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Issue Date: June 2012


Rating the Suburbs 2012: For the design focused

The city's revamped Old River Shopping District adds new luster to an old favorite.
Jeff Niesel

Rocky River

Laura Jacobs moved into Rocky River's Old River Shopping District six years ago, when the strip of shops housed in century-old brick buildings wasn't a very attractive destination.

Jacobs' make-your-own-jewelry shop, Embellish, was a gem in a relatively stark setting. The street was wide with hardly a flower or landscaping to be found.

"There was a lot more asphalt," says Kory Koran, Rocky River's economic and community development director. "There were no benches or litter containers."

So the city spent $500,000 to widen the sidewalks for outdoor dining and easy strolling. It added wrought-iron benches, garden planters, 15-foot arbors with "Old River" spelled out in bright gold letters, and tall, black cast-iron streetlights that harken back to the era when the Detroit-Rocky River bridge was one of the largest masonry arches in America.

"The streetscape gave a great boost of vibrancy and cohesiveness to the district," says Jacobs. "It brought the shops, restaurants and businesses closer together."

These days, Old River includes boutiques, galleries and popular eateries such as Rosso Gelato and Tartine Bistro, Wine Bar & Café, which is housed in the former city hall. The $10 million, 11 River townhome development overlooking the Rocky River has sprung up just around the corner.

Jacobs, who decided to live in Rocky River two years after opening Embellish, says residents embrace and support local businesses. Many of her customers live within walking distance in beautiful colonial houses with lake views, nearby parks and access to private beaches.

Rocky River's highly ranked schools, host of community amenities and walkable neighborhoods add to the appeal. Uniting the Old River Shopping District with newer areas such as the redesigned Beachcliff Market Square has been a "long struggle," according to Koran, but it feels more like a unified downtown.

"We now have a Downtown River scheme to connect these areas," says Koran. "We have a lot going on."

And that's good news for residents like Jacobs. "There are such neat historical references here," says Jacobs. "This area of Rocky River is so cute and quaint and has a local flavor that's appreciated."

Neighborhood Hot Spot

"The houses have lots of character. They are older homes, and over the years, many people have maintained and improved them. They've always retained their character," says Howard Hanna's Julie Weist of the Beachcliff and Battersea neighborhood. "A lot of people belong to the Yacht Club, which is a draw there. The houses have been selling quickly. ... They're on the incline for sure."

What You Get

Battersea Boulevard

Asking price: $279,900

Selling price: $265,000

Square feet: 3,009

No. of bedrooms: 5

No. of bathrooms: 3

Time on the market: 401 days



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