Saturday, March 08, 2008

Time to Revisit and Refine Plans for the Lakefront Before its Too Late

At Friday's Cleveland Planning Commission meeting, city planners approved demolition permits for the remaining Flats East Bank buildings along Old River Road and also approved plans to move Cleveland's port from north and west of Browns' stadium to land east of Burke Lakefront Airport.

While both items were discreet presentations to the Planning Commission, they should be considered in some regards to be intimately related. Specifically, as plans for the Flats East Bank are refined and presented to the City of Cleveland, land being developed north of the freight railroad should be considered as an important precedent for the future development of the surrounding port property.

While my concern has been voiced at and as a response to Steve Litt's weblog post (and subsequently re-posted below), I found it interesting and important to compare Eaton's proposed site within a reconstructed RTA Waterfront loop to the existing configuration of the site as well as the current Lakefront Plan as prepared by the Cleveland Planning Commission.

It is time for the City's plans to be revisited at this portion of the lakefront so that one corporation's move doesn't negatively impact the viability and accessibility of future development and public amenities or set a precedent for similar narrowly conceived developments. The images below illustrate the significant (and sprawling) footprint that the Eaton campus has along the lakefront and its encroachment on existing plans.


flats east bank plan

lakefront plan

lakefront plan and flats plan overlay


Bravo Mr. Litt for grabbing a few digital photos of the ongoing development of the Flats East Bank site plan at today’s Planning Commission meeting!

I share the same concern about the Eaton precedent. It appears that the preliminary site plan situates Eaton within an expanded RTA loop connected to the existing street grid with a couple of campus access roads to parking lots and what looks like a pedestrian bridge over the railway.
There is no suggestion of how the remaining lakefront north of the tracks should be developed other than Wasserman’s ‘vision’ of extending the downtown grid to the lake and the City’s lakefront plan which has seemingly dissolved in recent years (the current lakefront plan as published on the City Planning Commission website shows a compact RTA loop as “Mixed-Use Residential” adjacent to several blocks of orthagonal streetgrid framed by a riverwalk and picnic meadow).

There NEEDS to be a master plan, land use diagram, or form-based code that is developed in conjunction with Eaton’s move. Already, a large portion of the lakefront real estate at the river’s mouth is dedicated to Eaton’s campus after the expanded RTA loop with ZERO concern as to what this prime “public” lakefront will become after the port’s move. This development creates an even larger barrier between downtown, the flats development, and the lakefront. Its as though Chagrin Highlands has landed on our waterfront!

This is a complete betrayal to the people of Cleveland if Eaton’s move is not considered within larger plans for the future lakefront. Whether or not the lakefront north of the tracks is dedicated to contiguous parkland and recreation, a new residential neighborhood, waterfront destinations and entertainment, or even corporate campuses, the City of Cleveland needs to clarify a vision for the lakefront before companies carve up their pieces of the waterfront as Sherwin Williams and now Eaton have.

As Litt suggests, Wolstein is holding the plans close. However, as significant as the public investment is in making this project happen on a lakefront promised to the people of Cleveland, there needs to be a public dialogue on how Eaton fits into concrete plans for the future lakefront. More specifically, the land north of the tracks between the mouth of the river and Cleveland Browns Stadium.


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