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Thread: Cleveland Renaissance?

  1. #1
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    Cleveland Renaissance?

    This weekend, the missus and I went to Cleveland to visit the International Motorcycle show. I also wanted to see how Cleveland, the city, was coming along. (I must be a market segmenter’s nightmare.)

    I had been interested in Cleveland for decades, due to its similarities and dissimilarities to Buffalo. I’ve never actually spent time in the city, always passing it on my way to somewhere else.

    The similarities are obvious. Both are aging Great Lakes cities which have seen better times. The butt of national television jokes. Perhaps Dennis Kucenic (sp?) helped to prolong this with his quixotic run in the last Democratic presidential primary race. Most don’t know that he was also the “Boy Mayor” of Cleveland during the 1970s, bringing the city to the brink of bankruptcy.

    The city had set up a municipal electricity corp. Dennis helped to keep consumer rates low by not “wasting” money on things like repairs and maintenance. As a Wall Street Journal story depicted in the 1970s, Dennis left the city broke and in the dark.

    But Cleveland had stirrings back then. It was the home to five theaters similar to our own Sheas. All within a block of each other. And all closed by the mid-1970s. A grassroots effort to save them started in the late seventies. Sound familiar?

    Yet Cleveland had resources Buffalo did not. As recently as the mid-1970s, it was the ninth largest corporate headquarters town in America. Think about that. If you don’t know what that means, think of huge corporate support of local cultural and public institutions. That support rarely appears in branch office towns like Buffalo.
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  2. #2
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    Think about that. If you don’t know what that means, think of huge corporate support of local cultural and public institutions. That support rarely appears in branch office towns like Buffalo.

    Versus tax payer supported ?

  3. #3
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    Originally posted by WNYresident
    Versus tax payer supported ?
    Usually in addition to taxpayer funded.

    And with lobbying from a coterie of these high and mighty players, the tax support might itself be higher than we have around here.
    Truth springs from argument among friends.

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    Exploring Downtown

    I usually like to stay at a hotel that's in some rehabbed building, something of historical significance.

    We stayed at a Holiday Inn Express that is in the former headquarters of City National, a publicly-traded bank. The building looks to have been built about the same time as our Liberty Building. Beautiful lobby, more reminiscent of the building that Marine MIdland used to have its headquarters in.

    This renovation seems to have been a couple of decades ago. Each room has a jacuzzi in it, most of which are now inoperable. The rooms are pretty modern, but some quirks exist. You have to go up a step to get into the shower; I think they had to raise the tub to make the plumbing work. The elevators have mahoghony (sp?) panelling, but some of it is missing. Each floor has some sort of a lounge, which might have been the waiting area when all of the rooms were offices.

    The hotel was on Euclid Avenue, about three blocks from the center of the city. Euclid is one of the main streets of Cleveland. Walking along Euclid, I was struck by the number of vacant retail windows. There was some renovation going on, but not much. It looked downright shabby and Buffalo was looking pretty good by comparison.

    Then I thought about Main Place Mall. If there were windows facing the street, how down at the heels would that section of Main Street look? How many of the stores in Main Place are vacant, across from the vacant AM&As?
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    Question House of Blues

    There was one place that was busy on Euclid Avenue on a Friday night: the House of Blues. There were hundreds of people lined up, waiting to be admitted to a performance. (When we walked by on Saturday at 6:00 PM, there were already a couple of dozen in line for the 8:00 PM. show).

    They also have a related restaurant, also known as House of Blues. I kind of followed my nose around the corner for that one, as their specialty is Tennessee BBQ.

    From the tile in the doorway, this operation is in a building specifically renovated for them in 2004.

    If this format ever goes into franchise, downtown Buffalo could really benefit from one.
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    Theater Square

    I really wanted to see this area. There was a front page story in the early 1980s about Cleveland's effort to save its theaters. All had closed by the mid-1970s.

    We walked down to Theater Square. There isn't really a Square, but in close proximity are five theaters of "Shea's" calibre. Although there were no performances on, two of them were open. They are just as breathtakingly beautiful as Shea's.

    We have co-operation between our theaters (I think), but these are very connected. Two of them physically are connected. Looking at the schedules, there appears to be a sharing of bookings among them. That is, only one or two or them have an event on at the same time. Each has the others' schedules. I would not be surprised if they were run by the same organization.

    One surprising thing (to me) is how the showings appeared to be targeted to women: Evita, a triute to Janis Joplin and a play called "Menopause". (OK, in my book, musicals appeal more to women). Coupled with our own "Bad Dates", live theater seems to cater to women these days.
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    Terminal Tower

    This was completely unexpected and the highlight of our explorations.

