A bus rapid-transit line credited with boosting downtown Cleveland’s economy turned five this week. Regional leaders and civic planners gathered at ideastream today to praise the so-called “HealthLine”. Ideastream’s Brian Bull reports.
When it was completed in 2008, the line joined downtown Cleveland with University Circle…a hub of health facilities and campus space that leaders hoped would revitalize an otherwise struggling -- and often vacant -- stretch of Euclid Avenue.
Now five years later, Joe Marinucci, CEO of the Downtown Cleveland Alliance, says they’re seeing a welcome surge in residents.
“Since the Health Line’s opening, there are nearly 500 new apartments on lower Euclid. And as we sit there are currently 200 additional units under construction," Marinucci says. "Not in the neighborhood, but right on Euclid Avenue and as a result of Health Line investments. In the past 10 years, we’ve seen an increase of 51 percent in residents between the ages of 25 and 34.”
Marinucci adds that there has been nearly $6 billion worth of investment activity, which includes hotels and fast-food retailers like Potbelly Sandwiches and Chipotle.
That activity has impressed Jim Haviland, executive director of MidTown Cleveland.
“Since 2011, the Health tech corridor has seen a 31 percent increase in businesses located within the health tech corridor. I argue that the Health line project and this investment has contributed significantly to this accomplishment achievement.”
Former Cleveland mayor and retired U.S. Senator George Voinovich was also on hand. He talked about how happy he was to see the revitalization of the downtown, after decades of planning.
“My dream was, 'We’ll merge downtown with University Circle, our cultural gem, and people living downtown, their front yard would be the culture.,” said Voinovich. "And it’s happening! It really is happening, which is just fantastic.”
There have been critics, including those who say construction for the Health Line disrupted local commerce and traffic for three years. But with ridership strong and more downtown space turning into hotels, restaurants, and offices, backers feel the $200 million venture has paid off handsomely.