The Cleveland Browns’ football stadium could move from the lakefront depending on studies now underway of the existing FirstEnergy Stadium and of the Shoreway highway. If the latter is moved away from the stadium site, the city and the Browns could renovate the existing stadium. Two NEOtrans stories about this subject were among the most-read articles of 2023 (AODK). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM.
Browns, megaprojects, transit articles among most read
The end of the year is a good time to look back and take stock of everything that’s happened in the past 12 months. For a local journalism outlet like NEOtrans, that means taking a measure of what articles resonated with the community the most. This year-end top-10 list of our most-read articles is how we’re measuring what resonated.
For the most-read NEOtrans articles of 2022, the headlines are shared here and used as embedded links to the original stories. Also listed here are the number of views for each of the top-10 articles, plus a couple of honorable mentions. And we also shared a few illustrations from those top articles of the year. So here are the most popular NEOtrans articles of 2022, listed in order of most-read first.
1 Browns leaning toward new stadium – 65,321 views – Intro: According to two sources close to the Cleveland Browns and its owner the Haslam Sports Group, the National Football League (NFL) team is leaning toward building a new stadium versus renovating the existing FirstEnergy Stadium. And the sources say the team already has at least two sites picked out as options for a new stadium that will likely cost in excess of $1 billion.
Commentary: Not only was this NEOtrans’ top story of 2022, it was among our most-read stories in the 11-year-old blog’s history, ranking up there with articles on a planned Amazon distribution center replacing Euclid Square Mall and the pending sale and closure of the Phantasy Theater in Lakewood. News of the Browns favoring a new stadium got nationwide attention. And, as often happens, a big story brings out more sources who either confirm or deny NEOtrans’ reporting. That happened here and prompted us to publish a follow-up article that ranked as the fifth-most-read article in 2022.
2 PearlBrook shopping center to be razed – 46,786 views – Intro: An historic retail strip where Cleveland meets Parma, but was often better known for its cinematic and musical neighbors, is due to be demolished. In place of the PearlBrook shopping center will be a Sheetz gas station and convenience store, plus some unidentified future development just north of it. The center, located at its namesake Pearl and Brookpark roads, has been the space between two places ever since it was built.
Commentary: On its face, a new Sheetz gas station and convenience store usually doesn’t warrant an article, let alone rank among the most-read stories of the year. And that apparent lack of controversy and emotion was a big reason why Cleveland’s City Planning Commission unanimously approved the gas station and the demolition of the existing retail strip without any pushback. But that retail strip had been standing since 1947 and had many well-known stores, restaurants and dance clubs over the years, not including the closed, as-yet unthreatened Yorktown movie theater next door. Sure enough, nostalgia caused the article to go viral and made it NEOtrans’ second-most-read article of 2022.
Amtrak’s new Airo trains, to be built by Siemens Mobility over the next several years, will appear on routes of less than 750 miles east of the Mississippi River. Whether they will be seen in Cleveland would normally depend on the State of Ohio purchasing services from Amtrak. But there are some possibilities that could bypass Ohio’s state government. An article about those possibilities ranked as the third-most-read NEOtrans story of 2022 (Amtrak).
3 Amtrak Ohio expansion may bypass state government – 19,484 views – Intro: Several initiatives that are in their early stages may instigate passenger rail expansion to Cleveland before the state of Ohio decides to get on board. That could be welcome timing considering the Federal Railroad Administration will solicit applications next week for funding to begin the process for developing new and expanded passenger rail services.
Commentary: Apparently Greater Clevelanders and others care about the possibility of Amtrak expanding in Ohio, after all. Posted on Dec. 16, this was the most recently published NEOtrans article to make our top 10, so there’s a possibility it will surpass 20,000 views in the coming weeks. And this article had its headline changed from “Amtrak Ohio expansion may bypass the State of Ohio” which was intended to have a double meaning. Based on feedback from discouraged headline readers, it was apparent that a clearer headline was needed to show that there actually is some optimism for expansion even if state officials decline to get on the train.
