Residents are Sold on Downtown Cleveland, Now What About Developers?

A demand for urban living is helping Cleveland’s downtown achieve something like vibrancy. Whether it reaches its promise will depend on whether or not we can find people enough places to live.

Historically, the problem with Rust Belt cities is that we created policies that emptied their cores. The result is we spread ourselves out too thin—and through our dispersal we have nullified the inherent advantages of the city. Said Economist Ryan Avent:

But what makes a city a city and a not-city a not-city is the fact that a city is dense and a soft pack online not-city isn’t…

And when it comes to economic growth and the creation of jobs, the denser the city the better.

This is what Cleveland’s sprawl looks like in animation. It is a series of census tract maps from 1940 to 2007 showing population density.

You can see after long there is no “there” there.

But there are encouraging signs of a reversal. Specifically, from 1990 to 2010 Cleveland’s Downtown population increased from 4,651 to 9,098, a 96% gain. Both the City and Cuyahoga County shrank across the same time period, making the influx more notable. The contrast is evidenced by the map below showing an area of dark blue surrounded by shades of bleeding.

Ideally this trend will continue until vibrancy spills out into the surrounding inner city neighborhoods. But first, Downtown must reach a critical mass. 10,000 residents over a large area is not enough. Market studies have shown the population needs to double to garner proper density (at diamox pharmacy least eulexin according to prospective retail).

The main problem? It is no longer convincing folks that Downtown Cleveland isn’t an urban hellhole: they want in by the thousands. Rather, it is the need to convince financiers that Downtown Cleveland isn’t an urban hellhole. And until this happens, potential downtown residents won’t have enough places to live.

From a recent Plain Dealer article, Michelle Jarboe McFee writes:

The occupancy spike – to 98 percent or higher at some buildings betagan – has developers looking for their next project and wondering whether cytoxan Cleveland can create enough supply to meet renter demand.

The issue exactly? Lack of private financing, and the need for public subsidies from a legacy city struggling with basic upkeep. Said Ralph McGreevy, executive vice president of the Northeast Ohio Apartment Association:

Downtown needs more apartments, and it’s just that simple … My gut instinct [McGreevy said] is that there’s more demand than we can possibly fill in the next three to five years.

Just when we begin hitting our stride: a failure of the market. Where is that invisible hand when you need it?

My guess? Waiting for the government fist.

–By Richey Piiparinen

(Note: Data and maps available through the author’s work at Case Western Reserve University’s Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development.)

Rickshaw driver on E. 4th St. She probably wants in. Courtesy of


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One response to “Residents are Sold on Downtown Cleveland, Now What About Developers?

  1. Pingback: A city spread thin « Metro Metrics

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