Image By James Corner Field Operations
In the past several years, there has been a shift in Cleveland – not only as a city, but also as a people. It started slowly, with jobs returning to the region and the addition of new, exciting restaurants and attractions, followed by a buzz of activity in the form of civic cleanup efforts, new festivals and events. Now, there is a definite sense of pride as many recognize that this is a new Cleveland.
Joe Marinucci, President and CEO of Downtown Cleveland Alliance, has seen it all first hand. Back in early 2011, demolition and construction for Cleveland’s state-of-the-art convention center and Global Center for Health Innovation began. For the first time in years, Clevelanders were seeing cranes downtown.
"That was, in my mind, the tipping point,” Marinucci says. “I think people saw cranes as a symbol of reinvestment.”
And it continued on an upward trajectory from there.
The impact of investment
Some may remember the mid-nineties as a time when Cleveland rose high just to fall again shortly after. But Cleveland has picked itself up by its bootstraps many times before, and this time, there’s staying power.
“What really sets this time apart from false starts of the last 30 years is the quantity of small and mid-sized projects taking place,” says David Gilbert, President and CEO of Destination Cleveland, the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, and the Cleveland 2016 Host Committee for the Republican National Convention.
Joe Roman, CEO of the Greater Cleveland Partnership, agrees. “Hotels, housing and waterfront projects are dominating our cityscape at this time,” he says. “The momentum is palpable, and nothing is dependent on one developer or investor, which is good to maintain a growing portfolio.”
Furthermore, the improvements aren’t based on one or two passing events, but rather, private investment is spurring a lasting revitalization, Gilbert says.
Gilbert points to visionaries like Scott Wolstein, whose multi-phase development project in the Flats East Bank is mid-way through completion and has Cleveland residents and tourists alike already flocking to the new restaurants and bars.
The city is also taking strides to improve local and visitor experiences through other major visible projects. Perhaps the most well-known is the $35 million investment to revitalize Public Square. James Corner Field Operation, the architects behind New York City’s High Line Park, has been tapped to bring to life the vision for a modern-day public space that focuses on people.
“Public Square in many ways has been our historic front porch,” Marinucci says. “We really think that when Public Square opens in 2016, one, it will be a very inviting space, two, it will be extremely well programed, and three, it will become the iconic center of the city and region.”
The design is for a four-quadrant park that can be used throughout the year, with a landscape that includes colorful plants and pedestrian pathways as well as green spaces for gatherings and events.
Marinucci says that programming is still in the works for Public Square but will include a weekly food truck day for 22 weeks of the year, the return of the city’s Farmer’s Market, live music events, and a full service restaurant with 70 indoor seats and 70 outdoor seats.
The hotel sector is another area that has experienced significant investment in recent years, including the development of the Kimpton Hotel, the Drury Plaza Hotel, the Hilton Cleveland Downtown and the Metropolitan at the 9.
“The Hilton will be a convention-size hotel, which is the first time we’ll have a hotel of that size,” Marinucci says. “We’ll have the hotels, the convention center, and the Global Center, so essentially we have a base to attract large-scale conventions to downtown in a way that we haven’t had for about 20 years.”
This 600-room hotel gives Cleveland the capacity to bring in more business travelers, which is great for the economy because convention-goers spend about $450 per day, Marinucci says. Retail, dining, and hotel business all benefit from travelers coming in for conventions as well as those who visit for leisure.
Not to mention, projects are being accelerated thanks to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in 2016. The city is hoping to have many of the major projects completed in time for the Convention, including Public Square, the Hilton Cleveland Downtown hotel, and much-needed road surface improvements. Beyond the large projects, the city is seeing enhancements to the visitor and local experience in the form of beautification efforts, an increased retail presence, and a boost in job availability.
Marinucci sees a correlation between the growth and strength within the downtown market and the strength of Ohio City, Tremont, and surrounding areas. “The stronger the relationships we can create with those areas, the stronger that urban core becomes,” he says. “We know that the adjoining neighborhoods create a unified market area and the residents, businesses and all benefit from it.”
That momentum and unification has started a ripple effect across the Greater Cleveland area, according to Roman.
“Five years ago you could already see the momentum building, but it’s part of our everyday living today,” he says. “And it goes beyond just downtown; there’s new activity and confidence in Detroit Shoreway, Collinwood, University Circle and many other neighborhoods.”
Cleveland By The Numbers
|Visitors to Cleveland in 2014
|Residents who would recommend Cleveland as a visitor destination
||54% (Up 34%)
|Expected economic impact of the 2016 Republican National Convention for Cleveland
See this article in its entirety in the Holiday Issue of Alson Jewelers Magazine.