Photo by Mark Oprea
Downtown gained 45 new retail businesses in 2022, DCA's year-in-review report found. But others were vacated
In its recap of 2022, shared Thursday, the Downtown Cleveland Alliance was both realistic about current struggles and forward-thinking in terms of a rebound.
Spotlighting Cleveland's office-to-apartment conversions as well as downtown's retail vacancies, hopes for more bike lanes and more pedestrian-friendly streets alongside neighborhood population growth, the report was a mix of Covid-era ills and signs of optimism in the future.
"The persistence of remote work, perceptions of public safety and aging public infrastructure contribute to this environment," the report reads. "But in the face of these headwinds, Downtown Cleveland has remained resilient."
Quite resilient, DCA found, at least compared to its usual cast of comparable peer cities, like Columbus and Pittsburgh.
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Downtown Cleveland Alliance
A foot traffic report, formulated with anonymous cell phone data, shows a slight spike in Downtown visitors from 2021 to 2022.
Downtown Cleveland's occupancy rate for office space, DCA found, is at about 84 percent, roughly the same as Downtown Cincinnati's. Downtown Detroit's offices are 86 percent full; Philadelphia's at 85.2 percent.
Though DCA gloats that Downtown Cleveland saw the "largest net absorption of Class A office space"—typically the top-shelf, high-priced spots—the Wall Street Journal reports that, as in New York and Detroit, that upper-echelon, Class A space could be heading towards a downward trend
like its lower-cost competitors.
There was, however, an "overall loss in all classes" of office space, Audrey Gerlach, VP of Economic Development & Chief of Staff at Downtown Cleveland Alliance, told Scene. "
If you're an office employer and you want workers to be back in the space, you want to be in a space that is attractive, especially as employers tend to move to smaller footprints. Especially if most of these employers are hybrid."
As for the push for Downtown to retire its perception as a central business district and put on the image of a residential neighborhood, the results were mixed.
While Downtown's population leapt up to 20,750—with just 114 rental units added, namely 75 Public Square, compared to 1,000 units added in 2020—the home ownership realm was a little bit more murky. Though there were 112 sales last year, Downtown has the lowest homeowner rate compared to 11 peer cities, such as Detroit and Philadelphia.
"It's definitely a challenge in this market," Gerlach said. "It's the supply side issue. But there's demand. And we just need to make it easy, and a little less risky."
But, after all, there's always this year. Next
It's possible that, with the $1 billion or so in investment Downtown in the next few years—spread out among 16 projects—that the so-called neighborhood-in-transition could reach a tipping point.
The 3,000 or so workers the $300 million Sherwin Williams HQ tower is promising to bring, along with East 4th's public-art revamp could, if completed on time, buck major negativity in the future.
"I think development begets development largely, and I think we've seen that Downtown in the last 10 years," Gerlach said. "What we're seeing is a theme of connection. Adding housing and green space. Growing the population. It's not you get one thing done and that's it. This is an ecosystem."
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