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Demolition Begins On Irishtown Bend Stabilization And Park Project

Demolition began Monday in the "first major visible step" for the Irishtown Bend stabilization and park project. [West Creek Conservancy]
Demolition began Monday in the "first major visible step" for the Irishtown Bend stabilization and park project.

Demolition began Monday at Irishtown Bend, the Cuyahoga River overlook in Ohio City targeted for stabilization to protect the river’s shipping channel and create a new park.

Two now-vacant Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) properties along West 25th Street are the first slated for demolition, the former administration building and a housing complex known as “Big 8.”

“Demolition of these buildings will open access to the potential of the Cuyahoga River valley and reveal dramatic views of the downtown skyline, which have been obstructed for decades,” according to a press release from LAND Studio, which is administering $1.4 million of the project’s grant funding through the Ohio Public Works Commission’s Clean Ohio Conservation Fund.

Cleveland Metroparks is leading the demolition project and plans for the site to eventually include a boardwalk and a trail connecting the new 23-acre park to Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The project also will stabilize the hillside, which has been slowly sliding into the Cuyahoga River for more than a decade, threatening shipping traffic.

 “To me, it’s this hillside of opportunity,” said Sean McDermott, Metroparks’ chief planning and design officer Monday. “What we’re doing will help support jobs and economic activity, but then we’ll also have a world class park. I don’t expect it’ll be anything less than fantastic.”

More than $27 million has been raised so far from federal, state and local government sources to stabilize and transform the hillside. Efforts include the installation of 2,600 feet of steel bulkheads shoring up the hillside near Columbus Road and Riverbend Street to prevent a potential landslide.

The Irishtown Bend project, in the works since 2017, is a collaboration of public and private partnerships. Working with LAND studio and Cleveland Metroparks are also Ohio City, Inc., West Creek Conservancy, CMHA, the Port of Cleveland, the City of Cleveland, NOACA, NEORSD, ODOT, Cuyahoga County and the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless.

This phase of the project is estimated to take about a month, though McDermott said he expects the park will open in 2024 or 2025. The partners still need to acquire several parcels for the planned park, though McDermott said there is “good, positive momentum” in negotiations with landowners.

“What’s happening right now is an exciting step, but it’s a preliminary step that will be one of many,” he said. “So although this marks a visual beginning, there will be some time between this step and the next.”

ideastream Digital Editor Gayle S. Putrich contributed to this report.

Justin Glanville is the deputy editor of engaged journalism at Ideastream Public Media.