(Editor’s Note: This is the first installment of a multi-part series detailing Cleveland’s master plan to revitalize its historic downtown).After the city's Downtown Redevelopment Master Plan was …
(Editor’s Note: This is the first installment of a multi-part series detailing Cleveland’s master plan to revitalize its historic downtown).
After the city's Downtown Redevelopment Master Plan was unveiled during the Cleveland City Council's regularly scheduled meeting Monday at the Municipal Building, Cleveland Mayor Kevin Brooks said the initiative was a “reimagining of the heart of the city ... truly a generational gift to the city."
However, he said implementation of the plan will be a long-term effort.
"This is a very serious, prolonged investment in our city," Brooks said. "This is not a quick fix."
However, Brooks noted similar redevelopment initiatives in cities similar to Cleveland.
"They've done it," Brooks said. "They have invested and the results are fantastic."
It will be a major facelift for downtown Cleveland, as it transitions from what was once a bustling industrial center, where textile and appliance companies churned out products for over a century, employing generations of workers, to a burgeoning district filled with walkable areas, green spaces, hotels and restaurants, as well as an event venue and a music amphitheater.
The master plan was developed by WSP, U.S.A., which was selected by the City Council in 2017 to create a vision to transform Cleveland's downtown into a livable and memorable district, as well as a destination for tourists visiting the Cleveland and the Ocoee Region.
In addition, the master plan proposes the construction of a large sports complex which will attract thousands of tourists downtown to attend athletic events and tournaments, while staying in boutique hotels within walking distance.
The last plant to conduct operations downtown was Whirlpool, which relocated from its two facilities downtown to a modern manufacturing facility on Benton Pike in 2012. One facility, Plant 2, the former Hardwick Stove Company, is currently being razed. Another former Whirlpool facility, Plant 1, is slated for demolition at a later date.
Portions of the former Whirlpool sites will be converted to a green space featuring a lake that will be surrounded by walking trails and outdoor activity areas such as zip lines and climbing walls.
City Manager Joe Fivas gave several reasons for the necessity of downtown redevelopment, including the need for housing as available land within the city limits increasingly becomes scarce, addressing workforce development issues, as well as the need for business growth.
As the city's economy continues to expand, Fivas said it is imperative that efforts be made to attract new residents to fill jobs. In addition, Fivas said millennials are attracted to cities with vibrant downtowns that offer affordable housing, as well as stores, music venues and other amenities.
In addition, Fivas said the city must implement a plan to attract more tourists, many of whom visit the Ocoee Region for whitewater rafting.
Over the next seven years, Fivas said the master plan's goal is to attract over 750,000 visitors to Cleveland each year, construct 500 to 600 residences downtown and increase downtown events from 30 to 100 events per year. He said implementation of the plan will result in doubling the downtown tax base.
Fivas said state law prohibits cities from annexing property, which inhibits growth.
“Annexation laws have changed,” Fivas said. “We cannot grow," adding that major business corridors on Paul Huff Highway, 25th Street and Keith Street lack enough real estate to facilitate growth.
As a result, landlocked cities must look to their downtowns for growth opportunities, as well as expanding the tax base.
WSP, U.S.A. Senior Planning Supervisor Doug Delaney said the master plan consists of four core concepts: catalyst projects, downtown parking, a core revitalization and market study, as well as an Inman Street corridor design plan.
The catalyst projects include revitalizing the Old Woolen Mill, the former Cherokee Hotel, as well as constructing a new hotel at the site now occupied by the Moore building. The projects will include a mix of private and public investment through tax incentives such as payment-in-lieu of taxes (PILOTs) and tax incremental financing.
• Cherokee Hotel: Currently occupied by Cleveland Summit, a low-cost housing facility, the building is planned to be converted into a boutique hotel through private investment. The bottom floor will feature retail shops, as well as an outdoor restaurant on the top floor, offering 360 degree views of the city while dining.
"We think the best use of the building is to convert it back into a hotel, with about 65 rooms in it," Delaney said. "We strongly recommend focusing on the ground floor and second floor and activating those uses, as well as the rooftop which will provide a unique visitor experience."
• Old Woolen Mill: "We met with the property owners and had ongoing discussions with them," Delaney said. "Their thoughts and plans align with our vision."
Delaney said the mill will feature a mix of music, office and retail space.
• Moore Building: The master plan proposes a hotel for the site that is connected to a future events center, as well as an expanded Museum Center.
“We feel it’s important to have a powerful building on that corner,” Delaney said of the hotel.
Improving parking downtown will be a major component of the master plan, with long-term plans including the construction of two 250-space parking garages to be located behind the Municipal Building and another adjacent to a proposed hotel where the Moore building stands today. In addition, the master plan includes the establishment of a Transportation Management Office, which will oversee enforcing parking regulations, developing signage to better indicate available parking areas, implementing a parking shuttle and instituting automated parking kiosks.
