but wait, there's more! 10 huge projects clevelanders are eagerly anticipating

To keen followers, Cleveland's renaissance has been years in the making. But lately, it seems, the entire nation is beginning to follow along as well. And why shouldn't they be? A new energy is crackling all across the 216, from the ambitious new developments taking shape downtown and in University Circle, to bike-friendly avenues and the transformation of blight into pedestrian-friendly green space.

But the fun’s just getting started. Fresh Water rounded up 10 of the most exciting projects on the horizon that have us shaking with anticipation.

1. Crooked River Skate Park

After the Cleveland Skate Park at North Coast Harbor was dismantled in 2010, sk8ers had no (legal) public options downtown for executing inscrutable maneuvers like the mongo-foot and kickflip. Their fortunes began to change in 2012 when the city issued a $758,000 contract to Grindline Skateparks to design the Crooked River Skate Park. The project aims to add a new dimension to the alt-sports scene around Rivergate Park in the Flats, joining the likes of Ohio City Bicycle Co-op and the Cleveland Rowing Foundation. After running into infrastructure snags in 2013, the project was put on hold until a land swap with the Metroparks could be completed. The 9,000-square-foot park, which garnered a $25,000 Tony Hawk Foundation grant, finally had its groundbreaking in July. Tentatively scheduled to open next month, the park will feature a snake run and kidney bowl, within which an estimated 10,000 area skate enthusiasts will perform fakies, lipslides and (heaven help us) nollie heelflips.  

2. Heinen's Downtown

Mix a family owned grocery that offers the likes of freshly squeezed orange juice, sustainable meats and local produce with one of downtown's most stunning interiors and you get a Clevelander's nirvana: Heinen's in the Cleveland Trust Rotunda. Slated for a first quarter 2015 opening, the 33,000-square foot space will occupy the dazzling rotunda and a portion of the neighboring Swetland Building. The store is a primary component of The 9, a massive $170 million redevelopment of the Ameritrust complex, which is comprised of historic structures at E. Ninth and Euclid that have been fallow for years.

"I can remember being there as a child and being awed by the feel of the space," Jeff Heinen, co-president and third-generation owner of Heinen's, says of the rotunda. "The thought of operating a store there is very exciting. We will be operating on four different levels. This will definitely not feel like a typical suburban grocery store."

3. Hilton Cleveland Downtown (Convention Center Hotel)

With a staggering investment of $272 million financed through bonds and other municipal funds, the Hilton Cleveland Downtown Convention Center Hotel will connect to the Convention Center and Global Center for Health Innovation via an underground walkway with the intent to make the complex more attractive to major national and international events. The project is a unique effort being spearheaded by the county in lieu of a private developer.

Atlanta-based architects Cooper Cary designed the 28-floor, 600-room structure, which will feature a rooftop bar, retail options, ballrooms and a grand lobby. With a scheduled opening date in advance of the 2016 Republican National Convention, the job site at Lakeside and Ontario already is bustling with construction.

4. Hofbräuhaus Cleveland

Scheduled to open in the coming weeks, Hofbräuhaus Cleveland will add a unique entertainment venue to Playhouse Square that should dovetail nicely with the historic district (dirndls and lederhosen notwithstanding). Among other amenities, the 24,000-square-foot complex will feature a 450-seat beer hall and 1,000-seat (yes 1,000-seat) beer garden. The development melds new construction with the quirky and somewhat mysterious Hermit Club, the interior of which the vast majority of Clevelanders have never seen. What an appropriate spot in which to quaff a beer crafted from a 400-year-old recipe that harkens back to the Duke of Bavaria, who served up the suds at the Munich-based Hofbräuhaus back in 1589. The Cleveland facility is part of that official lineage, which has a storied history and includes five other American locations.

5. Public Square Makeover

Back in April, Cleveland's Group Plan Commission unveiled a sweeping overhaul of Public Square that aims to transform the partitioned grid by removing traffic entirely from Ontario Street and limiting Superior Avenue's traffic through the square to only busses. Fifty thousand square feet of concrete and pavement will come out, boosting the green space by 40 percent. Amenities will include a water feature, concert hill, cafe area, event lawn and a "ribbon" promenade that hugs it all.

"It will really change the feel of downtown," says LAND Studio executive director Ann Zoller. "This very significant 10-acre public space will become vital green connective tissue between major developments and a place for Clevelanders to come and experience their city in a completely different way."

The proposed $30 million plan got a major boost earlier this week when Cleveland City Council approved legislation that will pump $18 million of future real estate taxes into the project (although present value of those dollars is estimated to be less than $10 million). Coupled with earlier grants of $8 million from the Cleveland Foundation and $5 million from the Gund Foundation, city officials are optimistic about the project's funding. Renovations are on a fast-track schedule for completion before the 2016 Republican National Convention.

