A family-friendly adventure park. A sports complex. A children’s museum. A large events venue. Those are some of the big ideas presented Thursday night to Cleveland residents and officials by a …
A family-friendly adventure park. A sports complex. A children’s museum. A large events venue.
Those are some of the big ideas presented Thursday night to Cleveland residents and officials by a consultant firm charged with creating a revitalization plan for downtown Cleveland.
It was the culmination of a three-day series of 12 charrettes, or meetings, at which the public participated in sharing ideas for transforming the city’s historic downtown, as well as positioning it as a place to “live, work, play and stay.”
Dubbed “Reimagining the Heart of Cleveland,” the revitalization initiative was presented to the attendees through the use of video that depicted computerized renderings of ideas generated during the charrettes conducted Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at the Museum Center. They followed a series of similar exploratory meetings held in April.
Charrettes are meetings in which all stakeholders in a project attempt to resolve conflicts and map solutions.
The series of discussions was hosted by engineering consultants from the Nashville office of WSP U.S.A. – the firm hired by the city to facilitate the idea-gathering process.
WSP U.S.A. is a New York City-based civil engineering services firm specializing in sectors such as building information modeling, economic and market analysis, freight and logistics, highway and road design, project development and finance, technology and innovation, project strategy and grants.
WSP U.S.A. senior planner Doug Delaney said the charrettes were a success.
“We do this often, and this was the most positive experience we have had,” Delaney said. “We have had a broad amount of input from a diverse group of people.”
Delaney said the 12 charrettes were attended by 173 Clevelanders, not including the attendees Thursday night.
Other ideas posed by attendees included transforming downtown into a center for arts and culture, expanding the city’s Greenway, as well as increasing downtown parking spaces.
Delaney said there were several “must haves” which included continuing building Greenway connectors, and improvements to the Inman Street streetscape. In addition, the must haves included a mix of residential, retail and restaurants into the downtown plan.
“To achieve those must haves, we identified four big ideas for some economic drivers, so you can attract people and achieve those goals,” Delaney said.
Centering Cleveland as a sports recreation destination for people already visiting the Ocoee area for recreation was also an idea that was presented. Delaney said a sports complex would help drive sports tourism and attract visitors who will stay in hotels, generating revenue for the city.
Lee University students at the charrettes were excited about the prospect of an adventure park downtown.
“We talked with Lee University students, and they said it would be a great resource for them,” Delaney said. “We feel the old Whirlpool site would be the right place for adventure park activities,” Delaney said.
Transforming downtown into a recreation destination would also attract those visiting the Ocoee region.
“We want to bring them here to a hotel, retail and other amenities. This will build on the outdoors theme,” Delaney said.
The idea for constructing a family-friendly adventure park was also presented. Delaney said the park could also function as a downtown destination that would connect the public to the outdoors.
Expanding on positioning downtown Cleveland as a family-friendly destination, Delaney also presented the idea for a children’s museum.
“A children’s museum we see that as an expansion of the [Museum Center at Five Points] and building on what they offer today in terms of summer camps and other activities that are family friendly,” Delaney said.
Delaney explained several themes for the downtown area generated from ideas discussed at the charrettes, including connecting downtown to Lee University to attract students to event venues, establishing residential use for sites such as the old Woolen Mill.
“There is also a theme for a events center that handles larger events. We have heard from a lot of folks some events that don’t happen in Cleveland because nothing like it exists here in Cleveland,” Delaney said.
Also, Delaney discussed an idea about establishing a civic plaza that would provide an outdoor space for festivals or a farmer’s market.
The consultants see the relationship between Lee University and downtown as a key factor in revitalization.
“We see downtown as a business/education incubator,” Delaney said. “We feel like it is a tremendous opportunity to connect Lee University to downtown. We think we can do that in a couple of different ways: we can make streetscape improvements along Central Avenue, similar to the types you see on Lee’s campus."
Delaney said retail expansions downtown, as well as the streetscape improvements, will attract Lee students and faculty.
Modification options to Inman Street were also discussed.
In one option, Inman Street, which is currently four lanes, would be modified to three, with traffic moving in each direction and a center lane for turning.
Another option proposes changing Inman Street to two lanes, with widened sidewalks.
“We feel very comfortable with the three-lane or two-lane option,” Delaney said, noting the changes would cause traffic to move more slowly.
He said slower traffic would make the area more attractive to downtown visitors.
“But in the downtown area, we would want that to happen to be safe for people and vehicles,” Delaney said.
Delaney said one option has Inman Street changing from three lanes to two lanes as it approaches downtown, featuring wider sidewalks where restaurant patrons can dine outside.
“We are looking at what the possibilities are,” Delaney said.
He also said they are looking into constructing roundabouts at either end of Inman Street to facilitate traffic flow.
Three catalyst projects centering on revitalizing the Moore Building, the Cherokee Hotel and the old Woolen Mill were discussed.
Converting the Moore Building into a mixture of office and retail space, as well as apartments on the upper floors, would be an ideal solution for the building.
“It’s a good opportunity to reuse the building in this way,” Delaney said. “We will continue to explore options.”
Several options for the Cherokee Hotel include returning the structure to its former use.
“It would be the most economical and easiest. It would be more of a boutique hotel, with the bottom floor the place for retail or restaurants,” Delaney said.
Delaney said there is also an apartment option for the hotel, which would include wall removal to accommodate larger living space.
“We would like to keep the exterior the same,” Delaney said. “It’s a beautiful building.”
Ideas about utilizing the old Woolen Mill were also discussed.
“We put together ideas on how to utilize the Woolen Mill. Some want a mix of retail and restaurants and breweries similar to Warehouse Row in Chattanooga. We are still exploring what the options are. There is a tremendous opportunity to do that here.” Delaney said.
Delaney said the site could be used as a music venue.
A final report will by the consulting firm will be presented in December.
Delaney told the attendees they should continue the effort to execute the plan once it is finalized.
"This is your plan," Delaney said. "Don't put it on a shelf and let it gather dust."
While the vastness of the revitalization plan may seem daunting to some, Delaney told the Cleveland Daily Banner that city residents and officials should consider fulfilling its ideas one step at a time.
"One important thing we like to design into our plans is we will have a vision for where the community says they want to go with downtown, but then we will do incremental steps so that there's a lot of low-hanging fruit that can be accomplished — something that can be done in one to three years," Delaney told the Banner.
"Some people may feel like the long-term vision is too big to accomplish and some just will not want to start. So, we will give them short-term and medium-term goals to get them started," Delaney said.
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