Lunching in the Lane, Music on the Mall and Downtown Dollars are some of the alliterative events offered as part of a campaign to hasten the return of office workers to downtown Cleveland.
Cleveland’s back-to-the-office campaign, aimed at livening up downtown during the workday, kicked off Thursday, May 26, with the first in a series of “lunchtime block parties” held across Euclid’s blocked eastbound lane between East 4th and East 6th streets.
“I look forward to closing more streets downtown,” Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb said at the event.
The three Thursday block parties are part of a collaboration between the Bibb administration, the Downtown Cleveland Alliance and Destination Cleveland in hopes of increasing daily downtown foot traffic on which local businesses thrive.
“Visitors return to downtown for concerts, ball games, theater and events. We’re seeing more travel, but the missing piece of the puzzle is our workers,” said Michael Deemer, president and CEO from the leadership of Downtown Cleveland Alliance. “We need our daytime economy to support these small businesses that have been so resilient and have taken new risks to start new businesses to have that entrepreneurial activity that they want to see across the city.”
The lunch events all take place on closed streets from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. downtown. The next one is scheduled for Thursday, June 2, in the warehouse district; then Thursday, June 9 in the Gateway District.
The return to the downtown push includes what Deemer said is a rolling schedule of recurring weekday special events, including live music and a happy hour event called Music on the Malls. This will take place on Mall C from 4-7 p.m. every Wednesday from June 8 through August 31.
Old favorites are also back, with Walnut Wednesday, North Coast Namaste, Lakefront Leagues, Ship Shape Run, Christmas in July and Rock Hall Live all in full swing during the summer months.
The schedule is designed to keep things interesting for returning workers and visitors, Deemer said.
“We’re going to continue to try different strategies over the summer to keep downtown vibrant, to create special, unique, authentic experiences that you can only find downtown,” Deemer said.
Cleveland, like other major cities in Ohio, is motivated to bring back remote and hybrid workers as a city, which relies heavily on income tax revenues from suburban commuters to support basic municipal services. .
As part of the return to work effort, Downtown Cleveland Alliance has created a digital toolkit to make returning workers easier for businesses and to help guide employees returning to work downtown with a map searchable parking availability (with information on prices and hours of operation) and an up-to-date list of downtown restaurant and retailer opening hours.
City Council Speaker Blaine Griffin echoed Deemer and Bibb in noting that working downtown is not like working in the suburbs.
“You can’t have this kind of party, and you can’t do this kind of celebration in the suburbs,” he said. “I love our suburban neighbors, but downtown has always been the place to be for all city workers. We want everyone to come back to the downtown neighborhood and enjoy it. “
Another program being rolled out is Downtown Dollars, which provides an e-gift card and rewards promoting participating retailers in Cleveland. Downtown workers will be able to load the gift cards to spend cash and support a variety of downtown establishments.
“A thriving downtown is not only essential for our city, it’s essential to make sure that we bring people back downtown, that they go to our restaurants, that they go to our cafes, that ‘they’re going to ball games, they’re going to concerts so we can have the biggest and boldest and best comeback of COVID-19,” Bibb said. “We’re excited to let people know that Cleveland is open and ready for business.”