Tackling a Waterfront

Tackling a Waterfront

Aerial concept plan along Cleveland’s lakefront.
Courtesy Cleveland Browns

Despite a massive 73,000-seat stadium along the shore of Lake Erie, Cleveland’s waterfront has struggled to find a lasting sense of vibrancy. This is in part due to the city’s population drop of 17 percent in the last ten years—according to the 2010 Census, residents number just under 400,000. But a new plan    continued on page 5 Tackling a waterfront continued from front page  spearheaded by the Cleveland Browns football franchise hopes to capitalize on their name recognition to lure development to the area around its waterfront stadium.

In a new partnership with the City of Cleveland, neighboring properties, and the Greater Cleveland Partnership, the Browns have asked Boston-based Elkus Manfredi Architects to prepare concept plans for 30 to 35 acres of city-owned land predominantly used by the Port of Cleveland. The initial concept called the Lakefront District proposes a mixed-use neighborhood to the north of the Browns’ stadium and infilled around existing institutions including the Great Lakes Science Center and the I.M. Pei-designed Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Rendering of proposed redevelopment area.

“We’re hoping these concepts will act as a catalyst for mobilizing private interest in the land,” said Chris Warren, Chief of Regional Development for the City of Cleveland. The Browns plan to use the concepts to convince private developers to build a mix of retail, residential, recreational, and entertainment uses at the site.

A series of new public spaces is also proposed in the lakefront concept. New and existing development will be organized around a green quad and pedestrian walkways. “We will be insisting upon the public’s access to the waterfront including lakefront promenades and public spaces,” said Warren.

Lakefront concept plan.
[+ Click to enlarge.]

Once private interest is secured, developers will then bring in their own design teams for individual projects. “The concepts we have presented are just that, concepts,” said Mike Holmgren, president of the Cleveland Browns, in a statement. “They will evolve into specific plans as actual development opportunities arise.”

Among the Browns’ goals is to foster a sense of connectivity to the surrounding city. Severed from downtown by a rail yard and an Interstate highway, challenges also include negotiating a complex topography. “The geography does create challenges. Cleveland isn’t a city on a beach, it’s a city on a bluff,” said Terry Schwarz, director of the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative. Adding to the difficulty, the stadium target area is flanked by a busy port and a small regional airport at either side.

Included in the initial concept is a 1,000-car parking garage straddling the rail yards with a pedestrian bridge connecting Cleveland’s civic center with the stadium. Schwarz said a waterfront light rail line, predominantly used for Browns games, will also tie the Lakefront District to surrounding neighborhoods.

Now with a concept in hand, Warren says the city will be working with the Browns to refine the plan and move it forward. Still, the district hinges on private development taking a chance on Cleveland’s lakefront. “We are not developers; we are in the football business,” said Holmgren in a statement. “We saw our role, as much as anything, as a catalyst, and maybe the group that can bring people together and encourage other investors.”

Proponents point to billions of dollars currently being invested in downtown Cleveland including a large medical mart and convention center atop the bluff. “With development happening nearby, the timing is good,” said Schwarz. “With a declining population, the question is to what extent can Cleveland support large-scale development.”