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Panorama of Cleveland in 1909
Downtown Cleveland in 2006

Downtown Cleveland is the central business district of the City of Cleveland and Northeast Ohio. Reinvestment in the area in the mid-1990s spurred a rebirth that continues to this day, with over $2 billion in capital projects slated to involve the downtown area over the next few years. While much of the city's population decamped to surrounding suburbs in the second half of the 20th century, downtown Cleveland gained population in the first decade of the 21st century.[1] Cleveland's downtown population grew from 7,261 in 1990 to 9,599 as of the 2000 Census, and in 2005 was rated by the Brookings Institution as one of America's "Emerging Downtowns", due to its 32.2% growth rate over this period.[2] There are several residential and commercial developments planned for downtown.


Public Square

The heart of downtown and the city's first settled area, Public Square was laid out by city founder Moses Cleaveland in 1796 and has remained largely unchanged.[3] It consists of a large open space, cut into four quadrants by Ontario Street and Superior Avenue. Public Square is the symbolic heart of the city, and has hosted presidents, vast congregations of people, and a free annual 4th of July concert by the Cleveland Orchestra. At one time, Public Square was fenced off and inaccessible to vehicles. In 1860, the Perry Monument, a memorial to Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry's victory in the Battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812, was dedicated in the center of Public Square. In 1892, it was moved out of the square, which by then had the fences removed after lobbying by commercial interests. Public Square is also home to the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument, which commemorates residents of Cuyahoga County who served in the Civil War. Public Square also features a statue of Cleaveland; a statue of Tom L. Johnson, the city's most famous mayor; a large amount of shrubbery and other landscaping; and a large public fountain.[4] The Consulate-General of Slovenia in Cleveland is in the 55 Public Square building.[5]

Superior Avenue near Public Square.

Notable buildings on Public Square include the Terminal Tower,[6] home to Tower City Center,[7] 200 Public Square - the former BP Building (renamed in 2005),[8] as well as Key Tower, the tallest building in Ohio and one of the tallest in the United States.[9] Public Square is also home to the historic Old Stone Church,[10] completed in 1855. The west side of Public Square was slated to become the headquarters of the Cleveland Trust Company, then called Ameritrust, but the project was cancelled after Ameritrust was purchased and merged into Key Bank, leaving that side of the square open to this day, with only a surface parking lot on the site.[11] The region is currently debating the best use of Public Square, and several residents and organizations have called for the square to be closed to traffic during non-peak hours of the weekday. Plans floated for a square redesign include an ice skating rink, amphitheater, farmer's market, restaurant with outdoor seating, and other ideas, all of which are designed to draw people to the square as a gathering place.[12]

Historic Warehouse District

West 6th Street in the Historic Warehouse District

Cleveland's first neighborhood, the Warehouse District, was originally a residential area, then became a warehousing and shipping neighborhood,[13] and has morphed into an entertainment, dining, and downtown living hub. The Warehouse District is the largest downtown neighborhood by population, and continues to grow with a vast assortment of shops, clubs, bars, and loft condos/apartments.[14] This most recent transformation from empty, run-down warehouses to hip, happening clubs and restaurants is only the latest in a long life cycle for the historic area. It was announced at the end of 2005 that local developer Robert L. Stark, of Stark Enterprises, is planning a $1 billion redevelopment of what are currently surface parking lots in the Warehouse District, adding retail, office, housing, and structured parking in a series of buildings from the lakefront to Public Square,[15] see "Stark Project" below.

Historic Gateway District

The Arcade in the late 1960s.

