The Van Aken District: The New Downtown in Shaker Heights

by | Mar 1, 2019 | Development News, Dining, Nightlife, Shopping, Family Friendly Stuff, Neighborhoods & Housing

Shaker Heights is known for a lot of things: beautiful architecture, diversity, excellent public schools, winding streets with towering tree canopies, high taxes, and close proximity to the city center. Shaker was intentionally designed as a bedroom community. Therefore, the city didn’t offer much in the way of commercial amenities beyond a few small shops and restaurants. That all changed in late 2018 when the Van Aken District opened. It created an instant downtown for this inner-ring suburb and added a lot of choices for where to shop, eat, play, and live.

As part of our monthly EA University continuing educating outings, Executive Arrangements team members toured the Van Aken District  to see what amenities this lifestyle center has that might appeal to the many relocating families we work with each year. We met with the district’s General Manger, Jason Russell, to learn more about this mixed-use development. The Van Aken District is a phenomenal, and much needed, ‘Live + Work + Play’ opportunity for Shaker Heights. Jason walked us through the development and shared the many highlights and amenities.

Before we walk through our day, a little history first. This Shaker Heights project has been 20 years in the work, at least! Shaker Heights residents have been wanting a walkable “downtown Main Street” environment for a very long time. The Van Aken District is the solution! The developer RMS Investment Corp. worked closely with the City of Shaker Heights to make this vision a reality.

The Van Aken District offers 103 luxury apartments, a 21,000 square-foot Market Hall, 80,000 square feet of retail space, and 64,000 square feet of office space. Plus, there is plenty of well-planned parking. Visitors have access to 325 public garage spots and 80 street spots.

The district’s aesthetic is progressive and modern. But, there are warm and historical touches that people will associate with the feel of Shaker Heights. With the exception of the Dimit-designed Mitchell’s Homemade, the district was designed by Bialosky. A cool fact: The three new roads in the district (Tuttle, Meade and Walker) are named after architects who designed many of the beautiful homes in Shaker Heights.


The district’s residential complex is called ‘Upstairs.’ The residential Community Manager Kelly Bird walked us through several apartments and gave us the highlights. They began leasing in August of 2018 and are now 72% leased. Available floor plans include studios, one-bedrooms, two-bedrooms, and penthouses. The units lease for $2.00-$2.50/square foot and are pet-friendly. Six of the seven penthouses are currently leased!

Upstairs features some internal amenities like the 5th floor community room and terrace. Residents have access to a private underground parking garage. But, the real amenity is the district itself. The shops, restaurants, and services are real perks for the residents. There is a gym operated by GrooveRyde in the office building. Along with a gym, GrooveRyde offers indoor cycling, yoga fusion and boot camp classes.

The Rapid is easily accessible, and tenants can be in Downtown Cleveland in 26 minutes.

The tenants cover a wide range of demographics and range from families to recent college graduates to empty-nesters. Jason mentioned on our tour that people are really responding to the dense feel and urban context of the Van Aken District within the peacefulness and ease of a suburb setting. It’s like having the best of both worlds.

Retail and Restaurants

The Van Aken District’s retail strategy focused on filling the storefronts with a collection of local and regional businesses first. National stores have been added as needed. Most retail spaces are between 1,000-3,000 square feet because the district really wanted to create that accessible, walkable “downtown” feel. There is currently only 16,000 square feet of available retail space left for lease.

Included in the retail plan is a wonderful gathering spot! The Market Hall has spots for meeting friends, grabbing food, coffee and drinks, and shopping. Plus, it has a great stage area for concerts, story times, movies, and more events. There are 22 10′ x 10′ micro-retail stalls with only five left to be leased. And, the Market Hall features glass garage doors that will open up to a patio during the warmer months.

Here are a few available shops and restaurants. There are even more opening in the next few months, including new restaurants by Jonathan Sawyer and Michael Schwartz!


The Van Aken District’s office space is currently 90% leased.
Some of the businesses represented include:

Events and Programming

The Van Aken District is more than a place to shop and eat. It will be a place to gather. They are offering year-round community programming, both inside and outside. They will host movie nights, concerts, and much more. They have partnered with Arts Van Aken to coordinate and produce some of these offerings.

Some of their regular programs include:

  • Storytelling in the Market Hall
  • Make and Take with Stem Soaps
  • North Union Farmers Market Indoor Winter Market

Since opening in the fall, the district has hosted two Cleveland Flea events and Arts Van Aken’s Winteractive Festival. One of the Cleveland Flea events had 7,000 attendees!

Interested in learning more? Here are some links to additional reading about the Van Aken District:

Each month, the staff of Executive Arrangements takes part in a continuing education outing we call EA University (EAU). We take a deep dive into the most current information on interesting places, people and events in Northeast Ohio. We focus on subjects that we know are fascinating and relevant to the candidates and families that we help relocate to Cleveland or Akron. These gatherings are informative and provide great connection… Connection to Northeast Ohio and connection among the staff. If you think your job candidates or new hires could benefit from the deep knowledge our staffers have as they relocate to the Cleveland/Akron area, please call us at 216.231.9311.