Aug 15, 2023 - News

Downtown Cleveland's rebound could be on the horizon

Downtown Cleveland foot traffic recovery
Data: University of Toronto; Note: Seasons are March-May (spring), June-Aug. (summer), Sept.-Nov. (fall) and Dec.-Feb. (winter); Visitors determined by counting unique mobile phones in ZIP codes with high employee density; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Downtown Cleveland foot traffic is still behind pre-pandemic levels, but ambitious development plans could change that.

Why it matters: Downtown is the beating economic heart of the city, funneling revenue into local coffers via taxes and more.

By the numbers: New mobile phone activity downtown was recorded at 36% of what it was pre-COVID, according to data analyzed by researchers at the University of Toronto's School of Cities.

Yes, but: The City of Cleveland's data on downtown foot traffic has been more optimistic, according to Michael Deemer, CEO of Downtown Cleveland.

  • "About 60% of Downtown's workforce has returned to the office, foot traffic is tracking at nearly 80% of pre-pandemic levels," Deemer said in the City's "Reimagining Downtown Cleveland" report released in June.

The intrigue: Regardless, lofty plans could draw more people downtown.

  • A $3.5 billion project would connect the Cuyahoga Riverfront to downtown's core with new residential units, office space, retail and entertainment venues.
  • The city is also working on the North Coast Connector plan, which envisions a land bridge connecting downtown to lakefront attractions like Browns Stadium and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Reality check: Those projects are likely several years away from completion. More immediate steps the city has undertaken include installing digital parking meters, improving bike infrastructure and putting Destination Cleveland's three-year tourism marketing plan into action.

  • Plus, Sherwin Williams' new global headquarters is expected to be completed in 2024, and a $100 million Rock & Roll Hall of Fame expansion is set to wrap up in 2025.

What they're saying: "Now is the time to truly reimagine Downtown Cleveland for the future," Mayor Justin Bibb said in June.

  • "Together we can capture the momentum we had before the pandemic, shaping Downtown into a destination that offers memorable experiences for visitors and that draws more people Downtown to live and work."
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