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Renewed interest in Cleveland led by young creatives

Marc Lefkowitz  |  02/02/12 @ 11:28am

Some exciting trends we're seeing: More young people are starting businesses in the city. Like the recent CIA grads behind furniture design collective, 2nd Shift. We like what they say in this interview-that their decision to stick around and set up shop in Cleveland (in Ohio City) is based on how livable and exciting it is to be here-a city that is affordable and has plenty to do. Two important attributes for young creatives starting a side business.

2nd Shift, like A Piece of Cleveland, is into reclaimed wood ? they have a ton of stock from an old wooden roller coaster from Geauga Lake amusement park to make furniture. Meanwhile, a quick check on APOC-the start up company with space in the former Tyler Elevator building in Midtown-is plugging away at the city of Cleveland's deconstruction initiative-reporting (as of April 2011) that 35 of the 100 homes targeted have been completed.

We're also impressed by Dredger's Union founders Danielle DeBoe and Sean Bilovecky. The pair was going to keep it simple with a pop up shop, but was convinced of the strength of a growing downtown enough to open a full fledged boutique on E. 4th where 40% of their wares are locally designed and domestically produced. They're getting a lot of attention for their investment-in this month's Downtown Cleveland Alliance newsletter and a Scene cover story about a new generation of merchants moving into the city.

DCA reports that downtown has experienced an 85% increase in residents, from 6,500 in 2000 to 12,000 in 2010.

In Rust Wire, writer and researcher Richey Piiparinen takes a deeper look at who's moving into Cleveland and reveals that, in neighborhoods like Tremont and Detroit-Shoreway, numbers may be smaller than in the olden days when families were six kids deep-but smaller numbers are balanced by more college degreed and higher income residents who appreciate the unexpected in places like Gordon Square Arts District over the flimsy lifestyle centers.

"Perhaps a revitalization has been under way for some time now, but it hasn't been noticed because we so often focus on that forest fire that is population loss," he writes.

Another positive trend is the interest in adaptive reuse of some big, underperforming buildings in downtown Cleveland. New demand for rentals is being driven by an influx of companies like Rosetta, the tech firm locating 400 employees and spending scads of money for a sleek 80,000 sq. ft office in the National City Building on lower Euclid.

A supply shortage for apartments has spurred a new rush by developers like K&D-fresh off their 668 Building conversion-to buy up the Hanna Annex and convert the office space into apartments. Crain's Cleveland Business reports that K&D is now eyeing the former East Ohio Gas office tower on E. 9th Street for apartments-a building that was fodder for decades is now prime real estate.

Expect downtown residential numbers to increase: CSU broke ground this month on its $50 million Campus Village-it will bring more than 600 new residents to downtown along Chester, including 300 market-rate apartments for young professionals. This builds on CSU's $500 million campus development on Euclid.

The dots are starting to get connected as Playhouse Square wakes up from its long slumber (with a Zack Bruell restaurant appearing at E. 13th and Euclid). Can we expect a real, lasting downtown renaissance? Imagine what will be when gas reaches $4/gal and regional investments focused on strengthening the core-like Cuyahoga County Executive Ed Fitzgerald's $500 million economic development fund-take form.

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