Let’s Get Real About Cleveland

Hi – and welcome back! I never realized how much commitment a blog can take and how much of my time is devoted to other things. I apologize for my absence, but I’m back with a quick little tidbit that has been bugging me lately.

There has been something on my mind for quite some time now, and I finally need to get it off my chest! One of my biggest pet peeves is when people say they’re from Cleveland, but what they really mean to say is, they’re from ‘outside’ of Cleveland.

If you do not have a Cleveland address, you do not live in Cleveland. If your property taxes aren’t going to the city of Cleveland, then you do not live in Cleveland.

I hate to sound rude but it’s the honest truth and when people use this kind of claim, they are hurting Cleveland.

Do not support a city but fail to see its potential. Do not highlight the good in cities, but disown them for the truth.

Cities are big, scary, beautiful, dark, fun, exciting places (see what I did there)? Cities are good and bad, and you have to accept both of those items if you’re a true city dweller. 

Cities still have a stigma from the era of baby boomers (i.e. white flight), especially Cleveland. Even when I was younger, Cleveland wasn’t as exciting as it is today. Cities took a turn for the worse from the 1960’s through the 1990’s, the post industrial era that riddled cities with debt, loss of population and unfortunately, crime. It’s hard to move away from these stereotypes as we push toward a new outlook on cities. It’s ideal to have the city be the place you work, live, and play.

It has been shown that cities help increase mobility. No longer do you need to drive and worry about parking with apps like Uber or Lyft. If you live in a city with access to public transit, that’s even better. Cities are starting to provide more pocket parks and access to green space and waterfronts (if applicable), but what I really mean to say is that they are beginning to highlight and utilize their greatest assets and provide citizens for what they want and need. The city should feel like you have everything at your fingertips, because it is the center of commerce after all. Forget big box stores, those are terrible conglomerate corporations that exist everywhere in America, and they don’t need your money because they have everyone else’s. Mom and pop shops need your support. In order to help a city thrive we have to believe that we have the power to change it. Do you believe in Cle? Believeland!

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Apologies…

I was so excited to start this blog… and then life kind of happened. Life gets in the way of our biggest goals and desires sometimes. It’s always inconvenient and never on time. For the past month while I’ve been shying away at my blog, I’ve been busy getting back into the swing of things with my spring semester at Cleveland State. While I’m currently only taking two classes, it can be tolling to keep with the school work on top my actual work that will sometimes follow me home like a shadow. In addition, I’m completely stressing about planning a wedding. We are only three months away from one of the biggest moment in my life and I still have no clue how I’m going to pull it off. The shindig I’m planning isn’t lavish and it isn’t huge, but it is stressful. I’m ready to elope and call the whole thing off at this point. I ready to be married, but I’m not looking forward to a production. I don’t enjoy the limelight and I’m feeling frantic that things aren’t gong to turn out as planned (thanks in advance, life)!

Anyway, while I’m still new at this whole ‘blog’ thing, bear with me. I’ll get the hang of it eventually. I’d like to keep an efficient posting schedule, but I can’t make any promises, I’m not the best at keeping those when it comes to time management, sorry boss. I just feel like I owed everyone a public apology (blissfully unaware who my actual readers are, if anyone). For now, I bid you farewell in hopes that my next post will actually be interesting.

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Planners Do What?

If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me “what exactly is it that you do?” I would one rich lady! I’m an urban planning student, and at Cleveland State University the curriculum is mostly policy based. I learn a lot about intergovernmental affairs and how to create policies and procedures for development. Basically, in a nutshell, I create the city scape.

The way to create change in the urban environment is to create building and zoning regulations. These regulations will determine things like the density a building can take up on a lot, the number of parking spaces you can have, how far back the building can be, and the height of the structure, etc. There are traditional zoning codes, and there are form based codes. The latter is my favorite. Form based codes allow you to illustrate how you want the city to look. Instead of zoning uses for districts, form based code breaks the city into transects from urban to rural areas. As the city center holds the most density, the further you are removed from the city should feel less dense. If you’re still confused, keep reading.

*Quick fun fact; zoning was founded in Euclid, OH and it was called Euclidean zoning, which is what I meant by traditional. It is the practice of dividing uses into districts*

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Guys, the struggle is real. 

Urban planning can be very generic. Most people think that urban planning jobs are only available with local governments, which isn’t true. Urban planners can work for architecture firms, development firms, corporate consulting, and due diligence support firms that specialize in real estate transactions – among many more! Let me put it like this…

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#sorrynotsorry for the memes.

Anywhoozle, currently I work for a firm as a planning and zoning analyst. I write zoning compliance reports for law firms that specialize in property acquisition. Sounds fun, right? Not really. But I love my job for the experience I’m gaining and that it pays the bills, am I right on that one? Yeah buddy! I review surveys and site plans to make sure that the property is in conformance with the zoning code regulations of the applicable jurisdiction. My typical day consists of calling the “actual urban planners” within local governments to obtain property information. From there, I spend a lot of time researching and analyzing data. The final phase is to write a report based on the findings of fact and send it out for review and finalization. I get to help companies purchase restaurants, skyscrapers, apartment buildings, and industrial buildings. Best part of the job, the sites I deal with are everywhere! I don’t get to travel for my job, but I do use Google Maps and Google Earth, so I usually just pretend 🙂 Today I went to California!

