Suburban Chic - Pacific Standard

Suburban Chic

Can a city's suburbs be a source of dynamism, cool places where people are eager to live and play and work?
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Lakewood Park. (PHOTO: PUBLIC DOMAIN)

Lakewood Park. (PHOTO: PUBLIC DOMAIN)

Ah, Rust Belt Chic Paris. It's authentic. Daring. On the edge, a place of experimentation. Welcome to the suburbs:

“Things are changing,” said Majid El Jarroudi, a consultant of Moroccan origin, who grew up in the Paris banlieue of Montreuil.

Mr. Jarroudi, 36, started his career operating a small restaurant. He founded an organization, Adive, to assist banlieue entrepreneurs after visiting the United States and marveling at how much easier it seemed for minorities to move ahead.

Attitudes have shifted slowly in France, he said, but these days, “there is a growing recognition that the banlieues should not be seen as a place to fear, but as a source of dynamism, full of people who are eager to work and to succeed.”

Welcome to Cleveland. Last weekend, I'm walking around a pop-up market in a neighborhood where Slovenian immigrants used to roost. The ethnic mix of the marginalized is much more diverse. Many buildings had seen better days.

St. Louis champions Jeff and Randy Vines are in town to check out the scene. The energy is entrepreneurial. The urban landscape is authentic. Cleveland is on the edge, a place of experimentation.

The night before, David C. Barnett (National Public Radio) and I were at a Brazilian expat party in Lakewood. Lakewood is an old suburb with a city feel. I ran into Barnett again at the pop-up and we chatted about the suburban frontier, the new inner city. Could the burbs be cool like the core neighborhoods of Cleveland?

I paused before answering David's question. I smiled. He was on to something. Rust Belt Chic Paris in Cleveland.

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