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Study Projects More Growth For Downtown Cleveland

Cleveland's skyline as seen from Lake Erie in 2014. [Nick Castele / ideastream]
Cleveland's skyline as seen from Lake Erie in 2014.

A new report says Downtown Cleveland has capacity for thousands more housing units, but is lagging in homeowners and should work to preserve affordable housing options.

The report, released Wednesday, was prepared by consulting firm Urban Partners and commissioned by the Downtown Cleveland Alliance, a nonprofit that advocates for the neighborhood.

Housing Demand Expected To Continue

Downtown population has grown about 56 percent since 2010, and the researchers expect continued demand for market-rate housing.

To meet that demand, the study projects the number of housing units downtown could grow from about 8,600 today to more than 15,000 in 2030. That’s a rate of about 500 to 550 new units per year.

The research team also suggests the city could encourage more homeownership. Currently about 5 percent of downtown residents own their homes.

Isaac Kwon, a senior associate with Urban Partners, said there’s a need for more affordable housing and dwellings for middle-income workers, too.

“There’s a lot of demand for the higher end, if you will, for Cleveland,” Kwon said. “But I think without being conscientious of the mix going forward, that’s all that’s going to be built.”

Drawing on 2014 figures, the report showed that most downtown renters making between 30 and 80 percent of the median area income were “cost burdened,” meaning they spent more than 30 percent of their pay on housing.

Large Majority Of Downtown Workers Commute In

While the share of the downtown workforce living in the neighborhood has grown, it’s still small compared with other cities, according to Jim Hartling with Urban Partners.

Only 1.8 percent of the downtown workforce lives there, compared with an 4.4 percent average in nine cities, including Denver, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Boston.

“Cleveland is still well behind many of those other communities,” Hartling said. “So you’ve already got the people in the downtown working, it’s just a matter of capturing more of them to continue to live in downtown.”

Downtown has gained jobs in recent years, rising about 5.7 percent from 2011 to 2015, according to Census figures cited in the report. But the number is still below 2002 levels.

Some sectors have seen employment gains since the early 2000s—chief among them management of companies and accommodation and food services, followed by arts, healthcare and education.

Downtown finance jobs plunged more than 11,000 since 2002, likely driven by the 2008 collapse of Cleveland-based National City.

Kwon said the Urban Partners team also talked with DCA about how downtown could become a more pleasant place to live and work. He said there was “a lot of buzz” about a planning award recently given to Public Square.

“We talked with our client group here about place-making and community-enhancement initiatives,” Kwon said. “Transportation, public transit, parks, playgrounds for young families, walkability, making the streets more livable—not a windswept highway.” 

Read the report here.

Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.