If you’re thinking about becoming an urban planner, I highly recommend it. The field of urban planning is increasing as the trend towards city living has gained popularity among millennials. I recently took the plunge and moved to the big city of Cleveland, OH! It’s way bigger (and way scarier) than where I grew up in Akron, OH. However, I love it here. No matter the stigma Cleveland has, I’ll always be a fan – just not a Brown’s fan (please don’t hate me for this fam)!

FYI

I’ve been taking an urban design seminar this semester, and it’s been a blast. It’s basically art class for urban planners. I get to doodle with fancy pens and color with pricey markers… it’s awesome! I don’t know how I lucked out with this class, but I’m having a ton of fun. This class will really come in handy when you need to draw renderings for future developments or illustrate the urban landscape in the form based code documents your future boss will probably nag you about… I love it. It’s a long running joke too that if you love sim city, you’ll love urban planning.

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Sorry, I couldn’t resist one more! 

If you need or want more information, feel free to comment below or reach out to me on social media. I would love to chit chat more about urban planning – I could do this all day, but I don’t have all day, sorry for realsies.

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An Ode to Kevin Junior

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Nearly a week ago the news broke that Kevin Junior, frontman of the indie rock band The Chamber Strings, had died. Kevin Junior was his stage name, but I just knew him as Kevin. Three years ago I received a knock on my door and it was my new neighbor introducing himself. He looked old, and tired. My impression was that he had been around the block a few times, and he looked like someone I wouldn’t interact with on the regular. In fact, I think he was wearing eyeliner (unless his eyes were always that dark) but it wouldn’t have surprised me anyway because it’s acceptable in true rock fashion. Kevin said he was a musician, but at this point I wasn’t sure what kind. My fiancé is also a musician so I thought he would be a great addition to house, even if he did look a little edgy.

Since Kevin moved in, things were quiet, but I decided to find out as much about him as I could, because if I was having this guy live above me in the same house, I figured I better get to know who he is and what’s his story. I was gathering our mail one day when Kevin’s mail was given to our apartment by mistake – typical of the post man. That’s when I learned of Kevin’s given name and decided to do some digging. I was in complete shock when I learned of his past. I didn’t expect to find much, but much to my surprise a quick Google searched showed articles and documentaries about this guy. I thought WHOAH, I’m sharing a house with a rockstar? AWESOME! 

Living with Kevin wasn’t always easy though. Often times he would have moments of frustration that would creep through the floors. It was annoying at first, but as Kevin and I got to know each other, it began to not bother me as much. I knew of Kevin’s troubled past and just chalked it up to lingering old habits. Eventually, I realized that when Kevin made noise, I knew he was still alive. I was often worried and concerned for his well-being. If Kevin got too quiet, I began to worry.

I often ran into Kevin at our neighborhood bar, Annabelle’s. I didn’t go there often, but a friend of mine had a monthly comedy show there, and many times Kevin played upstairs while my friend’s show was taking place in the basement. It became a tough choice to try to divide my time between the two. Kevin’s music is so good, that if you heard him play, you didn’t want it to end. It was entertaining to hear Kevin practice all the time. It never bothered me one bit to hear him playing his guitar and singing upstairs. I absolutely loved it when it echoed through the floors. Sometimes, I would message Kevin in admiration. I told him once that he reminded me of Ryan Adams.

“That’s funny that you mentioned Ryan Adams – he is an old fan of mine! He came to one of our gigs in NYC back in 1999 – he showed up at the soundcheck to talk to us -ha! Then I was in a bar in LA a while ago and he came up and introduced himself and told me how much he loves my records – he was actually able to name all the titles, etc. I’ve not seen him since then but he seems to be doing amazingly well these days. Well, thanks again for nice words and I’d love to come down for a beer sometime! Say hello to Max. G’nite. KJ”

Whaaaat? Star struck. I love Ryan Adams, which is probably why I fell in love with Kevin’s music. Kevin had the appearance of a rock star but the voice of an angel. He was so soft spoken, and despite his rough exterior, he was one of the most gentle souls you had ever met.

I once had asked Kevin for a CD but he said he was out, so I searched online to buy one. Christmas morning of 2014, one of my gifts from my fiancé ended up being Gospel Morning. He said he would have Kevin sign it, and we regret that he never did. We just never bothered to ask because Kevin kept pretty busy. His schedule didn’t reflect ours well. He would be up all night and sleep all day. We figured we would get around to asking him, but it never felt like a priority, because we thought we had time. When I opened my CD we decided to play it right then and there. We were laying on our living room floor at the time, blaring Kevin’s album – respectively listening to the song “Everyday is Christmas”, hoping Kevin would hear it in awe. I took his CD in the car with me and listened to it on repeat for many weeks. I still have yet to purchase Month of Sundays but it’s on my list. Maybe I’ll get that one for my upcoming birthday… One can only hope!

Anyway, below is one of my favorite songs. Originally done the by The Shirelles in the 1960’s. Please enjoy and be sure to check out the other songs. Better yet, buy an album, it would mean a lot to him.

Kevin,

After the seeing the outpouring of generosity that has now consumed your Facebook page for miles, you were loved. So many people have come to share their appreciation, and their sorrow. Your music has meant a lot to many people. You were special to each of their lives. It is an understatement to say that you will be missed, old pal. We love you KJ!

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