All eyes are focused on the city of Cleveland — and it’s not just because the greatest basketball player on the planet is on the Cavaliers’ roster. Sure, LeBron James’ 2014 return to Cleveland is an important part of the city’s resurgence story, but what’s happening in and around the city — including the upcoming 2016 Republican National Convention — is part of a much larger and more important narrative.
Cleveland today is poised to be one of America’s next great comeback cities. As far as Mayor Frank G. Jackson is concerned, the timing couldn’t be better.
“People like to be part of success,” Jackson says. “Cleveland has gone from this clinically depressed mode to a ‘can-do’ mode and attitude. You see this, and it’s contagious.”
Wheels were in motion
But before either news of the RNC or James’ return became reality, the wheels were already in motion for Cleveland’s renaissance due to a series of well-publicized economic development projects.
In October 2008, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority HealthLine (formerly known as the Euclid Corridor) was completed, paving the way for the growth of the Cleveland Health-Tech Corridor. Four years later, the Horseshoe Casino opened, adding a new spark to the revitalized downtown nightlife. During the summer of 2013, the $465 million Global Center for Health Innovation and Cleveland Convention Center opened its doors and began attracting large groups of out-of-town visitors. And then came several mixed-use developments, like The 9, which offered residential opportunities for the growing number of people who wanted to live downtown. And so, under Jackson’s watchful eye, Cleveland has become a city where people live, work and play.
CLASS OF 2015
This yearlong luncheon series featured the most influential leaders in the region sharing their perspective on why Northeast Ohio is such a great place to live, work and visit.
92.3 The Fan
Ken Carman is a featured on-air personality on 92.3 The Fan and co-host of the popular morning radio show “Kiley and Carman.” A native of Canton, Carman has always maintained a keen affection for Cleveland sports. He fell in love with sports radio when he was 11 — listening during his paper route. The University of Akron graduate started his career hosting Friday Night Football, eventually working his way up to hosting his own show in Akron. Carman is a veteran play-by-play announcer and sportscaster on both radio and television.
College Now Greater Cleveland
Lee Friedman joined College Now Greater Cleveland as CEO in June 2010, after serving as the inaugural president and CEO of the Cleveland Leadership Center. Under Friedman’s leadership, College Now has enjoyed tremendous growth. With a $12 million budget and 150 employees, the organization has doubled in size, now serving more than 25,000 individuals in five Northeast Ohio counties annually — growth that was recognized by the business community in her EY Entrepreneur of the Year® 2015 Northeast Ohio Award. In addition, Friedman has been invested in a number of impactful civic initiatives, including the Higher Education Compact of Greater Cleveland and the Cleveland Transformation Alliance.
THEODORE “TED” GINN SR.
Glenville High School
The influence of Theodore “Ted” Ginn Sr. on high school football in Northeast Ohio and the lives of his student athletes cannot be overstated. A former player on the Glenville High School football team of the 1970s, Ginn became head coach in 1997 and soon led the program to national prominence. Several of his players have gone on to play in the NFL, including his son, Ted Ginn Jr. In 2007, Ginn helped create The Ginn Academy — an all-boys school in the Collinwood area where he serves as headmaster. Ginn always points out that his mission is not to win football games, it’s to save lives and souls.
The Driftwood Group
Chris Hodgson is chef and owner of The Driftwood Group, one of Ohio’s premier restaurant and catering companies featuring eight award-winning establishments. A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu, Hodgson was the mastermind behind Cleveland’s first-ever food truck — Dim and Den Sum. He then founded a second truck before opening his premiere brick-and-mortar restaurant, Hodge’s, in 2012. Hodgson has been featured several times on Food Network, including a second-place finish on “The Great Food Truck Race” and an appearance on the 2013 season of “Food Network Star.” In 2013, he was nominated by Food and Wine as a Top 100 Best New Chefs.
FRANK G. JACKSON
City of Cleveland
Cleveland’s 56th mayor, Frank G. Jackson, took office January 2, 2006. He has since been re-elected twice — in 2009 and 2013. As Mayor, Jackson is focused on ensuring that the city offers an excellent quality of life for every resident, business and visitor and is addressing every aspect of city operations and policy to guarantee that he reaches that goal, including city finances and operations, quality of life, public safety and development. Jackson is a Cleveland Public Schools graduate and Army veteran. He began his public service career as an assistant city prosecutor in the Cleveland Municipal Court Clerk’s Office. From 1990 to 2005, Jackson represented Cleveland’s 5th Ward on Cleveland City Council, and from 2002 to 2005 he served as president of Cleveland City Council.
