A look back at 9 previous downtown Cleveland lakefront proposals that didn’t move ahead
CLEVELAND, Ohio — They were big, bold, and visionary. And they never made it from blueprint to reality.
Since the late 1980s, planners, developers, and civic organizations have come up with at least nine big plans for developing the downtown lakefront, including proposals about how to better connect downtown to Lake Erie. Yet downtown is still firmly separated from the water by the Ohio 2 Shoreway and rail lines used by Norfolk-Southern and the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority.
Here’s a list of the lakefront proposals, and what happened to them:
– The city’s 1988 Civic Vision 2000 Downtown Plan included Progressive Corp.’s proposal to build a lakefront skyscraper headquarters designed by architect Frank Gehry that would have risen next to an extension of the downtown Mall overlooking North Coast Harbor. Progressive dropped the idea and built its headquarters in suburban Mayfield.
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– A new downtown plan called “Civic Vision 2000 and Beyond’’ grew out of a closed-door process in 1997-98 led by executives of Cleveland Tomorrow, representing the city’s top corporate leaders. The plan included a concept for linking downtown more strongly to the lakefront. After a big rollout, it never gained momentum.
– In 2001, Cleveland Tomorrow and the Growth Association, then the city’s chamber of commerce, followed up with a concept called “The Shoreway: Reclaiming Our Lakefront’’ that aimed at revamping the lakefront highway to foster development between downtown and the lakefront. The proposal was the first to take a serious look at the issue.
– In 2004, the city completed its Waterfront District Plan, the biggest lakefront vision in 50 years. It was led by then-city planning director Chris Ronayne, working under former mayor Jane Campbell. (Ronayne is now the Democratic candidate for Cuyahoga County executive.) The plan called for extending the Mall over the Shoreway in a manner that anticipated a proposal like the 2021 Haslam proposal.
– A 2009 plan developed under then-mayor Frank Jackson, led by waterfront planner Stanton Eckstut, called for extensive redevelopment of lakefront land owned by the city and the Port of Cleveland, with new blocks oriented diagonally to deflect prevailing winds. A 2012 update included a spot for a pedestrian bridge from the Mall to North Coast Harbor.
– The 2010 Cleveland Design Competition, conceived by local architects, challenged contestants to figure out how to use a multi-modal transportation hub as a connector between downtown and the lakefront. Entries by more than two-dozen teams came from around the world. The ideas were visionary but failed to motivate action.
– In 2013, expanding on ideas from the Eckstut proposal in 2009, Cleveland developer Dick Pace and Texas-based developer Trammell Crow proposed widening the East Ninth Street bridge over the Shoreway with a parklike expansion and building a Mall extension slightly to the east of the one later proposed by the Haslams. The city didn’t approve of the idea, Pace said.
– In 2014-2016, the non-profit Group Plan Commission proposed an eye-catching, $25 million pedestrian bridge designed by Boston architect Miguel Rosales, to connect the Mall to the Rock Hall. After the estimated construction cost rose, the city rejected the concept as impractical and too expensive.
– A 2019 concept developed by the nonprofit Green Ribbon Coalition proposed extending the Mall as a wide “land bridge’’ oriented northeast toward North Coast Harbor. The concept stirred public interest, but the city stayed mum on it until Jackson said in 2021 that he liked the Haslam proposal, which he described as a “land bridge.”