'Vision For The Valley' Project Gets Cleveland Planning Commission Support
A plan to redesign and revitalize Cleveland’s riverfront aims to create equity, increase awareness and access, and protect the Cuyahoga River through development along four specific points.
The final Vision for the Valley plan was presented to the city’s Planning Commission Friday after months of resident feedback and planning. The project aims to address needs across multiple areas, including land use, water mobility, public access and environmental concerns.
It also aims to protect the river and lake and use those resources to shape Cleveland and local communities as an innovative and unified front, said Project Manager Arthur Schmidt with OHM Advisors.
“There’s been these very intense, very game-changing plans being developed and heard, but there really wasn’t a comprehensive plan for the Cuyahoga River Valley,” Schmidt said. “We want to look at the Cuyahoga River and begin to pull all these pieces and parts together.”
The plan isn’t aimed at areas that are already the focus of significant developments, like Irishtown Bend and Wendy Park. Instead, Schmidt said, it prioritizes four specific areas: the Old River Channel in the Flats, Collision Bend, Jefferson Link and Big Creek Gateway.
The plan focuses on four main areas in need of development and investment. [OHM Advisors]
The development team held more than 20 community meetings to collect residential input, as well as taking feedback through a website, social media and phone surveys. That feedback helped determine which areas needed attention and what to change, Schmidt said.
“Those areas kind of came very organically through the stakeholder and community engagement process,” Schmidt said. “So we kind of took that next step in each one of those areas and beginning to identify some specific recommendations and some specific strategies of what we can do in those areas.”
The recommendations for each area focus on what they uniquely offer to the region, Schmidt said. The Old River Channel serves as the confluence of Downtown Cleveland to the east of the river and the Flats, he said, and could offer opportunities for investment in industrial businesses.
“We wanted to preserve Lakeview Terrace as an affordable and desirable, desirable place to live, but also provide new mixed-income options along Center Street and Avenue, and also to create incentives for new development along that area,” Schmidt said.
Reimagining Collision Bend meant focusing on the connection between Downtown Cleveland and the river valley, Schmidt said. Underutilized Collision Bend could become a focal point with river boardwalks, housing, retail and other mixed-use options.
“There are some spectacular views to the river and the West Bank,” Schmidt said. “So we really feel like that this area is one of those kind of sleeping giants.”
The plan continues south to Jefferson Link in the industrial valley, where recommendations call for transforming and remediating properties to create recreational public spaces. Some landowners there reached out during the planning process about a site they were considering for sale, Schmidt said, and asked for it to be considered as part of the redesign.
“They're kind of taking that decommissioned industrial site and looking and recommending ways to remediate it and create into a green space,” Schmidt said, “and establish a new river access point for neighborhoods on the east side of Cleveland that really don't have that access.”
The final portion of the recommendations covers the Big Creek Gateway in the steelyards. That area is outside of the commercial shipping channel, Schmidt said, and is part of a state-designated water trail. It serves as a connection point to the Ohio Erie Canal and Towpath Trail, as well as other recreational areas.
“There’s just connections to all this great green space,” Schmidt said. “We thought once again, how can we take a decommissioned industrial land, begin to remediate it, clean it up offshore or create opportunities to enhance the wildlife, really kind of bring it back to nature while also creating a launch point, so to speak.”
During the public engagement process, Schmidt said planners found many locals still had concerns about the safety and cleanliness of the river, as well as a lack of awareness on how and where to access it.
“Maybe they know, but they just don’t really understand that there is that river and there is that access to the river,” Schmidt said. “The goal is, is to continue to build awareness of the value of the benefits that the river valley has through the promotion of activities and programs and what have you.”
Additional safety improvements are also needed, he said, including signage on the water and places for recreational users like kayakers and boaters to enter and exit.
“You still have the federal shipping channel. You have all those large commercial vessels coming down the river. But now we have seen a big increase in recreational boaters,” Schmidt said. “And as a result of that, there have been a lot of safety concerns being raised and safety issues.”
Current Vison for the Valley recommendations would create those locations, he said, which also would provide space for wildlife and environmental revitalization.
Some of the recommendations are easily accomplished and can be implemented over just a few months, Schmidt said. Others, like the installation of bulkheads, terraced parks and similar large projects, could take a number of years to complete, he said. The work relies on a combination of public-private partnerships, grant funding and various project partners.
“There is kind of a little bit of everything, which is a little bit daunting,” Schmidt said. “But it's also encouraging because you can already begin to see some of the strategies and initiatives beginning to move forward even as we speak now.”