Chapter 8
Can a City Win When
Losing? Cleveland
and the Building of
Sports, Cultural, and
Entertainment Facilities in
the Midst of Population
Declines and Job Losses
8.1 Introduction
Cleveland also embarked on a path that mirrored Indianapolis’ eort to use enter-
tainment, cultural, and sports facilities to (1) arrest downtown decline, (2) create a
new image, and (3) slow or reverse the city’s and the regions economic contraction.
Clevelands dramatic loss of residents and businessesand the regions precipitous
declinerequired dierent institutional relationships and nancing mechanisms. Its
geographic footprint is far smaller than that of San Diego, Los Angeles, or Columbus.
e rapid movement of middle- and upper-class residents to independent suburbs and
the loss of rms to the suburbs and other parts of the country weakened Clevelands
260Reversing Urban Decline
nancial base. As a result, any solutions or policy initiatives had to involve other lev-
els of government or foundations. Simply put, as Cleveland did not consolidate with
its surrounding county, it had far fewer nancial tools and options for independent
action than other cities studied in this volume. Similar to Cleveland, Denver had
to fashion nancial plans that included surrounding cities and counties. Cleveland,
however, has not been able to duplicate Denver’s success in building downtown
neighborhoods that became the home for tens of thousands of residents. Events in
2013 and 2014 may permit Cleveland to enjoy a new level of success. ere are several
lessons to learn from Clevelands experiences, including the cost of delaying aggres-
sive policy initiatives and the possibility that even the most ambitious plans cannot
change the ow of economic activity out of a region without substantial shifts in
market dynamics. Clevelands lack of success could be a function of too general a plan
or vision for its downtown redevelopment eort. It is also possible that the lower levels
of success in Cleveland were a function of a failure to concede that in order to revital-
ize the city, the size and scale of the downtown area had to be dramatically shrunk.
Part of that smaller geographic sense of downtown means that investments have to be
concentrated in a small area, as seen in Indianapolis.
In Cleveland, the restored theatre district, Playhouse Square, is at the eastern
end of the downtown area. Two of the new sports facilities are at the southern extent
of the downtown area with the football stadium, and two new museums located on
the downtown area’s northern edge adjacent to Lake Erie (see Figure8.1). It may
be that Clevelands leaders tried to spread new investments across too much geo-
graphic space. is reason for the lack of success and other lessons from Clevelands
reliance on sports, entertainment, and culture as the anchors for its redevelopment
strategy are explored and considered in this chapter. roughout the early years
of the 21st century, numerous vacant buildings and storefronts were interspersed
between new assets and amenities. e failure to concentrate the new facilities and
completely restore one part of the downtown area as opposed to initiatives in several
parts of a shrinking core was surprising given the city’s rich planning history that
emphasized carefully detailed plans and focused redevelopment.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Cleveland commissioned urban visionary
Daniel Burnham to produce a master plan for part of its downtown area when a new
city hall, county courthouse, public library, railway station, and convention center
were to be built. at plan led to a unied design for a core area surrounding and
adjacent to Public Square. A similarly focused master plan for the downtown’s revival
in the last decades of the 20th century was not developed. Instead, redevelopment
activities were undertaken in many dierent parts of an extensive downtown area
dened when Cleveland was one of America’s most prosperous central cities.
Dispersed revitalization eorts usually mean vacant and, in some cases, deterio-
rating properties will be mixed among newer assets, creating an air of decay amidst
redevelopment. Why? Too often when regional economies are decentralizing there
is reduced demand for land in larger-scale downtown areas that were created when
the central cities dominated their regional economies. In response to the lower

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