Cleveland boosts a large amount of interesting and underutilized infrastructure. In its current state these roads and buildings look like any other part of Cleveland. They have character, they have an interesting past, and they can too serve a purpose in a new Cleveland. On a recent trip to New York City, I visited Highline Park, which is a 1.45 mile park built on a section of the former elevated freight railroad of the West Side Line. The park recently opened in 2009 and is not complete, but this type of adaptive reuse would be a great way to redevelop Cleveland’s neighborhood of Ohio City/Near West Side and bring life to the Detroit-Superior Bridge.
First, their are obvious differences between a park being built on historic elevated tracks in NYC’s trendy neighborhoods, such as the Meat Packing District, West Village, and Chelsea. Obviously these neighborhoods are very lively and are lined with multi-million dollar luxury apartments, boutiques, and cafes. However, these neighborhoods were once in decline in NYC and the visionary actions taken turned this area into a highly sought after part of the City.
Cleveland has a unique opportunity to connect downtown and Ohio City to create trendy corridor, lively with art establishments, restaurants, retail, residential, jobs, and a high quality of life. I would propose that Cleveland use the Detroit Avenue/Superior Ave corridor as a pilot for creating a vibrant, pedestrian oriented street, which connects neighborhoods, employment centers, civic and educational institutions with the people.
First, the Detroit-Superior Bridge has a history of temporary uses on the abandoned lower level. In September 2009, the lower levels of the bridge were used as a temporary art installation. “The curious will stroll along the mile-long span, sampling video installations, roots music, drumming, juggling and more. It will feel as if you’re exploring catacombs under a lost city, but actually you are high enough to gaze over the Flats, downtown and the industrial valley.” (http://www.cleveland.com/arts/index.ssf/2009/09/ingenuityfests_bridge_project.html)
The City should actively evaluate the opportunity to redevelop this corridor by making permanent pedestrian and biking improvements to the Detroit-Superior Bridge’s abandoned lower level. Further, it should look at traffic flow along Detroit Avenue and possibly reconfigure the road to exclude one travel lane. The excluded travel lane could be used as pedestrian and bike path, additional sidewalk space, areas for tables and other measures.
This will make the area more pedestrian friendly and calm traffic. Further, the entire corridor is approximately 4-miles. This allows a large amount of people to be able to actively bike and/or walk to work or school in Downtown.Creating a “trendy” corridor in Cleveland is step in the right direction. It may be challenging to attract families back to Cleveland, because of schools, crime, etc. But, attracting Cleveland’s “Creative Class” may be a good start. This corridor would connect some of Cleveland’s best assets, such as the Detroit-Suprior Bridge, Ohio City, Downtown, The Public Square, Cleveland State University, and so on. Just maybe such a corridor would lead to redevelopment of the existing buildings that have so much character. Personally, if I had the opportunity to live in a trendy neighborhood, with an active night-life, eateries, etc and be able to have an interesting walk/bike to downtown at an affordable price, Cleveland would be very attractive to me.