LeBron notwithstanding, Cleveland is still feeling the effects of the 2008 financial crisis. Racked by foreclosures, the mayor's office estimates 3,300 acres of land—more than 20,000 parcels—sit vacant. The population is declining: The city lost more than 6,500 residents, or 1.7 percent of its population, between 2010 and 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The population decline is a major drain on Cleveland's economy.
"It's very difficult to boost demand for local services, to boost demand for housing, when you have people leaving Cleveland and going to other parts of the country," Lafakis said.
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Of course, the net population outflow is about to be reduced by one LeBron James, but Lafakis is unimpressed.
"It would matter if people said, 'I want to move to Cleveland to live in the same city as LeBron James lives in,'" Lafakis said. "I think you're going to be hard-pressed to find too much in the data to support, historically speaking, people moving to a city where a sports superstar is."