I love Justin, and I loved Justin before I really knew Justin just based on what I heard about Justin… and technically I’m still getting to know Justin, but… what I do know is Justin is awesome! Justin is committed to making a difference, and Justin is a Cool Person in CLE!
Justin, tell everyone a little about yourself…
I was born and raised in the Corlett / Mt. Pleasant neighborhood of Cleveland. I fell in love with politics and public service which influenced me to go to American University in Washington, D.C. for college after attending Trinity High School in Garfield Heights. I moved to D.C. when the city was in the middle of a major urban renaissance. Seeing the pace of this change unlocked an intellectual curiosity for me to pursue a major in Urban Studies which led me to study Urban Policy and Economic Development at the London School of Economics in London for a year. After college, I spent five years working in strategy consulting, government, and finance. I just finished my J.D. / M.B.A. at Case Western Reserve University and now I work at KeyBank as VP of Corporate Strategy where I spend my time thinking about the future of banking.
You’ve lived in DC and New York, what brought you back to Cleveland?
I moved back to Cleveland because I felt that the city was embarking on a major transformation and I wanted to be a part of it. DC and NYC are great cities to live in but one of the issues you will find is that if you are not a native it’s hard to feel a sense of belonging and connectedness. In Cleveland, if you are persistent, you can find many ways to substantively make an impact on the city.
You recently told me that you loved living in Downtown Cleveland, why?
I consider myself an urbanist having lived in some of the biggest cities in the world. Downtown Cleveland offers many, if not more, of the same amenities I’ve grown accustomed to. I love the walkability and access I have to restaurants, coffee shops, and my favorite workout studios. Also having lived Downtown over the last 5 years, I’ve seen a tremendous amount of growth in the number of families, young professionals, and baby boomers who have moved into my neighborhood. Successful cities have a thriving, diverse, urban core and it’s exciting to be a part of seeing this type of change Downtown.
You are overly involved in the community and I absolutely love that! I tell people it’s the best way to meet new people and make a difference. Would you agree?
Absolutely. One of the reasons why I moved back to Cleveland was because I felt that the city offered a number of opportunities to make a difference and meet new friends. The friendships I’ve made through my community service have turned into deep, meaningful relationships that truly made my transition back to Cleveland smoother.
You sit on numerous boards (most recently joining the RTA) and you’re the co-founder of Hack Cleveland. Can you explain why it’s so important to be involved in the community? Can you also explain what Hack Cleveland is for those who aren’t aware?
The city where you live is what you make of it and I believe that rolling-up your sleeves and getting involved is essential to creating the kind of community you want to live in. That’s why I’m so committed to the boards I serve on and Hack Cleveland is one those boards that has given me a lot of hope of what Cleveland can truly become.
Hack Cleveland was founded after the tragic murder of Tamir Rice in 2014. Our founding members came together because we were angry and frustrated at the pace of structural social change in Cleveland and we felt that we could leverage technology as a vehicle to realize that change. Just last November, we organized one of the city’s first Scope-A-Thon’s focused on criminal justice reform, and our winners are currently in the process of launching major initiatives looking to address bail reform and collateral sanctions.
What are you most excited about experiencing now that you are back in Cleveland?
Cleveland is at a critical crossroads and I believe many in my generation will be a part of implementing more authentic, diverse ideas to make the city more equitable for all residents. Seeing this type of change first hand and supporting my peers in their community change efforts is the one thing that makes me excited to call Cleveland home.
What is your favorite restaurant in Cleveland?
Parallax in Tremont.
What is your favorite place to go for Happy Hour in Cleveland?
Parkers at the Kimpton Schofield Hotel
When he’s not helping underserved communities of color reach their potential, Justin is studying, presenting and writing about creating a national model of urban transformation.