The 23 Stories that Defined Cleveland in 2023 – 10th, Groundbreaking of CentroVilla25

The 23 Stories that Defined Cleveland in 2023 – 10th, Groundbreaking of CentroVilla25

1. Abortion Access Protected
In November, Ohio voters passed Issue 1, titled “The Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety,” which restored abortion access in the state through a constitutional amendment. The moment arrived a year and a half after the Supreme Court overturned the landmark decision Roe V. Wade.

2. Marijuana Legalized
The November elections also saw another big change in Ohio: Issue 2’s passage means recreational marijuana is legal in the state. Though there are no authorized sellers yet, Ohioans over the age of 21 are able to have a small amount of cannabis and are legally allowed to grow marijuana plants at home.

3. August’s Issue 1 Failed
Just a few months before the November elections, Ohio held a special election for a different Issue 1, which would have made it more challenging for voters to change the Ohio constitution, requiring a supermajority to pass ballot incentives instead of its current simple majority. Preceding the “Right to Reproductive Freedom” vote, the contentious issue was inherently connected to the abortion issue in the state.

East Palestine Cleanup

(Photo by Steven Rice)

4. A Massive Train Disaster
In February, a large train derailment and chemical spill threw the small Northeast Ohio town of East Palestine into chaos. Since then, cleanup efforts, legal events and health concerns affected local residents’ lives and also rippled into the train industry at large. Read our July cover story, a feature about the event and its aftermath titled The Nightmare in East Palestine.

5. Israel-Hamas War Protests
Protests and rallies surrounding the ongoing conflict in Israel and Palestine took over parts of Cleveland this fall and winter. People gathered and marched in Public Square, demonstrated in City Council meetings and disrupted leadership forums. Part of a global reaction, Cleveland’s response followed an October attack on Israel from Hamas, killing around 1,200 people according to Reuters reports — and Israel’s subsequent brutal retaliation on the Gaza Strip, killing more than 18,000 people.

Starbucks Strike

(Photo by Annie Nickoloff)

6. Strikes Abound
It was a turbulent year in labor rights. Various strikes made major headlines across the country this year — and had big impacts here in Northeast Ohio. United Auto Workers strikes took place in Ohio, including at a Stellantis facility in Streetsboro and other locations, according to Akron Beacon Journal. Though they primarily took place in California, the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes affected Cleveland’s film industry and put many projects on pause. Starbucks workers across the country continued in their long fight for a union contract — including at eight locations in Greater Cleveland.

Boom's Pizza

(Photo courtesy of Boom’s Pizza)

7. Changes in Restaurants
The restaurant news kept on coming this year, from new pizza joints popping off, to big-name chefs expanding their empires and beloved classics returning from pandemic pauses. We were there to try all the new tastes that arrived in 2023 — and to observe interesting trends like robotic servers, non-alcoholic cocktail bars and more. Check out the 12 Trends that Defined Cleveland Dining in 2023.

Mariah Carey Cleveland Concert

(Photo by Annie Nickoloff)

8. Big Shows
We might feel snubbed on some of the year’s biggest tours (Travis, tell Taylor to hit Cleveland next time!), but Cleveland’s 2023 still rocked. The everlasting Bruce Springsteen & the E Street band gave us a religious experience at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, along with Kissthe Jonas BrothersLizzo, LL Cool J’s star-studded F.O.R.C.E. tour and Mariah Carey‘s Christmas show. Shania Twain, Duran Duran, Willie Nelson and the Cure gave us a reason to throw a parking lot party at Blossom Music Center. On a smaller stage, alt-country superstar Tyler Childers brought a sold-out show to Jacob’s Pavilion at Nautica, Noname headlined a sold-out Sundial tour stop at the Grog Shop and Andrew Bird hosted another Cleveland appearance at the Agora. Brite Winter took over the Flats on a chilly February day, and the legendary MGK Day celebrated the city’s wildest boy. There’s already plenty to look forward to in 2024, which has the Rolling Stones and Drake on the bill.

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 2023 Inductees

(Photo by Annie Nickoloff)

9. Local Arts Shook Things Up
In the museum and art world, several institutions saw major expansions and groundbreaking advancements. The Cleveland Museum of Natural History opened its massive, free and open-to-the-public Visitor Hall, showcasing its most iconic items. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame broke ground on a massive expansion that will reshape its offerings. Fred and Laura Bidwell donated Transformer Station in Hingetown to the Cleveland Museum of Art. Smaller galleries opened too, including Cleveland Heights’ Lusenhop Fine Art, and Pinwheel Gallery and Sixty Bowls Gallery in Cleveland.

Meanwhile, on the music front, local musicians released a plethora of new tunes in any kind of genre. Check out 52 Cleveland music releases we loved in 2023.

Local authors had a major year too, publishing a slew of novels, poetry collections, biographies, art books, cookbooks and more. Read  61 Books that Arrived from Cleveland’s Literary Scene in 2023.

CentroVilla25 Groundbreaking Event

(Photo by Annie Nickoloff)

10. Breaking Ground
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame groundbreaking was a big deal — and so was the groundbreaking of CentroVilla25, a new market focusing on local businesses in Cleveland’s Clark-Fulton neighborhood. The Sherwin-Williams skyscraper continued to rise in the city’s skyline, with talks of a second tower potentially being added to the massive project. A new Cavs basketball practice facility and Cleveland Clinic sports health services building has been proposed in the Cuyahoga riverfront development, too.

Shammas Malik Running for Akron Ohio Mayor 2023

(Photo by Gabe Wasylko)

11. Akron’s New Mayor
Akron welcomed its first millennial mayor, and one of its youngest leaders ever, when Shammas Malik won the Nov. 7 election. He’ll formally take office on Jan. 1. Read our profile about Malik and his vision for the Rubber City.