The Historic Gateway District was one of the first revitalized areas of downtown, thanks largely to the Gateway Project, which includes Progressive Field and Quicken Loans Arena, the homes of the MLB Cleveland Indians and NBA Cleveland Cavaliers. The Gateway complex was built on what were surface parking lots at the time, and had served as the location for a produce market in the past.[16] The baseball stadium and basketball arena are connected to Tower City Center, and RTA's rail transit system, via an enclosed walkway.[17] The neighborhood includes retail,[18] housing,[19] and a large variety of restaurants.[20] East 4th Street, an emerging downtown neighborhood, is home to Cleveland's House of Blues, Iron Chef Michael Symon's Lola Bistro, comedy club/restaurant Pickwick and Frolic, as well as other dining and entertainment options, retail, loft condominiums, and apartments.[21] The Gateway District also houses the magnificent Cleveland Arcade, the first indoor shopping mall in the United States and a stunning display of period architecture.[22]

Civic Center

The Justice Center Complex

As its name suggests, the Civic Center district includes most of Cleveland's public buildings. City Hall is here,[23] as is the Justice Center Complex, home of the City Police Headquarters,[24] Cuyahoga County and Cleveland Municipal Courts Tower,[25] and the Correction Center.[26] The Cuyahoga County Court House is located in this area as well.[27] The Cleveland Convention Center is located here, and its exhibit facility is built underground.[28] Other buildings in the district include the Cleveland Public Library main building,[29] the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland,[30] the Howard M. Metzenbaum U.S. Courthouse,[31] and the Cleveland Metropolitan School District administration building.[32] The Public Malls, Malls A, B, and C, also known as the Burnham Malls, serve as public green space and gardens fronting the lake.[33] One of the two plans for a new Cleveland convention center includes adding an additional mall that extends north towards the lake, the other being a new center built at Tower City.[34]

Financial District

East 9th Street Financial District, Downtown Cleveland.
Reserve Square Apartments.

Cleveland's financial district consists of the areas around East 9th street, with a dense conglomeration of banks in the area. The district is home to the Fortune 500 headquarters of Eaton Corporation[35] and National City Bank.[36] "Big Four" accounting firm Ernst & Young was founded in Cleveland (as Ernst & Ernst), and still occupies its original offices in the Huntington Building. Additionally, the headquarters of global and national law firms, including Jones Day[37] and Baker and Hostetler,[38] are headquartered in the financial district. The forty-story Erieview Tower, part of the largely unbuilt Erieview Urban Renewal Project of the 1960s, is also located in the district with its attached mall, The Galleria, which was added to the Tower in the 1980s.[39] Another landmark skyscraper, the "silver chisel" One Cleveland Center is located in this district as well.[40] The Plain Dealer, Cleveland's major daily newspaper, is headquartered here,[41] and WKYC, the local NBC affiliate, built a new digital broadcast center on Lakeside Avenue on the northern end of the district.[42] Other stations headquartered here include WOIO, the CBS affiliate, and WUAB, the MyNetworkTV affiliate, both owned by Raycom Media and housed in Reserve Square on East 12th Street.[43] There is a large cluster of high-rise downtown housing in this area, largely concentrated in the East 12th Street area, with an addition, "The Avenue District" (see below), set to begin construction in 2006.[44] The Financial District also serves as home to Cleveland's Catholic Cathedral, St. John Cathedral, the seat of its Catholic Diocese.[45] A notable building in this area that currently sits vacant is the former Cleveland Trust Rotunda and Ameritrust Tower, which served as headquarters of The Cleveland Trust Company and its successor, Ameritrust, until its acquisition by Key Bank. The rotunda features a large stained glass window on its ceiling, and was purchased by Cuyahoga County, which is planning to reuse it as the centerpiece of the county's new administration center. The County plans to tear the building down and build a new tower that connects with the rotunda.[46] As of November 2007, Cuyahoga County Commissioners have decided to abate the asbestos and sell the Ameritrust Tower to a possible developer. The County has valued the site at $35,000,000.

North Coast District

North Coast Harbor and the Rock Hall.
Cleveland Browns Stadium.

