duck island poised for redevelopment with completion of draft neighborhood plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Tremont West Development Corporation
Writer: Lee Chilcote