Irishtown Bend project takes a step forward as Port, NOACA apply for grant to stabilize hillside

In another step forward on the Irishtown Bend project, The Port of Cleveland and NOACA applied for a federal $11.5 million Infrastructure For Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant earlier this month. The grant would install bulkheads and stabilize 1,400 linear feet of the hillside along Irishtown Bend and save maritime commerce along the Cuyahoga River from shutdown if the hill collapses.

The hillside runs along the Cuyahoga River in the Flats, south from the Detroit Superior Bridge at W. 26th Street at Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority’s (CMHA) Riverview Tower and Franklin Boulevard. It also runs along Riverbed Street, which has been closed for more than a decade because of erosion, according to Jade Davis, the Port’s vice president of external affairs.

Port engineering studies show a serious threat of catastrophic collapse of the Irishtown Bend hillside into the river, which would shut down shipping and threaten decades of efforts to rehabilitate the river’s environmental quality. The INFRA funds would stabilize the hillside and protect the $3.5 billion and 20,000 jobs generated locally by maritime commerce.

<span class="content-image-text">Irishtown Bend - Photo Bob Perkoski</span>Irishtown Bend - Photo Bob Perkoski

“What we want to avoid is losing thousands and thousands of economic dollars by helping out local partners in their vision [for Irishtown Bend],” explains Davis, who cites companies like ArcelorMittal, BP, and Marathon—as well as concrete and rock producers—as heavy industrial users of the river. Furthermore, the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD) has sewer lines running through the hillside.

The Cuyahoga River is a federal navigation channel and part of the federal M-90 Marine Highway Corridor. If approved, the INFRA dollars would be matched by $10.5 million in local dollars already pledged by the State of Ohio, City of Cleveland, and NEORSD.

Davis says the Port of Cleveland has been working on the problem for about six years now. “We have to figure out a couple of things,” he explains. “One, what are the issues on the hillside? Two, we have to address those issues. And three, we have to come up with a plan.”

The hillside stabilization is the imperative first step in the transformation of the 17-acre abandoned hillside into a public greenspace. The Irishtown Bend project is an ongoing joint effort between the Port, the city, CMHA, LAND studio, Ohio City Incorporated, and West Creek Conservancy to establish usable public greenspace. This past summer, the group held public meetings with designer Michael Baker International to gather input on the overall design plans.

Once Irishtown Bend is completed, it will serve as the last link in connecting Ohio City, the Flats, downtown Cleveland, and the lakefront through a network of trails in the Cleveland Foundation Centennial Lake Link Trail.

But first things first, says Davis. ““The primary issue is strengthening the hillside,” he says. “Folks are still working on planning, they’re still working on the drawings, but one of the things we have to take into consideration is the infrastructure.”
Davis says they should hear if they receive the grant by April 2018.

Karin Connelly Rice
Karin Connelly Rice

About the Author: Karin Connelly Rice

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.