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CLEVELAND (WJW) — Many downtown Cleveland office workers are working from home during the pandemic. Fewer people coming into the city may improve traffic congestion, but it is also impacting the downtown economy.

“I think we probably have about a third of the downtown workforce in downtown on any given day,” said Michael Deemer, executive vice president for business development at Downtown Cleveland Alliance.

Deemer says the number of people working in downtown Cleveland office buildings plummeted at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March.

“We’ve seen office workers slowly, but surely beginning to return to the office and you can see it, you can feel it in the streets of downtown Cleveland every day,” he said.

Fewer people downtown means fewer customers at restaurants and other businesses, and has forced a few to close permanently.

“Downtown has been showing us a lot of love. We’ve been busy literally since the day we opened,” said Jon Manning, co-owner of UJerk Caribbean Eatery.

UJerk at East 9th Street and Euclid Avenue opened in July.  The grand opening was first delayed by the start of the pandemic, then the downtown riots.

Manning, one of the owners, says people who live downtown are making up for the lack of a lunchtime business crowd.

“I can’t wait for, you know, people to come back downtown, the games to open back up, downtown is just gonna thrive. I’m very optimistic in next year, being a very back to normal year or maybe even better,” said Manning.

According to Downtown Cleveland Alliance, six new restaurants or eateries have opened up downtown over the summer, ten companies have recommitted to keeping their offices downtown and four companies say they’re moving down here.

Some fear that working from home could become permanent for many employees.  Downtown Cleveland Alliance says research from a top commercial real estate services company shows that’s not likely to happen.

“They found that over 80-percent of the office users in the Midwest anticipate that over 80-percent of their workers will ultimately be back in the office pretty much full-time, and I think that’s consistent with, again what we’re seeing and hearing and what we’ve experienced ourselves,” said Deemer.

Downtown Cleveland Alliance says with many school districts operating remotely, many parents may continue to work from home, keeping them away from the office longer.

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