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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."
 


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), told us 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 invested in the project along 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."
 
Mt. Sinai was moved south of its previous location, while Jeptha Drive was moved north. Meanwhile, 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 project is pedestrian- and bike-friendly. 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.

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.
 
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.
 
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, ironically, invisible results.
 
"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."



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