LORAIN, Ohio — Lorain Port and Finance Authority officials plus a team of architects and urban planners unveiled the much-anticipated design plans and renderings for a renovated and re-invigorated Black River Landing amphitheater and surrounding grounds.
Opened to the public in 2003, Black River Landing has become an institution in Lorain, hosting countless concerts that often draw thousands of attendees each Friday and Saturday night in the summer. In many respects, the site has become a victim of its own successes, said Tom Brown, the president of the Lorain Port and Finance Authority.
“It’s become so popular and we’ve become a Friday and Saturday venue,” Brown said. “We, as a board of directors, decided that it was time to start thinking about our future.”
Last summer, the port authority board of directors heard presentations from architects and urban designers to reinvigorate the landing site with new amenities, including the addition of a green room, office, showers, a tech room and other useful spaces for crews and performers. The updated amphitheater would also need to have permanent sound equipment that is protected from the weather as well as permanent lighting.
The design team selected to lead the project includes Robert Maschke Architects, Realm Collaborative, Bialosky-Cleveland, and PCScompanies. Their winning proposal includes a large, geometrically-shaped permanent awning that envelops the stage below. Under the current plan, the stage would also be re-oriented more to the northern edge of the property, giving spectators clean sight lines to the Black River and the Charles Berry Bridge.
The team’s proposal also takes it a step further.
Using unique urban design features that feature buildings with angled, grass-covered roofs similar to those at Malls B and C in downtown Cleveland, there would be a strong link between the historic Broadway district in downtown Lorain to Black River Landing. The connection to Broadway would take the place of what is now a parking lot.
The path would lead past the existing train depot and other pavilions.
“It’s really an urban design project that has some tangible build structures,” said architect Robert Maschke. “ think this is a great front lawn to the community. It really connects an underutilized asset in the waterway but also an underutilized asset in Broadway. Hopefully we can reinvigorate both.”
Brian Bernstein of Realm Collaborative said the updated Black River Landing aims to fully take advantage of the unique and desirable public assets that both the landing and the Broadway districts are. Additionally, Bernstein said it provides a more seamless connection to the Black River waterfront.
“My hope is that they are both playing off of each other. You come to downtown Lorain to have dinner but now you can walk down to the waterfront easily and more intuitively,” Bernstein said. “You start to see civic art and public art along the way. Vice versa, you come downtown for an event but you can easily walk up to Broadway and shop some of the businesses there and feel like you’re part of a bigger destination.”
Brian Hazelett, an every-weekend kind of visitor at Black River Landing, said he was left cautiously optimistic about the plan.
“I can see how the old stage can be improved but this if this is something that could work, I’m open to it,” Hazelett said. “Black River Landing brings people together. I take my family down there. My friends and I meet up there. It’s a nice family-friendly area.”
Although the total cost of the project has not been completely finalized, Brown said the initial phase, which includes the construction of the new stage and other amenities, is in the ballpark of $5 million. The price, however, can fluctuate almost weekly because of supply chain constraints, he said.
Additionally, Brown isn’t just looking to secure financing for the first phase of the project but also the all important connection to Broadway, the price of which has not been determined.
“I think if we believe in this and we have the right energy and everybody gets together between corporate, public, private — and that’s what port authorities do best: bring all those together — we’re going to get there,” Brown said.