Apr 29, 2024 - News

Downtown Cleveland is seeing more and more visitors

Illustration of a collage featuring concrete, brick, and glass textures, city skyline shapes, and a pair of people's legs walking.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

More people visited downtown over the past year, and traffic should pick up even more in 2024.

Why it matters: In previous years, downtown activity lagged behind pre-pandemic levels.

Driving the news: Downtown Cleveland saw a 9.2% increase in visitor activity between March 2023 and February 2024, per new University of Toronto data.

How it works: Researchers at the university's School of Cities are using anonymized mobile device location data to estimate visitor activity in the downtown areas of dozens of North American cities.

  • They define "downtown" as the location in each metro area with the highest job concentration.

The big picture: Most American downtowns saw a bump in visitor activity between March 2023 and February 2024.

  • Cleveland's increase ranked No. 24 out of the 54 cities studied. Columbus came in at 36th with 3.2% growth, while Cincinnati was fifth-highest at 28.3%.
Change in downtown visitor activity levels from March 2023 to February 2024
Data: University of Toronto; Note: Downtown defined as the central location with the highest concentration of employment in each metro area; Chart: Alice Feng/Axios

The intrigue: In late December, the Washington Post called Cleveland "America's best example of turning around a dying downtown," citing renovations and the city's attempt to become an 18-hour city.

What's next: Expect Cleveland to rank much higher next year. Data was gathered just before the total solar eclipse and NCAA women's Final Four, which Destination Cleveland estimated would bring a combined 200,000-plus visitors to town.

What we're watching: Cleveland is setting itself up for the long haul with a $3.5 billion project that would develop new residential units, office space and retail locations, while connecting downtown to the lakefront near Browns Stadium.

What they're saying: "Cleveland has a string of pearls, including things like North Coast Harbor, Edgewater Park and Voinovich Park," David Gilbert, CEO of Destination Cleveland told Axios earlier this month.

  • "What we're going to see start developing over the next five years is much more access and many more pearls along that string to strengthen it and make Cleveland a place far more people want to be."
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