Office of Citizen
Rest in Peace,
WALK IS DEPRESSING IN DOWNTOWN CLEVELAND
Submitted by Roldo on Thu, 05/21/2009 - 15:08.
I ventured downtown Monday and was shocked by what I saw. Or what I didn’t see. Cleveland – a virtual ghost city. At 11 a.m. At a crossroads of downtown at East 9th Street and Euclid Avenue.
I took the new so-called Health Line down Euclid from University Hospitals. First venture on it. The machines used for purchasing tickets are very confusing. I finally solved it with the help of a woman who was awaiting the bus. Then I learned you could make the ticket purchase on the bus. Confusing to a first-timer.
It took about 17 to 18 minutes to ride from Euclid at University Hospitals to East 9th Street. I think it was a minute to three less time than it used to take. Not exactly a great time-saver for some $200 million. Time saving was one reason RTA cited for doing the project.
I was most disturbed getting off to a nearly empty Euclid & E. 9th Street. Where are the people? I said to myself. For years I had been a walker in the downtown area. My foot travels moved a friend to joke about my “aimless walking around.” Actually, I met people who gave me information they never would without a face-to-face encounter.
I continued my walk to CSU. I passed empty and boarded retail spots up the street on the south side from E. 9th almost to the Halle’s building from East 9th where the County-bought property stands vacant as it has for years.
I stopped in the Halle’s building. Shocking. All the retail within the building is gone except for a place to get the newspaper, cigarettes and some sundries. The city invested millions of dollars in this building. For what? Empty seats placed in retail outlets that once held businesses.
I had lunch with Norm Krumholz, picking him up at CSU’s Urban Studies office. I mentioned the dismal state of downtown. “It’s your fault,” he said not really meaning it. I knew he meant I had opposed every project in the downtown area. “What are you talking about, everything I opposed was done. How could it be my fault,” I countered.
I later continued my personal survey walk. A most depressing experience.
The Arcade - a building bestowed with tens of millions of public dollars to entice a Hyatt Regency hotel – is depressing. The Arcade remains a beauty but deadly absent of commerce. More than $10 million in tax incentives poured into the structure. Soon after, owners sought to lower the value of their property, thus the taxes.
The Arcade, which runs between Euclid and Superior avenues, should be Cleveland’s most enticing visit. Actually, it still is despite its economic failure.
The first floor from the Euclid entrance was nearly clean of retail business. It had been a more active, though not upscale, retail spot before the subsidies. Scores of people ate their lunches, some bought there, at tables overlooking the first floor below. Now mock store windows line the path from Euclid to Superior Ave. They are disguised as real businesses.
These former retail outlets had umbrellas opened in the windows to hide the fact that they are empty. Hiding despair with colorful umbrellas. Below, on the first floor from Superior Ave. the elegant setting looks more like a food court than anything else. Empty retail spots there, too.
“The Arcade is an internationally renowned structure bringing together the economic, technological, and aesthetic developments of the 1880s. It has no peer in the U. S. and has been compared with the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele in Milan, Italy,” says the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. Those are bragging rights.
The Arcade’s status now scoffs at that tradition and beauty. Shame!
Empty locations at the Chesterfield apartment’s street retail on E. 12th Street, north of the Union Club. Same with the Galleria at E. 9th Street and St. Clair. The Colonial Arcade, built in 1898, across from The Arcade, on the south side of Euclid also depresses. It has activity at noon with fast food outlets but the attached arcade to the west appears totally underused.
All signs of a depressed city and downtown. They have been gutted by suburban shopping centers now also suffering too much retail.
No wonder the streets are not bustling. Job losses have made their impact too. Thousands of jobs have been lost downtown.
I was especially interested in this personal monitoring after Sunday’s story in the PD about the great developments at E. 4th Street. I don’t doubt the positive aspects of new restaurants and housing there by MRN. I admire Ira Maron’s inventive efforts. However, they are limited and predatory, pulling retail from elsewhere.
Decline and desperation are just a stone’s throw away.
In Sunday’s story, Mayor Frank Jackson’s economic aide Chris Warren noted that the city invested about $10 million in infrastructure, loans and tax credits at E. 4th. Actually, a lot more public welfare has gone into the E. 4th development The city legislated a $9.2 million bond issue with added costs of several millions of dollars in interest, all supported by a TIF. The TIF diverted property taxes from Cleveland schools, the city, and the county and city libraries. Cleveland also gave a $1.5 million subsidy.
It’s even more depressing when one considers the immense infusion of public money downtown since the late 1980s. Hundreds of millions of dollars flowed at Gateway to Playhouse Square; $200-million plus RTA transit investment along Euclid; grants to the Halle’s building; to the Wolstein-built office building on Huron Road; and the very expensive public investment and tax abatement at the Wyndham Hotel; purchase of Dick Jacobs’ long abandoned E.9th & Euclid to Prospect properties by Cuyahoga County; public dollars to John Carney at the Colonial Arcades; huge investments and tax abatements at Tower City and at Jacobs’ Key Center and Marriott Hotel; the $92-million Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; and the $300-million plus Browns Stadium; and many, many more public expenditures.
Now, there will be another stab via the so-called Medical Mart and Convention Center. There goes another billion dollars of welfare subsidies to a private business to try to infuse new economic activity downtown. Futile.
All for what? A depressed and depressing downtown. The price hasn’t matched the expectations.
Yet we continue on the same road.
What is the answer? Private development done naturally to meet needs. You can’t force people to be where they don’t want to be, to do what they don’t want to do.
Activity will come when people – the market – demand it. You can’t force it even with almost free money.
A walk around downtown teaches that lesson.