Designing a Brighter Future for a Dreary Downtown Corridor
by David C. Barnett
(Design plans below)
Plans to connect a couple of growing Cleveland neighborhoods were unveiled this past Thursday. The proposal involves the space just below the Main Avenue bridge downtown, which soars across the north end of the Cuyhoga River, carrying traffic to the westside.
Laura Wiegand of the Downtown Cleveland Alliance looks down a shadowy street beneath the span. As traffic rumbles above her head, Wiegand says this road is a neglected piece of the city fabric with great potential. It's a key connector between the Warehouse District and the Flats and it's covered with a majestic canopy of steel girders, but it's a little scary.
"This is a pretty foreboding place," she says. "It's dark, it's windy, it's not very inviting."
Last year, the Cleveland Foundation sponsored a national design competition to come up with an improvement plan. The winner was the Chicago-based firm, Port Urbanism, partnering with the Cleveland architectural firm, Westlake Reed Leskosky.
Tom Starinsky of the Warehouse District Development Corporation said the charge was to make this street a place where people would want to walk or ride their bikes. He says the new design does that.
"It adds a lot of really artistic, aesthetic improvements; and a lot of those improvements include lighting, which addresses that forebodingness, and enhances the architecture that is the bridge."
Starinsky adds that the bridge underpass plans call for some landscaping and places to sit. In addition, the bridge itself is due to be painted by the Ohio Department of Transportation, by the end of next year.
When Port Urbanism won the design competition, the underpass redesign was roughly pegged at $800,000. The actual price tag could go higher. Tom Starinsky says a finish date for the project will depend on the completion of fundraising.