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Chance Costanzo, front, and Clay Erdie celebrated after hearing Friday that LeBron James was returning to Cleveland.

Karen Schiely • MCT,

Cleveland is on a roll

  • Article by: Alana Semuels
  • Los Angeles Times
  • July 15, 2014 - 6:38 PM

– Two years before LeBron James decided to make “bringing one trophy back to northeast Ohio” his new priority, Roz Quarto decided to move to Cleveland for no other reason than it seemed like a nice place. Friends in her hometown of New York City all reacted as if in unison.

“They said, ‘Cleveland, as in, Ohio?’ ” Quarto said while sitting on a patio surrounded by blooming flowers in the Ohio City neighborhood.

Now, she and her partner own a big yellow house here. And when friends from New York come to visit, Quarto says, they are happy to help the couple tick off another thing on their Cleveland bucket list, which includes visiting the Botanical Garden and going to a high school football game.

Her partner’s boss, who lives in Alaska, even purchased a second home in Cleveland.

The news trifecta of James’ return to the Cavaliers, college quarterback Johnny Manziel’s signing with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns and the Republican Party’s picking Cleveland for its 2016 national convention may have put the city in the spotlight, but locals say it is simply more proof there’s already a resurgence underway.

“The GOP and LeBron are going to grease the skids on a process that’s already started,” said Richey Piiparinen, a senior research associate at the Center for Population Dynamics at Cleveland State University. “People are realizing it’s not your grandpa’s Rust Belt anymore.”

Changes are evident in the city, where new construction is booming in areas like the Flats East Bank. Downtown, a new convention center just opened, and developers are rushing to build hotels and luxury condos to keep up with demand.

To be sure, Cleveland still has its problems. Poverty is rampant, with half of the city’s children living in poverty in 2012, a rate second only to that of Detroit, according to the National Center for Children in Poverty. The years of out-migration have led to neighborhoods of vacant homes.

“It’s still same old, same old here,” said Vickie Williams. No boom has trickled into her neighborhood.

Still, Cuyahoga County received more in-migration from Brooklyn and Chicago between 2007 and 2011 than it sent to those places, Piiparinen said. Although the Cleveland area lost population between 2006 and 2012, it added 40,000 people with college degrees.

“It’s what we call ‘big fish, small pond’ talent migration,” Piiparinen said.

“Are you going to get lost in the shuffle of New York City, or are you going to come back and make a huge difference in your community?”

© 2014 Star Tribune