August 11, 2016 – Last night, Destination Cleveland (our convention and visitors bureau) presented a panel of speakers who are all involved with development projects along Lake Erie and/or the Cuyahoga River in downtown Cleveland.
From Brian Zimmerman, CEO of the Cleveland Metroparks:
Brian shared a very interesting fact…This year, the federal government had $9.3 BILLION dollars in grant requests to consider for TIGER grants (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) and only $500M available to give out. The Cleveland Metroparks managed to snare almost $8M for projects that relate to transportation. They were the only park system in the country to receive funds (most went to cities, counties, states, departments of transportation, port authorities, etc.). The funds were for various projects, including the Wendy Park Bridge, the Whiskey Island Connector and the RedLine Greenway.
Not only has the Metroparks taken over management of all of the beaches in Cuyahoga County that the State of Ohio used to manage (poorly!), the Metroparks improved them immensely with live music events all summer long at Edgewater and Euclid Beach Parks and by upgrading existing facilities so most parks have new snack bars, bathrooms and picnic benches! The plans haven’t stopped as a new picnic pavilion is in the works.
Brian described how the recently opened Merwin’s Wharf (a rare green oasis in the urban core) has spurred a lot of other development around it, including Rivergate Park which is home to the shells used by the rowing teams from local high schools, colleges and adults as well as a skateboard park. And, most natives of Cleveland have been to the former Coast Guard Station once or twice either thru public events or illegally sneaking out to the station.
Built in 1938 in an Art Moderne style, the station was last used by the Coast Guard in 1976 and, as a result, has sat largely unused for dozens of years on a coveted, highly visible spot at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River. Although the city of Cleveland still owns the building, management was turned over to the Cleveland Metroparks who sealed up the building and stabilized it (birds, harsh weather, vandals had all taken their toll) and began slowly fixing it up. Volunteer employees from Sherwin Williams (as well as thousands of gallons of their donated paint) put a new white coat on it (the word CLEVELAND was painted on the roof so that all airborne passersby headed to Burke Lakefront Airport or Cleveland Hopkins would feel a warm welcome from our city). Deciding what to do with the building is more of a challenge as there is no water or sewers (how the heck did the Coast Guard use it? Port-a-potties?).
From Dick Pace, Cumberland Development:
A new neighborhood is about to spring up on Lake Erie, just north of Cleveland Browns Stadium (see image to the right) thanks to a partnership between Dick Pace’s Cumberland Development and national real estate developer Trammel Crow Co. More than a million people a year visit North Coast Harbor to see a Browns game or to visit the Rock Hall or Science Center but typically leave immediately after their visit. While nearby Voinovich Park offers a pretty urban green space to enjoy views of the lake, there are no visitor amenities available (restaurants, bathrooms, etc.). With a 50 year lease (city of Cleveland owns the land), the 18 acres north of the stadium will be home to a walk-able, dense neighborhood anchored by a school (probably a magnet or charter K-8 school as the Science Center already houses the MC2 STEM High School. Small retail shops (think 600 SF or so like at the 5th Street Arcade, another Dick Pace success story) will dot the neighborhood (sandwich shop, small market, etc.). The focus of this new neighborhood is to provide a high-quality charter school and the amenities (playgrounds, etc.) that will attract families with young children, which is a nice demographic to add to downtown! In early July, the restaurant, Nuevo Modern Mexican, opened just prior to the RNC convention and provides the first full service independent restaurant on North Coast Harbor. It sits adjacent to the transient Rock & Dock Marina and is already attracting diners who arrive on boat, in cars and by foot.
From Dave Gruenwald, Jacobs Investments:
Talk about a guy who has been at this awhile…Dave has been working on developments in The Flats since the 1980’s (remember the first heyday of the Flats that included the opening of Shooters, Club Coconuts, TGIFridays and the Improv at The PowerHouse?). Dave was involved in all of that. He joked that Jacobs Investments is in its 30th year of a 50 year development, but it’s true!
The next stage of their plans includes creating the Nautica Waterfront District, a new live/work/play neighborhood on 22 acres on the west bank of the Flats. With 600+ apartments, retail, an office building, a hotel and lots of amenities, this project could begin as early as 2018. Most of this will happen in the large parking lot next to The PowerHouse that sits largely empty most of the time.
But I have to give props to Dave who had the most quotable line of the night, “this generation is the first to hear the words ‘burning river’ and think first of Great Lakes beer!” Why? Because people like Brian, Dick and Dave have all been steadily working for YEARS to make Cleveland’s waterfront more accessible, useful and beautiful.