Reinventing Downtown Cleveland: Strategy Unveiled with Focus on Strengthening Environment, Economy, and Experience

CLEVELAND What does the future hold for downtown Cleveland?

If you think you’re going back to a pre-COVID world, you’re so wrong. We are not,” Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb said during a presentation Tuesday morning at the C Mall. “The future of downtown has to be bold, it has to be different, and we have to change the value proposition of our downtown. The vision we’re outlining today is not about going to a central business district, it’s about truly creating a community business district, a 15-minute city neighborhood that thrives 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Downtown is the fastest-growing neighborhood in Cleveland, officials noted on Tuesday, with its population growing 32 percent since 2010.

“In that time, more than $9 billion in investments have transformed it into a diverse and thriving community,” according to the press release.

Downtown Cleveland Alliance President and CEO Michael Deemer said the framework of their strategy is to strengthen the city’s environment, economy and experience.

It truly is a picture that doubles down on what makes Cleveland special: its cultural, entertainment and food scene, our historic architecture, our beautiful parks, green spaces and waterfront,” Deemer said. What if these gems could be easily connected and navigated by foot, bicycle, wheelchair or whatever mode of transport suits you? What if while walking down the streets and sidewalks of downtown you encounter something delicious and surprising? Unique shops and storefronts, beautiful streetscapes, diverse housing options, abundant entertainment and music, all in a clean, safe and welcoming environment? These ideas were paramount to all of us as we developed the reimagined downtown Cleveland.

Here’s how the city explains the specific plan based on the three areas of intervention…


“We want to ensure that the people who live, work and play in downtown Cleveland feel safe,” Mayor Bibb said. “By working with community partners and law enforcement and investing in new safety measures, we are taking proactive steps to make sure that happens.”

Reimagining Downtown Cleveland takes a collaborative approach to creating a clean, safe and welcoming environment for employees, residents and visitors, with integrated goals that strengthen safety and security. These include an increased presence of police and DCA ambassadors, better coordination with the county for social services, infrastructure signaling technology and better lighting.

DCA and the Cleveland Police Department are working together to expand the capability for uniformed and unarmed co-deployment, ensuring the police response is accompanied by the Crisis Intervention Team and followed up by case management or social services, where appropriate . Transportation to area treatment facilities will be an option for those who need it. DCA will also hire 20 new ambassadors to provide additional support during the fall and winter months, in addition to the 80 already on a regular basis.

A Digital Infrastructure Reporting System is currently being implemented for DCA Ambassadors to notify City Hall of infrastructure damage, such as broken curb ramps, non-functioning street lights, empty tree grates and more. Mini-pet rescue stations will also be placed throughout downtown, prioritizing areas of high residential concentration to reduce pet litter on sidewalks.

Additionally, Destination Cleveland, with support from the City, DCA and other community and business partners, will install experiential lighting to illuminate parts of downtown Cleveland. The project will help create a heightened perception of safety, connect key corridors and encourage foot traffic and economic activity throughout the city’s core. The project will begin on Public Square and extend to Euclid Avenue and Mall B in its first year. There is also discussion of lighting in other downtown neighborhoods and city neighborhoods.


The key to bringing the vision together is an active center with ongoing programming, amenities, and easy and safe public access to the lakefront and riverfront.

Building on an already robust calendar of events, reinventing downtown Cleveland it also focuses on promoting local arts and culture to enliven Downtown’s streets, parks, waterscapes and public spaces throughout all four seasons. Over the next three to five years, City, DCA, County and Destination Cleveland will work together on projects such as:

  • Green space improvements with more trees and plants;
  • Water features, seating and opportunities for children to climb and play;
  • Funding and implementing a public art program to brighten the downtown experience with murals and other creative pieces; AND
  • Installation of new orientation signs for easier and safer navigation.

Accelerating Vision for the Valley, reinventing downtown Cleveland aligns with and supports investments in the Bedrocks Cuyahoga Riverfront Master Plan and Tower City Center, Flats East Bank Phase III and Canal Basin Park. The City, County, GCP, and DCA have a goal of completing the North Shore Master Plan and preliminary engineering and design of the North Shore Connector within the next one to two years, with infrastructure improvements to support the ecological health of the Cuyahoga River to follow in the next three to five years.

Reimagining downtown Cleveland takes us from sidewalk to skyline and everything in between, Deemer pointed out. It connects our urban core with our waterfronts to create a world-class neighborhood, destination, and commercial center, enhancing the overall quality of life for residents and workers, and showcasing visitors Cleveland’s diversity and distinctiveness.


Approximately 60 percent of the inner city workforce has returned to the office, foot traffic is at nearly 80 percent of pre-pandemic levels, over 20,000 people now call downtown home, our development pipeline is robust, and we have opened more small businesses over the years during the pandemic that shut down, Deemer said. This trajectory is stronger than the national average. Now is the time to capitalize on this.

To further strengthen downtown Cleveland’s position as the region’s economic engine, downtown Cleveland’s reinvented near-term goals prioritize retail, commercial attraction, real estate, housing development and mobility. A big part of this work is addressing long-standing challenges in the downtown store economy. DCA, in partnership with Destination Cleveland, engaged Streetsense to help formulate a strategy that includes:

  • Identify barriers to attracting resellers;
  • Determination of future retail commercial capacity; AND
  • Implementation of a strategic retail attraction plan.

With attention to detail and commercial appeal, initiatives addressing the dynamics of a changing workforce are also at the forefront. Specifically, they aim to modernize office environments and build an ecosystem of third-party venues where employees, residents, and remote workers alike can congregate, such as parks, cafes, community spaces, and other diverse businesses.

Additionally, building on the recommendations of the Greater Downtown Housing Demand Report commissioned by DCA and GCP, reinventing downtown Cleveland advocates for tools and policies that close housing development gaps, encourage multi-priced housing, and simplify the permitting process for housing. development.

To meet the needs that arise from the growing population of inner cities, the vision also places emphasis on an inclusive and connected multimodal network that makes it easier for people of all ages and abilities to reach and traverse the heart of the city. The city and DCA seek to increase accessibility by foot, bicycle, scooter, wheelchair, and mobility device and public transit. The goals for the next two years are:

  • Construction begins on Memorial Bridges Loop and Superior Avenue Midway;
  • Installation of digital parking meters on the street; AND
  • Developed a public plaza connectivity and public space plan to improve connectivity and improve transit waiting environments around the public plaza.

On the horizon for the next three to five years is a protected bicycle infrastructure, connecting downtown neighborhoods and surrounding neighborhoods.

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