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New urban trail: 1.9 miles breaks ground in Tremont

The decades-long Ohio & Erie Canalway Towpath Trail extension project — an undertaking that connects 100 miles of paths from New Philadelphia to Cleveland’s lakefront — is one step closer to completion with the launch of the project’s stage three.

Stage three, which spans an urban stretch of 1.9 miles between the northern entrance to Steelyard Commons and Literary Avenue in Tremont, will not only serve as a greenspace buffer between the residential areas of Tremont and industrial areas of the valley below, but also offer paths and access to the rest of the Towpath Trail.
Additionally, the $18.5 million project will add 30 acres of park space.
“This section here is the one that will really be transformational,” says Canalway Partners executive director Tim Donovan. “This will heal the wounds of 100 years of industrial [damage].”
Canalway Partners and its athletic and environmental cleanup events like the Towpath Trilogy Race, Cycle Canalway and RiverSweep, in its 28th year, have been just some of the grassroots events used to raise awareness and funds for the Towpath Trail extension.

Further reading: Ten takeaways from the Stage Three announcement

Donovan recalls the RiverSweep effort between 2007 and 2010 as a “tire brigade” that was dedicated to cleaning up tires dumped along the proposed trail site. “The motto of RiverSweep is ‘Clean up today where tomorrow we’ll play,’” he says. “We cleaned up 2,000 tires off the hillside that now hosts the Towpath Trail. We’ve fulfilled our promise to those people who participated in RiverSweep.”
While stage three construction got underway in February, Canalway Partners, along with officials from Cuyahoga County and the city of Cleveland., will host a groundbreaking at Clark Field this Saturday morning, April 22, at 9 a.m.
The Stage Three portion of the trail will have four connection points: at Holmden Avenue; the W. 11th connector over I-490; Tremont Pointe Apartments; and Jefferson Road. There will be three scenic overlooks at Literary Avenue with views of the downtown skyline; CMHA property off of W. 7th Street that offers views of the steelyard and railyards; and the bridge at the top of W. 11th Street and Clark Avenue with “tremendous views of the industrial valley,” says Donovan.
A new driveway and parking lot will connect to Clark Field from Clark Avenue. The two current entrances to the park will be blocked off and serve as connector trails.

Additional information: Stage Three concept images

“Tremont is the true winner,” says Donovan. “We will have six connecting points, and we expect heavy use.”
Other plans include a new picnic area and interpretive wayside exhibits depicting the neighborhood’s industrial history along the lighted trails. The 1.9 miles also includes three wetlands and new bioswales.
Funding for the anticipated project came from more than 10 sources, but Canalway Partners is credited with being the main fundraiser and is also responsible for the strategic plan. The trail is owned by the city, while Cuyahoga County is managing the project and the Cleveland Metroparks oversees the day-to-day maintenance and security.
While this phase of the project is expected to take more than a year to complete. Donovan expects it to wrap up in fall of 2018. He says this phase marks a critical move forward in the completion of the Towpath Trail.
“There are still a few [people] around, doubting it will ever get done,” Donovan says. “But this is an element in time. It’s historic.”
The groundbreaking celebration beings at 9 a.m. on Saturday at Clark Field, located off of W. 7th Street. Volunteers are invited to bring their own shovels. Reservations aren’t necessary, but you can email Ken Schneider at Canalway Partners to let him know you plan to dig in.
Donovan says the fact that the groundbreaking occurs on Earth Day is an appropriate coincidence. He adds that he  is working with Earth Day Coalition officials to give some groundbreaking attendees discount coupons to EarthFest, which will also be this Saturday, starting at 10 a.m. at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds.

Further reading: 100 miles of the Towpath Trail — one step at a time and The Metroparks top 10 discoveries

The Cleveland Metroparks is part of Fresh Water's underwriting support network.


Challenge along the North Coast: maintaining momentum of 2016

Few people in northeast Ohio would argue that 2016 was Cleveland’s moment in the sun.

The city successfully hosted the Republican National Convention without a hitch. The Cavs became world champions and more than a million people celebrated the victory downtown. The Indians went to the World Series and fought a valiant fight, and the Monsters brought home the American Hockey League Calder Cup.
“2016 was an incredible year on so many fronts,” says Michael Deemer, executive vice president of business development for the Downtown Cleveland Alliance (DCA). “Not just to see the city on the national stage for the first time with the RNC, but to see that day in October with game one of the World Series and the Cavs season opening game.”
DCA estimates the RNC had a $200 million economic impact on the city, while the NBA finals playoff games contributed $36 million and the World Series brought $24 million. The new Huntington Convention Center also held its own, hosting 440,660 guest last year.
Of course the opening of the new $50 million Public Square brought a new reason to come downtown for the many events or just to relax in a new urban green space and people watch.
But 2016's memorable events were not the only sign of progress for downtown Cleveland last year. This month, the DCA released its 2016 Annual Report, indicating many people are choosing downtown to live, work, play and visit.

“The decision was made 10 years ago to form the DCA that set us on the course we’re on,” says Deemer. “We’ve worked with businesses, the RTA, to create innovative transportation and provided historic tax credits — all of those things working in tandem over the last 10 years created this environment.”
According to the report, downtown’s residential population is more than 14,000 — a 77 percent increase since 2000. Residential occupancy remained at 95 percent for the sixth consecutive year in the 6,198 market rate apartments and 880 condominiums.
More than 2,000 apartments were added downtown over the past six years, according to the report, with another 1,000 expected to come online in 2017 and more than 3,000 planned by the end of 2019. Deemer says he expects to downtown population to surge to 16,000 by the end of this year.
“2017 is shaping up to be a big year,” Deemer says of the residential growth.
Furthermore, Class A office space is at a 17 percent vacancy rate, with that number expected to dip below 10 percent in the next couple of years on account of new business and vacant office buildings being converted into apartments, says Deemer.
With the growing population comes new business to serve those residents. More than 30 new retailers opened for business in 2016 — 18 new restaurants and bars and 15 stores.  “We’re seeing a lot more resident-oriented businesses come in downtown, like Monica Potter Home, J3 Clothing and Cleveland Clinic Express Care,” says Deemer. “We continue to have a terrific restaurant and food scene.”
The residential population growth goes hand-in-hand with a highly qualified workforce living downtown, says Deemer, providing employers with a young, well-educated and diverse talent pool to draw from. Drilling down the numbers, downtown Cleveland ranks fifth nationally in the percentage of 25- to 44-year-olds in the labor force; seventh in the number of immigrants with four year degrees; and tenth in the number of candidates with advanced degrees.
Today, 95,000 people work downtown, with 70 employers leasing 1,213,141 square feet of office space and 6,932 jobs created or retained in 2016.
Furthermore, with Cleveland’s great healthcare presence, Cuyahoga County ranks fifth nationally in health services employment. Pair that with the number of quality secondary education institutions, and Cleveland becomes a lucrative place for employers to recruit talent.
“I think what I’m most excited about is the job growth because that’s what make everything else sustainable,” says Deemer. “As we lose the older, less skilled workers, they’re being replaced by younger, highly skilled and educated workers. Momentum begets momentum and as millennials find it an attractive place, more will follow. Cleveland is becoming the kind of place that already has great talent. Downtown in particular is becoming a place for young, skilled workers who want to live here and walk to work.”
RTA contributed to Cleveland’s transformation by working with the DCA on a accessible transportation. “We’re created an infrastructure of transportation options, complete with things like the free trolley to business and entertainment centers and hotels,” says Deegan.
Three new hotels — the Kimpton Schofield, the Hilton Cleveland Downtown and the Drury Plaza Hotel — contributed almost 1,000 new rooms for visitors to the city, further encouraging tourism.

Deemer cites the extension of Federal and Ohio Historic Tax Credits programs as critical to continued growth. “These have been an important tool to attract businesses to invest in downtown Cleveland,” he says, adding that the credits also help grow the residential market and get rid of unoccupied office space.
Transportation is another key factory in attracting millennials, says Deemer, who tend to forego car ownership and rely more on public transportation and walking.
“We have to make sure we’re offering a full variety of transportation options to millennials and generations beyond that,” he says. “We have to make sure we stay ahead of the curve on transportation. And we still need to grow our residential population. Office space has to be filled and we have to connect the neighborhoods with downtown.”

It all boils down to sustaining momentum.

“Most importantly, we cannot become complacent,” says Deemer. “We’ve had boom and bust cycles in the past. We must recognize the work we are doing, but keep working with partners.”

Stalwart local advocate champions Cleveland Refugee Bike Project

More than 1,000 refugees are resettled in the Cleveland area each year, and many of them struggle with transportation as they adjust to their new homes and secure jobs. Many people in the refugee population don’t have cars, and public transportation routes often don’t travel to all the places they need to go.
After hearing stories about the demand for bicycles among the refugee population, Tim Kovach started to see a possible solution. “They’re looking to get their hands on bikes,” says the avid cyclist who bikes to his job as an air quality planner at Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency nine months out of the year.

The refugee situation moved the Ohio City resident to initiate a campaign to get more bikes to that vulnerable population with an ioby crowdfunding campaign: the Cleveland Refugee Bike Project.
The Bike Project aims to raise $7,863 to provide refugees with 50 to 100 bikes and training to give them better access to work, education and social opportunities. The Cleveland Climate Action Fund will match dollars raised, up to $5,000.
The idea first came about after Kovach’s wife, who works at Cleveland Catholic Charities Migration and Refugee Services, began telling him stories of Cleveland refugees needing bikes to get around.
Kovach heard of one Congolese boy who was excited to bike to his new school and was told “don’t bother, we don’t even have a bike rack.” Another man in his 50s had trouble walking but could ride a bicycle. The man just couldn’t find an affordable one.
“It really clicked on me,” Kovach recalls of hearing these stories. “The number of refugees settled in Cleveland has basically doubled in the last few years. I started to think about a way I could help.”
While organizations like Cleveland Catholic Charities help refugees settling in Cleveland by providing assistance, including RTA passes, it’s still often tough for them to get to jobs that can be in remote locations, Kovach explains.
“It can be very difficult, especially with the jobs they are trying to get,” Kovach says. “The jobs are in places that are not well connected to [bus lines], and there’s a language barrier and a skills [gap].”
Last January, Kovach began talking to Bike Cleveland and Ohio City Bicycle Co-op (OCBC) about ways he could secure bikes and provide culturally appropriate training for Cleveland’s refugee community.
The conversations were put on the back burner, but then in August, Matt Gray, the director of the Cleveland Mayor’s  Office of Sustainability, told Kovach about the Cleveland Climate Action Fund’s newest round of grants.
“I wrote up a proposal and sent it to them,” Kovach recalls, adding that he requested the full $5,000. “We’ve gotten a lot of support from the bike community as well.”
To date, Kovach has raised nearly $4,000 towards his goal. If he meets it and gets the matching funds, he will start a pilot program in 2017. The bikes will be sourced from OCBC, which will also provide in-kind support through bike accessories.
Kovach will organize bicycle training and skills classes at the OCBC or Catholic Charities with the help of refugee interpreters with the former. He says the classes will be based on majority language groups – Somali, Arabic, Swahili, Bhutanese and French – depending on the interest.

“We’re creating jobs and opportunities for refugees,” says Kovach of his program and the use of the interpreters. He is also hoping to have enough funding to install bike racks at Catholic Charities.
There are 10 days to go until the Friday, Nov. 18 ioby campaign deadline.
Additionally, Platform Beer Co., 4125 Lorain Ave., will host a fundraiser for Kovach’s cause this Thursday, Nov.  10 from 4 to 8 p.m. Platform will donate $1 for each house beer sold. Organizers will raffle off gift baskets from Platform, OCBC, and Bike Cleveland. All proceeds will go toward the project.

Tim Kovach's advocacy goes beyond his work with Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency and this project. He contributed this informative article on the impact of freeways on our neighborhoods to Fresh Water earlier this year. The story garnered thousands of hits.

Pinecrest moving forward with pedestrian-friendly complex that will employ 2,300

When the associated business swing open their doors in spring 2018, the Pinecrest mixed-use entertainment district at I-271 and 27349 Harvard Road in Orange Village truly will have something for everyone.
Officials unveiled additional details about the project’s newest tenants last Thursday during a ceremony that marked the end of preliminary site work and the beginning of construction on Fairmount Properties’ and the DiGeronimo Companies’ $230 million plan to make Pinecrest an east side destination to live, work, play and stay.
Calling it the "SUB-urban downtown of the East side,” Fairmount Properties principal Chris Salata said Thursday’s event was a good time to celebrate, noting that the project’s completion is only 18 months away. He says Pinecrest has been five to seven years in the works, involving the purchase and demolition of 31 homes on the 58-acre property.
“Functioning as a downtown, Pinecrest will be well represented with retail, office, high-end luxury apartments and a hotel,” says Salat. “The retail will be a combination of the best and new-to-market local, regional, national and entertainment retailers.”
Clearing, demolition and site work began on the property in 2015, while vertical construction on Pinecrest began in August.
New tenants announced last week include retailers Vineyard Vines, REI, West Elm, Allure Nail Spa, Columbus-based Vernacular, and Canton-based Laura of Pembroke. Salata said an Orangetheory Fitness center is also planned.
In January, Fresh Water reported on the forthcoming arrival of Silverspot Cinemas and Pinstripes bowling, bocce and Italian food. Whole Foods Market will build a 45,000-square-foot prototype store.
Dining options are chef-driven, mostly locally-owned restaurants, including Red, the Steakhouse, Flip Side burgers, Firebirds Wood Fired Grill, City Works Eatery and Pour House, Fusian, Bipibop Asian grill and Restore Cold Pressed juice.
Rochester, N.Y.-based DelMonte Hotel Group announced in September that it will build a 145-bed AC by Marriott at Pinecrest.
“Given the quality of the tenant mix, we wanted to make sure that our hotel not only complemented but also enhanced the overall project,” says Alexander DelMonte, president of DelMonte Hotel Group. “The AC brand is a lifestyle brand with a focus on efficient and elegant design, the brand is new to Marriott and new to the United States and was, in our opinion, the only option for this development.”

Eighty-seven apartments will go in alongside the 400,000 square feet of retail space and 150,000 square feet of Class A office space. Salata reports there will be mostly one- and two- bedroom units, with a few three-bedroom apartments, all of which will have direct access to the 1,000-car parking garage.
Additional parking will be available on the street and lots, including a lot that will connect to the theater via a grand staircase and escalator. “No matter where you park, you can get to the main street, Park Avenue, in a couple of minutes,” says Salata.
The pedestrian-friendly layout of Pinecrest is just one of the factors that sets the district apart from its nearby competition, Legacy Village and Eton at Chagrin, says Salata. “Legacy has no residential, no theater and only a small amount of office space,” he explains. “Eton has some of that, but we are a true entertainment and lifestyle district around the clock.”
The complex includes plenty of greenspace, including a one-acre public plaza where people can gather, attend concerts and other entertainment or simply relax.
Independence Construction is the general contractor and construction manager for the project, which will create 200 construction jobs. Independence Excavating worked on the site development. Both companies are under the DiGeronimo Companies umbrella. Currently, the project is on-budget and on schedule for the 2018 completion.
When finished, Pinecrest will employ more than 2,300 people.
Salata says the timing for Pinecrest is perfect for a region on the rise. “It a great story for Cleveland,” he says, adding that many of the retailers are new to the Cleveland market. “It shows that the [national] retail community is ready for Cleveland.”

New bike lanes add to Lakewood's cyclist-friendly goal

In its quest to have bicycles be a primary form of transportation in the city, Lakewood recently added two new dedicated bike lanes along the entire stretch of Madison Avenue. The addition is part of the city’s Bicycle Master Plan, adopted in 2012 as a way to encourage cycling.

“We want to establish cycling as a main means of transportation in Lakewood,” says Bryce Sylvester, the city’s senior city planner. “The goal is to be recognized as one of the most bicycle friendly cities in the country.”
City officials began implementing the plan back in 2012 with shared bike-vehicle lanes, known as “sharrows,” on Detroit Avenue and dedicated bike lanes on Franklin Boulevard.  The lanes are clearly marked as sharrows or dedicated lanes.
In addition to the traditional bike lane markings, the new lanes on Madison implement two new bicycle infrastructure signs.  The lanes will have “door zone” patterns – small diagonal lines – to mark areas where people in parked cars may be opening their doors into the lane. The idea is to reduce the number of run-ins cyclists have with abruptly opening car doors.
Dotted markings through intersections along the route will reinforce the fact that bicyclists have priority over turning vehicles or vehicles entering the roadway – alerting traffic, both bike and vehicles, of potential conflict areas.
“Our hope is to make it a safer ride down Madison Avenue,” says Sylvester.
The city also has installed more than 100 bike racks in front of businesses since 2012, with the aim of installing 20 racks per year.
Sylvester says the Bicycle Master Plan and its execution are in response to the residents’ demands. “The people have built an environment of cyclists here,” he says. “People use their bikes to get around. We’re taking a proactive approach of active living in Lakewood. We feel infrastructures like this allow out residents to be active.”
Lakewood has been awarded a bronze award for its efforts by the League of American Bicyclists
"We're doing okay," says Sylvester of the plan’s progress.

ciCLEvia to roll along West 25th this Saturday

This Saturday, Aug. 13, from 3 to 7 p.m., the new summer program, ciCLEvia, will roll out along West 25th Street. This will be the first of three such events and will feature music, games, food trucks, and free demonstrations of activities including yoga, Zumba, and boxing. While residents are encouraged to glide in on bikes, skates, foot or their wheelchairs, one mode of transportation won't be welcome.
That's right. City officials will close West 25th Street to vehicular traffic from Wade Avenue to MetroHealth Drive – which is nearly a mile – for this family-friendly, age-friendly, and health-focused event. This first ciCLEvia will also coincide with this Saturday's La Placita, an open-air Hispanic market and celebration at the intersection of W. 25th Street and Clark Avenue.
Inspired by open street events in Latin America, known as ciclovías, ciCLEvia is a neighborhood-based program that is accessible to residents of all ages and abilities. Organizers hope to attract residents from the adjacent Clark-Fulton, Ohio City, and Tremont neighborhoods, as well as those who just want to spend an afternoon in the city without the usual traffic noise and exhaust.
“Open street events like ciCLEvia give people an opportunity to move, play, socialize, and celebrate their communities, while encouraging them to experience streets as a shared public space that serves diverse users,” said event organizer Calley Mersmann in a statement.
ciCLEvia will return on Sept. 10 and Oct. 8. The September date will also coincide with La Placita. Street closure and event times will remain the same for the subsequent events.

The series is a signature event of Cleveland’s Year of Sustainable Transportation.
ciCLEvia was planned by partners Bike Cleveland, the MetroHealth System, the Cleveland Department of Public Health, the Healthy Cleveland Initiative, Age-Friendly Cleveland, Sustainable Cleveland 2019, and Ward 14. Other partners include the YMCA, Mt. Sinai Health Care Foundation, the Saint Luke's Foundation, Spindrift and Neighborhood Family Practice. For more information contact Calley Mersmann at 216-512-0253 or email info@ciclevia.com.

Two ioby campaigns make waiting for RTA a little more productive, enjoyable

Waiting for the bus is about to get a little more interactive. ioby (In Our Own Backyards), the New York-based organization that uses crowd-funding to turn grassroots neighborhood projects into realities, established Cleveland offices in March and organizers have wasted no time in getting behind worthwhile projects.
Two of its latest projects involve public art at RTA shelters and offering riders fitness suggestions while they wait for the bus. The projects are part of ioby’s Trick Out My Trip campaign to improve public transportation in cities nationwide. Cleveland was chosen for two out of 10 total projects across the country.
Art Stop
At East 22nd Street and Superior Avenue in the Superior Arts neighborhood within the Campus District, a group of artists and residents are working to make the area art-friendly and safer for riders waiting at the bus stop.
Art Stop will create a bus shelter to shield residents from the elements while also providing a canvas for public art by a rotating list of artists. Campus District officials hosted a barbeque to get input on what the diverse neighborhood needed and wanted.
“People were very excited about this because Superior Avenue has a lot of bus stops, but not a lot of shelters,” says Kaela Geschke, community coordinator for the Campus District. “There are so many artists that live in the neighborhood and this is way to highlight them.”
Geschke adds that, with three homeless shelters in the neighborhood, the stop will also provide some shelter from the notoriously windy corridor.
The group then turned to Cleveland Institute of Art adjunct professor Sai Sinbondit and his students to design the shelter’s elements. They were charged with keeping the shelter’s functionality while also creating a pleasing environment.
The group needs $10,335 to realize all of the features they want in the shelter. So far, they have raised $3,100. If they meet their goal, the bus stop will have Wi-Fi and solar lighting. The Wi-Fi will make it easier for riders to check bus schedules and for the homeless population to research services, Geschke says.
“We’re really working hard to create a connection between students, artists and the homeless,” says Geschke. “The artwork will build community and be a way for neighbors to get to know each other.”
Bus Stop Moves
Bus Stop Moves gets riders exercising while waiting for the bus.
The concept was first spearheaded last fall by Allison Lukacsy, an architect and a planner for the city of Euclid, as a pilot program through RTA’s adopt-a-shelter program with MetroHealth System.
The program began after a survey of Collinwood residents revealed that people wanted more opportunities to exercise. “Something jumped out at me [in the survey] that people could be healthier and wanted more opportunities to be active,” says Lukacsy.
The pilot program involved three bus shelters in Collinwood, in which translucent vinyl adhesive wraps over the shelter walls illustrate simple exercises and health tips. The exercises can be done while sitting or standing and in normal street clothes.
“That sort of 20 to 25-minute period between bus rides is the perfect amount of time, physicians will tell you, to get some exercise,” says Lukacsy, who designed and drew all the illustrations.
The fitness shelters were so well-received that ioby has partnered with RTA to wrap 10 additional shelters with workout moves in the Central-Kinsman, Slavic Village and Detroit Shoreway neighborhoods.  So far, the group has raised about $500 of the $618 needed to fund the project.
The exercises vary at different shelters – some more intense and some more relaxed. For instance, in Collinwood a shelter that has a lot of high school students features more engaging exercises, like jumping jacks, while another shelter features strengthening and stretching exercises.
“Some people are willing to break out and dance in public,” says Lukacsy. “But more people are more comfortable doing the strengthening. You could totally drive by and not know someone is doing exercises.”
The shelters not only offer a unique way to squeeze in a workout, Lukacsy says it also helps spruce up the neighborhoods. “If you look around, these are older shelters,” she says. “This is a way to not only aesthically improve the look of the shelters, it’s also something to improve people’s health.
Both crowdfunding campaigns have until Friday, August 5 to reach their goals. ioby had partnered with New York-based TransitCenter on Trick Out My Trip. The foundation dedicated to improving urban mobility will match the money raised when the campaign ends.

Metroparks connects Flats East and West Banks with new water taxi

East Bank or West Bank?

Today’s Flats offer a variety of entertainment options on both sides of the Cuyahoga River, and now the Cleveland Metroparks has eliminated the need to make a decision on which side to dine, dance and play with last month's launch of the eLCee2 water taxi.

For $2, passengers get unlimited rides across the river on the 26-foot Crosby yacht. The taxi can take 18 passengers and four bikes at a time. It's also ADA accessible and dog-friendly.
“The water taxi is exciting for the Flats because it is another ingredient in the revitalization of the area,” says Metroparks director of communications Rick Haase. “For Cleveland Metroparks it is all about helping people connect to our trails and to our parks, while at the same time helping them connect from the East Bank to the West Bank of the Flats.”
The eLCee2 launched ahead of the Memorial Day weekend on Friday, May 27 during a boating safety program hosted by the Metroparks, Flats East Bank and the U.S. Coast Guard. Metroparks CEO Brian Zimmerman cut the ribbon along with Cleveland Metroparks board of park commissioners Bruce Rinker and Debbie Berry. Speakers included Zimmerman, Scott Wolstein with Flats East Bank and lieutenant commander Mickey Dougherty of the Coast Guard's Cleveland Marine Safety Unit.
After the ceremony, the eLCee2 made its maiden voyage across the river from the taxi station at 1170 Old River Road on the East Bank to the West Bank station under the Main Avenue Bridge and back. After that, eLCee2 had a spectacular debut, with 3,579 passengers taking the taxi over Memorial Day weekend alone.
Five Metroparks employees share the captaining of the eLCee2, which is named after a group that included Leadership Cleveland alumni, Metroparks representatives and members of a Kent State University entrepreneurship class. They began floating the idea of a Flats water taxi service in 2014.

eLCee2 runs Thursdays from 4 to 7 p.m.; Fridays from 4 to 9 p.m.; Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The taxi will operate from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day each season.

The Cleveland Metroparks is part of Fresh Water's underwriting network.

ODOT conducts George Voinovich Bridge construction tours

Twice a month through September, the Ohio Department of Transportation is conducting free hard hat tours of the George Voinovich Bridge construction area. Tours are rain or shine, although if the weather becomes overly inclement, the event will be cancelled.

Tours are conducted by Trumball-Great Lakes-Ruhlin (TGR), a joint venture between Trumbull Corporation, Great Lakes Construction Company and the Ruhlin Company, which was the successful bidder on the $273 million project that included demolition of the existing 1959 Innerbelt Bridge and the construction of a new, five lane, eastbound structure. The project is slated for completion this fall.

Attendees walk the entire construction site and hear insider details about things such as the steel I-beams that support the concrete pilings, or the "HP18 x 204's," wherein the H indicates the shape, the 18 refers to an 18" measurement on the piling and the 204 indicates 204 pounds-per-foot.

"These piles come in at 90 feet long," said Karen Lenehan, public information consultant for TGLR, during a tour last week. "They're the largest piles manufactured in United States." She adds that the pilings are required to be driven down to bedrock some 200 feet below ground. They must be hammered twenty times with industrial driving equipment in order to move just one inch.

"How do you know when you reach bedrock?" mused Lenehan. "When you hit it twenty times and it doesn't move."

Lenehan also offered comprehensive details on the giant 28- by 28- by 10-foot concrete footers; the prominent concrete columns, which are hollow and include inspection doors; the steel knuckles, tension ties, deltas, bridge bearings and deck girders; and the permanent catwalks that web the area under the deck of the bridge, among other components.

Lenehan also told the tale of how the entire project was nearly held hostage by a pair of mating Peregrine falcons that threatened to delay the demolition of the old bridge. Fortunately, the babies learned to fly ahead of a critical date and vacated the nest.

"We got the okay," recalled Lenehan of getting the thumbs-up from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources when the junior falcons took flight. "We could go ahead with our big explosive demolition on July 12, 2014."

Other softer details of note include a forthcoming fish habitat that will be similar to one that was constructed for the westbound bridge. The protected area is essentially fenced off from the rest of the river by a slotted barrier and is planted with vegetation the fish can eat.

"Fish can swim out of the way of the freighters," said Lenehan. "They can rest; they can feed, and then they can swim back out."

Also included in the project is a protected area for humans - for walking, biking and running. The contract includes extending the southern terminus of the all-purpose trail along Scranton Flats to a point adjacent to Sokolowski's Inn, as well as a new green space for Tremont.

"We get sustainability points for that," said Lenehan, noting that those points are part of a formal sustainability component of the contract.

Lastly at the conclusion of the tour, attendees are given packages of commemorative mints that are shaped like tiny cars.

Registration for the free tours, which fill up quickly, is required and does not start until the beginning of each respective month. Details available here.

New bike lanes to amp up Slavic Village connectivity

Road work is a common enough sight in Cleveland, but a large-scale re-paving project on Warner Road in Slavic Village can also be part of an overarching effort to make the neighborhood a safe, attractive and welcoming place to live, maintain those on the ground.

Work on the Warner Road Rehabilitation Project began early last week. Approximately one mile of the residential street will be re-surfaced and re-striped. Other improvements include ADA-compliant ramps and new pavement markings. Construction cost for the nearly year-long project is slated at $2.4 million.  

In the short term, one lane of traffic southbound will be maintained between Grand Division and Broadway Avenues. Northbound traffic will be detoured east along Grand Division Avenue then north along Turney Road.

It's when the project is finished in December 2016 that things get exciting, says Chris Alvarado, executive director of Slavic Village Development, a nonprofit community development corporation serving the North and South Broadway neighborhoods. Six-foot-wide bike lanes will replace diagonal parking spots on both sides of the street, stretching from the entrance of the Mill Creek Falls reservation to Grand Division Avenue on the border of Garfield Heights.

The new bike lanes will create a safe pedestrian passageway, as existing parking spaces are often used as though traffic areas by drivers, says Alvarado. Additionally, installation of much-needed biking options is taking place as strategic efforts, like Mill Creek Trail, aim to connect Cleveland via bike and walking paths.

To that end, Slavic Village is currently working with the City of Cleveland on linking its forthcoming bike lanes to the end of the Morgana Run Trail, a two-mile bicycling and walking path extending from E. 49th Street to Jones Road near Broadway Avenue.

Eventually, the Warner Road bike trail can be a single link in a five-mile biking and pedestrian access chain that runs all the way downtown, notes Alvarado. It can also serve as an amenity that helps draw new residents to the community.

"We pride ourselves on being an active neighborhood where walking, biking and exercise is part of who we are," Alvarado says.

Ultimately, the refurbished road can be part of a brighter future for a community trying to rebound, adds the development group official.

"It's a way to bring in new neighbors and make [Slavic Village] attractive for the people who live here," says Alvarado.

Urban section of Towpath Trail inches closer to completion with funding for pedestrian bridge

As the ever-popular Towpath Trail continues to wind its way north from Harvard Avenue to Lake Erie, no matter how small each benchmark is, it represents a victory in the expansive $43 million project, which is unfurling amid four complex stages.
Last month, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) delivered yet another win when it awarded the Cuyahoga County Department of Public Works a $432,222 Clean Ohio Trails grant for a small but important component of the project: A prefabricated 150-foot bridge that will cross traverse West 7th Street in Tremont. The funds are part of $6.1 million in grants awarded to 19 projects around the state through the Clean Ohio Trails Fund, which improves outdoor recreation opportunities and aims to protect and connect Ohio's natural and urban spaces.
Currently dubbed the "Tremont Pointe Bridge," the new West 7th Street bridge is part of the $17.5 million Stage 3 portion of the trail. Aesthetically speaking, the prefabricated bridge will be similar to any number of pedestrian bridges in and around area parks, including two adjacent to the Scranton Flats and one traversing Euclid Creek in the Metroparks' Euclid Creek Reservation.
Further reading: Ten Takeaways from the ongoing Towpath Trail development.
Tim Donovan, executive director of Canalway Partners describes the route of Stage 3: "The trail will connect with the trail that's already established at Steelyard and will make its way north to Literary Avenue in Tremont." Of scheduling he adds, "We're under final design and engineering right now." Michael Baker International is the lead architect on the project.
Donovan expects to have the entire 1.9-mile Stage 3 portion of the project (including the new bridge) out to bid late this year or by January 2016. Ground breaking will begin next July 1, when federal funding associated with the project is officially released. He is reluctant to give an estimated completion date other than to say construction and planting may take more than a year.
"It will become more apparent once the project gets underway," he says.
After the completion of Stage 3, says Donovan, "we have about seven-tenths of a mile from Steelyard to lower Harvard and we probably have another mile or so from Literary to Canal Basin Park." Those sections represent Stage 1 and Stage 4 of the project, respectively. The Stage 2 section of the trail adjacent to Steelyard Commons is already complete.
Further reading: Canal Basin Park: 20 acres of urban green space in the heart of the Flats.
"It’s a very very complex process that we're involved with building this trail through that industrial valley," says Donovan of the six urban miles of trail, noting that challenges arise with property acquisition, environmental cleanup and funding. "The money part is a as complex as the design part, which is as complex as the acquisition piece and everything else."
Donovan emphasizes the collective patience, support and efforts of the four main partner organizations, which include Canalway Partners, Cuyahoga County, the city of Cleveland and the Cleveland Metroparks.
"Everything we do is a team approach," says Donovan.

"Those efforts are bearing fruit. Thankfully, it's all coming together."

Up to 250 new sharing bikes coming to the 216 ahead of the RNC

Bike Cleveland has teamed up with the Cuyahoga County Department of Sustainability to secure 250 bikes for a bike sharing program in time for the Republican National Convention next July. The move is part of a larger countywide initiative.
"Over five years we need 700 bikes in 70 stations," explains Mike Foley, executive director of Cuyahoga County's Department of Sustainability.
In order to get started on that tall order, last month the team identified CycleHop-SoBi as the preferred vendor for the new bike share system. Negotiations are ongoing, although Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) awarded the county $357,000 in federal funding to bring the plan to fruition. With 20 percent in matching funds, the group has $446,000 available to purchase the bikes.
"The federal government requires us to own these things at least for their usable life," explains Foley, "which is deemed five years." The program in its entirety will cost more, he adds, and will depend on a private-public partnership that relies on business and other private sponsors adopting stations and systems. Downtown will be the initial focus area for the first wave of bike stations.
The CycleHop-SoBi brand is a collaboration of two entities.
"CycleHop operates the system,"explains Foley. "SoBi manufactures the bikes," which he describes as sturdy and equipped with GPS systems. "Heaven forbid a bike is stolen or not returned," he says, "they'll be able to find it. It also helps figure out routes. They call it a smart bike. We were impressed with technology."
The bikes can also be locked anywhere.
"You don't have to go to a SoBi bike station," says Foley. "You can lock it up at regular bike stop and go get your coffee."
The versatility doesn't stop there. Although still tentative, Foley sees the program having flexible membership options, with yearly, monthly and weekly fee structures available, as well as an hourly rental system for one-time users.
As the program expands to reach that 700 number, Foley sees it reaching across the county.
"There are suburban communities that I know are interested in this. Cleveland Heights is chomping at the bit to be part of it," he says, adding that Lakewood has also expressed interest.
"We want this to be larger than just the city of Cleveland."

Safe and Clean Ambassadors now in University Circle

University Circle has expanded its Clean and Safe Ambassador program, which will now be an extension of the Downtown Cleveland Alliance's (DCA) service of the same name. University Circle Inc. (UCI) and PNC sponsored the move.
Most Clevelanders have seen the Ambassadors on bikes and as a friendly presence at events such as Walnut Wednesday, but what exactly do they do? Fresh Water posed the question to UCI's vice president of services Laura Kleinman.
"They're often referred to as 'Clean and Safe Ambassadors,'" she says. "Generally speaking, those are the services they provide."
The "clean" part of their jobs includes picking up litter and debris along major corridors with a pan and broom or sometimes with a more muscled beast. They also identify and remove graffiti from public property and fixtures.

Kleinman notes that graffiti is a loose term that includes "everything from a sticker that doesn't belong, to someone defacing a utility box with spray paint," she says. "It really runs the gamut." Ambassadors also remove gum from sidewalks and will take on special projects such as cleaning up notoriously dirty areas like bridge underpasses.
The "safe" portion of their responsibilities includes contacting authorities if they encounter something amiss such as an altercation or aggressive panhandling.
"They are the eyes and ears for the neighborhood," says Kleinman, noting that they will not only contact the police and fire departments, but they might assist them as well.
Ambassadors also act as informal neighborhood concierges.
"They are an extension of our visitor center," says Kleinman. That includes giving directions to museums and area restaurants as well as information regarding public transportation and area anchors. "They let people know where to go and what to do," she adds. "In many cases it's parents with students or prospective students or families with patients at one of the area hospitals that are in need of any number of things."
Residents will see ambassadors on foot, bicycles and Segways. They'll also attend events such as Wade Oval Wednesday and Wade Oval Winter.  
Kleinman encourages any resident in peril to approach an ambassador. Bike trouble? Flat tire? Ambassadors know where to get help or even one better: "Depending on the problem," adds Kleinman, "they might be able to help you."
University Circle has four full-time ambassadors in the fairer months and two in the winter, when their duties also include small-scale snow removal. They are located in the University Circle Visitor Center, 11330 Euclid Avenue. Ambassadors are trained and managed by the national firm Block by Block.
"The other great service they provide to us is that they're tracking their activity every day, every hour," says Kleinman of the professional staff. "We get great information about what they've been doing: where they are cleaning up, removing graffiti and how many people they've assisted." The resulting data informs UCI on how to manage and deploy resources and helps to track trends.
There is another less quantifiable benefit to the ambassadors' presence.
"The hand they reach out and the assist they are providing," says Kleinman, "it's great to have that personal touch in the neighborhood."

Canal Basin Park: 20 acres of urban green space in the heart of the Flats

Earlier today, Tim Donovan, executive director of Canalway Partners, George Cantor, staff planner of Cleveland's Planning Commission and Jeff Kerr of Environmental Design Group presented an ambitious schematic plan development for the future Canal Basin Park to the city's Planning Commission members, who unanimously approved it.
The document outlines plans for 20 acres of underutilized urban property in the central part of the Flats. While tentative, the group hopes to see the project, the cost of which will range between $20 and $40 million, come to fruition on June 22, 2019 -- the 50th anniversary of the infamous Cuyahoga River fire.
"We look at this as being a very flexible park, almost a park with two personalities," said Donovan during a meeting with Fresh Water earlier this week. He described a family-oriented daytime space that has a more mysterious feeling in the evening. "It becomes a place for outdoor concerts, art exhibits, etcetera."
While team members described the plan as aspirational, not at all definitive and aimed at stimulating thought, proposed amenities include an interactive water installation, elevator access to the lower decks of the Detroit Superior Bridge, a riverside boardwalk, a life-size working model of a canal gate, a skating rink, lighting/placemaking elements, copious green space and a variety of programs and activities. The park will certainly house the terminus section of the popular Towpath Trail, which will finally reach Lake Erie.
The irregularly shaped park will include a large section of area beneath the Veterans Memorial and RTA Viaduct Bridges, the Downtown Dog Park, the existing Settler's Landing Rapid Station and much of the green area that lines the East Bank of the Flats opposite the Nautica Entertainment Complex. The southern terminus of the associated trail will connect to the Scranton Flats via the Carter Road Bridge. The plan includes 165 parking spaces and also calls for a portion of Merwin Avenue to be removed.
Ninety percent of the associated 20 acres is already owned by public agencies including the city, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, Cleveland Metroparks and the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD). Sherwin Williams and Kassouf Real Estate own the remaining 10 percent. While the Kassouf property is a parking lot and will likely remain as such, Donovan said, "We're talking to Sherwin Williams about a permanent easement over their property."
Currently, crumbling asphalt lots cover much of the associated publicly and privately owned acreage.

"Right now you go down there and it's a big asphalt space," said Donovan. "It's very hard. It's very unforgiving." It is also a place you do not notice until you purposefully look at it. Then the vast amount of available land in this incredibly unique and diverse urban pocket blooms before you with endless possibilities.
The next steps include formal site analysis with surveys and assessments of the topography, environmental status, infrastructure, utilities and soil; and the assemblage of funding sources. Donovan noted that the lion's share of the $54 million in funding for the six miles of trail from the Harvard Road trailhead north has been public (thus far $49 million has been secured) and that he sees the financial package for Canal Basin Park project coming together from different sources.
"We have milked that public cow as much as we can," said Donovan. "Now is the time for the private citizens, the corporations, the foundations to step forward and help us."
The City of Cleveland is the lead manager on the project. Partners include Canalway Partners, Cleveland Metroparks, Downtown Cleveland Alliance, Cuyahoga County and the Ohio & Erie Canalway.
The park will duly celebrate the historic significance of the location and terminus of the canal. Ironically, it will also act as a cosmopolitan urban gateway to the 101 miles of trail that will eventually span from Lake Erie to New Philadelphia, Ohio. That designation has far reaching implications for the region and towpath at large.
The team sees the park as an informational hub for the southern features on the towpath trail such as the St. Helena III boat rides in Canal Fulton or events at Lock 3 Akron. Cleveland also has a stalwart hospitality infrastructure for future park visitors, replete with copious lodging and entertainment options.
"We’re the funnel for visitors, those people going into this 101-mile regional park system," said Donovan, which per John Zayac, principal of The Project Group, is a very good thing on the heels of an event such as the Republican National Convention.
"A project like this can keep the momentum going," said Zayac.
Of course, access to the new park is an utmost priority. The team noted that it will be a strategic component in the city's goal of connecting neighborhoods to downtown.
"We have a goal of putting all Clevelanders within a 10-minute bike ride to the towpath and its connector trails," said the planning commission's Cantor, noting the park's close proximity to public housing complexes including Tremont Pointe Apartments, Riverview Towers and Lakeview Estates. "It also addresses the issue of waterfront access," he said, tagging both the lakefront and riverfront.
While the park itself will be new, the real estate it will occupy as part of the Cuyahoga corridor is incredibly storied and unique in its designation as a National Heritage Area, an American Byway, and an American Heritage River. Per Donovan, those components make the future park an enduring cultural touchstone.
"The towpath becomes our cinder spine; he railroad becomes our iron spine, the byway our asphalt spine," said Donovan. "This is the place where our history happened."

