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Mission Possible: The future of Downtown Cleveland is strong due to demand of living

From luxury apartments to single-family homes, will this housing demand continue?

CLEVELAND — “Downtown is both our front door as well as the living room for the region,” said the President and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Partnership, Baiju Shah.

Whether it's tourism, or companies looking to relocate, the first stop in Northeast Ohio is downtown Cleveland. For years, developers have dangled luxury lifestyles, with a view. But how many apartments can downtown support?

“We don't have a demand problem. We have a supply problem. There's plenty of demand. We need more supply,” said the President and CEO of the Downtown Cleveland Alliance, Michael Deemer.

That's the consensus of a housing study by the Downtown Cleveland Alliance and Greater Cleveland Partnership. While parts of the city are losing residents, downtown's population is growing. Downtown Cleveland's population is currently up 22% from ten years ago, making it a hot market.

“I think it's a signal that the demand is absolutely there to developers and investors,” said Shah. “We need more apartments, but we also need more for sale housing throughout downtown and greater downtown.”

Developers like Berges Home Performance see the need. They are finishing West 20th and Smith, a 14-home project in Duck Island, that's where Cleveland, Tremont and Ohio City converge. 

“It's just a hot spot to be. And, you know, you might not you might not know it from the outside just looking in. But once you live here, you understand why,” said Matt Berges, owner of Berges Home Performance.

Berges builds custom homes, which the study says is needed. At only 6%, Cleveland trails behind cities like Cincinnati, Columbus and Detroit in downtown homeownership.

“I'm a small builder. We're doing 12 to 24 houses a year,” said Berges. “And so, the demand is plenty sufficient for our operation. We're selling two per month. I think we sold three this week actually.”

The population growth over the next decade means housing projects currently in the pipeline would need to nearly double to keep up with demand. But building takes time. Berges has been working on West 20th and Smith for seven years.

“We can't react quickly to demand shifts. We just have to speculate half the time on when this demand is coming or going,” said Berges.

Downtown living is attracting residents, and not just because of a job. The study found half of the population travels outside the city for work.

“That, to me, was the biggest surprise, is that they're choosing to live in downtown and greater downtown because of the neighborhood, because of the amenities, the lifestyle that they're seeking, not because of proximity to work,” said Shah.

Both organizations believe a strong downtown translates into a stronger region, with signs pointing to a brighter future.  

“Growth is not only happened, growth is going to continue to happen because of the demand for this specific geography within our metropolitan area,” said Shah.

“The report sends a very validating signal that we've created that kind of environment in downtown Cleveland. We need to double down on it and really complete that transformation,” said Deemer.

Over 37,000 people call downtown Cleveland and the near west side home, which is the area the study looked at. It is the faster growing residential downtown in the state of Ohio.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The video above previously aired on 3News on May 14, 2023.

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