CLEVELAND — A trial run to possibly turn a 300-foot section of Market Avenue in Ohio City into an urban park may have hit a snag after city officials have raised concerns about safety implications of having chairs, tables and other furniture in the middle of the street.
For the past month, part of Market Avenue has been closed off to vehicle traffic during a three month pilot program that’s exploring the idea of turning the street into a tree-lined park fit with café tables, chairs and even lawn games. Similar projects in other cities like Indianapolis have proven successful in turning the area into a pedestrian-friendly destination.
Some who live and visit the area said they have already noticed a positive difference.
“It just encourages people to mingle more. The restaurants seem like they are open between each other. There are no worries about cars coming across. It’s wide open. It’s more pedestrian friendly,” said Rodney Gisztle. “This is a great idea. It encourages people to get out and walk about. The last time I came here they were playing cornhole and there were picnic tables. It was great.”
The picnic tables, chairs and other furniture were removed Monday at the city’s request after officials raised concerns about safety. Latoya Hunter, a spokeswoman for Mayor Frank Jackson, said Ohio City Incorporated’s permit to close the portion of Market Avenue did not include the installation of furniture. Additionally, Hunter said there were concerns about how the furniture could create an obstruction for people needing to leave the area in the event of an emergency.
Hunter said Ohio City Inc. has been asked to submit an updated safety plan that includes more information as to the size, shape and placement of the furniture. Ohio City Inc. and other city officials will be discussing the issue at a meeting of the Special Events Steering Committee on Wednesday.
Residents like Delaney Yasenchack hope the furniture returns.
“I think they should put them back. It will really involve more people around here,” Yasenchack said. “It added a nice touch with more seating. It’s kind of hard to get into these restaurants sometimes at night.”