Shaker Heights- A well planned Cleveland inner Ring Suburb

In July 1911, a petition by property owners successfully detached Shaker Heights from Cleveland Heights. But Shaker Heights has a history that goes back almost 100 years before this. The community was originally established as the North Union Shaker Settlement in 1822 with just over 80 individuals of the infamous Unity Society of Believes “aka the Shakers”. The community peaked in the mid 1800s but fizzed out by the late 1800s. Modern day Shaker Heights was a planned community developed by the Van Sweringen brothers, railroad moguls who envisioned the community as a suburban retreat from the industrial inner city of Cleveland with a direct rail connection to Terminal Towner in Downtown. Development really picked up in the 1920s and Shaker filled in by about 1950.

Shaker Square was originally supposed to be within the Shaker Heights boundaries, but due to the founders’ wish to keep retail out of their community, it was given over to the city of Cleveland. This agreement also led to this portion of Cleveland remaining within the Shaker School District. Shaker Heights has been an attractive, amenity rich inner ring suburb since its founding characterized by stringent building codes/zoning laws, great park amenities, well rated schools, quality transit access, and good urban business districts. Like Cleveland Heights, Shaker made conscious efforts toward Black-White integration starting in the late 1950s. As a result, Shaker Heights avoided many of the problems created from practices such as blockbusting and white flight and now is a very integrated community, albeit still facing significant economic white-black disparities. To become a great urban community Shaker needs to relax its zoning and permit more density and mixed use development. It especially needs better urban development at the Van Aiken District and Lee & Van Aiken. This is also need for more bike infrastructure and cultural amenities.

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  • Excellent family diversity (65% Family households) and racial diversity.
  • Great transit access helped by have two light rail lines running through.
  • Very safe community overall.
  • Up to date ADA infrastructure was very consistant.
  • Excellent array of walkable public and private schools. Really impressed with the sheer number of elementary schools providing a walkable options to most residents of the City. Shaker is also home to a large concentration of expensive private high schools.
  • A decent # of rentals. 1-bedrooms are concentrated around Shaker Square and the Van Aiken District and lease for btwn $700 and the low $1,000s. 2-beds a bit more broadly distributed lease in the law $1,000s, and 3 bedrooms btwn the low 1Ks and low 2Ks.
  • Good for sale diversity. Cluster of 1-bed condos along Van Aiken selling btwn 30K-100K, 2-beds sell for anywhere btwn 30K-300K and can be a condo, small house or townhouse. 3-bed homes sell anywhere btwn 85K-400K. 4 & 5 beds is a bit more expensive but with the additional of mansions selling btwn 500K-1 M.
  • Excellent recreational amenities including a whole system of trails, woods, and lakes along Shaker’s natural streams. Instead of burying them (like most cities) Shaker made them assets. Also plenty of playgrounds, ballfields, and a swimming poor spreader throughout.
  • Culturally a decent amount of restaurants, bars, and cafes in Shakers 4 Commercial nodes (Shaker Square/Larchmere, Lee & Van Aiken, the Van Aiken District, and Fairmount Circle), several art galleries, the Shaker Square Cinema, and Shaker Historical Museum.
  • Retail amenities are good including 2 supermarkets, several drug stores, a wonderful bookstore, hardware store, lots of general retail, great array of boutiques and creative retail at Larchmere and the Van Aiken district, plenty of banks, dessert spots and gyms.
  • Excellent tree canopy.
  • Many gorgeous mansions but also lots of more modest mid century architecture.


* Poor urban density. Closer to that of an autocentric suburb than urban district.
* Street connectivity works in Shaker Heights but intentionally confusion. This certainly hurts Shaker’s imageability.
* A couple recreational/bike lanes but no dedicated bike lanes are strongly connected routes.
* Medium household income but still some decent diversity. 8.5% of population is under the poverty line.
* No community theaters, museums, or live music venues in Shaker.
* Mixed bag in terms of urban form with Shaker’s Biz district. Shaker Square (just outside of Shaker) is great and so is Larchmere. Lee & Van Aiken is mostly strip malls with parking in front, the Van Aiken District is quasi urban but a nice semi-lifestyle center, and Fairmount Circle is small but walkable.
* Having lots of auto centric biz districts obviously leads to some crummy modern in-fill. Good mixed-use infill at the Van Aiken District however.
* Outside of the business district, pedestrian activity is pretty sparse. 

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