The Return of the Comeback City: Cleveland
Great article about existing and new development taking place in Cleveland and surrounding suburbs!
Darvio E. Morrow, March 8, 2012 – We’ve all heard the story. Cleveland, Ohio, like many other Rust Belt cities, has struggled mightily in the aftermath of the demise of heavy manufacturing. For those not paying attention, Cleveland would seem to be a doomed city destined for a continual decline. But this is not the case. Right now, the city of Cleveland is undergoing a dramatic transformation, the likes of which America hasn’t seen since the rebirth of New York City in the early 1990s. Currently there is over $6 billion in new developments taking place in the core city, with more on the way. Companies are moving in or moving back to Cleveland. The city’s downtown has more residents than any other downtown in Ohio. If you’re here or you’re paying attention, you know something big is taking place in Cleveland. You can feel it. But for those of you that are not here or have not heard, here is a list of the biggest or most impactful developments and economic happenings taking place in the Comeback City.
1. Flats East Bank
The Flats East Bank project, scheduled for completion in spring 2013, is a key component of revitalizing downtown Cleveland’s once popular Flats district. The East Bank project will feature an 18-floor office building, the region’s first Aloft hotel and (check this out) an outdoor, seasonal nightclub that has been described as having “a South Beach feel with a Vegas attitude.” Other components include apartments, to be built 150 at a time; restaurants; and retail.
2. Horseshoe Casino Cleveland
The Horseshoe Casino Cleveland, scheduled to open in May of 2012, has the potential to transform its section of downtown Cleveland. Horseshoe’s Phase 1 will be in the old Higbee Building, sending a jolt to a building that has been mostly vacant for 10 years. The 24/7 casino is projected to bring in 5 million visitors a year (or 12,000 people a day). If those numbers are even half-right, the casino will pump massive energy into downtown. Once Phase 2 is built, the casino complex will be projected to bring in 8 million people a year. The casino is already spurring spinoff development, as new restaurants are opening or moving downtown to be either in or close to the casino, and national retailers are now interested in downtown’s Tower City mall because of the casino. Horseshoe is a game-changer.
This development project is so important and transformational to Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood that the New York Times dedicated an entire article to it. The project, to be completed by spring of 2012, includes a Barnes and Noble bookstore, an upscale grocery store, restaurants, and over 100 apartments. Uptown will be anchored by the magnificent new home for the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland. This project is spurring even more development around the area, as a Courtyard by Marriott, Hazel 8 upscale apartment development, and even new townhome construction in troubled suburb East Cleveland are all taking place in the immediately surrounding area. Next to the Uptown development is a planned $100 million office, retail, and residential development. Major tech companies are rumored to be involved. The Uptown district will revolutionize University Circle and Cleveland as a whole.
4. Cleveland Convention Center and Medical Mart
The Medical Mart and Convention Center, scheduled for completion in 2013, is another piece of the downtown puzzle that will bring in more people on a regular basis. The Medical Mart concept is controversial because it is unproven, but I don’t think that is the most valuable part of the project. The new Convention Center alone is worth it. Downtown’s original convention center has essentially been dead since 2006. A new, updated, modern convention center has the potential to massively increase traffic to downtown.. According to reporter Michelle Jarboe McFee of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the casino and convention center projects “could push hotel occupancy in downtown Cleveland to levels not seen in more than a decade.” Ms. McFee also says that the new convention center “would put Cleveland back on the circuit for large meetings after years of stagnation as a fly-over city.”
5. The Business Community Cares About the City Again
Starting after desegregation, Cleveland saw an exodus of people and companies from the city to the suburbs. As a result, the region began to develop a “suburbs first” attitude. For years, businesses wouldn’t even consider moving into the city. Those attitudes are starting to change. While some of the older and stale companies that represent the industries of Cleveland’s past are still moving to the suburbs, younger and sexier companies are moving into the city. In the last few years alone Rosetta, Dwellworks, MCPc, AmTrust Financial (bringing up to 1,000 jobs downtown), radio station WCLV, Howard Hanna Real Estate,The Payne Firm, IdeaStream Consumer Products (not related to the local Public Broadcasting “Ideastream,” which moved to downtown Cleveland from the suburbs in 2003), Mitchell’s Ice Cream,Britton Gallagher, and ESPN Cleveland, among others, have moved to the city from the suburbs. This shows momentum and a changing of attitudes in the region.
6. The Transformation of Cleveland State University
Years ago, CSU was known as a dingy, disconnected commuter school. Now, the university has undergone a dramatic transformation into a legitimate campus. From the large new Euclid Commons student housing development to its new Student Center to the mixed use “Campus Village” currently under development, Cleveland State is undergoing a dramatic change. As the university grows and transforms itself, it is transforming the neighborhood around it, and that is a big deal for the future of Cleveland.
7. The Cleveland Clinic
The Clinic is somewhat controversial locally because of its thirst for expansion, but the numbers don’t lie: According to Steven Litt of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Clinic employs 25,000 people on its main campus in Cleveland’s Fairfax neighborhood alone. The Clinic is respected worldwide and is a huge source of both jobs and economic activity for the city of Cleveland. Their new master plan indicates that they plan to expand even more and build up to 13 new buildings on and around their already massive 160-acre campus. While that may not please some, the Clinic’s continued growth means more health care jobs in Cleveland.
8. The Cleveland Film Industry
Although a funding issue with the state’s Film Tax Credit currently has film production at an impasse, there is no doubt that the growth of the film industry in Cleveland is vital for both the city’s image and its economics. Four major films and several other independent films were made in Cleveland in 2011 alone, and the summer of 2012 looks to be another big year for filmmaking in Cleveland (as long as the state of Ohio can get the funding issue together). Cleveland is competitive in the film industry because of its low cost of doing business and the fact that the city’s skyline and architecture resembles that of New York City. The city has all of the makings of a sustainable film industry.
9. The Cleveland Walk of Fame
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, one of the biggest tourist attractions in Cleveland, has announced its plans to create a Cleveland Walk of Fame for all current and future Rock Hall inductees. The Rock Hall is using its power and its position to create even more reasons for Rock fans to visit Cleveland. The most important part of the new Walk of Fame is that the Rock Hall has indicated that they will invite Hall of Fame inductees to a Walk of Fame ceremony every year, regardless of where the induction ceremony is held that year. The Induction Ceremony is held in Cleveland every three years, but an annual Walk of Fame ceremony will guarantee that the stars will be in Cleveland every year, which means more publicity and more people coming to our fair city.
Taken separately, these are all individually positive developments, but put it together and it illustrates the transformation of Cleveland from a Rust Belt relic to one of the first truly 21st-century American cities in the Midwest. Cleveland is on the rise again, and this time, we mean business.