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But some remained loyal to Cleveland and its beloved sports teams, rich cultural institutions, resurgence of businesses and world-renowned medical community at the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals of Cleveland.
Many declare the city's downtown is on the rise — again. Two developers in particular are striving to revitalize areas that could bring Cleveland back to life.
Scott Wolstein, chief executive officer of Developers Diversified Realty Corp., introduced a plan to energize The Flats, an area downtown along the Cuyahoga River. The Flats East Bank is a $500 million mixed-use project changing the face of the riverfront.
"I want to give Cleveland an environment that lets people live, work and play all in the same space. This is a neighborhood we're building, not just a project," Wolstein asserted.
The Flats East Bank includes 500 residential units, a 150-room hotel, 300,000 square feet of retail, potentially 1 million square feet of office space, 1,200 feet of public boardwalk and a riverfront park.
Retail will include specialty boutiques, art galleries and restaurants. The neighborhood will have a gourmet grocery store, fitness center, cinema and nightclubs. Wolstein declined to disclose specific retailers, but noted Ernst & Young has signed to relocate its corporate headquarters here, along with law firm Tucker Ellis & West, both in an office building 50 percent pre-leased with the two anchors.
Another believer is developer Robert Stark, president and ceo of Stark Enterprises, who is in talks to revitalize the downtown Warehouse District, a region dotted with abandoned warehouses and parking lots.
"Cleveland's gotten a bad rap, but it's reversible," he said. "People who don't live here might not believe that, but we do."
The Warehouse District will have 1.2 million square feet of office space, 1 million square feet of retail and 1 million square feet of residential and hotel space, in a plan that incorporates existing historic structures.