For almost two years, Jeff Epstein led efforts to attract health-tech and high-tech businesses to the Cleveland Health-Tech Corridor in Midtown. As the newly named executive director of the MidTown Cleveland nonprofit, Epstein expects a smooth transition in helping guide development of the entire two-mile stretch connecting downtown with University Circle.
Epstein, named to the position by MidTown Cleveland's board on March 10, will coordinate marketing, business growth and real estate/amenity expansion for the area, including the tech-centric corridor which he previously spearheaded. In the Midtown position, he replaces Jim Haviland, who left the group last August and is now director of local government relations at The MetroHealth System.
According to MidTown Cleveland, Epstein's work in the self-styled innovation hub resulted in more than 1,800 new jobs and 500,000 square feet of new or renovated office and lab space. Working in the 1,600-acre tech corridor, which contains four world-class healthcare institutions and more than 140 high-tech companies, was an experience Epstein says has prepared him for strategizing Midtown's continued makeover.
"I've built some tremendous relationships over the last 18 months," says Epstein. "There are a number of partners eager to work with us."
Though Epstein's duties with the corridor will continue, the nonprofit will hire on a project manger and additional staff to bolster its mission. For now, the new executive director is meeting local property owners on redevelopment and safety/security issues. Epstein is also looking ahead to various projects planned for 2016 and beyond, among them University Hospitals' proposed women's and children's primary-care clinic on Euclid Avenue.
MidTown Cleveland has several other projects in the pipeline, along with neighborhood-connecting events like "The Chomp," a seasonal weekly midday food truck rally on East 46th Street between Euclid Avenue and Prospect Avenue.
"As an organization we'll look at all the ways we can play an active and smart role in community development," Epstein says.
While Midtown is growing, there are pockets that need to be stronger, adds the nonprofit official. Gaps in retail amenities means driving five minutes to University Circle for a cup of coffee or after-work drink.
Meanwhile, areas surrounding Midtown should be included in the larger-scale revitalization effort, be it through job opportunities or projects that add value to underserved neighborhoods. Epstein points to partner group JumpStart's "core city" program, which provides investment and advice to minority and low-income businesses owners.
"There's such potential to transform this district," says Epstein. "I'm excited to be part of a team that's going to be working toward that."