Is downtown really a neighborhood?
As we worked on this month's cover story, I was confronted with the question more than once. It seems strange to consider. Downtown doesn't look like a well-landscaped suburban vision of two-car garages and Colonials. Yet the makeup of the central city is an essential question for our future.
Ten years ago, when Cleveland Magazine first broached the topic, Mayor Jane Campbell had projected 25,000 residents as key to making Cleveland a 24-hour city by 2025. Back then, about 6,000 people lived downtown, just more than half of today's number. City planning director Chris Ronayne touted the 760 housing units under construction and 1,700 more in planning. (In fact, the Bingham, where 19 Action News reporter Chris Van Vliet is standing on this month's cover, was months away from opening to residents.)
Those apartments and condos opened in the past decade — you'll find them in yellow on the map created by Kent State University's Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative (pg. 124) — have now been almost completely filled. Downtown residential occupancy rates have been at more than 95 percent for months, even as new spaces become available at the Lofts at Rosetta Center in the Gateway District, the Langston near Cleveland State University and the Residences at Hanna in PlayhouseSquare.
In fact, when it was announced in 2012 that part of the Hanna Building, where I've worked for almost 15 years, was going to become 102 one- and two-bedroom apartments, I was skeptical. This isn't East Fourth Street or the Warehouse District, with their restaurants and young professionals, I thought. This will be the test, I argued.
Then, over the summer, people started moving in. Students returned to new spaces near CSU. Star Plaza got a makeover with a fire pit, a stage and a burger shack. Cibreo Italian Kitchen opened to go along with Cowell and Hubbard and Parnell's Pub across the street.
But the most telling addition was much smaller — a green box at East 14th and Prospect with doggie bags to clean up after a pooch. Yes, people live here. Now, I see folks out for an evening stroll or grabbing a morning cup of coffee. That should only increase as projects along East Ninth — including a Heinen's — move forward. There's a pulse of daily life, which is the surest sign that you're in a neighborhood.