Is Cleveland due a new flag? Independent design contest underway with mixed reactions May 13, 2024

The original design submitted by Susan Hepburn in the late 1800s for Cleveland’s flag, which was later altered with the additional wording.Zachary Smith,

Is Cleveland due a new flag? Independent design contest underway with mixed reactions
by Zachary Smith, Monday May 13, 2025

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A volunteer group of Clevelanders recently launched a city-wide competition to redesign Cleveland’s flag, but officials and others have had a range of reactions.
By Zachary Smith
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Cleveland, City of Firsts: From the world’s first rock concert to the nation’s first big-city Black mayor & more by Peter Chakeria



A sampling of Cleveland’s many firsts: Halle Berry, Jesse Owens, Toni Morrison, Charlie Sifford, Dorothy Dandridge and Charles Young (clockwise from top left)
Cleveland, City of Firsts: From the world’s first rock concert to the nation’s first big-city Black mayor & more
by Peter Chakeria,, January 1, 2024

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Where’s the ‘circle’ at University Circle and why the popular name? By Megan Sims December 21, 2023


A photo of the University Circle electric streetcar turnaround in 1904. Cleveland Public Library

Where’s the ‘circle’ at University Circle and why the popular name?
By Megan Sims, Thursday December 21, 2023

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Think it’s impossible to revive a downtown? Look at Cleveland. Washington Post Dec 19, 2023

Think it’s impossible to revive a downtown? Look at Cleveland.

(Dustin Franz for The Washington Post)

Welcome to Cleveland, the city that leads the nation — by far — in finding new uses for empty office buildings.

This is Public Square in the heart of downtown.

It used to be a transit hub full of cars and buses. A 2016 makeover turned it into an urban “living room” where people gather to eat, ice-skate and enjoy concerts.

Since 2016, developers have converted five office towers around the square into residences. New restaurants and coffee bars have also opened.

The key to Cleveland’s success? Focusing the transformation efforts on a compact area.

Apartments immediately around the square increased from around 40 in 2016 to more than 1,200 by the end of 2023.

When there are lots of office-to-residential conversions in one place, it changes the neighborhood vibe from “9-to-5” office work to an 18-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week place to be.

Former mayor Frank Jackson, who served from 2006 to 2022, says when he entered office, “you could roll a bowling ball downtown after work and you wouldn’t hit anybody. It was a ghost town.” Cleveland epitomized the Rust Belt; businesses were leaving, and people were fleeing. Initial attempts at revival focused on a new convention center, spruced-up sports stadiums and a downtown casino. But something was missing: a great public space for everyone to gather.

The push to renovate Public Square began in 2011. Anthony Coyne, a lawyer who chaired the city’s Group Plan Commission, carried around a PowerPoint deck with a vision for a square as vibrant — and green — as New York City’s Bryant Park or Chicago’s Millennium Park. He showed it to any business executive, civic leader and philanthropist who would listen.

The Public Square as it appeared in the early 1900s. 

The square started off in the 1800s as a pasture for animals. By the early 20th century, it had become a bustling shopping center. Many remember visiting department stores there such as Higbee’s and the May. By the late 20th century, high-rise office towers took over. The city put two big roads through Public Square that chopped the park into four tiny quadrants. The overarching goal was to make it easier for workers to commute from the suburbs. It typified what so many American downtowns became in the past 40 years: functional but sterile.

When Cleveland won the bid to host the 2016 Republican National Convention, the city rushed to show a rejuvenated face to the world. It completed a $50 million renovation of Public Square, partly funded by donations. The result was a well-lit park that removed most traffic lanes. Half of the square is devoted to a big grassy area with many trees and benches. The other side of the square has a cafe, Civil War historical monument and an ice rink (which turns into a splash pad in the summer).

The makeover had an immediate impact. Families brought kids to play in the water park. Office workers and students came to sit on benches and grab lunch at REBoL, a new organic eatery on the square. Rallies and festivals such as “Pride in CLE” filled the square. And real estate developers began to buy the surrounding (mostly vacant) office buildings with a plan to turn them into rental apartments.

A view of Terminal Tower from the 52nd floor of Key Tower.
A view of Terminal Tower in Cleveland. 
The May Company, Terminal Tower, The Reniassance Hotel and Sherwin-Williams.
Some of the recently converted buildings in the Public Square area.

The Standard, a former union headquarters, was turned into 287 apartments that began leasing in 2018. Cleveland’s iconic Terminal Tower became part office, part residential with 297 units that began leasing in 2019. The May, the former department store, opened with 307 units in 2020. Two more former office towers — 55 Public Square and 75 Public Square — were turned into luxury apartments that began leasing in the past two years.

