Leap of faith
It was one fateful night when Tim Belden attended downtown Canton’s First Friday ice-sculpting celebration in January 2008.
“That was my first one,” he recalled. “I had been spending too much time in the country. I had thought about opening a gallery prior to that — and it all kind of unraveled from there.”
In May 2008, impressed by the still-gestating Canton Arts District, Belden took a major leap of faith and purchased an entire downtown block, the one bordered by Cleveland and Court Avenues, and Fifth and Sixth streets NW.
In June 2009, he opened the handsome and vast Joseph Saxton Gallery of Photography at 520 Cleveland Ave. NW, in the space that was built in 1909 as a Cadillac dealership, where he displays his museum-caliber collection of photography and presents changing exhibitions.
Atop the huge gallery, Belden created a 5,000-square-foot loft-style Atop the gallery, Belden created a 5,000-square-foot loft-style apartment and studio that was completed in 2010.
“When things are gutted, you have complete liberty to imagine what it could be,” he said. “It was fun to do exactly what I wanted with it.”
An avid photographer, Belden is partial to the natural light that comes from two skylights above the mezzanine that serves as his studio and work space.
Belden, who has a wife, Kay, and 12-year-old daughter, Nicole, divides time between the downtown apartment and his farm in the Sandy Valley area.
“Initially when I moved in, it was wonderful to become part of the community of other galleries downtown,” he said. “It’s a wonderful neighborhood, unlike any other. The people are interesting and intelligent and motivated.”
Among Belden’s favorite downtown haunts is Basil Asian Bistro. “Tony (Ly, Basil manager), said the other day he was tired of seeing me over there so frequently,” he said jokingly.
He’s also partial to Lucca Restaurant. “I feel very fortunate surrounded by good friends and good food,” he said.
On First Fridays, Belden routinely entertains friends at his apartment. His balcony offers a bird’s eye view of the unfolding festivities.
Definitely a man about town, Belden encapsulates downtown Canton’s appeal simply: “It’s a lot of fun here
and very vital.”
Living above art
Twenty-something newlyweds Mitch and Maranda Ramsey, who hail from Louisville, are all smiles talking about their new downtown Canton apartment.
“We live above an art gallery — it’s so cool,” she said.
“We love going to yoga classes downstairs,” he said.
As for the neighbors in their building’s other five apartments, she said, “We hang out in the hallway and drink wine. We have group dinners. We always go out together.”
Downtown seems a natural location for the couple. Maranda has her own local PR firm, Bellflower Communications, with several key downtown clients. Mitch is a bartender at Grapes in a Glass, the downtown wine bar just blocks away.
After deciding to settle in the Canton area — “the ’burbs were not cutting it,” as Maranda puts it — the Ramseys cast their sights downtown, where they already had been enjoying First Fridays.
Spotting construction workers renovating a building one day, she called up and asked, “Hey, who do you work for?” This led to an apartment tour and ultimately a lease on a spanking new apartment.
“It’s great being the first people in a place,” Mitch said.
While cozy at 620 square feet, Mitch and Maranda’s apartment benefits from high ceilings, abundant windows and an open floor plan. It rents for $680 a month.
The couple’s wish list for downtown includes a small grocery, eateries open on Sundays and a place that serves weekend breakfast. Maranda is eager for the Onesto Hotel’s long-awaited apartments to open, providing more neighbors.
“I would love this place to be full of people, full of life,” she said, surveying the downtown scene through her living-room window.
Short stroll to work
When he landed a job at Mix 94.1 radio, Matt Fantone decided to settle in downtown Canton, just a short stroll to work and to bars, restaurants and art galleries.
Since June, Fantone and his feline companion, Rick the Cat, have called an apartment in downtown’s northeast section home sweet home.
“It’s $425 (a month) and a ton of space,” Fantone said about his bright and airy pad, one of four units in an older building maintained by Mike King.
“I’ve always felt safe here, the neighbors are awesome — older people and a young couple with a baby.”
The second-floor apartment has a kitchen, dining room, living room, bedroom, spare room, bathroom and balcony access. There are hardwood floors, French doors, a walk-in closet and lots of windows.
“It’s super quiet mostly,” said Fantone, a Twinsburg native. “Sometimes I hear city noise — but this is a city!”
Fantone, who previously worked at radio stations in Cleveland, Detroit, Flint, Mich., and Fresno, Calif., is a funny morning-show personality at Mix as well as the station’s interactive specialist.
“I don’t know if anyone knows what that means,” he said with a chuckle.
Not a cookie-cutter space
Alex Fisher is no stranger to downtown Canton.
“I grew up going to Bender’s,” he said. “My parents are very outgoing people, so I always had downtown in me. I wanted to see it grow into something great for a new generation.”
After living in the Ybor City district of Tampa, Fla., for four years, Fisher returned to Canton earlier this year.
“I had no idea where I wanted to live. I grew up in Jackson Township/Lake Cable area, and the apartments out there are cookie-cutter,” he said.
In August, Fisher and his girlfriend, Alyssa Brady, moved into a brand-new downtown apartment. With many windows and an open floor plan, the place, which rents for $718 a month, feels airy and spacious. The decor includes framed Andy Warhol posters, a ceramic Buddha head and a refrigerated display case filled with microbrew beer.
“We don’t really have one style,” said Fisher, operations supervisor and beverage buyer at Fishers Foods. “It’s an eclectic mix, which goes along with the downtown vibe.”
Fisher and Brady are big fans of downtown hangout the Buzzbin Shop.
“We’ve heard some great music come out of there. Plus, I’m a huge beer enthusiast,” Fisher said. “There’s always great people at Buzzbin,” said Brady, a student at Kent State University and server at Table Six.
The couple often hang out with their apartment neighbors, as well. Fisher said he’s eager for the opening of the new downtown YMCA, where he can play basketball, work out and meet new people. Brady said she would like to see more retail downtown, such as Colette Wasdahl’s vintage-clothing boutique at Elemental Arts on Walnut Avenue NE.
As for downtown safety, Brady said, “I don’t feel unsafe, but you definitely need to be more aware of your surroundings.”
“People need to realize it’s different living here than Jackson Township or North Canton,” Fisher said. “It’s city.”