North Coast Master Plan - courtesy James Corner Field Operations

(Image courtesy James Corner Field Operations)

12. Waterfront Hope
There have been dozens of failed lakefront and riverfront projects, but for the first time in recent history, development on Cleveland’s waterfront seems to be picking up steam. As part of his “core to shore plan,” Mayor Justin Bibb got $21 million of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars approved by the City Council as part of his “waterfront activation plan,” which will help fund projects such as CHEERS Fishing Pier by the Metroparks on the East Side in 2026, the Metroparks’ Euclid Beach Trail Connector, Euclid Creek Greenway, Port of Cleveland’s IrishTown Bend, Bedrock’s ambitious Riverfront Project and the city’s North Coast Plan. The fund was designed to jumpstart ongoing projects and, hopefully, help secure as much as $195 million from other sources.

Irishtown Bend

(Photo by Annie Nickoloff)

13. Irishtown Bend Stabilization
Speaking of waterfront development, one of the big turning points of the Cuyahoga River’s revival kicked off this year, as the city began stabilizing Irishtown Bend, a tenuous, abandoned area prone to landslides. Expect a 23-acre park to follow the stabilization process.

Lady Caroline ship

(Photo by Annie Nickoloff)

14. Lake Erie Tourism
Cleveland got not one, but two new tourism-focused ships on its waters this year. The Lady Caroline replaced the aging Nautica Queen for leisure cruises on Lake Erie, while Viking debuted a high-end Lake Erie cruise that stops in the city.

West Side Market - Erik Drost

(Photo courtesy Erik Drost via Flickr)

15. West Side Market Developments
The West Side Market took another step toward a brighter future, with some big money and big drama along the way. The city released the West Side Market Masterplan, which details how it plans to move the Market to a nonprofit, make updates to the existing infrastructure, and add seats and other amenities to the shopping experience. Yet, there was conflict over Bibb’s ask for $15 million, with council president Blaine Griffin calling it a “slap in the face” to Cleveland’s “crumbling” neighborhoods.

Wildfire Smoke in Downtown Cleveland - Betsy Smith

(Photo courtesy Betsy Smith)

16. Summer of Smoke
Cleveland experienced some of its most obvious and tangible symptoms of global warming this year, as an unprecedented Canadian wildfire sent smoke spilling into Northeast Ohio. The cloud cast a haunting spell on Cleveland’s skyline and air quality alerts kept kids off the beach and concertgoers out of seats, with local events and, even, Blossom Music Center’s Allison Kraus and Robert Plant show canceling.

(Photo courtesy Cleveland Guardians)

17. Thank you Kevin Love, and Tito 
Two legends of Cleveland’s memorable 2016 NBA Championship and World Series run took their final bows in Cleveland this year. First, Kevin Love — part of a big three with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving that brought Cleveland its first professional championship in 52 years — departed the Cavs in a late-season trade that sent him to Miami. Then, after years of health issues, Guardians head coach Terry Francona, who led the then-Indians to a seven-game championship bout against the Chicago Cubs, tipped his cap to Cleveland in a quiet ending to a season where the Guardians missed the playoffs.

Jim Brown

(Photo courtesy / LBJ Library)

18. We Said Goodbye to Cleveland Legends
Whether it was baseball drummer John Adams, Browns legend Jim Brown or Dan Gilbert’s son Nick Gilbert, Cleveland lost some of its icons in 2023.

Cleveland Foundation

(Photo courtesy Eric Hanson, S9 Architecture and Peio Erroteta, Kamron Khan)

19. Foundational Shifts
The city’s largest community foundation moved to its flashy new headquarters in Cleveland’s Midtown neighborhood, marking a new era of investment focused on a different part of town. The organization also named its new CEO, Lillian Kuri, who was the second woman named president and CEO of the Cleveland Foundation, and the first to hold the position full time.

(Image courtesy Playhouse Square)

20. Playhouse Square Marquees
The longtime Playhouse Square transformation entered a splashy new phase when the neighborhood debuted its new marquees on five theaters: the Connor Palace and the KeyBank State, Mimi Ohio, Allen and Hanna Theaters. The $10 million project builds on decades of investment in the district, which began its rejuvenation with a grassroots performance of Jacques Brel is Alive and Well 50 years ago.

Spotted Lanternfly

(Photo courtesy Lance Cheung, USDA Photo)

21. Bugging Out
Lanternflies were everywhere in Northeast Ohio this year. The invasive insect’s population exploded, spelling a bit of doom for some plant species (and, perhaps, for some squeamish Clevelanders who are asked to squish them on sight). Read more about spotted lanternflies in Cleveland.

Warren Morgan CMSD

(Photo courtesy CMSD)

22. Cleveland Schools’ New Leader
Following Eric Gordon’s 11 years as the Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO, Warren Morgan has taken the reins. (Gordon hopped over to a new role at Cuyahoga Community College.) In Morgan’s State of the Schools address this year, he outlined an ambitious plan for the district and its students to find success in the next five years while also facing funding challenges. “We have some tough choices and challenges ahead of us, as we look at our budget,” Morgan says. “I’m committed to protecting schools and classrooms where possible.”

Amtrak - Ethan Bowman

(Art by Ethan Bowman)

23. Amtrak Advancements
Ohio may soon finally pursue passenger rail advancements, including the often-mentioned Cleveland-Columbus-Dayton-Cincinnati (AKA, the 3C+D corridor) that would connect the state’s biggest cities. The Federal Railroad Administration announced that it will allocate $500,000 to four routes in the state, identifying corridors where Amtrak should prioritize expansion. Want to dig into the issue more? We analyzed what some of those expansions could mean for Cleveland in a feature story where we spent 24 hours on an Amtrak train that traveled through Northeast Ohio.

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