Tower City Center, like other indoor malls throughout the country, has struggled to keep tenants and remain financially viable. COVID-19 didn’t help matters, with Brooks Brothers and Cleveland Cinemas both closing their Tower City locations due to the pandemic.
A real estate developer with a portfolio of more than 100 properties in Cleveland and Detroit is undeterred. The company has purchased Tower City and is reimagining the property as a more modern retail space.
Bedrock, based in Detroit, says the new Tower City will include pop-up retail, dining, entertainment and art experiences. Pop-up businesses, a relatively new trend, open suddenly and operate for just a few days or weeks before moving on.
In October, Bedrock hosted its first entertainment event at Tower City, a musical competition called Battle of the Land, which was capped off by a performance by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. More live acts are being lined up.
Also, Bedrock plans to recruit local and minority-owned businesses as tenants in Tower City. New stores and/or restaurants were scheduled to open this fall, including three Black, female-owned businesses: Jaxon’s Closet, a custom clothier for young men; Peach Fuzz, a threading and waxing salon; and MiAmour, a seller of contemporary clothing and footwear for women.
At a September press conference, Kofi Bonner, CEO of Bedrock and former chief administrative officer with the Cleveland Browns, says he would soon announce the signing of 10 more tenants for Tower City.
“In addition to recruiting nationally recognized tenants, we are excited to be working with all of our local hometown tenants to help reimagine Tower City,” Bonner says in a press release.
“We know that Clevelanders treasure their memories of Tower City, and an infusion of local entrepreneurial spirit will shape this landmark’s next chapter as it plays host to a series of world-class events like the NBA All-Star Game (in 2022) and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction,” Bonner says.
Bedrock is doing more than signing tenants for Tower City. The company also is working with Chain Reaction, an economic development project launched four years ago by Greater Cleveland Partnership’s Council of Smaller Enterprises, in partnership with JumpStart, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress and Cleveland Development Advisors.
Chain Reaction is an annual competition in which aspiring Cleveland entrepreneurs pitch small-business proposals. The top five proposals are financed with cash prizes. Chain Reaction, now in its fourth year, also shows budding entrepreneurs how their businesses can benefit the community.
Bedrock will mentor participants in the Chain Reaction program and provide top competition winners free brick-and-mortar spaces in Tower City for 21 months.
“Bedrock’s focus on community and economic development is perfectly aligned with our mission to help small businesses grow and to bring investment into the city of Cleveland and its neighborhoods,” says Megan Kim, COSE executive director
Bedrock, owned by Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, bought Tower City in 2016. The mall has 366,000 square feet of space and 75 retail units.
“Tower City is not going anywhere,” Bonner says. “We’re excited to have it.”