Cranes have returned to the downtown skyline. Apartment vacancies are hard to find. Office workers from the suburbs are moving into empty urban spaces.
A rising downtown Cleveland may have the economic power to lift the region. Much will depend on young professionals and whether they find the amenities they seek.
The millennial generation, the children of the baby boomers, commanded a good deal of attention at the annual State of Downtown forum at the City Club of Cleveland. The luncheon drew a capacity crowd sprinkled with young adults.
Jeffrey Finkle, president of the International Economic Development Council, saw their presence as a good omen. “We know that millennials choose downtowns over suburbs by a big percentage,” said Mr. Finkle.
Cities like Cleveland, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Baltimore lost population last decade, but their downtowns have been growing, thanks largely to young professionals moving in.
A city that can attract and keep young talent is a city that will compete in the new economy.
Suddenly, downtown Cleveland is looking like a contender.
More than $1 billion worth of investment is pouring into the Medical Mart and convention center, the Flat’s East Bank development, and a casino on Public Square. A new lakefront plan promises to connect the city to a shore busy with new activities.
At Thursday’s forum, a trio of experts discussed whether the boom downtown is real and sustainable. The panel included Joe Marinucci, president of the Downtown Cleveland Alliance, and former Ohio Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher, now president of CEOs for Cities, a national network of urban leaders.
This growth spurt is different from others. Downtown’s population surpassed 10,000 people last decade, and twenty-five- to thirty-four-year-olds make up the largest share of that community.
The city center has enjoyed three straight quarters of rising office occupancy, the most in years. A new agency, Global Cleveland, is seeking to attract ambitious immigrants.
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