St. Ignatius High School
Chuck Kyle joined St. Ignatius High School in 1973 as an English teacher. By 1983 he became head coach of the school’s football team. A former tailback on Iggy’s undefeated team in 1968, Kyle has compiled an incredible record as head coach of 321 wins and 82 losses — including a staggering 11 Division 1 State Titles and three national championships. Affectionately known as “Chico” around campus, Kyle was named High School Coach of the Year by USA Today in 1989 and 1993. He and his wife, Patricia, who teaches art at Ignatius, have been married for 37 years and have four children.
Co-Founder and CFO/COO
Jennifer Neundorfer co-founded Flashstarts Inc., a startup accelerator and venture capital fund, in 2013. Today, she serves as the CFO and COO. Neundorfer is responsible for selecting and coaching companies, and making follow-on investment decisions at the end of the 12-week program. Through her prior experiences at YouTube, Google and Fox, she brings a world-class new media and technology background to her current role. Flashstarts mission is to change the world, one startup at a time, and is well on its way under Neundorfer’s leadership.
& JOHN SPIRK
Co-Founders and Co-Presidents
When John Nottingham and John Spirk first met, they were students in the Industrial Design Department of the Cleveland Institute of Art. Soon, they became
the star pupils of Viktor Schreckengost, founder of industrial design education in the U.S. After graduation, the pair turned down lucrative job offers from Fortune 500 companies to start their own product design firm, Nottingham Spirk, in 1972. Developers of hundreds of patented products ranging from consumer products to medical devices, one of their first clients was Rotadyne, for which they focused on innovating industry-changing children’s products and designed the logo for the new company name, Little Tikes.
MARK & CHRISTI TRIPODI
Cornerstone of Hope
Instead of being consumed by their grief when their 3-year-old son died in 2000, Mark and Christi Tripodi and family launched a way to serve others struggling with grief. Cornerstone of Hope offers programs including individual or group counseling, memorial events and crisis responses in the community. It offers support and guidance for grieving family members. When Christi’s aunt and founding board member Lisa Kurtz Luciano died in 2012, Cornerstone of Hope sought a way to remember her. Mark applied for the organization to be featured on Animal Planet’s “Treehouse Masters,” and a beautiful treehouse was built as a quiet place to relax along the grief journey.
Then, as if guided by serendipity itself, the RNC announced it would host its 2016 convention in Cleveland and James published his now-famous piece in Sports Illustrated saying he was coming home. Just like that, Cleveland arrived smack dab in the nexus of the media world’s attention with Jackson in the center of all of it, determined to make the most of the opportunity as he lays out an aggressive economic development plan for the city’s future.
On the mayor’s hit list are his new waterfront plan, renovation of Public Square, the new Flats East Bank project and the Opportunity Corridor. And despite this flurry of activity, the mayor hasn’t let the confluence of events change the way he views his administration’s focus.
“It’s hard to put a definite beginning or end to anything,” Jackson says. “Whenever you are mayor you inherit good things and you inherit bad things. And then you have things that you do [while you’re in office]. You try to eliminate or change bad situations into positive ones. You make sure you don’t ruin the good things. And then you find opportunities to do your own thing.”
No ‘rah-rah’ game
Jackson has a pragmatic view of the role of city government. He was elected in 2005 and re-elected in 2009 and 2013. During that time, he has seen the completion of numerous economic development projects, shepherded others into full motion and laid out a vision for even more to be completed long after his time in office ends.
Make no mistake about it, the mayor doesn’t look at all this and play the “rah-rah” game.
“I don’t cheerlead,” he says. “I do. You don’t see me announcing anything until I see it’s going to happen. I don’t do the political side and then figure out how to get there. People have to have confidence that if the mayor says he’s going to do something, they have to know he’s going to do it.”
This has become a hallmark of Jackson’s career in public office. Unlike his predecessors, you don’t see Jackson hitting the stump to get public face time. He prefers to quietly and diligently work behind the scenes, getting things done. When you do see him in public it’s often because he’s announcing a project or initiative that’s underway and poised to create positive impact for the city he loves.
Take for example the lakefront project. After decades of dead plans and cheap talk, Jackson has taken action. He’s made it clear that the time is now to open up the lakefront for development, and developers are stepping over each other in order to hammer out plans to create viable economic projects along the shores of Lake Erie.
“We’ve had billions of dollars in development activity in Cleveland proper and the spinoff has benefitted greater Cleveland,” Jackson says. “The lakefront plan is a continuation of that. You can’t have this boom/bust stuff all the time where you have a lot of activity and then it goes away. What we’re looking at with the lakefront plan is really the next phase of the activity, something long term and sustainable.”
Jackson says the formula for success includes the city working with the private sector. His team is in the process of identifying workable financing tools that would allocate new property tax revenues from the project to pay for utilities, roads, landscaping and parks. This includes approximately $9 million upfront for infrastructure and green spaces.
