Downtowns again booming in Ohio's big cities

Ohio's three largest cities are enjoying downtown booms after years of effort and a combined investment of about $10 billion — booms that officials say could help boost Ohio's overall economic development.
Associated Press
Feb 4, 2013

Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati have all added residents, jobs, economic impact and vibrancy in what Edward Hill, dean of Cleveland State University's Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs, calls "an overnight sensation 30 years in the making."

Ohio's "three Cs" have moved forward with major projects, many of them initiated with public money. That development has expanded to include parks, arenas and stadiums, museums, universities, hotels and casinos, The Columbus Dispatch reported Monday.

The rebirth of the three cities could help change the image of a state that has been linked to job losses and fading industries — hopefully spurring Ohio's economic development and reversing the so-called brain drain, according to development and jobs officials.

"Instead of losing these young professionals to Chicago and the West Coast and East Coast, they'll stay here if we have something vibrant going on," said Mark Patton, managing director of JobsOhio.

He said that is part of long-term planning that includes a commitment to creating jobs in financial services, information technology, health care and marketing.

Many of the "knowledge workers" are college-educated, more-upscale workers looking for a downtown vibrancy, while more empty nesters also want to live in downtowns filled with nearby amenities, Patton said.

Various projects helped trigger the cities' booms.

In Cleveland, a bus-rapid transit system ignited development along the important downtown artery of Euclid Avenue that was once known as Millionaire's Row, and Columbus was helped by development of an Arena District on the blighted site of an old prison. Cincinnati's rebirth started with Fountain Square and redevelopment efforts in the historic Over-the Rhine District.

"We've noticed it and are thrilled," Pat Barker, interim director of TourismOhio, said. "And, what's even more amazing is so much of it — the construction projects and plans — was done during the recession."

The goal with major projects has been to create hubs that lead to other connected development.

"You have to create not just a building, but an environment," Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman said.

Vacancy rates in downtown apartments in all three cities have dropped, and the number of new projects continues to grow. Increased numbers of downtown residents spur the opening of scores of restaurants and shops and the construction of more apartments and condominiums.

Downtown development also has helped the cities attract more regional and national conventions and meetings.

"These meeting planners know that just because they hold a meeting someplace doesn't mean people will come," Barker said. "They're looking for cities that have vibrant things to do at night, places people can walk to, and all three cities have this now, and it's a huge benefit."



The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

I would like to see something like this along our waterfront. A retailer conference I attend every year is held here and it is beautiful!


That would be beautiful. But where would the city of Sandusky ever get the money for something like that?

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

It is a lofty-sounding thing I am going to say, but, if you put your vision out there. If you make it clear, your motives known, and your intentions non-ulterior, you can either rally the combined forces and resources of a great many...or even give cause for one or two with the means themselves to contribute. Many are grumpy about tax money and how it is used (understandably so) but they are not un-giving people. So it takes dedicated projects with specific outcomes to inspire those to want to give. is a great private proof of this.

But look at my case. In these tough times where we need food and gas, what I sell is "luxury goods" to people. But, they want to come and purchase because I give them a reason to do so. Not just the material acquisition, but the observable proof that they are a part of something greater and bigger than each of them. That they know their money is going to a good cause. Which supports the store and ensures that I am always staying knowledgeable and service-driven.

Oh, wiredmama222, the song "If I had a Million Dollars" comes to mind when it comes down to all the ideas I have about downtown and beyond. It would take more than a million, of course, but what a great start!


I would love to see something so beautiful and shiny come to pass for the downtown area as well. Bright and luxurious. A hotel, with nice rooms and a conference area that overlooks the bay. A walkway to go down to the bay area dropping down to the Mylander Plaza. Wouldn't it be nice right in the center of the street? A centerpiece, so to speak, something crescent shaped, with glass walls that go from top to bottom on the bay side and a beautiful and inviting front facing outward toward the walkway.

Surround the front of this masterpiece.....cute little shops that contain dozens of wonderful items for sale. Crafted by artisans from all over, including those from right here in Sandusky. We have four blocks we can include. There would be no car traffic, just pedistrian. All the car traffic would be restricted to the outlying streets and the four streets inside the "three way cross" would be walkways for pedestrians only. filled with trees and perhaps something from Cedar Point that is no longer used, like the carosuel horses or the cars from a roller coster that is no longer being used. Fun things for people to see and remember. Perhaps a Gazebo. They can walk to the parks at the end of he street and enjoy them as well. Eat popcorn and hot dogs, see the boy with the boot.

How nice. I wish I didn't have to wake up.


What? More parks. Say it isn't so. I thought we already had enough parks?


SinDUDski just doesn't get it. Even downtown Norwalk is "booming" more than Sandusky. The biggest thing to hit downtown Sandusky in years is Subway.


This city needs to start thinking INDUSTRY, not just parks. We better start thinking about getting some jobs in here for the people. Start courting businesses into the area. We had them once and they just quietly slipped through our fingers.

Condos are not the answer either. We can't fill the ones we have. Take a look at the MLS books or online. There are quite a few for sale. Who needs more of them? Please, that's a fools paradise. If you can't sell the one's we have now, why build more? That is just plain stupid.

Parks are not the answer. We need income to feed the economic needs of this city. Taxable business that will feed the budgetary needs for police, fire, streets, city upkeep. Until we have that, we are in dire straits. We cannot forever depend on Cedar Point as the only income this city has to fulfill our every need. We need more than just the income from summer visitors.

Parks are wonderful things, but we need jobs and it seems no one is trying to do anything about it.

T. A. Schwanger


Who said anything about a new park? How about bringing existing parks into the 21st century.

I imagine the town where you were on city council had the use of TIF agreements to help pay for infrastructure improvements in specific areas.

For two years, a group of citizens and former City Commissioners have been publicly advocating for the City to formulate a Master Plan for the Sandusky Bay Pavilion and the rest of Battery Park. While waiting, the facility continues to deteriorate.

No money you say. Well the Battery Park TIF generates yearly enough money to pay for a Master Plan. Past uses of Battery Park TIF dollars included paying for Christmas decorations placed in the windows of downtown businesses and environmental consultant fees

Three years ago, the City Commission approved creating public Plazas at the NW and SE corners of the Chesapeake Lofts development. Nothing has been done. No money you say. The Chesapeake Lofts TIF generates $575,000 per year for exclusive use in the Paper District TIF area for infrastructure inprovements including the mentioned plazas and Paper District Marina.


@ Wired

Didn't your boy Smitty make jobs and industry his number one priority when he ran for City Commission?

T. A. Schwanger

@ Wired

The following are web links discussing and explaining the idea behind Community Smart Growth Development. The idea is not new and is being used by communities across the country. \
(Smart Growth Resources for Cities and Towns Commonwealth)!BuildingVibrant

Recognize the importance of preserving open space and creating pedestrian and bike paths.