Downtown Digs 2024

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Downtown Digs Live • Work • Play • Visit • Downtown Cleveland SPECIAL PROMOTIONAL SECTION 2024 Find out how Downtown is being reimagined for tomorrow City Vision Inside The Downtown Resident Life Businesses Making Things Happen
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Reimagining Downtown

Reimagining Downtown Cleveland is an accelerated effort to enhance the urban core and shores that is producing tangible results with exciting initiatives on the near horizon. By Kristen Hampshire

Storefronts are waking up with lively enterprise — engaging public space, pop-ups and places to dine, get fit, convene, buy the basics and more. Pedestrian foot traffic is projected to exceed pre-pandemic levels by the end of the year, and visitors have already returned in full force.

There’s an air of confidence.

From streetscape enhancements to successful safety interventions, the Downtown experience is energetic and growing contagious with an influx of workers returning, visitors exploring and residents moving in. There’s a comprehensive retail strategy in play and diverse housing opening doors to residents who are finding what they want Downtown: a true community.

One year ago, Downtown Cleveland with the City of Cleveland and civic partners launched a plan to reimagine Downtown Cleveland as an 18-hour, 15-minute neighborhood that weaves districts and surrounding neighborhoods into a seamless urban fabric.

It picks up on a 10-year transformation that led to a 32% population growth and 14% increase in private sector jobs in the city center, including converting more than 5 million square feet of underutilized space in historic buildings to housing, hospitality and amenities.

Reimagining Downtown involves shortand mid-term action steps and strategic planning focused on economy, environment and experience — and the goal is not to “get back to normal” after the pandemic.

It’s a collective force driving infrastructural progress you can see and feel.

“There was a need to establish a clear plan to chart Downtown’s path forward,” says Michael Deemer, president and CEO, Downtown Cleveland. “One year after implementing this strategic vision, with leadership of the city, buy-in from civic, regional and county partners, local businesses and stakeholders, we are aligned and pushing in the same direction.”

Basically, it’s go time Downtown. In a big way.

“One thing we are laser focused on as an organization that advocates for Downtown is to make sure we have a truly vibrant core that connects to our two waterfronts — the lake and river — and that we do everything we can to support the success of development initiatives,” Deemer says, equally emphasizing connectivity to Downtown’s districts and surrounding neighborhoods to create a “seamless urban fabric.”

Vision to Reality

The challenges Cleveland faced post-pandemic are the story of urban centers across the country that were faced with significantly reduced foot traffic, work-from-home impacts on office real

estate and a general “let’s-stay-in” mode. A positive for cities like Cleveland, however, was a newfound appreciation of the outdoors, walkability, natural resources and places to literally get out.

An assertive fast-forward plan was essential to capture the momentum and build on initiatives in the works for more than a decade.

“It always begins with having a clean, safe and welcoming environment for people to live, work, visit and invest in,” Deemer says.

This demands a walkable, transit-oriented neighborhood and mixed-use development that leverages the city center’s historic buildings while implementing improvements like inviting lighting for safety and festivity, along with replacing barriers to Public Square as the “Central Park of Cleveland,” Deemer says.

Dovetailing with the Reimagining Downtown vision is the catalytic Shoreto-Core-to-Shore tax increment financing (TIF) District. Legislation passed to allocate a portion of new property tax revenue generated by property value increases toward public infrastructure investments. The TIF District is a vehicle to capture tax growth from a broad geographic area to support public realm and infrastructure investments.

With the TIF District, funding will be available to put Reimagine plans into action.

“Access to our waterfronts is extraordinarily powerful and now the TIF District will give us the mechanics that allow us to pay for meaningful infrastructural pieces to make this shore-to-core-toshore vision a reality,” says Thomas McNair, director of economic development for the City of Cleveland.

McNair adds, “The downtowns that are highly amenitized are the places that win.”

The vision: Reimagine Downtown Cleveland as an 18-hour, 15-minute neighborhood with a connected, community feel. Downtown is for everyone. 73 RENDERINGS: COURTESY BEDROCK / LAURA WATILO BLAKE

This includes strategies to develop a bicycle network and pedestrian infrastructure. Specifically, the Reimagining Downtown vision includes near-term plans to build the Memorial Bridges Loop and begin Superior Avenue Midway construction, along with accelerating Public Square connectivity to enhance the public realm.