"We are suggesting additional signage so people can find parking that is available, as well as streetscape and sidewalk improvements so people will be better able to walk to businesses," Delaney said. "We want them to be able to park once instead of driving around to each business."
Delaney also proposed the organization of the downtown area into four distinct, but connected districts. They include:
• The North Inman District, which will include the Bradley County Courthouse area, residential buildings and parking;
• The Museum District, which will include Five Points Park, the Museum at Five Points, residential buildings overlooking the park, an amphitheater, Johnson Park and the Cherokee Hotel;
Delaney said Johnson Park will be restored to reflect its original design.
• The Mill District, which will consist of the Old Woolen Mill, a sports complex and a pedestrian overpass, which will allow access to a green space southeast of the train track that splits the former Whirlpool site; and
• The Whirlpool Technological and Park District, which will consist of green space; an adventure park, featuring zip lines and a rock climbing wall; a lake; residential areas, as well as a business incubator to be located in a former Whirlpool office building. The district will connect the downtown districts to the Blythe-Oldfield neighborhood where revitalization efforts have been underway for several years.
Inman Street corridor
A major transformation of the Inman Street corridor is also planned, with a cohesive, aesthetically pleasing look that includes landscaping, medians and roundabouts. While the streetscaping seeks to slow traffic to encourage visitors to stay and explore downtown, the addition of turn lanes, as well as roundabouts will help facilitate traffic flow.
"It will be much more pedestrian friendly and allow people to interact more with existing businesses, as well as future businesses along Inman Street," Delaney said.
An action plan
City staff recommended approval of the following action plan to facilitate implementation of the Downtown Revitalization Master Plan which was approved 6-0 on a motion by the City Council on Monday. Vice Mayor Avery Johnson was not present at the meeting due to an illness.
• Give the city manager the authority to begin negotiations on strategic land acquisitions for areas that are discussed in WSP's Downtown Revitalization Report. This would include giving the authority to contract with land appraisers, environmental consultants and legal counsel to assist in these efforts. The city manager shall bring back any land acquisition options for the City Council approval.
• City staff shall begin a design and cost analysis for construction of the downtown Greenway segments within the downtown area. This will include any recommendations to the City Council for closing of any downtown streets and rights of way.
• City staff shall continue developing designs for Central Avenue streetscape and ROW acquisition, and proceed to construction as soon as possible.
• City staff shall continue developing designs for Parker Street streetscape and ROW acquisition, and proceed to construction as soon as possible.
• City staff shall work with Mainstreet Cleveland to implement a flower basket program and install approximately 100 downtown flower baskets and maintenance program. The flower baskets will be debuted in spring/summer of 2020.
• City staff and Mainstreet Cleveland will work together to complete 100 projects in the "Green Your Downtown Initiative."
• City staff and consultant shall complete the Build Grant application for the Inman Street Revitalization Project. Then, the mayor shall work with the Congressional delegation to educate them on the community efforts.
• City staff shall assist City Fields to acquire property lots for development in the East Cleveland area.
• City Council gives direction to city staff to develop a feasibility study and economic market information for a future sports tourism project (Indoor Athletic Center) in downtown. This may include direction to contract for a third-party consultant.
• City staff shall review and research the best regulation and zoning structures for a successful downtown revitalization.
• City staff and Mainstreet Cleveland shall develop a Request for Proposals for a future redevelopment of the Cherokee Hotel structure for the recruitment of a private developer.
• City staff shall develop an (RFP) for a future development of a downtown hotel for the recruitment of a private developer. This may also include an effort to find a partner development firm to privately develop the downtown, with a city/county partnership on all of these development issues.
Fivas said implementing the master plan will be a challenge.
"It's going to be hard," Fivas said. "But we have to put one foot in front of the other."
He said implementing the plan is vital to the city's economic future.
"This isn't because we have some great mission that we want to redo downtown," Fivas said. "It's an economic strategy we need to address. It keeps your taxes low because it keeps people and businesses moving here."
In Wednesday's edition of the Cleveland Daily Banner, details regarding the Inman Street corridor streetscape plan will be examined.
Print subscribers have FREE access to clevelandbanner.com by registering HERE
Non-subscribers have limited monthly access to local stories, but have options to subscribe to print, web or electronic editions by clicking HERE
We are sorry but you have reached the maximum number of free local stories for this month. If you have a website account here, please click HERE to log in for continued access.
If you are a print subscriber but do not have an account here, click HERE to create a website account to gain unlimited free access.
Non-subscribers may gain access by subscribing to any of our print or electronic subscriptions HERE