Saint Luke's Foundation funds rapid station upgrades, community programs

Earlier this month, the Saint Luke's Foundation announced nearly $1 million in grants that will directly impact the Buckeye, Mt. Pleasant and Woodland Hills neighborhoods. Founded in 1997, the Foundation has focused mostly on the health and wellness of community members. Three years ago, however, Saint Luke's expanded its mission to include the fostering of strong neighborhoods and resilient families.

"The health of any species is tied to its environment," says Nelson Beckford, Saint Luke's senior program officer for a strong neighborhood. He adds that neighborhoods are our most immediate and impactful environments. "What can we do to make to make our neighborhoods more walkable, more livable, and to create a sense of place?"

The Foundation has always endeavored to focus on the original footprint that Saint Luke's Hospital serviced. Hence the recent Strong Neighborhoods grants will include $300,000 for the enhancement of the East 116th Street Rapid station, which Beckford emphasizes as a vital component of the neighborhood that provides a means for people to get to work and school and to find employment.

"Public transportation is 'small d' democratic," says Beckford. "Folks in this community deserve a good station, a station that's more accessible, that’s bright." Since the East 116th Street station is adjacent to Saint Luke's Pointe, 11327 Shaker Boulevard, he also sees it as an important portal to the resources in that facility, which houses schools, senior living, a Boys' and Girls' Club, a library and the Foundation itself.

The station is slated for a major $6.3 million rebuild starting next year. The Foundation decided to complement that effort with the grant funds, which will support the design and implementation of public art and functional enhancements. Beckford envisions the East 116th Street station going through a transformation similar to that of the Little Italy-University Station, the rebuild of which was unveiled this summer.
"This plan is to enhance the station, make it more connected to the neighborhood, and also to create a better experience for riders," says Beckford. "We believe they deserve it and the neighborhood deserves a high-quality rapid station."
Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, Inc. (CNP), which is also located on the Saint Luke's Pointe campus, will be shepherding the Foundation's portion of the project.
"I can't say enough about their power and what they can do and their vision for greater Cleveland specifically," says Beckford of CNP and its staff.
Another $110,000 in grant funds will support the launch of ioby in the Buckeye neighborhood. The "in our back yard" movement fosters placemaking and public art as well as the enhancement of public spaces, transit, food access, public health and schools -- all from within.
"It combines digital organization and crowdfunding with straight-up grassroots organizing," says Beckford, adding that ioby approaches situations with the mindset that the community is the expert and that its members have the solutions to the challenges they face. "Often times, the best solution is the local solution."
The initial grant will fund research during which ioby representatives will "connect with local leaders, conduct one-on-ones and assess the landscape," says Beckford.
The Foundation also granted $167,000 to the Food Trust to determine strategies on how to increase access to affordable healthy foods across the greater Cleveland area; $150,000 to The Centers for Families and Children for operational support; $70,000 to the Murtis Taylor Human Services System to upgrade its communication infrastructure equipment; $60,000 to the adult education organization Seeds of Literacy to support the expansion of its facility in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood; and $65,000 to support a collaboration between Towards Employment Inc. and Beech Brook that aims to pair career pathway training with parenthood education and support for persons in the greater Cleveland area.
"We're very bullish about this neighborhood," says Beckford. "Part of our work is to remind people that there's a lot of really good work happening. Part of our role at the Foundation is to help support that and bring that to scale.
"So many people have an emotional connection to this place. We think it’s a special place."

Millions in upgrades planned for historic Euclid WWII bomber plant, former GM Fisher Auto Body

Last week, HGR Industrial Surplus invited the community to celebrate the christening of its sprawling 12-acre building as the Nickel Plate Station. The company also unveiled a display showcasing the fascinating history of the property and kicked off a $10 to $12 million campaign to improve the facility.
HGR, purveyors of used and surplus equipment, purchased the property last year in a collaborative effort with the city and the Cuyahoga Land Bank (CLB) after it had been orphaned by its owner.
"One day the landlord just got up and left," recalls Euclid Mayor Bill Cervenik.
HGR, a tenant since 1998, wanted to stay in the 20001 Euclid Avenue building. Per CLB director of acquisitions, dispositions and development, Cheryl Stephens, the property was in foreclosure and had more than $1 million in outstanding back taxes and some other liens. 
"It would have taken more than a year for this company to get access to this property," says Stephens. "What we did on behalf of the city of Euclid was cut through the time, energy and money of having to pay back taxes. We wiped the slate clean. We cleaned up the title issues and sold the property to HGR."
That was in 2014. HGR, which employs 120, has since upgraded the fire system and driveway. While future plans are still unfurling, they will include renovations to the façade, lighting and parking lot. The company also intends to improve and lease two large spaces, 160,000 and 50,000 square feet respectively.
Within the next few weeks, HGR will also install a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) resource center in its customer lounge. The display will feature literature from area colleges and technical programs, books, magazines and periodicals. The effort is a partnership between HGR, the Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network (MAGNET) and Ingenuity Cleveland.
"They're helping to put the 'A' in STEAM," says Matt Williams, HGR's chief marketing officer, regarding Ingenuity's involvement. "You hear a lot about STEM, but the arts are so important."
With its massive stock of vintage machinery and a factory structure essentially unchanged since its 1943 opening, Williams also sees HGR as a place where middle and high school students can deconstruct manufacturing historically and literally.
"If you think about it, our facility is really an archeological site. All the different facets of manufacturing are represented when you look at the equipment," says Williams. "We want to be able to take young people through and give them a glimpse of what manufacturing is," he adds, citing the components of design, engineering, building, installation, operation and maintenance.
Most Clevelanders associate the giant Euclid Avenue structure with GM's Euclid Fisher Body Plant. Among other things, bodies for iconic cars such as the El Camino, Toronado, Riviera and Cadillac Eldorado were manufactured here from 1948 to 1993, but the site's history goes back to the late 1800s. What was once farmland became the subject of a long and contentious legal battle over zoning that ended up before the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS).
On November 22, 1926, the SCOTUS ruled on Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co., in favor of the Village. The landmark case made headlines across the country as a definitive decision that enabled fledgling zoning laws. In 1942, however, Uncle Sam had a different vision for the 65-acre plot and usurped control of the site, announcing plans for a $20 million war plant despite protestations from residents and village officials.
Cleveland Pneumatic Aerol leased the plant, manufacturing landing gear and rocket shells for about two years until Victory over Japan Day marked the end of the War on September 2, 1945.
20001 Euclid Avenue essentially lay fallow until General Motors purchased it in 1947.
The new name is a nod to the Nickel Plate Road (also known as the New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad). Built in 1881, the rail sliced through the Village of Euclid just to the north of the property. The building still connects to the famous rail line via a short spur that ends in an interior loading bay -- just as it did on the day this former WWII bomber plant opened more than seven decades ago. 
"Everything we do is about recycling, upcycling and reclaiming," says Williams. "We're reclaiming a building that would otherwise might have been knocked down and turned into a parking lot."
HGR stands for Hit the Ground Running and was inspired by Van Halen's 1981 rock anthem, "Unchained."

Luxury high rise in University Circle set to break ground in January

Construction is slated to begin in January on a 20-floor luxury apartment building at Euclid Avenue and Stokes Boulevard in University Circle. The new high rise would add another high-end residential option in this booming, popular community.

One University Circle, at 10730 Euclid Ave., should be ready for occupancy by January 2018. The 280-unit building will include 268 units averaging about 1,000 square feet, 12 additional penthouses, a four-story parking garage, outdoor grilling area, fitness room and yoga studio. The building also will have a café and market, business center and residents’ lounge.

Dimit Architects designed the building, which includes a window wall and terracotta panel system for the exterior of the building. All of the units will have floor-to-ceiling glass, and some of them will have balconies or patios.

University Circle Inc. president Chris Ronayne, who likens the project to similar apartment projects in New York’s Central Park and Chicago’s Millennium Park, envisions a diverse group of tenants, from academics and millennials to empty nesters. “You’re going to see a pretty diverse cross-section of people in One University Circle,” he predicts. “People who appreciate the amenities.” The building will offer easy access to the RTA HealthLine.

Ronayne adds that the rising demand for city living in Cleveland will contribute to One University Circle’s appeal.

It’s all about density when it comes to revitalizing any neighborhood, he comments. The residential component is just one factor. Retailers and public transportation are the other components that contribute to a thriving city.

“When you’re looking at 280 units on 1.3 acres, you’re looking at the density of a major city,” he explains. “You need that kind of density to create foot traffic, retailers, for public transportation. We want a complete neighborhood where in a 20-minute walk you can find everything you need. The Circle has become a complete neighborhood.”

A portion of the land at 10730 Euclid Ave. currently houses the Children’s Museum, which will be moving to the Stager-Beckwith mansion in Midtown.
First Interstate Properties and Petros Development are partnering with University Circle Inc. on the project. Panzica Construction will be the general contractor.

Former landfill to become restored green space in Old Brooklyn

Twenty-eight acres in the heart of Old Brooklyn is slated to become yet another hard-earned link in the city's growing chain of urban green spaces.
Courtesy of a $561,000 Clean Ohio Conservation Fund grant, the Western Reserve Land Conservancy (WRLC) will acquire the former Henninger Landfill and other adjacent properties stretching along more than 1,000 linear feet of Lower Big Creek in an area immediately east of West 25th Street. The landfill was closed more than 40 years ago.

In addition to the Clean Ohio grant, WRLC also obtained a federal 2014 Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition grant in the amount of $15,000 to hire a riparian restoration expert to assess the property and develop a comprehensive restoration plan. The grantor describes this as "a critical riparian buffer corridor."

That future restoration will include erosion control; water quality improvements; reintroduction of native trees, wildflowers and grasses; and invasive plant removal. While plans for how the public will access the area are still underway, by its geographic positioning, it will become a growing part of the green corridor that includes the Metroparks Zoo, Brookside Reservation and the Towpath Trail. Officials hope it becomes a key link between those amenities.
Jim Rokakis, director of the Land Conservancy’s Thriving Communities Institute, said that he's confident the space will have trails to serve area residents and employees. He added that there is much work to be done before employees from the Metro Health Campus can reach for their Skechers at lunch.
"We've got a lot of clean up to do," he said.
In a less obvious benefit, the project will support the general health of the Lake Erie watershed and will help expunge an unfortunate designation.
Lower Big Creek is a major tributary to the Cuyahoga River, which despite the improvements made since it infamously caught fire in 1969, is still listed as one of the Great Lakes Areas of Concern. The 46 miles designated reach from Lake Erie to Stark County and includes all tributaries. Per the AOC organization, those waters have experienced environmental degradation, fail to meet the objectives of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between the United States and Canada, and are impaired in their ability to support aquatic life or beneficial uses.
"To de-list the Cuyahoga River as an AOC, identifying and protecting natural areas to address the loss of fish and wildlife habitat within its watershed is an essential step," said a statement from the WRLC. "In a developed urban area, this project does just that."

Art, history, design define new Little Italy-University Circle Rapid Station

This week, the highly anticipated $17.5 million Little Italy-University Circle Station will open on Mayfield Road at East 119th Street, with a ribbon cutting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. this evening at the new station.
"University Circle is thriving," says Joe Calabrese, CEO and general manager of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA). He also notes that the area's growing success has gone hand in hand with parking challenges, which has its own peril. "People don't feel comfortable going there because of parking concerns."
Calabrese, along with a host of area partners including the Cleveland Foundation, the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA), Little Italy, University Hospitals, the Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University, hopes the new station will change that.
"The whole community is trying to do more to promote people going to University Circle--not necessarily by car, but by other means as well," he says. "So this will be a great option for them to get to that great area."
Construction on the $17.5 million project ($8.9 million of which came from a federal TIGER grant) began in October 2013. The contractor was McTech Corporation. Paul Volpe, founder of City Architecture and a Little Italy resident, led the design team.
Highlights of the new station include artistic lighting of the bridges leading to the station, a terrazzo floor designed by artist Suzy Mueller Frazier and lighting fixtures by artist Jennifer Cecere that will remind some of the handmade white doilies that festooned the side tables in Nona's parlor.
"This is little Italy and our design team really spent some time looking at appropriate art," says Calabrese, "to almost make you feel like you're in Italy."
Another fascinating design element begins with an historic oddity courtesy of the same gents who delivered unto us the Terminal Tower, the Van Sweringen brothers.
"They basically built the Shaker Rapid," says Calabrese, adding that the famed brothers planned other rail lines throughout the region. "When we did our investigation as to where we were going to relocate our station, we found this old foundation (we call it a vault) for a station that the Van Sweringens built but never finished." The structure dates back to the 1920s and will now serve as the entranceway and lobby for the new station. "It's an historic piece of transportation history," says Calabrese.
The new Little Italy-University Circle Station will replace the East 120th Street Station, which the Plain Dealer described two years ago as, "aging, outmoded, secluded and unsafe-looking." Per Calabrese, demolition plans are well under way, with a contract already in place.
"It was not in a good location," he says. "It needed significant upgrades. It was built in the 1950's"
These efforts are part of GCRTA's ongoing campaign to address and update an aging system in a changing city that is playing catch-up to other municipalities across the country.
"Public transit ridership is growing. It's growing nationally. It's growing here in Cleveland with a whole new wave of public transit advocates: millennials," says Calabrese, adding that the up-and-coming generation isn't nearly as concerned with car ownership as their parents. They want to live and work where walking, biking and public transit options are robust.
"If they can't get the lifestyle amenities they want here in Cleveland, they're going to go cities that offer those amenities like Boston, Chicago and New York City," he says, adding that the new Little Italy-University Circle Station is a stalwart step to attracting and keeping them here.
"Little Italy is such an important and iconic area of the city," says Calabrese. "We think this station will be a game changer."

Ten takeaways from the latest Towpath Trail announcement

Last Friday at Scranton Flats, a host of local dignitaries touted a $700,000 Clean Ohio Fund grant that will enable the construction of Stage 3 of the Towpath Trail through Cleveland.
The Towpath Trail project has been ongoing for decades, but as it moves forward through dense urban terrain, it becomes more and more complex and difficult to understand. Hence, we offer up the following bullet points to help clarify the status of this growing urban treasure.
1. There are four stages to the Towpath Trail project in Cleveland, which are not coming online in a numerical or geographically linear progression.
2. The work announced Friday will include 1.9 miles of new trail from the northern end of the complete Stage 2/Steelyard Commons trail loop at Quigley Road to the intersection of University and Literary Roads in Tremont. Scheduled completion date: 2017.
3. The $700,000 Clean Ohio grant is part of a complex $43 million finance package for all four stages that includes various federal and state funds as well as $27.5 million in support from the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA).
4. Although not associated with any of the stages, Scranton Flats is another completed section of Cleveland's Towpath Trail. The recently opened Cleveland Foundation Centennial Trail (formerly the Lake Link Trail) is not officially part of the Towpath Trail, although it does connect to it at Scranton Flats*.
5. Stage 1 will eventually connect the Harvard Road trailhead (just west of Alcoa) to the Steelyard Commons loop in 2019. Until then, you have to travel via Harvard and Jennings Avenues to link the two trails.
6. To get from the Steelyard Commons loop to Scranton Flats, you're back on grade via Quigley, West 14th Street and Kenilworth Avenue (or you could cut over via Clark Avenue) to Scranton Road. This route will be replaced by Stage 3 (2017) and Stage 4  (2018).
7. Here is the simplest map showing those on-road connections and complete and planned trails/stages.
8. When you enter the Harvard Road trailhead, you are at the northern terminus of some 85 miles of completed shared use trail that goes straight through to New Philadelphia, Ohio.
9. The finished trail network is aptly described by Richard Kerber, chief planning and design officer at Cleveland Metroparks, as a pedestrian "interstate or freeway—the highest class of off-road trail."
10. What trail users will not likely notice as the miles unfurl before them is the Herculean effort that brought this remarkable amenity to fruition and the staggering collaborations between all the cities and counties (Cuyahoga, Summit, Stark, Tuscarawas) the trail traverses, an array of local and county park systems, the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD), Canalway Partners, corporations, private residents, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP), the Ohio & Erie Canalway, the state of Ohio and a host of organizations that while too numerous to list, were all key pieces in the larger puzzle.
Lastly, a suggested activity while you wait for these few remaining urban trail connections to be complete. The following nearly two-mile stroll will take your breath away. Every view is worthy of a camera and then some. This simple loop will also connect you with your city: where it's been, where it is and where it's going. So queue up Google maps if you haven’t already, and follow along.
Get your person down to Scranton Flats and get on that trail that hugs the river. Head south, up the incline. Go right at the fork in the trail and over the two pedestrian bridges (you're on the *Lake Link Trail, by the way). When you reach the trail's end at the intersection of Franklin Avenue and Columbus Road, turn right and walk over the Columbus Road Bridge. Continue north on Columbus to Center Street and take a right. Go on up the hill and take a right to head over the Carter Road Bridge. Then go left toward the defunct Eagle Street Bridge and take a moment to consider that massive iconic structure.
You ought to be at the northern tip of Scranton Flats, which is where you started.
So go on: take a hike. Cleveland's waiting for you.

Inviting transformation begins on East 22nd Street corridor

Last Friday, work began on the $4.3 million East 22nd Street improvement project. The effort will revitalize the nearly one-mile corridor between Orange and Euclid Avenues with new pavement; curb, drainage and sidewalk work; median improvements and new traffic signals. Upgrades will also include new streetscape elements such as signage, benches, brick pavers, bike racks, trash receptacles, trees and shrubs.
The project is a collaboration between the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), the city of Cleveland and the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA). Road work is slated for completion this fall, with streetscaping amenities to be complete in the spring of 2016.
"East 22nd Street really will become our north/south 'Main Street,'" says Bobbi Reichtell, executive director at Campus District, Inc., noting how the project will improve the connection between Saint Vincent Charity Medical CenterCleveland State University, and Cuyahoga Community College.
"There are a lot of students that go between CSU and Tri-C. They take classes at both," she says. "It is literally a 12-minute walk. It's not a pleasant walk right now. It's barren and institutional. No one walks or bikes it."
Reichtell is confident that will change when bike lanes, greenery, neighborhood signs and public art created by local artist Augustus Turner are all in place.
"It's just going to be a much more pleasant experience for biking and walking," she says. "We expect to have many more walkers and bikers between CSU and Tri-C."
As usual, before Clevelanders see improvements they'll have to endure some orange barrels. East 22nd Street will be reduced to one lane of traffic in each direction between Orange and Carnegie Avenues. Between Carnegie and Euclid Avenues, which is already one-way northbound, traffic will be reduced to one lane. Motorists are advised to be aware of signal modifications during construction as well.
Ironically, this does not necessarily come as bad news to many within the Campus District, including Reichtell, who expresses as much with words rarely heard in Northeast Ohio. "We are so excited to see orange barrels," she says. "Even though it will bring short term pain, this is a long time in coming. We're finally getting what we've been asking for."

Cleveland Neighborhood Progress announces finalists for Vibrant City Awards

On April 28, 2015, Cleveland’s community development industry will gather at the Victory Center, 7012 Euclid Avenue, to recognize the accomplishments of its colleagues and organizations with seven awards during the first annual Vibrant City Awards luncheon.
Event host Cleveland Neighborhood Progress (CNP) will present the inaugural Morton L. Mandel Leadership in Community Development Award along with six other awards recognizing an array of community development efforts.
"This is a wonderful opportunity for our organization to convene the community development industry alongside city stakeholders and recognize successful neighborhood revitalization efforts," says Joel Ratner, president and CEO of CNP. "The Vibrant City Awards lunch continues a tradition of celebrating our collective accomplishments and enlisting new city advocates and champions."
"This is a celebration of the city—a celebration of the neighborhoods—and all are welcome," adds CNP's director of neighborhood marketing Jeff Kipp. "Obviously, community development stakeholders will be there, but this is part of our efforts to build up the core base of ambassadors and advocates and champions of city living. So anyone who has any role in that, from a resident to a store owner to a corporate executive, we want them to feel welcome to attend."
Response to the event has been brisk.
"We are very pleased that over 400 people have registered so far," says Kipp, adding that the capacity of the venue is 500.
While the recipient of the Morton L. Mandel award, which recognizes an individual who has had a profound impact in the community development field, will be announced at the ceremony, here is a synopsis of the six other community development awards and the associated finalists.
The three finalists for the Neighborhood Branding and Marketing Award include the Downtown Cleveland Alliance for its “You and Downtown” video, the Historic Gateway Neighborhood Corporation for the Take a Hike Tour offering and Tremont West Development Corporation for its Gay Games 9 Neighborhood Marketing campaign.
Finalists for the Community Collaboration Award include Kamm’s Corners Development Corporation and Bellaire Puritas Development Corporation for their efforts on the One West Park Visioning Study; the Ohio City, Inc., Tremont West Development Corporation and Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization; for their collaboration on the Near West Recreation effort; the Campus District Inc. for its Banner Up! project; and the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization/Gordon Square Arts District for its innovative collaboration with Cleveland Public Theatre and Near West Theatre and an associated capital campaign.
The Burten Bell Carr Development for the Market Café and Community Kitchen, the Historic Warehouse District Development Corporation for its Small Box Retail campaign, the Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation for its Intergenerational Housing initiative and Slavic Village Development for its Slavic Village Recovery project are all finalists for the Community Development Corporation Catalytic Project/Program Award. 
Those vying for the Corporate Partner Award include Fairview Hospital for its sustained commitment to the West Park neighborhood, Heinen’s Grocery Store for its successful efforts to realize a full service grocery Downtown at The 9 and Third Federal Savings for its continued partnership and investment in Slavic Village.
For his work in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood, Mike DeCesare of Case Development is a finalist for the Developer Award, as are Keith Sutton and Dave Territo of Sutton Builders for their efforts to revitalize Tremont, Mark Jablonski of CenterMark Development for his work at Lakeview Road and Superior Avenue and Sustainable Communities Associates partners Ben Ezinga, Josh Rosen and Naomi Sabel for completing the Fairmont Creamery development.
Finalists for the Urban Realtor Award include co-owners Keith Brown and Dave Sharkey of Progressive Urban Real Estate for their continued committed to Cleveland neighborhoods and Mark Lastition of the Howard Hanna Ohio City branch for his willingness to partner with developers on new construction and community events.
The Vibrant City Awards Lunch is open to the public. Tickets can be purchased via this link. For questions and comments, contact Jeff Kipp at 216.453.1453, or via email.

Skidmark Garage set to burn rubber with May grand opening

Brian Schaffran has been riding motorcycles for 15 years, starting with a 1978 Honda CB750 he found on the side of the road in his hometown of Strongsville. He quickly fell in love, not just with the romantic notion of riding itself, but with the restoration and maintenance required to make his baby street-ready.

"There's a gratifying aspect to fixing something with your own hands," says Schaffran, 43.

A mechanical-minded DIY attitude is something Schaffran aims to impart with Skidmark Garage, a 2,800-square foot space for riders to roll in and work on their choppers, crotch rockets, hogs or other hotrodding euphemism of choice.

The garage, located in the Hildebrandt Building in the Clark-Fulton neighborhood, will rent out tools, lifts and storage bays to motorcycle enthusiasts. If all goes well, the space will also create a community of folks to share advice, spare parts and perhaps a beer or two while they maintain their rides.

"I'm not a mechanic," says Schaffran, a former history and computer teacher at Saint Martin de Porres High School. "I'm providing a place to hang out and work on your bike."

Although the space is open for business, its owner is preparing for a grand opening celebration scheduled for May 2. Schaffran hopes to draw not just current riders, but people from surrounding city neighborhoods who don't yet own a motorcycle as apartment life leaves them few storage options.

"My average customer will probably be a guy in his 20s who bought some used piece of junk and doesn't have anywhere to put it," says Schaffran.

The bike-loving entrepreneur has been sitting on the idea for a community fix-it clubhouse since he himself was in his 20s. Living in Los Angeles at the time, Schaffran would borrow tools from friendly mechanics and tinker with his vehicles at home.

"Friends would come over and work in my garage, too," he says. "I thought how cool it would be to have a place with a couple of lifts for people to work on their vehicles."

Schaffran has excitedly expanded that picture in his head now that it's becoming closer to reality. "I can see a garage full of 10 or 15 guys helping each other out and fixing their bikes, no matter what time of day, then leaving here feeling like they accomplished something huge," he says.

E. 34th Street rapid station slated for a $6.8m makeover

After nearly a year-long campaign by members of the Campus District community, the E. 34th Street rapid station will be renovated to make it more accessible, ADA compliant and less isolated. The RTA Board of Trustees voted on February 17th to move ahead with plans to design and build a new station.

The E. 34th Street station serves all three Rapid lines, but it’s not a popular stop right now. “The only people who use that station now are the people who really need it,” explains Campus District Inc. director Bobbi Reichtell. “It’s kind of secluded, the lighting is poor and you just feel isolated.”
But members of the Campus District community began arguing last May that the station is needed in the neighborhood, with places like Judge Nancy McDonnell Center and Oriana House, the Women's Reintegration Center, CMHA and the main branch of the Cleveland U.S. Post Office all within range of the stop, as well as a high population of residents who depend on public transportation to get to school and work.
“And there is $330 million in investment going into the Campus District and Cleveland State University within a mile of the 34th Street station,” adds Reichtell. “There’s a huge amount of investment underway and planned, and there are people who need access.”

Plans for the new station include better visibility, lighting, parking and an ADA compliant ramp down to the platform. Advocates argued that making the station more accessible and attractive will increase ridership.
Reichtell said they also cited the W. 65th Street and Lorain Avenue rapid station in the EcoVillage community of the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood as a success story that could be mirrored at E. 34th. “It used to be even worse than 34th Street,” Reichtell says of the W. 65th station. “The community lobbied that if you can create a better shelter more people would use it. And that’s exactly what happened.”
RTA’s deputy general manager of engineering and project management Mike Schipper said the construction phase of the project will cost $6.8 million. Requests for design proposals will begin in April. The design phase will most likely take a year, says Schipper, with construction bids starting in late 2016 and construction beginning in early 2017. A study phase has already been completed.
“I’m glad we have gotten through the study phase so we can get going,” says Schipper. “Whatever we do there will be an improvement over what’s there now. We got a lot of great input from that neighborhood, and we expect them to provide good input when we get to the design phase.”

DCA seeks qualified firms, individuals to rethink Main Avenue bridge underpass

The area under the Main Avenue Bridge underpass at the intersection of West 9th Street and Main Avenue is an unusual corner of the city that's soon to get some attention—from up to three entities that have yet to be determined. Downtown Cleveland Alliance (DCA) is on a mission to find them.

The organization has queried near and far to find up to three creative professionals or teams they deem qualified to propose upgrades for the underpass area, which Laura Wiegand, director of development and community relations at DCA, describes this way: "We view it as an area that has either real or perceived gaps or barriers in the urban fabric, meaning that it's not a pleasant pedestrian experience. It's not a working bicycle connection."

The space also lacks lighting and wayfinding for pedestrians, says Wiegand. "It's actually even difficult for vehicles to figure out that this is how you get down to the Flat's east bank. It's especially dark in daylight because of the shadows."

The Main Avenue Bridge Underpass Improvement Competition is an offshoot of the Step Up Downtown initiative, which the organization bills as a "visual and tactical plan for downtown Cleveland." DCA sent out information about their quest to architectural websites and various networks.

"We've received inquiries from firms all over the world," says Wiegand, tagging Canadian, local and mostly U.S.-based firms, although one entry came from China that will not be considered, as the competition is limited to North America.

Up to three qualified entities from the applicant pool will receive an $8,500 honorarium and $3,000 travel budget to inspect the underpass space and draw up a proposal that gives it an identity, improves lighting and safety in a creative way, makes it attractive, and "does the work of connecting two of our most vibrant downtown neighborhoods, which are the Warehouse District and the Flats," says Wiegand.

By way of example, she cites Playhouse Square as another key connection that has a unique character and placemaking attributes such as the chandelier and archways.

"We are not looking for a similar treatment but for a treatment that is potentially identifiable and creates a unique experience on the other side of downtown," says Wiegand.

The deadline for interested parties to submit their request for qualification (RQF) forms is March 6th at 4:30 p.m. The qualified candidates will be selected by April 1st. Their exploratory site visits should be complete by the end of April with final proposals due in mid-July. The winning design will be selected in early August, with fabrication and installation, the estimate for which is $800,000, tentatively scheduled for spring of 2016.

"We are working on fundraising for implementation of the final project," says Wiegand, adding that the current activities were made possible with the support of the Cleveland Foundation and other strategic partners. "Hopefully we'll be able to move forward in implementing it exactly as described or in combination with local firms, but that remains to be determined."

Details regarding the project, including RFQ submission guidelines are available here.

"We're looking forward to seeing qualifications from all kinds of firms," says Wiegand, "but we're particularly interested in local submissions."

$9m foundry project adds to transformation of flats into recreation hub

A unique property along the Cuyahoga River, featuring 80,000 square feet of space across 12 buildings, is set to be transformed into a youth and collegiate boathouse, fitness center and public park. The $9 million project, called The Foundry after its historic use, is located on Columbus Road across from Rivergate Park and will offer 500 feet of riverfront dock space for young rowers.

The Foundry is being developed by MCPc Family Charities, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, as well as by Mike and Gina Trebilcock. MCPc, Inc. is a technology integrator and consultancy located in downtown Cleveland. The Trebilcocks have three children, all of whom were rowers, and the nonprofit has long supported rowing in Cleveland.

Plans for the property include a new public park and multipurpose trail that will connect with Rivergate Park; offices, study rooms and other areas for young people and coaches; at least two "rowing tanks" where rowers can practice in water during the off-season; a large boathouse where boats can be stored and repaired; and possibly a second-level observation areas where parents can watch young people row. The new owners say that Phase I will be open by September.

The property is a stunning slice of riverfront beauty, offering views of downtown, Irishtown Bend, the Columbus Road bridge and the Lorain Carnegie bridge.

"We want local rowers to see there's a future for rowing here," said Matt Previts, Higher Education Vertical Manager at MCPc, during a recent tour of the sprawling property. Previts is an avid rower who coached at St. Ignatius for a decade. He is also director of rowing with the Cleveland Youth Rowing Association, the group that helps students whose schools do not have affiliated programs -- like Cleveland Municipal School District -- gain access to the sport.

CYRA and various school-based programs will be the property's main occupants and users. Currently, these groups share space with the Cleveland Rowing Foundation, which is crammed into the boathouse at Rivergate Park. The move will create a separate space that youth and collegiate rowing programs will be able to grow into, while freeing up valuable space at the current boathouse.

Previts stated that MCPc Charities plans to donate the majority of the funding necessary to renovate the complex, which is partially occupied. The property has been owned by Pipeline Development for 50 years, and a for-profit entity owned by the Trebilcocks just purchased it for $3 million. During an initial five-year period, that for-profit entity will hold the property. After that period, the Trebilcocks intend to donate it to a nonprofit that would manage it as a youth rowing center.

The complex of brick buildings includes high ceilings and two ton cranes that were once used to move heavy equipment around. The buildings will soon prove to be perfect spaces for young rowers who see the working , industrial Cuyahoga River as a vibrant recreational playground. "You can't make this stuff anymore," said Previts of the old brick walls and barn doors, which will be preserved. "The renovation will honor the heritage that is here. It just feels industrial and cool."

Kirk Lang, Executive Director of the Cleveland Rowing Foundation, released a statement in the wake of the Foundry announcement: "The announcement of plans for a second boathouse indicate that the sport is indeed on the rise here. The Trebilcock family’s investment is also, as our partners at Cleveland Metroparks have noted, another vote of confidence in the future of the Cuyahoga River as a regional destination for recreation. We will collaborate with all users on rules to ensure continued safety on the river. This announcement will not affect our plans to push forward with improvements to the current CRF boathouse that will enable us to better serve the adult, collegiate and scholastic programs that have and will continue to flourish there."

Land stated in a followup email that some youth and collegiate rowing programs will continue to operate out of the CRF boathouse.

The Foundry project will also displace a few tenants, perhaps most notably the Cleveland Museum of Art's Community Arts Program. This is the spot where CMA's Community Arts Director Robin Van Lear and her cohorts store and create puppets and props for Parade the Circle. Previts stressed that the transition will be gradual so that existing tenants can find a place to land.

Previts believes the building's new use will not cause a conflict with existing property owners, despite everpresent concerns in the Flats -- and particularly around Rivergate Park -- about parking and traffic. Plans for the buildings will accommodate enough parking spaces for visitors, he stated. A few of the non-historic buildings will be knocked down to create additional parking spaces, and many of the youth coaches drive their rowers in buses down to the river.

eastside greenway aims to connect 19 cities with unified network of trails

Last week, two crowds of people interested in the expansion of greenspace, connectivity and alternative transportation converged on Happy Dog at Euclid Tavern and the Beachwood Branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library (CCPL) on Wednesday and Thursday respectively. They came to discuss and learn about preliminary plans for the proposed Cuyahoga County Eastside Greenway project. About 80 attended the first event and 40 went to the second.
"It was great turnout, considering the weather," says Anna Swanberg, project manager for Land Studio, which is spearheading the effort and will hold additional meetings tonight from 7 to 9 p.m. at Waterloo Brew, 15335 Waterloo Road and tomorrow from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the University Heights Public Library, 13866 Cedar Road. Interested parties unable to attend a meeting can view the entire presentation online and offer input via an online survey.
The presentation outlines an ambitious vision for a new greenspace network that will ideally sprawl over the east side of Cuyahoga County, covering a diverse range of 18 communities such as the cities of Euclid and Pepper Pike and neighborhoods from Hough to Coventry.
"We do have such a diverse range of neighborhoods and socioeconomic groups and racial groups," says Swanberg. "It's just across the board. The great thing about this (project) is it would be ensuring access for everybody."
Meeting attendees were curious about what an Eastside Greenway would look like in reality.
"The answer to that question," admits Swanberg, "we don't have quite yet."
That said, the online presentation offers an array of maps and bullet points that give shape to the proposal. The project will target main thoroughfares such as the Euclid, Belvoir, Shaker and Gates Mills/SOM Center corridors. The centerpieces of the Greenway's infrastructure will be dedicated off-road multipurpose trails, the construction of which presents an array of challenges such as right-of-way constraints and property acquisition easements.
"It's very difficult to get an off-road trail built in a densely populated area," says Swanberg, "but that is the goal for those segments." She calls the Eastside Greenway a "career project," that will unfold over 10, 15 or twenty years.
A secondary network of connectors will augment dedicated trails, most likely by way of on-street dedicated, buffered or protected bike lanes or sharrows, which are shared lanes, marked by a stencil of a bike and arrows that indicate bikes may use the full lane.
A $118,000 Transportation for Livable Communities Initiative Grant from the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) is funding this initial planning phase of the project, along with $32,000 in matching funds raised by Land Studio and project partners.  
"We began with this last summer. Right now we're sort of at a midway point; our goal is to have a final report in July of this year," says Swanberg. "The great thing about a Livable Communities Grant is that it’s a federal grant. It's really designed to be the planning that sets you up to get federal implementation dollars down the road."
Intuitive goals of the Greenway include connecting pedestrians and bicyclists to employment and retail hubs, existing trails such as Morgana Run, the lakeshore and public services; but there is another lofty intent.
"We're looking at what this greenway means for health outcomes," adds Swanberg. "We're partnering with the county Board of Health on a health impact assessment, which is a relatively new planning tool that takes a research-based approach to looking at planning decisions."
The aim is to mitigate accidents, crime and fear of crime while promoting safety, physical activity and social cohesion between and within communities.
If you have a cohesive community in which people look out for one another, those areas tend to have less crime, says Swanberg, adding that one way to achieve cohesion is through equality.
But what does a greenway have to do with equality?
"The goal is to put everybody on the east side within a five or ten minute walk to one of these trails," says Swanberg, adding that the project enables transportation choices and access to amenities for everyone.
"Access is equality."

clifton boulevard-style transit eyed for 25th street corridor

A study conducted by Cleveland Neighborhood Progress (CNP) and funded by the Cleveland Foundation and Enterprise Community Partners regarding the West 25th Street corridor (extending from the State Road intersection north to Detroit Avenue) has concluded that a dense residential neighborhood and reliable transit line go hand in hand.
The final report for the W. 25th Transit Oriented Development Strategy is due out at the end of this month, but Fresh Water got a preview from Wayne Mortensen, CNP's director of design and development.
"The study was designed to answer two sets of very critical interrelated questions. One being: what is the ultimate desired level of transit along corridor in terms of frequency, service and style?" says Mortensen, adding that the other focus was on the amount and type of area housing that would be required in order to support that transit and sustain it economically.
"West 25th is perhaps the most critical north/south connection in the city of Cleveland," he says of the 3.8-mile stretch, "and definitely for the West Side."
The group conducted three public meetings using eight different working groups, each of which focused on a separate issue including, commerce, education, housing, the pedestrian experience, recreation, services, transit and workforce.
"One of the most poignant points of feedback came from workforce group," says Mortensen. The group cited a hypothetical single mother, who might rely on public transit for daily stops at a daycare facility, a workplace and a grocery store. "She is relying on transit to be on time and efficient six to eight times a day. That's not something a lot of people in Cleveland understand or empathize with."
To meet those needs, the study concludes that a transit system similar to the Cleveland State Line, which runs along Clifton Boulevard, would be the best fit. Mortensen cites the line's frequency, improved waiting environments and a dedicated bus lane during certain times of the day. The line is also branded.
"So everyone knows when they hop on exactly where they're headed. It's more friendly in terms of way-finding and getting around the city," says Mortensen. "That's the closest example to what we think we can achieve.
"I want to be clear: we don't think of this as the next Euclid Health Line," he adds. "This is not as invasive or as capital intensive as what we see on Euclid."
In order to support transit efficiency similar to the Clifton Boulevard experience and keep that mom on time, a certain level of population density is required, which leads to the housing portion of the study.
"Depending on which part of corridor we're in," says Mortensen, "every housing project should be at least eight to 12 units per acre in terms of concentration density and be of an urban quality."
But is density desirable? That's a subjective question. It is, however, natural for areas such as the 25th Street corridor.
"Urban neighborhoods are more predisposed to attracting residents that have proactively--or just through the logistics of their lives have--foregone private transit," says Mortensen. Since people opt out of public transit for different reasons, they breed diversity in the urban communities they populate while creating a customer base for the public transit suppliers.
Committing to residential density leads to perhaps the most challenging implication of the study.
"It's going to be really important that all the community development corporations and communities work together and nobody develops projects along the corridor or within a ¼ mile that create less dense residential neighborhoods."
It's a tall order, one that Mortensen estimates could take up to 10 years.
"What's most important is patience by the community right now."

metroparks plans $14m of improvements to lakefront parks, including edgewater beach house

The Cleveland Metroparks is rapidly approaching its 100 year anniversary in 2017, and the park system is currently working on improvements aimed at honoring the founders' vision and propelling the parks into the next century.

This week, the Metroparks unveiled $14 million of planned improvements to the lakefront parks. They include a two-level beach house at Edgewater Park, a boardwalk that would extend over the water at Whiskey island, a rebuilt pier at Euclid Beach, a pedestrian bridge crossing Euclid Creek and connecting Euclid Beach to Wildwood, and upgraded facilities at the East 55th Marina.

"The Metroparks has made major changes at the lakefront parks in the past 18 months," stated a video about the lakefront plan, reminding participants of the enhancements implemented since the Metroparkstook over management of the parks from the State of Ohio. "Imagine what it can look like in 20 years."

In a brief presentation at a community meeting held Tuesday at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, Metroparks officials stated that the agency's priorities are to foster clean, safe parks, connect people with the waterfront and strengthen the surrounding communities. They also stressed that the plans unveiled this week are the result of nearly two years of meetings with residents and stakeholders.

