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Part of Circle Square street design gets final green light as The Artisan goes up

Posted at 9:00 AM, Sep 12, 2021

CLEVELAND — While The Artisan rises on the corner of Chester Avenue and Stokes Boulevard, Cleveland is starting to get a better idea of what the "Circle Square” community will look like from the sidewalk.

Renderings show what the street scape will look like in Circle Square, with designated places for people to sit and groups to gather while preserving a lot of room to walk on the sidewalk.

Circle Square is the name for a series of new construction projects along Stokes Boulevard between Euclid and Chester avenues. Fenway Manor will stay where it is, but will be surrounded by a new Cleveland Public Library Branch, underneath the Library Lofts, next to a 23-story apartment high-rise, potentially all across the street from a 13-story office building to be built later.

The Streetscape

“This is a big, unprecedented project in the City of Cleveland,” said Urban Designer Paul Volpe during the Planning Commission meeting. “We have arrived in the place where we can knit it into the city utilizing the public realm as the connective tissue.”

The Artisan is under construction at the corner of Stokes and Chester, planning on bringing many more residents to the relatively-sleepy University Circle corner.

Stokes Boulevard will become the main street in the new community, passing through the middle of the new buildings.

Curbs will be extended banking streets easier to cross. Streets will be shrunken, giving more room to expand sidewalks, creating features for pedestrians, residents, and office workers in the area.

Road infrastructure meant to make cars move through University Circle faster will be removed around Stokes Boulevard, allowing more room for features that will make pedestrians feel more welcome.

Volpe says the roughly 2,000 people he expects to be part of the the six buildings in the Circle Square community demand that the sidewalks and streetscape be designed to effectively and comfortably move them through the buildings.

The new designs effectively reverse years of urban planning designed to move vehicles as quickly as possible through the neighborhood.

Bumped-out curbs and extra space to walk will give people much more room around Circle Square once it's completed.

“There’s very little that’s right about what’s here now,” said Volpe. “Chester Avenue is a speed way. It’s still six lanes, but we’ve reestablished two intersections on Chester and MLK and Stokes.”

This September 2021 picture shows how Stokes Boulevard often looks since construction started nearby.

Site Design Group’s Cassandra Rice told the commission the sidewalk will be made out of bands of light and dark concrete with various gathering spaces at the corners and along the street for people to sit, eat, and work.

The Cleveland Public Library Branch will be moved around the corner underneath the Library Lofts on Euclid Avenue.

Wide sidewalks would be next to sidewalk “living rooms” that would be peppered with seating and pavers in different designs showing passersby that it's a place to rest. Other nodes in different sizes would be more welcoming for individual people and smaller groups.

Reserve Court

Today, Reserve Court is a little-used alleyway between Fenway Manor and the Cleveland Public Library’s Martin Luther King Jr. Branch. Volpe pointed out how small or no sidewalks, large walls with no windows, and dumpsters make it uninviting and often empty.

Renderings show how Reserve Court could one day be a focal point of the block with a street that could easily be turned into a plaza for events.

The new project would make Reserve Court a shared street, meaning it could accommodate vehicles when they need to use it, but could also easily transition into a plaza or extended pedestrian space when vehicles aren’t on it.

Reserve Court in 2021.

Planters would protect pedestrians from vehicles and shifts in the street design would make vehicles move through the space slowly.

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