4 Gateway megaproject taking shape – 16,052 views – Intro: Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert along with potential Cleveland Guardians’ minority owners, partners David Blitzer and Josh Harris, are reportedly joining forces on a huge, coordinated real estate development that would transform downtown Cleveland between its central business district and the Gateway sports facilities.
Commentary: Alas, it was not to be. Multiple real estate sources said Detroit-based Bedrock was seeking to buy from Stark Enterprises its former nuCLEus development site in downtown’s Gateway District. But Bedrock officials soon had its hands full with its huge Hudson’s site development (and its huge cost overruns) and the opportunity to develop Cleveland’s riverfront below Tower City Center with housing, hotels, offices, entertainment, recreation and public spaces. But Stark owns an attractive development site, and it appears someone else wants it.
Hosting only about 10 large events and just 600,000 people per year, FirstEnergy Stadium on downtown Cleveland’s lakefront is considered by some as a waste of space. If that doesn’t qualify as a waste of space, the large swath of parking lots north of it would, critics say. Freeing up that space for more uses that attract more people is on the minds of civic leaders and the Cleveland Browns (Google).
5 Source: Browns want inland stadium with roof – 13,112 views – Intro: A third source has now communicated with NEOtrans that the Cleveland Browns favor a new, retractable roof stadium built off the lakefront but in or near downtown. And this source is a high-ranking official within the National Football League team itself. Despite this, a team spokesman angrily denied the report and called the source “not credible.”
Commentary: Follow-ups to big stories usually do pretty well in terms of views and that was the case here. The follow to the most-read NEOtrans story of 2022 ranked in the top 10, although it didn’t get the national attention that the first one did. Thus, it didn’t go viral and didn’t attract anywhere near the same number of views as the first article. But the attention was clearly starting to annoy the Browns’ top brass who didn’t want the story out just yet until they had a clearer direction of what they wanted to do with their stadium situation.
6 Affordable apartments planned at RTA station – 11,503 views – Intro: An Indianapolis-based real estate developer is seeking to build affordable apartments just west of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s (GCRTA) West Boulevard-Cudell rapid transit station on land owned by the transit authority. Today, the GCRTA Board approved giving that developer, Flaherty & Collins LLC, an option to purchase the land for the development of 60 to 80 apartments. The option, priced at $5,000, gives the developer site control so it can nail down financing and city approvals over the next year. If the developer needs more time, RTA can extend the option for another year for another $5,000.
Commentary: This one was a surprise. With bus and train ridership in Greater Cleveland collapsing from more than 50 million to just 15 million in a mere decade, one would think that people don’t care about public transportation anymore. Perhaps they cared about affordable housing, either welcoming it or fearing it in their own neighborhood. The headline didn’t say at which station the affordable housing was planned. And since people are naturally curious, the understandable reaction is to click on the “Read More” link to see where it is planned.
Professional sports teams and real estate are often a magical combination. That certainly was the case in May when the Cleveland Guardians’ Central Division-winning season was young and the team had exercised an option to buy a piece of land on East 9th Street next to Progressive Field for future development (Google).
7 Guardians buy land, but no ballpark village yet – 11,313 views – Intro: An affiliate of the Cleveland Guardians baseball team has exercised one of two property acquisition options that were offered when the team extended its lease on Jan. 1 to play at Progressive Field for at least another 15 years. The property acquired is a half-acre parcel next to the ballpark and located at the southwest corner of East 9th Street and Bolivar Road.
Commentary: As has been seen in this top-10 list, sports teams and real estate developments are a magical combination for attracting readers. And 2022 had its share of news on that general, combined topic. This one was both a hard news story regarding a bonafide real estate transaction and an early indication of a potentially big development to come. And since it was Cleveland’s professional baseball team making the land purchase, that’s all the more reason why people wanted to find out what was going on. It’s also a story worth following in the coming years, and NEOtrans intends to be on top of it.