Chief Planning and Design Officer Sean McDermott went into some detail about the proposed Edgewater Park beach house, which will transform what is now a small, benign concessions area and uninspired, bunker-like pavilion into a community hub that will no doubt draw residents and tourists alike.

"We envision this to be a hub of activity in lower Edgewater," McDermott stated at the meeting. "It's an iconic, exciting structure that's still in the early stages of design. This will be a $4 million investment, and we'll only have one opportunity to do this. We really want to make it shine as the centerpiece of the park."

The proposed beach house will have two levels. The second level will consist of a gathering area where visitors can enjoy a picnic lunch, meet friends or just take in the great views. The 9,200 square foot facility will have an expanded concessions area and retail store on the first level. A bridge will connect the second level directly with the entrance to the West 76th Street bike-ped tunnel.

Some of these projects, like the beach house and roundabout at Lower Edgewater, are slated to be completed within the next few years. Others are longer-term improvements and have no clear timeline at this point.

However, Metroparks officials stated that the $14m to be spent stems from funds provided by the state when management of the parks was transferred. Officials did not provide a list of which improvements are already slated to be completed as part of the $14m.

Want to weigh in on planned improvements? Visit the Metroparks' website or attend one of the community meetings planned for this week. Park officials stated that renderings will be available on their website by Thursday.

Here's a list of some of the improvements unveiled at Tuesday's meeting.

Lower Edgewater

- A new roundabout will be built to alleviate traffic problems
- Arrival plaza with play features, fire/water features, outdoor dining area
- Improved trail system throughout the park
- Expanded, improved parking area with loop drives and dropoff areas
- Improved concession area with deck/stage
- Expanded/enhanced fishing pier
- Terraced seating along the waterfront
- Seatwalls and columns at the beach
- Barriers to help keep the sand off of the bike-pedestrian path
- New lakefront bikeway that traverses the entire park and Whiskey Island

Upper Edgewater

- Grand staircase leading to water with upper/lower terraces and trail connections
- New shelter and themed play area
- Upgraded restrooms
- Improved access to Perkins Beach
- Great lawn for large groups, pick up sports and picnicking
- New gazebo near Wagner statue
- Improved trails throughout, including to Perkins Beach
- New scenic overlook with downtown vista
- Reorganized parking layout with reduced pavement
- Rebuilt/improved piers at Perkins Beach

Whiskey Island

- Improved restrooms and concession building
- Boardwalk trail link along waterfront
- Grassy play area to be dubbed "The Arena"
- Connections to water taxi to be housed near Main Ave. bridge
- Overlook Plaza where pedestrian bridge ends
- Improved access to beach areas
- Picnic area and event space

We'll continue to follow and report on planned improvements to the lakefront park system. Next up, we'll delve into what's in store for the east side parks.

cedar-taylor merchant group hits fundraising goal, plans for spring improvements

Having reached an important fundraising goal of $5,500 just last month, the Cedar-Taylor Development Association (CTDA) will see the fruits of its persistence come to fruition next spring.
The $5,500 figure is significant as it unlocks the second half of an $11,000 Cleveland Heights 2014 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). With $16,500 in its coffers, CTDA can begin prioritizing their streetscape plan, which was conducted by Michelle Bandy-Zalatoris and financed by a $5,250 CDBG issued by Cleveland Heights in 2013. Further sweetening the pot is an additional $10,000 CDBG from Cleveland Heights that will be available in July 2015.
Kevin Smith, CTDA president, estimates the total cost of realizing the plan will be $100,000. That's a lot of dough, but with $27,500 on the books, it's starting to look attainable.
"Our first source of funds came from going door to door to talk to business owners and suggesting a donation of $100 to be member," says Smith. "Some gave less. Some gave more." He also notes that a handful of residents and a generous anonymous donor helped to reach the $5,500, as did a Nov. 8 fundraiser wherein local vendors donated a portion of their sales to the effort.
The district covers Cedar Road between Hampstead and the end of the business district, and Taylor Road from Washington Boulevard to Sherwin Williams, 2193 South Taylor Road. While money from Cleveland Heights cannot be spent on the portion of the district that lies in University Heights (everything east of Taylor), the funds raised by CTDA can.
"University Heights is looking for funds as well," says Smith.
The group intends to "get their ducks in a row" over winter and prioritize spending, but Smith says they will likely start with items such as benches, planters, banner signage, trash receptacles and/or custom bike racks.
"We want there to be somewhat of a splash," he says, adding that they can't do everything at once. "If we wanted to, say, add ten benches total, maybe we do four benches this year."
Larger ticket items include adding a turn lane, angle parking and public art. Smith cites an example: instead of two simple white striped lines defining a crosswalk, "you make it into kind of an art piece. Maybe outside of Melt, the crosswalk is a painted knife and a painted fork." He adds that CTDA may reach out to Heights Arts.
"They're a great local Heights-based arts organization that we'd like to collaborate with."
Smith owns a 3,000-square foot building in the district that currently houses two tenants, Enroll America, 13437 Cedar Road, a nonprofit that helps people sign up for the Affordable Care Act and Critical Hit Games, 13433 Cedar Road. He and others founded the CTDA in 2012. The group of approximately 60 merchants, property owners and residents make up the 501(c)(3) nonprofit. There are six board members.
The group differs from Cleveland's many community development corporations and the special improvement districts in Cleveland Heights, which are all formal and complex public/private entities.
"We're much more grass roots," says Smith. "We're all volunteer. We have absolutely no overhead. We have no office. Everything we get goes directly into this programming/neighborhood."
But what is the impetus behind his fervent neighborhood advocacy?
"If we don't take the initiative ourselves, nobody's going to do it for us."

long-awaited makeover of mlk jr. drive and 'suicide circle' now open

The much-maligned traffic circle at East 105th and MLK Jr. Drive has been completely redeveloped and is now open to vehicle traffic. Fresh Water first reported on these planned improvements two and a half years ago.

"This traffic circle has one of the highest rates of vehicular accidents in the region -- they're mostly fender benders, because people are just confused by it," Chris Bongorno, Director of Planning with University Circle Incorporated (UCI), said at the time. "The new configuration will definitely be more pedestrian and bike friendly, and will also help to connect people to Rockefeller Park and University Circle."

According to a press release from Cuyahoga County, which spearheaded the project in partnership with the City of Cleveland, the $7.2 million infrastructure project "modified an existing roadway network at East 105th Street, MLK Boulevard, Mt. Sinai Drive, East Boulevard, and Jeptha Drive. An existing roundabout was eliminated and the remaining roadways geometrically realigned."
The project complete overhauled the existing infrastructure. Mt. Sinai was moved south of its previous location, while Jeptha Drive was moved north. East 105th Street was widened and now includes turning lanes. Finally, MLK Jr. Boulevard has been widened and realigned, and East Boulevard has been extended.

Additional improvements include new sidewalks, paths and the reconstruction of the Cancer Survivor Plaza. A new bio swale will have over 4,000 shrubs and perennials, apparently.
The pedestrian- and bike-friendly components of the project, a major priority for the University Circle area, join a host of similar initiatives in the area, including bike lanes on Euclid Avenue and two new Red Line rapid stations. A pedestrian boardwalk will serve to connect East 105th Street to MLK Jr. Blvd.

There are still a few items to be ticked off the completion list, including installation of the shrubs and perennials, permanent pavement markings and permanent traffic signals, but the project is largely done in time for the holidays.

university circle transportation study: 'we have enough parking, but it needs to be easier to use'

While that quote comes from Chris Bongorno, transportation planning manager for University Circle Inc. (UCI), he is quick to point out that the complex parking situation in University Circle cannot be summed up in a single sentence. He also readily admits that the major thrust of the study's findings -- that the existing 37,000 parking spaces in the University Circle area are sufficient in an aggregate sense -- will likely raise some eyebrows.
"That will instigate a lot of reaction because that's not the perception or reality to some people," he says.
Anyone who frequents University Circle by car knows the impetus behind the study. Parking can be tight, and it's not uncommon for employees and visitors to park some distance from their destinations. While the number of bike commuters and transit users is growing, it's safe to say that the vast majority still drive.

Although the findings of the District Parking Study, which is part of the larger Moving Greater University Circle Transportation and Mobility Study, are still in the draft stage and not yet publicly available, Bongorno gave Fresh Water a fascinating insight into this otherwise utilitarian topic and the study's results.
"Where there are (parking) constraints is during peak times," he says, adding that identifying different parking supply and demand markets is critical. Rather than building more expensive parking garages that do not command sufficient revenue to cover the associated debt, says Bongorno, the informed option is to "find more creative ways to coordinate management and use of existing facilities."
He cites the Veteran's Administration Medical Center's two large garages, which are near peak use during the day, but no so at other times. "In the evenings, they make those garages available to the public," he says, which is convenient for attendees of events such as Wade Oval Wednesdays.
That's easy enough to understand. Who hasn't looked on with frustration at a No parking – Violators will be towed sign in front of a desolate office building parking lot on a Sunday? Hence, with 15 different organizations in the University Circle area giving 15 different messages about how to park and get around, there is significant room for coordinated efforts.
"This is not something that would be easily achieved," concedes Bongorno, adding that parking lot owners have reasons why they want to manage their own facilities, but that it can be done. He cites the recent transformation of Uptown, where surface lots were replaced with dense and dynamic mixed-use development. Getting UCI, University Hospitals and Case Western Reserve University to commit to shared-use of their area garages was instrumental in obtaining zoning variances for the new projects, which eliminated parking spaces and incurred more users.
"That's worked there," says Bongorno. However, challenges persist, particularly with communication. People can't always find those spaces, which is often a problem with transportation management and will be addressed at large as the project proceeds. Currently, there is a shuttle service that ferries employees between outlying garages and their workplaces.
A $100,000 Transportation for Livable Communities Initiative Planning Grant from the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency is funding the study, along with matching contributions from private philanthropic partners. Phase two, the Transportation and Mobility Study, began in September and is scheduled for completion in early 2015. Work on the final phase of the study, the Transportation Management Implementation Plan, will begin in spring 2015. Nelson\Nygaard, which specializes in developing transportation communities, is the lead consultant on the project.
"They're really experienced in multi-modal transportation planning around the world," says Bongorno, noting that they've done work in Pittsburgh, Boston, Philadelphia and Detroit.
Evoking the image of enormous parking lots surrounding malls or big box stores that are often half empty, Bongorno asserts, "We can't build for the day after Thanksgiving. That's not the type of district that we want. We want a district that is very efficiently using its existing assets while maintaining and promoting a walkable and very vibrant 24/7 district."
Another goal of the project is simply to make people remember their experience after they arrived, instead of being focused on parking challenges.

"We don't want people who go to MOCA or the museums or Piccadilly to say anything about their experience driving there or parking. That's not part of their memorable experience. We want it to be about what they saw, who they ran into, and how that ice cream tasted."

"We want transportation to be out of the conversation unless they're saying how easy it was."

years in the making, crooked river skate park brings world-class facility to the flats

It’s not too late to get out and skate Crooked River, before the snow starts to fall.
On Friday at 4 p.m. rain, snow or shine, join Mayor Frank Jackson and Councilman Joe Cimperman in cutting the ribbon and officially welcoming Crooked River Skate Park to the community. The project is aimed at pumping life back into the Flats around Rivergate Park, joining Ohio City Bicyle Co-op, the Cleveland Rowing Foundation and others.
In 2012, the city issued a $758,000 contract to Seattle-based design and construction crew Grindline. They also garnered a $25,000 Tony Hawk Foundation Grant, which enabled the park to add on the kidney bowl and additionally resulted in increased national publicity for the park.

Vince Frantz, director of the Public Square Group, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting skateboarding, spearheaded the project. Since skate parks are typically located in the suburbs and rarely in the city proper, he believes that Crooked River will provide a unique draw to the city. “We think that ultimately this skate park will be a way to engage with the community and become a way for kids to create a strong tie to the community,” says Frantz. 
Frantz also helped to spearhead construction of the Lakewood Skate Park and teaches skate lessons at the Bay Village Skate & Bike Park. He views skateboarding as a lesson in resilience and creativity. “Skating is a shared experience of pushing your skills to the very edge and repeating them. It’s an entrepreneurial spirit not taught in school but taught on a toy,” he says. “It’s a skill in improvisation — like seeing jazz performed.”
Although the park officially opens Friday, the skate portion was completed before Halloween and has already entertained about 50-60 people on an average day since its completion. Before Crooked River opened, Clevelanders had to travel at least two hours in order to skate something of equal caliber. “We brought the passion,” Frantz says. “There’s a rich history of skateboarding in Cleveland and there are a lot of talented skaters that we have lost to the West Coast. “
The park also features a public art installation that will serve as a shelter for shade. “It’s a good use of the public art budget to get something iconic but also functional,” Frantz says. “During the summer it’ll provide shade; it’s sort of derivative of a shipping container and it’s fitting for the riverfront." 

The park’s construction hit a major roadblock in March 2013, when preliminary digging revealed that the dredging soil from the river was too unstable to create a solid base for the park. They relocated the site directly north of the original site and brought in several tons of concrete to use as a solid base.
“Part of the goal was to build a skate park that draws the continuum of generations of skaters together,” Frantz said. The final design chosen was the “Snake Run” concept featuring an iconic snake run and deep kidney bowl along with various street/flow elements and double ledge lines around the edge. It features a mix of concrete, brick, granite and pool coping.
Frantz calls the park a "sculpture" that can be "interpreted on wheels" by skaters. Another unique component of the project was that the construction crew, which consisted of about eight experts, included five local skaters. A total of 35 local skaters and supporters also volunteered in landscaping the park.
Crooked River Skate Park is planning a grand opening in the spring which Frantz hopes will include skateboard demos from local and national skaters and live music. “We can’t rule out a visit from Tony Hawk — but it’s not official yet,” he said.

Editor's note: For an in-depth look at skateboarding in the CLE, check out this article by Fresh Water writer Lee Chilcote that appeared in Scene in May 2012. 

as orange barrels fade, new businesses bloom on waterloo

Last week, Collinwood's Waterloo neighborhood exhaled a collective sigh of relief when the barrage of orange barrels that defined a maze of closures, one-way paths and detours for more than a year was finally removed, marking the completion of a $5.5 million streetscape and repaving project.
Area residents and businesses celebrated the milestone during the neighborhood's Oct. 3rd Walk All Over Waterloo, which is held on the first Friday of every month. In addition to showcasing a clear street, Cyclops Tattoo Studio, 16006 Waterloo Road, held their grand opening, while Waterloo Brew, 15335 Waterloo Road in the Slovenian Workmen's Home, opened its doors for a soft opening.
"Waterloo brew is the oldest school possible kind of beer joint. It’s an old school nationality hall bar," says Brew Owner and Cleveland entrepreneur Alan Glazen, noting that two-thirds of his inaugural customers were from the neighborhood -- and they drank every drop of the pub's signature Waterloo Brew. "We sold out on the first night." A grand opened is scheduled for Oct. 10th.
Those notable openings are flanked by a flurry of other economic activity in the quirky arts district. Loren Naji's funky new Satellite Gallery received an occupancy permit, perhaps fittingly, on Oct. 3rd, just hours before the Waterloo Brew would begin to flow. Construction is ongoing at Brick, a ceramics co-op at 421 East 161st Street, which is adjacent to the future Bright Coffee Bar, 16021 Waterloo Road, also under construction. Both are slated to open in spring 2015.
"We've got a lot of things in the works," says Northeast Shore's Development Corporation's business development specialist Alenka Banco. "The big celebration will happen in the spring."
By then, Zygote Press's Ink House, 423 East 156th Street will also be open. "They have their drawings and pulled all their permits," says Banco, as will the Millard Fillmore Presidential Library, 15617 Waterloo Road, wherein patrons may or may not find books, but are sure to find wood-fired pizza. The Fillmore (for short) is slated to open next month.
Other projects in the works include an ice cream shop and two eateries, one for which details are forthcoming and one at the former Key Bank Building, 15619 Waterloo Road, that will be under the wing of the Luchita's Mexican Restaurant owners. The Reverend Albert Wagner Museum of Art got one step closer to fruition by getting a nonprofit status through the Case Western Reserve University, which paves the way for fundraising.
"We want longevity. We want the arts to be sustainable," says Banco, noting that many of the new ventures, including the Satellite, Ink House and Brick, are unique in that the artist/proprietors own the associated property. "That kind of anchor in a neighborhood is unprecedented."
"It's like using art and culture as economic development tools, as engines," says Glazen.
And you've got to support those artists, asserts Banco, who got a tattoo earlier this month from Cyclops that features a quote from Shakespeare along her arm: Journeys end in lovers meetings.
"It's absolutely beautiful," she says.

keybank donates $4m towards revitalization of public square, bringing project closer to its goal

The KeyBank Foundation has announced a $4 million donation towards the revitalization of Public Square, bringing this long-sought project one step closer to a fall groundbreaking and completion in 2016. The gift is the project's first corporate donation, and the single largest gift in the KeyBank Foundation's history. In recognition, Group Plan Commission leaders spearheading the project have pledged that the new pathway that will ring Public Square will be called the KeyBank Promenade.

“The redevelopment of Public Square will be one of the most significant projects in the city’s history, and we are proud to be able to play a part in making it happen,” said KeyCorp Chairman and CEO Beth Mooney in a press release. “It will provide the kind of public space that acts as a magnet for residents and visitors. Years from now, Clevelanders will regard this project as one of the essential elements in the city’s revitalization.”

KeyBank's gift also meets the requirements of a $1 million challenge grant from the Cleveland Foundation. The gift includes $500,000 for long-term maintenance.

Check out Fresh Water's past coverage of Public Square's revitalization here and here.

newly-unveiled flats plan prioritizes projects, sets stage for additional development

The 2014 Flats Forward Framework Plan, which is being unveiled today at a public meeting at the Music Box Supper Club on the West Bank, offers a roadmap for the area's future. Some of the key priorities identified in the plan include preserving the area's history as an industrial corridor, further developing recreation and riverfront access opportunities, investing in infrastructure and wayfinding signage, and designating land uses to clear the way for additional development.

"The Flats are a critical part of Cleveland's history and demonstrate immense opportunity for future growth," the report states, citing the $4.5 billion in new development that has occurred downtown since 2010, 95 percent apartment occupancy rates, and the growth of Ohio City, Tremont and Gordon Square as reasons for optimism.

The report divides the core of the Flats into six different areas -- the Old River Channel, East Bank, West Bank, Columbus Peninsula, Scranton Peninsula and Irishtown Bend. Some of the challenges identified in the report include confusing entryways into the Flats and the lack of wayfinding signage, the underused riverfront, crumbling infrastructure and poor public transit access.

So what's the future look like? The Flats Forward plan shows a network of green spaces (Whiskey Island, Canal Basin Park, Scranton Flats, Rivergate Park)  connected by trails (Lake Link Trail, proposed River Walk Trail, Towpath Trail). It calls for a maintenance plan to improve the condition of streets and sidewalks and make the area more bike- and pedestrian-friendly. It calls for wayfinding signage, better waterfront access, and improved public transit links.

The plan also develops a roadway typology, suggesting that certain streets should be designated for primarily industrial uses.This could reduce the conflicts that currently exist between industrial concerns and other users in the Flats.

Other immediate next steps including identifying and applying for funding for planning efforts, hiring a marketing and branding firm, and determining market demand and potential land uses through a detailed economic study.

Although this plan represents a long-term vision, new economic activity is already being generated in the Flats. The shipping channel is very active, Rivergate Park is a recreation hub, the Columbus Peninsula is seeing redevelopment and both the East and West Banks are adding new businesses. This report suggests that this activity will increase -- and provides a roadmap to help guide it along.

mayor jackson's goodtime tour touts long-awaited action on waterfront development

Five years ago, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson talked about plans for Cleveland’s lakefront and riverfront. These days, he’s talking about putting those plans into action. As he recently stated, “The only good plan you have is one you’re doing. Everything else is just a good conversation.”
Jackson recently conducted a waterfront tour called “Back to the Future II” on the Goodtime III to highlight progress in lakefront and riverfront development. Jackson, along with Chief of Regional Development Ed Rybka and Cleveland Metroparks CEO Brian Zimmerman, narrated a plan that’s coming to life.
The Mayor introduced the tour by saying, “Cleveland is one of the few American cities with both a riverfront and a lakefront. The waterfront helped build the city and is a vital part of Cleveland’s future -- the important thing going forward is that we do it right.”
With that, Jackson highlighted his goals for the waterfront: conservation, economic development and recreation. Those goals are being achieved through projects such as a pedestrian bridge and redevelopment of North Coast Harbor as well as multi-purpose trails like the Lake Link Trail and Towpath Trail.
The tour kicked off with an overview of plans for North Coast Harbor. Rybka and Zimmerman touted the 200 market-rate apartments and 80,000 square feet of office space planned for Phase I. “Phases Two and Three will become a walkable, mixed-use maritime development, including housing, retail and a school site,” explained Rybka.
As the tour continued up the river, residents, media and public officials caught a great view of the new Flats East project, where Phase II currently is under construction, and the recently opened Music Box Supper Club on the west bank.
Zimmerman pointed out Rivergate Park, which offers riverfront dining at the newly opened Merwin’s Wharf. He also highlighted the new Crooked River Skate Park, which is employing “the best practices in skate park construction.”
Overall, the tour showcased how far Cleveland has come in the past five years. “We’re using the investments to rebuild the city, connecting people to the lakefront,” said Rybka. “We’re placing value on what created Cleveland in the first place. We’re positioning Cleveland as one of the great waterfront cities.”
Jackson said he’s pleased development is moving ahead along Cleveland’s shore. “A plan is a plan until you do something about it,” he said. “It’s timing. We’re in a position now where things are just lined up right.”

Photos Bob Perkoski

new owners transform winchester music hall into the bevy with live music and food

The Winchester Music Hall, a classic Lakewood venue that closed late last year after a decades-long run, will soon enjoy a new lease on life as The Bevy in Birdtown, a restaurant and music venue set to open next month.

New owners Patty Lim and Beth Scebbi of New Century Builders have completely refreshed the space. The bar area has new flooring, a new ceiling, fresh paint and custom-designed lighting crafted from old wine bottles. There are eight draft beer lines, and a new kitchen will allow for a full-service menu that is scheduled to start sometime in October.

"We felt that Madison Avenue is really going to be taking over," says Lim. "Detroit Avenue is at its peak, and this is the next phase of development in Lakewood."

County records show that Dially's Investment Group LLC purchased the building for $150,000 in July from previous owner James Mileti. The building needed to be updated, and the new owners are not only renovating the space, but also adding some new touches that will likely make the Bevy a popular destination spot.

Lim and Sceibbi have cleaned up the historic sandstone and brick exterior, and they're adding a prominent sign featuring The Bevy's logo (a martini glass with birds flying around it -- how cool is that?). They're also adding a large sidewalk patio to take advantage of the building's deep sidewalk. Next year, they plan to transform a lovely brick nook alongside the building into a second patio area.

The Bevy will feature a full lineup of entertainment scheduled to start later this year. Lim plans to hire not only bands playing rock, blues, jazz and other styles, but also comedians. She's not worried about competition from The Music Box, Vosh, Mahall's 20 Lanes or other nearby venues, saying "the more the merrier."

The music hall, which is located in a former bowling alley, will become a bit cozier thanks to the addition of a private party room and offices in the rear. The party room will be nicknamed The Winchester, and the owners plan to keep the historic logo that's painted on the wall. The new hall will feature a section with hardwood floors for dancing, upgraded seating, high-top tables and a standing area.

Lim, who got her start as manager with Cleveland PM restaurant in Valleyview, is glad to be back in the restaurant and bar business. She sees great opportunity in Lakewood, and points to the businesses that are moving to Lakewood and the renovated Madison Avenue streetscape as signs of the area's revival.

rta introduces ohio city connector, making it easier to travel between downtown and ohio city

More than 200 buses run between downtown Cleveland and Ohio City every day. At the same time, both areas have become increasingly popular places to work, live, shop, eat and play. So why not better market, brand and highlight the connections that exist between the two neighborhoods as part of a larger effort to encourage more people to use transit when traveling in and around downtown?

That's exactly what RTA has done with the introduction of the new Ohio City Connector, a branding, signage and marketing program that highlights how easy it is to get back and forth between Ohio City and downtown. With rebranded bus stops located at the corner of West 25th Street and Lorain Avenue and West 3rd Street and Superior Avenue, representatives say that the program will facilitate connections between the two neighborhoods and encourage new riders to hop on the bus.

"Connecting neighborhoods is the critical part," says Steve Bitto, Executive Director of Marketing and Communications with RTA. "We're also recognizing the opportunity that transit has with an emerging market like the Millennials. There are a lot of people who live downtown and in Ohio City that fall into that category. It's not all about getting into the car and driving. If it works, they’re going to take it."

Bitto says the service is akin to the popular trolley service that already exists downtown. The trolley service is free, yet RTA does not have funding to expand it. You have to pay bus fare to ride the Ohio City Connector, but officials tout the service as easy and convenient, a way to get from door to door in a few minutes.

Given the parking crunch that now exists in Ohio City and downtown, this service will no doubt prove popular, as drivers grow weary of fighting for a spot.

lakewood again enjoying fresh wave of new business development

Fresh Water has been on top of the dramatic new business development currently taking place in Lakewood, covering it herehere and here. The west side 'burb has seen an explosion of new shops, pubs and eateries in recent years, thanks in large part to a pedestrian-friendly Detroit Avenue streetscape that was completed in 2012. Now the city is poised for another wave of growth, with several new businesses set to open this year.

In a recent chat with Planning Director Dru Siley, we learned about Cleveland Vegan, which is set to open a storefront catering operation in the next 45 days (13611 Detroit), with a planned eatery to follow; Brown Sugar Thai, which will open its fourth location in a 2,600-square-foot space in the Bailey Building at Detroit and Warren; Birdtown Restaurant and Brewing, a project from restaurateur Tom Leneghan, will open next year in the old St. Gregory's Church on Madison; The Bevy, a new restaurant and music venue that will open in the old Winchester Music Hall; and The Stache, a hip new speakeasy set to open in the former Johnny Malloys/Gepettos space (17103 Detroit Ave.).

These are just a few of the new businesses flocking to Lakewood, which has seen impressive business growth along its Detroit and Madison commercial corridors.

"Part of what we've noticed is that Lakewood is a great place to open a first business, such as Beat Cycles, but it's also a good place for a business to do a second location," says Siley. "We're seeing that as a bit of a trend. Business owners are doing some intentional planning, and they're looking at Lakewood."

Although Lakewood is chock-full of independents, plenty of chains are getting in on the action, too. Another new addition to Lakewood is Bob Evan's, which opened up a surprisingly contemporary-looking eatery in downtown Lakewood. "It's the busiest 4:30 dinner spot in the entire world right now," jokes Siley.

new cycling fest to attract 1000s to shores of lake erie

When the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission began looking at creating a new event a few years ago, cycling soon rose to the top of the list. Leaders knew that a premiere cycling event in Northeast Ohio would prove popular well beyond Cleveland, attracting visitors from other cities. Then they refined the idea into a weekend of races, offering multiple rides from which to choose, coupled with a lifestyle festival at Edgewater Park. They had a winner.

The result is NEOCycle, "an urban cycling festival consisting of competitive races and unique rides, connected by live entertainment and an interactive, action-filled festival at Edgewater Park on the shores of Lake Erie," according to the website. The event takes place September 26th-28th, and organizers say it could attract 1,000 people from other cities and generate $250,000 in economic impact.

NEOCycle will feature five rides: Night Ride, which will leave from Edgewater Park and offer views of the sunset and downtown skyline; Forest City Fundo, an untimed, mass ride with lengths ranging from 10 to 62 miles and benefitting Bike Cleveland; Cyclocross, a race through Edgewater Park with natural and manmade obstacles; Criterium, a lapped race through University Circle and surrounding neighborhoods; and a velodrome race in Slavic Village.

Whether you're a competitive cyclist or not, the unique new event holds many charms. The Fundo and Night Rides are geared to both casual and serious riders. Spectators will enjoy heading over to Edgewater Park to watch the races, drink beer, hang out by the beach and listen to music.

Speaking of music, organizers recently announced that Cloud Nothings and Jessica Lea Mayfield would headline the event. Other bands include Ohio Sky, Captain Kidd, Cities & Coast, Ottawa, Muamin Collective & Neil Chastain Trio, Silent Lions, Village Bicycle, JP & the Chatfield Boys and the Luckey Ones.

"The idea is, 'How do you take 1 plus 1 plus 1 and equal a whole lot more than three?'" says David Gilbert, President of the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission. "How do you take grassroots events and put them in one large festival? You’re going to get an experience here that you're just not going to get at any other event."

sneak peek of the 9, cleveland's 'game-changing' downtown development

When it comes to The 9 in downtown Cleveland, there's no shortage of hyperboles. The $250-million project, which has transformed Marcel Breuer's long-neglected modernist tower into a 156-room high-end hotel and 194 luxury apartments, is being touted as a "game changer," the city's "first truly mixed-used building," a "best-in-class" property and the first-ever "truly luxury" residential building.

Of course, developers are known more for their sales pitches than their subtlety. So Fresh Water toured the ambitious project to get a sneak peek of the building, which is set to debut in September, to find out what all the hype is about.

The Historic Rotunda

The Cleveland Trust rotunda has been completely restored and is awaiting construction of a new Heinen's grocery store, which is set to open in 2015. (Following our tour, one insider quipped that Cleveland hasn't gotten enough urbanist cred for opening a grocery store without attached parking. "When it opens, we will," counseled another.) Our Metropolitan tour guide informed us that conservative estimates place the value of the Tiffany-style stained-glass dome at a cool $20 million. The guy who designed the murals, Frances David Millet, surprised his wife with a trip on the Titanic shortly after completing them. They didn't survive, apparently, but Millet's glorious murals continue to shine.

The Vaults

Residents, hotel guests and invited friends soon will be able to party in the basement vaults where Mark Hanna and other famous Clevelanders stowed their fortunes. There are four vaults in the lower level, each with the same impossibly large, circular steel-and-glass doors. Back in the day, if one got broken into, there was a special mechanism that sealed off the other three from intruders. Now you can get access to all of them -- if you're lucky enough to score an invitation. Imagine sitting in a plush armchair and sipping a Manhattan with friends in the safe deposit box rooms that once secured the treasures of famous industrialists. Never mind the two-drink minimum; our guide explains that guests who don't spend at least $50 on their first visit will not be welcome back.

(Side note: The safe deposit boxes themselves apparently are being repurposed into an artsy chandelier. It's nice to see the building's original treasures getting second lives!)

The Restaurants 

Although the restaurants still are under construction, from the looks of things, they're going to be very nice. First, there's a lot of natural beauty to work with -- the marble-lined interior of the original bank lobby has soaring ceilings that draw the eye upwards. This space soon will be home to Adega, the main restaurant, which will have a 2,000-square-foot patio. The other spaces will be similarly impressive; for example, the 350-seat Mint Ballroom in the lower level boasts stunning recessed chandeliers.
The 9 will add five new establishments to the downtown scene. Beyond the Vault and Adega, there's The Ledger, a smaller, second-floor bar; Azure, the rooftop restaurant and nightclub (finally, Cleveland scores a new one); and the Alex Theater, a 70-seater that will open for special screenings, comedy shows and the like.

The Hotel

We didn't get a tour of the hotel rooms, but we were told that they're quite spacious -- in some cases, twice as large as typical suites. Rates are not cheap for downtown, hovering in the mid-$200s per night according to a web search (spokespeople won't officially comment on pricing yet). Hotel guests will have access to the same amenities as apartment dwellers, including 24/7 concierge services. Already, there are five weddings booked for November, and the place hasn't even opened yet.

The Apartments

Apartment marketing often is where hyperbole goes overboard, and The 9 is no exception. Promotional materials promise "spa-inspired bathing facilities," "full custom-designed kitchens" and an environment where "the line between everyday living and escape becomes blurred." (We're ready to move in right now, thanks.) These units, which are commanding high prices of $1.75 to $2 per square foot, already are 80 percent leased, according to sales staff. The adjacent 1010 Euclid building, which is less high-end, is reportedly 60 percent leased.  

In addition to the high-end kitchens and baths, suites have granite countertops, bathrooms with double sinks, dimmable lighting, zebra wood cabinetry, 100-inch electric fireplaces, 55-inch flatscreen TVs, wet bars, Thermador appliances with gas stoves, Bosch washer-dryers, walk-in closets and cork floors.

So what are prices like? Apartments in the two adjacent buildings, ranging from 500 to 3,000 square feet, start at about $1,000 and climb to about $6,000 per month. Cha-ching. Top units are called Sky Suites and enjoy panoramic views of downtown from all sides. At this point we're simply hoping to make friends with residents in the building.

Other Fun Facts

Did you know that The 9 also will be home to the city's swankiest indoor dog park? Yes, you heard that right. Apparently there's special technology for flushing. We didn't ask for specifics.

There are 2,500 people presently working in three shifts on this project. It's one of the most complex real estate transactions in the city's history, with 140 documents recorded sequentially in the County Recorder's office.

By now, it should be apparent why this project is so impressive. For residents, it literally will be akin to living in a hotel, because, well, they actually are in a hotel. Hotel guests, on the other hand, will have access to the city's finest amenities courtesy of the residences.

Given that The 9 will soon be "the place to see and be seen," we expect to catch a sighting of LeBron (or at least his cavalcade) on a Saturday night here sometime soon.


group plan commission announces details, first major grant for new park

Internationally renowned landscape architect James Corner recently unveiled his plans for Cleveland’s Public Square at the City Club. The square’s four quadrants will be connected via swaths of green space and a pathway, closing Ontario and limiting Superior to buses. It will include a water feature that will allow visitors to dip their toes in the cooling waters, sloped seating embedded in a hillside for concerts or movies, a café and natural landscaping.
Now, thanks to an $8 million gift from the Cleveland Foundation, the long-planned changes are one step closer to reality. LAND Studio, a local nonprofit that helps to design vibrant public spaces, will receive grant funding to help implement the Group Plan Commission’s design. The award is part of a special series of grants the foundation is making to celebrate its centennial. The south plaza of the park will be named “Cleveland Foundation Centennial Plaza.”

"This is important because it's the Cleveland Foundation taking a leadership role and saying this transformation is critical for the city’s future," says Jeremy Paris, Executive Director of the Group Plan Commission. "It's a way for them to impact the city for this generation and generations to come, and a validation of the work we’re trying to do. In addition, the gift itself is catalytic for our funding goals."

Paris says the goal is still to break ground on the project this year, and to complete the Public Square redesign by 2016, in time for major events occurring that year.

In his City Club presentation, Corner outlined the importance of public space in an economy where cities are competing for tourism and residents: “Cities are reinvesting, in a bid to retain a competitive edge, in the public realm.” With the recently renovated mall atop the convention center, Cleveland now has an opportunity to create signature public spaces connected to the lake.  
Corner presented key aspects of the design. The northern half of the mall will feature a manmade hill with seating seamlessly cut into it. It will also include additional foliage and gardens, with trees positioned to avoid interrupting views yet also to keep the park visible from the surrounding streets. The new water feature will be a reflective pool, yet it will also have jets. As in many other cities, Cleveland will soon have a fountain where kids can play on hot summer days.
When the next Polar Vortex returns, this area can be transitioned into an ice skating rink so that Clevelanders can take advantage of winter activities on Public Square.
The cafe will be located on the south side of the park. The concept and operator have not yet been chosen, but it will likely be a fast-casual sandwich and coffee shop. The Sailors and Soldiers monument will be well preserved and improved as part of the project. New lighting will highlight the historic monument and the design will open up the space around it to provide uninterrupted views. 
In his talk, Corner called attention to the importance of simply populating parks, as well as offering creative, interactive programming. “People love to simply lounge, to be with other people and see others,” he explained.
Closing Ontario and limiting Superior to buses remains somewhat controversial, with some wanting not to close the streets and others wanting to close Superior entirely. Corner noted that Superior could be closed occasionally and lined with tents for farmers markets or festivals in the summer months. Design elements will help make crossing Superior a pedestrian-friendly experience. “Our traffic engineers are nationally renowned for traffic planning, and in their estimation, what we’re doing is a good thing in terms of how traffic works in Cleveland,” Corner stated.

Finally, Corner noted how public space can generate economic development in cities. James Corner Field Operations previously had worked on the High Line in New York City. This revolutionary park transformed an abandoned elevated rail line that was once seen as a blemish in the neighborhoods through which it ran. It was about to be torn down until a neighborhood group had the visionary idea to turn it into a park. The High Line is now the second most visited tourist attraction in New York City, attracting 4.5 million people in 2012. It has spurred $2 billion in economic development and 12,000 new jobs in neighborhoods flanking the park.
“These are significant investments that aren’t only beautifying, aren’t only socially enriching and enhancing, but also will boost the economy of the city if not the region," Corner stated.

blazing saddle cycle to open second location in little italy, across from new rising star coffee

Wondering why there are no bike shops between Ohio City and Cleveland Heights, despite the rise in bike commuting in and around University Circle? Well, soon there will be. Blazing Saddle Cycle, the edgy bike shop that opened a few years ago in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood, has inked a deal to open a second location in Little Italy. This newest outpost will be at the intersection of Murray Hill and Edgehill roads, across from the new Rising Star coffee. Both of these hotspots are set to open later this year.

Co-owner Travis Peebles, who founded the bike shop with fellow bike guru James Rychak, says the seed was planted in his head when Greenhouse Tavern chef Jonathon Sawyer stopped by the west side shop and complained about the lack of bike shops in University Circle. The next day, Peebles took a ride over there and discovered a "For Rent" sign during his first pass through the neighborhood. He knew instantly that the location was a winner.

"We knew two years ago that this neighborhood needed a bike shop, but at that time, we were just getting settled into the west side," says Peebles. "People would bring it up to us, and we'd often fantasize about it. Then, when Sawyer planted the seed, we said, 'Let’s go see what we can find.'"

"There’s so much potential over here, I'm almost a little bit nervous," he says, adding that the duo has taken on a third partner to keep up with their double-digit growth. "I'm not sure I can wrap my head around how busy we could possibly be when however many thousands of students come back in August. The corner of Edgehill and Murray Hill is the busiest bike intersection in the city."

Despite his trepidations about being able to handle the business that might walk through the door when Blazing Saddle opens on August 1, Peebles is psyched about the space. It's 700 square feet and has "as much character" as the west side shop, he says, which in its former life was a 100-year-old hardware store with beat-up wood floors and a vintage facade. The owners are doing the build-out themselves, using many finishes and furnishings salvaged from the former Theresa's restaurant across the street, which is where Rising Star will open.

"The neighborhood is great," Peebles says. "People are so, so positive about us moving into the area. We can't work for 15 minutes without someone coming by."

The new location (2190 Murray Hill Rd.) will carry the same types of bikes as the original, but the owners might add some new lines as well. They'll continue to do "custom restorations of quality used bikes," bringing sturdy classics from the ‘70s back to life. And repairs will remain a staple, too. "We want to make sure we cater to everybody."

Recently, the neighborhood has seen investment in bike infrastructure, including new bike lanes on Edgehill Road. Peebles and Rychak are banking on the growth of the cycling community in University Circle, Cleveland Heights and points beyond.

Although Peebles acknowledges the need for outside help to manage his company's growth, the partners have built their entire business pretty much on their own with no bank loans. "The fewer institutions we can involve, the better," he quips.

entrepreneur rides cycling obsession all the way to his very own lakewood bike shop

Growing up in Akron, Ryan Sheldon landed his first job in a bike shop after applying for one approximately 20 times and hanging around the shop like a groupie. At the time, he was 17 years old and working as a bagger in the grocery store next door. Eventually, the owners hired him, seeing a spark of passion that was worth nurturing. He worked there for 15 years.

Now, the 33-year-old bike lover has struck out on his own with Beat Cycles, which recently opened in a long-vacant storefront in Lakewood (15608 Detroit Avenue). Sheldon renovated the place himself from the studs up over the course of five and half grueling months -- opening just in time for good cycling weather.

"I saw the opportunity to bring a really cool shop with a unique vibe to Lakewood," says Sheldon, who says he has a particular passion for working with all levels of cyclists and getting new folks interested in cycling. "My approach is really open; I'm passionate about what I do, and I love getting kids on bikes."

