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The Suburbanite
  • Cool living downtown: Canton spaces cater to hip

  • Apartments ranging from small studios to spacious lofts, sometimes located atop bars and art galleries, are luring a variety of new residents to downtown Canton. A developer is hoping to attract even more with a plan to build 95 market-rate apartments at the former Hercules site on Market Avenue S.

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  • With all the attention that’s been focused in recent years on downtown Canton’s blossoming arts, nightlife and dining scene, it’s no surprise that people are wanting to live there.
    Apartments ranging from small studios to spacious lofts, sometimes located atop bars and art galleries, are luring a variety of new residents downtown. A developer is hoping to attract even more with a plan to build 95 market-rate apartments at the former Hercules site on Market Avenue S.
    While some people still cling to notions of downtown as dark and dangerous, these new dwellers say such fears are exaggerated. They are drawn by the vitality of the city, as opposed to quiet tree-lined suburbia.
    Meet the inhabitants of three apartments in Canton’s Arts District. A husband, wife and their elementary-age daughter. Two brothers in a rock ‘n’ roll band. A restaurant manager.
    Along with their shared ZIP code, they all share a love of the neighborhood.
    WALKING THE TALK
    John and Cheli Curran and their daughter Connor used to live in a log cabin on a farm in Bolivar.
    Last October, the family made an abrupt about-face, moving to a third-floor walk-up apartment in downtown Canton, devoid of lawn or even a balcony.
    While the scenario might sound bleak to some, the Currans could scarcely be happier. Asked to name her favorite part about living downtown, Connor, 7, exclaims, “Everything!”
    Of course it helps that La Casa Curran is one fabulous place. The kind of handsome, expansive apartment that in Manhattan, as we learn on Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listings,” might sell for $5 million.
    Two apartments combined into one, the place has 10-foot ceilings, hardwood floors, exposed brick, fireplaces, lots of light, two living rooms, two bathrooms and a dining room that accommodates an 11-foot table.
    “We wanted to live downtown eight years ago. We’d ask people, ‘Can we look at your second and third floors?’” John, 53, said. “Even in Bolivar, we were cheerleaders for downtown Canton. Part of moving here was to walk the talk.”
    It’s an easy stroll for Cheli, 37, to her job as director of the Children’s Services Advocacy Network for Stark County Job and Family Services. Her office, located above Carpe Diem coffee shop, is mere blocks away.
    Connor, who attends Canton City Schools’ Arts Academy at Summit, is active at the nearby Players Guild Theatre. John, a stay-at-home dad, does design work at his home studio. (Cheli has a home office of her own.)
    Over three months last summer, John designed and extensively remodeled the apartment for the building’s owner, Tim Belden, who lives part-time atop his Joseph Saxton Gallery of Photography around the corner. “Sweat equity” is how John describes the arrangement, declining to disclose the apartment’s rental price.
    Page 2 of 3 - An avid chef, John equipped the contemporary kitchen with a cabinet system from Ikea and a butcher-block counter top. He just planted an herb garden in a $9 plastic kiddie pool on the roof, accessible through a window. The Currans hope a grocery or even corner deli will open downtown one day.
    “We dreamed of something like this,” Cheli said, surveying her vibrant new home. “And Tim wanted something special.”
    The Currans are a city family now, enjoying suppers at Basil Asian Cuisine, Bender’s Tavern and Tozzi’s Downtown, movies at the Palace, First Friday and other downtown events. Interestingly, Cheli, a McKinley High School graduate who grew up on Colonial Boulevard NE, said she has no memories of downtown Canton from her youth.
    An obvious question: Is downtown Canton a safe place to live and raise a young child?
    “If you live in New York City or any major city anywhere, your lifestyle changes. In Bolivar, I never locked my doors, now I do,” Cheli said. “I’ve never felt unsafe downtown.”
    “Nothing will ever be as safe as a log cabin in Bolivar,” John said. “But here we have the benefits of the city.”
