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Cleveland has a playground desert in the heart of Downtown

downtown CLE
Posted at 4:37 PM, Jul 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-05 20:50:54-04

CLEVELAND — There are plenty of activities for children in downtown Cleveland over the next few days, with Major League Baseball's Play Ball Park and free summer activities at Public Square. But for children living downtown, there are fewer options for places to play on a daily basis.

There are no playgrounds in downtown Cleveland right now, according to the Downtown Cleveland Alliance (DCA), but Joe Marinucci, the organization's president and CEO, said the Alliance is working with Ward 3 city councilman Kerry McCormack and other local organizations to change that.

Marinucci said the organization has invested a lot into green spaces in the downtown area, from Public Square to Perk Plaza, "but our challenge really is to create more playground spaces, especially for young children."

As new construction continues in downtown Cleveland, the population continues to grow. Marinucci said there are currently 17,500 to 18,000 downtown residents, and that number is expected to reach about 20,000 by the end of next year, with the potential of 30,000 total residents in the next seven to 10 years.

According to a 2016 U.S. Census update, Marinucci said, about 1,000 of the residents in downtown Cleveland were children under age 14 years old.

"What we’re finding is people are staying in downtown longer," Marinucci said. "Either they’re getting married or have a partner, and they’re bringing children into downtown."

That means demand is increasing for playgrounds, and it's an issue Marinucci said downtown residents are hoping to address.

Cleveland playgrounds
PHOTO: Downtown residents are hoping for playgrounds to be built in their neighborhood, like there are in other city neighborhoods.

"I think they look at it as an opportunity and a challenge," Marinucci said. "Obviously, they know living in a downtown environment, you’ve got other amenities that make it obviously attractive, so the key now is to work with them now to take this next step."

Marinucci said while this project is still in the planning phase, organizations such as DCA, the Downtown Cleveland Residents Association and City Advocates are working to bring two playgrounds to the downtown area. One would be a traditional playground with swings and slides, while the other, in connection with LAND studio, would be more of a "playscape," incorporating educational design elements along with recreation.

The playgrounds are estimated to cost about $100,000 each, so Marinucci said in addition to grassroots fundraising, the organizations would likely need to secure money from sponsors or from a foundation. The goal is to break ground on the playgrounds later this year and finish them by the end of the year.

Robert Fellabaum of Parma spent Friday downtown with his son Jake, who turns four in August. Fellabaum said he used to live downtown before having kids.

"When she got pregnant, we moved out," Fellabaum said.

Among the reasons he listed for their move were a lack of babysitters and things to do for children, as well as safety. While his family is settled in the suburbs now and likely wouldn't move back downtown, Fellabaum said he thought playgrounds downtown were a good idea.

"I think it would be nice if kids had something to do downtown, other than a splash pad [in Public Square]," Fellabaum said. "Some more stuff like that, cause there is a lot of kids and a lot of young families down here now."

Jermaine Poage, who works downtown and lives on Cleveland's east side, agreed. He said he was grateful his own neighborhood had playgrounds for his son.

"You look back from my days until right now, it’s great, it’s nice," Poage said. "It could be better. Don't get me [wrong]. Everywhere could be better, though. But it’s nice."

He and his son, Tremaine Stephens-Poage, said they would like to see some playgrounds downtown as well.

"This place is amazing already," Stephens-Poage said of the downtown neighborhood. "So if they built a playground, I know they’re gonna build one really good."