Public/private partnership to rebuild urban infrastructure
By Terry Troy
Cleveland’s Cuyahoga Riverfront is getting a facelift, that could be as long as 30 years in the making. Bedrock, a full-service real estate firm specializing in innovative city-building strategies and the City of Cleveland have unveiled a comprehensive proposal 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 the City’s Vision for the Valley.
The public investments will enable additional private investments and create opportunities for downtown property owners and developers at large to develop commercial, residential, retail, entertainment and adaptive reuse projects. In turn these developments will spur job growth and provide opportunities for new affordable homes for renters and owners in a diverse and inclusive riverfront setting. The 20- to 30-year plan will create a 15-minute neighborhood and 18-hour city for residents, investors, professionals, and visitors in Cleveland’s growing city center.
Strategically aligned with the Vision for the Valley, the new public private partnership seeks to optimize and reengage approximately 130 acres of nascent riverfront land from linking downtown Cleveland in an unprecedented and meaningful way. The plan seeks to take full advantage of the various public funding opportunities and is designed to position the City to compete favorably for federal funding opportunities.
“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.”
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 tremendous 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.
“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 Cleveland 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.”
Home to more than 20,000 residents, downtown Cleveland’s population has more than doubled since 2000, outpacing its peer cities. With a focus on providing diverse and inclusive housing options, sustainable and resilient infrastructure, improved access to transit, public space and other desirable features and amenities, the vision for the riverfront area would help accommodate projected population growth to 30,000 residents by 2030.
These historic plans will also grow community through public space activations and create equitable opportunities for accessible housing. The Rocket Community Fund (www.rocketcommunityfund.org), which coordinates Dan Gilbert, Bedrock, and the Rocket Companies’ philanthropic and volunteer programming, will work alongside community groups and stakeholders in the broader Cleveland area. This will create diverse and inclusive programming to help reinforce Bedrock and its sister companies’ (which collectively comprise the Rock Family of Companies) mutual commitment to Cleveland.
“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.”
In the past decade, Cleveland-based team members of Bedrock and its sister companies have conducted more than 18,000 volunteer hours through the Rocket Community Fund and supported critical nonprofits like the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, Ronald McDonald House of Northeast Ohio and Empower Sports. Additionally, the Rocket Community Fund has invested more than $2 million into Cleveland’s Habitat for Humanity, partnered with the Western Reserve Land Conservancy to develop a parcel-by-parcel analysis of all of Cleveland’s 158,000 parcels and provided Cleveland Neighborhood Progress more than $1 million in grants to increase home rehabilitation efforts to mitigate blight and rehab vacant residential units.
This Fall, Bedrock also takes 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.