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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 their 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 thread 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 for what the grantor describes as "a critical riparian buffer corridor."
That future restoration will include erosion control, water quality improvements, and reintroduction of native trees, wildflowers and grasses as well as 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 Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Brookside Reservation and the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail. Officials with WRLC 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 thusly designated reaches 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 delist 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 streetscaping 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 on the corner of Clark Avenue and Fulton Road in downtown Cleveland, 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. The 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 thusly: "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," she says. "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 6 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 exansion 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 the Waterloo Brew, 15335 Waterloo Road and tomorrow from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the University Heights Branch of the CCPL, 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.
An $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 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.
Wayne Mortensen 
"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."
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