Home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum,[47] Great Lakes Science Center,[48] Cleveland Browns Stadium,[49] Steamship William G. Mather Maritime Museum[50] and the USS Cod,[51] North Coast Harbor is the tourist district of downtown Cleveland. The North Coast District is home to the city's port at present time, although there are long term plans in place to move the port west of the river and open up the area for housing and lakefront development.[52] North Coast is also the former home of Cleveland Stadium, known to some as the "Mistake on the Lake". Cleveland Stadium was torn down after the former Cleveland Browns franchise left the city in 1995, and was replaced with Cleveland Browns Stadium, which serves as the home of the reborn NFL football franchise.[53] Cleveland Burke Lakefront Airport is located east of the Rock Hall, and serves as a commuter and business airport that reduces small aircraft traffic at the larger Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, located southwest of downtown.[54] The district fronts Lake Erie on the north and also includes Voinovich Park and a fishing pier. Future plans for the city's lakefront include adding thousands of housing units, retail shops, a marina, and other amenities to North Coast Harbor, see "Lakefront Plan" below.[52]

Theater District

Home to the second largest performing arts complex in the U.S.,[55] Playhouse Square Center is downtown's cultural heart. The State, Ohio, Allen, Hanna, and Palace theaters are all located in a cluster near the intersection of Euclid Avenue and E. 14th Street.[56] WVIZ/WCPN, Cleveland's public television and radio stations (incorporated as "ideastream") teamed up with Playhouse Square to renovate the former Playhouse Square Building, an empty office building, transforming it into One Playhouse Square, a downtown broadcast headquarters.[57] The building, which had its official opening in the fall of 2005, is now known as the Idea Center, and includes high definition television studios, control rooms, radio studios, and performance space fronting Euclid Avenue, as well as a variety of high-tech business startups and other tenants located on the building's upper floors.[58]

Quadrangle District

The Quadrangle District is home to Cleveland State University, the city's large public university.[59] Cleveland State has in past years been derided as an open enrollment commuter school, but has moved to dispel that belief. The university is progressing through a master plan[60] to raise standards, enrollment, and rebuild its fortress-like campus. CSU plans to build a college town adjacent to downtown, including new retail, restaurants and housing to serve an increase of resident students planned to be in the thousands.[60] The university's desire to attract more traditional college students and begin to raise its stature as a research university figure into these plans a great deal, and CSU opened its second residence hall, a complete retrofit of Fenn Tower, in the fall of 2006.[61] Over the past decade, CSU has partnered with the city and other area stakeholders to transfer technology research into startup companies and enterprises, improving the economy of the area and stimulating downtown life in the Quadrangle.[62] As part of CSU, the Wolstein Center, formerly the CSU Convocation Center, is located in the Quadrangle District, and serves as the home of CSU Men's Basketball and various concerts and special events throughout the year.[63] In addition to Cleveland State University, the Quandrangle is also home to Cuyahoga Community College's Metro Campus and St. Vincent's Hospital.[59]

Flats district

The Flats.

Once the most popular nightlife district in Ohio, The Flats have fallen on hard times. Though there is no one reason for the decay, a series of incidents have garnered a reputation for unruly behavior. The Flats crowd migrated east to the Warehouse and the Gateway Districts as trendy and more upscale venues have emerged. The west bank of the flats, home to numerous restaurants, bars, and new housing continues to thrive, and is the site of a large urban apartment/condo complex known as Stonebridge. A local developer, Scott Wolstein of Developers Diversified Realty is demolishing the structures on the east bank and replacing them with a new mixed-use neighborhood, and the flats will be reborn once again as a residential neighborhood. The Flats were the place Moses Cleaveland first landed when he founded the city, and thus the area is reclaiming its past heritage as a residential area. In addition to the East Bank development, there have been plans floated for the Irishtown Bend area, in addition to more housing on the west bank in the area near the Powerhouse entertainment complex, currently a large surface parking lot.

New developments and projects


Euclid Corridor

Cleveland's Main Street, Euclid Avenue, is under complete reconstruction.

