Posted 5/16/19

(Editor’s Note: This is the third installment of a multi-part series detailing Cleveland’s master plan to revitalize its historic downtown).During much of the 20th century, mid-sized cities and …

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(Editor’s Note: This is the third installment of a multi-part series detailing Cleveland’s master plan to revitalize its historic downtown).

During much of the 20th century, mid-sized cities and small towns across the United States, particularly in the South, were centers of commerce and social life, with downtown streets aligned with institutions such as the city bank, post office, the doctor’s office, the hometown jewelry store and a manufacturing facility such as a textile plant.

The downtowns were typically surrounded by residential areas that enabled workers to walk to their jobs, whether they were located in an office or a manufacturing complex.

But as residents gradually moved to the suburbs, downtowns began to wither as strip centers and shopping malls were built to accommodate the influx of residents who migrated to less congested areas, where the air was cleaner and land more plentiful for the construction of subdivisions.

In many downtown areas, changing economic conditions resulted in plant closings, resulting in massive layoffs leaving behind abandoned, crumbling factories.

And then, the 21st century arrived.

Today, downtowns are being revitalized to lure young, educated residents who want to live in downtowns where they have access to museums, restaurants, coffee houses and sprawling green spaces where they can enjoy the outdoors while living in an urban environment.

Cities such as Kannapolis, N.C., Greenville, S.C. and Rock Hill, S.C., have all launched initiatives to revitalize their downtowns, with the goal of attracting new residents and visitors who will buffer tax rolls for years.

Cleveland Mayor Kevin Brooks likes to quote a famous Frank Sinatra song when referring to the city’s revitalization.

“The best is yet to come,” Brooks has crooned at public meetings where the master plan has been shown during the past week.

City leaders in Cleveland are looking to duplicate the success achieved by those cities by implementing its own downtown revitalization with the recent unveiling of a master plan that will reimagine the heart of the city’s downtown.

Although Cleveland’s downtown is occupied by two abandoned factories — former Whirlpool Plants 1 and 2 — it is luckier than most cities across the South. It managed to retain the company when it decided to construct a new plant on Benton Pike, saving at least 1,500 local jobs. In addition, Cleveland’s economy is robust, with low unemployment, as well as an increasing population.

But local leaders worry there still will not be enough workers to fill jobs that they predict will keep growing. Also, according to City Manager Joe Fivas, a state law prohibiting annexation of property prevents the city from growing, leading to the lack of land available for new residential and commercial construction.

Revitalization plan 

will help fill jobs

According to Fivas, Cleveland must continue to seek new ways to attract additional residents to expand the tax base, while filling jobs as the economy grows. As a result, the city’s downtown offers hundreds of acres of land prime for development.

Developing downtown areas comes with an advantage, such as utility services.

“It already has the infrastructure,” Fivas said.

The Cleveland Downtown Revitalization Master Plan seeks to solve that problem by transforming the city’s downtown from a 20th century to a 21st century mindset, with the addition of new residences, a sports complex, streetscaping, hotels and a mix of retail stores and other businesses that will attract demographics of people who desire to live in urban environments.

As a result, the city is seeking to attract private investors who will construct up to 600 new residential units over the next 10 years to “address shifting housing patterns for millennials, as well as empty nesters,” according to Fivas.

The master plan’s goal includes wooing over 750,000 visits to the downtown area over the next seven years. The mix of new residential, commercial and tourism is expected to double the taxable value of Cleveland’s downtown within the next 10 years, according to Fivas.

The city hopes its public investments into its downtown through a mix of grants, payment-in-lieu-of taxes and tax incremental financing, as well as other financial instruments used to improve downtown corridors to make Inman Street more pedestrian-friendly, will attract private investment.

WSP, U.S.A.’s Planning Supervisor Doug Delaney, whose civil engineering consultant firm was hired by the Cleveland City Council to develop a Downtown Revitalization Master Plan for the city, said four districts will be established where they will offer distinct  resident and visitor experiences.

The new downtown

will be four districts

The Museum District is one of the four. It will include Five Points Park, the Museum at Five Points, residential buildings overlooking the park, an amphitheater, Johnston Park and the Cherokee Hotel.

Five Points Park, to be located behind the Museum Center, will feature a splash park emblazoned with the Whirlpool emblem to mark they city’s connection to companies that formerly occupied the site, including Dixie Foundry Company, Dixie Products, Magic Chef, Maytag and Hardwick Stove.

The park will be bordered by residential units which will be developed at a later date by private investors. Nearby, an amphitheater will provide space for concerts, a farmer’s market, festivals and possibly an ice skating rink.

There are plans to expand the current Museum Center, with additional meeting rooms and exhibit space eventually connecting to a proposed hotel where the Moore building currently stands. Although plans to renovate the Moore building have not yet been rejected, WSP recommends a large hotel for the space, stating that a large presence needs to occupy the corner lot.

Johnston Park will be restored to resemble its original design from the 1930s, with a statue or sculpture at its center.

The former Cherokee Hotel, which is currently occupied by Cleveland Summit, a government-subsidized housing facility, is planned to be converted back into a hotel, featuring a mix of retail shops and a restaurant on the first floor. In addition, a rooftop restaurant offering a scenic view of the city, as well as mountains in nearby Polk County, is proposed. 

A new 78-bed facility for Cleveland Summit residents will be constructed by the facility’s parent company off South Lee Highway across from Bradley Central High School. According to an article published earlier in the Cleveland Daily Banner, once the housing facility has been built, and the tenants relocated, the city will purchase the hotel which will be marketed to private investors.

 Improving parking downtown will be a major component of the master plan, with long-term plans including the construction of two 250-space parking garages to be located behind the Municipal Building and another adjacent to a proposed hotel where the Moore building stands today.

The Mill District, which will consist of the Old Woolen Mill, a sports complex and a pedestrian overpass, which will allow access to a green space southeast of the train track that splits the former Whirlpool site.

The Old Woolen Mill, which is currently in private hands, will be further developed to add to its mix of retail and retail space. In addition, the mill has been the setting this year for several Music at the Mill concerts sponsored by On-Point Productions.

Behind the mill, the city plans to construct parking space, which will be adjacent to a proposed sports complex, which will host sports tourism events. The facility is planned to offer space for basketball, volleyball, pickle ball and indoor winter sports.

A 170,000-square-foot sports complex in Rock Hill, S.C., a city similar in size to Cleveland, expects to bring another $10 million in sports tourism dollars, according to Fivas.

Whirlpool presence

will be continued

The Whirlpool Technological and Park District will lie adjacent to the sports complex where a pedestrian bridge is planned which will provide access to a large green space, as well as a lake surrounded by walking trails. The area will feature an adventure park, featuring zip lines and a rock climbing wall, as well as a business incubator to be located in a former Whirlpool office building. 

In addition, a large residential unit complex overlooking the lake is proposed.

The district will connect the downtown districts to the Blythe-Oldfield neighborhood where revitalization efforts have been underway for several years.

The North Inman District will include the Bradley County Courthouse area, residential buildings and parking.

During a public presentation Wednesday at the Museum Center, Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Economic Development Doug Berry said the importance of revitalizing downtowns is an important step in attracting young professionals who desire to live in urban environments that offer housing within walking distance to amenities such as adventure parks, coffee shops, retail stores and green spaces.

“It’s an attractive lifestyle for millennials,” Berry said. “They don’t want suburban homes.”

In Friday’s edition of the Cleveland Daily Banner, grant funding the city will access to finance certain projects related to the redevelopment master plan will be examined.

To view videos of WSP, U.S.A.'s downtown revitalization master plan, visit


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