Cleveland wins grants for Public Square, Ohio City public spaces

Downtown residents and visitors gather on Cleveland’s Public Square on Christmas Eve 2023 to take in the holiday lighting. With the weather too warm for the ice rink to be open, there was nothing else to do except walk around and take photographs. There were no performers, vendors or other ways for the visitors to interact with this public space at the heart of the city (KJP). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM.

$200,000 from General Motors awarded by nonprofit

A pair of $100,000 grants were awarded to improve two public spaces in Cleveland that are visited by people from throughout the metropolitan area and beyond. The grants were awarded by the New York City-based Project for Public Spaces from funding originally provided by the General Motors Corp. to offer more inclusive, welcoming environments.

One grant was provided to Downtown Cleveland Inc. to improve programming and maintenance of Public Square and the other was awarded to the City of Cleveland’s Planning Commission to re-envision a short stretch of West 29th Street in the Hingetown section of the Ohio City neighborhood. The latter effort could open the street to people by permanently closing the street to cars.

The grant to the City Planning Commission could re-imagine two blocks of West 29th, between Detroit and Clinton avenues, as an open street. Two blocks of this street have been regularly closed to vehicular traffic for several events throughout the year, and as the residential family population increases, the city, the community, and the local businesses have been exploring permanently closing these blocks to expand space for pedestrians and allow for more community uses.

“This grant provides a way to permanently reclaim space from cars to create streets for people, especially for our youngest Clevelanders,” said city Planning Director Joyce Huang.

Looking south on West 29th Street from Church Avenue in the heart of Ohio City’s Hingetown. This part of the street could be closed to car traffic the city and would like to gather public input on that proposal (PPS).

Graham Veysey, often dubbed the “mayor of Hingetown” and co-owner of Grammar Properties with his wife and architect Marika Shioiri-Clark, applauded the city winning the grant. While he is aware that some business owners have questions about possibly closing a portion of the street, he added that the grant will create a public involvement process to gather input from all stakeholders before any decisions are made.

“There is a multi-month public engagement period for this, a multi-month design refinement phase for this, and there has been enthusiastic support from the majority of neighbors,” he said in text messages to NEOtrans. “Having a focus on safe public spaces for kids was something Mayor (Justin) Bibb campaigned on and this is an example of clear delivery of that promise.”

One of the largest and most actives businesses in that area is Saucy Brew Works, co-owned by CEO Brent Zimmerman. He concurred with Veysey and said he welcomed the possibility of permanently closing two blocks of the street to cars and parking. “Heavily in favor,” Zimmerman said in an e-mail to NEOtrans.

A multi-family development is proposed along this stretch of West 29th called 2828 Clinton. NEOtrans broke the story that TurnDev and BEK Developers of Beachwood are proposing about 220 apartments and 223 parking spaces on a vacated property previously owned and operated by the Cleveland Vibrator Co. If built, the residents of this development would provide even more foot traffic for area businesses, backers said.

peaceful summer evening in downtown Cleveland

Families spend time on Public Square in the summer to eat, play in the fountain or ride bikes. But more needs to be done to host community activities here. A grant from the Project for Public Spaces is intended to help address that (Public Square-Group Plan).

In Downtown Cleveland, its grant from the Project for Public Spaces will be used to construct and support a physical hub for maintenance staff and supplies to foster community interaction, add regular staff presence, ease access to event supplies, and provide visitor resources. The location of this staff and storage hub for Public Square hasn’t yet been identified.

“This Community Placemaking Grant from Project for Public Spaces allows us to make Public Square a more welcoming place with frequent programming,” Michael Deemer, president and CEO of Downtown Cleveland, Inc. said in a written statement. “Improvements like this foster an 18-hour, 15-minute city center that attracts jobs, residents and investment.”

Funds will also be used to promote collaboration with residents to identify future physical investments that encourage community ownership of space and spontaneous interaction among residents, workers and visitors. And the funds will be used to simplify financial and legal barriers for community groups to get city permits for community programs and events.

“The Community Placemaking Grant from Project for Public Spaces signifies a vital step forward in Downtown Cleveland, Inc.’s vision of creating a connected, inclusive downtown core,” Deemer added. “Public Square serves as a central gathering point, and its continued revitalization will have a ripple effect on the entire city.”


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