Downtown retail revival plan announced

Not a soul was in sight at The Avenue shopping mall at Tower City Center last weekend, despite the rainy, cool weather that might have otherwise prompted people to linger indoors. There was no pre-Halloween programming or other activities to attract people to possibly shop and spend money (KJP). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM.

15-point plan to attract shops and shoppers

Downtown Cleveland, Inc. today shared its Downtown Retail Strategy, designed as a roadmap to create a thriving retail environment in the urban core. Unveiled by Downtown Cleveland, Inc. President & CEO Michael Deemer during the 2023 State of Downtown at The City Club of Cleveland, the plan is one of Reimagining Downtown Cleveland’s near-term economic priorities. It aims to fill gaps in the city center’s marketplace and serve existing residents and businesses.

In spring of this year, Downtown Cleveland, Inc., a nonprofit community development organization, commissioned Streetsense, a leading strategy and design collective specializing in retail, hospitality, and real estate solutions, to conduct a comprehensive diagnostic of market dynamics and Downtown’s retail economy to pinpoint challenges and effective solutions to overcome them. The report released today provides tactics that respond to these issues.

“We now have an actionable approach to creating the future of retail in Downtown Cleveland and dealing with the challenges of attracting retail in a post-Covid environment,” said Deemer in a written statement. “It starts with targeting and focusing on the things that we, as Downtown Cleveland, Inc., can control – that is, creating the conditions for retail to succeed in Downtown Cleveland.”

The Downtown Retail Strategy, which Deemer previewed to NEOtrans in June, focuses on areas of public and private realm investment, marketing and promotion, and retail attraction and retention. It consists of 15 recommended tactics, listed in order of organizational priority. The goal is to identify the quick wins while using the longer-term recommendations as the foundation for planning. Some of those priority projects include:

  • Establishing a retail attraction program targeting small and minority owned businesses
  • Establishing a Downtown pop-up vendor market
  • Investing in a targeted streetscape refresh

In 2012, Euclid Avenue was a bustling street especially at lunch time when this view was taken at East 6th Street. After the pandemic, Downtown Cleveland’s main street is not as active as it was before pandemic (KJP).

“Retail thrives in places where people spend time and money. Moreover, when existing retail thrives, new retail inevitably follows,” noted Larisa Ortiz, managing director of public and non-profit solutions at Streetsense, who joined Deemer at the State of Downtown. “Downtown Cleveland, Inc. is now poised to succeed on both of these fronts through the tactics outlined in this plan, which include helping visitors more comfortably navigate Downtown (and stay longer) and improving the variety of residential amenities, goods, and services that ensure that Downtown remains not only a great place to live, but also a great place to invest in the long term.”

Founded in 2001 and headquartered in Washington D.C with offices in New York City, Los Angeles and Madrid, Spain., Streetsense is an experience-focused strategy and design collective that creates brands people love and places people love to be. Powered by in-depth insights and an interdisciplinary approach, the 180-plus professionals at Streetsense are experts at creating, transforming, and driving consumer demand to brands and places.

The plan adheres to six key guiding principles for clear and consistent direction across projects:

  • Emphasize neighborhood building by investing in public facilities and improving the diversity of offerings that meet the needs of Downtown residents;
  • Eliminate intra-city barriers to ensure downtown is easy to navigate by visitors and residents;
  • Focus, don’t disperse, limited resources in areas of existing concentrated business activity and the connections between;
  • Celebrate the waterfront and improve connections between Downtown and the waterfront;
  • Infuse equity and sustainability in all Special Improvement District economic development efforts; and
  • Partner with Cleveland’s world-class institutions to support project execution and offer opportunities to reinforce Downtown’s brand.

In this eastward view from Terminal Tower along Euclid and Prospect avenues, once downtown’s bustling shopping districts, only two 10-plus-story buildings are filled with offices — the PNC Building and the Keith Building. Four other high-rises that were office buildings are vacant or mostly vacant — Union Trust Building, City Club Building, AT&T Building and Medical Mutual Building. The remaining high-rises are residential which have far fewer people per square foot than offices. That means fewer people to support retail (KJP).

To create this retail strategy, Streetsense analyzed Downtown’s current retail inventory, defined the local trade area, determined future retail business capacity, identified barriers to attracting retailers, and developed a targeted tenant attraction strategy.

 Downtown Cleveland, Inc.’s mission is to attract talent, jobs, residents, and investment through market influence, community impact, and irresistible experiences. As the only organization focused solely on strengthening and building the heart of Cleveland itself, we envision Downtown Cleveland as a vibrant and welcoming city center that weaves Downtown districts and surrounding neighborhoods into a seamless urban fabric that is greater than the sum of its parts. We work from sidewalk to skyline and everything in between, leading efforts to enhance Downtown’s environment, economy, and experience.


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