Winegardner wrote these words in 2001, when The Flats as a happening spot was nothing but a fond memory, and it would be years before its resurrection began. Today, this symbol of our fractured unity doubles as a stand-in for the city’s renaissance. It gives us more of a reason to get together -- to go down to the river, if not to cross it -- than we’ve had in a long time.
Young people especially don’t need a passport to cross the river anymore. There are more of us living, or at least hanging out, on both sides of town. Artists and businesses are getting in on the action with projects that strive to bring East and West Siders together, whether on a bench or over some beers.
We in Cleveland love debating the rivalry, sometimes in ways that are downright laughable. It has been a constant through the city’s best and worst years. There is something damn near mythic about it: two warring tribes of people so similar, separated by a windy, crooked river that caught fire -- several times in the previous century. They share the same core values, but develop slightly different customs: one tribe worships at the temple of Honey Hut, the other at East Coast Custard; one catches its rays at Mentor Headlands, the other at Edgewater Park; one catches its indie features at Cedar Lee, the other at Capitol Theatre.