The Euclid Corridor Transportation Project connected downtown, Midtown, and University Circle by introducing bus rapid transit (BRT) to the city in the form of the HealthLine.[64] The project involved a total reconstruction of Euclid Avenue from Public Square to beyond University Circle (located approximately 4 miles (6.4 km) east of downtown), and included bus-only lanes with center-median station boarding, priority signaling, and fast commute times. In addition to transit and road improvements, the transportation project also invested heavily in the Euclid Avenue streetscape, rebuilding the street from storefront to storefront, removing old vaults and streetcar tracks, and building new sidewalks, lighting, and landscaping.[65] The project included a large public arts component, with different areas of the Euclid Corridor route being addressed by local and national artists.[66] The project is expected to spur investments in residential, retail, office, and mixed-use redevelopments, including over 4,000 residential units along the corridor. In addition to the BRT line, the Downtown Cleveland Alliance funded a study on retail feasibility on the avenue, focusing on the area between CSU and Public Square.[67]

The Flats

The long-suffering entertainment district on the east bank of the Flats is planned to be reborn in a proposal put forth by Scott Wolstein of Developers Diversified Realty, Inc. Wolstein's plans include a complete demolition of the current east bank, realignment of Old River Road, and the construction of hundreds of apartments, townhouses, and retail over parking, connections to the RTA Waterfront Line, and a new office building that is being pitched as the new home for the local Defense Finance and Accounting Service office, scheduled to add over 500 jobs in Cleveland over the next two years.[68] The development will also include a boardwalk and marina, and is part of a larger plan to develop the lakefront and river shores of downtown that has included a large number of apartments built on the west bank of the flats, in an area called Stonebridge. The east bank redevelopment plan was approved and the developer is currently demolishing properties on the riverfront.[69] Current East Bank property owners were offered an appraised amount for their property, with the owners who refuse to sell subject to eminent domain proceedings by right of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority. There are several holdout property owners currently fighting the Port and Wolstein on the prices offered for their properties, and a decision on the case is expected in May 2007.[70] Wolstein expects the development to be ready for residence by late 2008 or early 2009. Wolstein has announced that former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar will be developing a steakhouse in his development, as well as a bookstore and movie theater. He also said he is close to getting a "gourmet" grocery. The latest East Bank plan also incorporates a formerly-separate project on land at West 10th Street, called "Lighthouse Landing". The former owner of this parcel, currently a surface parking lot, sold the property to Wolstein's group previously. [71]

On May 22, 2007, Wolstein and Bob Corna, developer of the West Bank's Stonebridge neighborhood, announced a partnership to unite Wolstein's East Bank plan with Corna's Stonebridge Development, and debuted a new development plan for the neighborhood (pictured). There will be several large pedestrian bridges built over the Cuyahoga River, and the developers intend to market the area as "The Flats", without regard to east/west, as they have stated the rest of the country still knows the area by its full name.[71] Home to condominium towers known as Stonebridge, the developers of this project wish to extend high-rise towers throughout the west bank area on current surface parking lots, eventually building out to several thousand housing units on the West Bank, in addition to the several hundred included in Wolstein's East Bank Proposal.[72]

Avenue District

The Avenue District construction site in September 2007.

Cleveland is also slated to add to its higher income downtown housing with the Avenue District.[73] Located immediately east of Erieview Tower on the site of several parking lots on East 12th Street, the development is slated to include over 400 condominiums, including lofts, townhomes, penthouses, street-level retail, garage parking, and pedestrian friendly sidewalks and streets.[74] The developer is touting this as downtown's new upscale, quiet neighborhood with easy access to the attractions and amenities of downtown. The development is a project of Zaremba, Inc., and construction has begun as of Fall 2006, with plans to open the buildings in 2007 and 2008.[75] The Avenue District will be built in phases, with future surface lot development based on market demand.

East 4th Street

East 4th Street on a Saturday in September 2007.

MRN Ltd has bought most of the buildings along East 4th Street and is currently installing street retail such as high-end clothing, restaurants and coffee shops with outdoor seating, hundreds of loft apartments in the upper levels, and an upscale martini bar/bowling alley/restaurant created by the founders of Gameworks, called the Corner Alley.[76] MRN will be adding more apartments to the area in conjunction with the Corner Alley martini bar/bowling alley, with funding assistance from the City of Cleveland.

East 4th Street is home to Pickwick and Frolic, the comedy club/restaurant Hilarities 4th Street Theatre, the House of Blues Cleveland (located in the former Woolworth's Building), the restaurant Lola Bistro (owned by chef Michael Symon, winner of the Iron Chef America competition), the East Coast-style "ultralounge" View Nightclub,[77] Saigon Vietnamese Cuisine, and Zocalo Mexican Grill & Tequileria. The restaurant La Strada opened in October 2008. The Greenhouse Tavern and Erie Island Coffee Co. of Kelleys Island, Ohio are set to open in 2008.


