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Groups Seeking Clevelanders' Vision For The Valley

The east bank of the Flats has seen some recent redevelopment, but now the City of Cleveland, MetroParks,  the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency and others are looking to develop a holistic plan for the Cuyahoga River Valley. [Mark Urycki / ideastream]
view of the east bank of the Flats in June 2019

The City of Cleveland, MetroParks, the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency and other local groups are asking what Clevelanders want to see in the Flats – and beyond. 

They’re looking for input on a long-term plan for the Cuyahoga River Valley, from Steelyard Commons to the lakefront. At a public listening session this week at Forest City Brewery, the groups explained the process and asked for ideas.

The city, consultants and other groups are asking for public input on plans for Cleveland's long and winding riverfront. [Mark Urycki / ideastream]

The east bank of the river in the Flats has seen a major hotel and entertainment complex built in recent years. A stack of public and private development plans are in the works for other parts of the riverfront. But the city is still in need of one over-arching vision, said Cleveland Planning Director Freddie Collier.

“Part of we’re trying to do is establish a strategy for how organizations, investors and others can participate and get in alignment, while helping to create and maximize the opportunities down here,” Collier said.

Michigan-based consulting firm OHM Advisors has seen its share of river projects in cities like Detroit, Columbus and Boston. But the Crooked River has some unique challenges, from ore boats to kayaks, said OHM principal Aaron Domini.

“So it’s the width of the river, it’s the actual shape and configuration of how it moves through the valley,” Domini said. “And now it’s the mix of uses and activities that are coming here that are starting to create some of those conflicts and challenges.”

Kayakers share the Cuyahoga River with a Lake Erie ore boat in the summer of 2018. [Mark Urycki / ideastream]

OHM is looking at land use, public space, mobility, environmental aspects and brand marketing of the area.  Turning the river valley into a key Cleveland attraction and must-see spot for tourists, like Chicago’s Millennium Park, is one possible goal, Domini said.

OHM is studying the last seven miles of the river, not just the Flats or Collision Bend, said Arthur Schmidt, a senior planner with the firm.

“All these smaller areas, micro-areas, have been studied and investigated specifically but we’ve never looked at the entire river valley and how all this interconnects to one another.  And also we’ve never looked at the actual river as a transportation corridor itself,” Schmidt said.

Possibilities include adding a bicycle ferry to cross the water, creating more water access points, preserving open sight-lines so the river is visible from Downtown and creating safe harbor areas so small craft can evade the big boats.

Another public hearing is planned for April 15.