Best Of 2009

Best Neighborhood Catalyst: Cindy Barber

A decade ago there was no Waterloo Village Arts and Entertainment district. That strip of North Collinwood was a desolate zone of empty storefronts. And the neighborhood of modest working-class homes around it didn't escape the scourge of the foreclosure crisis of the past 10 years (yeah, 10). But some people see defeat; some see opportunity. In 2000, former Free Times editor Cindy Barber and Mark Leddy bought the old Croatian Liberty Home on Waterloo and turned it into the Beachland Ballroom; the name reached back to Euclid Beach amusement park days. The Beachland quickly became a home away from home for Northeast Ohio music fans and touring bands of all stripes. Over time, shops and galleries and new residents followed, and slowly a sleeping neighborhood came back to life. Today, an artist or musician is almost as likely to tell you they live in North Collinwood as in Tremont. Of course it takes more than a name to turn a neighborhood into an artists' colony, and what's really spurred the growth is the rehabbing and aggressive marketing to artists of affordable houses by the Northeast Shores Development Corporation. Barber now serves as president of its board. Could Waterloo become a mini-Brooklyn? Its leaders are working to persuade creative people who could never afford New York real-estate prices to relocate, so who knows? And while Barber would never claim credit, it all started with one woman's bold choice. (