Sheldon says that Lakewood, a dense city of 52,000 residents, is a great place for biking. He says there's room for another bike shop even though there are at least four (Spin, Century Cycles, Blazing Saddles and Joy Machines) within a few miles.

Sheldon may be new to the whole entrepreneurship gig, but he's pretty much always been into bikes. "It’s that first sense of freedom you get," he says. "As a kid, you can get away from your parents on a bike... and they can’t quite catch you."

Sheldon was bit by the entrepreneurship bug after rising to the level of regional manager at his previous job. He saw opening his own store as "the ultimate level of creativity." First, he had to identify the right spot and pull together financing. He had savings but not enough, and no bank wanted to touch the deal. They wanted him to be able to show some profit before they'd loan him money.

Then he contacted the Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI), a nonprofit community-oriented lender that was eager to help him get started. After a lot of ups and downs, the loan finally closed and he was on his way.

Beat Cycles features warm, refinished hardwood floors and walls wrapped in reclaimed wood. The colors are bright and eye-catching. Sheldon and his coworkers removed a drop ceiling and replaced electric and other mechanicals. "It's fun to walk in the store and really see your vision in finished form," he says.

He couldn't be more excited about being an entrepreneur. "From a young age, I thought it would be cool to have a job that you loved. I carried that mentality and mindset up to ripe old age of 33. It doesn’t feel like work if you enjoy it."

entrepreneur to open women's clothing boutique on lorain avenue this summer

Ohio City is chock full of restaurants, breweries and culinary delights, yet one thing it lacks is shopping. Room Service, Salty Not Sweet and others have added some much welcome spice to the mix, but where's a girl to go for shoes?
Have no fear: Thanks to the addition of Blackbird Fly, a women's clothing boutique set to open this summer at W. 28th and Lorain, consider the problem solved.

"We'll be a true Cleveland clothing boutique," says Angelina Rodriguez Pata, a Detroit Shoreway native who finally has realized her dream of opening a store. "We're bringing in some really well made national brands, and we're also in talks with local artisans. The whole mantra we're going for is, 'As American-made as we can do it.' We're aiming for at least 75 percent American-made and locally made."

Pata is a metalsmithing artist who has stayed home with her four kids for the past few years. Now that they're older, she wanted to get back into the workforce. "I was never going to be happy doing anything unless it was creative. I said, 'I can do this, I have great taste in shoes and clothing, and they're dying for it over there.'"

Her goal was to create an approachable boutique where both locals and visitors could shop. She plans to carry items that will appeal to women in their 20s through 50s, and her price points won't be sky-high. "It won't be $350 for a pair of shoes," she says. "I'd say our price points will be $60 to $150 on average."

The charming storefront, which last housed Councilman Cimperman's campaign office, likely will go through the city's Storefront Renovation Program. That will mean a spruced-up exterior and new signage. The interior currently is divided into two spaces, but will be opened up into a single 1,100-square-foot shop. Pata plans to add tables and chairs to the front so visitors can hang out.

The name comes from Pata's favorite Beatles song, of course. "My mom was a hippie and my dad was a greaser," she says. "They were both very musical and in bands growing up. We always had music playing in our house, particularly the Beatles. I just love that song because it's about struggle, and that's life."

How did Pata land the prime retail space? She admits to stalking the landlord after he failed to return her calls. The last message she left is worth repeating, she notes.

"This is Angelina, I know you know who I am because I’ve called you like 15 times. Here’s the deal, I’m really interested in your space, but for goodness sake, if it's not available tell me and I’ll stop hunting you down ... Call me back!"

Soon enough, her phone rang and it was the landlord. Turns out, he'd simply been preoccupied with a homebuilding project. She signed the lease soon thereafter.

Pata, who plans to open by mid-August and have hours from Tuesday to Sunday, will carry prominent lines such as Blank NYC, Agave and Seychelles. She's excited to be in the middle of everything, steps from the West Side Market.

"I will promise one thing, it won't be a snobby, uncomfortable, boutique," she says. "You'll walk in and feel like you’ve grown up with me and known me forever."

west side community house to become cleveland's first bike-friendly apartment building

Damon Taseff, a principal with Allegro Realty who along with partners is undertaking the renovation of the historic West Side Community House in Ohio City into market-rate apartments, recently showed Fresh Water around. He also announced details of what he says will be "Cleveland's first bicycle-friendly apartment building."

The building is being redeveloped into 19 apartments, 4,000 square feet of office space and a Phoenix Coffee shop. It will feature not only a communal bike rack but also individual bike racks in each suite built from salvaged lumber. There will be a bike lounge in the basement where tools and other resources will be available, and membership with the nonprofit Bike Cleveland will be part of the amenity package that comes with signing a lease.

Bike Cleveland also is coming on board to coordinate at least one community cycling event at the building each year. The building will feature a bike-share program managed by Phoenix (there will be bikes in the basement that residents and visitors can borrow). Finally, Taseff is in talks with Joy Machines Bike Shop and the Ohio City Bike Co-op about bringing them in as partners, as well.

All in all, Taseff says he wants to set a standard for Cleveland and beyond when it comes to creating bike-friendly apartment buildings. "This is ground zero in the neighborhood -- you're dead center in the middle of everything," he says of the property at 3000 Bridge Avenue. "If you look at the national landscape, this is an emerging trend. When people talk about bike-friendly buildings, it's usually just a place to park your bike, but we really wanted to take it to the next level."

According to the City of Cleveland's recently announced plan, Bridge Avenue will be redeveloped as a bike route, making the area even more bike-friendly.

The building's parking lot does not have enough spaces for every resident to park a car, so Taseff is hoping the bike-friendly nature of the building will encourage some tenants to go car-free.

Taseff says it's very possible to live without a car in Cleveland, and he wants his project to help facilitate that lifestyle. "I did not have a car when I lived in Chicago," he says. "Let's design neighborhoods around people, not cars."

Other highlights include the custom finishes that are being incorporated into each suite, including hexagonal tile in the bathrooms and butcher block and steel kitchen islands courtesy of Rust Belt Welding and Soulcraft Woodshop.

The West Side Community House building is lined with windows on every side (all of which are relatively new and can be opened), affording views of the surrounding neighborhood, downtown and the West Side Market.

Plans already are in the works for a roof deck, but nothing has been finalized yet. Phoenix will open in August, the offices in September and the apartments in October. Pre-leasing for the apartments will begin soon, though prices have yet to be announced.

encouraging bike-friendly workplaces key to attracting more bike commuters

Austin McGuan, an attorney with Squire Sanders, first learned about the City of Cleveland's bike parking ordinance a few years ago. A regular bike commuter, McGuan began inquiring about his own landlord's bike parking facility and learned that it was not in compliance. So he worked with his firm, the landlord and the building management to reach a good solution.

Today, thanks to the efforts of McGuan and other members of the Squire Sanders bike committee, the firm has safe, covered bike parking at the front of the garage, offers employees memberships in the Bike Rack downtown, and sponsors regular bike commuting and recreational events. The firm recently received a silver-level bicycle friendly business designation -- the only company or organization in Northeast Ohio to receive this coveted award, and the fourth in Ohio.

"Before, we had a rim-bender bike rack that was tucked into a dark corner, always in a puddle," says McGuane. "If you want to encourage people to ride a bike to work, you have to provide them with a good and safe place to park their bike. That’s what we’ve done working with building management here."

McGuane says one of the most important aspects of fostering bike commuting is encouraging bike-friendly workplaces. "We wanted to knock down potential barriers that would prevent someone from biking to work," he says of his colleagues at Squire Sanders. "One of them, obviously, is having someplace to shower, clean up and change. We explored providing that within our own building, but instead we decided to do the next best thing, which was to sponsor the Bike Rack."

Jacob Van Sickle of Bike Cleveland says the number of bike commuters has been steadily rising in Cleveland and especially downtown in recent years. It's critical to offer a bike-friendly work environment in order to attract more commuters, he says. Although more is needed, the Bike Rack's growing membership, increasing number of parking lot owners in compliance with the city's ordinance, and newly installed bike racks downtown all are part of the amenity mix falling into place.

university circle announces plans for $130m high-rise apartment tower

University Circle Inc. has announced plans to construct a $130 million, 20-plus story apartment highrise on the current site of the Children's Museum, as well as surrounding land owned by UCI. The nonprofit has selected Mitchell Schneider of First Interstate Properties and Sam Petros of Petros Homes to lead the development team.

The announcement is the fruit of years of discussion about a luxury residential tower in University Circle. UCI has long set its sights on building such a tower, seeing unmet demand for housing in an area experiencing strong job growth, near 100-percent rental occupancy and growth in commercial amenities.

The project will include about 280 units ranging in size from 720 to 4,200 square feet. The structure will have floor-to-ceiling windows and views of the downtown skyline and Lake Erie. Initial plans call for a building that is 25 to 28 stories tall. The property also will be green-built and offer easy access to public transportation.
"There is substantial demand for this type of housing in University Circle," explained Chris Ronayne, President of UCI, in a release. "One University Circle will provide a quality urban design solution that meets a market demand, brings greater density to University Circle and supports neighborhood businesses with new residents. We believe this project will continue the momentum of University Circle and the renaissance underway in Cleveland... One University Circle will be a welcoming gateway to the institutions of University Circle and a home for their employees coming from all over the world.”

In keeping with a luxury urban apartment building, One University Circle will offer concierge services, a fitness center and an indoor pool. The project also will include a green rooftop and other shared amenities. Ronayne says work could begin in 2015, with the first residents moving in two years later.

The Children's Museum currently is seeking a new location in Cleveland that will accommodate its plans for expansion. The developers have announced that they intend to work with the City of Cleveland to craft a community benefits agreement for the project. The agreement will stipulate goals for hiring local and minority tradespeople and working with area high schools to provide internships.

Source: Chris Ronayne
Writer: Lee Chilcote

perspectus architecture completes merger, doubles office footprint at shaker square

Perspectus Architecture recently completed a merger with HFP/Ambuske Architects, bringing five jobs from Beachwood to Cleveland. Perspectus will remain in its second floor offices on the southeast quadrant of Shaker Square, where it has doubled its office space and is in the process of remodeling.

"Our focus is firmly based in healthcare," says Perspectus principal Larry Fischer of both companies. "We saw a lot of advantages in getting together."

Staying and growing at Shaker Square seemed like a no-brainer, he adds. "When we were looking for space, we wanted a venue or neighborhood that had a certain cool factor to it," says Fischer, who has expanded from a single 900-square-foot office to 10,000 square feet on the entire second floor of his building in the past 14 years. "We probably couldn’t afford being downtown in the primary core. There's a lot happening at Shaker Square."

The new offices are just as cool. There are now a total of 36 staffers in the redesigned space. "Being a contemporary firm, we wanted the space to really represent the work we're doing," says Fischer. "We kept a lot of the mahogany moldings and doors, then contrasted them with clean, light walls and contemporary light fixtures. At two ends, we actually exposed the old wood structure. There’s a contradiction of styles that works pretty well for us."

One big change is that Perspectus' new offices now reflect the movement towards open, connected spaces. "That was a big deal to us," Fischer says. "We didn’t want to be in an old, stodgy environment. We also reorganized the studio -- all or our architects worked in teams, but they weren’t sitting in teams. Now they're more organized and have more space. We really wanted to create a space that supported how we work, and that encouraged mentoring, interaction and collaboration."

That open environment goes for the bosses, too. "There are some people that wish I had my own office," Fischer adds wryly. "But I'm out in the open, too."

Fischer praised the Coral Company for its willingness to work closely with the firm to customize the layout. Perspectus employees continue to enjoy "problem-solving walks" around the Square, taking inspiration from the architecture.

Prospectus is headquartered in Cleveland, but also has offices in Columbus and Charleston, West Virginia.

Source: Larry Fischer
Writer: Lee Chilcote

state of downtown is strong, but greater connectivity between amenities is needed, say leaders

Downtown Cleveland was named one of the top cities for millenials to live by The Atlantic, with more than 1,000 new housing units coming online, and major projects like Flats East helping to reenergize formerly moribund parts of downtown. These are just a few of the successes listed in Downtown Cleveland Alliance's 2013 annual report, and touted at this week's State of Downtown forum at the City Club.

Yet more needs to be done to connect downtown's assets, including public realm improvements, pedestrian- and bike-friendly amenities, and especially lakefront connections. These were the messages conveyed by leaders at the forum.

"We're no longer in the 'big box' phase," said Joe Marinucci, President and CEO of DCA. "Now our challenge is, how we can incrementally connect the investments."

Marinucci pointed to Perk Park, a revamped green space at East 12th and Chester, as an example of a successful strategy for creating public improvements.

Now DCA has launched Step Up Downtown, an initiative to engage residents and stakeholders in envisioning the future of downtown. With abundant plans in place, the goal is to prioritize which enhancements to focus on first, garner feedback from residents, and drill down to the implementation phase.

"This initiative recognizes that we've made a lot of investments downtown, but in many ways haven't connected the investments as well as we should," said Marinucci. "We need to make the public realm as attractive as the destinations."

Attendees posed questions about connecting to the waterfront, making downtown accessible to all income levels, and prioritizing educational opportunities for families.

Marinucci cited lakefront development plans, the incorporation of affordable housing into downtown projects and DCA's work with Campus International School and the Cleveland Municipal School District as signs of progress.

Source: Joe Marinucci
By Lee Chilcote

old brooklyn poised for growth with new leadership, key projects in place

Old Brooklyn has long been considered a quiet, family-friendly neighborhood. It has nice, modest homes and plenty of local businesses, but has never had much nightlife. It's gained a reputation as a popular neighborhood for city workers, and strong school choices have kept families from fleeing. However, a neighborhood can't stand still if it wants to remain relevant, and leaders here know that.

Yet now, the neighborhood could be on the cusp of its next identity. The board of the Old Brookyn Community Development Corporation has hired Jeffrey T. Verespej, who is currently serving as Director of Operations and Advocacy for Ohio City Inc., as its new Executive Director. Key projects are falling into place that could help move the neighborhood from sleepy to chic in the next few years.

"The reality is that Old Brooklyn already has assets that many places in Cleveland are trying desperately to build," says Verespej, who has fond memories of growing up in the community until he was seven. "It has a very solid and stable housing stock that is attractive to all different types of people. It's probably Cleveland's most family-friendly and liveable neighborhood and has been for decades. There are good schools and direct access to the Metroparks and Zoo. We have really intact commercial corridors, there aren’t missing teeth. As an Old Brooklyn resident, you can walk down the street and find something you’re proud of."

What's missing, he says, is development that builds upon those existing assets and a strong marketing campaign. "Look at downtown Old Brooklyn, at Pearl, Broadview and State," he says. "When you have millions of visitors going through your downtown each year [to the zoo], there are tremendous opportunities."

Two recent wins should help spur redevelopment. The CDC was recently awarded funding from the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) for design and engineering of the Pearl Road streetscape, which would put the wide boulevard on a road diet and add broader sidewalks, bike lanes and other amenities. This project could start as early as 2016, but there's still a lot of work to be done.

The second win is the acquisition of the so-called "Heninger" site -- a multi-acre property that was used as a landfill and has been vacant for over a decade -- by the Western Reserve Land Conservancy. Although the property is still under contract and WRLC has due diligence work to complete, the goal is to transform it into a park setting with some kind of public use. There might be a commercial component that fronts Pearl Road, but passive recreation, urban farming and a trail that leads to the Metroparks will likely be part of the mix, says Verespej. The Heninger site is located directly across from the zoo entrance on Pearl Road.

Old Brooklyn has also seen some recent investments along Pearl Road. Drink Bar and Grill recently celebrated its one year anniversary, and the West Side Market vendor Cake Royale has just moved its headquarters to the neighborhood.

"We have a challenge and an opportunity," says Verespej, who starts his new job in just a few weeks. "There are so many neighborhoods in Cleveland seeing an infusion of energy and investment. Old Brooklyn generally isn't a part of that conversation. That's the job of the CDC. For all the people investing in Cleveland right now, we want to let them know we're open for business."

Source: Jeff Verespej
Writer: Lee Chilcote

finch group breaks ground on 177 apartments as part of upper chester project

The Finch Group, a Florida-based developer that pioneered the luxury apartment market in University Circle with its 2007 renovation of Park Lane Villa, has broken ground on 177 units of apartments as part of the long-awaited Upper Chester project. The developer expects the project will begin leasing by June of next year, just in time for medical residents and other area professionals to snatch up the new apartments.

The Upper Chester project, which will consist of four phases and over 300 market-rate apartments, is located on Chester Avenue between E. 97th and 101st streets. Retail is being planned as part of Phase I (a coffee shop and small market concept have been discussed), but the Finch Group hasn't begun marketing yet. Efforts will begin soon as the building is now underway.

"We're bringing 177 households to the community with significant disposable income," says Mark Dodds, Principle Architect with the Finch Group. "The target market is people that are working or going to school at major institutions: Clinic, UH, Case Western Reserve University, the art museum, the orchestra."

Dodds cited a 2010 market study showing that there's demand for 700 to 800 new market-rate apartments in University Circle -- meaning that Uptown and Hazel 8, which have added nearly 300 units, have not come close to saturating the market. "There's very high demand for good quality rental housing. The more people we get to live in University Circle, the more it becomes a 24-hour neighborhood."

The building itself will feature primarily one-bedroom residences geared towards busy professionals. The finishes will be high-end, including granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. There will be a 24/7 concierge service in the building to handle various resident needs. The two-story lobby will be a social space that will give residents a chance to socialize and build community.

Dodds maintains that while Uptown is more of a college town environment geared to undergraduates, the Upper Chester project will be targeted to graduates and professionals. Fending off concerns that the project will feel isolated, Dodds says that it will be built as an open, pedestrian-friendly environment adjacent to CWRU's performing arts center at Temple Tifereth Israel. The project will also be located across the street from the Cleveland Clinic's new medical school.

Financing the project was difficult. There were no tax credits or public subsidy funds available. The developer did receive a 15-year, 100-percent tax abatement from the city. Finch is using conventional financing and equity to fund the project.

Dodds expects to get around $2 per square foot for the apartments, just under the rents that Uptown is commanding. "We're convinced this project will make money."

If all goes well, the next phase of the project could start in early 2016, setting up a completion date of mid 2017 -- just in time for a new crop of medical residents.

Source: Mark Dodds
Writer: Lee Chilcote

developer breaks ground on second phase of flats east, adding office building to mix

Flats East Development LLC, the partners behind the multi-phase Flats East development, have broken ground on Phase II. The project is expected to be complete in time for residents, visitors and office workers to enjoy the 1,200-foot riverfront boardwalk by summer of 2015. The ambitious project contains a few surprises, including a new office building that's been added to the mix.

"Currently, we've broken ground on Building 4, which is the large residential building with 243 apartments above a parking deck and retail podium," says Brice Hamill, Director of Design with Fairmount Properties. "With Building 4 being the largest of the buildings [in Phase II], we needed to kick it off now to complete it on schedule. We just finished up the auger piles and deep foundation, and now we're coming out of the ground and casting columns for the first floor retail."

The apartment building will feature high-end units with floor-to-ceiling windows, granite countertops and other luxury finishes. Although lease rates have not yet been announced, you can bet that they'll push the envelope. Residents here will be able to enjoy suites featuring hardwood floors, 10-foot loft-style ceilings and a balcony on every unit so they can watch the action go by.

There's also a second floor common rooftop deck over the retail area, and the penthouse suites will have access to their own private rooftop decks. "We think we have the best residential site in Cleveland given the views and activity on the water – from planes to trains to boats, and we did a lot to capture that," says Hamill.

Retail concepts include Toby Keith's Bar and Grill, BBR, Beer Cellars, The Big Bang dueling piano bar, Flip Side, FWD, Panini's Bar and Grill, Crop Kitchen and Vine and Cropicana. Hamill says the one he gets the most reactions to is Toby Keith's.

"Everyone wants to know about Toby Keith's," he says with a laugh. "There's an insanely high county music listenership here, with no venue for them."

Another design element that will be sure to surprise and delight Clevelanders is the fact that the entire waterfront area can be closed to vehicles and turned into a pedestrian-oriented district for festivals, summer events, pig roasts and the like.

"From an urban planning standpoint, that's one of the coolest things we're doing down there," says Hamill.

There's also a 3.5-acre park that will be owned by the developers yet publicly accessible. The 1,200-foot boardwalk will be maintained by the Metroparks, Hamill says.

The developers also have broken ground on Flip Side, a gourmet burger bar with a large selection of regional craft beers, on a lot adjacent to Phase I.

The new office building will be much smaller than the Ernst and Young Tower, totaling about 150 to 200,000 square feet with additional retail. It was born out of the surplus demand for space in the tower, which is now nearly 95 percent leased.

"It will be large floor plates, and we look at that as a cool possibility for a company... to get branded power in a downtown building," says Hamill.

Hamill promises that more local restaurants and establishments will be announced soon, including an ice cream venue, countering concerns that Flats East Phase II will consist largely of chain restaurants. "We're going to bring in not just a fine dining concept, but places for everyone: young, old, married, not married, kids or no kids," says Hamill.

Surface parking lots will surround the development for now, but over the long term, those could become future phases for additional development.

Source: Brice Hamill
Writer: Lee Chilcote

city of cleveland selects lakefront developer to create true mixed-use neighborhood

The City of Cleveland announced that it has selected Dick Pace of Cumberland Development along with national developer Trammel Crow to redevelop the city's lakefront. Their proposal would erect 250 apartments, 80,000 square feet of office space and 30-40,000 square feet of retail in Phase I, which clusters around North Coast Habor. Phase II would add 750 apartments north of Browns Stadium.

At the heart of the proposal is something the city sorely lacks: a truly mixed-use neighborhood along the lakefront, complete with amenities for residents and visitors, with opportunities for people to live, work and play on Lake Erie.

"I started on the waterfront 30 years ago," says Pace, an architect and developer who designed what was then called the "inner harbor," so it's fitting that at this point in his career he'd work on the next phase of lakefront development. Pace has also developed property on the HealthTech Corridor and the 5th Street Arcades.

Perhaps the most unusual feature of Pace's development is his plan to create a school. He believes that creating a high-quality downtown school is essential to furthering the growth of the area and attracting families. No decision has been made about whether it would be a district or charter school, but it will be geared to the neighborhood. Just imagine kids walking to school on East 9th Street.

"This is all part of creating a neighborhood," he says. "It will give us a market that's untapped in the city of Cleveland -- the city has lost a lot of young families."

The lakefront development is also closely linked with plans to better connect the lakefront with the rest of downtown. The City of Cleveland is planning to build a pedestrian bridge from the mall to North Coast Harbor, and residents and visitors that use it would find themselves right in the midst of new shops and amenities.

Pace originally planned about 80,000 square feet of office space with smaller, 5,000-10,000 square foot users in mind, but he's already been contacted by a few bigger players. He says that the city could end up with a few bigger companies, including some that are currently located in the suburbs, along the lakefront.

The apartments will be market-rate, with higher prices for premier units on the waterfront or on upper floors. However, Pace hopes that some units will be affordable enough that teachers at the school can afford to live here.

The retail is the most defined piece of the project. Just like harbor districts in other cities, Cleveland could soon have a seasonal concession vendor, kayak rental facility and waterfront seafood restaurant. There would also be an indoor retail area linked to the pedestrian bridge, Science Center and Rock Hall, allowing people to hop between amenities without going outdoors on a winter day.

Pace says the complex project, which will be built without public subsidy, should start in 2015 and wrap up 5-7 years later. Phase I would open much sooner -- Clevelanders could start enjoying these lakefront amenities by 2018.

Next steps include negotiating a land lease with the city, refining conceptual architectural plans, holding community meetings, and pursuing financing. These are Herculean tasks, to be sure, but Pace says this long-awaited project will happen.

"This is a great time," he says. "The finanicng is starting to become available, and there's momentum for downtown housing. This piece of property has always been premier, and now is the time when the pieces are starting to come together."

Source: Dick Pace
Writer: Lee Chilcote

group plan commission hires director, set to break ground this year on public square revitalization

Jeremy Paris, the recently hired Executive Director of the Group Plan Commission, wants to help Clevelanders reconnect with their iconic downtown public spaces. The Group Plan Commission is expected to break ground later this year on the reconfiguration of Public Square, new amenities for the downtown malls, and a bike-ped bridge that will link the mall overlook with North Coast Harbor.

If you're skeptical that these big picture projects, which have been dreamed about for years with no action, will get done, well, don't worry; Paris will convince you otherwise.

"Cleveland deserves these world class public spaces," he says fervently. "We’ve done an unbelievable job of establishing downtown amenities, and our neighborhoods are increasingly thriving and exciting. Our job is to build the connective tissue, to have public spaces that can weave together these amenities and be gathering places for the city. We’re building on the wave of downtown investment, and I think the city will look and feel different when we get this job done."

Paris attended Yale and Harvard and lived in Washington D.C. for a dozen years. After returning to Cleveland with his wife -- a Cleveland transplant -- he interviewed with County Executive Ed FitzGerald and landed a job in his office. After working on the Group Plan project on behalf of the county, he applied for and was selected as the Group Plan Commission's first director.

"I wanted to be civically involved, and to plug in in terms of what’s going on with economic development and downtown development," he says. "I wanted to work at the hub of the political community, business community and the public realm, and try to get things done for the city. That’s where I feel like I’ve landed."

Although specifics of the Group Plan Commission's work are still being ironed out -- nationally-known architect James Corner, who designed the High Line in New York City, has been tapped for the project -- Paris says that $30 million has been assembled from the city, county and other sources and designs are being finalized.

A public meeting at the City Club is being planned, probably sometime in April, to reveal specifics of these designs and garner additional public feedback. Yet the basic concepts discussed for several years remain the same. The Public Square re-do will involve closing Ontario and reconnecting the four quadrants of Public Square; the mall improvements are geared towards making it a thriving, people-filled public space by adding public art, seating, stages, reflecting pools and the like; and the bridge will better connect downtown to the lakefront.

"We want people to use these public spaces, to turn them into activated spaces and not just pretty vistas," says Paris. "Watching people discover these public spaces, even in their current form, I've already seen a change. People look down and say, 'Oh, there’s the lake.' It's like they're seeing it for the first time."

Source: Jeremy Paris
Writer: Lee Chilcote

long-dormant flats water taxi could be revived by summer 2015, says metroparks ceo

The Flats water taxi of the '80s and '90s that ferried riders from the east bank of the Cuyahoga River to the west bank could be reborn as soon as summer of 2015 -- and in its new incarnation, it will connect not only spots in the Flats but also places along the river and lakefront.

Imagine biking or taking the RTA to the new Flats East project, having a beer by the boardwalk, then hopping a water taxi to Nautica or Rivergate Park – bike in tow -- and you're starting to see the full picture. Eventually, organizers say, you'll be able to take a boat from the Flats to Voinovich Park, enjoying the splendor of Lake Erie and a vista of downtown along the way.

A team of Leadership Cleveland graduates is working with the Cleveland Metroparks, Trust for Public Land, Bike Cleveland and other entities to figure out a feasible plan for reviving the water taxi. That proposal, which is expected to be completed by June, will include logistics, cost estimates and potential funding sources. The Metroparks and Trust for Public Land will take the lead from there.

"We are in," says Brian Zimmerman, CEO of the Cleveland Metroparks, which assumed management of the lakefront parks last year. "We are playing a role [in bringing back and also managing the water taxi], as well as other agencies."

"When we looked at the Metroparks strategic plan, certainly connecting communities and places became one of our core themes," he adds.

Phase I of the project likely will involve transporting people between the east and west banks and Rivergate Park, which is now under construction and about 25 percent complete. As the taxi rolls out and demand increases, additional destinations like Voinovich Park could be added to the mix.

Zimmerman says a property on the east bank has been identified as a possible multimodal hub. The facility could house a bike share program and be a port of entry for the water taxi. It's conveniently located along the Waterfront Line.

It's premature to talk about costs or even funding sources, he adds, since those are issues that the Leadership Cleveland team currently is working on.

Pam Carson, Director of the Ohio office of the Trust for Public Land, says the water taxi is essential to implementing a plan to connect a system of parks and paths along the river and lakefront. TPL is in the quiet phase of a $30 million campaign that will help to complete the Lake Link Trail and a pedestrian bridge to Whiskey Island.

"This is part of a whole network that will light up and create vibrancy for the Flats, Ohio City and Tremont," she says. "It's a system of trails and parks that will give residents, tourists and employees places to go play and recreate."

"Think about it -- it's sweet!" she adds. "The water taxi is such a beautiful thing."

Carson believes that there also is further development potential at Flats East and other stops along the water taxi route. She envisions an ice cream shop, for instance, at the Flats East entry point, similar to what exists along major trailheads in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

The project definitely will require public and private subsidy, not only to get it up and running but to operate it long-term, Carson says. Whether or not the service will be free or not is up in the air. A small fee might be charged, such as $2, but organizers also want to maintain access for low-income residents.

Source: Brian Zimmerman, Pam Carson
Writer: Lee Chilcote

tremont leaders seek to reconfigure w. 14th street for bikes, pedestrians, growth

Tremont West Development Corporation is pushing a plan to reconfigure W. 14th Street, which for decades has been a busy thoroughfare for residents and commuters, into a more pedestrian- and bike-friendly street that will spur business growth. Under the proposal, the current configuration of two lanes in each direction (plus parking in some places) would be reconfigured to one lane in each direction plus a turning lane. This would create a dedicated parking lane and bike lane.

According to Cory Riordan, Executive Director of Tremont West, the proposal was warmly received by residents and stakeholders at a recent community forum. The next steps are to further refine the plan, respond to feedback and seek funding. Riordan wants to see the project done before the I-90 ramp reopens in 2016.

"Now's the time," he says. "There's an opportunity to reconfigure the street prior to the opening, have traffic calming measures in place and create a new experience."

W. 14th is an uncharacteristically wide street for Tremont. Additionally, it serves as a gateway to the community, yet the majority of businesses are located along Professor Avenue or other side streets. Finally, the street can be both confusing for drivers and hazardous for pedestrians. Riordan believes there's a win-win-win opportunity for drivers, cyclists, pedestrians and businesses.

"We have a crosswalk at St. Augustine Church, but when people drive 50 miles per hour down the road, it's not a very safe crosswalk," he quips. "The bike community has expressed how dangerous they feel W. 14th is."

Depending on the final plan and available funding, there might be opportunities for streetscape enhancements including public art, decorative crosswalks, curb bump-outs and reconfiguration of the Steelyard Commons roundabout.

The good news is that Tremont has seen a transformation of W. 14th Street in recent years from a place considered hard to do business in to a sought-after location. As Professor Avenue storefronts have filled up, W. 14th storefronts have become more valuable. Riordan believes that's a sign of things to come and sees the potential for even more commercial growth along that street.

Source: Cory Riordan
Writer: Lee Chilcote

shaker resident launches effort to rebuild footbridge spanning historic doan brook

Brian Cook, a real estate developer who lives in Shaker Heights, has always had a passion for Doan Brook. It's a little slice of wilderness that cuts through the otherwise urban environments of Shaker Heights, Cleveland Heights and Cleveland, and nowhere is that respite from the concrete world more apparent than on the western part of North Park Boulevard. Here, the brook cascades down the hill from the Heights, while informal pathways allow residents and visitors to take a stroll and escape into nature.

One day, Cook was hiking with his son, talking about big dreams and plans. They stopped by the falls to take a rest and enjoy the view. Wouldn't it be neat, Cook wondered aloud, if they could somehow rebuild the historic footbridge that once spanned the gorge, linking the three cities of Cleveland Heights, Shaker Heights and Cleveland?

That was Father's Day of last year, but Cook didn't focus on that dream until his son approached him two weeks later. "He says, 'How is that bridge coming, Dad?'" Cook recounts with a laugh. "I said, 'Oh, I’m actually going to have to do this.'"

Since then, Cook has talked with officials from all three cities, met with nonprofit leaders such as Victoria Mills of the Doan Brook Watershed Partners, and begun to recruit a committee of a dozen or so volunteers. The next step is to develop a conceptual proposal for the new footbridge, including an estimated budget, and begin the process of seeking funding, partnerships and approvals.

"Everyone we've talked to is very interested," says Cook. "This is a legacy project."

The original bridge was torn down in the late 1950s or early 1960s after it fell into disrepair. The footers are still in Doan Brook, causing occasional problems when it floods. Cook's proposal is not to build on the existing footers or recreate the original; rather, he wants to find a cost-effective means of spanning the gorge to allow cyclists and walkers to easily travel between North Park and Fairhill.

"People from Cleveland Heights tell me they'd go to Shaker Square more often if there was an easier way to get there," he says, citing the fact that Coventry is the nearest cut-through street. "There are many ways this would benefit the area."

The footbridge also would create a recreational amenity for walkers, runners and cyclists, and offer a picturesque point for photos. Cook had his holiday photo taken here, and many people couldn't believe the falls were in Cleveland.

The bridge also could offer opportunities for environmental education, and history markers could educate visitors about the legacy of the Doan Brook.

Cost estimates are not yet available, but an earlier proposal developed as part of the Lakes-to-Lake Trail study suggested that a new footbridge could cost $1.5 million.

Cook is hosting the first meeting of the footbridge committee this week, and hopes to use the meeting as a springboard to further develop the proposal. If you're interested in getting involved, email Brian Cook here.

Source: Brian Cook
Writer: Lee Chilcote

slavic village native son returns home to champion neighborhood redevelopment

Anthony Trzaska was born and raised in Slavic Village, where his family owns Fortuna Funeral Home. He left Cleveland to go to college, then returned home and settled in Lakewood.

Exploring the city as a young twentysomething, he became actively involved in efforts to improve Slavic Village. He watched as areas like Ohio City boomed with new development, and yet his beloved neighborhood continued to slide downhill.

"Every year, it was a much different neighborhood," says Trzaska, describing the foreclosure epidemic that devastated the streets where he'd once played as a kid. "I graduated from law school in the worst economy since the Great Recession, and that was layered on top of what was happening with the neighborhood."

Today, Trzaska is a business attorney who has reinvested in Slavic Village. He serves on the board of the Slovenian National Home (The Nash) and purchased a building on Fleet Avenue that he plans to fix up for a new commercial tenant. He doesn't believe that Slavic Village needs to be Ohio City, but rather, "the new wave of the Old World," where the past is respected yet change is embraced.

"I look at what's happening with the regentrification of historic neighborhoods, and I think that makes what I'm doing more probable and even likely," he says.

Trzaska's efforts to open up the Nash to more people and make it a joint that welcomes everybody from hipsters to longtime regulars recently was detailed in Scene.

The Nash's Facebook "likes" jumped by 42 percent thanks to that article, Trzaska says. He's expecting a good crowd at Friday's Open Bowl, where $10 buys you shoe rental and all-you-can-bowl for three hours. There's a cash bar, good tunes and Lebowski on the television. Trzaska himself has introduced Nash Nosh, updated versions of classic Slovenian food like stuffed and fried pierogis.

Trzaska also is heavily involved in revitalizing Fleet Avenue, which he views as one of Slavic Village's best shots at renewal. The city soon will spend about $8 million to transform Fleet into its first complete-and-green street, including bike infrastructure and green infrastructure, and there's already been some new investment in the area, he says, in the form of properties changing hands.  

Fleet Avenue already is home to classic ethnic delis like Seven Roses and butcher shops like Krusinski's. Trzaska sees an opportunity to add newer businesses to the mix, including an updated, younger version of the butcher shop. His building at 5014-16 Fleet Avenue will house the construction crew during the streetscape rebuilding. Once it's been completed, Trzaska will bring in a new tenant.

While there are many challenges to redeveloping Fleet Avenue, including convincing existing owners that change is needed, Trzaska sees the area as one with potential. With projects like Slavic Village Recovery underway, he believes that he can leverage neighborhood activity to achieve a new vision for the area.

Source: Anthony Trzaska
Writer: Lee Chilcote

shaker heights becomes latest city to vie for bike-friendly community designation

Shaker Heights is seeking to become the next city in Northeast Ohio to earn a bicycle-friendly community designation from the League of American Bicyclists. A crowdfunding campaign launched this month to raise funds for 25 additional bike racks for the city illustrates one way the leafy east-side community has redoubled its efforts to develop cycling amenities.

"The city just finished its second application," explains Rick Smith of the advocacy group Bike Shaker and the Shaker Heights Public Works and Safety Committee. "One thing the League encourages cities to do is provide bike parking around the community, so we figured that we'd try to focus on that as low-hanging fruit."

So far, the cities of Cleveland, Cleveland Heights and Lakewood are the only ones in Northeast Ohio to receive the increasingly coveted designation. Each one has earned a bronze-level award for its efforts. By comparison, Portland, Oregon, is the only major city in the U.S. to earn a platinum-level designation.

The IndieGogo campaign aims to raise $4,500 to help fund racks produced by Metro Metal Works, a project of Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries that employs low-income individuals. The bike racks will be installed at public and private locations throughout the city. The goal is to paint them "Shaker Red," pending city approval, Smith says, to enhance the city's brand as a bike-friendly community.

The city also is offering five cycling-related courses through its Department of Recreation, and plans are in the works to add more "sharrows." The next step is to revisit the Lee Road plan and add bike lanes/infrastructure there, Smith says.

"The city is getting serious," notes Smith, citing the fact that Shaker Heights now has a Bicycle Programs Manager and has issued a proclamation designating May as Bike Month throughout the city, similar to other communities around the country.

"It's slow going, but all agree that cycling is an asset to the community, and that cycling improvements improve property values and quality of life," says Smith.

Source: Rick Smith
Writer: Lee Chilcote

bistro to open this spring in long-vacant slavic village bank building

Christian Ostenson says that he wants to do for Slavic Village what Sam McNulty did for Ohio City. He's emulating that successful entrepreneur by opening Thee Six5 Bistro, a 5,000-square-foot restaurant in a renovated, historic bank building in the Warszawa District on E. 65th. And while Slavic Village isn't Ohio City -- and isn't necessarily striving to be -- the new venue seems destined to add to the area's hidden charm.

Ostenson says Six5 will be an affordable, all-American bistro with frequent Polish and Slovenian specials in a nod to the area's rich ethnic heritage. It will have an open floor plan, large push-open windows and a rooftop deck and bar. Situated directly across from St. Stanislaus Church in the heart of the historic district, the building offers great views in an area with plenty of foot traffic.

"We want to make Slavic Village a destination, to bring people back to see what the area has to offer," says Ostenson, who steered clear of pricier real estate in Tremont or Ohio City because he wanted a spot where he could be a "pioneer."

Ostenson, a custom home builder who also runs Best of Both Worlds catering, purchased the building a few years ago with his wife Sarah for just $31,000, according to county auditor records. The second floor ceiling had caved in, and the roof dated back to the 1930s. "The building had seen better days," he notes.

But the builder has completely renovated the place from top to bottom, blowing through his $15,000 plumbing budget and spending more than four times that amount instead. But he's not complaining -- this is a project of passion as much as profit, he says. "I plan on being here awhile, so I don't need to make it all in a minute."

While he won't yet reveal the name of the chef on the project, he promises fresh, upscale cuisine at affordable prices. "We don't even have a freezer in the restaurant."

Ostenson will launch a Kickstarter campaign to help fund his pizza ovens before Thee Six5 Bistro opens in April. He promises that the rewards will be stellar.

This spring, the City of Cleveland will spend nearly $9 million rehabilitating nearby Fleet Avenue as one of the city's first complete-and-green streets.

Thee SixFive Bistro was financed by Key Bank, the City of Cleveland Storefront Renovation Program and the Economic and Community Development Institute.

Source: Christian Ostenson
Writer: Lee Chilcote

developer breaks ground on only for-sale residential project in university circle

The developers behind University Place Townhomes, a 19-unit project on E. 118th Street in University Circle, have broken ground on their new project. With two sales in hand, they're laying the foundation and intend to start vertical construction in the spring.

"The demographic is pretty much what we thought it would be," says Russell Lamb, a principal with Allegro Realty and partner in the project, which includes several Allegro principals. "The buyers are either people who work in the Circle, particularly medical institutions, people who want to move back to an urban environment who are downsizing, or young professionals."

"We're the only for-sale project in University Circle," he adds. "We're pretty comfortable with where we are right now." The developers hope to obtain several additional sales in the spring so they can start construction on additional units.

