Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Bridge to the Lakefront

Improving waterfront utilization and access has been a topic of much discussion for at least 30 years within the City of Cleveland. While sister cities like Chicago and Toronto have managed to turn their lakefronts into world-class promenades serving their residents, Cleveland's waterfront is still largely a collection of shabby industrial buildings, piles of gravel and railroad switching yards. This state of affairs may change soon, though. Now that the public authorities are awash with cash, they're getting more serious about opening up Cleveland's greatest asset for business.

The latest in this drama involves some real action. Some time ago, the Cleveland-Cuyahoga Port Authority transferred control of the port land north of FirstEnergy Stadium to the city, thus allowing City Council to determine the fate of this 30 acre concrete pad. Currently, the only development on this land is a handful of shabby warehouse buildings, and the only time the public is allowed to access this property is during Ingenuity Fest.

This month, City Council approved an option to lease this property to developer Dick Pace, who is largely responsible for converting the disused Colonial Arcade into a lively indoor retail area, rechristened the 5th Street Arcades. I wrote an earlier article back in March noting that the City was working with Pace and Trammel Crow to make this plan a reality. Now we have more detailed information about it.

Pace proposes building the following:

  • 1,000 new market-rate residential units
  • 80,000 square feet of commercial office space
  • 40,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space
  • a transient marina with paddleboat, kayak and bicycle rentals
  • an upscale restaurant on the second story of a two-story concession building reminiscent of Navy Pier structures
  • a new elementary/middle school, either run by Cleveland schools or a charter program.

The school proposal is likely the driving force for City Council's preference for Pace above the three other developers who submitted proposals. Some less compelling plans included anchor tenants like a movie studio complex (too soon?) a hotel (too many?) and a sports field (too close?).

A new school to go along with new development makes for a plan to create an entirely new neighborhood out of thin air, on some of Cleveland's most valuable real estate. If this plan is executed properly, it could push the downtown renaissance to the stratosphere and open the floodgates for new development all around downtown. 

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