Downtown Cleveland also conducted a retail study with the consultancy Streetsense that uncovered a demand for improving the environments outside of storefronts to create a more exciting pedestrian experience, says Audrey

Gerlach, the organization’s vice president of economic development.

Downtown Cleveland has partnered with LAND Studio to implement pedestrian and streetscape projects.

Developer Bedrock Detroit completed a significant Public Square streetscape project with attractive planters along with festoon lighting on Prospect Avenue and continues a historically significant transitory Riverfront Development initiative. “The vision ties together almost every square inch in this Downtown fabric,” says Deb Janik, senior vice president of business development.

“The foundation of our plan is based on public space and accessibility, and those have to exist for a successful community.”
— Deb Janik

Janik points to the strong partnerships with the county, city, state and Cleveland Metroparks. Notably, Bedrock announced its partnership with Cleveland Clinic and the Cavs to construct the Peak Performance Center training facility on the riverfront.

Overall, Janik says, “The foundation of our plan is based on public space and accessibility, and those have to exist for a successful community.”

Another landmark transformation underway in Public Square is the construction of Sherwin-Williams’ new global headquarters that consists of three buildings and a two-story pavilion that will act as a front porch to Public Square, due to open at the end of this year.

“Sherwin-Williams’ presence on Public Square in the heart of Downtown is symbolically impactful,” Deemer says. “It will

74 Downtown Digs • 2024 Cleveland’s premier riverfront dining experience. 1785 Merwin Avenue | 216-664-5696 | LEFT TO RIGHT: COURTESY K&D, BEDROCK AND DOWNTOWN CLEVELAND
“Our teams rolled up their sleeves and worked with all of our partners to create this vision that will really guide Downtown as we accelerate our recovery.”
— Michael Deemer

get a huge jolt of energy later this year when more than 4,000 employees move into Downtown.”

Downtown is for Everyone

The multifaceted Reimagining Downtown plan addresses the underlayers of quality of life, namely safety and ensuring a clean, vibrant environment.

“Downtown is for everyone, and we want everyone to feel safe and welcome,” says Edward Eckart, senior vice president of operations at Downtown Cleveland.

“We want to provide the right interventions and level of accountability to ensure Downtown can be thriving and vibrant.”

Downtown Cleveland Ambassadors work in collaboration with safety partners including the Cleveland Division of Police to maximize uniformed visibility within the Downtown footprint. Reimagining

Downtown includes better connecting those in need, whether facing mental health or addiction crises, to services. This creates an environment that is supportive, safe and welcoming for all.

This coincides with the city’s Raising Investment in Safety for Everyone (RISE) initiative under the leadership of Mayor Justin Bibb.

Safety coincides with Reimagining the Downtown experience with lighting, green space, storefront activations, seating, play space and public art. This draws business, generates traffic and contributes to the overall excitement of Downtown. Last year, 35 new retailers and entrepreneurs set up shop Downtown, Gerlach reports. Twelve more have joined the Downtown neighborhood since January 2024.

Also underpinning every aspect of Downtown investment is a focus on

inclusion and equity to ensure opportunities for “every Clevelander,” Janik says, pointing to diversity of housing price points and formats, along with access to storefronts for minority-owned businesses, which has resulted in a growing retail environment at Tower City.

Indeed, Downtown is for everyone — and accelerated economic, environmental and experiential projects for a reimagined urban core are well underway. “What’s exciting now is these plans are moving forward,” Deemer says. “Our teams rolled up their sleeves and worked with all of our partners to create this vision that will really guide Downtown as we accelerate our recovery.”

Reimagining Downtown

Downtown is


Accelerated and collaborative initiatives underpin a multifaceted short- and intermediate-term program that’s already in play to continue a decade-long momentum in the city center. Here’s a boots-on-theground look at development progress, business activity and residential vitality.