While much of the action these days is in the rental market, the for-sale market also is showing signs of renewed life, says Lamb. He believes University Circle is a particularly strong, underserved market, in part because there's so little developable land. The parcel on E. 118th was a rare vacant property within the district's boundaries that could be developed.

The units range in size from 1,100 square feet to just under 2,100 square feet, with prices starting at $250,000 and climbing to $450,000. Lamb describe the prices as "expensive for Cleveland, but not expensive for University Circle," an area that commands a premium.

The project design features five separate buildings around a central, European-style courtyard utilizing modern building techniques including cementitious exteriors. Dimit Architects designed the units. The interiors, while not extravagant in terms of square footage, are "modern, open and airy; there's a good use of space," Lamb says.

Uptown has been a particular "center of gravity" for the project, he adds, providing much-needed amenities that will attract the home-buying set.

What's needed to complete the Circle? "More people," Lamb says. "If any place in Cleveland has got it all, it's gotta be University Circle."

Source: Russell Lamb
Writer: Lee Chilcote

cleveland announces plans to add 70 miles of bikeways by 2017, but more work remains

Despite huge improvements in the city's bike culture, miles of new bikeways, and more two-wheeled commuters than ever before, the City of Cleveland has been criticized for lagging behind peer cities like Memphis and Detroit in adding new bike infrastructure like bike lanes.
But the City is vowing to pick up the pace. At Bike Cleveland's annual meeting, Sustainability Chief Jenita McGowan announced an ambitious plan to add 70 new miles of bikeways by 2017. The improvements are included as part of the city's capital improvements plan, which gives advocates confidence that they'll actually get done.

"What I like about the plan is that it's ambitious and it's tied to the capital improvements plan," says Jacob Van Sickle, Executive Director of Bike Cleveland, an advocacy group that has gained considerable clout despite a small staff thanks to a cadre of noisy bike advocates. "Yet while the plan is exciting, it's still up to advocates to communicate that... we need bike lanes and protected bike lanes."

The devil's in the details, as they say. While the city has pledged to create new bikeways when it repaves or resurfaces streets or by restriping existing streets, it hasn't said what kind of bikeways it will create. Bike Cleveland advocates believe that "sharrows" -- street markings that remind drivers to share the road with cyclists -- are less effective at creating a safe cycling environment than bike lanes and protected bike lanes.

"My hope is that we're starting to make a shift -- with the city and in terms of public perception -- and they're realizing that sharrows don't cut it," says Van Sickle.

For its part, the city has said that the types of bikeways will be determined based partially on public input, and that community meetings will be announced.

Currently, Cleveland has 47.5 miles of bikeways. About 3.7 miles are streets with sharrows, 10.3 miles are bike lanes and 34.6 miles are off-road trails, often shared with pedestrians. By comparison, Detroit added nearly 80 miles of bike lanes in 2013 alone. Cleveland's bikeway system also has been criticized as being largely disconnected: For instance, cyclists can ride across the Lorain-Carnegie bridge on a protected bikeway, but it doesn't link to anything at either end of the bridge.

Some of the streets that are slated to obtain bike lanes in the next year include W. 41st Street, W. 44th Street, Triskett Road, Puritas Avenue and Denison Avenue. The city's bikeway network was developed in collaboration with Bike Cleveland and the Complete and Green Streets Task Force. The city plans to add about 45 miles of bikeways in the next two years, and 26 miles in 2016 and 2017. An additional 82 miles have been identified, but have no funding allocated to them.

The goal? McGowan says that within a few years, it should be possible to traverse much of the city using a system of interconnected bikeways. Now that's progress.

Van Sickle says that while he is excited about the city's ambitious new plans, "The work isn't done yet. We really need to make sure we're getting people out to public meetings in support of bikes." That's because capital improvement plans can shift, and Bike Cleveland wants to make sure that additional bike lanes are added.

Van Sickle claims that while some non-cyclists initially are skeptical of bike lanes, when they are educated on the benefits, many become supporters. He cited a recent public meeting to discuss adding bike lanes to Puritas Avenue in which cycling advocates converted a few more skeptics.
At Bike Cleveland's annual meeting, the organization also touted its "Ride Together" safety campaign, the awarding of three bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community awards to Cleveland Heights, Lakewood and Cleveland, and a recently completed bike share feasibility study, among other accomplishments.

Source: Jacob Van Sickle
Writer: Lee Chilcote

heinen's ceo divulges plans for new downtown grocery, acknowledges challenges

Although Heinen's is still mapping out the details of its planned grocery store in downtown Cleveland, co-owner Jeff Heinen recently shared with Fresh Water conceptual plans, while acknowledging that opening a 33,000-square-foot grocery downtown is anything but a slam dunk and will require fine tuning to reach the right market.

Last year, Heinen's announced plans to bring a long-sought-after, full-service grocery to downtown Cleveland. Later this year, that store will open at the historic Cleveland Trust rotunda at East 9th and Euclid, which first opened in 1908. The shopping experience promises to be unlike any other, with customers selecting produce beneath a glorious stained glass dome.

Heinen's is conducting plenty of research to ensure the store fits local market dynamics, Heinen explains. "We're taking a space that's not a traditional grocery store and creating a grocery store offering," he says. "We're spending time making sure that we're not bringing a suburban store to an urban location."

The downtown location will be about half the size of the typical Heinen's, which poses challenges. "There's a reason why grocery stores are diverse and carry 40,000 items. Our challenge is to find items that please the highest percentage of people."

Heinen also acknowledges that "based on traditional metrics, there are not enough downtown residents to open a grocery store." Yet he was convinced to plunge into the market to help settle the classic chicken-and-egg quandary ("Which comes first, residents or retail?") after witnessing soaring demand for downtown living.

"This is a unique location," he notes. "East 9th and Euclid used to be the center of downtown Cleveland. They don't make 'em like this anymore. If you add the residential living momentum happening downtown, this project makes sense."

He adds, "We're ahead of the curve, but hopefully not too far."

While Heinen's likely will lose money in its first few years -- every new store does -- the owner believes the concept will catch on and he'll be able to tap into the growing base of downtown residents and office workers living and working downtown.

"Even now, there's plenty of competition," he admits, citing Dave's, the West Side Market, Constantino's and others. "The vast majority of downtown residents have cars, so it's not like you have a captive audience. We'll have to earn our business."

Heinen's will do that by offering a customized product mix catered to urban residents, including the kind of organic, local and fresh produce it's known for.
The company also will try and make shopping downtown as convenient as possible, while acknowledging that shoppers will not enjoy suburban-style parking. A parking garage that will serve Heinen's and The 9 is located about a block away, though the store will have curbside pickup along Euclid for shoppers to have their groceries loaded. There will be valet parking as well. Heinen's also will sell and promote the old-school two-wheeled carts common at the West Side Market and urban grocery stores in other cities.

"The average suburban person wants to drive up close," Heinen says. "But we also know that people in urban environments get the fact that the parking won't be next door."

To be successful, however, the store must pull from surrounding neighborhoods and not just rely on downtown apartment dwellers, who now number close to 14,000. "If people won't drive here, we'll lose a lot of money," he says.

Of course, shoppers also can utilize public transportation, such as the RTA's free and popular downtown trolley service. Heinen plans to request a stop outside his front door.

For those who want to learn more about how the store will be configured and what it will offer, details will be released in a few months. "It will be very similar to shopping in our Hudson store," he says of that efficiently designed concept. "We'll make downtown as much of a full line store as we can make it. The reality is, it's half the size of most of our stores, so there will be trade-offs. We may not have a 24-pack of Charmin, because downtown dwellers don't want a 24-pack."

"We think people will be able to do a full week's shopping here," he adds. "We know who grows most of our product, and we know how it was grown. The woman with six kids and the single person -- we want to serve everyone."

Source: Jeff Heinen
Writer: Lee Chilcote

duck island poised for redevelopment with completion of draft neighborhood plan

Duck Island, a pocket neighborhood between Ohio City and Tremont that has long been inexplicably walled off from the revitalization that surrounds it, might be poised to see a surge of development -- on its own terms -- if a new plan has anything to say about it.

Tremont West Development Corporation, with support from Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, hired the KSU Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative to conduct a community planning charrette last month. A draft plan is now complete. It will be presented at a community meeting in Tremont this month, and once finalized approval will be sought from the Cleveland Planning Commission.

With major development projects already in the works, the plan could potentially influence how these projects unfold, and could help shape the area as one of Cleveland's next hot neighborhoods.

"Although the Duck Island neighborhood has a relatively low profile compared with other Cleveland neighborhoods, it is well positioned to become one of the city's most walkable, transit-oriented neighborhoods," states the plan, noting that at least three major housing developments currently are in the planning stages there.

This pocket neighborhood might be small, but its potential to influence development on the near west side is huge. That's because it has a big repository of vacant land, much of which is privately owned, that makes the area akin to Tremont in the 1980s, when the development boom there first started.

"We could potentially double the number of housing units that are in the area now," says Cory Riordan, Executive Director of Tremont West, citing capacity for 200-plus units. Most of these units would be located north of Lorain, with additional scattered sites and townhome units south of Lorain.

Duck Island is an area located near the intersection of Abbey Road and Lorain Avenue. It is surrounded on three sides by hillsides that slope down to the industrial Cuyahoga Valley. It is reputed to have earned its name because criminals would "duck" in here to escape the cops back in the day.

The new Duck Island plan calls for taking advantage of the area's close proximity to transit, urban amenities, trail linkages and stunning views of downtown. It proposes two main ideas: first, creating a "linked network of open space" that takes advantage of adjacent hillsides leading to the industrial Cuyahoga Valley, and second, developing Abbey Avenue as a "small-scale mixed-use corridor" that serves local residents and visitors and acts as a gateway to the community.

The plan calls for guiding new housing development so it's appropriately scaled, with denser projects on main streets and single-family projects on side streets; enhancing Abbey Park; maintaining public access to bluffs where views of downtown Cleveland are possible; creating a new streetscape with gateway treatments along Abbey; and taking advantage of hillsides to create walking trails and open space.

Some of the other innovative ideas in the plan include building steps so that slopes can be accessed, including railings that allow bikes to be rolled uphill; perennial plantings alongside the Abbey bridge; using plants to remediate pollution in formerly industrial land; and even possibly restoring a wetland.

Riordan says near term steps might include redeveloping Abbey Park, creating permanent public green space overlooking the city's skyline on W. 17th Street, and redeveloping Abbey Road with small-scale commercial space. The greening of the now-overgrown hillsides will likely take longer to come to fruition, he says.

Above all, residents here want to retain the off-the-beaten-path character that has defined Duck Island for decades. They do not want another W. 25th Street or Professor Avenue, however successful those streets might be. Instead, residents have opted to support new development, but to define it on their own terms.

Source: Tremont West Development Corporation
Writer: Lee Chilcote

wolfs gallery on larchmere to relocate to historic building undergoing renovation

An east-side developer has purchased the historic streetcar power station on Larchmere Boulevard. Once home to the American Crafts Gallery, which is thought to be the oldest gallery of its kind in Cleveland, and which is now housed within the Dancing Sheep boutique down the road, the property has been vacant for years. Ilene Greenblatt, who has developed properties in Chicago before moving back to Cleveland to be near family, bought the building and expects to wrap up renovations by March.

"It's a very handsome building and I've always loved it," says Greenblatt. "When I saw it was for sale and the price was reasonable, I jumped in and bought it."

Renovating the building has not been quite as reasonable. Shortly after the purchase, the back wall caved in and the roof collapsed. Greenblatt soldiered on, fixing a leaky basement, cleaning out an old tunnel leading to the street that was stuffed with trash, and rebuilding a mezzanine that was too dangerous to stand on.

The property, which has soaring 30-foot ceilings, brick walls and large windows, will soon house Wolfs Gallery, a long-running fixture on the Cleveland art scene that opened a gallery on Larchmere a few years ago. Owner Michael Wolf plans to relocate to the 6,000-square-foot space in spring, a dramatic expansion from his current storefront.

"I love the people in the area, they're wonderful," says Greenblatt. "The building was neglected for so long, it needed a lot of money and a lot of work. But it will be here for at least another hundred years, easily."

Source: Ilene Greenblatt
Writer: Lee Chilcote

cleveland neighborhood progress launches city life tours to highlight urban vibrancy

Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, a nonprofit community development organization, has begun offering Cleveland City Life tours to expose suburbanites, millenials, empty-nesters, boomerangs and newcomers to town to all the city has to offer.

CNP Director of Marketing Jeff Kipp says the tours really are about helping Clevelanders see for themselves the positive change taking place in the city.

"We'll do the proverbial handholding and take you into the neighborhoods," he says. "You see the positive headlines and positive trends, but a big chunk of our population doesn't have firsthand experience with the city. This is about removing that intimidation factor and bridging the gap."

Tours starts in Ohio City and include stops in Detroit Shoreway, the lakefront, University Circle, Little Italy, Midtown, downtown and Tremont. Along the way, it also touches on neighborhoods such as Cudell, Glenville and Fairfax. Each lasts two hours, costs $12 and comes with a free Live!Cleveland/City Life T-shirt.
"As we drive through University Circle, we can reference the excitement that's happening in North Shore Collinwood," Kipp explains, adding that while the tours can't feasibly cover the whole city, they will highlight all city neighborhoods.

The tours are being marketed through CNP's website and partner organizations such as Global Cleveland and the Downtown Cleveland Alliance. There currently are tours scheduled between Christmas and New Year's and around the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend.

"This is a way to roll out the red carpet and give a reintroduction to your Cleveland neighbors," Kipp adds.

Source: Jeff Kipp
Writer: Lee Chilcote

city of lakewood says madison avenue is next frontier for urban development

The City of Lakewood has issued 44 certificates of occupancy on Madison Avenue this year, and nine businesses are participating in the city's storefront renovation program. Planning and Development Director Dru Siley says these numbers show how much business interest there is along this traditional yet funky strip, which is seeing a wave of redevelopment activity spurred in part by Detroit Avenue's success.

"We want to reproduce the success we've had on Detroit, recognizing that Madison has unique character and flavor that make it distinct," he says. "Madison is a small business corridor. Of 300 businesses here, 95 percent of them are locally owned."

Siley says that Madison is home to independent restaurants and entertainment spots, professional services and service-oriented retail. Current vacancy rates hover around 14 percent, down from over 20 percent a few years ago. Lakewood is developing a new streetscape along Madison that will break ground fall of 2014. The city also is committing storefront renovation dollars to help attract businesses and redevelop properties.

Examples of new businesses attracted to Madison recently include Mahall's, a historic old-school bowling alley that has new ownership and added music, food and entertainment, and Barrio, a Mexican eatery. The streetscape project not only will resurface the street, but also reduce Madison to two lanes with a center turning lane to make it safer and accommodate bike lanes. No parking will be lost.

The City of Lakewood and LakewoodAlive hosted a forum entitled "Madison on the Move" on Wednesday, December 4th at Harrison Elementary School in Lakewood.

Source: Dru Siley
Writer: Lee Chilcote

ohio city, detroit shoreway propose region's first protected bike lanes along lorain avenue

Ohio City and Detroit Shoreway might become the first communities in Cleveland -- indeed, Northeast Ohio -- to develop protected bike lanes. Such bike lanes are located in the road yet provide a barrier such as a raised curb to separate bikes and cars. While protected bike lanes have been implemented in other cities, they're only now beginning to enter the lexicon of Northeast Ohio planning agencies.

They're being proposed as part of a new streetscape plan for Lorain Avenue that runs between W. 25th and W. 85th streets. The plan also includes a new median between W. 28th and W. 32nd -- the area by St. Ignatius campus -- to calm traffic and make crossing easier. Curb bump-outs might be built on the south side of the street to shorten crossing distances and make the area more pedestrian-friendly.

Ohio City Inc. Director Eric Wobser says the new streetscape would capitalize on growing interest in cycling on the near west side and throughout Cleveland and build off momentum generated by the new Lorain-Carnegie bridge bike path. It also would make the area safer for pedestrians and attract new businesses.

"Protected bike lanes have been shown to be a best practice that keep cyclists safer," says Wobser. "We also see this creating a more vibrant Lorain; the cyclists could slow down and potentially stop at a business on Lorain."

Currently, Lorain functions as a two-lane road with two parking lanes for 20 hours a day, and a four-lane road with no on-street parking during rush hour. The plan eliminates parking on the north side of the street and makes Lorain a two-lane street. It also establishes a center turn lane at Fulton and other intersections.

The new streetscape would also feature permeable paving in the parking lane and additional landscaping and trees on both sides of the street.

Wobser says that the plan can be accomplished by removing parking on the south side of the street except between W. 24th and W. 26th Streets. In this area, a recommendation for how to accommodate cyclists will be made during the design phase.

While eliminating parking often is controversial, Wobser believes there is adequate parking in the plan and says it was the first choice of the streetscape steering committee, which consists of residents, business owners and institutions.

Jacob VanSickle of Bike Cleveland says there is demand for protected bike lanes, which could help get more bike commuters on the roads: "The bike counts for Detroit and West 25th are one of the highest in the region. Looking at NOACA's numbers shows there is indeed an increase in people biking. The most recent report by the League of American Cyclists shows a 385% increase in bike commuters in Cleveland from 1990-2010 (that is higher than Seattle during the same time period)."

The next step is to present the plan at a public meeting, which will take place on Tuesday, December 10th at 6 p.m. at Franklin Circle Church, and garner feedback. Ohio City Inc. and Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization then intend to seek approval from the City Planning Commission.

Wobser says the city has committed $1 million of its capital budget to the project, and Councilman Joe Cimperman has committed $100,000. The total project cost is about $17 million, and the groups will apply for funding from the State of Ohio, NOACA and other sources.

Lorain Avenue has seen increased development in recent years, and new projects currently underway include Hansa House, Platform Brewing Company and JC Beertech, and Jack Flaps Urban Breakfast Shoppe.

Sponsors of the Launch Lorain effort include Ohio Savings Bank, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, Saint Ignatius High School and Councilmen Cimperman and Matt Zone. Bike Cleveland has also been a partner in the project.

Source: Eric Wobser
Writer: Lee Chilcote

happy dog to open east side location in iconic euclid tavern in university circle

The Happy Dog in the Gordon Square Arts District is famous for tasty hot dogs with crazy toppings, live music and adventurous cultural fare, including members of the Cleveland Orchestra recording an album live in front of the racetrack bar. Now the successful venue is heading east; in the ultimate win-win, the owners are opening their first east side location inside the now-shuttered Euclid Tavern.

"We've been approached many times, and there are a lot of things we could have done," says Sean Watterson, co-owner of the Happy Dog. "To be a part of bringing the Euclid Tavern back to life was the thing that made us go, 'OK, maybe we could do another one of these, and this is the place to do it.'"

The Happy Dog signed a lease on the space this week with University Circle Inc., which bought the building last year from the previous owners. The Euclid Tavern operated continuously as a bar from 1909 until 2001, making it the second longest-running bar site in Cleveland, according to UCI Director Chris Ronayne. New owners re-opened it in 2008 and stuck with it until 2013. UCI began renovating the space and looking for a new operator earlier this year.

"We were searching for the right tenant to live up to the iconic reputation of the Euclid Tavern as a music venue," says Ronayne. "We were in courtship with the guys from the Happy Dog for a while -- they know food, music and programming."

The Euclid Tavern has hosted national acts Chrissie Hynde, Pavement and Green Day, and also served as home base for legendary local acts like Mr. Stress. The tavern was also featured in the 1987 film Light of Day starring Michael J. Fox and Joan Jett.

Although plans are still being shaped, Watterson says the new venue will operate as the Happy Dog at the Euclid Tavern. A similar menu will be available, but some hot dog toppings will only be available at the east side location, and vice versa. The owners also plan more cultural programming through partnerships with area institutions such as the Cleveland Institute of Music and Institute of Art.

The same partnership that owns the west side Happy Dog, including Watterson, Sean Kilbane and chef Eric Williams, will open the Euclid Tavern location.

Source: Sean Watterson, Chris Ronayne
Writer: Lee Chilcote

new grant program funds business incubator, other innovative community projects

A new grant program launched by Neighborhood Progress Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides funding and technical assistance to community development corporations in Cleveland, recently awarded $200,000 to five projects. The recipients include a new business incubation program in North Collinwood, youth programming in Ohio City and surrounding neighborhoods, an effort in Central to teach fourth graders about healthy, local food, arts-based development in St. Clair Superior, and a community engagement effort in Tremont.

"The program came to be when we, as an organization, made a decision to develop a program that all CDCs had access to," says Colleen Gilson, Vice President of CDC Services for NPI, of the Neighborhood Solutions grant program. "The idea was, let's not be prescriptive. Let's let CDCs tell us what their solution to a neighborhood problem is or a cool project in their service area."

The awards break down as follows: NPI awarded $45,000 to ActiVacant, a program to recruit entrepreneurs to vacant retail spaces on E. 185th; $45,000 to Near West Recreation to expand its network of youth programming, including baseball, soccer, softball, basketball and bowling; $45,000 to St. Clair Superior for its Urban Upcycle project; $45,000 to Burton Bell Carr for its Urban Farm Diet Program; and $20,000 to Tremont West for its efforts to engage residents in creating a community-based development plan around MetroHealth.

Gilson says the projects reflect "deep collaboration" and non-traditional approaches towards community development. For instance, Near West Recreation is an effort to engage and retain families in six neighborhoods on the near west side -- Ohio City, Tremont, Stockyards, Clark-Fulton and Detroit Shoreway -- and build "intergenerational mixed-income neighborhoods." ActiVacant, spearheaded by Northeast Shores, is a "new take on the American dream" and a "business incubation project on steroids" that will entice young retailers to fill empty spaces on E. 185th by offering them free or reduced rent for a period of time, access to mentors and other support, and incentives for meeting benchmarks.

"The process was pretty amazing," says Gilson, describing a Shark Tank-esque format in which finalists presented in front of a panel of community development leaders, who then ranked and voted on winners. "We invited other CDCs to come watch and learn from their peers, and it was a really good opportunity to learn."

Source: Colleen Gilson
Writer: Lee Chilcote

developer breaks ground on 20 new micro-apartments in university circle

WXZ Development recently broke ground on 20 new micro-apartments on E. 118th Street in University Circle, adding to the wave of new housing in the area. Developer Jim Wymer says demand remains strong for efficiently designed, higher-end rental units geared towards professionals and students.

"We realized the true market that was untapped was an upscale rental product that was suited to the demographics of the Circle," says Wymer, who previously built and sold 12 townhomes at Circle 118. "There are people looking for nice, unique housing that feels like a for-sale product, but they want to rent."

A few years ago, WXZ developed Hazel 8, a 59-unit apartment project on Hazel Drive that is nearly 100 percent occupied. The units feature hardwood floors and stainless steel appliances and rent for $1.85 per square foot, or about $1,100 for a 600-square-foot, one-bedroom unit, due to the premium University Circle location.

The newest units, located on land previously owned by RTA, are actually Phase II of 118 Flats, a project that already brought 10 new units to E. 118th and Euclid.

"The market is so unique," says Wymer of demand for the units. "We have people coming into the market from as far away as the Far East. There was a lot of Internet shopping with Hazel 8 -- probably one-third of our tenants did applications and made deposits without ever seeing the product."

The units at 118 Flats average about 800 square feet, but they are efficiently designed with high ceilings, little wasted space and plenty of natural light, making them feel less like cramped apartments and more like hip micro-units.

Source: Jim Wymer
Writer: Lee Chilcote

port authority announces plans for cleveland-europe express ocean freight service

The Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority has announced plans to launch the first-ever Cleveland-Europe express ocean freight service, an effort that is currently being finalized and will be cemented next month if the agency's levy passes, officials say.

Port Authority business is already strong, Executive Director Will Friedman said at a recent press conference, with last month's port traffic having exceeded pre-recession levels. The new service will enhance those business fundamentals by offering "lower-cost, faster and greener" direct service.

"For freight, this is like the equivalent of a Cleveland Hopkins direct-to-Heathrow flight from our airport," said Friedman. "We feel that it will be well-subscribed by the maritime community in Northeast Ohio and beyond. There's a huge market -- fifty percent of the country's population is within an eight-hour drive of us."

"We believe this new service will be a game-changer for area companies, helping them become more competitive in the global economy," added board chair Marc Krantz, who stressed that it will help goods and products reach Northeast Ohio manufacturers and companies more quickly and result in more money spent locally.

Without this service, containers shipped from Europe are sent to East Coast ports, where they are then placed aboard a truck or freight line to be transported to Ohio. With the addition of this service, being chartered by the Port itself, both travel time and cost are reduced.

Friedman says the service would create 361 new direct and indirect jobs and generate $34.4 million of total personal income earned. The Port already generates $1.8 billion in annual economic activity.

Source: Will Friedman, Marc Krantz
Writer: Lee Chilcote

opportunity corridor could be missed opportunity without better planning, advocates say

Opponents and proponents of the Opportunity Corridor, a 3.5-mile planned roadway that would connect I-490 with University Circle, don’t agree on much. Opponents say that the road is a glorified highway that will encourage drivers to bypass east side neighborhoods without providing much local community benefit. Proponents say the roadway will connect low-income communities with transportation networks and jobs while spurring new development.

“We think this is an example of outdated planning,” said Angie Schmitt of Clevelanders for Transportation Equity at a forum on the Opportunity Corridor, held at the Cleveland Museum of Art. “For decades, we’ve built a highway system and been told that prosperity would follow. A lot of times, this has been way oversold.”

Schmitt believes that the Opportunity Corridor could “entrench auto-dependency” and hurt neighborhoods, and says younger workers want pedestrian-friendly development.

Yet Vicki Eaton-Johnson of Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation says that the Opportunity Corridor is a true opportunity if done right. “Our neighborhood has planned with anticipation of this roadway for 10 years,” she said, pointing to the proposed New Economy Neighborhood on E. 105th Street as a benefit.

“Fairfax’s responsibility is to leverage what happens for community benefit,” she added, arguing that the medical and technology businesses that the Opportunity Corridor is expected to attract will provide some jobs to community residents. 

However, there is increased consensus that the Opportunity Corridor must be better designed or it will be a missed opportunity. Panelists said it should be a truly multi-modal roadway that not only maximizes development opportunities, but also works for cyclists and pedestrians while making the area more attractive and vibrant.

“I am a proponent of getting this right, and we need to create complete neighborhoods and complete streets,” said Chris Ronayne, President of University Circle Incorporated.

Schmitt criticized a proposed 10-foot-wide, multipurpose path on the south side of the roadway as a “bone” that was thrown to cyclists in order to pacify some vocal critics. The car lanes are 12-13 feet wide like a highway, which will encourage speeding, she argued. She also said the intersections are not designed to be pedestrian-friendly. Moreover, Schmitt argued that there aren’t enough intersections (13 are planned).

Although Opportunity Corridor proponents refuted Schmitt’s notion that the roadway represents dated thinking, some agree that more planning is needed to get it right. “Angie is right that we’ve got to plan this thing at the intersection level,” Ronayne commented, lamenting a short timeline and lack of funding for alternative plans.  

Architect Jennifer Coleman commented that the City of Cleveland needs to develop a form-based zoning plan for the area in order to foster the kind of development that will lead to community revitalization. “We can do better,” she said in response to drawings showing single-story, office-park development on the vacant land around the roadway.

Moderator Steve Litt called on panelists to lead a community-based planning process and present an alternative plan to the Ohio Department of Transportation, which has awarded $331 million to the corridor. The project is expected to start in fall of 2014.

Source: Angie Schmitt, Chris Ronayne, Vicki Eaton-Johnson, Steve Litt
Writer: Lee Chilcote

noaca director touts bikes, multi-modal transportation in annual address

Speaking last week at the annual meeting of the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA), the regional transportation planning agency for Northeast Ohio, Executive Director Grace Gallucci promised a more strategic distribution of money for projects and greater emphasis on multi-modal transportation options.

"We want more choices; that's what freedom -- being an American -- is about," she said. "NOACA is not trying to vilify the automobile; we're trying to attract the best and the brightest. Bicycling is increasingly popular, and more communities are integrating bike plans. Americans are driving less for the first time in a generation, and that trend is clearly led by the Millenial generation."

NOACA also has launched a far-reaching plan to assemble information on the condition of every highway, road and street in five counties, and use this information to make objective decisions about transportation spending. "Making decisions in an objective, data-driven way is more important now than ever. If there ever was a time to make decisions make economic sense, the time is now."

Gallucci touted NOACA's new Regional Bicycle Transportation Plan, a $15 million investment in the City of Cleveland's W. 73rd Street Extension Project and the Clifton Boulevard streetscape project among NOACA's recent, big ticket investments.

Peter Rogoff, Federal Transit Administrator, gave the keynote address. He argued that transit-oriented development projects can spark urban revitalization if done right, citing Cleveland's bus-rapid transit along the Euclid Corridor as one example of success.

Cleveland is a "national model for doing" with the Euclid Corridor project, Rogoff stated, because the project cost a lot less than light rail but resulted in big ridership gains and major economic development along the corridor. Other cities are studying how Cleveland did it and replicating our success, he added.

Source: Grace Gallucci, Peter Rogoff
Writer: Lee Chilcote

150k-sq-ft victory center nears completion in health-tech corridor

Core and shell renovations of the 150,000-square-foot Victory Center, a $26 million project located along the Health-Tech Corridor, are almost complete. Tenant build-outs will follow, and although none have signed leases yet, developer Scott Garson says that will change as his team finishes the common spaces and shows the property to more prospective tenants.

"Everybody thinks it's wonderful, great… The trick is getting the first one in," he says. "I have enough letters of intent out there that I'm confident it's only a matter of time."

Garson says the demand is there for flexible, ready-to-grow office space geared towards biomedical, research and technology companies, which is why he decided to undertake the project. He points out that nearby buildings owned by Geis Companies and Cumberland Development are almost completely full.

So far, Garson has completed the project without a bank loan, using partner equity and a $720,000 loan from the city, $2.5 million in tax increment financing, federal and state historic tax credits, and a $1 million State of Ohio job ready sites grant. Garson expects to secure bank financing in the near future for tenant build-outs.

The building's unique features include a new interior with a historic waffle slab ceiling, window wells that allow plenty of natural light, copious backup power, fiber-optic connectivity, and the right mechanicals in place for laboratory space. The building will be certified LEED Silver, saving tenants 20 percent on utility costs. Finally, it has views of downtown, free parking and HealthLine access.

"We went through a recycling program with the materials and our landscaping uses stormwater management strategies," says Michael Augoustidis of Domukur Architects, the firm that designed the project. "It's very energy-efficient."

Although he's not ready to declare victory yet, Gardon says the historic building, which was built in 1917 as the Arts Center, is nearing the goal line and ready to score.

Source: Scott Garson
Writer: Lee Chilcote

cleveland cyclewerks to open first exclusive dealership in gordon square warehouse

Cleveland Cyclewerks (CCW), a startup that manufactures and sells its own motorcycles, is set to open the first Cyclewerks-exclusive dealership at its warehouse in the Gordon Square Arts District. The owners will host a party on Saturday, October 5th with food trucks, kegs of free beer and tours of the shop, which sells accessories and also repairs bikes.

"A year ago, this place was a mess," says general manager Jon Dale. "We cleaned it out, pressure washed everything and built a new plywood floor. We wanted to keep the old building feel, though, with the brick walls and the concrete floors."

The shop at Herman and W. 65th Street will be open Monday through Friday from 9 to 5, and will soon be open on Saturdays, as well. The repair shop specializes in vintage British and Japanese bikes, and the staff can custom-build CCW bikes based on a customer's preferences. All of the company's models, including the soon-to-be-released ACE, will be on display in the store.

Owners Scott Colosimo and Jered Streng created CCW after getting laid off from their industrial design jobs in 2009. The lightweight bikes have 250cc engines, are inexpensive to maintain, and get 100 miles to the gallon. They've been described as having a "retro-futuristic" look and are priced at only $3,295.

Dale says that Colosimo and local architect Robert Maschke purchased the vacant, 70,000-square-foot warehouse, which was last home to a rubber stamping plant but built as a meat packing plant, for a small sum. They are slowly refurbishing portions of it and leasing it out to small companies or using it for CCW's operations.

CCW has grown tremendously over the past few years, and now sells bikes at 40 dealerships in the U.S. and 15 countries throughout the world. Dale, a Cleveland native, says that the company has allowed him to stay in the city and do what he loves.

"Not only is my passion my job, but I get to help revive the city," he says.

Source: Jon Dale
Writer: Lee Chilcote

downtown cleveland alliance hosts first all-ohio BID conference

As millenials, empty nesters and other demographic groups flock to downtowns across Ohio, business improvement districts -- or BIDs -- are playing an important role in ensuring that these areas are clean and safe and that residents, office workers and property owners have the amenities they need to thrive.

A business improvement district is a defined area within which property owners pay an additional tax to fund projects and services that enhance the area. Downtown Cleveland has a BID, and the organization provides basic "clean and safe" services, organizes events and markets downtown to prospective residents, visitors and businesses.

This week, Downtown Cleveland Alliance, which manages the downtown BID, organized the first all-Ohio BID conference, bringing together BID leaders from across the state to network and learn about issues they share in common.

"It came from the idea that there's not a unifying organization or conference for BIDs," says Anna Beyerle with DCA. "We can learn a lot from other BIDs across Ohio. The idea was to get in the same room and throw out ideas and best practices."

Topics included food truck legislation, downtown transportation, farmers markets, placemaking, and office and retail recruitment strategies.

Participants also enjoyed several tours of downtown Cleveland and the surrounding area and had a chance to learn from Cleveland's redevelopment.

Beyerle says the conference will help BIDs, such as the one in downtown Cleveland, to become more effective. "We're up for renewal in a couple years, and we're looking at how we can improve."

Source: Anna Beyerle
Writer: Lee Chilcote

5th street arcades adds several new retailers, nears 100 percent occupancy

The historic Colonial and Euclid Arcades in downtown Cleveland suffered from 40 percent vacancy last year, yet this year they added a slew of new shops and have gone from half-empty to nearly completely full.

Renamed the 5th Street Arcades, the once-moribund properties have been turned around by Dick Pace of Cumberland Development, who has breathed new life into the spaces by luring entrepreneurial tenants with fresh concepts and excitement about downtown.

"Step by step, we're getting there," says Pace, who has focused on locally themed retail that serves downtown residents and office workers. "Each month, there's something new going on. Our tenants cross-market and help each other."

Last year, a retail grant competition netted Soulcraft Furniture Gallery, which opened earlier this year, and Pour Cleveland, which will open by November 1st.

Several of the businesses in the 5th Street Arcades will soon add outdoor seating, including Pour, Sushi 86 and a yet unnamed food tenant that Pace is working with.

Additional businesses that will open this fall include Herron Starr Apparel (a shoe store), The Tea Lab (a tea shop run by Bob Holcepl of City Roast), The Olive and the Grape, and a take-out vendor called C'mon Let's Eat (CLE).

Finally, Sushi 86 is expanding to create space for banquets and cooking classes, and Alphonso's, a men's and women's accessories shop, will open later this year.

"Tenants are drawn here because this is becoming known as a retail area, an area for shopping," Pace says. "That says a lot about downtown and what's happening."

Source: Dick Pace
Writer: Lee Chilcote

lutheran metropolitan ministry celebrates grand opening of new hq, central kitchen, metal shop

Next week, Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry (LMM) celebrates the grand opening of its new headquarters in a former textile manufacturing shop at E. 45th Street and Superior Avenue. The redeveloped office not only makes LMM more efficient, sustainable and accessible, it also contains a 2,400-square-foot central kitchen and 6,000-square-foot metal shop that allows the group to advance its social enterprise branch.

Michael Sering, Vice President at LMM, says that the organization is able to churn out hundreds of bike racks a year using the new metal shop. Recently, LMM inked a contract with the Cleveland Clinic to build and install an additional 136 racks. LMM employs individuals from 2100 Lakeside, a men's shelter, to make the racks.

The new, spacious central kitchen will allow LMM to continue its work to employ individuals reentering society after time in prison. LMM already prepares about 1,500 meals per day for area homeless shelters and other social service facilities.

LMM is preparing to break ground on a new community garden adjacent to 2100 Lakeside. Sering hopes to build a custom fence for the garden in the metal shop.

LMM's new administrative headquarters are named after Richard Sering, Michael Sering's father and LMM's former director. Richard Sering died of cancer 10 years ago.

Source: Michael Sering
Writer: Lee Chilcote

hemingway development and geis companies open third building of midtown tech park campus

Hemingway Development and Geis Companies have completed the third building of the MidTown Tech Park campus at 6555 Carnegie Avenue. The $9 million project brings the campus to a total of 242,000 square feet of new office space.

"When we arrived in MidTown, we wanted to develop one building a year, and we have exceeded that with the opening of this building,” said Fred Geis, a Hemingway principal, in a press release. "With the growth of the MidTown Tech Park campus, we have been able to create a real community where our tenants can interact and grow their businesses."

Radio One
, a national urban media company with four radio stations in Northeast Ohio, is one of the first new tenants. Regional Vice President Jeffrey Wilson says the developer's experience and the area's redevelopment attracted the firm.

"When I first looked at it, you might have thought I'd lost my mind, but we put our trust in Fred Geis," says Wilson of the building, which was raw prior to completion. "Now it's one of the most exciting spaces in all of Radio One."

The company will occupy 12,000 square feet on the first floor, including four main broadcast studios, production studios, a mix studio and a talk studio. Geis worked with Radio One to construct a 180-foot tower alongside the building, which will make it easier to transmit audio to the company's transmitter locations.

"To partake in the rebirth of the MidTown area really fulfills our creed," says Wilson. "We take a sense of pride in contributing to the rebirth of the area."

Talis Clinical, a Cleveland Clinic spinoff, is also leasing office space in the building. Geis says that the building will support 150 jobs and generate $300,000 in annual payroll taxes. The City of Cleveland provided $4.5 million in low-interest loans.

Source: Jeffrey Wilson, Fred Geis
Writer: Lee Chilcote

regional planning initiative says status quo is not sustainable, wants residents to imagine future

The Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium (NEOSCC) has mapped out what our region's future looks like if we stay on the same, urban-sprawl-lovin' course. Spoiler alert: It ain't good.

The group's "Business as Usual" scenario attempts to answer the question, "What will happen over the next 27 years if Northeast Ohio just keeps doing what it has been doing?" using sophisticated mapping.

NEOSCC's predictions include 2.4 percent growth in population and 6.2 percent growth in employment across 12 counties. Yet given our current land use patterns, about 92,500 acres will be used for new development and 77,100 acres will be abandoned.

That means Northeast Ohio is "on pace to abandon 10.5 percent of its housing units by 2040" or "18 units abandoned per day," according to the NEOSCC.

Although NEOSCC will not reveal its recommendations at this point, staff will present four scenarios to the public at open houses in the coming weeks.

These scenarios include "business as usual" (sprawl with limited growth), "doing things differently" (more sustainable development with limited growth), "grow the same" (sprawl with growth at a higher level than is occurring now) and "grow differently" (more sustainable development with greater growth). 

After receiving input from residents, NEOSCC will recommend a scenario to the four metropolitan planning organizations that help divvy up transportation dollars for the region and create long-term land use plans. Jeff Anderle of NEOSCC says that the group must create a "shared vision" to be successful with its efforts.

"We're not a governing organization; we don't have implementation power," he says. "It's been tricky, but we've gotten great participation from elected officials throughout the region. There's a lot of 'Let's see how and where this comes out.'"

To participate in the process, Northeast Ohio residents can attend one of the upcoming open houses or check out the Imagine My NEO tool on the website.

Source: Jeff Anderle
Writer: Lee Chilcote

high-profile merger will help community development efforts across city, leaders say

Three prominent community development groups in Cleveland have merged, and staffers say the resulting alliance will help strengthen community revitalization efforts across the city, foster more unified advocacy, and allow for greater efficiency in citywide efforts.

Neighborhood Progress Inc. (NPI), a community development intermediary that provides grants and technical assistance to community development corporations (CDCs), has merged with Cleveland Neighborhood Development Coalition (CNDC) and LiveCleveland. CNDC is a trade association of CDCs; LiveCleveland helps to market city neighborhoods.

That might sound like a mouthful of acronyms to the average city resident, but Joel Ratner, President of NPI, says the collaboration really is about improving Cleveland's neighborhoods.

