CLEVELAND — The City of Cleveland is trying to bridge the city’s past to the present with a proposal to recreate a pedestrian bridge that was similar to the one that connected the downtown to the lakefront during the 1936 and 1937 Great Lakes Exhibition.
The city applied for the project on March 26 and asked The Ohio Department of Transportation for $6.5 million to design the land bridge from Mall C to North Coast Harbor on the waterfront. The city has needed, and discussed, such a connection, for decades.
The application said, “the scope of the project will provide new and improved access to the lakefront through the elimination of barriers for a pedestrian bridge to be constructed, enabling safe pedestrian movement to the lakefront and reestablishing a city street grid.”
Statement from Director of the Department of Building and Housing for the City Ed Rybka:
The City of Cleveland is taking an important step to improve how our citizens access the Lakefront.
The construction of a land bridge will enhance the pedestrian connection between the downtown walls and North Coast Harbor, the Lakefront attractions and Lake Erie’s shoreline.
The request for State funds is necessary to conduct essential preliminary engineering analysis of a pedestrian bridge and to understand the impact on our street and highway transportation system.
The design shows the bridges would extend north from Mall C, which is the area of green space between Cleveland City Hall and the old courthouse.
The Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) said it “looked forward to the opportunity to maximize TRAC (Transportation Review Advisory Council) program dollars for this project toward achieving a safe, multimodal and well maintained transportation system.”
Green Ribbon Coalition (GRC), a nonprofit aimed at building public consensus on innovative lakefront projects, first published renderings in 2019 of a land bridge concept that would connect the mall to North Coast Harbor, further expanding existing green space near the lakefront. The bridge proposed would go over the existing railroad tracks near the mall, similar to the temporary bridge built during the exposition.
Dick Clough, executive director and founder of GRC, formed the nonprofit on the premise that the lakefront belongs to the people and has been an advocate for more connection and accessibility to the lakefront.
“I had the idea the metaphor is really a ribbon of green on the lakefront. You know, we should be building on the bluffs and we should have more amenities, more connections to the water, you know, more parks in the water and so forth,” said Clough.
Previous plans to connect downtown to the lakefront included placing a train station at the north end of the mall. That idea evaporated after voters chose to place the Cleveland Union Terminal off of Public Square, the current home of the Tower City Center, said Clough.
In 1936 and 1937, the Great Lakes Exposition extended from the mall to Municipal Stadium, which was built on reclaimed land between East 9th and West 3rd streets, and from there eastward, on 135 acres near the lakefront.
Other ideas that have floated around included an iconic cable-stayed footbridge designed by Boston architect Miguel Rosales.
Clough said Cleveland can learn from other cities who are hiding infrastructure like railways while working to connect city centers to their waterfronts. He points to places like Chicago, St. Louis and Philadelphia, whicj have done similar projects.
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