Landmark Development — Connecting City Spaces

Acommitment to the urban core, waterfront connections and investing in creating vibrant communities have steered development from a number of key players involved in Reimagining Downtown.

Progress during the last few years will accelerate with the Shore-to-Core-toShore TIF District, unlocking future funds for foundational infrastructure, which is already underway. The Cuyahoga Riverfront banks are being fortified with more than 3,000 lineal feet of new piles between the existing wall and river, making way for development. The bulkhead preserves river health and safety.

Bedrock Real Estate is undertaking an ambitious 38-plus acre site with unprecedented access to the river, says Deb Janik, senior vice president of business development. A riverfront walk will meander through the site, tie into Canal Basin Park on the west end and the Towpath Trail and Cleveland Metroparks investments.

“It gets back to that continuity of place and experience — you’ll be able to actually

touch the water — and doing so in a way that connects and closes gaps and ties in the core of Downtown and all of these experiences as a continuum,” she says.

Slam Dunks, Riverside

Riverfront development includes implementing 3.5 million square feet of mixed-use development grounded by the historic Tower City Center and incorporates 2,000-plus units of residential housing from affordable to workforce to market-rate and home ownership, Janik says.

Equity is paramount.

“Diversity in housing is what every urban center needs,” she relates, adding that the Riverfront Redevelopment plan is centered on public spacemaking and accessibility.

A huge win: The Cleveland Clinic Global Peak Performance Center in partnership with the Clinic, Bedrock and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Slated as a 210,000-square-foot interdisciplinary center on the riverfront’s west bank, it will serve as an elite training facility for the Cavs, community and athletes from around the world. It positions the city as a global sports science and wellness destination, embracing the river, creating a local icon and elevating experience.

76 Downtown Digs • 2024

Groundbreaking is anticipated before the end of 2024.

Beyond this, Janik says, “There is an awful lot of investment underway” related to engineering, land development and coordinating public-private partnerships.

“This is not framework sitting on a shelf. It’s being executed on and we are looking forward to driving this city forward.”

Progress at the Core

A significant streetscape project dubbed the “phase zero installment” involved planters, trees, benches and upgraded lighting in and around Public Square. Tower City Center’s retail landscape is now 70% occupied, including 10 new tenants, mostly minority-owned businesses. “This is an opportunity to cultivate our own talent,” Janik says.

The Astro Restaurant in the former Hard Rock Cafe offers experiential dining and entertainment, another destination draw in Public Square. (Janik snagged a table without realizing it was May the Fourth Be with You day, and it was bustling, she says.)

“From undertaking Tower City and the Avenue Shops to The May, a Cleveland icon and adaptive reuse success, we are capturing the city’s character and building on that momentum,” she says.

What’s now a wave started as a ripple and hope, then a swell in residents


and businesses by demand, explains Matthew Driggs, vice president of commercial real estate at the K&D Group, where he’s worked with the Downtown-focused team since 1997 in various capacities.

Milestones include the Residences at 668 on Euclid Avenue, 16 years ago. Then, Downtown living was a new thing. Not anymore. K&D has pioneered the Residences at 1717 on East 9th Street, along with The Hanna, The Leader, Terminal Tower, 55 Public Square — and more.

These are passion projects for Downtown developers like K&D, Bedrock, SomeraRoad and many other investors and businesses focused on repurposing historic Downtown gems.

K&D completed the extensive 55 Public Square project last summer, and recently introduced Fahrenheit, a move for Chef Rocco Whalen from Tremont to the city center.

“Public Square is evolving with the residential opportunities and retail, and when you have the center of your city bustling with new living options and businesses, that is exciting,” Driggs says.

K&D is currently the largest Downtown landlord, and Driggs says this means living up to tenants’ expectations, both residential and commercial. Within the last year following the pandemic recovery, Driggs says, “The city feels vibrant again. It’s alive. The new [city] administration is focused on that and you can feel it.”

Right: The May is a success story of adaptively transforming a historic building into a modern mixed-use property. Below Left: K&D’s 55 Public Square Below Right: The energy of Downtown can be felt at one of Tower City Center’s events, like the annual Noon Year’s Eve.

