Hey Cleveland, let me know if you've heard this one before: The Flats are back!
Only this time, it may be for good. At its height in the late 1980s to mid-1990s, the Flats dining and entertainment district attracted an estimated 2 million visitors a year. But a combination of bad luck, bad business decisions and competition from nearby neighborhoods resulted in thinning crowds and closed store fronts by the early 2000s. The venues on the east side of the river were especially hard hit.
But take a walk down to the east bank now; you will see what vision and tenacity can accomplish. Boarded up buildings and empty parking lots have been replaced by a brand new, first-class waterfront venue. The late Bert Wolstein, a Cleveland developer, started the ball rolling more than 20 years ago. The Wolstein family has realized his ambitious plans: Phase two of the east bank renovation has just debuted to rave reviews. There's more to come. Phase three is adding even more restaurants and housing. The Cleveland Rocks New Year's Eve celebration is moving there in January. There's even talk that the water taxis will be returning, shuttling patrons to and from the venues on the west side of the flats.
A summer night along the banks of the Cuyahoga has long been one of the best views in Cleveland. What's a better sight? Seeing people enjoying the east Flats again.
I'm Dominic Mancuso and that's how we see it.