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Mission Possible: Downtown Cleveland’s recovery and future

Downtown Cleveland has made strides to recovery after the pandemic, and has the tools to build a stronger future.

CLEVELAND — The Downtown Cleveland Alliance is creating a model of a 4-season city. 

For example, Winterland, the Juneteenth Freedom Fest or the Tall Ships Festival are destination events to experience a fun and bustling downtown. The Alliance is approaching a strong downtown from many fronts. But it hasn’t been with some challenges along the way.

So, what could the future of Downtown Cleveland could look like with the Alliance taking the lead?

Downtown is in a state of recovery after the pandemic, according to the Downtown Cleveland Alliance. Downtown Now is their new strategic plan that could lead to a more vibrate future.

“Downtowns thrive on bringing people together to live, work and play,” said Michael Deemer the President & CEO, Downtown Cleveland Alliance. And the pandemic really undermined that, it undermined our ability as downtowns to bring people together.”

Deemer refers to Downtown as the core of regions economy, sighting the largest concentration of jobs in the region, a fast growing residential population and a strong visitor base. The three things any downtown needs to thrive. But it is the daytime population, mainly office workers, that has been lagging behind, with the future of work being redefined.

“We've got more office workers on average coming into downtown Cleveland than other downtowns nationally on average. But we're only about 58% of where we were before the pandemic,” remarked Deemer.

The Alliance teamed up with the city to create daily experiences to bring the worker population back. But things are still in flux. Recently Medical Mutual announced their headquarters will be leaving the historic Rose Building for offices in Brooklyn.

“We had medical mutual make one decision. You’ve got Sherwin-Williams and its million square foot headquarters making a very different decision,” said Deemer. “I'm very confident that on the other side of this. People want to be together. People want to work together.”

Deemer points out one of city’s strengths is repurposing historic buildings. A recent report ranked Cleveland third in the country for these types of projects. The Downtown Cleveland Alliance helped get federal and state historical tax credits to make the transformations possible.

“We've converted, you know, over 7 million square feet over the years from office space into hotels and apartments,” said Deemer. “We're sitting here in 55 Public Square, which is, I think, a terrific example of historic preservation and adaptive reuse.”

Once complete 55 Public Square will have offices, 200 apartments, ground floor retail and the new home for Fahrenheit restaurant.

“I think that's the future of what downtown Cleveland is going to look like. A lot of mixed use in historic buildings,” stated Deemer.

Looking ahead to the new year, Deemer expects to saw Downtown Cleveland grow stronger.

“I think we're going to see more residential development. We're going to see a big emphasis on improving and animating our public spaces,” said Deemer. “So, they're just more things for residents, visitors, and workers to do and more reasons for people to come downtown.”

The Downtown Cleveland Alliance is a supporter of the store front economy. They say 80 retailers and restaurant opened downtown over the last 3 years.

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