Cleveland Public Square’s continuing transformation

Concrete “jersey” barriers were removed from Downtown Cleveland’s Public Square today in a ceremonial start to the construction of the Superior Crossing Project to improved pedestrian safety on Cleveland’s central commons (Michael Collier). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM.

Superior Crossing kicked off; jersey barriers kicked out

Construction started today on the Group Plan Commission’s Superior Crossing Project with a ceremonial farewell to the unpopular and infamous concrete barriers that have stood on Public Square since its major reconstruction eight years ago. But for the next three months, that means some traffic reroutes, bus detours and transit stop relocations to learn.

The City of Cleveland, in partnership with The Group Plan Commission kicked off the project with a groundbreaking ceremony of sorts featuring the removal of the “jersey” barriers from Public Square. The project is the latest phase of transforming Public Square and is expected to be completed in late June.

Once finished, the renovations will provide increased safety, enhanced mobility, and improved aesthetics for pedestrians, cyclists, and transit so that residents and visitors can better access and utilize this key area of Downtown Cleveland, according to city, county and community development leaders. However, concerns about safety remain.

“Today is finally the day we get to turn the lights off on the concrete barriers and bench them for good – just in time before thousands of visitors make their way here for next weekend’s Final Four and Solar Eclipse events,” said Mayor Justin Bibb in a written statement.

The Bibb Administration moved quickly upon taking office proposing legislation in March 2022 that was passed by City Council and provided $1.5 million in funding for removal, repair, and redesign work. The remaining funds necessary for the project were secured within nine months of the city’s catalytic investment.

Fourteen Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority bus routes and stops on those routes will be rerouted and relocated in and near Downtown Cleveland’s Public Square for the next three months during the Superior Crossing Project (GCRTA).

“It has been a bumpier road than we originally thought, but I’m extremely grateful to those who provided funding and am happy to deliver on this campaign promise that will improve the People’s Park so that everyone in our city will be able to better access this great asset,” Bibb said.

Safety remains a concern after two shootings occurred since last fall on the square. Announced in February, a grant from the Project for Public Spaces will be used to construct and support a physical hub for the Downtown Cleveland Inc.’s Clean and Safe staff and supplies to foster community interaction, add regular staff presence, ease access to event supplies, and provide visitor resources. The goal is to improve safety and cleanliness of Public Square.

Cuyahoga County contributed more than $1 million to the Superior Crossing Project and the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) contributed $500,000 towards the project. Additional funds were provided by the KeyBank Foundation, Gund Foundation, Bedrock, Rocket Mortgage, Cleveland Cavaliers, Jack Entertainment, Sherwin-Williams, and K&D Group.

“Public Square holds immense significance for our residents and visitors, the City of Cleveland and the region,” said Cuyahoga County Executive Chris Ronayne. “This project will complete the vision of Public Square as a premier public space that welcomes pedestrians and transit riders and celebrates our history.”

Once funding was in place, the city worked with the Group Plan Commission early last year to refine design details that considered underground utilities, public safety, mobility and aesthetics. In May 2023, the City Planning Commission signed off on final plans to remove the concrete barriers and replace them with new security bollards and a retractable Raptor system for special events.

Flatbed trucks on Downtown Cleveland’s Public Square await the earthmovers’ (at left) placement of the jersey barriers on their trailers so the barriers can be carted away. The presence of those barriers on the square by the previous mayoral administration of Frank Jackson was a source of disdain for many who visited Public Square following its 2016 renovation (Michael Collier).

The project also calls for shared lane markings for bicyclists and a new raised “tabletop” crosswalk — the first of its kind in Cleveland — in the center of the block to facilitate safe and intuitive pedestrian flow between the northern and southern portions of Public Square while maintaining bus operations.

“Public Square is not only the front door for Downtown Cleveland, but it is RTA’s number one transfer location for buses and rapid transit trains: approximately 5,000 transfers daily,” said GCRTA General Manager and Chief Executive Officer India Birdsong Terry. “The modifications (removal of the barriers) will enhance operational efficiency and minimize impact to our customers.”

The Group Plan Commission is the project team responsible for delivering the project on behalf of the City and consists of the original architects, engineers, contractors and project managers who understand the complexities of constructing permanent barriers, with knowledge of the existing underground infrastructure. Removal requires surgical precision to ensure utilities below the surface are not damaged.

“Group Plan Commission is pleased to steward this project to completion,” said Sanaa Julien, CEO of The Group Plan Commission. “We’re proud to work with our partners in Downtown Cleveland to ensure our vision of an 18-hour, 15-minute City is realized. This is the next step in the process towards achieving that goal.”

The finalized plan is a product of more than a dozen small group coordinating sessions, multiple site visits, and careful review of eight design alternatives. Post-Covid supply chain issues prevented construction from beginning last year.


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