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Tremont neighbors worry development could obstruct scenic Towpath view

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Posted at 8:10 AM, Mar 07, 2023

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Neighbors and visitors to the Towpath on the edge of Cleveland’s historic Tremont neighborhood are raising concerns about possible development encroaching on the scenic route.

Developers are considering transforming a former rail yard turned asphalt plant into an area with mixed residential and retail space. Though no formal plans have been publicized, some worry the height of such a project could damage the Towpath’s charm.

“This is the entertainment for everybody who transits through the towpath. So I don’t see why they should be blocking the view of the city,” said Christian Scholz, who lives along what used to be University Road before it was turned into the Towpath.

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Some of Scholz’s neighbors recently placed signs in their yards, with calls to “Save the Scenic Towpath” and a QR code linking to an online petition with more than 900 signatures as of Monday evening.

“I do not mind more development,” said Scholz. “What I do mind, I’m afraid of the height of the development because that’s the main reason the towpath was created - because of the view of the city.”

The Towpath Trail extends nearly 100 miles from Canal Basin Park in Downtown Cleveland, south to New Philadelphia in Tuscarawas County. It traces the historic route carved by mules pulling canal boats through the Ohio and Erie Canals. The stretch along University Road in Tremont offers sweeping views of Downtown Cleveland, across the industrial valley along the Cuyahoga River.

“It’s a huge, huge amenity, I think. And the extension into Cleveland and the Canal Basin Park, and it extends for almost 100 miles. It’s a tremendous asset, I think, for the community,” said Andrea Hamre, who lives several blocks from Sokolowski’s overlook.

The land beneath the overlook, between the Towpath and the river from I-90 to West 3rd Street, has become the recent focus of developers looking to revitalize the Cuyahoga River Valley. During a January 20 Cleveland Planning Commission meeting, members heard a request from J Roc Development to change the zoning designation from industrial to use for future residential, retail, and maker space.

Many neighbors said they’re not opposed to redeveloping the land. Hamre and her husband said they support denser housing, especially in neighborhoods like Tremont with public access to other areas of the city.

“Taking advantage of some of this land just outside downtown could make more of the city accessible to more residents,” said Hamre.

Her husband Dan McNulty added, “There’s nothing there, it’s just a hillside. And if they want to turn it into housing, I say go for it.”

A point of contention is how high any new development would be built. Originally, the developers requested to increase the height limit to 250 feet. During the January meeting, it requested to keep the height limit at its current 115 feet, which amounts to about 11 stories. Neighbors voiced concerns about a structure that tall potentially obstructing the view.

“Access to the front of our homes was taken away with the promise of a scenic towpath. It would be just like the city of Cleveland to go and blight the scenic towpath by putting a towering structure over the towpath. We’d be pinned,” said petition creator Todd Gray during the January 20 Commission meeting.

He told News 5 Monday he also worried about such a scenario diminishing property values. Other neighbors said it’s just one of their concerns.

“Obviously, yes, I might lose the view. But I’m actually more concerned because this is public access. It’s for everybody,” said Scholz.

Any project that would be built on the land has yet to be conceived. The developers told News 5 that when they get closer to a design phase, they would weigh input and concerns from neighbors and Towpath users. Future development would require design review and vetting by the city.

The Cleveland Planning Commission recommended approval for the requested zoning change in January. Tuesday morning, Cleveland City Council’s Zoning-Development, Planning, and Sustainability Committee will discuss the site.

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