April 26, 2018

Throwback Thursday: Camera-ready city on the North Coast

Cleveland is Believeland, proclaims The New York Times in the headline of an article published in early summer. The headline plays on the coronation of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavs as NBA champions, but the author also promotes the region as a destination worth exploring.

Within days, the same publication published “A Revitalized Cleveland Is Ready for Its Close-up.” The impetus for this long and congratulatory New York Times piece was the upcoming Republican National Convention, but the author also praises the $50 million Public Square renovation, impressive Flats East Bank redevelopment, numerous new hotels and the Heinen’s supermarket stunningly carved into the historic Cleveland Trust Building — listing these and more as reasons to visit and explore the region.

Outsiders now seem to have gotten wind of what locals have known and appreciated all along:

Greater Cleveland today is a thriving place to live, work and play, with a downtown and inner-ring suburbs brimming with an increase in jobs, world-class restaurants, accessible arts and culture, and an urban population designing a lifestyle that takes advantage of all the amenities.

The region is making a name for itself not only with the champion Cavs and by hosting the RNC, but also by putting out the welcome mat for big-name events such as the National Senior Games in 2013 and the Gay Games in 2014. And in this magical year of 2016, our Lake Erie Monsters won the Calder Cup — the equivalent of the World Series for upper-level minor league hockey — and Cleveland native Stipe Miocic won the UFC heavyweight title and defended it in UFC’s first visit to Cleveland in September.

But it’s not all about sports and major events. People visit from every state and all over the world to experience our city’s new vibrancy in arts and culture, the noteworthy restaurants and watering holes, hotels, new buildings and renovations in every pocket of the city and neighborhoods both new and traditional.

Stewart Kohl, the Cleveland-based co-CEO of The Riverside Co., a global private equity firm with more than $5 billion in assets under management, regularly recruits talent, and that involves showing off his adopted hometown.

“When they look at the cost of living and see what they can get here in homes and neighborhoods that more than exceed what they can buy elsewhere, they’re shocked,” he says. “When recruiting, I focus on 
the quality of life, all there is to do here compared to other cities but at a fraction of the cost and without all the hassle. That message is always delightfully received.”

Kohl defines himself as a 30-year transplant who became familiar with the region while attending Oberlin College in the late 1970s. He left after his 1977 graduation but returned for a job in 1988.

“Everything had changed between the time I left and when I returned,” he says. “I found Cleveland to be a much more appealing city, and I’ve put down roots.”

Cleveland’s residents are the heroes of the city’s resurrection, says Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson.  

“Underlying all of this is a change of attitude,” he says. “We’ve had clinical depression for a long time, but that’s changing. That can-do attitude has allowed us to all work together for the benefit of the city, and that culminated in winning the Republican National Convention.”

Jackson says that the RNC’s Site Selection Committee was impressed by the new convention center, the variety of entertainment options and venues, all of the new hotel rooms, the look of Public Square and the downtown area in general. “Cleveland is a phenomenal city, and I can’t think of a better place to showcaseour party and our nominee in 2016,” says Enid Mickelsen, Republican National Convention site selection chairwoman. “Cleveland has demonstrated they have the commitment, energy and terrific facilities that helped us deliver a history-making Republican convention.”

“They saw that we had a real hunger and a desire to have this,” Jackson says. 
“Everybody came together as a community to show Cleveland in its best light.”

“There’s so much positive momentum here,” says Art Falco, CEO and president of Playhouse Square and a major supporter of arts and culture in the city and region.

“Downtown has all of these new residences, and Playhouse Square is just astounding. Also, the city and the other civic leaders in Northeast Ohio are good at collaboration to address regional challenges — and that doesn’t necessarily happen in other cities.”

Pragmatic matters also draw outsiders to the region as a place to live and do business, say many of its leaders.

FF-2016.jpg“The cost of living here is very competitive, the arts and culture scene is amazing and it’s so much easier to get around than in many other gridlocked cities,” says Tony Panzica, CEO of Panzica Construction. “We offer excellent colleges and universities and a very competitive work environment, with good wages and an experienced workforce.”

Panzica also cites a particular Cleveland advantage: “We’ve got four seasons here, and that’s attractive to a lot of people,”  he says.

While the city center has gotten most of the attention, it’s not just downtown Cleveland that’s seeing vibrant regrowth. It’s University Circle and parts of Little Italy, Crocker Park in Westlake and the attractiveness and affordability of so many of the outlying cities and neighborhoods.  

Umberto Fedeli, president and CEO of The Fedeli Group, highlights the natural resource of Lake Erie, as well as the internationally known health care system and the livability and proximity of city and suburban neighborhoods. Our arts and cultural heritage have not escaped his attention, either — or that of visitors.

“We have the biggest district for theater in the nation after New York City,” Fedeli says.

Dr. Delos “Toby” Cosgrove, president and CEO of the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic, sums up the area’s appeal for locals and tourists alike.

“There’s so much to do here,” Cosgrove says. “It’s very exciting to see the city grow and evolve. There are great new restaurants, the Flats are developing and the cultural scene is among the best in the country.

It’s great to be near the lake during the summer — and our sports teams are forever ours.”

Panzica says the key is figuring out how to maintain this momentum.FF-2016-3.jpg

“And that can be done by making sure that people continue to feel safe here and that our young people can get the education they need to get good jobs with good wages,” he says.

Panzica has a point. After all, Cleveland has been called the comeback city before. But that was often a result of building new buildings downtown and showcasing the relatively few venues and destinations that visitors and tourists see. Before, it was a matter of putting a good face forward for business and pleasure travelers but doing little to improve the things that spur and maintain growth from within: education, jobs, neighborhood revitalization, infrastructure — the things that are less sexy and harder to change but that can have more of a long-term impact on a city than anything else. This time, the efforts are showing fruition and that crucial infrastructure has really taken hold.

“We’re also talking about expanding our workforce through better diversity and inclusiveness,” says Panzica. “We’re making even more effort to reach out to everybody who wants to be trained for good jobs.” 

Cosgrove believes that the region must continue to make an all-out effort to ensure that our best and brightest have opportunities that will keep them rooted here for the long haul.

“It’s important that we retain those who live and grow up here,” he says. “Cleveland Clinic, for example, has a science program for high school students and a world-classmedical school. We are working to get children involved in science at a younger age to interest them in medical school, and hopefully, to stay in Cleveland. I think employers across the region also contribute to this goal.”

The bottom line is that Cleveland is coming into its own in a way we’ve never seen or experienced. It’s a result of hard work, meaningful collaboration and steadfast belief that this steel town with a storied past can indeed recreate itself to thrive today and well into the future.  

For more articles like this, check out are other Fedeli Factors.

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