CPA & Business Advisory Blog

The Buzz in Downtown Cleveland

Wondering what the real estate and construction buzz in downtown Cleveland is all about? Below you’ll find a guest blog from Henry Schneps of Better Business Brokers, LLC with his take on the latest happenings in downtown Cleveland. Feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments section below.

There is a buzz in downtown Cleveland coming from construction in the central business district and from the east bank of the flats.  This construction is generating a lot of excitement as major projects—the Medical Mart and Convention Center and phase 1 of the Flats East Bank project are nearing completion. 

Last year, the hot project was the Horseshoe Casino.  The Casino was built in the former Higbee building.  In its first year of operation, it has been visited by more than 2.6 million guests and has booked more than 4,800 room nights at downtown hotels.  It also has partnered with a dozen upscale restaurants.

The Medical Mart, also called the Global Center for Health Innovation, will be a Class-A Exhibition Hall– approximately 120,000 square feet of showrooms for medical manufacturers and service providers.  It will focus on areas such as cardiology, surgery, OBGYN, imaging, orthopedics, sterilization, medical furnishings, patient care, medical IT and devices.

The Convention Center will be a state-of-the–art facility with approximately 300,000 square feet of exhibit space and 100,000 square feet of flexible, configurable meeting rooms.  The Medical Mart and Convention Center are scheduled to open this summer.  About 50 conventions and conferences have already been booked.

The Medical Mart and Convention Center tap into Cleveland’s global leadership in the medical field—there are more than 120,000 healthcare professionals in Cuyahoga County– the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals combined employ more than half. There are also more than 400 bioscience companies in NE Ohio.   A spin off from this development will be new hotels adding as many as 1,000 new rooms by 2014.  Visitors to the Medical Mart and conventions should bring additional traffic to downtown restaurants and entertainment venues.

Where the Cuyahoga River meets Lake Erie, the Flats East Bank project is rising.  This $500 million project will be developed in phases.  Phase 1 will include a state-of-the-art office building, the Ernst and Young Tower, the first new office tower in Cleveland in 20 years.  This 23 story, 487,000 square foot tower will have an open-air rooftop deck which will offer panoramic views of the water and downtown.  This office tower will house such high profile tenants as Ernst & Young, real estate brokerage and property management company the CBRE Group, law firm Tucker Ellis, Northwestern Mutual, Wells Fargo, Gilbane Building Co. and Stern Advertising.  Stern is moving there from Pepper Pike to be a part of this exciting project.  Phase 1 will also include an adjoining 150 room Aloft boutique hotel, restaurants, a parking garage, a 14 acre public park and a 1,200 foot riverfront boardwalk.  The office tower and hotel are scheduled to open this spring.  Phase 2 is anticipated to consist of residences (apartments and possibly condos and town houses) and more retail space, to fit with the concept of 24 hour use.  The Flats East Bank has additional space for about 4 additional office buildings atop parking garages on its 24 acre site.  Currently, there are no publically announced plans beyond Phase 2.  The Flats East Bank will bring a new vibrancy to Cleveland.

What will happen to the older office buildings whose tenants are relocating to the newer or renovated offerings?  Some will be converted to apartments, hotels and retail like the $200 million redevelopment of the former Ameritrust complex.  Downtown apartments are in high demand as young professionals and couples migrate back to the city.  Others will be renovated like the former East Ohio Gas Co building, which after sitting empty for 10 years, was modernized for the law firm Calfee, Halter and Griswold.  Unfortunately, some will just sit partially or fully vacant until a buyer with deep pockets acquires them cheaply, repurposes them and brings them up to modern standards.

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