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Cleveland Flats

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The East Bank of the Flats in Cleveland

The East Bank of the Flats

(© J. Mustcatello/cc license) Cleveland Flats

The Cuyahoga River in the Flats

(© Craig Hatfield/cc license) Cleveland Flats

The Powerhouse on the West Bank of the Flats

(© I F Muth/cc license)

The Cleveland Flats, the area surrounding the Cuyahoga River that bisects the city of Cleveland, has been a shipping powerhouse during the early 1900s and a vibrant entertainment district during the 1980s and 1990s.

The area is divided into two sections -- the East Bank and the West Bank -- with the East Bank today a veritable ghost town, with boarded up buildings and empty streets where there were once hundreds of revelers.

History:

The Cleveland Flats has a long history. One of the area's first settlers, Lorenzo Carter made the area his home in 1796. (A replica of his original log cabin is still located there.) Later, as Cleveland developed into a world shipping power, the Flats housed warehouses, shipping companies, and bars for the sailors.

By the 1970s, the Flats was a deserted area in the shadow of downtown, with a few quirky riverfront restaurants, such as D'Poos and Fagan's. The 1980s and 1990s saw an increase of people and businesses, including national chains, such as Hooter's, Joe's Crab Shack, and Landry's Steakhouse. Eventually, more tawdry spots, including several "gentleman's clubs" set up shop and that, combined with the lack of parking and cheap happy hours, led to the area's decline.

The East Bank of the Flats:

In the summer of 2000, three people people drown in the river after a night of revelry, cementing the East Bank's growing reputation as a place of street crime and violence. The final blow was struck in 2001 when a city safety task force raided nine clubs on the East Bank, boarding up six of them on the spot. Club owners sued, but the East Bank of the Flats has never recovered.

The West Bank of the Flats:

The West Bank of the Flats has fared better than its eastern neighbor. The area still boasts the Powerhouse, a 19th century brick former power station that houses Howl at the Moon Cafe, Windows on the River party room, the IMPROV Comedy club, and the Rock Bottom Brewery. The area is also home to the Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica concert venue, and the Nautica Queen dinner cruises.

The Future of the Flats:

The future of the East Bank of the Flats is uncertain. As of this writing, construction has begun in the area. Scott Wolstein, of Developers Diversified has plans to rebuild the area, with underground parking, residential building, and retail and restaurant space.

(Updated 5-6-13)

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