Cleveland, Ohio, is home to a football team that has had one winning season in 10 years. It’s bisected by a river so polluted it would sometimes catch fire. I defy you to name a single rock band from the town that hosts the quietly unimpressive Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Dennis Kucinich, the politician who never met a comb he didn’t like, was once mayor. If ever a place were historically worthy of its nickname—“the mistake on the lake”—Cleveland would seem to be it.
But then there’s Graham Veysey. Together with his wife, Marika Shioiri-Clark, the 40-year-old Cleveland native has spent the past decade or so revitalizing an area the couple calls “Hingetown,” a formerly decrepit slice of Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood.
It started with the vacant Ohio City Firehouse, which Veysey bought and restored in 2011. Aside from housing the reliable hallmarks of neighborhood revitalization—a coffee shop and a deli, which Daniel Boulud has called the “best in America”—the firehouse serves as an ample carriage for Veysey’s countless other business interests, be it his video-production company, North Water Productions, with clients such as the Aspen Ideas Festival and the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit, or his award-winning canned-wine label, Graham + Fisk’s.
Lately, Veysey and Shioiri-Clark have put most of their weight behind transforming the area west of that fire-breathing river from a land of boarded-up buildings, empty lots, and prostitution into a proper neighborhood that recalls the former glory of the city’s industrial era.
Their latest building, the 158-apartment Church + State—whose name is derived from the streets that hem it in, not the Bill of Rights—looks like something you might expect to see in Brooklyn rather than the Midwest, complete with comfortable common areas and handsome midcentury fixtures and furniture. And if Veysey gives off the air of someone who can develop any project, Shioiri-Clark has the human-centered design bona fides (in the form of a B.A. in Urban Studies from Brown and a master’s in architecture from Harvard) to ensure that things are not only livable but stylish.
Upcoming projects, from the seven-sided live-work Quonset huts they’re building behind Church + State to a more ambitious bid to develop the area next to the Detroit-Superior Bridge into a hotel and apartments, make the neighborhood feel like it may soon be worthy of a new name: Boomtown. Cleveland may make the occasional mistake, but Veysey and Shioiri-Clark do not.
Nathan King is a Deputy Editor for Air Mail