    Right on Public Square, the center of the downtown, is Terminal Tower. In Cleveland, the train terminal was in the heart of downtown. They didn't abandon it. Or if they did, they did a glorious restoration.

    We walked inside around 6:00 PM on Saturday. Terminal Tower is four floors of retail and restaurants set in gleaming, new-looking marble. It was absolutely gorgeous and bustling. A lot of bus lines converge on it, as well as their light rail. There's a multi-screen cinema. All this on a Saturday meant lots of kids. But also lots of adults were there. As well as lots of uniformed security.

    There was the obligatory food court as well as a Morton's Steak House and a Hard Rock Cafe. Lots of boutiqe shops, as well as a Brooks Bros. store. And most of them open. At 6:00 PM on a Saturday!

    Buffalo has nothing comparable to this. And it was a vibrant, bustling space.
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    I have visited Cleveland at least twice a year for the last 16 years. Over that time I have watched a dramatic investment from the State and corporations go into the city. Guitar R/R Hall of Fame. The water front usage of green space and water sports.
    Renovation of the infrastructure. The city has improved very well over the last 16 years I have been traveling to Cleveland.

    The still have several run down sections as in Buffalo. They just have moved forward from their past.
    WNY can not even move out of its' own way.

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    So did you get to the Flats???

    FYI- the firm that redeveloped Terminal Tower and mall also owns Boulevard and used to own Summit Malls (Forest City Enterprises).

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    I got to The Flats, but not on purpose.

    I saw where they were on the touristy map the hotel gave us. But there was nothing to say what was at the Power Station of the Trolley somethingorother. For all we knew, they were just some rusted out industrial hulks.

    We did get there by mistake. We left at 6:30 AM Sunday, to get back in time for church. The street signs directing you to the interstate in Cleveland are poor. The street grid itself is winding and I-90 plows right through town.

    We followed signs for I-90 East and promptly were deposited on I-90 West. We got off in The Flats (I think), where there was no corresponding on ramp. With the skyscrapers as landmarks, we made our way back downtown and out of the city.

    If they want to attract more tourists, they have to improve their signage.
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  11. #11
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    Originally posted by WestCoastPerspective
    FYI- the firm that redeveloped Terminal Tower and mall also owns Boulevard and used to own Summit Malls (Forest City Enterprises).
    Man, I never would have believed that. This downtown mall is so different than their suburban properties I'm amazed they did so well.

    They had two hotels attached to this mall. I'd definetely stay at one of those in the future.

    I've been to a few urban malls before. They have all seemed like Main Place Mall: empty failures. This is the first one I've been in that seemed alive and succesful.

    Of course, it might have just opened the month before, for all I know. It'll be interesting to see how it fares as time goes on.
    Truth springs from argument among friends.

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    Its been open for at least 10 years. It probably helps that Forest City is HQ'd in Cleveland and is the hub for the city's mass transit system (buses and rail).

    The Flats is cool- a former industrial district turned Chippewa. It used to be all bars and restaurants (still predominently is), but now is getting more lofts and apartments.

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    We went over to the Warehouse District. I read too quickly and thought it was the Whorehouse District.

    There are a lot of restaurants there, too. We saw a couple of people walking their dogs, so there must be residential around.

    In many of the cities we've been in rehabbed multi-story buildings, the upper floors are still vacant. Last time I was in Greektown, it was like that.

    We asked what was in the upper floors at the restaurants we ate at. There were either offices or apartments; none were vacant. There didn't seem to be any condo units, but this wasn't exactly an exhaustive survey.

    The Warehouse District (IIRC) is right between the football and baseball stadium, so people could conveniently eat before and/or after each game.
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    One thing that was unnerving in downtown Cleveland was the panhandlers. In six blocks, we were hit up aout five times.

    Oddly enough, I think that's partly because of the success Cleveland has had in drawing people downtown. The Terminal Tower, House of Blues and Theater Square (which isn't really a square) are along a mile of Euclid Avenue. They encourage foot traffic and have drawn the panhandlers.

    I also think they're not downtown in Buffalo due to Mayor Griffin's aggressive actions to move them out of downtown 20 years ago.

    I remember some Williamsville folks complaining about his actions. So he offered to rent buses and ship them all out to Williamsville each evening. The complaints stopped immediately.
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    Wow, thanks for the play-by-play, biker! I've been meaning to visit Cleveland one of these days and compare/contrast their situation to Buffalo, since both cities suffered the same national trends over the years.

    I know there are a very vibrant areas a bit of a distance out of downtown, Shaker Heights (an inner suburb I think) and a place called something like Coventry Village that is sort of like Elmwood. Did you by any chance visit any of those places?

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