Bedrock, a real estate company owned by Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, along with the City of Cleveland announced Wednesday that it wants to add thousands of homes, offices and other development over the coming years. The comprehensive proposal wants to transform the Cuyahoga riverfront in downtown Cleveland, connecting downtown and its residents and visitors to the riverfront through an approach prioritizing sustainability, equity and accessibility.
The long-term vision hinges on a public-private partnership with Bedrock and the City rebuilding the urban infrastructure with a focus on sustainability and resiliency, including new public open spaces, enhanced pathways to the riverfront, and transit-oriented development conforming to the recently adopted guidelines of what Bedrock has dubbed, "The City’s Vision of the Valley".
The proposal also includes the Collision Bend area of the river near Tower City and portions of Canal Road, includes transforming long-underused properties near growing neighborhoods in Tremont and Ohio City, as well as downtown itself, Bedrock CEO Kofi Bonner said in a virtual news conference. The hope for Bedrock is to create another neighborhood through the development over the next 25-30 years.
“The City, with community partners, has created a compelling vision for the future of the downtown. As one of the largest property owners in downtown Cleveland we believe that a strategic partnership with the City at this time will inject the needed public and private funds to implement the first phase of the Vision for the Valley and unlock the tremendous potential of the Riverfront,” said Kofi Bonner, CEO of Bedrock. “The initial efforts will focus on replacing aging infrastructure with sustainable and resilient systems, providing for a more walkable, bikeable and transit-friendly downtown. These public improvements will set the stage for a dramatic new riverfront community with thousands of homes, businesses, entertainment and community facilities and services.”
Officials from the city were also involved in Wednesday’s announcement. Those who spoke talked about the need for upgrades and repairs to public infrastructure such as roads, as well as the need to invest in public spaces and ways for residents to access the riverfront. They also shared putting plans forward to make Cleveland more attractive as a $1 trillion infrastructure bill remains pending in Congress.
“This proposed development project is yet another example of a public/private/philanthropic partnership that is working to enhance the City of Cleveland and its future,” said Mayor Frank G. Jackson. “We are working in a partnership to help bring to reality the Vision for the Valley, but also to create the kind of population and economic groundwork needed to help move our city forward.”
A rendering of the proposed vision for Canal Road.
This announcement comes at a time when downtown Cleveland, as the largest central business district in Ohio, and a generator of more than 25% of the city’s property tax revenues, is poised for growth. More than 9,400 jobs have been added to downtown, the largest jobs hub in the state, in the last decade. The proposal would generate significant new annual tax revenues for the city while continuing to drive new investment, business attraction and community development. Bedrock’s hope is also that those public improvements, along with those to roads and other infrastructure, will lead to people wanting to live, work and visit there and lead to the need for thousands of homes, millions of square feet of office space, shops and restaurants that Bedrock and possibly others can build.
But, Bonner made it clear that "the market will ultimately determine this." So it ultimately falls on the shoulders of city and county officials to improve the existing infrastructure in order to allow this revitalization of downtown to happen. Jackson noted that the goal is to attract private development. The mayor, who is in the final months of being at the helm of a city he has led for 16 years, said he anticipated some general legislation about the plan to go to City Council, but that the details like costs and development agreements will have to be worked out by the next administration.
The plans are headlined with “Vision for the Valley,” a plan two years in the making that serves as a roadmap for development and investment in the area surrounding an eight-mile section of the Cuyahoga River. The Cleveland City Planning Commission in July adopted the plan. Bedrock’s proposal is the largest in several years for an area that has seen a lot of proposals come and go with little action. Gilbert proposed putting a casino on the land, and before that Forest City Enterprises wanted to build a convention center and medical mart there. Before then, the area was a potential site for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame that now sits on the shores of Lake Erie.
Bedrock believes it has the ability, and potential, to completely transform downtown Cleveland. This fall, they also will be taking a step forward to realize their long-term vision with the reimagining of Tower City Center, an anchor of this plan, as a destination marketplace. The iconic location on Public Square will become a mixed-use development and a hub for shopping, pop-up retail experiences, dining, and entertainment, while also introducing local small- and minority-owned businesses to one of downtown Cleveland’s more highly-trafficked areas. Plans for the marketplace are underway as downtown Cleveland prepares to welcome thousands of visitors for major events like the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductions in October 2021 and NBA All-Star weekend in February 2022 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
“Today’s announcement is about investing in every aspect of Cleveland, including, and especially, its residents,” said Laura Grannemann, Vice President of the Rocket Community Fund. “We look forward to working alongside our friends and partners to thoughtfully utilize public and green spaces, as well as ensure access to stable housing, as these developments progress.”