One of the plans being put forth is for 28 acres of lakefront land, which would be leased from the city to Cumberland Development of Cleveland and Dallas-based Trammell Crow Co. It’s a mixed-use development project that would be located on sites north and east of FirstEnergy Stadium and at North Coast Harbor, near the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and the Great Lakes Science Center. It includes offices, apartments, restaurants, shops, parking, recreation areas and even a school.
Jackson says this initiative is possible only because the right things happened and proper pieces were put in place before going to market with the plans.
“That’s why the Flats East Bank was such an important project,” Jackson says, referring to the recent mixed-use project to revitalize the Flats. “It put to rest the question of whether Cleveland could develop a waterfront.
“So working with this current city council and president, we consolidated ownership along the lakefront. Businesspeople want to talk to you only if you control the land, and they don’t want to talk to multiple people,” he says. “We were able to consolidate that under the city of Cleveland, and reach other arrangements with the Port Authority, Burke Lakefront Airport and other entities. It was very clear who was responsible for what. If you wanted to do development, you had to come to the city of Cleveland because we had control over all the land that was developable.”
Jackson also retired long-circulated ideas about developing Burke Lakefront Airport and its 600 acres of seemingly useable land.
“It’s essentially a landfill,” he says. “What you would have to do to touch bedrock and then remove all the environmental issues would cost so much money that nobody can afford to build on it. When it gets to a point that the private sector says this land is so valuable that’s it’s a higher and better use to do residential, commercial, retail or offices there, and they’re willing to cover that cost to get it prepared environmentally because they know they can demand the rent and lease to pay for it, that’s another question. Until then, it’s a moot issue.”
Since Jackson’s announcement that Burke would stay put, there’s been an increased level of economic investment by aviation-related businesses that want to be near Burke and its easy access in and out of the city. So Jackson’s decision is bearing immediate fruit.
Jackson also points to another major initiative that’s setting the city up for future success — renovation of Public Square.
“You have to look at Cleveland’s downtown as a neighborhood, not solely a business or entertainment district,” he says. “If you’re downtown early in the morning you’ll see people walking dogs, bicycling and jogging. We probably have close to 13,000 or 14,000 people living downtown now. We believe when you get to a critical mass of 25,000 living downtown you’ll have demand for goods and services and amenities of traditional neighborhoods. You see that happening now with Heinen’s. And when you have people living downtown, you need green space. The Public Square project is creating a new downtown park.”
And then there’s the ambitious Opportunity Corridor, which Jackson says has a chance to replicate the impact achieved by the HealthLine.
“But it has to be strategic,” he says. “It’s a matter of timing.”
The new $331 million three-mile boulevard will extend from the end of Interstate 490 at East 55th Street to East 105th Street in University Circle and is scheduled for completion in 2020. But Jackson says timing and strategy are what will separate success from failure for the Opportunity Corridor, which is the development zone that’s planned around this new boulevard and would redevelop an area of the city damaged by decades of poverty, neglect, disinvestment and abandonment.
Many factors need to fall into place for this to be a real opportunity, he says. Otherwise, you’re just building a new road.
Most of the funding for the project, which has also been advocated by Gov. John Kasich, comes from bonds financed by Ohio Turnpike tolls. The money, distributed through JobsOhio, will be disbursed for shovel-ready projects, the mayor says.
And therein lies the rub.
Jackson points to the need for new infrastructure — fiber optics, water lines, utilities — before any land can be seriously developed. There’s also the fact that much of the abandoned property is industrial and needs some level of environmental cleanup Jackson says it’s hard to get shovel-ready projects lined up for developers who want to move now instead of wait a couple of years. So getting the money released from the state for much of the development beyond the road may end up being harder than originally expected.
That’s not stopping Jackson and the city from moving ahead as best it can. In October, the city’s planning commission approved boundaries for a design review district for the project and will begin to create a package of regulatory tools, including zoning, land use plans, design guidelines and the design review district, all of which would help shape development around the new boulevard.
All of this economic development is a whirlwind for Jackson. And if you spend any time with him hearing about the plans, you can’t help but admire his pragmatic optimism when discussing Cleveland and his administration’s role in its economic future.
“What I attempt to do is create a situation that regardless of the fluctuation in our economy or reality of the day that we continue to move ahead,” he says. “You have to be flexible enough to accommodate these changes. I want people to look at what we did and say that we prepared Cleveland for the future, and that we have positioned Cleveland in a way that it can deal with its future, and deal with it in a positive and prosperous way.”
And for a soft-spoken man like Jackson, these are words that are loud, clear and meaningful.
How to reach: City of Cleveland, (216) 664-2000 or www.city.cleveland.oh.us