In Shaker Heights, being outdoors doesn't have to mean being off the grid--thanks to something called a "smart bench."
Hildana Park, on Chagrin Boulevard west of Lee Road, is now equipped with seating that offers more than just a place to rest. The new smart bench, called Soofa, offers WiFi access and a phone charging station while you take a load off.
The solar-powered bench can sit three people and charge two devices. The city says the smart bench is the first-of-its-kind in Ohio.
“Shaker Heights is a progressive community keeping an eye on the demand for today’s technology,” said City Council Member Anne Williams, chair of the Neighborhood Revitalization Committee. “Expanding connectivity into a public park seemed like a great place to get the ball rolling.”
Building a bench
The bench comes as a result of work completed by students in the Shaker Heights school system who participated in the "Making Our Own Space" workshop hosted by the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative. Students were responsible for identifying issues in their community and noting areas of opportunity.
Hildana Park was identified due to lack of seating. In 2016, the students began creating bench prototypes to fit the park. After traditional seating was addressed, Soofa was the next step.
"(Soofa benches) are also part of a larger city initiative, Moreland Rising, which seeks to equip this storied neighborhood with the tools needed to address the challenges of the 21st century," said Victoria Blank, Director of communications and marketing for Shaker Heights.
According to Soofa's website, 65 cities across the country have already put Soofa benches in community spaces.
Hildana Park: 15950 Chagrin Blvd.