"We'll have a greater ability to coordinate the marketing of neighborhoods along with advocacy, capacity building and all the other things we've traditionally done," he says. "This is really about uniting the strands of community development across the city in a way that's integrated and strategic rather than separate."

For example, says Ratner, CDCs will be able to have a stronger voice in education reform and other efforts that affect the entire city, residents will see an increased marketing presence, and CDC employees will benefit from shared services like healthcare. It adds up to more effective efforts to improve all of Cleveland.

"Our mission is to foster communities of choice and opportunity throughout Cleveland," says Ratner, who acknowledges that NPI will still only have resources to provide core operating support to a subset of city neighborhoods. "There are lots of ways we can play a role in lifting up all CDCs and neighborhoods."

CNDC Director Colleen Gilson says that while the merger idea was far from popular among CDCs at first -- they feared losing their independence -- individual leaders saw the value in fostering a citywide community development network that provides more effective services to all neighborhoods, not just a select few.

The merger will be publicly rolled out in September, with NPI moving into its new offices in the Saint Luke's project at Shaker Boulevard and E. 116th by January.

Source: Joel Ratner
Writer: Lee Chilcote

w. 76th street underpass opens next week, boasting striking new public art

For Gordon Square residents and Edgewater Park visitors, the long wait finally is over. The bike-ped underpass at W. 76th Street that connects the west side to Edgewater reopens next week -- albeit a few years late and millions over budget. Public officials plan to celebrate on Tuesday, July 2nd at 5 pm with a ribbon cutting at Battery Park Wine Bar.

Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) spokesperson Amanda Lee says the delays were caused by environmental issues that required a new retaining wall design. High water content in the soil forced them back to the drawing board. Essentially two connected tunnels, it goes under tracks and the Shoreway.

Not only is the underpass cleaner, better illuminated and more accessible, it also boasts a striking new work of public art, "Cold Front," designed by Cleveland artist Mark Reigelman. The piece plays off the natural history of the area, whose bluffs were carved out by glaciers -- known as pathmakers -- eons ago.

"This is what you see when you come out of the tunnel: Cleveland's best natural feature, Lake Erie, as well as the history of the lake and how it's been formed," says Riegelman, whose artwork at the entrance was built out of cast concrete by Great Lakes Construction.

The work, which consists of hexagonal shapes in shades of blue designed to mimic the water molecules in glaciers, was built so that it will be visible to all who pass. "From the neighborhood you see the crest of the glacier; trains can see a luminescent blue quality; and people can see it from their boats on the water."

LAND Studio coordinated the selection process for the public artwork, which was completed with funds from the State of Ohio, City and Cuyahoga Arts and Culture.

The underpass will better connect residents to Edgewater Park at a time when the Metroparks has just assumed management. Users report that the Metroparks already has made improvements, with staff picking up litter and combing the beach and long-awaited recycling bins set to be installed next week.

Source: Mark Reigelman
Writer: Lee Chilcote

edgehill repaved with bike lanes, sharrows to aid east side commuters

The gradually expanding network of bike-friendly streets in Cleveland and the surrounding suburbs just got a little wider with the addition of a bike lane and sharrows on Edgehill Road from Overlook Road down to Little Italy. The route, one of the most heavily-trafficked for east side bike commuters, was just freshly paved and restriped.

"This is part of the Circle-Heights Bicycle Plan," says Chris Bongorno, Director of Planning with University Circle Inc., which helped to shepherd the project through in collaboration with the City of Cleveland and the City of Cleveland Heights. "We did a study that showed that 25 percent of the University Circle workforce lives within a five mile bike commute. The idea is that there would be more people choosing to bike if we give them facilities that they're comfortable using."

The Circle-Heights Bicycle Plan was funded by the Northeast Ohio Coordinating Agency (NOACA), the regional body that is responsible for divvying up federal transportation funds and helping to establish regional planning priorities. The Edgehill Road project is actually the first aspect of the plan to be completed.

The project was carefully engineered to maximize safety and functionality for cars and bikes. In addition to the five-foot-wide bike lane, there is a four-foot "bike buffer" that adds greater separation between motorists and cyclists. The downhill lane on Edgehill has sharrows, signaling to drivers that bicyclists "share" the road. The reasoning is that bikes travel nearly as fast as cars down the hill (25 mph speed limit). The plan preserves on-street parking on one side of the street.

Other bike infrastructure amenities in the area that will be completed in the next few years include an off-street trail along Cedar Glen Parkway from Cleveland Heights to University Circle. Cleveland is building its portion of the trail this year, and Cleveland Heights expects to complete its portion by 2014 or early 2015.

Coupled with the Lake-to-Lakes Trail and Euclid Avenue bike lanes, the infrastructure is slowly being added to connect the Heights to University Circle and beyond via bicycle. That's one reason why Cleveland was recently awarded a Bronze-level certification as a bike-friendly community from the American League of Bicyclists.

Source: Chris Bongorno, Richard Wong
Writer: Lee Chilcote

next city leaders ask if cle, other cities can diversify beyond the 'cupcake economy'

Young urbanist leaders who were in Cleveland this week for Next City's annual Vanguard conference were asked a provocative question about this city's future. With new development activity happening in neighborhoods across a city that still is devastatingly poor, how can we do a better job of ensuring that these projects will benefit our poorest residents?

"I'm a little concerned that as we build projects, we're creating a city for yuppies and a city for everyone else," commented Ari Maron of MRN Ltd. in a presentation to 40 leaders from across the U.S. and Canada engaged in fields such as urban planning, entrepreneurship and sustainability. "How many cupcake and yogurt shops can a city sustain?"

Heads nodded and attendees laughed as Maron admitted the challenge was as much to himself as others, since MRN owns three of the city's most prominent new developments, E. Fourth Street in downtown Cleveland, Uptown in University Circle and property along W. 25th in Ohio City.

Several attendees noted that they were surprised by how few of the city's larger developments have translated into prosperity for surrounding neighborhoods. Sitting in the newly-built Museum of Contemporary Art at University Circle, leaders asked how that area's success could benefit its low-income neighbors.

Maron cited the Greater University Circle Initiative and local hiring and procuring efforts by University Hospitals and others. MRN has committed to hiring local residents for its projects, and the company now employs 285 city residents.

"When people from the neighborhood work here, they take ownership of the project because it's their neighborhood," he said, citing DoubleTree Hotel as one example of a University Circle project that employees many local residents.

An attendee from Chicago noted that Cleveland appears to be behind in adding bike-friendly infrastructure. He cited the recent addition of separated bicycle lanes to Surmac Avenue in Chicago as a game-changing project for his city. "Cleveland needs to do one really good pilot project," said the attendee.

Next City is a national nonprofit media organization that organizes the Vanguard conference to highlight best urban practices and develop young urban leaders. Updates from the conference are being posted on Next City's daily blog.

Source: Next City, Ari Maron
Writer: Lee Chilcote

w. 6th street to get $1m facelift with new streetscape, public art

Construction work has begun on a $1 million facelift to W. 6th Street, which will soon be transformed into a more attractive pedestrian-friendly environment that will include wider sidewalks, larger outdoor cafes, new public art and a branding campaign.

Thomas Starinsky of the Historic Warehouse District Development Corporation says that the impetus for the project came when officials realized that most of the buildings in the area had been restored, and that neighborhood leaders now needed to focus their attention on improving the "space between buildings."

"As the Global Center for Health Innovation, Convention Center and Ernst and Young Tower became a reality, we realized we needed to kick it up a notch," he says. "We pushed the City of Cleveland to make sure this project would be completed before the Global Center and the Convention Center open."

The project, which should be completed July 18th, is being funded through federal transportation enhancement dollars combined with a 20 percent city match. New banners and flower baskets are being paid for by sponsorships and memberships.

The downside is that businesses along W. 6th Street will sacrifice their patios this spring. "They're excited, but not about four months of construction," says Starinsky. "But we're taking it off like a band-aid and getting it done fast."

Although W. 6th perhaps is best known for its (occasionally infamous) clubs, Starinsky says the district's identity is not only diverse -- he cites a range of excellent ethnic cuisine in a few compact blocks -- but also quickly evolving.

"We have 3,000 residents and employees today, and we're adding 2,000 more employees with the Ernst and Young Tower," he says. "We recognize there will be a different type of person walking around here from the Convention Center and Global Center. We look at this as an opportunity to step up the Warehouse District."

Starinsky cites Take 5 jazz club as an example of the kind of new business that he hopes will add to the Warehouse District's ever-blossoming entertainment and dining scene. "There needs to be more diversity of food and entertainment."

The project also will include public art that tells the story of the Warehouse District. The 11-foot tall displays, which will be installed in the streetscape on W. 6th Street and eventually throughout the district, are designed by artist Corrie Slawson and authored by Warehouse District Director Tom Yablonsky.

Source: Thomas Starinsky
Writer: Lee Chilcote

first-ever pay-as-you-go commercial kitchen set to open its doors on euclid avenue

The final inspections for Cleveland Culinary Launch and Kitchen take place this week, and a customer is planning to come in the next day. The organizers behind Cleveland's first-ever shared commercial kitchen hope that's a sign of good things to come.

The kitchen's goal is to help local food entrepreneurs bring products to market. With so many food truck owners, caterers, urban gardeners and budding chefs making their products in cramped home quarters or church kitchens that aren't always available, the group behind the venture hopes to fill a growing need.

"We're a food launchhouse," says Carolyn Priemer, whose family-owned real estate company is a partner in the project, along with Tim Skaryd of Hospitality Marketing and Sales and the Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI). "Ours is the only facility in Cleveland that you can pay as you use."

The facility allows entrepreneurs to lease time for $18-24 per hour. The kitchen, which was built by Cleveland State University before it moved to the new student center, has stations for baking, catering, canning, thermal processing and dry packing. The venue also has dry storage and walk-in coolers and freezers.

ECDI is available to offer loans to food entrepreneurs, and the partners plan to offer classes as well. Hospitality Sales and Marketing is a food brokerage, and Skaryd says he will help customers with small-scale canning and labeling.

So far, prospective customers that have expressed interest include food truck operators, an ice cream maker, tea maker and granola bar maker, among others. Priemer says that she's gotten inquiries with only word-of-mouth marketing.

The facility is available for use 24/7, and has its own security system and key card access. Users do not have to sign a lease, but must sign a basic user agreement.

Will it be profitable? Priemer says that will depend on the amount of usage, and right now it could go either way. However, she hopes entrepreneurs will see the value not only in the space, but in networking opportunities with other startups.

"There is no food hub for businesses," she says. "This seems to connect a lot of areas of the food industry here. We're planning to hold networking events to bolster the local food community, including bringing in some guest chefs."

Cleveland Culinary Launch and Kitchen is located at 2800 Euclid Avenue.

Source: Carolyn Priemer
Writer: Lee Chilcote

new korean-fusion eatery set to open in playhousesquare

PlayhouseSquare will soon add another delicious restaurant to the district, adding fuel to its quest to become a 24/7 neighborhood that encourages theater patrons to stick around long after the shows end. Entrepreneurs Jiyoung and John Sung will open Sung's House next month, adding a Korean and Japanese restaurant to the downtown scene.

"It's not traditional Korean food -- it's fusion style," says Jiyoung Sung, who moved from Michigan to be close to family. "We're also building a sushi bar."

John Sung worked as a sushi chef for 13 years before moving to Cleveland. The venue is a big leap for the couple. "We're happy and nervous at the same time. We're excited about having our own place, but it's kind of frightening, too."

The price range for lunch will be $8-10, while dinner items will be around $15, keeping the menu affordable for CSU students and downtown office workers.

"We think those who live, work and visit here will appreciate having yet another great choice of where to eat," says Cindi Szymanski of PlayhouseSquare, which owns the building. "The planned Korean and Japanese menu choices, including sushi, will bring a currently unrepresented style of cuisine to PlayhouseSquare."

Why did the couple choose PlayhouseSquare? "My uncle is a professor at CSU, and he knows the area very well," says Jiyoung Sung. "He recommended it to us."

The restaurant will be located at 1507 Euclid Avenue, in the former China Sea Express space. It is expected to open in May.

Source: Jiyoung Sung
Writer: Lee Chilcote

more bike boxes are coming to a cleveland neighborhood near you

Some creative, outside-the-box thinking by the city's leading urban design and cycling advocates has led to the creation of four additional "bike boxes," which are to be installed this spring in various Cleveland neighborhoods.

The newest wave of bike boxes are modeled after a successful pilot project at Nano Brew in Ohio City. That installation transformed a steel shipping container into a colorful curbside bike garage for two-wheeled visitors.

By offering secure, covered parking in a bike corral that also functions as dynamic, placemaking public art, the Bridge Avenue bike box does more than simply provide practical parking: It brands the city as a place that prioritizes cycling.

"It's really a center of gravity," says Greg Peckham, Managing Director of LAND Studio, the nonprofit that spearheaded the project with Bike Cleveland. "It's as much about a safe, convenient, protected place to park your bike as it is about making a statement that cycling is an important mode of transportation in the city."

Peckham says that Ohio City's bike box is very well used on days when the West Side Market is open and in the evening when riders coast in for dinner or a drink. With the street's bike racks often at capacity, the bike box was critical, he says.

The new bike boxes will be installed in time for Bike Month in May. The locations are Gordon Square (a barn-red beauty outside Happy Dog), Tremont (two "half loaves," as Peckham calls them, outside South Side and Tremont Tap House), St. Clair Superior (location TBD) and a final, undetermined community.

The bike boxes are being custom-fabricated by Rust Belt Welding, which is an entrepreneurial duo that has made creative bike parking a calling card for their work. Each of the boxes is being designed with neighborhood input -- hence Tremont's half-boxes, which amount to a shipping container split in two.

The project is being supported by Charter One Growing Communities, which has also funded retail attraction efforts in Ohio City, downtown and St. Clair Superior.

Peckham says the new designs accommodate more bikes and use lighter colors. Users can expect more innovations in the future -- LAND Studio is working to secure funding so that green roofs and solar panels can be added to the boxes.

The bike boxes are being maintained through partnerships with neighboring businesses, which agree to maintain, clean and keep secure the facilities.

Source: Greg Peckham
Writer: Lee Chilcote

thanks to more downtown visitors, rta extends trolley service

With over 11 million visitors expected in downtown Cleveland this year (up from nine million last year), RTA officials sought last year to better connect the city's neighborhoods via public transportation. Their goal was to ensure that RTA is the transportation mode of choice for visitors to downtown. 

Six months ago, RTA was able to launch expanded, free shuttle service downtown on weeknights and weekends, thanks to $2.88 million in federal transit money and $720,000 in donations. The program is funded for the next three years.

Speaking at a downtown tour last week, RTA General Manager Joe Calabrese touted the trolley service as a huge success for downtown Cleveland that will enhance the visitor experience as the Global Health Innovation Center opens.

"RTA experienced five percent growth last year," he said. "We think downtown growth will help us. We want to make public transit a viable option for tourists."

As downtown experiences a so-called "parking crunch," Calabrese said that RTA is increasingly becoming the transportation mode of choice. Trolleys run until 11 p.m.

There are five lines: The C-line, which links the casino with the convention center; the L-line, which focuses on lakefront destinations; the NineTwelve line, which helps shuttle office workers from large garages to offices on E. 9th; the E-line on Euclid Avenue; and the B-line on Superior and Lakeside Avenues. Trolleys start at 7 a.m. on weekdays and 11 a.m. on weekends, and they arrive every 10 minutes.

The trolleys also serve downtown's growing residential population, expected to swell from 11,000 to 14,000 as new apartment projects open in the next two years. Another benefit? Helping office workers get around downtown easily.

Source: Joe Calabrese
Writer: Lee Chilcote

landmark fifth church likely to be razed to make way for shoppes on clifton project

Fifth Church of Christ Scientist, built in 1927 at W. 117th and Clifton, has sat vacant for over two decades with little in the way of maintenance or repairs. In that time, it has suffered from major structural deterioration that would cost millions to fix.

Giant Eagle donated the property to the City of Cleveland in 2002, but it was in severe disrepair even then. The city has been unable to find any developers willing or able to repurpose it. The building is landlocked and has no available parking.

Although a neighborhood group has formed in the hopes of saving it, Anitz Brindza of Cudell Improvement Inc., which has tried for years to find a buyer or tenant for the historic site, says it is likely a fait accomplis that the building will come down.

"A lot of people that [organizer] Jeon Francis of Save Fifth Church has whipped into a frenzy are under the impression that the church is in a salvageable condition," says Brindza. "It is not. It is so deteriorated from neglect and abuse that a $10 million price tag would probably only scratch the surface. The dome is supported by steel infrastructure that really could come down at any time."

Francis disagrees. "Preserving the building truly could be a fantastic catalyst for the economic and social revitalization of this neighborhood. We want to work with the councilperson and the CDC to champion repurposing of this historic building."

The Save Fifth Church group has initiated a petition drive to collect signatures in support of the church's preservation, is pressuring Councilman Jay Westbrook to support saving the church, and is trying to help find a donor, buyer or developer.

The City of Cleveland has not formally stated its intention to pursue demolition of the building, and Westbrook did not return a call seeking comment for this story.

Brindza says that after years of delays, the Shoppes on Clifton project at W. 117th and Clifton adjacent to the church could move forward soon. The developer, The Carnegie Companies, is in active negotiations with a major anchor tenant.

Although the developer is not at liberty to name that prospective tenant, Brindza says that the neighborhood has always expressed a desire for a grocery store at this spot, and Carnegie has pursued major grocery tenants.

Any future development plans would be presented to the community before being submitted for city approvals. Brindza hopes for a pedestrian-friendly project.

"This is one of the most highly-coveted corners in Cleveland," Brindza says. "It has tremendous traffic counts. But the beauty of it is that it's a pedestrian area too. Whatever is designed needs to be an urban center to serve both pedestrians and commuters."

Major architectural elements of Fifth Church could be repurposed into the retail project or made into public art in other areas of the community.

Source: Anita Brindza, Jeon Francis
Writer: Lee Chilcote

community development leader says city's population can be stabilized, all neighborhoods can succeed

During a recent address at the City Club of Cleveland, Joel Ratner of Neighborhood Progress Inc. touted recent success stories that the nonprofit has invested in, including a new home for The Intergenerational School underway at the Saint Luke's campus.

Ratner believes that even though Cleveland has been hard hit by the foreclosure crisis, the city can stabilize its population and begin to grow again through promoting thoughtful, equitable, synergistic development that helps everyone succeed.

"For a long time, there was a debate over whether it makes sense to invest in people or place," said Ratner. "However, we believe it should be people and place."

Ratner cited Pittsburgh as an example of a city whose population has been right-sized and has even begun to grow again in recent years.

As examples of why community development matters, Ratner presented statistics showing that neighborhoods where NPI invested heavily over the past decade not only fell less steeply in the recession, but are also coming back more quickly than others. He also believes that every Cleveland neighborhood can be successful.

Ratner touted the recently-announced Slavic Village Reclaim Project, which leverages private investment by Safeco Properties and Forest City to help rehab 2,000+ properties on 440 acres, as one example of innovative best practices.

He also cited NPI's partnership with the Key Bank Financial Education Center to help low-income residents build wealth through savings and investment programs. Through a possible merger with Cleveland Neighborhood Development Coalition and LiveCleveland, Ratner hopes to begin serving additional neighborhoods.

Source: Joel Ratner
Writer: Lee Chilcote

near west partners kick off planning process to reimagine lorain avenue

This week, Ohio City Incorporated and Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization launched an unprecedented joint process to develop a streetscape plan for long-suffering Lorain Avenue.

The street, which runs through the heart of Cleveland's west side, was historically a bustling neighborhood retail corridor. Although it fell on hard times beginning in the 70s, it has recently drawn investment by entrepreneurs like Ian P.E. of Palookaville Chili and David Ellison of D.H. Ellison Architects.

The street's classic, character-filled architecture as well as investment by major players like St. Ignatius High School and Urban Community School have made it an attractive breeding ground for up-and-coming members of the creative class.

If this week's public meeting was any indication, neighborhood residents, businesses and stakeholders will have plenty of passionate opinions about the future of this main street. They won't hold back in sharing them, either.

A capacity crowd that showed up to the meeting at Urban Community School voiced concerns about on-street parking, bike lanes, retaining the mixed-use character of the street and ensuring that low-income residents are engaged.

Behnke Associates and Michael Baker Jr. Inc. have been hired to help develop a plan that will include "traffic analysis, utility and signage recommendations as well as cycling analysis, green infrastructure and complete streetscape treatments," according to a handout provided by OCI, DSCDO and the City of Cleveland.

Early signs indicate that the plan will be quite different from those developed for Detroit Avenue and West 25th Street. For one thing, Lorain Avenue is narrower than those streets, which will make it tougher to widen sidewalks and create dedicated bike lanes. Secondly, the street's tenants range from antique shops to manufacturing businesses, making it a distinct challenge to serve all of them.

Nonetheless, representatives of the city and both CDC's pledged to create an inclusive plan that could serve as a model for "complete and green streets" that incorporate all modes of transportation and minimize environmental impacts.

Want to voice your vision for Lorain? A survey will be available beginning March 11th on the OCI and DSCDO websites, and a workshop is scheduled for May 28th.

Source: OCI, DSCDO, City of Cleveland
Writer: Lee Chilcote

green-street projects could further cement west side's reputation as bike-friendly

As the number of cyclists and pedestrians on the near west side grows and car traffic remains relatively flat, urban planners are giving several streets a "road diet" to make them friendlier for bikers and walkers while still accessible to drivers.

The result will be some of the city's first model green streets.

"We're starting to create all this connectivity," says Ward 15 Councilman Matt Zone, who has helped push green initiatives through city hall, including the "complete and green streets" legislation that passed last year. "The city is realizing they have to accept and build out and incorporate all modes of transportation."

So what does a "road diet" look like? The recently-completed plan for W. 65th Street between Denison Avenue and the lakefront shows curb bumpouts with additional landscaping, striped sharrows for road riders, and a 10-foot-wide multimodal path for peds and cyclists who prefer not to ride in the street.

If the pretty pictures become a reality -- a process that will take several years and require an application to the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency for millions in federal dollars -- it could result in a "healthier" street that better connects the investments happening in near west side neighborhoods.

"This is the main north-south thoroughfare between West Boulevard and W. 25th," says Zone. "We can build off the momentum we've created here. You'll eventually be able to bike from Edgewater Beach to the zoo via W. 65th."

Among the assets in the area, Zone cited the Gordon Square Arts District, the new Max Hayes High School scheduled to break ground this year, the EcoVillage, major employers and eight schools. The W. 65th project will cost about $6 million.

Most importantly, Zone says, streetscape projects like the W. 65th Street re-do make roads safer for kids who walk to school and families without access to a car.

Other green-street projects on the near west side include bike lanes on Detroit Avenue (which will be striped this spring), the planned Train Avenue corridor greenway, the creation of bike lanes on W. 41st and 44th streets in Ohio City (to be completed this year), a new streetscape for Denison Avenue (a few years away) and a planning process for Lorain Avenue (launching this month).

The West 65th Street corridor study was completed by Environmental Design Group, which has offices in both Cleveland and Akron.

Source: Matt Zone
Writer: Lee Chilcote

fairmont creamery developers aim to bridge gap between tremont and ohio city

The trio of Oberlin developers written up in the New York Times for the perseverance and creativity behind their successful East College Street project have selected the long-vacant Fairmont Creamery in Tremont as the site of their next real estate deal.

Sustainable Community Associates
, which marries for-profit development with a community development philosophy, aims to bridge the gap between Tremont and Ohio City by filling it with an interesting, sustainably-built apartment, retail and office project.

"People want to live here, to be close to downtown and the West Side Market," says Josh Rosen, a principal of SCA with Naomi Sabel and Ben Ezinga. "There's an opportunity because of the work other groups have done to get to this point."

"Tremont and Ohio City are thriving neighborhoods, and the creamery sits at the intersection," adds Sabel. "This is the logical flow for the two neighborhoods to meet."

The developers hope to use a combination of equity, conventional financing, state and federal historic tax credits, New Markets Tax Credits and other incentives to redevelop the 1930s brick building into dozens of new apartments. They're also hoping to add office space for entrepreneurs, a full-size gym and rooftop deck. The building, perched on the edge of the industrial Flats, has downtown views.

SCA currently has a two-year option on the 100,000-square-foot property at 1720 Willey Avenue. It is empty but for a nickel-plating business operated in the basement by 75-year-old owner Donald Dickson, who is eager to sell.

The developers aim to start construction by November and finish by late 2014. They hope to lease units as they renovate the building, meaning that the first tenants could move into the property as soon as next year if all goes well.

Although some might view the property as isolated and disconnected from the bustling heart of Tremont and Ohio City, these developers have a different vision. They see a well-kept, underutilized neighborhood that could be so much more.

"When we developed the East College Street project, they said people wouldn't walk that far," says Rosen, whose fully-leased project in downtown Oberlin includes a coffee shop, ice cream shop and other retailers. "Yet once you add bike paths and other amenities, people get an expanded sense of where to go."

This is perhaps the most ambitious aspect of SCA's $13 million project -- beyond the long-vacant building. The developers understand the need to not simply redevelop a building, but leverage that investment for the neighborhood.

"If you can successfully put together financing, what you end up seeing is a project that not only changes the built environment but also the local economy," says Rosen. "We want to use the project to help entrepreneurs open businesses."

"Cleveland doesn't just need more development, but the right kind of development," Rosen adds. "We hope to be able to bring that about."

Source: Ben Ezinga, Josh Rosen, Naomi Sabel
Writer: Lee Chilcote

cleveland hostel now renting bikes to guests and non-guests

The Cleveland Hostel on W. 25th Street in Ohio City recently acquired a collection of eight bikes for rental purposes. It plans to offer daily rentals to visitors and locals who want to explore the city on two wheels come spring (or now, if you're a snow rider).

"We just got 'em a week and a half ago," says Mark Raymond, the Geneva native who opened Cleveland's first hostel last August. "The Akron Bike Club came up for the West Side Market Centennial on the Towpath, and they liked the hostel so much they donated these bikes."

The eight two-wheelers -- a mix of road bikes and cruisers -- are available for $15 per day if you're a hostel guest or $20 per day if you're not. The bikes are available during regular hostel hours: 9 a.m. until 10 p.m.

Renting bikes was always part of Raymond's plan, and he's excited to showcase his city to travelers who don't have a car or prefer to get around without one. In the past six months, he's hosted travelers from 40 countries around the globe.

The Cleveland Hostel has also hosted visiting artists and individuals affiliated with Cleveland Public Theatre, LAND Studio and other groups. Raymond already has the entire hostel booked by a group of Germans for the Gay Games in 2014.

The hostel is also open to Ohio City residents and the general public for event rentals and special events. Raymond will host bands on the second floor during Brite Winter Festival on Saturday, February 16th. He's even found a hidden market in Clevelanders looking for a place to crash during Ohio City outings.

"We've had a lot of people from the area stay here, especially around New Year's," he says. "They'll see a show, have dinner and then spend the night in the hostel."

Source: Mark Raymond
Writer: Lee Chilcote

lorain-carnegie bikeway opens, making bridge safer for pedestrians, cyclists

Nearly 100 years after it was first constructed, the Hope Memorial bridge, which is home to the famous Guardians of Transportation statues and connects downtown to Ohio City, is now considered to be "complete."

That's because a 14.5 foot protected bikeway just opened, making the street safer and more accessible for pedestrians and bicyclists who would prefer not to ride in the street. The $4.5 million investment is consistent with the city's new Complete and Green Streets law, which requires sustainable transportation options to be incorporated into new road projects.

"We really want to encourage more people to bike more often. Anytime you can create an environment where you can take kids out, you know it’s a safe place," says Jacob Van Sickle, Executive Director of the nonprofit group Bike Cleveland. "We're always advocating for infrastructure that makes biking as safe and stress-free as possible. To create a mode shift, that's where we need to be."

The Ohio Department of Transportation agreed to pay for the bikeway as well as bike-friendly enhancements to the Abbey Road bridge a few years ago. At the time, it was offered as a concession to multimodal transportation advocates who had pressed for bike lanes to be built on the new I-90 Innerbelt bridge.

The Carnegie-Ontario intersection also has been made safer for pedestrians and cyclists thanks to a new pathway along the bridge's northeast end. That pathway will lead cyclists and walkers to cross at Eagle Avenue. Finally, the Guardians of Transportation statues will also be lit at night as part of the roadway project.

Source: Jacob Van Sickle
Writer: Lee Chilcote

'our cle' group forms to oppose casino skywalk, but faces an uphill battle

Downtown resident (and Fresh Water contributor) Joe Baur doesn't have a lot of experience as a community organizer, but he jumped into the political fray after learning that Rock Gaming, owner of the Horseshoe Casino, intends to build a skywalk to the historic Higbee building.

"Skywalks are vibrancy-killers," Baur says of the proposed glass-and-steel bridge, which would traverse diagonally the intersection of Ontario and Prospect, providing a direct link between garage and casino. "Rock Gaming said they'd mesh their enterprise into the existing fabric of downtown Cleveland. This mars a historic building. We're not in a position to risk what street life we have."

Councilman Joe Cimperman, who represents downtown Cleveland, supports the skywalk, arguing that it will ensure pedestrian safety while continuing to foster economic development.

"Am I part of the pro-skywalk lobby? Do I wear a button supporting it? No. But I support this one," says Cimperman. "The historic aspect is worthy of debate, but these are debates that growing cities are going to have. The question is, how do you preserve the best of what you have while also creating opportunities?"

The simmering debate over the proposed skywalk raises the question of how urban casinos can best be woven into the fabric of cities while maximizing spinoff to other local businesses. Casino owners have long sought to keep their patrons inside their venues -- many casinos don't even have windows -- yet Cleveland's casino is notably different. Situated in the historic Higbee building, the developers went to pains to carefully restore the long-vacant structure.

Cimperman says that nearby restaurant owners have reported spikes in traffic as a result of the casino, while Baur maintains that the skywalk will kill off hopes of revitalizing the vacant storefronts in lower Prospect Avenue. The debate -- which is far from finished -- is garnering buzz on Facebook and social media.

To fight the proposed skywalk, Baur has formed a social media group called Our CLE and launched a petition drive aimed at Cimperman and Mayor Frank Jackson, who has also expressed support for the project. So far, the group has garnered over 100 signatures and attracted attention from local TV media.

Rock Gaming has said that the skywalk is necessary to provide casino-goers the comfort, security and convenience they've come to expect. Yet Baur cites urban planning studies showing that skywalks discourage pedestrian traffic and deaden street life. They also feed into the perception that downtown is unsafe and discourage visitors from patronizing other businesses, he maintains.

"How are we going to fight the perception that downtown isn't safe if we're going to placate to that perception by building a skywalk?" he asks. "If Rock Gaming really believes that their visitors will feel unsafe and cold with that grueling 270-foot walk, then the shuttle that runs 24 hours per day should be sufficient."

Jennifer Kulczycki, a spokesperson for Rock Gaming, says that ensuring comfort for casino-goers is the primary motivation behind the skywalk -- not perceived criminal activity downtown. "Many of our customers are elderly, and people have been asking us for assistance getting back and forth," she says. "The whole effect of putting the casino in the Higbee building has been rejuvenating that area. We wouldn't build the skywalk if we didn't believe the street would remain active."

The skywalk would shave 100 feet off the trek from garage to casino, Baur says, reducing it to 170 feet. The venue began offering a 24-hour shuttle earlier this year, yet Rock Gaming has continued to pursue plans for the skywalk.

For the skywalk to be built, the city must review technical construction documents and issue a building permit. It could not deny the skywalk for design reasons, since it was approved by the Planning Commission last year. Currently, the developers are fighting a ruling by the National Park Service that would threaten millions of dollars in historic tax credits claimed by building owner Forest City Enterprises.

This week, an appeal filed by Rock Gaming will be heard by the Chief Appeals Officer of the National Register of Historic Places in Washington D.C. In essence, the park service has said that the skywalk is not in keeping with the historic character of the building, and Rock Gaming is contesting that decision.

Yet even if Rock Gaming loses its appeal, the project could go ahead, says Thomas Starinsky, Associate Director of Historic Gateway Neighborhood Corporation. Forest City has only a few years until its tax credit period expires -- meaning it could go ahead and add the skywalk now, forgoing a prorated amount of the credits, or wait until the period is over and do so without incurring a loss.

The developers also believe that the skywalk is necessary for Phase II, a $600-million project slated to be built behind Tower City Center overlooking the Cuyahoga River. The two phases will be connected via Tower City.

According to projections that were deemed conservative when it opened, the city is expected to earn about $20 million per year in tax revenue from the casino. Yet Baur says that the decision by Cimperman and Jackson to support the project is short-sighted. It does not take into account the long-term negative effects of the skywalk on the historic integrity of downtown and viability of area businesses.

"The City of Minneapolis won't allow skywalks in historic districts -- they realize that because of the ones built in the '60s, they're struggling to get their retail back," he says. "Some cities, like Baltimore, are demolishing skywalks."

Cimperman vehemently disagrees. "The casino is employing 1,800 people," he says. "The key is balancing economic development with good design. We had the same debate about the Medical Mart because it's located on the Malls designed by Daniel Burnham. We ended up creating something that people are really proud of."

Kulczycki says Rock Gaming and its architects have carefully designed a skywalk that fits into the streetscape. Yet Baur maintains that there's no way to dress up the skywalk -- it is what it is. "You can't make it work [at the Higbee Building]."

The skywalk, which was first proposed last year, may seem like an about-face from the pro-urban approach that Rock Gaming promised when its leaders launched efforts to legalize gambling in Ohio in 2009. Yet Cimperman cites multiple public meetings that were held to allow input. "This is not something that was done behind closed doors," he says. "It was part of the original proposal."

If the skywalk project moves forward, it won't be the first time that Rock Gaming has developed a controversial project in the face of organized community opposition. Last year, the corporation successfully purchased and demolished the historic Columbia building on Prospect Avenue to build a parking garage.

The casino skywalk is also not the only one that's being considered right now in downtown Cleveland. The developers of the Westin Hotel on St. Clair Avenue across from the Medical Mart and Convention Center have also proposed a new skywalk. Many preservationists deem that skywalk, which would link the hotel to Public Auditorium, as being even more injurious to the city's historic fabric.

Source: Joe Baur
Writer: Lee Chilcote

detroit-superior bridge open to public use through permit process

Anyone who's ever visited the catacombs-like lower level of the Detroit-Superior Bridge -- which offers amazing views of downtown Cleveland, the Flats and the Cuyahoga River from a setting that feels like the industrial bowels of Cleveland -- has probably asked themselves, "Why isn't this open more often?"

In response to public demand, Cuyahoga County has made the bridge more accessible. The Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative (CUDC) and other partners hosted events here this summer, the Cleveland Design Competition hosted its awards ceremony here last week, and the bridge even had its first wedding.

"My husband and I were looking for a place that was outdoors, public and covered," says Carla Kurtz, who recently got married on the bridge. "One of our friends heard you could use the space for events like this. It was fairly easy."

That's a change from previous administrations, says Terry Schwarz, Director of the CUDC, who is helping to lead the planning process for the bridge's future.

"Bonnie Teeuwen, the Director of Public Works, her philosophy has been if James [Levin] and I can borrow the bridge, she should make it available to everybody," says Schwarz. "There's a process, a permit form and a fee. You describe how you'll use it. I genuinely feel the way we figure out how to use the bridge is by using it."

The biggest challenge, Schwarz says, is that anyone planning an event must hire security. The bridge span is nearly a mile long, and there are plenty of dark, craggy places. It requires seven county deputies to keep it fully open.

Schwarz is now examining design alternatives for keeping the bridge open during regular hours, a process that was funded by the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA). The focus is on making the bridge a connection between downtown Cleveland and Ohio City for cyclists and pedestrians.

"We're looking at a dedicated path for fast-moving cyclists, because commuters have said they'd use the lower level as a quick cross over the river," says Schwarz. "We're also looking at another multi-purpose path for pedestrians and bikes."

The CUDC is also examining possibilities for anchor development -- market-rate housing is the most likely option - at either end of the bridge. Such development could treat the bridge as a nearby amenity, generating a critical mass of users.

"The development might generate enough of revenue to pay for patrols," she says.

Another option would be to have the bridge open for limited hours. For instance, it could be open from 4 to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays for cyclists crossing the river. That connection would be especially valuable in inclement weather or during winter.

"The idea isn't that the lower level is replacing the upper level, which is already bike-friendly, but that it provides an alternative," says Schwarz. "Detroit Avenue is emerging as the main east-west arterial for bikes, and this is a connection."

The CUDC expects to wrap up the planning process early next year and present a final proposal to Cuyahoga County and NOACA. From there, the management entities would need to seek funding to transform that plan into a reality.

Source: Terry Schwarz
Writer: Lee Chilcote

rta breaks ground on redevelopment of cedar-university rapid station

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) has broken ground on an $18.5 million redevelopment of its Cedar-University rapid station that will make it safer, easier to navigate, more efficient and more inviting. RTA officials hope it will become a stronger hub for the growing University Circle area and its surrounding neighborhoods.

"It will look a heck of a lot better," says Mary Shaffer, Media Relations Manager with RTA, of the project's impact. "It is safe and functioning now, but there will be a greater sense of security. We want to help people in the community to be able to recommend RTA."

The current Cedar-University rapid station was built nearly 50 years ago. The facility's layout requires a long walk to transfer between bus and rail, and greater efficiency and easier connections will offer a huge improvement, Shaffer says.

"We'll have bus and rail on the same side of the street, and that will make it a lot easier for transfers," says Shaffer. "Behind Tower City and Windermere/Stokes, this is the largest bus-rail transfer station that we have in the RTA network."

The glassy new station will also be more attractive and welcoming. "When you have things like MOCA coming into the area, having a state-of-the-art rail/bus station in the heart of the University Circle area is really a positive thing."

RTA won a $10.5 million competitive TIGER II grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to be able to complete the project. The agency also contributed $4 million from its own capital budget and raised money from other local sources.

The station is actually the first of two newly revamped stations in the University Circle area. The University Circle-Little Italy station is next to be redeveloped, and that project was recently funded by a federal transportation grant, as well.

The Cedar-University station will incorporate additional green space and public art. RTA will also increase the frequency of its train service to serve local riders.

Shaffer says that RTA is now seeing the 17th straight month of growth in overall ridership. The Red Line leads the pack. She says this is attributable to higher gas prices and new development in Cleveland that is making it harder to find parking.

"This is most likely attributable to people who are making the decision to ride," says Shaffer. "They want to avoid the Innerbelt or see a lack of parking in University Circle or by the Clinic. We're glad to be a solution for them."

Source: Mary Shaffer
Writer: Lee Chilcote

the intergenerational school will move to renovated space on saint luke's campus

The Intergenerational School, a high-performing charter school that is part of the Breakthrough Schools network, recently signed on to become part of the redeveloped Saint Luke's Hospital campus at Shaker Boulevard and E. 116th Street.

The highly-rated school, which has operated out of the nearby Fairhill Center for the past decade, will have the opportunity to grow within the Buckeye-Shaker Square community, customize classroom space to meet their unique needs and engage the seniors living at Saint Luke's.

"It's a great school and this will be a catalytic project for the community," says Joel Ratner, President of Neighborhood Progress Incorporated (NPI), the nonprofit developer of the Saint Luke's project. "Their model is to create intergenerational learning opportunities for kids, and now they'll be able to physically do that."

TIS is part of Phase III of the Saint Luke's project, says Ratner. Phases I and II are low-income senior housing. This final phase will complete the redevelopment of the historic, red brick hospital, which has been badly vandalized since it closed over a decade ago. Ratner also expects the Boys and Girls Club to open a small space in the building, and NPI will move its office headquarters there, as well.

NPI is now in a frantic push to complete the project by July 1, 2013 so that TIS can move in before the start of the 2013-2014 school year. The organization must raise another $3 million by May of next year in order to make that happen.

So far, the Cleveland Foundation, Saint Luke's Foundation and several private individuals have contributed to the project, which will cost a total of $6 million.

"We've already ordered the windows," says Ratner. "That alone was half a million dollars, including installation, because there are literally hundreds of custom windows. We're doing this project because it's the right thing to do."

