Downtown Cleveland’s recovery accelerated in 2023

Downtown Cleveland is where Greater Clevelanders converge to enjoy festivals and big events like Cleveland’s St. Patrick’s Day parade which, according to, is America’s fifth-largest. At Superior Avenue and East 21st Street, the parade assembled yesterday for its 182nd annual march through downtown (The GBX Group). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM.

Challenges remain in continuing the recovery

In a data-heavy report released today, Downtown Cleveland, Inc. (DCI) outlined its achievements in continuing the recovery of Cleveland’s business and hospitality center and one of Cuyahoga County’s fastest-growing residential areas. The data, contained in the 2023 Downtown Cleveland Economic Development Report, says the recovery of Cleveland’s central business district is outpacing that of its peer cities in Ohio and the Great Lakes region.

Highlights of the report include a year-over-year rise in workforce recovery of 126 percent, overall foot traffic of 108 percent and visitor recovery of 102 percent. It also noted that downtown’s residential sector was even stronger now — 12 percent more population — than it was before the pandemic that hit the USA four years ago this month. Downtown’s residential population is now 21,000 and still growing.

But challenges persist, particularly in the office sector. Remote and hybrid working got a boost from the pandemic, resulting in fewer people working downtown. And public safety, especially in the perception of it, remains an issue for Downtown Cleveland to overcome.

“We worked across sectors last year – office, housing, retail and public realm – with great success,” said DCI President and CEO Michael Deemer in a written statement. “While challenges remain, particularly in the office market, we laid a strong foundation for so much more good to come.”

Retail growth is a challenge downtown where office vacancies remain elevated in the wake of the pandemic and residential growth has yet to compensate for it. Tower City Center, downtown’s largest retail center, saw recent cosmetic improvements but a promised overhaul has yet to be undertaken by owner Bedrock (KJP).

DCI, a nonprofit community development corporation, restructured its organization to serve as a comprehensive, unified downtown development entity. And it is in the process of making $550,000 worth of improvements to ready its new 9,000-square-foot offices at 668 Euclid Ave., according to a building permit issued Feb. 1. DCI has been located for the past decade at 1010 Euclid. But partnerships are the key to achieving progress.

“We collaborated with Mayor (Justin) Bibb to define a clear vision for the future with the Reimagining Downtown Cleveland plan to complete the transformation of our central business district into a vibrant, 18-hour, 15-minute neighborhood,” Deemer added.

That has resulted in an investment Boost. More than $1.25 billion in ongoing projects and another $4 billion in planned private and public investments demonstrate downtown’s immense potential. New businesses have been drawn to the urban core. Last year saw the addition of 33 new businesses, bolstering downtown’s retail landscape, DCI reports.

National recognition has been bestowed on Downtown Cleveland. It holds the top spot nationwide for the share of office space slated for conversion. That recognition highlighted why Downtown Cleveland is more strongly positioned than many other cities to weather the post-pandemic challenges.

Downtown Cleveland Inc.’s 2023 Downtown Cleveland Economic Development Report offered an opportunity to reflect on the development corporation’s achievements in the past year as well as the challenges it faces in 2024 (KJP).

The University of Toronto’s School of Cities found that Cleveland’s Downtown recovery outpaces our peer cities in Ohio and is in the top three for the Great Lakes region. DCI’s data shows that visitor foot traffic activity in Downtown Cleveland surpassed 90 percent of pre-pandemic levels in 2023 and is on track to exceed pre-pandemic levels in 2024.

DCI said much of this can be attributed to its efforts to enhance downtown’s overall experience through several of its programs. One of those is the Clean & Safe Program. The 2023 report details the program’s work through increased personnel and data-driven deployment strategies, such as 1,400-plus safety escorts, 112,000 hours of deployment and more than 802,000 pounds of trash collected, to name a few.

The activation of public spaces is another DCI program. More than 28 programs across 155 days ensured a lively downtown throughout the year, attracting significant crowds. In addition to regular programming, large-scale events like Downtown Cleveland’s annual WinterLand event and MetroHealth Juneteenth Freedom Festival brought a combined crowd of more than 400,000 people to the city’s core.

“This momentum is the result of relentless focus and advocacy from Downtown Cleveland and our continued partnerships with key stakeholders,” Deemer said “2023’s metrics illustrate Downtown Cleveland’s progress. We are poised for another exciting year in 2024.”


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