On the Safe Side


Downtown is for everyone. And with concerted efforts during the last year in partnership with Downtown Cleveland and the city, those who work, live, visit and embrace the city center can feel the difference.

There is perceived safety and a brand of “this is what I heard.”

Edward Eckart is senior vice president of operations at Downtown Cleveland and he agrees, “If you don’t feel safe or only listen to the news and information you gather, there is a bias.”

Downtown Cleveland is addressing safety issues at their root causes through innovative partnerships and strategies.

“We focused on looking at our role and how we can best use the strength of an organization like ours as a collaborator and facilitator,” Eckart says, pointing to connecting with social service providers and working in tandem with Cleveland Police.

Here are some outcomes after only a year of Reimagining Downtown.

A Focus on Neighborhood Safety Specialists

Neighborhood Safety Specialists, an arm of the ambassador program, provide an additional uniformed, unarmed presence to de-escalate and deter conflict. Launched in 2022, the program gained momentum through Reimagining Downtown Cleveland. These ambassadors are specially trained in engagement, Narcan administration and crisis intervention.

Bridging the Health Services Gap

Unhoused residents during the pandemic lost connections to care plans and treatment programs. Downtown Cleveland continued to expand the Clean and Safe program’s outreach efforts. Downtown Cleveland’s outreach work is based on international best practices and ongoing collaboration with local social service providers. Downtown Cleveland advocates for policies that improve quality of life and manages SEEDS, a workforce readiness program for those relying on shelters, with the goal of transitioning participants out of the social services system altogether.

Court Watch

Downtown Cleveland works closely with Cleveland District 3, the Prosecutor’s Office and jail administration to work with chronic offenders, monitor hearings and dig deeper to ensure accountability and address underlying causes for offenses. “Now, there are some of the highest offenders that are getting the care they need, and it’s a win for them and for businesses and the Downtown environment,” Eckart says. “They felt like victims and now they feel like someone is listening. This is making a difference.”

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Around the World and Back to Cleveland

At Clevo Books, visitors can literally experience the world through the pages it publishes in foreign translations and the titles it acquires from across the globe. The shop only carries books from international authors — a niche that makes Clevo Books a destination.

More than 50 languages are represented in its texts, says owner Cathryn Siegal-Bergman, who started Clevo Books out of her home in 2015. She established a storefront two years ago in the Fifth Street Arcades, and in May relocated to a larger storefront exposed to plenty of foot traffic at 1026 Euclid Avenue.

Siegal-Bergman says she often overhears guests in her shop say things like, “I’ve never been in a book store with this kind of a collection,” and, “Wow — this is amazing,” or, “What an interesting niche; how did you get into it?”

For years, Siegal-Bergman worked for other publishers as a translator, and Clevo Books is a way to support other publishers who require translations, and to make her mark in the industry. “We also want to support international authors through our own publishing and are focused on helping edge up that market,” she says. Downtown is definitely home base for Clevo Books, she adds. “We are essentially an import shop and we need to be centrally located,” she says, noting a positive momentum in Downtown’s business environment. “Cleveland is leading the way, and I feel a sense of pride toward that and hope it attracts more people Downtown.”

‘Downtown is its Own

Small Community’

Moving Downtown was an easy decision for Hannah Lindesmith, who relocated back to Cleveland from Chicago to be close to family. “I love the lifestyle of walking places,” she says. Her priorities for a place to call home included proximity to sports stadiums, safety and an updated space with amenities in a historic building. She landed in the Residences at Leader in September 2020, following a pandemic lockdown that emptied the streets of Downtown’s usual bustle.

Then she watched the city center slowly come back to life, she says.

“It was cool to see,” she says, relating that her view of East Fourth was a front-row seat to Downtown’s recovery. “When you walk outside during lunch, you see a significant change — businesses are opening and people are back in the office. I love seeing all the flowers that have been planted and all the new apartment complexes and renovations underway.”

Lindesmith works remotely as a sales operations manager and has established offices of all kinds across town, such as Lion Heart Coffee and the Cleveland Public Library.