8 Historic buildings to be razed in Flats – 10,870 views – Intro: A row of buildings along Columbus Road in the Flats is due to be razed in the coming weeks by an active, local real estate developer. But there is no plan to replace buildings, including two from the 19th century that stand in a nationally registered historic district. Instead, according to a partner at the property’s owner, Integrity Realty Group (IRG) of Beachwood, the contiguous buildings would be demolished to keep them from falling down on innocent passersby. No structural analysis was included in the owner’s demolition requests to the city.
Commentary: Historic buildings? Check. Demolition? Check. Flats? Check! All three of those subjects combined into one article are certain to attract readers and that was the case here. Lots of people clicked on this article often to learn the five Ws — who-what-when-where-why — of the story. And here’s an update to the story — according to city records, the demolition contractor’s application to the city to raze the Columbus Road buildings is still pending. When the application is decided one way or the other, NEOtrans will report on it.
Three historic buildings along Columbus Road in Cleveland’s Flats were proposed in November for demolition as part of a future development. Anytime a visible, historic building faces demolition, people pay attention. Make it three buildings and put them in the Flats, a place many people know, and the curiosity seekers will want to find out more information (Google).
9 Downtown Gateway megaproject coming to light – 10,604 views – Intro: Although the now-dead nuCLEus plan enticed us with its promise of a large-scale project for seven years, there are growing indications that a potential megaproject in downtown Cleveland’s Gateway District could be even larger. And hopefully, it won’t tease Clevelanders for as long only to reach an unsatisfactory conclusion.
Here’s another follow-up to a big story. This time it’s a follow to the fourth-ranked “Gateway megaproject taking shape” article. More details were learned about what Bedrock was considering for the Gateway District, before they walked away to focus on developing the riverfront below Tower City Center. That happened soon after this story was published, as indicated by Bedrock reaching a purchase agreement for Sherwin-Williams’ riverfront research center, on which NEOtrans broke the story in March. Bedrock also acquired the global coating giant’s old headquarters as well.
10 Downtown construction boom looms – 10,554 views – Intro: Are you ready for some construction cranes, Cleveland? No, I’m not talking about the tower cranes that will rise next month above Sherwin-Williams’ new HQ west of Public Square or the crane soon to arrive over the City Club Apartments on Euclid Avenue. Those may be just the tip of the iceberg for downtown. And for this article, we’re not even getting into the cranes above University Circle now and in the future. Or the future cranes above Ohio City. Or MidTown. Or near Edgewater Park. Or even near Gordon Park someday.
Last summer, NEOtrans was getting lots of information about potential high-rise construction projects for downtown Cleveland. They included Bedrock’s riverfront development, another Gateway project or two, one for the Warehouse District, a project for Playhouse Square and possibly one for the Avenue District.
With downtown Cleveland’s large number of obsolete office buildings available for conversion, the number of new-construction high-rise residential buildings has been scarce. While there’s always speculation that the supply of conversion candidates will run dry, it has yet to occur. But every few years there’s a new residential tower, and sources say if interest rates don’t get in the way, there will be more new towers downtown (KJP).
While demand for downtown housing remains strong and apartment rents plus employment continue to grow, there is a reason for building more. But rising interest rates have made financing difficult, causing Playhouse Square to put the kibosh on another high-rise. And Medical Mutual of Ohio vacating its headquarters to avail a big space for what is likely another downtown housing conversion may satisfy the market for a while.
That’s the NEOtrans top-10 most-read stories of 2022. Two articles that just missed out deserve honorable mentions. One is the First look at Cleveland Clinic’s largest-ever building, an article about the Clinic’s planned 1-million-square-foot Neurological Institute which got 10,549 views. Articles about Cleveland’s largest employer usually attract readers as do pieces about big buildings. Combine the subjects and the story gets read.
The other honorable mention goes to Downtown lakefront development may depend on removing the Shoreway, drawing 10,513 views. Even though many people say Cleveland doesn’t capitalize on its lakefront, the high readership of articles about the lakefront suggests they wish civic leaders would.