborhoods" are disappearing because we, the LGBT community, are FINALLY accomplishing the goals we set out with so long ago..." The Castro emptied of gay men because they could no longer afford the rent, not because of an accomplished goal. Zuckerberg even lived in the neighborhood. The strength of voices diminishes with interspersion.
Hey Do (Biddley)
maybe they could work on turning Ohio's delegation to Congress a bit more blue. not to mention their state politicians in Columbus. I mean politicians would never enact rules to take rights away from LGBTQs? wow a restaurant serving burgers and taters, how special. you'd think transgenders are the most important people ever according to a lot of the NYT's reporting, while we could be on the verge of losing our democracy. then they'll care about your labels, believe me.
Tracy (Ohio)
From Lakewood? Do you have no understanding of Ohio at all? Our job in Cuyahoga County is voter turnout. This area tips the balance blue in close elections. We've been working hard to turn our state around for a long time. Why do you assume we're not? We're the ones living with the mess. And you know what? Having a place to gather with other organizers for a meal, especially after a day canvassing neighborhoods, is a good thing. Maybe you do nothing but canvas and sleep when it's your turn, but the rest of us eat and relax now and then. As for the investment in this project, that money would not be money for political organizing no matter what. As a fundraiser, I assure you that we're keenly aware of which sources have promise for us.
Barbara (Myrtle Beach)
It's good for people to have a place where they feel safe and included. However, building a neighborhood specifically for any group smells suspiciously like a ghetto, no matter the intention. Why can't we grow up enough to accept people who are not harming us just as they are in every area of our country?
aaa (bklyn)
@Barbara obviously we can't.
Alex Knisely (London)
@Barbara -- "Why can't we flap our arms and fly ? " Maybe someday. Till then, let's just walk together
Barbara (Myrtle Beach)
@aaa We haven't, but we could. Obviously, my question was rhetorical and I am happy for people to have a place that feels welcoming.
Bruce Williams (Chicago)
The social agenda seems to be directed toward creating an enclave.
John (SF)
Great piece. It would have also been a great inclusion in the Travel section, which seems to be in a losing struggling for new ideas.
BB (LA)
good grief
MTP (Ohio)
I live about 20m south of Lakewood and I am so glad to see this. 2 of 3 kids I'd o. the LGBTQ spectrum and love to cook! Finding accepting places around here is NOT easy. Thanks for the profile of some goodness here in the Land
Brie (Ohio)
@MTP Twenty miles south of Lakewood isn't even in Cleveland my dear. As I recommend to people outside the cities, come into the city. It is like going from Artic Winter into Arctic Summer.
Sherrie Noble (Boston)
Good to see in this location. Most of my life was spent in the Greater Cleveland area. Cleveland needs to address the education system and the old rust belt issues so maybe partnerships can develop between Fieldhouse and the schools, West Side Market and the local colleges and universities can start a full, coordinated culinary program that is county wide and includes nutrition education including the local nursing and med/dental schools. Turning Cleveland/Lakewood/Cuyahoga County into a healthy place that is future focused can be a game changer. (I couldn't help myself!) hope innovation begets innovation.
akamai (New York)
@Sherrie Noble If you don't get rid of your Far-Right GOP, you're going to lose it all. Even the Cleveland Clinic can't do abortions or anything some crazy politician might say is an abortion.
Brie (Ohio)
@akamai Don't disagree. The DNCC who is texting me every three minutes for money needs to put the investment into Ohio. My mother was just complaining about not seeing ANY advertising for Dem candidates. Pelosi and Biden and all of the aging establishment in DC made this mess by not engaging in outreach past the coasts, and it shows.
bill (Boston)
You own your lack of turnout.
Grittenhouse (Philadelphia, PA)
Lakewood has been known as a gay neighborhood for decades already. If developers/entrepreneurs are taking advantage of this, they are not helping "build a neighborhood," they are helping themselves to profits by exploiting the community, a too-familiar pattern from other cities, especially San Francisco. It inevitably ends up making the area too-expensive for most people to afford.
MiamiHeatFan (Miami)
@Grittenhouse You're right, Lakewood was already quite gay in the '70s. I get what you're saying about gay-to-gentrification driving up real estate in cities like San Francisco. But Lakewood and Cuyahoga County have been declining in population for 50 years. I'm not sure the situations are comparable.
CathyA (Chicago)
@Grittenhouse Nothing in this piece suggests the "inevitable" outcome you so callously assert. In fact, several mentions of income sensitivity are included.
anon (ohio)
@Grittenhouse Yes, already a well known gay area, and while I appreciate this new group's stated goal of keeping things affordable, Lakewood has been pricing people out for years now, at least for home ownership. Housing in the adjacent areas of Cleveland are either pricey developments or areas that still need a lot of work. Cleveland has had a fantastic, local food scene for awhile and it can be expensive... which is understandable because healthy, sustainable food can be pricey and the people working at these places deserve living wages. Many challenges. I certainly hope it's successful, this is a wonderful area with tons of great people! But let's not forget, we're in Ohio and this state has been taken over by hostile Republicans who are probably going to continue to make it harder for any minority group to thrive, let alone exist (and they're really piling on trans people right now, not to mention stripping women of bodily autonomy). It'd be wonderful to see a strong, diverse community grow here.
Independent Observer (Texas)
Creamy Paneer, Tangy Tomatoes, Spicy Alfredo and...drag? Hmm. Somehow, this actually might just be a natural segue. :-P
Mary Sojourner (Flagstaff)
@Independent Observer I think I once saw Tangy Tomatoes perform in Rochester, NY.
Independent Observer (Texas)
@Mary Sojourner I hope "she" was in season. :-)
PB Fan (Minneapolis)
This is a beautiful example of upholding community, fostering inclusion, and helping everyone draw the line from where food grows to what we eat. I hope this development grows and thrives, and serves as a model for other areas across the country. 🥬🌶🍅
ll (nj)
I would rather just read about food in the section. Why does everything have to be a social agenda.
sage (Ohio)
@ll because it’s a good agenda where no one gets hurt
Xolotl (USA)
@sage Based upon what they are cooking, a lot of defenseless animals got hurt.
Independent Observer (Texas)
@ll "Why does everything have to be a social agenda" This is copied and pasted from this publication's review of a 2021 film: "“Werewolves Within” could interrogate sexism, classism or America’s increasingly divided politics, among other things" If even a werewolf comedy needs to be agenda-driven, everything is. :-)
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