New prospects: Opportunity Corridor opens, officials mark start of final steps

The Opportunity Corridor—a project under discussion for more than three decades, years of planning, and years of construction—is finally entering the final few steps toward completion as the ribbon cutting occurred on Wednesday, Nov. 3 and Opportunity Corridor Boulevard officially opened to traffic last Friday night, Nov. 12.

The full length of the Opportunity Corridor connects East 55th Street at I-490 to East 105th Street in University Circle. The first two sections of the Opportunity Corridor were opened in 2017 and 2018.

The goal of this new corridor is to not only connect Interstate 490 to University Circle, but also spur economic development in the Fairfax, Kinsman and Central neighborhoods—an area often referred to as the “Forgotten Triangle” because of its lack of economic growth.

The Opportunity Corridor construction looking west toward E55th Street in November 2020

The $257 million project on 1,000 acres of land came in $74 million under the 2013 project estimate of $331 million.

At the ribbon cutting on Nov. 3, John Picuri, ODOT District 12 deputy director, welcomed a crowd to celebrate “an important milestone” in the Opportunity Corridor project.

“In Spring 2015 we broke ground on section one of the Opportunity Corridor,” he said. “Today, in Fall of 2021 we’re here to celebrate the opening of the entire three-mile Opportunity Corridor Boulevard.”

In November 2019, the City of Cleveland also announced plans to build a new Cleveland Police headquarters along the Corridor, in hopes of encouraging further development in the Kinsman neighborhood. Construction on that project is now slated for 2022.

A year ago, ODOT announced a delay in the re-opening of I-490 at East 55th Street because of design changes to grading and pedestrian safety issues.

“Outside of the transportation and business this project brings to the Cleveland area, this effort opens up the potential for new economic development, new jobs, and a new identity for this community,” said ODOT director Jack Marchbanks, at the ribbon cutting. “During the past five years of this project, developers have recognized the opportunity and invested about $1 billion in projects within a quarter-mile of Opportunity Corridor—that’s really reinvesting in our community.”

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said he had been opposed to the project when a similar plan was first proposed in the 1980s, primarily because it would have bypassed the neighborhoods and serve simply as an access road. But on Nov. 3 he said that he approves of the Opportunity Corridor because it not only provides access, but the plan also calls for economic development and jobs these neighborhoods need.

Other speakers included Ohio Turnpike corridor administrator Myron Pakush,  Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) executive director Grace Gallucci, Cuyahoga County executive Armond Budish, and Todd Lezon, regional manager of Kokosing Construction Company, which was awarded the design-build contract on the third and final section of the Opportunity Corridor.

Minor work will continue through June 2022 including striping, landscaping, bridge painting, minor asphalt work, and bridge work.

Read more articles by 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.