Young professionals are the main group moving in, especially because all the units are rentals. But empty nesters, judges, athletes and even a few young families have also leased properties so they can be near museums and Cleveland’s sports stadiums. For the first time in years, a yellow school bus makes a daily stop at the square to pick up kids living there. “We’re a neighborhood church again,” said Rev. Stephen Blonder Adams, senior pastor of Old Stone Church, which has been on the square since 1820. His blessing of the animals is a hit with all the dog owners living by the square.

Public Square is luring businesses, too. Paint manufacturer Sherwin-Williams is building its new headquarters on what used to be a nearby parking lot.

Urban planners call this focusing on a “node” to get momentum going. Success then spreads: Developers are transforming more old offices nearby.

There are more people out and about in the evenings now compared with before the pandemic, according to Spectus, a cellphone location data solution by Cuebiq Group. Malisse Sinito, the owner of restaurants around the square including Marble Room Steaks and Raw Bar, Marble Room Sushi and Il Venetian, said revenue and the number of diners are now exceeding pre-covid levels. “I’ve never watched downtown grow at this pace before,” said chef Rocco Whalen, who opened the restaurant Fahrenheit at 55 Public Square this past summer.

Some cities have not used this concentrated “node” approach. D.C.’s map of buildings slated for conversion, for example, shows a scattering of sites. That should be reconsidered in 2024. A denser population attracts grocery stores, coffee shops and pocket parks, among other amenities.

Revitalizing Cleveland also took government support, in the form of a 15-year property tax abatement for repurposing an old building. The state of Ohio offered a sizable tax credit for rehabilitating historic properties, as well. Cleveland leads the nation in the percentage of its office space that is being turned into apartments hotels and used for other purposes, according to CBRE, a commercial real estate services and investment company.

“Without the state tax credit, we couldn’t have done it,” said Doug Price III, chief executive of K&D Group which has renovated numerous downtown properties, including Terminal Tower and 55 Public Square.

The city of Cleveland and the state updated zoning codes to address the unique needs of converting older buildings. For example, the city began allowing residents to move in once a floor was completed instead of waiting to finish the entire renovation. Mayor Justin Bibb (D) wants to replicate the success of Public Square with a similar transformation of the nearby riverfront and lakefront districts.

Ice skaters at Public Square’s rink on Dec. 7. 

If there is one mistake Cleveland has made, it is still catering to vehicles in Public Square. A bus lane still cuts the square into two parts. The road is unpopular with city residents and should be removed. There was also a recent shooting in the square that startled the community, and Cleveland, like many cities, is struggling with unhoused people living downtown. Mr. Bibb calls public safety his “first, second, third, fourth and fifth” priorities. He has boosted police pay by at least $8,000 for rank-and-file officers. He is also changing tax incentives next year to try to spur more development in parts of the city that have seen less investment.

Despite the flaws, Cleveland’s Public Square is a beacon to other cities looking to transform. Anna Huttner is one of the young professionals working at a firm on the square and living at the May — the place where her mom and grandfather used to shop. To Huttner and many of her peers, downtown is the place to be.

If Cleveland can do it, other cities can, too.

About this story

The satellite images of Cleveland were captured in June 2023 from Planet Labs. Greater Cleveland Partnership and Cleveland-based City Architecture helped develop the visual assets of the article. The foot traffic analysis of the area around the Public Square was done by Amir Forouhar and Karen Chapple at School of Cities, University of Toronto, using anonymous location data provided by Spectus.

African American Cultural Garden adds Civil Rights Trail marker, June 14, 2023



The “Doorway of No Return” at the The African American Cultural Garden, still under construction in the Cleveland Cultural Gardens.Zachary Smith,

African American Cultural Garden celebrates Juneteenth, adds Civil Rights Trail marker
by Paris Wolfe, June 14, 2023
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CLEVELAND: AN HISTORICAL OVERVIEW from Encyclopedia of Cleveland History (1987)

From Encyclopedia of Cleveland History (1987)


Editor’s Note: This text comprises the preface to the first printed edition (1987) of the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History and as such its history of the city ends in 1987.   It was written by several historians who had extensive expertise in the city’s history for different time periods.  Robert Wheeler of Cleveland State University (1796 to 1860 section);  Robert Weiner of Cuyahoga Community College (1861-1929 section); and Carol Poh (Miller) (1931 to 1980s section).   

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Justin Bibb Wins. To Become New Mayor of Cleveland – November 2, 2021

Cleveland voters elected Justin Bibb as the city’s next mayor by a substantial margin Tuesday night. [Nick Castele / Ideastream Public Media]

Justin Bibb elected mayor of Cleveland in resounding victory over Kevin Kelley by Lee Chilcote, The Land Nov 2, 2021, click here

After Jackson, Ideastream by Nick Castele (podcasts and articles), click here
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson is retiring, and for the first time in 16 years, City Hall is getting a new leader. What do the seven candidates offer? What do voters want? Host Nick Castele goes on the campaign trail in “After Jackson: Cleveland’s Next Mayor” from Ideastream Public Media.

