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How Millennials Are Reviving Cleveland

The downtown population is at an all-time high, and young workers are leading the way.
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Lisa Chamberlain / Flickr

In reporting an Atlantic piece on James Corner’s fantastic redesign of Cleveland’s Public Square, I was surprised by the strength of the city’s downtown revival. After a tailspin in the 1980s, Cleveland’s downtown population soared 32 percent from 1990 to 2000—the biggest rise of any Midwest city (including Chicago) and far above the regional average (7.7 percent), according to Brookings. The climb has continued at pace; last summer downtown reportedly reached an “all-time high” of 12,500, with an astonishing residential occupancy rate of 98 percent.

Call the oversight a bad case of East Coast bias. Though I don’t think I’m alone in missing downtown Cleveland’s rise. David Fields of transportation planning consultancy Nelson\Nygaard, who led the traffic analysis for Public Square, describes the area’s growth as “totally underestimated” from a national perspective.