Picture a bustling strip packed with bars, restaurants, galleries, and boutiques. People can stroll down the street, grab a cocktail in one place, eat dinner in another, and then walk over to see a movie or the sunset over the lake. This isn’t Ohio City or Gordon Square, though—it’s downtown Euclid.
It’s a dream that business owners there hope will come to fruition eventually, and with downtown Euclid’s upcoming designation as a Special Improvement District, it just might.
Established as a private, not-for-profit organization under state law, a Special Improvement District, known as an SID, serves as a way for property owners within the district’s boundaries to band together to make a roadmap for improvements that they pay for with a pool of money collected through taxes. The end goal is to increase economic development through a cohesive plan and collaboration among local business owners.
Euclid’s SID will span Lakeshore Boulevard from the Mary Mavec Opportunity School to East 228th Street and south along East 222nd Street to encompass Shore Cultural Centre. Only commercial properties are included; no residential or church properties are part of the SID. Though Euclid has other commercial corridors, like Euclid Avenue and East 185th Street, downtown was chosen not only for its growing concentration of businesses, including Great Scott Tavern, Beach Club Bistro, Lake Shore Coffee House, Paragon Wine Bar and Atlas Cinemas, but its proximity to what might be Euclid’s best asset: the lake.
“There are lots of other Special Improvement Districts throughout the Cleveland area,” says Sheila Gibbons, executive director of the Euclid Chamber of Commerce, referring to areas like Coventry and Shaker Square. “But we have the unique feature that we're right on the lakefront. With all the waterfront improvements going on right now, we have a great opportunity to try and drive new people to come into Euclid, enjoy our lakefront and our restaurants, and really have a full experience of what Euclid truly is.”
Gibbons has been working on the SID designation for several years, talking to other areas in the region that have successfully used an SID to foster development (like Ohio City), and working with business owners in downtown Euclid to hone the vision. Since each district is different, the improvements are tailored to its distinct needs. While the parameters of Euclid's final SID plan are still being finalized, the common areas of focus that business owners cite were security, safety, beautification, and marketing (to both visitors and businesses looking to potentially set up shop in Euclid).
Some ideas they’ve developed to address those four points are subcontracting the Downtown Cleveland Alliance’s Clean and Safe Ambassadors to walk around during events, hiring a local company to clean up litter, and finding someone to do landscaping throughout the area. But the marketing possibilities have Beach Club Bistro owner Greg Jurcisin most excited.
“I think that's the biggest thing we're missing here in Euclid that Cleveland has,” he says. “We need something like that to take the lead so all us little guys can jump on and not feel overwhelmed.”
Jurcisin opened Beach Club Bistro 18 years ago, and the restaurant's success has no doubt inspired some of the newer businesses in the area to open. During his time in downtown Euclid, he’s also seen renovations to existing businesses, the opening of Dave’s Supermarket and Aldi, and investments into the lakefront as signs that downtown is on the rise.
But he wants to see more restaurants, retail, and maybe galleries open up to create more excitement around the area, citing Gordon Square’s transformation over the last 20 years from a rundown area into a bustling entertainment destination full of desirable townhomes as the holy grail for Euclid. (Gordon Square’s success came in part as a result of a SID designation.)
“The improvement district is a stepping stone to get into that type of scenario,” says Jurcisin. “There are a lot of positive things going on, and building up strong retail here is, I think, the next evolution. From that evolution, they can bring in some new housing, which would be kind of like how Gordon Square started.”
Greg Lawrence, owner of Lake Shore Coffee House, has seen firsthand how one small business taking a chance can snowball. After all, he pretty much started the downtown Euclid resurgence when he opened 27 years ago among mostly vacant storefronts.
“When I came in with the coffee house, it was a little bit of a spark for the neighborhood,” he says. “It helped encourage people's thinking into taking a chance and maybe opening up another business. It took a little bit of time, but Greg [Jurcisin] then opened up the Beach Club Bistro. It helped a lot. And then the city got more actively involved.”
Like Jurcisin, he’s optimistic about what the SID could mean for downtown Euclid: “I think this district would encourage more activity and bring people that want to have a nightlife but don't want to necessarily have to go to downtown [Cleveland].”
The SID probably will kick off in late spring (once a budget and other details are finalized). In the meantime, downtown has been enjoying more growth with the opening of Bananas for Bikes and Omni Board Game Parlor within the last year, and Pulp Juice & Smoothie Bar slated to open soon. Other businesses have expressed interest too, although nothing is set in stone, Gibbons says.
If all goes well with the SID, and development continues downtown, the city’s next step could be to seek Community Entertainment District designation for the area, which would allow some flexibility on liquor laws. Think sipping a glass of wine in nearby Sims Park, along the lakefront, during one of the city’s events, like the Summer Concert Series or Wind Fest.
Like Jurcisin, Gibbons wants to see downtown’s designation as an SID serve as a springboard for economic development throughout Euclid: “Hopefully, this creates some type of a model that we can tweak, learn from, and adapt to incorporate into other areas of the city.”
This article is part of our On the Ground - Euclid community reporting project in partnership with City of Euclid, Euclid City Schools, Tri-C, and Cuyahoga County Board of Health. Read the rest of our coverage here.