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Shaping the Future of University Circle

Tuesday, April 6, 1999 at 11:17 AM

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Cleveland's cultural resources have a worldwide reputation, attracting thousands of visitors each year. But once they arrive, culture seekers sometimes learn that finding some of the museums is no walk in the park. 90.3's David C. Barnett reports that a Cleveland group is trying to prevent some best laid plans from going astray.

DCB- The Epworth-Euclid United Methodist Church tolled it’s noontime serenade this past Saturday. One of Cleveland’s most famous buildings, it is part of a cluster of 45 religious, educational and cultural institutions that occupy a square mile of parkland called University Circle. Good weather always brings out visitors.

Tourist- I have two kids who are taking music lessons at C.I.M. and I like to hang out at the Art Museum.

DCB (to Tourist)- Could you describe to a person from out of town how to get there?

Tourist- No! [laughs] No… I… well, maybe I could tell them how to get to this street, but it would be tough.

DCB- University Circle is having a bit of an identity crisis. Despite a world reputation as being the address for places like the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Cleveland Orchestra’s Severance Hall, tourists and home-town folks alike have trouble finding their way around. That’s why a private, non-profit development group called University Circle, Incorporated has decided to examine this cultural campus and figure out how to make it more user-friendly.

Kenneth Grundy- A city like Washington DC had a plan. A city like Manhattan had a design to it. Central Park didn’t just happen. Somebody had a vision of how that space could be used.

DCB- Kenneth Grundy is a professor of Political Science and the Director of Case Western Reserve University’s Center for Policy Studies which is helping in the planning process.

KG- The Circle hasn’t always served the needs of its people. Parking is a disaster at times around here. The fact is often seen as an isolated enclave in the midst of various neighborhoods in the community. Something as simple as: Where do I take a guest for lunch? Where do I put my car when I do that? How get there?

Ruth Durack- On East Blvd, the wonderful street that winds past the Art Museum,. the buildings there make what is like a necklace with charms hanging off of it

DCB- Ruth Durack is the Director of the Urban Design Center at Kent State University and she loves the atmosphere of University Circle, but is also aware of what doesn’t work.

RD- I think what’s problematic here is that it’s not all hanging together yet. It’s a rather confusing, confounding sort of area where it’s difficult to find individual elements if you don’t know the streets very well.

DCB- Pittsburgh-based urban designer Ray Gindroz says University Circle’s reputation extends far beyond Cleveland and he was familiar with it’s original design before being hired to do development work for UCI. Gindroz notes that the Circle’s problems have built up due to a lack of appreciation for the big picture.

Ray Gindroz- Some of the institutions of University Circle have torn down residences to expand their parking lots. The curvilinear streets were originally designed to flow with the park property and then they got blocked off by campus expansion.

DCB- Ray Gindroz thinks that the individual institutions have to see themselves as part of a bigger landscape. He says the public craves interesting urban areas after 40 years of suburbanization.

RG- People are tired of dysfunctional, isolated patterns of development where there is no human contact. The answer is to be a “happening” part of town.

DCB- For an out-of-state visitor like Tom, half of that battle has already been won

Tourist- For Cleveland, this is a jewel in their crown. A wonderful place to visit because of the variety of museums and opportunities available.

DCB- From now until October, University Circle, Incorporated will be exploring the opportunities available to them as they reshape the circle, by addressing issues of accessibility, parking, and connections to surrounding neighborhoods. They’ll be gathering the public’s ideas about these issues and hope to have a plan in place by this October. For Infohio, I’m David C. Barnett in Cleveland.

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