Every day, you connect to people and projects at 6-10 megabits per second. And, in just one click, you can completely disconnect. Making connections is just that simple.
But consider for a second the idea of recalibrating that whole concept of "connection" in one of the most well-connected places in Cleveland - the Flats.
You'll feel those real connections from head to toe - on the boardwalk sidling on the Cuyahoga River, along bike paths adorned with public art, as you guise skyward at majestic bridges, and while filling your belly and brain with good food and great conversation.
A Cleveland Lowlier
There are so many roads into the Flats, but only one direction ... down.
That's because the Flats are a low-lying plain for which the wide and crooked Cuyahoga River flows through. On foot, one must walk downhill from the Historic Warehouse District or the Ohio City neighborhood to reach either the east or west banks, respectively.
But the centerpiece of the banks is the winding Cuyahoga River, which connects to Lake Erie in the north and mid-Ohio for 100 miles south.
Upon laying eyes on this unique topography, it was Moses Cleaveland, a surveyor and the founder of Cleveland, who envisioned a perfect port and center of commerce.
And, that's just what happened. By the second half of the 19th century, Cleveland was an international hub for commerce and manufacturing. The Flats were crowded with iron furnaces, foundries, shipyards, oil refineries, lumberyards and factories of all sorts. Cleveland was booming.
But, in 1969, the Flats would pay the ultimate price. That's when the Cuyahoga River, which had been heavily polluted from decades of heavy industrial manufacturing, caught fire. Despite blazes of these kinds occurring on waterways all across our nation, it was happenstance that Time Magazine snapped a photo of Cleveland's burning river. And, from there an ill-fated narrative was constructed.
But it was Cleveland's mayor at the time, the beloved Carl Stokes, who passionately dedicated himself to cleaning up the city's waterways. And, thanks to all the attention brought to the efforts in Cleveland, both the 1972 Clean Water Act and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) came to be.
In the 1980s and 1990s, as manufacturing slowly dissipated throughout the United States, the Flats transformed itself into an entertainment destination. With the highest concentration of bars in the Midwest, the Flats quickly achieved a party-animal status.
But the revelry became a nuisance, which led to health & safety inspectors cracking down on the nightly madness. Soon, the neon signs were replaced with boarded-up windows, while the booming nightclubs became vacant lots. The East Bank of the Flats went dark, abandoned.
From Grit to Game On
But all hope was not lost.
After all, the vigor of the Cuyahoga River, which was benefiting from support from the EPA, was improving dramatically.
On top of that, the rich history of the Flats was inspiring many, including private developers. It was no secret that because the buildings in this part of town were expertly constructed under bridges, on steeps hills and along the river, that every view is stunning.
People started to make the connection.
In 2010, plans began for a $750 million redevelopment that would bring the energy of the Flats back online. By 2016, residents and visitors had access to new housing, dining and river activities.
Today, illuminated bridges, outdoor patios and conversation light up both the East and West Banks every night of the week.
On the East Bank, restaurants, served with a side of backyard games, wind around Front Street and Old River Road along the boardwalk.
East Bank Entertains
These days, if you're looking for real-life connections, the East Bank is the place. Start by dining with friends at the East Bank's restaurants, which include fan favorites, familiar franchises and chef-driven menus at restaurants like Alley Cat, which serves up fresh oysters and seafood right alongside the river.
Just beneath the Aloft Cleveland Downtown hotel that sits stoically above the Flats, there's Lago, a chic eatery that intricately melds together traditional Italian cuisine with a contemporary vibe. Cross the street for Beerhead and its bustling patio where they've curated over 100 beers to go with their signature pizzas.
It's in the East Bank you'll also find Dante's Inferno, Punch Bowl Social, Good Night John Boy, Margaritaville, Collision Bend Brewing Co., Lindey's Lake House and many others.
West Bank Ways
Connect to the West Bank of the Flats on the free Metroparks Water Taxi. This side of the river was the first to experience revival thanks in large part to the opening of the Greater Cleveland Aquarium located in the historic Powerhouse.
Nearby you can step aboard the Nautica Queen for a sunset cruise on Lake Erie or catch a national tour at Jacob's Pavilion.
Farther north you'll find party-centric Shooters on the Water, the Cleveland Improv comedy club, and the Music Box Supper Club, an indie music venue with an eclectic music lineup, killer views and contemporary dining.
Throughout the West Bank, you'll also find a little piece of paradise known as Rivergate Park. Within that green footprint is Merwin's Wharf, an American-style restaurant that boasts a riverside patio known as a respite for kayakers and boaters.
Of course, you can actually be one of those very kayakers or boaters thanks to Great Lakes Watersports - just remember to paddle to the side for the 700-foot freighters that share the waterways. (No worries, kayakers do it all the time.)
Welcome to The Flats
For over 220 years, the Cleveland Flats generated all kinds of grit - malaria, skirmishes, the thunder of railroads, bootlegging, smoke stacks, fire and sweat equity.
Today, the Flats is a symbol of sophistication - private investment, healthy waterways, historic preservation, upscale residences, refined culinary offerings, entrepreneurship and chic nightlife
So, among its bridges, roads, riverbanks and viaducts, the Flats connects old and new; downfall and rebirth; grit and sophistication.
Now, that's what we call "connection." No digital detox needed.
Come visit the Flats. Scope an interactive map of this Downtown district.