I-Team: Will impact of riots affect Cleveland’s hosting of NFL Draft?

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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) — Just weeks before Cleveland hosts the NFL Draft, the Fox 8 I-TEAM has found what’s changing downtown for the first time since rioting left widespread destruction.

Company coming.

And, Monday morning, the I-TEAM saw layers of security fencing coming down around the Justice Center. That fencing went up after downtown rioting, and Sheriff’s Deputies had said the fencing would stay up indefinitely.

We also saw Colossal Cupcakes reopen Monday morning for the first time since the shop was overrun by a mob of rioters and looters.

Last May, a peaceful protest against police use of force, turned into hours of violence, vandalism and looting. The crowds left destruction at every turn.

So, with the draft coming next month, we took a ride to get a glimpse of how much as been repaired and how many businesses have recovered.

Outside Colossal Cupcakes, we watched a worker take a covering off a big window as the first customers went inside for sweet treats.

That worker said, “We’re coming back. We’re finally open…”

And, a customer said, “very excited…very excited.”

Rioters smashed glass in block after block, but we noticed most of that has now ben repaired.

But, not everything is back to normal. We peeked into a storefront where a popular clothing store operated. It closed after looters cleaned out the merchandise and did damage. The store never reopened. Now, just empty space with a sign there looking for someone lease the property.

We went to the Downtown Cleveland Alliance, and Joe Marinucci spoke about downtown preparing to host the Draft. He said, “I think we’re going to be very, very ready.”

Marinucci pointed out, businesses closed due to the rioting and due to COVID-19. He said, many restaurants and other businesses have reopened. Plus, more are getting ready to open the doors again.

He added, “A number of them are opening as we speak. In preparation, not only for the beginning of spring, but in time for the NFL Draft just around the corner.”

A spokesperson for Cuyahoga County says the fencing around the Justice Center went up, and it was taken down, solely based on “threat assessment.” In other words, need.

But, the timing of the fence coming down is not lost on anyone watching as Cleveland is about to enter the national spotlight for the NFL Draft.

The Downtown Cleveland Alliance says some businesses are also reopening since the Indians are about to begin a new season. And, some investors have projects in the works that will take longer to get up and running, so those won’t be noticeable before the draft.

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