As neighborhoods like Gordon Square and Hingetown continue to develop their own unique identities, Brian Ruthsatz sees the same potential in Lakewood’s Madison Avenue.

As the owner and operator of Rood Food and Pie, Ruthsatz is a part of Madison’s evolution in the past few years. He cites that in the past 16 months, the 2.7 mile stretch from Riverside Drive to West 117th Street welcomed five new coffee shops and 10 new restaurants among other businesses. However, that stretch didn’t feel like a unified road.

“I wondered ‘how do we connect it?” Ruthsatz says. “There’s uptown, there’s Birdtown, they want to call this west Madison. It’s two-and-a-half miles, you don’t need to do all of that – it needs to be Madison Ave.”

His plan? Utilize the street’s history to unify Madison and make it a more walkable destination. The idea was sparked by a speech from former Lakewood Planning and Development Director Dru Siley about the lack of parking options on Madison after the Barrio boom. During the speech, Siley referenced Madison’s history of streetcars and how it has more streetcar balconies than any street in Cleveland.

Ruthsatz saw an opportunity to utilize this past history to connect what he calls a “melting pot of crazy little restaurants” and other businesses through initiatives like Historical Society walking tours inviting various businesses to sponsor past streetcars and invest in public art. 

“There are art installations in Gordon Square, Ohio City, and on the East Side, and we have nothing,” Ruthsatz says. “We have a lot of great artists here, but we have nothing, so let’s take advantage of this.”

Ruthsatz shared his plans with the city of Lakewood, which he says inspired the creation of the Lakewood Art Mural Program. Ruthsatz also visited roughly 30 businesses on Madison to gauge their interest in adding partially-funded vinyl murals to their buildings that tapped into Madison’s streetcar history. 

According to Ruthsatz, three businesses – Rood, The CoLab, and Brewella’s – are approved and hope to add murals this spring. Once that happens, he estimates that more businesses will join the fold. He also encourages more business owners and citizens to ask the city about parking studies for other parts of the street or to revitalize the old Madison RTA lot. While some ideas are still a bit down the road, the plan to unify a 2.7-mile stretch of Madison is definitely in motion.