    ARTS DISTRICT NEWCOMERS
    Rock ‘n’ rollers by trade, Dan and Nate Monea like to cruise around their new downtown bachelor pad on skateboards. That’s how spacious it is.
    When the lease was up on their rental house near the Stark County Fairgrounds, the brothers cast their sights to downtown Canton.
    “We were tired of living in a big old house and having high utility bills and lots of stuff to take care of,” Dan, 30, said. “Downtown is the center where artists and young people are doing their thing.”
    Acting on the advice of friends already living downtown, Dan and Nate stopped by King Properties, which manages many downtown apartments. “They had a totally remodeled, two-bedroom, two-bath loft opening up and we immediately put a deposit down,” Dan said. “We’re really excited about it.” The rent for their new Arts District crib is $725 a month, plus electric. The guys moved in on May 5.
    “The vibe of the place is so cool,” Dan said. “The kitchen is brand new and fresh, but what I really love is they left some of the old doors intact, with frosted-glass panes and antique glass doorknobs.”
    “It’s real modern and has a classic flair to it,” Nate, 27, said.
    While often busy touring on the weekends with their band Hey Monea! — which last year won the Hard Rock Cafe’s international battle of the bands — the guys are enjoying the nightlife opportunities in their new neighborhood.
    “There’s a band at Buzzbin every night except Sunday. I can walk downstairs, have a beer and see a random hardcore band from Iowa. You never know who will be playing,” Nate said. “There’s a sports bar real close, a wine bar, the Conestoga is always cool. There’s a million places. I’m really excited about the new YMCA they are building.”
    Page 3 of 3 - Asked about the noise level in downtown Canton, Nate said, “I like hearing a little activity on the street on the weekdays. I enjoy waking up and hearing people walking around and talking. You really don’t hear much after midnight.” As for parking, “We can generally find parking within sight range of our windows,” he said.
    An entertainer and naturally outgoing guy, Dan is enjoying the camaraderie downtown. “It’s a really nice community of people who are pursuing their art and what they really want to do. I’ve talked to Billy Ludwig and Tiffany Marsh, who have galleries (nearby),” he said. “Everybody’s been really welcoming.”
    FOUR YEARS DOWNTOWN
    Talk about a green lifestyle. Julian Christian has a four-minute walk to his job as assistant manager at Bender’s Tavern. He’s been living downtown for four years now, three of them at his current place, a roomy studio apartment atop an art gallery.
    “As soon as I set foot in here, I asked for a rental agreement,” Christian, 28, said. The rent for his place, which has a kitchenette, bathroom, four windows across the front, hardwood floors and a skylight, is “under $500.”
    Because of his restaurant job, Christian is busy at Bender’s during First Friday, the Canton Blues Festival, Taste of Canton and other downtown evening events. But after work he enjoys walking over to Picciano’s Martini Lounge. “To me, that has the crowd and the draw of what downtown should be,” he said. “It’s sleek and comfortable.”
    He’s also drawn by the live music at his corner bar, Buzzbin. “I’ve caught some really neat bands there and they have a great beer selection,” he said.  
    Drawn to the vibe of downtown life, Christian said, “I expected it to be a little rougher. It’s very quiet, very pleasant, especially where the streetlights are, from Bender’s to the Palace.” He enjoys the quiet on Sundays, which is always a day off.
    With more than 1,000 employees, the VXI Global Solutions call center near Christian’s apartment has brought more people to the surrounding sidewalks. “It is what it is,” he said.
    He seems similarly unperturbed by the worst thing he’s experienced in four years downtown. Last October, someone broke one of his car windows and ransacked his car.
    “I know not to keep any valuables in my car,” he said. “You’ve got to prepared to be in a city. It’s not a residential neighborhood.”
    It is, however, “definitely a community.”
    Reach Dan at 330-580-8306 or
    dan.kane@cantonrep.com
    On Twitter: @dkaneREP