2020 in review: A strange and difficult year, but also a year of hope and progress

Most people would agree, 2020 has been a difficult year—to say the least. We’ve experienced the worst pandemic in our lifetimes, struggled to pay rent, keep jobs, live in lockdowns.

Small businesses have struggled to keep their doors open. Local restaurants closed, while new dining concepts emerged. Live music has, for the most part, gone silent, but some musicians and venues have developed creative ways to keep the beat going.

But Northeast Ohio has also witnessed some bright spots amid the darkness. Downtown residential construction projects continue to lure new residents, with affordable housing becoming a new focus.

Readers are fascinated with Cleveland’s past—whether it’s a trip down memory lane with FreshWater managing photographer Bob Perkoski’s photo essay, “Cleveland then and now,” or the renovation of an historic mansion on Euclid’s lakefront.

And our readers look to FreshWater for stories about the unique efforts put forward to help people facing evictions, utilities shutdowns, and other trouble caused by this pandemic.

The following stories are a compilation of some of Freshwater’s most-read stories in 2020. This list shows that our readers care about hope, normalcy, and people during this trying period.

The Freshwater Cleveland staff wishes all our readers a brighter 2021. In the meantime, check out the best of 2020.

Welcome to the Gayborhood: A 100,000-sq-ft LGBT hub is taking shape on the edge of Lakewood
Developers Daniel Budish and Betsy Figgie plan to open an enormous LGBTQ ecosystem that will house everything from apartments and an athletic complex to a multi-faceted entertainment and retail hub.

Population boom: Downtown Cleveland will see 20K residents by year end as DCA sets new goal of 30K
You can expect to see 20,000 people living downtown by the end of the year, says the Downtown Cleveland Alliance, which is working to keep that number growing.

<span class="content-image-text">Rendering of the 115-foot tall, 288-unit residential property dubbed INTRO plans to ride the surge in Cleveland’s luxury real estate.</span>Rendering of the 115-foot tall, 288-unit residential property dubbed INTRO plans to ride the surge in Cleveland’s luxury real estate.A lasting memento of Euclid’s lakefront luxury from Cleveland’s Jazz Age
In 1923 entrepreneur Jim Brown built a house on Lake Erie in Euclid. The six-bedroom home, with accents imported from around the world, still stands proudly today and is on the market for $1.2 million.

New dining options round out Fairmount Circle
Picnic Hill Market Cafe is the first of several new dining options coming to Fairmount Circle, near the campus of John Carroll University.

Going with their Gut: HGTV's newest stars are from right here in Cleveland
The Wall Street Journal christened Cleveland a "house-flipping hotspot" this summer, but that wasn’t exactly news for Relief Properties' Darren and Kate Mancuso. As stars of the new HGTV show “Gut Job,” they’ve been in the local real estate game for more than a decade.

With timber in port, INTRO begins its rise to become the country’s tallest all-wood building
In early November, after three weeks on the Atlantic, 3,000 cubic meters of Austrian timber arrived at the Port of Cleveland for the INTRO project in Ohio City. Let the building of the country's tallest wood building begin!

Ch-ch-ch-changes: Photos of Cleveland, then and now
It's here today, gone tomorrow in ever-changing Cleveland. Bob Perkoski captures the shifting landscape of our town in his role as managing photographer for FreshWater Cleveland. Take a good look around when you can, because what you see now won't be here forever.

On the hunt: A Gen Zer goes in search of his first apartment in downtown Cleveland
Want to live downtown? Ian Meadows does. The city planner recently toured 13 Cleveland apartment buildings over six months before landing his dream apartment. He describes his search for FreshWater as only a lover of urban architecture could.

Door-to-door: Advocates canvass neighborhoods, informing tenants and trying to prevent evictions
Members of the Democratic Socialists of America and other organizations are hitting Cleveland streets, making sure residents know their rights, and how to get assistance, when facing evictions.

I Live Here Now: Jen Schefft Waterman's journey from 'The Bachelorette' back to Northeast Ohio
Jen Schefft Waterman has gone on a journey from The Bachelorette back to the 'burbs of Cleveland—and she's documenting it all in a new podcast.

Cleveland history will come alive when construction starts on downtown workforce housing project
The Centennial workforce housing project will pay homage to Cleveland history with renovation of the Union Trust building and a Cleveland history museum in the atrium.

The last leg: Crews resume work on the final stage of Towpath Trail extension
The last leg of the Towpath Trail, due to be completed next year, pays homage to Cleveland's role in the Civil War, industrial, and railroad histories at nearly every turn.