Cleveland: 'America's Best Example of Turning Around a Dying Downtown'
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Cleveland: 'America's Best Example of Turning Around a Dying Downtown'

Cleveland: 'America's Best Example of Turning Around a Dying Downtown'

“Welcome to Cleveland, the city that leads the nation—by far—in finding new uses for empty office buildings.”

So begins an in-depth case study into downtown revitalization in the United States. In an article by the Washington Post’s Editorial Board titled “America’s best example of turning around a dying downtown,” the article says the key to Cleveland’s success is “focusing the transformation efforts on a compact area.”

That area is Cleveland’s Public Square, smack dab in the center of its downtown, where, since 2016, developers have converted five office towers around the square into residences.

The Post’s year-long project studying ways to revive the nation’s downtowns identified three keys to success:

1) Focus on a few blocks at a time (a “node,” in the language of urban planners)

2) Make it as easy as possible to convert old office towers for new uses through tax incentives and expedited permitting.

3) Offer unique amenities for residents, workers, and tourists.

Cleveland did all three in the area surrounding Public Square, and the results, say the authors, are a model for success that can be replicated nationwide.

“Empty downtown office buildings pose a formidable challenge to cities such as San Francisco and D.C.,” the authors write. “It doesn’t help that construction costs have surged and that interest rates are at a two-decade high. Real estate investments are largely on hold as developers wait for prices to fall. But Cleveland offers hope—and a useful model.”

The downward trajectory of Cleveland from its heyday in the early 1900s—when it was the nation’ 6th largest city, home to John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company, and whose Euclid Avenue was known as “Millionaire’s Row”—to a down-at-the-heels Rust Belt city in the 1970s, whose Cuyahoga River caught fire in 1968 from industrial pollution, and was “a good place to be from” according to the local wags, has reversed, and the city is now a model of urban revitalization. To learn how Cleveland did it, and to provide some semblance of hope to America’s cities, read the whole article here, along with related stories written over the past year of the study on rebuilding America’s downtowns.

Published: December 22nd, 2023

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