Ratner also hopes the presence of TIS will help improve Harvey Rice School, a newly built K-8 school that is not performing well. "We'd like to get mentors there like they have at TIS, and potentially do programming together," says Ratner. "The Cleveland schools say they're open to it. This will be a huge lift."

Source: Joel Ratner
Writer: Lee Chilcote

uptown project in university circle primed for its public debut

Following a spate of recent openings, the Uptown Cleveland project has more than doubled the number of stores and restaurants previously available along Euclid Avenue in University Circle. It also has brought high-end contemporary design to an area known for traditional, classic architecture.

"All of the retail space is full, and we're pretty excited about that," says Tammy Oliver, Director of Leasing and Marketing for MRN Ltd., the developer of the project, which includes ground-level retail with apartments above. "We pretty much came into construction with letters of intent on everything."

Some of the new businesses that have opened include Constantino's Market, Barnes and Noble, Panera, Starbucks, Verizon Wireless, Jimmy John's, Chipotle and Anne van H. Businesses that will open this fall include Accent (a new restaurant helmed by chef Scott Kim), Mitchell's Ice Cream, a second location for ABC the Tavern, and three additional restaurants.

The project includes a brick interior courtyard for strolling, patio dining and events. The public space between Uptown and the new Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (MOCA), which was named Toby's Plaza in honor of donor Toby Lewis, will be programmed by its owner, Case Western Reserve University.

"We're hoping you can wake up and do tai chi or yoga there, lay out and read or simply have lunch there," says Oliver. "There will be a constant change of events and programming, and we want to involve the community and visitors in that."

The Uptown apartments, which are priced aggressively for the Cleveland market, are more than 70 percent leased, says Oliver. She cites the loft-style ceilings, large windows, green features, high-end finishes and flexible spaces as the reasons why.

"There is a demand for this new style and new way of living in Cleveland," she says. "This is the only new construction apartment building to be built in Cleveland for many years. Historic renovations bring fantastic character, but with modern living spaces such as these, you can bring your own character."

Source: Tammy Oliver
Writer: Lee Chilcote

city of cleveland to create 1.7 miles of new bike lanes along detroit avenue

The City of Cleveland has developed a plan to create bike lanes along Detroit Avenue between West 25th and West 75th streets to cater to the growing number of two-wheeled commuters using the thoroughfare.

The idea was developed as a temporary alternative to the stalled West Shoreway project, but has now taken on a life of its own. City officials say that even if more money is found to complete multi-modal paths along the Shoreway, the Detroit bike lanes are here to stay.

"This really is a new day in the City of Cleveland for cycling," Planning Director Bob Brown told the audience at a recent public meeting. "For decades, Cleveland put the priority on cars and cyclists were treated as second class citizens. The big change was the complete and green streets ordinance -- now it's the law of the land that every time we plan a roadway project, bikes have to be a priority."

"If we want to create a mode shift [away from driving and towards cycling], then we need to create the facilities to do it," added Jacob Van Sickle, Executive Director of Bike Cleveland. "Bike Cleveland will continue to push the city."

The complex project, which will span 1.7 miles and cost $76,000, includes a mixture of bike lanes and sharrows (painted arrows in the roadway indicating that cars must share the road with bikes). The five foot lanes allow for on-street parking while providing enough room for cyclists to avoid the "door zone" (the area where they could be hit if the driver of a parked car opens the door).

The long-term goal, Brown said during the meeting, is to create a network of bike lanes on major streets throughout the city. Planners are working on eventually extending the bike lanes along the Detroit-Superior bridge and Superior.

Source: Bob Brown, Jacob Van Sickle
Writer: Lee Chilcote

shipping container will be transformed into on-street bike corral in ohio city

If Bike Cleveland, LAND Studio and business owner Sam McNulty have their way, a used shipping container will be transformed into sleek new bike parking in Ohio City sometime next month.

The Bike Box, which will feature parking for 15 bikes in a locally sourced shipping container fabricated by Rust Belt Welding, started off as a conversation among cycling advocates about converting a single car parking space into multiple bike parking on West 25th.

"To be honest, I thought the City was going to look at me cross-eyed," says Sam McNulty, who is chipping in money for the project. The Bike Box will be placed on Bridge, outside of Nano Brew, his soon-to-open microbrewery. "Surprisingly, they were very excited about it. This makes a statement and says, 'Instead of bicycles and pedestrians being an afterthought, we're flipping the script and creating a space for bicycles.'"

As far as timing goes, McNulty says the organizers still hope to have the Bike Box up in time for events celebrating the West Side Market's 100th birthday. "We're shooting to have it hit the curb in time for the Centennial next month," he says.

McNulty says the Bike Box will replace one unmetered parking space. He hopes to eventually remove another parking space or two and create a "parklet" -- a streetside pocket park with grass, trees and benches -- but he's focused on the Bike Box first. "The park is more controversial and cutting-edge," he says.

Source: Sam McNulty
Writer: Lee Chilcote

enjoying 20-percent annual growth, voss is renovating ohio city headquarters

Voss Industries, an employee-owned aerospace and industrial applications company on West 25th Street in Ohio City, is replacing all the windows on its century-old building -- all 650 of 'em.

The investment will help the company to make key improvements to its headquarters on Cleveland's near west side, where it has been since 1957.

"It's been a rather long project," says Voss President and CEO Dan Sedor with a chuckle. "It's a 100-year-old building, so we're refacing it. What's going on in Ohio City is definitely a renaissance, and our company wants to play a small part in it."

"Small" is not the word that accurately describes the outsized ambitions of this half-century-old company that occupies 240,000 square feet in Ohio City, however. Voss has experienced 20-percent growth annually for the past several years, and has hired 80 workers in the last two years alone. The progress, says Sedor, is due to the improving economy and Voss's competitiveness in the marketplace.

"We're a metal manipulator -- we bend it, roll it, stamp it and machine it," says Sedor. "We've been steadily gaining market share by diversifying the markets we serve and also by providing engineering solutions to many of our customers."

Voss has more than 330 employees. Sedor says he likes Ohio City because it offers a convenient, centralized location for employees, who live throughout the region.

Source: Dan Sedor
Writer: Lee Chilcote

'b.y.o.s.' groundbreaking invites towpath supporters to bring their own shovels

However momentous they might be, groundbreaking ceremonies typically are not very interactive affairs. Project leaders and public officials give speeches and take advantage of photo opportunities before they pose gripping the symbolic, all-too-clean shovels.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the first publicly funded leg of the Towpath Trail to be built in Cleveland promises to be different. Community members have been clamoring for this project to be completed for years, and trail backers want to give them a chance to participate in the grand occasion. So after the project leaders and public officials take their turn, it's a B.Y.O.S. (Bring Your Own Shovel) event, and everyone is invited to join in.

The event is scheduled for Monday, July 30th at 11 a.m. at 1871 Scranton Road.

"We wanted to figure out a way to involve the many people who have anxiously awaited the project," says Tim Donovan, Executive Director of Ohio Canal Corridor, the nonprofit spearheading the effort with the City of Cleveland, Cleveland Metroparks and Cuyahoga County. "I don't sit on a boatload of shovels, but if you bring your own, then we can capture it. If you can't be there, send us a photo of you with your shovel, and we'll print them up and have them on site."

So far, Donovan has received photos of supporters with shovels from as far away as New Mexico. Those bringing a shovel will be eligible to have their names entered into a raffle to win a $100 gift certificate from Lockkeepers restaurant.

The .6 mile trail will follow Scranton Road from Carter Road south to University Road along the Scranton Peninsula. A portion of the $9.1 million total price tag will be used to restore 11 acres of polluted industrial land. The project will also replace a portion of decrepit river bulkhead with a more natural stone and plant terrace.

The project was funded by the Clean Ohio Conservation Fund, Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the State of Ohio, among other funding sources.

Source: Tim Donovan
Writer: Lee Chilcote

ohio city plan aims to rebuild neighborhood around multimodal transportation

Ohio City attracts over three million visitors per year and has several thriving anchor institutions. Its population grew from 2000 to 2010 and the neighborhood has added 35-plus new businesses and 300 jobs in recent years.

All of this sounds pretty good, yet popularity inevitably comes with a price. This near west side neighborhood is now suffering the growing pains of any successful urban neighborhood that must balance the needs of residents, workers and visitors. In short, it's got a parking problem.

To address this problem, Ohio City is adopting a Multimodal Transportation Plan that places an emphasis on traffic calming, bike lanes, pedestrian friendly streets and public transportation. In acknowledgement of the fact that most of the area's visitors still arrive by car, the plan also offers remedies for the parking crunch.

The plan includes an emphasis on Complete Streets (bike lanes and traffic calming for pedestrians); transit oriented development (potential mixed-use housing adjacent to the West 25th rapid station); a comprehensive wayfinding system; parking solutions that include valet parking for visitors and employees, plus consolidation and paid parking in the West Side Market lot; a future structured parking garage; residential permit parking; and additional parking meters.

West Side Market tenants have expressed concerns about the notion of charging for parking in the market lot, yet Ohio City Inc. leaders are pushing for it. Free parking would be available in 90 minute increments for market shoppers. Right now, some people park in the market lot even when they aren't shopping there.

"The goal of the Plan is to provide as many transportation options as possible so that the community is not too dependent on surface parking as the only option for visitors," the plan states. "Increasing access to safe bike and pedestrian infrastructure will increase the number of trips to Ohio City by foot or by bike."

Discussions are ongoing, and vendors are pushing for two hours of free parking (the city prefers 90 minutes). The city would like to see the new parking system in place by spring of next year, but the vendors have the power to block the deal.

"We believe the plan provides smart solutions to eliminating parking congestion and will lead to a more easily navigable and safer neighborhood for all of our visitors," says Eric Wobser, Executive Director of Ohio City Inc. He adds that he hopes that an agreement with vendors will be hammered out this month.

Source: Ohio City Inc.
Writer: Lee Chilcote

cuyahoga valley national park proposes $6m in improvements

The National Park Service is proposing over $6 million of improvements to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, including up to 10 miles of mountain bike trails, the addition of boat launch sites, and several new bike-in and paddle-in campsites.

The ambitious plan "aims to develop a blueprint that will guide the expansion, restoration, management, operations and use of the trail system and its associated amenities over the next 15 years, while keeping with the purpose, mission and significance of Cuyahoga Valley National Park," according to the NPS website.

The proposal would also add up to 46 miles of new trails, remove 12 miles of existing trails and add 30-plus miles of bike lanes on public roads within the park.

Park officials are holding public meetings to garner feedback this month, and the public comment period lasts until mid-August. The plan requires buy-in from several neighboring communities and park authorities, since only 19,000 of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park's 33,000 acres are actually federally owned.

NPS officials hope to adopt a new plan by the end of the year.

Source: National Park Service
Writer: Lee Chilcote

cleveland velodrome set to open this month in slavic village

An Olympic-style cycling track is being assembled by a group of dedicated volunteers on a patch of scruffy, vacant land in Slavic Village where St. Michael's Hospital stood until it was demolished years ago.

The Cleveland Velodrome met its initial $300,000 fundraising goal for the 166-meter, wood and steel banked track thanks in part to a $50,000 grant from the Cleveland Foundation and generous lead donors.

Later this month, cyclists should be able to go for a spin on the velodrome, which is the only one of its kind between the East Coast and Chicago. Backers of the project hope to eventually construct a multipurpose domed athletic center that will allow avid Cleveland cyclists and area youth to ride during the winter months, as well.

“After many years of hard work, we are thrilled to bring a velodrome track to Cleveland,” said Brett Davis, Board President or Fast Track Cycling, in a release. “Phase I allows Fast Track to implement youth and adult programming and will serve as a tool to raise additional funds to enclose the track for year-round use. While we are very pleased to reach the Phase I target, fund-raising will continue towards the ultimate goal of an enclosed, year-round track and sports center.”

“This is a terrific opportunity for Broadway Slavic Village,” said Marie Kittredge, Executive Director of Slavic Village Development. “The velodrome is a perfect fit for us, because of our central location, and our community’s commitment to active lifestyles and physical fitness. The velodrome will complement the gymnastics programming at the adjacent Sokol Czech Cultural Center, the community’s two new athletic fields, the First Tee Golf Course, and the Morgana Bike Trail.”

Fast Track Cycling is leasing the 8.4 acre site from the City of Cleveland for $1 per year. The Cleveland Velodrome is located on Broadway Ave. near Pershing Ave.

Source: Brett Davis, Marie Kittredge
Writer: Lee Chilcote

port authority to build new boats to help clean up river debris

Although the environmental health of the Cuyahoga River has dramatically improved in recent decades, ugly mats of hazardous floating debris and litter still accumulate in the bends of the famously crooked river.

If a violent storm rolls in off Lake Erie, or strong winds spring up, the mats can easily break apart and float into the shipping channel. The sudden presence of fallen logs and other debris can create a dangerous obstacle course for boaters and rowers traversing the river.

Later this summer, the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority will begin using two specialized aluminum work boats to remove floating debris from the river and the Lake Erie shoreline. The new boats, called Flotsam and Jetsam, are being paid for by a $425,160 grant from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The river cleanup initiative is the first comprehensive initiative of its kind.

"The river is a lot cleaner than it looks and now has 40 species of fish, but this program will demonstrate stewardship to the community," says Jim White, Director of Sustainable Infrastructure Programs for the Port Authority. "This is one of the pieces of the puzzle in terms of restoring the health of the river."

Source: Jim White
Writer: Lee Chilcote

neoscc asks young pros to help envision a vibrant, sustainable future for region

The population of Northeast Ohio's 12 most populous counties fell by seven percent from 4.1 million in 1970 to 3.8 million in 2010. Yet at the same time, suburban areas added 400 square miles of roads, shopping centers, housing developments and office parks.

That unabated trend towards urban sprawl is not sustainable, argues the Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium, a new initiative that won a $4.25 million grant from the federal government in 2010 to plan for more sustainable land use patterns across the region. It also wastes resources, harms cities and makes the region less competitive.

So what would a truly vibrant future look like for Northeast Ohio? The NEOSCC hopes to engage young professionals in answering that question at a series of public engagement meetings. The next event is scheduled for Wednesday, May 16th at Brothers Lounge in Cleveland.

"A lot of times, decisions are made without involving young people, and we wanted them at the forefront," says Jeff Anderle, Director of Communications with the NEOSCC. "We keep hearing that they want a competitive economy in the region so that there are more job opportunities. They also want walkable communities and more vibrant downtowns throughout the 12-county area."

Anderle stresses that the NEOSCC is not dictating people's choices -- "We want to educate people so that they understand the big picture infrastructure costs and how they affect everyone," he says -- yet the initiative's impact will come down to how communities throughout the region adopt the NEOSCC's recommendations. The group plans to release an initial report on existing conditions in June.

Source: Jeff Anderle
Writer: Lee Chilcote

nearing completion, circle east townhomes are 60 percent preleased

As the Circle East Townhomes near completion, 60 percent of the units are pre-leased, and eight of the 12 leased units have been snatched up by University Circle area employees. This proves the viability of new housing options in the area, says Chris Ronayne, Executive Director of University Circle Inc. (UCI).

"This is a great moment in time where the Circle is meeting East Cleveland," says Ronayne of the project, which features 20 townhouse-style apartments that are being developed on a former parking lot on Euclid Avenue in East Cleveland. "The fact that Circle area employees are leasing the apartments means that our Greater Circle Living program is working. Employees can get one month's free rent through this effort, and institutions and foundations are putting money into it."

Circle East Townhomes are being built on 1.5 acres of land along Euclid between Lakeview Road and Auburndale Avenue. The $5 million project is being co-developed by UCI and the Finch Group, and partial funding comes from federal Neighborhood Stabilization Funds. The three-story units have 2 bedrooms, 2.5 baths and two car garages. Rental rates are $930 per month, and tenants can earn up to 120 percent of area median income (about $60,000) and still qualify.

"Circle East is really a new neighborhood where University Circle meets East Cleveland," says Ronayne, who adds that the project would have remained on the drawing board without the leadership of East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton and support from Cuyahoga County and the Cuyahoga Land Bank. "We've been planning this for a while, and now we're starting to see development."

UCI and East Cleveland are now seeking planning grants for Phase II of the project, which would bring an additional 20 units to the site. Ronayne ultimately envisions a mixed-use housing and office development, including technology companies or services related to University Circle's anchor institutions.

The first residents are expected to move into Circle East Townhomes by June 15th.

Source: Chris Ronayne
Writer: Lee Chilcote

affordable church square commons now open in midtown, dedication ceremony to follow

There was good news and bad news when David Uram and David Burg learned in June of 2009 about their application for Low Income Housing Tax Credits from the State of Ohio. The owners of PIRHL, an affordable housing development firm, were seeking to develop a 44-unit housing project on Euclid Avenue in MidTown called Church Square Commons.

The good news was that they'd been awarded tax credits for the project. PIRHL has completed 24 successful projects in five states in the past seven years.

The bad news was that the tax credits were worth at least 20 percent less than they had been before the recession, ripping a giant hole in the project proforma and making it impossible to continue without securing additional funding.

That funding came in the form of about $1.8 million in federal stimulus dollars and $600,000 in Housing Trust Fund dollars from the City of Cleveland. The developers broke ground on Church Square Commons in November 2010 and completed it a year later. PIRHL is hosting a dedication ceremony with Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and other dignitaries and community partners on April 20th.

"This project provides much-needed affordable housing development in the City of Cleveland," says Uram. "Many low-income seniors fall behind in maintaining their homes and can't keep up. The project has also removed significant blight along Euclid Avenue, and helped facilitate redevelopment of the area."

The 44-unit project contains many green, sustainable features, including high-efficiency insulation that cuts down on heating bills for tenants. It also contains 4,000 square feet of common areas, including a hair salon, fitness center and community rooms, some of which are accessible to non-residents.

Uram, who helped found the company in his partner's basement and has a background in nonprofit community development, says affordable housing is a critical piece of redeveloping neighborhoods. "As we gentrify neighborhoods, folks in Cleveland need a place to live," he says. "It's a critical piece of the urban fabric."

Source: David Uram
Writer: Lee Chilcote

pop-up store set to open in cuyahoga valley railroad car

Later this month, a pop-up store for visitors will open inside of an historic railroad car in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The store, called Trail Mix, will be housed on a spur track along the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad in the town of Peninsula. It will feature snacks, refreshments, books, souvenirs and other items.

Then, later this year, Trail Mix will move into its permanent location at 1600 West Mill Street, adjacent to the Winking Lizard and the tracks where visitors hop aboard the Scenic Railroad. Peninsula has become a hub for visitors to the 33,000 acre national park, which draws more than three million visitors annually and is considered to be one of the most popular national parks in the country.

The store will be operated by the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help educate the general public about the park, protect and conserve its national resources, market the park to visitors, and promote the activities and amenities that exist within the park.

"This is an opportunity for us to really introduce people to all the wonderful things that exist within the 33,000 acres of the park," says Janice Matteucci, Chief Operations Officer for the Conservancy. "We're also partnering with the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad so that people can buy their tickets here."

The new, 3,000 square foot store will provide a larger storefront space for both organizations and add to the retail offerings in downtown Peninsula. Trail Mix will have outdoor seating and serve local foods such as cookies baked at the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center and Mitchell's Ice Cream.

Source: Janice Matteucci
Writer: Lee Chilcote

long-awaited makeover of mlk jr. drive and 'suicide circle' to begin shortly

The City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County are preparing to break ground on two major roadway improvement projects in University Circle and surrounding neighborhoods that will improve vehicular, pedestrian and bicycle access to the area while making it safer and easier to navigate.

First, the City of Cleveland plans to break ground in the next few months on the rebuilding of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. The scenic roadway wends its way 2.63 miles from University Circle through Rockefeller Park to the lakefront. The work includes repairing curbs, adding new ADA ramps, drainage improvements and new parking areas. The latter is the biggest change for those accessing the park by car, as there will finally be a (legal) place to park along MLK Drive.

Second, Cuyahoga County will start this fall on the reconfiguration of the much-maligned traffic circle at East 105th Street and MLK. The new intersection will be a traditional, four-way stoplight. The project will not only make the area safer for drivers, but will also enhance access for cyclists and pedestrians.

"This traffic circle has one of the highest rates of vehicular accidents in the region -- they're mostly fender benders, because people are just confused by it," says Chris Bongorno, Director of Planning with University Circle Incorporated (UCI). "The new configuration will definitely be more pedestrian and bike friendly, and will also help to connect people to Rockefeller Park and University Circle."

The reconfiguration of the traffic circle will create sidewalks on both sides of the street and better connect the Harrison Dillard bikeway to University Circle. A new boardwalk will be constructed on land freed up by the project, and pedestrians and cyclists will be able to cross the intersection at one, signalized location.

The City of Cleveland has scheduled a public meeting to discuss the MLK rebuild project on Tuesday, April 3rd at 5:30 p.m. at the Martin Luther King Jr. branch of the Cleveland Public Library (1962 Stokes Blvd.). City officials will be on hand to discuss the project timeline and specifics and to answer questions.

Bongorno says the two projects are evidence of University Circle's commitment to enhancing access to the area's cultural amenities for all users. He also says University Circle employees are biking to work in greater numbers with each passing year, and these types of improvements will better serve them.

Source: Chris Bongorno
Writer: Lee Chilcote

new 'lake to lakes trail' will help cyclists safely travel from the heights to downtown

Thanks to roadway improvements and striking new signage, University Circle is becoming easier to navigate all the time. Yet it's a grim joke among cyclists that navigating the spaghetti intersection at Stokes, Martin Luther King Jr. and Cedar is akin to taking your life into your hands.

This issue affects more than a small, insignificant sliver of the population: According to City of Cleveland Bike Planner Marty Cader, the number of bike commuters continues to rise each year. In fact, he says, the parking garages at the Cleveland Clinic are filled with bikes these days, many of which originate from points further east.

The City of Cleveland recently broke ground on a new trail which is expected to ease this life-threatening commute. The so-called Lake to Lakes Trail consists of a new 10-foot-wide trail and improved intersections that should be complete by the end of summer. The trail will better connect the Harrison Dillard Bikeway in Rockefeller Park with the bike paths at Shaker Lakes in Shaker Heights.

The project overcame huge design challenges by funneling bike traffic through existing public land in University Circle. The City of Cleveland is reconstructing several traffic islands and adding ADA ramps and pedestrian signals to help make road crossings safer. The trail will meander through the hidden gem of Rudy Rogers Park, where Doan Brook flows into a culvert before emerging in Rockefeller Park, and then head up Fairhill Boulevard into the Heights.

The project is being funded by the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Department of Energy through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The trail also adds another leg to the city's Bikeway Master Plan, which is beginning to form vital connections between city neighborhoods. With the help of the Lake to Lakes Trail, cyclists will be able to easily and safely bike from Shaker Heights to downtown Cleveland along Euclid Ave., or out to the lakefront.

Source: Marty Cader
Writer: Lee Chilcote

positively cleveland to unveil plans to strengthen city as a tourism destination

To conduct an authentic test of what it's like to be a tourist in Cleveland, Positively Cleveland recently sent several Northeast Ohioans on all-expenses-paid trips to parts of the city with which they were unfamiliar. The outcomes of this "mystery shopper" test were revealing, if not exactly surprising: Safety, wayfinding signage and public transportation ranked among participants' top concerns.

Lexi Hotchkiss, Communications Manager with Positively Cleveland, says the "Tourist for a Day" effort was part of a larger, regional initiative to make Cleveland a more visitor-friendly destination. The "Destination Cleveland" project has been launched by Positively Cleveland and other civic-minded partners in anticipation of $2 billion in tourism-related development that is currently being invested in downtown Cleveland.

"Our new President and CEO, David Gilbert, started the process when he joined the organization," explains Hotchkiss. "We knew it was time to look at Cleveland in a different way, and really examine how we look, act and feel as a destination."

In November, Positively Cleveland held a summit with over 200 community ambassadors, ranging from government officials to hotel managers. This unprecedented, collaborative effort to take Cleveland's tourism economy to the next level resulted in 11 focus areas. Top government officials also signed a memorandum of understanding agreeing to work together on this effort.

In a few days, tourism leaders are set to unveil and begin implementing a new, five year plan to improve Cleveland as a travel destination. Positively Cleveland and its partners are holding the Destination Cleveland Travel and Tourism Outcomes Launch on Tuesday, March 27th from 7:30 to 10 a.m. at the House of Blues. The event is free and open to the public.

"Tourism is the fourth largest private sector economy in Ohio," says Hotchkiss. "One of the things we really want to do is engage locals as ambassadors of our city."

Source: Lexi Hotchkiss
Writer: Lee Chilcote

$4.25m sustainable communities consortium begins outreach process

The Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium, a major public initiative to help move Northeast Ohio towards a more sustainable, resilient future, will launch a public engagement process in the next few months. Young professionals are among the first constituencies being targeted in this effort to create a sustainability plan for the region.

"We're looking at how we are using land through the lens of sustainability," explains Jeff Anderle, Communications and Engagement Manager for the NEOSCC, which received a $4.25 million grant from the Obama administration's Partnership for Sustainable Communities initiative and launched in January 2011. "We want to make Northeast Ohio more resilient to change, help our governments to be more collaborative and provide the tools for communities to engage in more sustainable planning."

The NEOSCC has five different work study areas: economic development, environment, communities, connections, and quality, connected places. Consortium members include city governments, planning agencies and other public entities throughout the 12-county planning area. According to Anderle, NEOSCC's members are working together because they realize it is in their self-interest to help ensure that the region's resources are used more sustainably.

"We're starting to see collaboration happening in government because resources are getting tight, and moving forward, we believe collaboration will become essential," he says. "People are waking up and coming to the table."

Over the next few months, the NEOSCC will publish an existing conditions report and begin public engagement. "We're partnering with the Civic Commons," says Anderle. "We want to empower people to become a part of the process."

Source: Jeff Anderle
Writer: Lee Chilcote

broadway cyclery rolls into historic downtown bedford building

Two years ago, cyclist Mike Hulett traded legal briefs and billable hours for bike stands and Allen wrenches when he opened the Broadway Cyclery, a utility-focused bike shop in downtown Bedford.

Recently, he purchased the historic Marshall Building and moved his business into a larger, renovated storefront. He's slowly restoring the structure, originally built to house a drugstore and boasting Terrazzo floors and 15-foot ceilings, to its original beauty.

Hulett says that his business is unique because he carries niche products that aren't available at other shops. "We're a Brooks Dealer of Excellence; we sell leather bike seats from a company that's been around since 1866," he says. "When you see people riding around the country, usually they have a Brooks seat."

The Broadway Cyclery also carries a wide assortment of cargo, touring and commuter bikes, kickstands and bags for the practical, commuting cyclist.

Hulett chose downtown Bedford because of its unique, local businesses and central location near highways and bike trails. "We're right by the Bedford Metroparks," he says. "From here, you can bike to Chagrin Falls, Rocky River or Akron. All trails intersect in the area and that makes it a fantastic resource for cyclists."

Source: Mike Hulett
Writer: Lee Chilcote

rta warns against possible funding cuts in federal transportation bill

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) has seen increases in bus and transit ridership for nine months straight, and the number of riders on the Red Line in January was the highest since 1988.

Yet this month, the U.S. House of Representatives is considering a surface transportation bill known as H.R. 7 that would eliminate dedicated federal funds for public transit across the country.

RTA is advocating against the cuts by working with Representative Steven LaTourette and other members of Congress to promote an amendment that would restore federally guaranteed funding.

"If you leave it up to chance that public transit gets funded, that's a big chance to take," says Mary McCahon, RTA's Media Relations Manager. The change would require agencies to lobby for federal funding each year, she says. "We provide 200,000 rides per day, and federal funding is our third biggest revenue source."

McCahon says that while the bill has been tabled, it is scheduled to come back to the floor of the House of Representatives for further discussion this week.

RTA's increased ridership is due in part to higher gas prices and ongoing Innerbelt construction, McCahon says. Improved marketing efforts, partnerships with businesses and the popularity of the Health Line are also factors.

For more information about H.R. 7 and the ongoing federal transportation bill debate, visit the RTA newsroom or American Public Transit Association website.

Source: Mary McCahon
Writer: Lee Chilcote

port's ceo makes planning parks, green space a top priority

When Will Friedman took the helm of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority in June 2010, he soon learned about Dike 14, an outcropping of land on Cleveland's east side that had been a dredging facility from 1979 until 1999. Friedman quickly realized that the Port could do more to transform this burgeoning wildlife paradise -- which was closed to the public due to environmental concerns -- into a world-class nature preserve.

"I saw it as a potentially great addition to the lakefront," says Friedman. "Previously, the Port had not been all that interested in retaining it, but I didn't see it that way. I told our board this was an asset we'd inherited, there was nothing preventing us from opening it, and that we should get on with it."

So get on with it he did. Working in collaboration with environmental groups that had lobbied for a park, the Port spearheaded efforts to move the project forward. A year and a half later, the Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve is now open to the public.

That kind of leadership and gumption not only has earned Friedman high marks from environmental groups, it also has set the Port sailing in a new direction -- creating new waterfront parks and green space. Although that might sound like an unusual role for a Port Authority to play, it's actually not, Friedman says.

"I came from the Port of Seattle, which has 15 parks and green spaces," he says. "Port authorities are typically front and center in environmental projects, and helping to plan for and create green spaces is definitely in our wheelhouse."

Friedman also led the creation of the Port Authority's new strategic plan, which makes creating public green spaces a part of the organization's ongoing work.

Next, Friedman and his staff are working on the future of the Preserve, including enhancing habitat value, creating additional trails and adding an observation deck to maximize the stunning views of downtown Cleveland and Lake Erie.

The Port also is working closely with partners to plan the future of the Flats, including creating better riverfront access for city residents and visitors.

Source: Will Friedman
Writer: Lee Chilcote

shaker heights assembles $18m to reconfigure confusing intersection

A final, critical piece of funding has now fallen into place for the City of Shaker Heights' long-awaited Van Aken District plan. The city recently announced that it had been awarded $4.4 million from the Ohio Department of Public Works (ODPW). That, on top of $14 million the city already has assembled, will allow Shaker to proceed with Phase I late next year.

Phase I of the project will reconfigure the confusing, much-maligned junction of Van Aken, Warrensville and Chagrin roads into a traditional, four-way intersection. The road reconfiguration is just the first step in a larger plan to redevelop this prominent space as a vibrant, mixed-use downtown for the city.

"This vision was shaped by residents," says Joyce Braverman, Planning Director for the City of Shaker Heights. "One of our planning meetings was held during a snowstorm, and we had 120 people show up. They didn't just sit and listen, they sat at tables and helped us to design what the streets would look like."

In addition to the ODPW award, Phase I is being funded by $2.3 million from the City of Shaker Heights, $4 million from the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), $7 million from the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, a $500,000 federal appropriation, $500,000 from the Federal Highway Administration and $500,000 from the Cuyahoga County Department of Public Works. In addition to the reconfiguration, there will also be improvements to transit access, pedestrian facilities and streetscapes, including tree planting. Prominent, new crosswalks will improve the pedestrian experience while reducing wait times and making the district easier and safer to navigate.

As Phase I is being completed, the city will continue to move forward on later phases of the plan, including working with RTA to extend the Blue Line rapid transit and seeking a master developer for parcels of land owned by the city and private developers. Shaker Heights ultimately envisions a mixed-use district comprised of 500 new housing units, 160,000 square feet of new retail space and 250,000 square feet of office space and community green space.

Source: Joyce Braverman
Writer: Lee Chilcote

$3.2m federal grant will allow cuyahoga valley scenic railroad to do major green upgrades

A $3.2 million grant from the federal government's Paul S. Sarbanes Transit in Parks program announced last week will help pay for green upgrades to the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. The private, nonprofit rail line carries nearly 200,000 passengers yearly, including more than 25,000 who carry bikes aboard the train, as it traverses through the picturesque Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Nearly half of the grant funding -- about $1.4 million -- will go towards building a new pedestrian and bicycle bridge over the Cuyahoga River at Rockside Road. The bridge will span from the Rockside Station parking lot to the Lock 39 Trailhead along the Towpath Trail. It will facilitate safer, easier access for bikers and hikers who wish to ride the rail and take advantage of the scenic Towpath.

Steve Wait, President and CEO of the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, says that the funds will also help the rail line integrate technology that will make it more efficient and environmentally friendly. "We'll be investing money in upgrading and rebuilding an older locomotive to save up to 75 percent in fuel and also reduce emissions," he says. "Many commercial railroads are investing heavily in newer green technologies, but as a small nonprofit we never had the money before."

Other planned improvements for the rail line include rebuilding an older passenger car to make it more accessible, retooling a baggage car to add extra room for bikes, and replacing an old power generator rail car to make it greener and more efficient.

Source: Steve Wait
Writer: Lee Chilcote

city to hold meetings on lakefront plan, hire harbor manager

The City of Cleveland has scheduled two meetings to allow public comment on its new lakefront plan, the most ambitious effort in years to redevelop the city's long-dormant downtown shoreline. Portions of the plan, including an event series to be launched this summer, could begin to show progress this year.

The City plans to hire a Harbor Manager in the next few months, who will be responsible for overseeing waterfront activities, including management of the contract for a planned 53-slip marina. Other responsibilities will include property management, overseeing a vending program to allow food trucks and other vendors to sell their wares on the East 9th Street pier, and organizing lakeside concerts and festivals to be added to the city's lineup of summer events.

"The vision is to try to create more activity on the waterfront, and we're in the process of finalizing our strategy," says Ricky Smith, Director of Port Control for the City of Cleveland. Smith added that he expects construction on the marina, which has already been funded and will allow for short-term docking, to begin this year and wrap up in spring of 2013. He expects the same timeline for an iconic, moveable pedestrian bridge that is slated to traverse the North Coast Harbor.

Source: Ricky Smith
Writer: Lee Chilcote

urban welders beautify city streetscapes with sculptural bike racks

It's hard not to notice the attractive bike racks that have been popping up around town lately. Much more than simply utilitarian places to hitch your ride, these racks are at once urban sculptures and retail signage for local businesses. Many of them have been designed by Rust Belt Welding, two Cleveland entrepreneurs who are making a living doing what they love.

"We wanted to do creative, bicycle-related projects, and we knew there was a need for more bike racks because we'd ride around town and say, 'I wish there was one here,'" says Grant Smrekar, who created Rust Belt Welding with his friend Lou Erste four years ago in order to build bike frames, something that remains the core of their business. "We wanted there to be an artistic quality to these projects, and for the bike racks to represent the place they're at."

What started out as a small project grew quickly once the bike community and enthusiastic business owners grabbed ahold of it. "The local cycling group Crank-Set Rides offered to help us raise funds to create more bike racks, and that allowed us to make a few of them," says Erste. "Then places like Market Garden Brewery asked us to create custom racks in front of their businesses."

Their most recent creation, which was installed last month in front of Market Garden Brewery in Ohio City, spells out "BIKE" in red, metal letters. Rust Belt Welding has also installed bike racks in front of Phoenix Coffee, Joy Machines bike shop, Blazing Saddles bike shop and other local venues.

"We'll build pretty much anything, but the more that we can build stuff that's fun and creative, that's even better," says Smrekar, who adds that Rust Belt is planning to add more artistic bike racks around town in the near future.

Source: Lou Erste, Grant Smrekar
Writer: Lee Chilcote

thanks to $500K grant, crucial leg of towpath trail will be completed

Completing the last five-mile leg of the Towpath Trail into Cleveland might be taking longer than it took to dig the entire Ohio and Erie Canal, whose 100-plus mile span was carved out by hand in just two years in the 1820s. Yet thanks to a recent $500,000 grant from the State of Ohio, the trail is inching ever closer to its final destination -- Settlers Landing Park in the Flats.

The grant from the Ohio Cultural Facilities Commission, along with $3 million that was received earlier this year from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, will allow trail backers to break ground next year on an important .6-mile stretch along Scranton Road. More than 80 miles already have been completed; the last five miles into Cleveland is considered the home stretch for this decades-long project.

The funds will be used to build a 10-foot-wide paved trail along Scranton from Carter Road south to University Road in the Flats. The trail will be isolated for now, until it is eventually connected with the section of the Towpath that runs through the Steelyard Commons shopping center. A portion of the funding will also be used to restore fish habitat along the edge of the Cuyahoga River.

“This grant, and the construction work to come, represents another step forward in fully connecting this important regional resource to downtown Cleveland,” said Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald in a statement. “This will mean a more attractive riverfront and a cleaner environment. This is good news for Cuyahoga County.”

Towpath planners predict the last trail sections, which must wend their way through formerly industrial land in the Flats, will proceed in three more stages. The portion from Steelyard to Literary Avenue in Tremont could start in 2015.

Source: Cuyahoga County Office of the Executive
Writer: Lee Chilcote

campus district assembles $4.2m plan to transform e. 22nd street

It only takes 10 minutes to walk from St. Vincent Hospital at E. 22nd Street and Community College Avenue to Cleveland State University on Euclid Avenue. Yet few people do it, in part because it is not a pedestrian-friendly experience. A new $4.2 million plan to redevelop E. 22nd aims to change that by creating a bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly boulevard and green space that could spur over $100 million in new development.

"We really see E. 22nd Street as a spine for the Campus District neighborhood," says Rockette Richardson, Executive Director of the Campus District, Inc., a nonprofit community development organization. "We developed this plan because we recognized the need for a north-south gateway to our neighborhood."

The plan re-envisions the street as a multi-modal boulevard with bike lanes, landscaped median and new retail, housing and green space development. Fresh opportunities may exist on land that will become available when the ODOT completes the Innerbelt Bridge project. The plan already has $780,000 of committed funding since ODOT is using the street as an alternate highway route and therefore must resurface it in 2013.

"The investment that is taking place by our anchor institutions -- Cleveland State University, St. Vincent and Cuyahoga Community College -- will strengthen their individual campuses and the entire area," says Richardson. She noted that St. Vincent Charity Medical Center is in the midst of a 10-year, $100 million renovation project and Tri-C recently spent $34 million on improvements.

The East 22nd Street plan is part of a larger effort to reconnect these institutions to their communities, Richardson added. "They're deeply rooted here, and they're investing in their campuses and adjoining neighborhoods so they all prosper."

Source: Rockette Richardson
Writer: Lee Chilcote
Photo - Rockette Richardson, Executive Director of the Campus District, Inc.

city officials vow to press on with shoreway project despite odot obstructionism

When Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) officials recently asked business leaders from across the state to rank their region's planned infrastructure projects by importance, the Greater Cleveland Partnership ranked the West Shoreway project as the number one priority for Northeast Ohio.

For City of Cleveland Planning Director Bob Brown, that's one more reason why ODOT's numbers don't add up. The state agency gave the city 0 out of 10 points in the "economic development" category on its recent application for $28 million in additional funding to complete Phase II of the project.

"States all across the country are beginning to think differently, and they're realizing that projects like this can actually improve their economic competitiveness," Brown said at a recent community meeting to discuss the project. The 10-year-old plan would transform the underutilized, 50s-style freeway into a landscaped boulevard with bicycle and pedestrian pathways. It would also offer residents and visitors improved access to Lake Erie.

As evidence of economic impact, city officials cited Battery Park, a new home development that has attracted 70 new residents, many of whom bought homes because they believed the West Shoreway project would come to fruition. Phase I of the Shoreway project is underway, and includes the redevelopment of two pedestrian and bicycle tunnels and a new interchange at West 73rd Street.

Residents who attended the meeting also questioned ODOT's cost estimates, which have ballooned from $50 million in 2003 to $100 million today.

"ODOT doesn't have enough controls against contractors coming back for more," Ken Silliman, Chief of Staff for Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, told the audience. "We believe their contracts are too contractor-friendly. That's why we're trying to convince ODOT to give us the funding and let us manage the project locally."

Cycling advocates who attended the meeting also questioned the city's commitment to bike and pedestrian access, suggesting that Cleveland hasn't fought hard enough to fund the project's multi-modal pathway.

Adopting a mantra of "Keep the promise, finish the job," City officials vowed to press on with the project. They are planning a caravan trip to Columbus on December 15th for a crucial ODOT meeting where funding decisions occur.

Source: Ken Silliman, Bob Brown
Writer: Lee Chilcote

support for west shoreway project swells alongside state's attempts to kill it

A handful of U.S. cities have torn down or busted through the '60s-era highway walls that separate their neighborhoods from adjacent waterways. Despite critics' fears that such people-friendly projects will cause calamitous traffic delays, they often reap major economic, social and environmental benefits while adding only a few minutes to the average commute.

