newly-unveiled flats plan prioritizes projects, sets stage for additional development

The 2014 Flats Forward Framework Plan, which is being unveiled today at a public meeting at the Music Box Supper Club on the West Bank, offers a roadmap for the area's future. Some of the key priorities identified in the plan include preserving the area's history as an industrial corridor, further developing recreation and riverfront access opportunities, investing in infrastructure and wayfinding signage, and designating land uses to clear the way for additional development.

"The Flats are a critical part of Cleveland's history and demonstrate immense opportunity for future growth," the report states, citing the $4.5 billion in new development that has occurred downtown since 2010, 95 percent apartment occupancy rates, and the growth of Ohio City, Tremont and Gordon Square as reasons for optimism.

The report divides the core of the Flats into six different areas -- the Old River Channel, East Bank, West Bank, Columbus Peninsula, Scranton Peninsula and Irishtown Bend. Some of the challenges identified in the report include confusing entryways into the Flats and the lack of wayfinding signage, the underused riverfront, crumbling infrastructure and poor public transit access.

So what's the future look like? The Flats Forward plan shows a network of green spaces (Whiskey Island, Canal Basin Park, Scranton Flats, Rivergate Park)  connected by trails (Lake Link Trail, proposed River Walk Trail, Towpath Trail). It calls for a maintenance plan to improve the condition of streets and sidewalks and make the area more bike- and pedestrian-friendly. It calls for wayfinding signage, better waterfront access, and improved public transit links.

The plan also develops a roadway typology, suggesting that certain streets should be designated for primarily industrial uses.This could reduce the conflicts that currently exist between industrial concerns and other users in the Flats.

Other immediate next steps including identifying and applying for funding for planning efforts, hiring a marketing and branding firm, and determining market demand and potential land uses through a detailed economic study.

Although this plan represents a long-term vision, new economic activity is already being generated in the Flats. The shipping channel is very active, Rivergate Park is a recreation hub, the Columbus Peninsula is seeing redevelopment and both the East and West Banks are adding new businesses. This report suggests that this activity will increase -- and provides a roadmap to help guide it along.
 

Read more articles by Lee Chilcote.

Lee Chilcote is founder and editor of The Land. He is the author of the poetry chapbooks The Shape of Home and How to Live in Ruins. His writing has been published by Vanity Fair, Next City, Belt and many literary journals as well as in The Cleveland Neighborhood Guidebook, The Cleveland Anthology and A Race Anthology: Dispatches and Artifacts from a Segregated City. He is a founder and former executive director of Literary Cleveland. He lives in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood of Cleveland with his family.
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