CLEVELAND — You can't buy a great cheeseburger on the Internet, and that is the simple fact behind the new driver of downtown real estate development. Restaurants are the new retail, and celebrity chefs today are fast becoming just as powerful as names like Macy's and Neiman Marcus were a half century ago.
"I think these days you're finding our developers lead at the ground floor with the restaurant, and everything fills out around it. Retail these days as we all know because of the Internet, is a fairly precarious proposition," said Chris Ronayne, president of University Circle Inc., a development, service and advocacy organization in this Ohio city.
Cleveland has embraced the "foodie" culture, as young millennials move downtown. They are the force behind a 70 percent jump in the city's downtown population to over 13,000, according to the Downtown Cleveland Alliance. Apartment growth is already robust, with 4,000 units in the planning stages, and job growth in professional services and technology is helping to fill more and more housing. There is one common denominator in all the growth.