Bay takes top suburb ranking with safety, schools, stability

Bay Village city employees celebrate the “best suburb” rating by Cleveland Magazine at a lunchtime reception at the Dwyer Center on June 13.

Bay Village is back on top. The June issue of Cleveland Magazine lists Bay above all of the 76 other Northeast Ohio communities judged in its annual “Rating the Suburbs” feature. It is a return to glory for the city, which last held the No. 1 spot in 1995 and 1996.

The magazine specifically referenced Bay’s low crime rate, strong schools and home-sale values, but the rankings also factor in such criteria as pollution, community services, sidewalks, poverty and diversity.

To celebrate the feat, Mayor Debbie Sutherland held a luncheon for city employees at the Dwyer Community Center on June 13. Over sandwiches and cake, the group reveled in their achievement before heading back to work. The Observer sat down with the mayor following the reception to hear her thoughts on the No. 1 rating.

Sutherland says the city's appeal goes beyond measurable statistics. “You can't say that it's all one person or one aspect, we have the best package to offer as a community,” she said. “We are steady and stable and we've got great services, we've got really good schools, it's beautiful, it's walkable, it's bikeable. We've got beautiful parks and great neighborhoods and then you see a very wide diversity of housing. It's cool, and it's getting cooler."

The recent trend in home prices is anything but cool in Bay. According to statistics cited in the magazine (provided by the county auditor’s office), 69 of the 77 ranked communities saw a decrease in home-sale prices between 2006 and 2011, while prices in Bay increased 12.22 percent over that span, higher than any other city in the study.

The mayor believes that is due, in part, to a shift in the city’s demographics. In the 2010 U.S. Census, 15.5 percent of the population in Bay was 65 years of age or older, but Sutherland feels the winds of change are blowing in a youth movement of sorts – first-time homeowners and families with young children.

“This is no longer a stodgy, old community,” she said. “To be honest, we were in danger of going there if we hadn't done some of the improvements that we've done, like to the pool.

"There is this transition going on that we think started about two years ago or so, where we started seeing this huge turnover of new and young families moving into Bay. I think that's one of the reasons that our property values have been maintained."

Sutherland offered an example in her own neighborhood. "Look at my street. I live over on Jefferson Court. There are 27 homes and almost all of them have turned over in the last two years. We've lived there for almost 20 years and in that time period nobody sold a home.

“But in the last two years, because people got older or downsized, there has been a turnover. Now there's probably upwards of 40 kids on the street and they all play together and the parents all socialize together.”

While the real estate building boom of the 1990s may have led to many of the problems suburbs are facing today, Sutherland sees a shift in ideology.

"I think McMansions are out. I think were going to see this trend, where exurbia –  let's go build in Avon or Grafton – I think those days are over. I think that young families are really looking for longevity and roots in a neighborhood and they're looking for sustainable housing that they know that they can grow into and they won't grow out of.

“And that speaks to the stability of this community and we've worked really, really hard to make sure it stays that way."

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Volume 4, Issue 13, Posted 9:53 AM, 06.26.2012