How MRN Ltd. is revamping downtown Cleveland Featured

8:01pm EDT May 31, 2011

In April, Ari Maron, partner with the family-owned real estate development, construction and management company MRN Ltd., spoke at the Smart Business Power Players luncheon about how his company is playing a role in the revitalization of Cleveland and the challenges in doing so. One of the biggest hurdles is the large exodus from the city as a whole, but despite that, the downtown region has actually seen a 49 percent population increase.

Maron says that without people, you don’t create a neighborhood, just a destination and that Cleveland needs certain types of people to move into the city for it to change.

“We want creative people,” he says. “We want entrepreneurial people. We want smart people. If you look globally, the role of cities is to compete for those people.”

You attract people by creating an appealing place to not just visit but to live and work. One of the company’s biggest projects was the East 4th Street area of downtown, which today is referred to as the “the jewel of Cleveland’s entertainment district” by The New York Times. Creating this gem came with challenges though, including buying out 250 different property owners over the course of several years to gain site control of the whole street and getting a bank on board when they were buying out only portions of buildings at a time, but believing that eventually they’d get the whole building. He also had to attract unique, local restaurants and stores to the area because people in the suburbs had no reason to come downtown to go to a Gap or Applebee’s when they could go to the same places closer to their homes.

“Obstacles and opportunities are two sides of the same coin,” he says.

Through patience, persistence and creativity, the area today looks quite different — restaurants, entertainment venues and people everywhere, many of which are inhabitants of the 322 apartments there now as well.

“East 4th is really two different things,” Maron says. “It’s a destination if you live in the suburbs … but it’s also a place where people live. Ultimately, that was the vision. Could you take these old buildings and could you create a neighborhood there? …We’re starting to see the vision morph into a neighborhood.”

How to reach: East Fourth Neighborhood, (216) 589-1111 or www.east4thstreet.com