by Benjamin Gershman | November 09, 2016
Like any great American metropolis, Cleveland has evolved over the years. The city once was known as a scrappy Midwest industrial hub before suffering a slow decline; an infamously low point was reached in 1969, when the polluted Cuyahoga River spontaneously caught fire. Today, however, there is a fresh energy on the streets of Cleveland's expanding urban center; a newly elegant downtown has become the site for some of the nation's largest events and a magnet for Millennials from all over. 

One of the key catalysts for change was the decision to transform the long-neglected Public Auditorium, which served as the city's convention facility, into the new Huntington Cleveland Convention Center in tandem with construction of the adjacent state-of-the-art Global Center for Health Innovation, instantly making the city a major hub for the healthcare industry. At the same time, officials committed to improving the city's hospitality and tourism offerings, pouring an estimated $1 billion into the area around the convention center with projects that included the 600-room Hilton Cleveland Downtown, which opened this past June.

The next challenge was to put Cleveland's new spirit on display, a mission helped in spectacular fashion this past June when an estimated 1.3 million people filled the streets of downtown to welcome the Cleveland Cavaliers as 2016 NBA champions. This was followed by the Republican National Convention, held at the Quicken Loans Arena in July, which drew some 50,000 visitors accommodated in the new Hilton and newly revitalized properties like the Kimpton Schofield.

Today, a walk through Cleveland's city center reveals businesses and bars bustling with young professionals (downtown has seen a 76 percent increase in residents age 25 to 34 since 2000). Tourism is up, as well, leading Mike Burns, senior vice president of convention services at Destination Cleveland to enthuse, "We've always known as Clevelanders that we are a great city, but now the world knows."