In 2004, The Cleveland City Planning Commission completed plans for a lakefront revitalization to stimulate national interest in the City of Cleveland as an exciting place to live.[78] These include thousands of housing units, retail shops, public parks, connections to the light rail waterfront line, an 18 hole golf course, office buildings, a boardwalk, and other amenities.[79] Cleveland's current industrially-oriented lakefront is slated to become a thing of the past, and a new, public-minded and recreational lakefront will rise in its place. The chief roadblock to the implementation of this plan is the relocation of the Port of Cleveland to an area west of the river, as well as converting of Ohio Route 2, better known as the Cleveland Memorial Shoreway to a low-speed, at-grade boulevard. The Shoreway is currently an expressway that currently blocks downtown from the lakefront, separating lakefront developments and reducing pedestrian access. The boulevard will enable substantially more intersections with north-south streets stretching from Edgewater Park at the city's western border through downtown and east to Gordon Park.[80]

Convention Center

Cleveland is working on a long term replacement for its outdated convention center, currently located underground beneath Mall B, a grassy open space stretching from North Coast Harbor through the Civic Center District.[81] Plans vary from replacing the current center beneath the mall to construction of an addition to Forest City-owned Tower City Center.[34] Cost projections have put the underground site at an estimated cost of over $500 million dollars, which is well over what the city and county wish to pay. Forest City, who had withdrawn its Tower City site from consideration, has proposed that the location be reconsidered.[82][83] The site is considered a front runner as it would cost around $350 million to expand a convention center onto it, a figure closer to the city/county budget.[84]

Stark Enterprises Project

Robert Stark, of Robert Stark Enterprises, spoke of assembling a coalition of developers to redevelop large areas of downtown and to inject a large number of residents, workers, and retail into the long-languishing district. He identified an area that he coined the "Y" of Downtown Cleveland. The bottom of the Y is Forest City-owned Scranton Peninsula. The upper right of the Y reaches along Euclid Avenue, where revitalization is already under way via the Euclid Corridor Transportation Project, and the other arm of the Y is the Historic Warehouse District, currently choked by a surplus of surface parking lots. Stark plans to build on the 21 acres (8.5 hectares) of surface parking lots that have prevented the area from becoming a true urban neighborhood. On the largest area of parking, measuring 8 acres (3.2 hectares) within the block bounded by Superior Avenue, West 3rd Street, St. Clair Avenue and West 6th Street, Stark will build phase one of his development. Phase I will be a $1 billion multi-building, mixed-use development of retail, offices, housing, and structured parking.[85] Stark has plans to open the development by 2009. Stark has secured the majority of land needed for the project and is working to secure retailer interest in the project.[86] The next phase of the plan includes extending the downtown street grid from the Warehouse District to the lakefront, developing a large section of waterfront land currently in use by the Port of Cleveland.


In Public Square, a large surface parking lot will be the new site of a 21-story office tower being built by the Richard E. Jacobs Group.[87] 515 Euclid Avenue, a parking garage, is slated to become a 28+ story condominium tower.[88] Tower City Center continues to attract downtown shoppers, and Forest City Enterprises says they are waiting for the downtown housing market to mature before it plans housing developments on its Scranton Peninsula, across the Cuyahoga River from Tower City.[89]

Additional developers have floated ideas for developing the peninsula and areas surrounding the Flats with housing as well; in particular, local developer John Ferchill has announced plans to build housing along the river's edge at Scranton. The project will represent Ferchill's first project in Cleveland in many years, as he refused to work with previous Mayor Michael R. White.[90] Quicken Loans, owned by Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, has opened a large online loan center downtown near the arena, with hopes to employ over 600 people when fully staffed.[91] New housing condo/apartment projects are frequently announced, and Cleveland is projected to increase its downtown population to over 20,000 by 2010.


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