Chipotle Community Center?

For all of our city's positive traits, we have one glaring flaw, and that's the state of our downtown area.


     “The downtown.” For smaller communities, this phrase conjures up fond memories of nightly strolls and community diners, of dropped ice cream cones and first kisses. It’s the place where couples come to hold hands and take walks; it’s the place where people bring their pets; it’s the beating and breathing heart of a community, its core. It’s the place where people go when when the rest of the town seems inert. The “downtown” encapsulates the flavor of a community, and the community in turn flocks to the downtown for meals, gatherings and cups of coffee.

    I would liken the “downtown” area to the “profile picture” of a community. When people think Chagrin Falls, they think of the Popcorn Shop, they think of Yours Truly, they think of the waterfalls themselves—all vital components of its downtown. When people think Hudson, they think of its two blocks of stores that simply ooze homeyness. When people think Coventry Village, they think Coventry Road. When people think Solon, they think... Chipotle?

    It’s true. As a student, the only times that I see the exotic lettermen jackets (aka from Mentor and Kenston) that indicate a commute to our city is in the lines of Chipotle. The residents of our town, from football players to Science Olympiad members, grandparents to children, flock to Chipotle for nourishment. And Chipotle, unlike many of our other restaurants, is always full. You could say it’s like our unofficial community center—and that’s my problem.

    For a city that is apparently the 3rd best place to live in the US (according to Money Magazine), having your best local draw be a burrito joint is a bit of a letdown. Where’s our local culture? Where’s our Popcorn Shop? Why does our downtown have to be a bleak strip of empty lots and chain stores? I think we deserve better.

    Now, I’m not ignorant. I’ve lived in this city for the better part of ten years, and I know that we have some bright spots. Mitchell’s, one could argue, is a great local fixture. Yes, I agree. Still—really? An ice cream shop, however delicious, cannot singlehandedly salvage a downtown from desolation. Even the one-two punch of Chipotle and Mitchell’s is, quite simply, weak.

    It’s a shame that for a city with so many great qualities, we’re missing the one that means the most. It’s like having Miss Universe with an eyebrow shaved off. It’s like having a chocolate mousse with a hair in it. It’s like having the greatest job applicant in the world making his Facebook profile picture one of him doing a keg stand naked. It’s just not right.

    Maybe the city budget is too tight to develop downtown more. Maybe there’s not enough local interest in shopping in downtown. Maybe I’m just whining. If so, I’d like to change my tone to a more grateful one. Thank you, Chipotle. Thank you, Mitchell’s. Without you, we’d be in even worse shape.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Chris Mazzolini February 22, 2012 at 03:45 PM
What do you think the city could do to improve its "downtown"? I think Zach makes an interesting point: For all Solon's well-earned accolades, the downtown area is dominated by shopping centers and chain stores, and not very pedestrian friendly.
Suzi Castiglione February 22, 2012 at 04:04 PM
From what I've been told....you need to take a look at the history of Solon. This was once all farm land. I think it grew too quickly without time for a real plan and nobody said "hold on, let's think about the future." Solon people are not really the gathering type. If you notice any events that take place, they are not attended by a large amount of residents. I remember back to a Strawberry Festival and an Art Show in the community park....attendance was pitiful. Since I was fairly new to Solon, I was surprised. I grew up in a place with a real downtown and people who came out to it. Relay for life has a good attendance, but not close to what you see in other areas. If only they had one half of the people who came to see a football game. Solon Italian Club Easter Egg Hunt....we get hundreds of people of all religions. I would say that a good 1/3 of the people are from outside of Solon. And while the club has been asking for people to bring donations of non-perishables for local families, not even half bring anything or drop a cash donation. Being involved with Solon Center for the Arts and knowing what a great contribution it is to this city, it surprises me that every event is not sold out. We have a drive selling bricks you can dedicate to someone so we can raise money for the much-needed new patio area outside SCA. Even The Solon Rotary has taken up our cause. Sadly, we are not close to selling enough bricks. We want the best, but don't want to support it all.
Suzi Castiglione February 22, 2012 at 04:12 PM
Solon could have had some downtown pedestrian friendly area, but as we all know.....those plans didn't make it. Residents struck it down.
Solon Resident February 22, 2012 at 04:50 PM
I don't disagree with Zach's comment at all. I also believe the city is working on the City Master Plan, which I believe will address (attempt) the need for a true downtown. I've read for many years that the area where the Arts Center is and the newer Fire Dept. resides was once looked upon as a proposed new "downtown area", however can someone explain to this audience what the potential time frame may be to hear something more concrete regarding the Master Plan and more importantly will also have a better idea of prioritizing those ideas and costs. Solon is a tremendous city. The school system, which is the primary reason my wife and I moved here is certainly one of the core reason many people want to live in Solon. Hearing of the Master Plan, allowing new and existing commercial, restaurants, and other industrial organizations move to the city with less hurdles to overcome will ultimately help bring revenue and sustain who Solon is and why we were voted 3rd best place to live in the US (according to Money Magazine), as Zack eluded to in his article.
John February 24, 2012 at 03:54 AM
Ten years ago the city starting working on a new master plan, last year it was adopted just in time to be reviewed for its charter required update every decade. A citizen committee was formed and has had input to the plan, soon a community attitude survey will be tabulated and reviewed by that committee. The committee did not agree with the amphatheatre concept in the adopted plan. While the MasterPlan contains goals, there isn't really a published action plan to achieve them, nor reporting on the progress toward achieving them, nor a funding source to achieve them as there was put in place with the Storm Water Mgt Plan. As new projects are proposed the MasterPlan is used as a guideline. To view a reformatted version of the adopted plan, look here http://solonohio.org/index.aspx?NID=272 . To see more of the process, look here https://sites.google.com/site/bettersolon/solon/masterplan and here http://bettersolon.blogspot.com/search/label/MasterPlan .


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