I participated in the count this Thanksgiving weekend, and I have to say Downtown Cleveland is much better than it was in the 1990s. It still seems dead compared to the pictures of the 1960s and 1970s and that movie A Christmas Story filmed in Cleveland. But I have to say that the Downtown is actually beautiful for an industrial city like Cleveland. There is not the debris blowing around downtown like tumbleweed of the Plain States. There were visible clean up crews who gave up their Black Friday shopping to keep the downtown looking nice. There are more people walking around than there were in previous years with the Casino operational, but even the abandoned buildings are well maintained.
The worst looking building was the old City Club building on East 9th and Euclid, which is under renovation. The closed stores are boarded up or have some display in the window. There are not a ton of broken windows or dust or decay. The sidewalks look nice from the power washing, and the trash is not overwhelming the canisters. The flower displays are maintained, and the streets are not giant sink holes that are not being maintained. I miss the Thanksgiving parade, and the window displays, but the downtown is really nice. It is like a professionally decorated present waiting for more pedestrians to open this gift. It seems as though we are pregnant with anticipation of a building boom sparked by the Casino, the Medical Mart, and a centralized County building that is just around the corner.
Remember that there was a man who slept on the corner of West 9th and Superior near the bridge on the heating grate? He was gone. Remember all the people who slept around the welfare building on East 17th and Superior--all gone? Remember the number of people sleeping around the Convention center? They are gone because of the construction taking place, but they moved out of the downtown area. We always had people sleeping around Public Sqaure even after the curfew went into place, but there was no one this last weekend. It must be said that there are far more people on the Near West Side of Cleveland and around the west bank of the river, but the overall numbers are much reduced from the 1990s. We have to credit Care Alliance, the Veterans Administration, Mental Health Services, Volunteers of America, the Salvation Army, and the Labre Projects for coordinating their work to assist those who do not like going to shelter for the decline. We have to credit the city for moving the meal site off of Public Square and working with religious groups to find alternatives to distributing food where there were not trash recepticles. At the same time, the City has resisted passing a law restricting religious groups that would be challenged in court. And we have to credit the County for supporting the construction of housing for those who have been on the streets for a long time.
I took some pictures of the downtown that I used in this post and the last one to show that our downtown has changed dramatically over the last 20 years. There are notable empty buildings such as the Ameritrust tower and the building on East 9th and Superior, but it does not seem like a city emerging from the Apocalypse as it did in 1998. The Flats are a shadow of their former days, but the warehouse district seems to be well maintained. The statues and monuments stand out when the grounds around them are manicured. Tom Johnson and Jesse Owens seem to have a better disposition than they had in the 1990s. Downtown is not a scarey place and is not the ghost town of the past. It is struggling with find a personality, but all the pieces are in place at this point.
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