“Downtown is like its own small community,” she says, relating that she has met great friends who attend the same workout classes at Yoga Strong or enjoy happy hours before Guardians games. She finds easy connections with neighbors. “People who live Downtown truly love Downtown and want to continue to explore it with others who feel the same way. There is a very unique sense of belonging here.”

Hannah’s Downtown Go-Tos

Lunch on the Square: REBoL offers clean eats and a variety of bowls for noshing. When coworkers travel in to visit, Lindesmith finds a table at Fahrenheit’s new location at 55 Public Square.

Dinner and Drinks: Cordelia mixes fresh cocktails and offers a “Bellie Up” tasting menu with six or seven plates of kitchen-selected fare. Lindesmith’s go-to is the Burger Box. “I recommend the pimento cheese snack and a cinnamon churro for dessert,” she says.

Awestruck by Architecture: From the historic, ornate rotunda at Heinen’s to the fact that Lindesmith’s home is in a former newspaper building, downtown’s variety of architectural gems and preservation projects feed her love for the built environment.

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‘Go for it!’

Jess Wallace calls her move Downtown “a kismet thing.”

She had worked Downtown from 2005 until the pandemic shutdown, retreating to home in Shaker Square for a year and a half of Zoom. “I really missed being Downtown — and I always wished that I lived there,” says Wallace, who is now an executive assistant at Downtown Cleveland.

Two years ago, the timing seemed just right to uproot her digs.

Admittedly, Wallace was a little hesitant. She had lived in the same apartment for 17 years. The sheer accumulation of things was a bit overwhelming, too.

A colleague gave her the nudge she needed to check out an available unit at the Residences at 1717 and encouraged, “Go for it!”

Here’s where the kismet thing happened. “I utilize a wheelchair for mobility. After looking at the unit, we were exiting and I looked at the door. The peep hole was at my level.”

Snapshots of CLE

Wallace is an avid photographer and often spends Sunday afternoons exploring Downtown with her camera. Here are some sweet spots and impressive backdrops.

Teeing Up a Diverse Following

Turns out, the unit where she now lives is semi-accessible. Plus, the unit number includes her favorite numeral: eight.

Wallace laughs, “It was meant to be!”

She made the decision that day and since then, her two-block commute is a game changer.

“I refer to all of Downtown as my backyard,” she says. “I have everything I need right here — groceries, the pharmacy, places to shop and eat out. I can get all of my errands done on my way home.”

This was a bold move for Wallace, who says, “I don’t do well with change. But I took a leap of faith, I went for it, and it was the best decision.”

Downtown is incredibly accessible, she adds. “Our ambassadors help keep Downtown clean and safe, and, in the winter, they make sure the curb cuts and crosswalk areas are cleared so it’s easy to navigate.”

A bonus: Wallace’s view is prime for watching fireworks following Guardians wins.

through early fall, echinacea flowers attract pollinators and butterflies. Wallace has captured shots of Monarchs during migration season.

The Real Farmville: Just outside the Huntington Convention Center, across from First Energy Stadium, is an urban farm operated by Levy Restaurants. It started with some bees and expanded to pigs, chickens, goats and a host of produce. In late summer

Bar 32 Cleveland: Located on the 32nd floor of The Hilton Cleveland Downtown, “It’s a great panoramic vantage point of the lake and all of Downtown,” Wallace says.

Terminal Tower: Awash in color after sundown, the ever-changing symbolic building is a bright source of inspiration.

Mall A: “The Fountain of Eternal Life is a great picture spot,” Wallace says of the 35-foot bronze figure.

Taking golf out of the country club and into the urban environment is par for the course at Five Iron, which relocated to Euclid Avenue last year. “We’re the only brand to provide golf in an inclusive, welcoming environment,” says Matt Thrush, regional manager.

The Cleveland outpost is one of Five Iron’s largest — it has locations across the country — with 15 high-tech simulators, shuffleboard, pool, darts, a full bar and restaurant, events capacity and leagues.

No experience necessary. In fact, that’s the fun of Five Iron: exposing anyone who wants to try golf to the interactive sport.

“All different walks of life visit us at Five Iron, and the Cleveland location has been extremely successful in introducing golf to a diverse clientele,” Thrush says.