Cleveland's version of such a wall is the West Shoreway -- a homely, 2.5-mile stretch of concrete that is designed to move cars in and out of the city, but blocks residents' access to Lake Erie. Until recently, it appeared likely that Cleveland would find a way to bust through this wall. The long-planned West Shoreway project would "transform a 2.5 mile freeway into a scenic, tree-lined boulevard," according to a description on the Ohio Department of Transportation website.

Yet a series of cost overruns, the state's budget crunch and a philosophical shift at ODOT have thrown the very future of the project into question. State officials gave low scores to the city's recent request for additional funding, arguing that reducing the speed limit from 50 to 35 miles per hour would downgrade a functional roadway. Cleveland officials responded by accusing ODOT of trying to kill the project, which has been in the works for more than a decade.

As a December 15th meeting, where funding decisions will occur, looms ahead, cycling advocates, neighborhood residents and public officials are mounting a frontal assault on ODOT to shore up their commitment to the project.

"It's not true that we can't slow cars down -- the George Washington Parkway in D.C. is a major commuter road with bike lanes and crosswalks, and it works well," says Kevin Cronin, a board member of Cleveland Bikes, a nonprofit group rallying to preserve the bike-friendly project. "We need to make sure that this project moves forward, and that it includes bike and pedestrian lanes."

In an effort to get the project back on track, city officials and neighborhood advocates will host a public meeting with ODOT officials on Thursday, December 1st at 6 p.m. at Franklin Circle Church, 1688 Fulton Avenue in Ohio City.

Source: Kevin Cronin
Writer: Lee Chilcote

ohio city inc aims to direct w. 25th street's momentum onto lorain

At a recent community meeting for Launch Lorain, a grassroots planning process to plot the future of that street, Ohio City advocates eager to push W. 25th Street's development onto gritty Lorain gave a cry akin to Westward Ho!

Yet they were met with beleaguered skepticism by residents and business owners who believe more attention should be paid to basic safety and city services. Other attendees expressed the viewpoint that attracting residents and businesses to the area would create an engaged constituency that demands more from the city.

“When my building got broken into, the police came and told me this is what I get for living in this neighborhood,” said David Ellison, an architect who is rehabilitating a building at W. 41st and Lorain. “Before we look at adding fancy crosswalks, the city needs to fix the basic things such as potholes and crime."

"The best thing that we can do to create a safer Lorain is to get people there for the right reasons," countered Eric Wobser, Director of Ohio City Inc.

Planners believe they can breathe new life into Lorain by improving its streetscape, targeting empty buildings for redevelopment, and creating new housing. The street has the right retail fabric to become the community's main street and spur redevelopment south of Lorain, they argue.

"If you want to live on W. 25th Street, get in line," said Ward 3 Councilman Joe Cimperman. "We need to pull the energy of W. 25th Street up Lorain."

The three-day planning process included meetings with stakeholders and businesses, a group walk through the neighborhood at night and a chili cook-off at Palookaville Chili, one of a handful of new businesses that recently moved into the area. Now that the initial process is complete, planners will continue to gather input as they prepare a new strategic plan for the area.

Sources: David Ellison, Eric Wobser, Joe Cimperman
Writer: Lee Chilcote

flats forward summit inspires conversation on leveraging $2B development

More than 100 people attended the Flats Forward Waterfront Summit, held this week in downtown Cleveland. Those in attendance learned how cities as far away as Duisburg, Germany, and as close as Pittsburgh, have leveraged their historic waterfronts into magnets for recreation, investment and tourism.

Flats Forward is a one-year-old effort to create a new identity for Cleveland's historic birthplace. Planners are now focused on improving the Flats' infrastructure, transportation linkages and recreational amenities, as well as fostering a better balance between residential, industrial and recreational uses. Additionally, civic leaders hope to leverage $2 billion worth of investment taking place within one mile of the Flats to spur more development.

Following a rousing speech by Councilman Joe Cimperman that likened the Cuyahoga River's rebirth after the infamous fire of 1969 to an ecosystem's resilience following a forest blaze, leaders from Germany, England, Italy and Pennsylvania talked about their successes and the lessons they've learned along the way.

Tony Harvey of British Waterways in Birmingham, England, said that his organization has helped leverage $1 billion of investment in the region's waterway network, which dates back to the Roman era. Those waterways now attract more than 13 million visitors and 35,000 licensed boats per year.

Arne Lorz of Duisburg, Germany, described how her city rebuilt itself during an era of industrial decline by focusing on its crumbling inner harbor and building new homes, a marina, offices, retail and museums.

Roberto Bobbio, Professor of Urban Planning and Landscape Preservation at the University of Genoa, Italy, discussed how his dense Mediterranean city invested in a state-of-the-art aquarium that now is the third most visited spot in Italy.

Finally, Lisa Schroeder of Pittsburgh RiverLife Task Force told the audience that her city successfully has reinvented its industrial, long-empty waterfront into a well-connected civic space. Today, more than 15,000 kayaks are rented each year from under a bridge, and "boat-gating," she added, has replaced "tailgating."

Schroeder also offered a concise analysis of what doubtless was on the minds of many participants: "If you can use private funding to help put redevelopment plans together," she advised, "then it's easier to get politicians to fight for the public infrastructure spending that makes reinvestment possible."

Source: Flats Forward Waterfront Summit
Writer: Lee Chilcote

solar-powered bus shelters light up cleveland heights nights

The typical Cleveland bus shelter is a drab glass-and-metal box whose primary purpose is keep the wind, snow, rain and salt off riders. They are not exactly known for their aesthetic appeal.

Yet two new shelters installed by the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) on Mayfield Road in Cleveland Heights take a more creative, sustainable approach. The solar-powered shelters light up in various colors at night, contain larger, more comfortable benches, and feature dividers for individual seats.

The new shelters were installed by GCRTA this month using a $100,000 grant from the Federal Transit Administration. They are located at Mayfield and Coventry Roads and Mayfield and Warrensville Center Roads. The project was completed in partnership with the City of Cleveland Heights.

"The solar bus stops are a very exciting project for Cleveland Heights that ties in to our commitment to ‘go green’ and support sustainability projects,” said Cleveland Heights Mayor Edward Kelley in a press release. “This partnership with RTA is a great visual way to promote solar energy.”

RTA General Manager Joe Calabrese stated that the project is evidence of RTA's commitment to sustainability. “Using public transit has always been great for the environment," he said. "Now, we have re-committed all of RTA to be more sustainable."

The shelters are powered by a rooftop solar-powered battery system. The exterior lights turn different colors at night, while the interior lights are motion-sensitive and turn on only when a customer is in the shelter.

The shelters were designed by Solar Impact, a local renewable energy company that is based in Shaker Heights. GCRTA developed the bus shelters as part of its sustainability initiative and Transit Waiting Environment program, an effort to improve its bus shelters so that they are more comfortable for users.

Source: Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority
Writer: Lee Chilcote

civic commons moves to street-level storefront at trinity commons

The Civic Commons, a nonprofit organization that helps foster civic engagement through creating community conversations, has relocated its offices to a street-level storefront at Trinity Commons.

"We wanted to be accessible to the community, and a place where people can just drop by," says Dan Moulthrop, Civic Commons Curator of Conversation, of the move. "We don't want to be hidden in an office building somewhere; we want people to feel like the Civic Commons is a place they recognize and own."

Since launching a year ago, the Civic Commons has always planned to move out of the E. 9th Street offices of its parent organization, Fund for Our Economic Future, to a more visible spot. Moulthrop chose Trinity Commons because of its central location, on-the-street presence and reputation as an urban gathering place.

"There's a great mission overlap -- we share a sense of being of service to the community and how important that is," he says. "It's a really nice fit for us."

Trinity Commons, which is located at E. 22nd and Euclid, was developed by Trinity Episcopal Cathedral a decade ago to house its offices, provide community meeting space and create new storefronts. Moulthrop says he is looking forward to using Trinity Commons' meeting space to host face-to-face conversations about important civic issues, supplementing the group's online presence.

"We've tried to be both an online presence and out in the community since the beginning, yet we can't be in the community all the time," he says. "We're a community asset and we want to show that in our physical presence."

Moulthrop adds that the synergy between virtual and real discussions lies at the heart of the Civic Commons mission. "The vision is that thoughtful online conversation can have an impact on community conversation," he says. "The trick is doing meaningful activity in both places and connecting them in conversation. You see this when people are live-blogging or tweeting a town hall meeting."

Moulthrop is also enjoying his central location in the Campus District near downtown Cleveland. "We're close to a lot of things, and very accessible because we're right on Euclid Avenue, a major artery into downtown," he says.

Source: Dan Moulthrop
Writer: Lee Chilcote

new downtown bike station to offer parking, lockers, showers for bike commuters

Although it has faced more delays than a cyclist in a lake-effect snowstorm, the new downtown bike station finally is set to open by mid-August. And when it does, it will be the first of its kind in Ohio.

The new facility, called The Bike Rack, will offer 50 secure, indoor bike parking spaces and 10 outdoor spaces. It will also feature lockers for downtown commuters who would like to store fresh duds for the day without folding them. Finally, the facility will have three shower areas with private changing rooms.

John Sirignano, The Bike Rack's operations manager, says he hopes the new facility will not only serve existing bike commuters, but also spur additional riders to take the plunge. "If you're a commuter, then we want to get you thinking about biking to work," he says. "We're planning educational programs about what it takes to commute, and we'll offer free days so people can try it."

The facility, which is located in the North Gateway Parking Facility at East 4th and High streets, was created by the City of Cleveland and Downtown Cleveland Alliance to help make bike commuting easier. The top barrier to bike commuting that is cited by downtown workers is the lack of secure, convenient parking facilities, showers, changing rooms and lockers, Sirignano says.

The Bike Rack, which is partially modeled after the McDonald's Cycle Center in Chicago's Millenium Park, will offer free outdoor bike parking to anybody. Security cameras monitor the entire facility. Indoor parking is available for $5 per day or $25 for a monthly pass. Passholders will be able to use the facility 24 hours per day, seven days per week, regardless of whether or not an attendant is on duty. A swipe card will allow users to get in and out on demand.

Sirignano says The Bike Rack will partner with local businesses and downtown employers to help promote the facility, which he hopes will also encourage people to bike downtown for entertainment and weekend sporting events.

While promoters had hoped to get The Bike Rack open earlier in the year for prime bike commuting season, the project's complexity caused months of delays. "The city was putting this into an existing facility, which made it much harder," he says. "It would have been easier if they'd built it from the ground up."

The Bike Rack will be a LEED-certified "green" facility. It will also be adorned with public art -- colorful handlebars festooned with streamers -- coordinated by Cleveland Public Art and designed by Scott Stibich and Mark A. Riegelman II.

Source: John Sirignano
Writer: Lee Chilcote

bike-friendly bridge modifications signal cyclists' growing clout

For more than a year, advocates of multi-modal transportation have lobbied the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) to add bike and pedestrian lanes to the new Innerbelt bridge. They lost that fight, yet ODOT agreed to fund a $6 million renovation of the Lorain-Carnegie bridge.

That project, scheduled to be completed next fall, will add a broad, multi-use path on the north side and narrow intersections so they can be crossed more easily. It will also narrow driving lanes from 12 to 11 feet to allow room for bikers, add 'sharrows' that let drivers know they're sharing the road, and install new bike route signs from W. 20th to Abbey Avenue. This once-dicey link to Tremont will be improved with five-foot-wide bike lanes and new, historic-style lighting.

Does this high-profile victory indicate that the bike advocacy community is becoming a political force with which to be reckoned? Marc Lefkowitz, web editor for GreenCityBlueLake at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, thinks so. "When people ask why it's important to have a bike and pedestrian advocacy group, point them to sustainable transportation advocates 'Access for All,' who negotiated a $6 million commitment from ODOT," he blogged recently.

Now, cyclists are building on this victory by forming a new organization, Bike Cleveland, to amplify their voice in Northeast Ohio. "Cleveland needs a single, strong advocacy organization that will bring the cycling community together," explains Jacob Van Sickle, Active Living Coordinator for Slavic Village Development, a regular bike commuter and one of the the group's organizers. To get cyclists involved, Bike Cleveland will hold a kick-off summit on September 10th and 11th at Windows on the River in the Flats.

Yet despite having wind at their backs, cyclists in Cleveland still have a ways to go, as evidenced by Cleveland's recent approval of casino developers' plans to demolish the Columbia building on lower Prospect Ave. It will be replaced with parking, an overhead pedestrian walkway and valet parking for gamblers.

Until recently, this section of Prospect was envisioned as a prime spot for bike- and pedestrian-friendly redevelopment -- plans that opponents of the demolition say were hastily scrapped to satisfy casino developers' demands.

Source: Jacob Van Sickle, Marc Lefkowitz
Writer: Lee Chilcote

cleveland in process of passing bike-friendly 'complete streets' legislation

Cleveland City Council is considering "Complete and Green Streets" legislation that would require all infrastructure and roadway redevelopment projects to be designed, operated and maintained for all users, including pedestrians and cyclists.   

If it passes, Cleveland's law would require that the City consider striping in bike lanes or 'sharrows' that mark cycling routes as well as crosswalk enhancements when it resurfaces roads. It would also require that the city consider "multi-modal" user access (bikes, pedestrians and transit users) when completing roadway reconstruction projects. Finally, infrastructure projects would have to be designed to complement the community, incorporate 'green' elements such as recycled and permeable pavement, and connect streets for all users.

The legislation was tabled at Council's July meeting after Ward 15 Councilman Matt Zone and members of Sustainable Cleveland 2019's transportation working group expressed concerns about its loopholes. "Some people think it's 'complete streets light,'" says Marty Cader, Bike and Pedestrian Planner with the city. "Matt and others are looking to toughen it up, so there are fewer exceptions."  The legislation will now be read by committees before it is reintroduced.

According to Jacob Van Sickle, Active Living Coordinator with Slavic Village Development and a lead organizer behind the nonprofit advocacy group Bike Cleveland, such legislation not only makes sense, it's long overdue.

"In the past, there hasn't been enough consideration of multi-modal projects -- it's been more about paving roads," he says. "Yet a lot of people don't own cars in the city of Cleveland because they can't afford them, so this is really an equity issue."

Van Sickle hopes that once the legislation is passed, implementation policies can be put into place to ensure that once a project is in the planning stages, motorists as well as pedestrians, cyclists and transit users can be better accommodated.

"Right now, accommodating cyclists and pedestrians is an afterthought," he says.

He cites the reconstruction of Broadway Avenue in Slavic Village as an example. Although the street is considered to be a bike route between Morgana Run Trail and Mill Creek Trail, the city does not have plans to provide bike lanes or sharrows. Slavic Village Development has advocated for additional measures beyond simply adding signage; according to Van Sickle, the engineering department is considering their request and has not yet made a decision.

Source: Jacob Van Sickle
Writer: Lee Chilcote

new joy machines bike shop promotes pedal-powered cle

Last summer, Ohio City native Alex Nosse biked from Cleveland to San Francisco with a friend. While cycling for eight hours a day, he had plenty of time to dream of finding a job that also fueled his passion.

"It was a light-bulb moment," he says. "I realized how much passion I had for cycling, and that I wanted to do something bike-related."

A year later, the avid cyclist has launched Joy Machines, a new bike shop that opened in June on West 25th Street in Ohio City. Nosse and his business partner/mechanic, Renato Pereira-Castillo, specialize in helping bike commuters and others who want to reduce their dependence on cars.

"Most bike shops are more into the recreational and sport side of cycling, but we believe in using the bike as a transportation tool first and foremost," Nosse explains. "We really want to encourage cycling all across the city."

Nosse and Pereira-Castillo, who grew up on the same street and have known each other for more than 20 years, decided to locate their bike shop in Ohio City because of its central location and reputation as a bike-friendly community.

"We get people that come into our shop that say, 'I've been car-free for years now,'" says Nosse. "We also get people from all over the region that are drawn here by the West Side Market, Great Lakes Brewery and the restaurants."

The entrepreneurs were aided by a $9,000 small business start-up grant from Charter One Bank and Ohio City Inc., a nonprofit community development organization that serves the neighborhood. "Our landlord matched it, which resulted in almost $20,000 in savings," says Nosse. "This accelerated our start-up process -- we went from talking about it to opening the shop in six months."

Joy Machines sells new bicycles and a wide array of parts and accessories. Pereira-Castillo, who has worked as a bike mechanic for eight years in Cleveland and on the West Coast, can repair or restore just about anything on two wheels.

The shop's walls are adorned with bike-themed murals by Cleveland artist Haley Morris. "We have a big one of the Guardians of Transportation, on the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge," says Nosse. "Except the car that the statue is holding has been replaced by a bike."

Source: Alex Nosse
Writer: Lee Chilcote


midtown leaders say health tech corridor is gaining momentum

When construction finally wrapped up in 2008 on the Euclid Corridor, civic leaders felt triumphant. The $200 million project to redevelop crumbling Euclid Avenue -- once dubbed "Millionaire's Row" for its opulent, turn-of-the-century mansions -- would spur economic development and connect downtown with University Circle, they believed.

Then the global recession hit. Banks stopped lending, businesses halted expansion plans and the nation slid into a great recession. The once-tangible vision of attracting health care and tech companies to the sparkling boulevard seemed like the stuff of dreams.

Yet at MidTown Cleveland's recent annual meeting, civic leaders touted recent developments showing the vaunted Health Tech Corridor is gradually becoming a reality. The Euclid Corridor has created "a globally competitive environment to attract and grow biomedical, health care and medical supply chain businesses in Midtown and beyond," MidTown's annual report stated.

Recent accomplishments include breaking ground on the Midtown Tech Park at Euclid and East 69th, with the help of a $3.5 million Jobs Ready Sites grant; earning a designation as an Ohio "Hub of Innovation and Opportunity" along with $250,000 in funding to implement an action plan for the Health Tech Corridor; seeing the expansion of longstanding businesses such as Pierre's Ice Cream; and spurring the addition of new businesses like Ziska Architects, which relocated from Solon to the historic Gifford House at 3047 Prospect Avenue.

MidTown Cleveland says it's no surprise that businesses are investing here, given the neighborhood's proximity to downtown Cleveland, University Circle and the Cleveland Clinic. Other reasons behind the growth of the area include access to talent and research at nearby institutions and opportunities to collaborate with world-class health care and academic institutions in technology development.

Source: MidTown Cleveland, Inc.
Writer: Lee Chilcote

effort to open lower level of det-sup bridge up for coveted award

For decades, the lower level of the Detroit-Superior Bridge supported the streetcars that shuttled Cleveland commuters across town. More recently, the rarely seen space has become a unique and beloved public gathering space.

In 2009, the two-day Bridge Project reopened the space to the public for one of the first times, attracting some 20,000 people. The offbeat festival of music and art featured a design charrette that solicited input for making the bridge more accessible and friendly to the public. More recently, the space has played host to Ingenuity Fest.

Those who do tour the half-mile walkway are treated to breathtaking views of downtown, the Cuyahoga River and Lake Erie. There were also tantalizing remnants of Cleveland history: segments of old streetcar track, an historic subway station, and a watery pool fed from a natural spring in the hillside.

Now a new effort is underway to open the bridge to the public year-round. Organizers envision a bicycle and pedestrian link that bridges downtown and Ohio City, a performance venue and an authentic connection to Cleveland's past.

Led by the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative (CUDC), James Levin and the Cuyahoga County Engineer, the Bridge Project has been nominated for a coveted "This Place Matters" award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Voting takes place between June 1st and June 30th. Currently, the Bridge Project is number five out of 100 projects that made the first cut.

"Since the voting started, we've moved from 40th place to 6th place, so we're hopeful that we'll be one of the three finalists to receive funding," says David Jurca, Urban Designer at the CUDC. "We plan to use the funding to match a grant we've received from the Transportation for Liveable Communities (TLCI) program that will allow us to plan and design the future of the space."

A community-driven effort is now underway to move the project into one of the top spots. First prize is $35,000; second prize is $10,000; and third prize is $5,000.

Source: David Jurca
Writer: Lee Chilcote

$75k grant will help propel detroit-superior bridge project

Planners envision the enclosed lower level of the Detroit-Superior Bridge as a half-mile pedestrian and bicycle connector, gathering space and performance venue that brings Cleveland together.

Yet to transform the space -- which historically served as a thoroughfare for streetcars traveling between downtown and Ohio City -- it first needs to be made more accessible. Currently the entrances are difficult to find and there is no signage.

Accessibility will be one focus of a Transportation for Liveable Communities (TLCI) study by the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative (CUDC). The CUDC was recently awarded a $75,000 TLCI grant for the planning and development study, and is currently raising matching funds to get the project underway. The group hopes to eventually open the bridge to the public year-round.

"What would it take to make the lower level of the bridge a great space for the public?" asks David Jurca, Urban Designer with the CUDC. "That's the question we'll be trying to answer through our planning process."

Barriers to the bridge's redevelopment include lack of handicap accessibility, lack of amenities such as benches, public art and viewing platforms, and the need for safety features such as retention walls to address natural flooding.

Yet Jurca cautions that planners intend to leave the bridge's historic features mostly as is. "As a public space, we need to ensure it functions well for most people, yet we don't want to make it dull or lose its edge," he says. "Part of the appeal of the space is the sense of being off limits, and we need to retain that."

As an example, he cites the fact that parts of the walkway have metal grates that allow passers-by to peer straight down to the Cuyahoga River hundreds of feet below. "Some people are uncomfortable with that, while others find it thrilling."

The CUDC will also complete a market study to determine how the project could create spin-off development opportunities in surrounding neighborhoods.

In addition to serving as a weather-resistant connector between downtown and Ohio City, planners hope that the project can help "bridge" the great east-west divide.

"The bridge is a metaphorical connection between the two sides of the river," says Jurca. "The best part is no one owns it, so it's a neutral space."

Source: David Jurca
Writer: Lee Chilcote

old brooklyn's pop-up pearl will help residents imagine a more vibrant future

Old Brooklyn has long been considered a hidden gem by its residents. Minutes from downtown and within walking distance of the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, the neighborhood boasts quiet, tree-lined streets and a bevy of independent shops and friendly taverns.

Yet neighborhood advocates are hoping it won't be a well-kept secret much longer. That's why they've organized Pop Up Pearl, a one day block party that will fill the empty storefronts on Pearl Avenue with shops, entertainment and food vendors, and invited their neighbors to join in the festivities.

The event, which is modeled after the Better Block project in Dallas, Texas, is intended to act as a living charrette that allows visitors, residents and property owners to imagine a more vibrant future for Old Brooklyn's downtown. They're also hoping to attract investment after the party is over.

Pop Up Pearl, which was spearheaded by the Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation (OBCDC), takes place on Pearl Road between Wildlife Way and State Road this Saturday, May 21st from noon until dusk. It will include a "complete streets" demonstration, adding temporary bike lanes along Pearl Road. Entertainment from Progressive Arts Alliance and other groups also is planned.

Pop Up Pearl will also feature a youth arts studio with zoo-themed artwork from local nonprofit ArtHouse, artwork fashioned from recycled materials from Nicole McGee of Plenty Underfoot, and a shop filled with 100 percent locally made goods from Crafty Goodness in Lakewood.

The Better Block project began when a grassroots group transformed a city street in Oak Cliff, Texas into an inclusive, pedestrian- and bike-friendly street. Better Blocks projects "increase the perception of safety in an area, stimulate economic activity in vacant or blighted corridors and help to implement 'Complete Streets' projects," according to the group's website.

Source: Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation
Writer: Lee Chilcote

new group plan recommendations to redefine downtown for next 100 years

When Cleveland's Group Plan was created a century ago, Teddy Roosevelt was President, Tom Johnson was Mayor, and the Rockefeller family still lived in town. Back then, architect Daniel Burnham envisioned a kind of outdoor civic living room that promenaded to the lakefront beneath gracious classical buildings.

Needless to say, much has happened since then. Today, Public Square and the Mall are often desolate spaces one must walk through to reach downtown's bustling centers of gravity -- the Warehouse District, East Fourth Street and the Gateway District.

Yet last year, Mayor Frank Jackson convened a group of civic, foundation, corporate and sports leaders to envision a new Group Plan for downtown. With $1.5 billion in physical development either planned or already underway downtown, civic leaders recognized that a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity would be lost if the Medical Mart, casino and other projects weren't better connected via improved public spaces.

The Group Plan Commission recently released its recommendations, which include radical changes that if implemented would alter Cleveland's downtown for another 100 years.

Recommendations include removing Ontario Street as an artery through Public Square and allowing East Fourth Street and casino patrons to stroll through a new, signature public space; rebuilding the Mall so that it is transformed into a beautiful park for both visitors and residents; building a pedestrian bridge from the Mall's northern end to Cleveland's lakefront; and closing East Third Street between Rockwell and Superior so that it can become a green space and winter skating rink.

The Group Plan Commission is currently updating the plan and preparing to begin raising funds. To have your say, visit the public input stations at City Hall, Cleveland State University and Cleveland Public Library as well as this website.

Source: The Group Plan Commission
Writer: Lee Chilcote

'pedal for prizes' riders to cruise for loot through old brooklyn

Pedal for Prizes is a two-wheeled treasure hunt through Cleveland's Old Brooklyn neighborhood that will offer participants a chance to win more than $2,000 worth of prizes simply by visiting neighborhood businesses. The event takes place this Saturday, May 21st at Loew Park.

Here's how it will work: Upon check-in, bicyclists receive a map of 20 destinations and points of interest in Old Brooklyn. While exploring the neighborhood, riders make pit-stops at local landmarks like Michael's Bakery, Gentile's Imported Italian Foods, and Jack Frost Donuts, collecting raffle tickets at each one. They'll return to Loew Park in the afternoon to enter the tickets into a Chinese-style raffle.

Prizes include two new Trek 7000 hybrid bikes, a one-year membership to the downtown branch of the Cleveland YMCA, a $100 Honey Hut Ice Cream gift basket, a $50 gift certificate to Steelyard Commons, and gift certificates to area restaurants.

Organizers say Pedal for Prizes will not only promote Old Brooklyn as a bike-friendly neighborhood that is chock-full of charming local businesses, but also encourage participants to come back for a closer look.

"It gives neighborhood merchants a unique opportunity to bring hundreds of new people from throughout the region into their shops," says Old Brooklyn resident and event organizer Jeffrey Sugalski. "We hope that they'll return and become patrons in the future."

Pedal for Prizes is supported by Neighborhood Connections, a program of the Cleveland Foundation that provides small grants to grassroots community projects.

Loew Park is located at 3121 Oak Park Avenue in Cleveland. The free event begins at 12 pm.

Source: Jeffrey Sugalski
Writer: Lee Chilcote

flats forum attendees voice need for improved infrastructure

When Jim Catanese opened Catanese Classic Seafood three years ago, he knew the building at 1600 Merwin Avenue in the Flats needed major TLC. Yet the metal bulkheading along the Cuyahoga River was in far worse shape than he thought. And the worst part was near his freezer, where thousands of pounds of fish are stored.

"It was collapsing into the river," Catanase told an audience at last week's forum on the Flats, which was convened by Ward 3 Councilman Joe Cimperman and attended by area stakeholders. "This was more than we could handle individually."

Fortunately, with the help of Cimperman and the city of Cleveland, Catanese was able to obtain low-interest financing to repair the bulkheads. He hopes that the project, which will start this summer, will also bring back an historic use of the riverside property. "We'll be able to offload fishing boats again," he said.

The Cuyahoga shipping channel is lined on each side with these bulkheads, a 100-year-old, man-made containment system that keeps the soil from the riverbank from eroding into the river while also keeping the river within its banks during times of flooding.

Unfortunately, many of these bulkheads are now deteriorating, and they are expensive to repair. Catanese expects to borrow hundreds of thousands of dollars, a price that many owners can't afford, he says. Maintenance of the bulkheads is necessary to ensure the channel remains navigable for shipping. Activity along the waterfront is a $1.8 billion economic engine for Northeast Ohio.

At the forum, Catanese voiced a common concern in the Flats: the need for improved infrastructure. Currently, more than $2 billion worth of development is planned or underway in areas adjacent to the river. Forum speakers said that much of the Flats' infrastructure, including roads and bridges, is in need of an overhaul.

One of the area's biggest infrastructure projects will require major federal assistance. Franklin Road Hill above Irishtown Bend is threatening to collapse into the Cuyahoga River, and stabilizing it will cost between $80 and $200 million.

For years, the Flats' redevelopment has languished amidst conflicts between competing interests. While the area has evolved into a mixed-use neighborhood of industry, recreation, housing and entertainment, neighbors haven't always been friendly.

The planning effort that is now underway, which is funded by a $20,000 grant from the Cleveland and Gund Foundations and includes major stakeholders, has the potential to link major projects, balance conflicting interests and attract additional support.

Source: Jim Catanese
Writer: Lee Chilcote

noaca to consider funding for non-highway transportation projects

Vast amounts of federal transportation dollars are poured into good old-fashioned highways; Americans aren't giving up their car-centric ways anytime soon. But some funding is available to "transportation enhancements," like bike lanes, pedestrian bridges and public transit improvements. In the Cleveland region, the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) decides which projects get a tiny piece of the federal pie.

On December 10, NOACA's governing board will consider 18 contenders, 10 of them from Cuyahoga County. They include:

• Streetscape improvements in the Warehouse District, north of Superior, between West 3rd and West 10th ($600,000); and on Larchmere Boulevard, from East 121st to East 130th ($587,000).

• A bus-only lane and related amenities from the east end of the Shoreway at Lake Avenue to the West End Loop at the Lakewood terminus ($600,000).

• Road reconfiguration and public art to complement the $2.7 million reconstruction of the University Circle Rapid station ($600,000).

• Acquiring and improving 2.25 acres on the Columbus Road Peninsula, along the Cuyahoga River, for Rivergate Park ($600,000). This is part of a larger project spearheaded by the Cleveland Rowing Foundation.

All of these projects have been recommended for approval, according to NOACA spokeswoman Cheryl Onesky. The governing board will also consider seven projects for Connections 2030, a long-range regional plan. Those proposals include:

• The HealthLine Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority is seeking $4.8 million for continued operation of the popular bus service, which runs on Euclid Avenue between Public Square and East Cleveland.

• The Lake-to-Lakes Bike Trail. The City of Cleveland applied for $2.3 million to construct a bike and pedestrian trail from Carnegie Avenue to Shaker Heights.

The governing board will meet at 10 a.m. on Friday, December 10, at NOACA, 1299 Superior Ave. Public comments can also be submitted to publicinv@mpo.noaca.org.

Source: NOACA
Writer: Frank W. Lewis

tremont residents urged to comment on innerbelt bridge design

It may seem like the massive and sometimes controversial Innerbelt Bridge project has been in the works since Elliot Ness called Cleveland home, but design planning is reaching its final stages. Tremont residents and others with questions or concerns about what this behemoth will look like, particularly where it touches down on city streets, should not miss the Ohio Department of Transportation's next public meeting.

"The lion's share of the design work is already committed," says Chris Garland, executive director of Tremont West Development Corporation, which has worked with ODOT on this project for several years. What remains are "the more subtle aspects," like placement of lighting and the type fencing to be used on the Abbey Road bridge, which will remain the neighborhood's connection to downtown.

Design options, and a survey, have been posted online. But Garland stresses the importance of attending the meeting, December 13, 5-8 p.m., at Pilgrim Church Fellowship Hall, 2592 W. 14th St. Various design options will be displayed, and ODOT officials will be on hand to answer questions. "Just because you don't see something [in a design] doesn't mean it won't be included," he notes. His message to residents has been, "The most important thing is to show up."

Source: Tremont West
Writer: Frank W. Lewis

new downtown bike station will appeal to resident, visiting cyclists

Hundreds of Northeast Ohioans bike to work downtown. Many more surely would, but for the challenges that present themselves upon arrival -- like parking and, well, sweating. But next year the city will have an answer to those deterrents: The Bike Rack, set to open next spring in the ground level of the parking garage at East 4th and High streets, between Harry Buffalo restaurant and Quicken Loans Arena. Ground was broken there in late October.

Modeled on bike stations in Europe and a growing number of American cities, The Bike Rack will offer bike commuters secure parking, lockers and facilities for showering and changing. The site will also rent bicycles, and the staff will include a technician who can help with repairs.

Kevin Cronin of Cleveland Bikes, which worked with the Jackson administration to develop the project, says that long-term goals include establishing relationships with hotels and promoting bike tours, to tap into the expanding bicycle tourism market.

"These are the things that open up when you have these sorts of facilities," he says. He also hopes that the project will raise awareness of biking among residents, and galvanize the bike community to rally for more bike-friendly infrastructure. A similar station in Chicago has been so popular, Cronin says, that plans for a second are under way.

The Downtown Cleveland Alliance will administer the site, and recently posted the job of operations manager. Cleveland Public Art is overseeing the design of the façade.

Source: Cleveland Bikes
Writer: Frank W. Lewis

"sharrows" point to easier bike-riding in cleveland heights

Bike-riding in the Cleveland area is up 50 percent since 2006, according to a recent survey by the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA). Cleveland Heights is hoping to push the figure even higher in next year's survey with the addition of "sharrows" on city roads.

"Sharrow" is short for "share-the-road arrows," which are painted onto road surfaces. "You use them when you don't have enough room for a bike lane," explains Richard Wong, the city's director of planning and development. Sharrows are intended to remind bicyclists where they should ride -- with the flow of vehicular traffic, not against -- and to encourage drivers to share the road.

"They'll help reduce tension between bicyclists and motorists," says Nick Matthew of the Cleveland Heights Bicycle Coalition, which gathered more than 500 signatures on a petition urging the city to become one of the first in Northeast Ohio to adopt sharrows. Cleveland was the first, on Franklin Avenue.

Last week, just two months after the petition was presented to the city, sharrows were painted on Euclid Heights Boulevard, between Taylor and Coventry. (West of Coventry, where on-street parking is legal some hours, the city will install yellow "Share the Road" signs.) By next year, Wong says, the city plans to paint sharrows on Coventry, Lee and Fairmount.

Cleveland Heights ranks in the top 10 percent nationally for bicycle commuting by residents, according to data from the 2000 Census.

Source: Cleveland Heights Bicycle Coalition
Writer: Frank W. Lewis

steven litt challenges clevelanders to think big, beautiful

Thomas Paine would be proud. At a time when it seems like every new idea is first floated online, Plain Dealer architecture critic Steven Litt has chosen good old-fashioned paper as the primary vehicle for his impassioned paean to beautiful surroundings, Designing a Better Cleveland.

"To the extent that Cleveland fails to make the most of public and private investments in buildings, highways, bridges, streets, parks and waterfronts, it will waste opportunities, fail to compete effectively with its peers and damage its economy," Litt writes in the introduction. "Everyone, in other words, has a stake in good design."

Litt calls the slim, gorgeously designed booklet "a mini-primer on the ways in which citizens, developers, planners and designers can raise standards of civic design in Cleveland." But it's clearly also meant to inspire.

"Economists may disagree over whether excellent architecture and urban amenities such as streetscapes, bike trails and waterfront parks are a cause or consequence of economic vitality," he writes. "Regardless, it never makes sense to spend a dollar on mediocrity when the same dollar can buy excellence. The reality is that great design demands greater effort -- on the part of clients, designers, government agencies and citizens. Cleveland continues to be plagued by a chronic sense of low self-esteem and by the notion that trying to improve the city through better design isn't worth the effort.


The book grew out of Spectrum: the Lockwood Thompson Dialogues at the Cleveland Public Library, and was facilitated by Cleveland Public Art.

Since the book's inroduction in the PD, Cleveland Public Art has received nearly 200 calls requesting copies, according to executive director Gregory Peckham. "That seems like a good benchmark when it comes to the interest of the public about the subject of civic design," Peckham notes.

Designing a Better Cleveland is also available online as a PDF.

Source: Plain Dealer
Writer: Frank W. Lewis

deal could make cleveland first city on great lakes with container service to canada

Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority officials recently revealed that they are reconsidering long-stalled plans for a ferry between Ohio and Ontario. Last week, they announced another international transit plan, this time for container service.

The Port and Great Lakes Feeder Lines of Burlington, Ontario are discussing a deal that would make Cleveland the first city on the lakes with regular container service to and from Canada. The Cleveland-Montreal connection could begin as early as spring 2011. The new business would not require upgrades to existing Port facilities.

"This is an exciting economic opportunity for the port, the region and the state," says Port CEO William Friedman in a statement. "Simply put, Cleveland would be the first city on the Great Lakes that will have a pin on the global map when it comes to container service."

Great Lakes Feeder Lines launched in 2008 with one ship providing service between Halifax, Montreal and Toronto. The company now has two ships, which can take containers from trans-Atlantic ships and carry them across the lakes.

Source: Port of Cleveland
Writer: Frank W. Lewis

$4.25M federal grant rewards steps towards regional planning in northeast ohio

Last summer, planners in the Cleveland, Akron and Youngstown areas spent two intense months assembling a consortium of 21 public- and private-sector entities and applying for a new type of grant available from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Now the real work begins.

Last week HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan visited the Cleveland-based offices of the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) to announce that the consortium had been awarded $4.25 million dollars available through the Sustainable Communities Initiative. The initiative is part of the Obama administration's Partnership for Sustainable Communities, which seeks to coordinate the efforts of HUD, the EPA and the U.S. Department of Transportation in helping cities rebuild. The Northeast Ohio Consortium for a Regional Plan for Sustainable Development, as the 21-member group is called, was one of 45 chosen for a grant.

The money will allow the consortium to set up and oversee a private nonprofit that will explore ways in which the 12 counties — and nearly 500 municipalities — of the Cleveland, Akron and Youngstown regions can work together, according to Sara Maier, senior planner for NOACA. The three-year study "will give us a tool box of what we can do as a region moving forward," Maier explains. Issues like housing, sustainability, transportation and economic competitiveness, she adds, "don't stop at county lines."

As for the longterm goal, the application stated it thusly: "We envision a "Green City on a Blue Lake.' Over the last decade many factors have converged to make now the optimal time for the 12 counties, four [metropolitan planning organizations] and more than 480 governments in Northeast Ohio to unite for the purpose of planning for sustainable development. It is over the last decade that we have come to accept the reality that our economy is truly regional."

Participants hailing from Cleveland include officials from NOACA, Cuyahoga County, the City of Cleveland, Cleveland State University's Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs, the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority and the Fund for Our Economic Future (which organized the application effort).

Consortium members have also pledged more than $2 million in matching grants, exceeding the HUD requirement.

Source: NOACA
Writer: Frank W. Lewis

new port authority ceo revives dream of a cleveland-canada ferry

Remember the on-again, off-again Cleveland-Ontario ferry proposal? It's back — the idea, at least. Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority CEO William Friedman, who took the helm in June, has commissioned a fresh assessment.

"There is very substantial trade that already exists between Ontario and the United States," Friedman said in the Port's newsletter. "Cleveland has the potential to become a gateway for shipping and passenger travel to and from Canada."

Proponents have long argued that a lake crossing between Cleveland and Ontario would save hours of driving time for commercial transport. The value of trade between Ohio and the Canadian province is estimated at $88 million per day, according to The Free Press of London, Ontario.

One longstanding obstacle to a ferry plan was the lack of a partner on the north side of the lake. The logical choice was Port Stanley, but its owner, the Canadian government, wouldn't hear of it. But in September, the surrounding municipality, Central Elgin, acquired the Port Stanley Harbour lands. In a news release, Mayor Tom Marks explained on reason why — tourism: "We have a magnificent opportunity to develop the harbour properties in a way that guides economic development both in the community and in the municipality as a whole."

In an interview, Friedman sees similar potential benefits for Cleveland. "[Tourism has] always been part of the thinking," he says. "But the business model is such that you really can't get the tourism without the freight [component]. The freight is what makes it pencil out."

Friedman has hired shipping consultant Stuart Theis to reestablish the necessary contacts and take other steps toward updating previously completed feasibility studies. Many details must be worked out, Friedman notes.

"I am pretty bullish on the feasibility," he says, "but there's a lot more to it than that to get there."

Source: Cleveland-Cuyahoga Port Authority
Writer: Frank W. Lewis
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