Transforming Our Downtowns
Downtowns are the heart of a city. Big or small, rural or urban, a city’s downtown represents the lifeblood that runs from Main Street to its outlying corners. Over the last several years there has been a concerted effort across Northeast Ohio to transform our cities’ downtowns into buzzing metropolises, complete with the many amenities that make people want to live, work and play in these hubs. These transformations are helping to attract young talent to the region, while developing unique neighborhoods bustling with life, commerce, innovative ideas and more.
In Akron, for example, the creation of new downtown student housing and apartments has already started to re-energize the city. Located in downtown Akron’s entertainment district and just a quarter of a mile from the University of Akron’s campus, the newly built 22 Exchange luxury apartments are helping to invigorate the surrounding neighborhood. Catering to UA students in the 18-25 demographic, 22 Exchange has helped drive business for local restaurants and bars.
While 22 Exchange requires its residents to be students at an accredited university, the neighboring 401 Lofts are looking to attract a slightly older group of young professionals. Currently under construction, the 401 Lofts will be an upscale apartment complex located at Main and Cedar streets in Akron. Targeting an August 2013 opening, the luxury apartments will include amenities such as a fitness center, yoga studio, computer lab and a 15-person movie screening room.
Capitalizing on Akron’s rich and diverse offerings, these housing projects help demonstrate how the city is working to invest in its future. As cities like Akron compete to attract top talent, having a thriving urban center will be an essential component for continued growth.
Similar to Akron, downtown Kent is also in the midst of a major transformation – a $106 million transformation to be exact. As highlighted in this article, the $106 million transformation includes a number of diverse projects, which are featured below:
• Kent State University Hotel and Conference Center
• Fairmount Properties downtown redevelopment project
• Acorn Alley
• The PARTA Kent Central Gateway transit center
• The Esplanade extension from the Kent State campus to downtown
• The new Portage County Municipal Courthouse
Representing a mix of retail space, business space and more, these projects will not only help better connect nearby Kent State University to the city, they will create an atmosphere for students, residents and business people to interact with downtown Kent.
Another prime example of how Northeast Ohio cities are working to bolster their downtowns is the region’s largest city, Cleveland. From new restaurants, to the opening of the Horseshoe Casino, and many other new developments, Cleveland has enjoyed a remarkable transformation and is now a residential location of choice for young and old. While we can point to many examples of this, perhaps the most compelling illustration is the increased demand in downtown living. According to the Downtown Cleveland Alliance, apartment occupancy in Q3 2012 was at a record high of 97 percent, spurring the development of more units for eager tenants. More people live downtown now than at any time in Cleveland’s history – some 11,000.
With wait lists growing at places like the Residences at 668 Euclid and East Fourth Street, developers are seizing the opportunity to meet downtown’s growing demands. In downtown Cleveland’s Theater District, for example, local developer K&D Group is transforming the Hanna Building Annex into apartments along East 14th Street. The first units could open as early as March 2013. In addition to the PlayhouseSquare apartments, K&D Group has plans to develop 223 units in the former East Ohio Building on East 9th and Superior.
The above are just a few examples of the residential developments taking place within downtown Cleveland. “Between recently opened and planned projects, downtown could add 900 new apartments from Public Square to Cleveland State University within the next few years -- a 21.5 percent increase in supply.”
While individually unique, the developments taking place in Akron, Kent and Cleveland help tell the story of the progress being made across the entire Northeast Ohio region. The efforts underway to transform our downtowns speak to the commitments being made to ensure Northeast Ohio continues to compete nationally and globally for the talent, resources, businesses and more that will propel the region forward.