During Women’s History Month, Five Iron ran a successful program offering $5 memberships and free Wednesday golf for women. An LGBTQ+ league is in the works, and potentially an urban league like at one of Five Iron’s other locations.

Membership has more than tripled since January. “We’ve been wildly welcomed in the community,” Thrush says.

The venue offers lessons, swing evaluations and a PGA Tour Superstore Studio with a certified club fitter on staff — an offering other indoor golf settings do not provide, Thrush points out.

Downtown is embracing the fresh, high-energy entertainment Five Iron delivers, Thrush says, noting a growing number of pedestrians and guests swing by. He travels to Five Iron locations in several urban centers — and remarks on the clean, safe feel of Downtown. “It makes me proud that Cleveland is my hometown,” he says.

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My Life Downtown

In 2017, I was Downtown for an Indians game with my adult son. I have season tickets and enjoy a few beers at the game. We would take an Uber from the suburbs. As we were enjoying Downtown before the game, my son wondered why I didn’t just buy a condo there. I thought it was a genius idea! I also have season tickets to the Browns and the Cleveland Monsters, so I’m Downtown a lot! I bought a two-bedroom condo on East Fourth Steet and found I spent way more time than I expected in our great city. I have friends join me for games and events or just to hang out. But there always seemed to be someone sleeping on my couch. I decided it was time to upgrade to a three bedroom. I’m retired and not fond of the idea of an apartment — I also wanted to stay in the Gateway District. I had reached out to Kristin Rogers at Howard Hanna, and she introduced me to the Residence at the Guardian. I purchased the three-bedroom condo and moved in the beginning of March. I love the quality finishes in the kitchen and baths. The views are stunning! I also love the outdoor space on the roof. Interestingly, I have friends who still sleep on the couch because it’s so comfortable!

Life is Beautiful — Creating the Amenitized New Office

A shift to hybrid work and more flexible office environments is really nothing new, though the pandemic pushed the shift, leaving an elephant-in-the-room question: What to do with all these big buildings? The answer — reimagine them and prepare for the “new office.”

Warren Blazy III will have lived and worked Downtown 20 years in September. The senior vice president at CBRE realty representing building owners and landlords such as K&D dials back to his first apartment in Reserve Square when this property and the Old Chesterfield offered rentals, and the Warehouse District had yet to evolve.

He stands in the Downtown courtyard of Progressive, noting “the energy outside of their walls,” and anticipates the opening of Sherwin-Williams at Public Square and how its presence will amp up the city center’s energy level from an already strong buzz.

“Companies want amenities that engage their workplaces,” Blazy says, pointing to Key Tower and its strong leasing history. “You want to be in a building that is equally invested in what you are doing.”

The two floors in Progressive dedicated to Level20, a business incubator, are an example of meeting unmet needs and thinking innovatively about what an office does for the people who occupy it.

Blazy considers possibilities in Downtown’s adaptive reuse properties. “You see companies locating Downtown that want something different, the high ceilings, an energy, experiences,” he says.

Yin-Vin-Yoga Summer

Check out LIB Studio at one of its specialty gatherings.

And with health and wellness a frontand-center focus, more businesses are “working in” ways to offer creative and accessible avenues that equally promote community and connection.

This is what Blazy is doing at LIB (Life is Beautiful) Studio on the lower level of the Warehouse District’s Hoyt Block. The wellness space is designed for residents, employees and businesses, providing classes for individuals and corporate wellness programs. And it’s more than yoga and meditation. It’s a venue for art mixers, “prose + pose” and “vin and yin,” not to mention sunrise salutations with a mimosa toast.

Experiences like those LIB Studio delivers are the connection people are

Aug. 10 Prose + Pose

Aug. 17 Vin + Yin

Aug. 24 Sunrise Salutations with Mimosa Toast

Aug. 31 BOGA (yoga on an aquatic mat)

seeking in communities and the office environment. Blazy says, “There are so many different ways to engage and be an active part of the Downtown community with experiences that are also elevated, and that same philosophy is why companies are investing in new amenities.”

RESIDENT 84 Downtown Digs • 2024 BUSINESS
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