"We are poised to do that," says Zoller of the fast-track schedule.

6. Parker Hannifin YMCA at the Galleria

The Galleria opened to much fanfare in 1987, with fireworks erupting over its gleaming glass arcade. The ballyhooed retail mecca teemed with shoppers and diners through the 1990s before hitting hard times. By 2012, just a handful of retail stores and food court vendors remained. The mall was dark on weekends. Attempts to resuscitate the space have included opening it for private events and a "garden under glass" urban farm.

Now, as the NineTwelve District emerges, the Cleveland YMCA has swooped in to infuse the Galleria with new life. Building owner Werner Minshall is donating 30 percent of one-time retail space to house the 40,000-square Parker Hannifin Downtown YMCA health and wellness facility. (The YMCA of Greater Cleveland will pay maintenance fees.) The Y hopes to boost its membership to 5,500 from the 3,650 members that patronize the Prospect branch, which has been in operation since 1911. Once complete, the $9 million complex will include exercise equipment, lap pool, group exercise programs, spinning classes, personal training and massage therapy. The new facility is tentatively scheduled to open fourth quarter 2015.

7. Lakefront Pedestrian Drawbridge

Earlier this year, the City of Cleveland approved plans for a graceful 145-foot pedestrian drawbridge that will effect a link begging to be made between Voinovich Park and the meandering pier that extends north of the Great Lakes Science Center.

Bridge aficionados (yes, we have those in Cleveland) and long-suffering pedestrians will appreciate this new two-span moving bridge. First conceived in 2004, the $8 million infrastructure project is scheduled for a 2015 groundbreaking and 2017 completion.

8. Case Western Reserve University's Innovation Center

If the temporary 4,500-square-foot think[box] at Case Western Reserve University is any indication of what the future seven-story, 50,000-square-foot Innovation Center will hold, things bode very well indeed for area makers. The current think[box] boasts a vast array of 3D printers, laser cutters, shop tools and electronics, not to mention more exotic devices like the 3D stereo inspection microscope. Best part: All of this space-age tech is available to the public -- free of charge.

"We're really trying to make a beacon to get some of the brightest people from the next generation to come here and stay here," says think[box] manager Ian Charnas, adding that the CWRU facility will rival like-minded spaces at MIT, Stanford and Rice University. The new uber-maker space is making waves all the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, where the project was touted in a July 2014 press release covering the President's support of the maker movement.

The new $30 million project is rumored to break ground later this year. Charnas says that more details will become available in mid-October.

9. Mabel's BBQ

Michael Symon has delivered unto the 216 such heavenly delights as the beef cheek pierogi, roasted bone marrow and fried Brussels sprouts. The Iron Chef dishes out an endless supply of B Spot burgers alongside onion rings so husky, they look like donuts. Our indefatigable Cleveland supporter has given us the vanilla bean apple pie and bacon milkshake with bourbon, for heaven’s sake.

So, did anyone save room for barbeque?

No need to ask; our collective mouths already are watering for Symon's "Cleveland-style barbecue," which will be dished up at his latest endeavor, Mabel's BBQ. The East Fourth Street eatery, presently taking shape in the former home of La Strada, will offer hungry downtown diners smoked brisket, ribs (both beef and pork), smoked beets, crispy pig ears, smoked peanuts and a sauce built with Bertman's Ballpark Mustard and Ohio maple syrup. The 100-seat eatery and bar is scheduled to open later this year.

10. Lake Link Trail Project

In what will be a dramatic and symbolic length of urban trail, the Lake Link Trail will connect the recently opened Scranton/Flats section of the Towpath Trail to the Lake Erie shore at Wendy Park. The 1.4-mile path will provide access to heretofore largely isolated resources for countless local runners, bikers and walkers.

"We've had such great momentum over the course of the last year," says LAND Studio's Zoller. "The Metroparks has been a terrific partner."

Thus far, $8 million of the project's estimated total cost of $15 million is in place, with major gifts from the Cleveland and Gund Foundations. Bidding is out for the southern portion of the project, which will extend to Rivergate Park, with a hopeful completion date in late 2015.

Future sections, including one adjacent to the Superior Viaduct and a new pedestrian bridge to Wendy Park, are in the design phase.

"These kinds of projects bring residents to the area's most important natural resources," notes Zoller. "They connect the vitality of neighborhoods to downtown and to the waterfront."

Erin O'Brien
Erin O'Brien

About the Author: Erin O'Brien

Erin O'Brien's eclectic features and essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and others. The sixth generation northeast Ohioan is also author of The Irish Hungarian Guide to the Domestic Arts. Visit erinobrien.us for complete profile information.