Justin M. Bibb was elected mayor of Cleveland on Tuesday, paving the way for a handoff of power between the city’s longest-tenured leader and a 34-year-old newcomer who promised a fresh start. by Nick Castele and Taylor Heggerty, Nov 3, 202click here

Justin Bibb has defeated City Council President Kevin Kelley in the 2021 Cleveland mayoral election and will succeed four-term incumbent Frank G. Jackson. by Sam Allard, Cleveland Scene Nov 3, 2021. Click here

Justin Bibb’s really big thing in a Cleveland election that was all about change: Brent Larkin, Nov 7, 2021. Click here

CLEVELAND — On the day after his life changed forever, Cleveland’s next mayor got a glimpse of his future.

As well-wishers paraded by his lunch table at the Diner on 55th, one stopped to offer a kindly hug and quiet prayer. The Rev. Stephen Kosinski, a priest at St. Stanislaus Church in the Fleet Avenue neighborhood, had never met Justin Bibb, but knew what had just happened to him.

“Bless you,” Father Kosinski said softly.

He’ll need it.

Not a whole lot in Bibb’s 34 years has prepared him for the task ahead. But that mattered not at all to nearly 63% of those who bothered to cast ballots in Cleveland’s mayoral election. To them, Bibb was tomorrow’s candidate. His opponent, the experienced Council President Kevin Kelley, was yesterday’s.

This had been clear since the Sept. 14 primary election, when Bibb ran first and beat down former Mayor Dennis Kucinich in West Park, the city’s biggest voting neighborhood. Cleveland politics is changing, probably for the better.

Kelley and his campaign team never figured it out. Team Bibb outhustled and outthought their opponent at every turn. The result was an epic beatdown, maybe the most remarkable win I’ve seen in nearly 52 years of paying attention to these things. At least the equal of Michael White’s dramatic Cleveland mayoral win 32 years ago. (Note: White also saw this coming).

Bibb is smart and personable. On paper, Kelley was much more qualified. But Bibb and his campaign’s two strategists, Ryan Puente and Bill Burges, took the risk that white voters, especially young ones, might be willing to look past the city’s tired old history of racial politics and support someone who promised change.

Maybe they were lucky. Maybe they were visionaries. What we know for certain is they were right. On Nov. 2, Clevelanders who bothered to participate in the democratic process voted overwhelmingly to break from the past. Kelley got beat in parts of the West Side he would have won in a landslide if he’d been running 40 years ago against a Black opponent.

It was no better for Kelley east of the Cuyahoga, where the council president’s supporters thought Bibb’s lack of support from Black councilmen would limit the size of his win. It should have been clear that support for Bibb from nearly 80 Black ministers mattered infinitely more. It was another mind-numbing miscalculation, as Bibb crushed Kelley everywhere on the East Side, especially in the vote-rich southeast part of Cleveland, where Bibb’s defeated mayoral primary election rival Zack Reed worked indefatigably on the winner’s behalf.

But Bibb had an unwitting ally in all this. For months, Mayor Frank Jackson delayed announcing whether he would run for a fifth term, leaving in the lurch Kelley and another potential candidate, Councilman Blaine Griffin. While Kelley waited, Bibb campaigned tirelessly,

Back then, few took Bibb seriously. And some who later supported him dismissed Bibb as a lightweight.

“I was running by myself for five months,” said Bibb, with genuine astonishment. “I might not have won without that.”

Kelley got into politics for the right reasons. If he’s bitter about how Jackson hurt him, he has reason to be. The mayor’s dithering was selfish and wrong.

Bibb will be the least experienced mayor in the city’s history. To that, a huge majority of the voters collectively replied, “So what?”

So now it’s time to shelve concerns about his resume and youth, time to give him a chance to govern with creativity. I’m not sure the people who didn’t see this coming deserve a seat at the table, though Bibb will probably graciously give them one, anyway.

Sure, Bibb’s inexperience makes this a bit of a “hold your breath” moment. But those who worry Bibb will surround himself with other newcomers are probably mistaken.

“We will hire smart people, young and old, with diverse sets of experiences,” he told me. “And I am going to be thoughtful and deliberative about the entire process.”

Bibb’s election represents a historic change in the way people in the city vote. It doesn’t mean he’ll be a great mayor. It does mean he did a great thing.

Brent Larkin was The Plain Dealer’s editorial director from 1991 until his retirement in 2009.

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