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Cleveland: Public Square Redesign

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The traffic in Market Square is limited to one lane North/South and one lane East/West... and it is brick paved.  Open to traffic, yes, friendly to traffic... not quite.  Sweet public space... most definately!

 

MarketSq1.jpg

 

^One of four quadrants.

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The thing about Market Square is that you aren't talking about two major through streets like Ontario and Superior. A comparable scenario in Pittsburgh would be placing Market Square in the center of a hypothetical Liberty Ave. and Grant Ave. intersection. I can assure you it wouldn't be quite so sweet if that were the case.

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I think the better lesson from Federal Plaza is that if the space doesn't work, don't be afraid to try and fix it.  Can't see how its failure as a pedestrian space (a very different type of pedestrian space than a unified PS would be) has much bearing on public square.

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The connection I think is that if you take a space that is poorly used by pedestrians, and then cut out the cars as well, you end up with a space that feels abandoned, and therefore dangerous. 

 

I've also heard it postulated that most people like to be able to drive to their destination when they aren't familiar with it even if they can't park right there, check it out to see the lay of the land, and then park.

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The thing about Market Square is that you aren't talking about two major through streets like Ontario and Superior. A comparable scenario in Pittsburgh would be placing Market Square in the center of a hypothetical Liberty Ave. and Grant Ave. intersection. I can assure you it wouldn't be quite so sweet if that were the case.

 

Well if Public Square is going to be a pedestrian place, something will have to be done about the traffic.  Open it up at rush hour and close it off at other times.  People are not going to want to hang out amidst a torrent of cars.

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The connection I think is that if you take a space that is poorly used by pedestrians, and then cut out the cars as well, you end up with a space that feels abandoned, and therefore dangerous. 

 

I've also heard it postulated that most people like to be able to drive to their destination when they aren't familiar with it even if they can't park right there, check it out to see the lay of the land, and then park.

 

Yeah, I know, I understand the basic purported connection, but just don't see the connection here.  No-one is proposing completely removing cars from public square- they would be permitted along it's entire perimeter, in front of all the buildings.  And by diverting them to the edges, motorists would be forced to see more of the square than they see now zooming through the middle. 

 

I just find it very difficult to believe that a unified public square, if properly maintained and provided with amenities, would not be much much much more popular/pleasant than the traffic islands there today.

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^why couldn't we just create a traffic circle around the square?  Is there so much traffic passing through the square that a traffic circle isn't feasible?  Eliminating just a few lanes of traffic feels a little like being half-pregnant to me.

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I believe that there will be a push to at least eliminate some lanes from the square. One of the biggest problems will be working through the federal guidelines. The same headaches that elongated the Detroit-Superior bikeway project are in effect for Public Square.  This project would take a lot of creative thinking and a lot of persuasive talking to the different stakeholders.  Before we start to put pencil to paper, we should think about the roles that we want our two large public spaces (Malls and PS) to play in the development of downtown.

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The difference between pedestrian prominades (re: Federal Plaza's failure) and Pubilc Square is just that Public Square, in essence, SHOULD be a complete square (with social functions, etc) while Federal Plaza is a commercial district. 

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Yikes, I don't like the sound of the federal guidelines.  The DS bridge bikeway was a real nail-bighter.  Hopefully widening the peripheral roadways could be enough to placate the bureaucrats.

 

Good point about discussing the roles of downtown's big public spaces.  I think Public Square really should be the 100% spot of downtown and the region and, accordingly, should be lavished with attention, love and $.  It's a fantastic repository of the many layers of the city's history but should also be the social cross-roads/living room/event space and an urban park.  There's room for it all (fun fact: public square is larger than wade oval).

 

Not sure what do with the Malls other than take photos of beautiful public buildings across them...Dare I say it, I think the group plan was over-scaled and, is thus overrated...

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  I have to agree with the idea that streets should be eliminated THROUGH public square.  That area is basically the epicenter of the ctiy and brings both sides of downtown together.  Mall "C" looks nice but is very sterile and isn't really used that much.  North of Mall "C" is ex mayor Jane's idea of a GOOD idea..but it really isn't.  That is a park space close to nothing at all.  It is a waste of space....not close to any major residential areas, most businesses aren't close, and it is too far from the bars for the panhandlers to set up camp....but hey, it's right next to city hall!  At least in about 10 to 15 years the trees will be big enough for the Browns fans to stop and piss on after the game as they pass through from the stadium!

I say make it like a Bryant Park in NYC, or maybe even a Millenium Park in Chitown...

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i think public square needs a giant metalic jellybean... or a giant stamp... ya know what i mean... it needs some awesome public art and not any of that "artsy" ornate fencing or arch crap, something on a major installation scale would be great. 

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I say close down the streets once in a while on a trial basis.  Try some daytimes, some evenings, some weekends.  Do minor events maybe during lunch hour - stick a few vendors out there, maybe a band or some entertainment - and observe what happens.  Then the planners will have a better idea of where people do or don't gravitate, whether traffic is an issue, etc.

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My first impression was to route all through traffic around the square like they do in Philadelphia at Rittenhouse Square.  But then I thought about the way that traffic hits Rittenhouse and it's much different.  The buses may fare well, but the automobile traffic would just be a mess.  Then again, the traffic is only significant during peak hours.  So, now I'm thinking that I like the idea of a rush hour "through" rule and an off-peak "around" rule.  It's not like there aren't enough alternatives for people who want to zip through Downtown.  Just move an avenue north or south or a street east or west and you won't have to deal with Public Square traffic at all!

 

And for the buses, I think this could be an opportunity to make the whole Downtown transit hub more easy to navigate and understand.  Maybe they could even find a spot to post a bus map and a scedule or two!

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What's with all the timidness about blocking traffic?  The day downtown's traffic is "a mess" by objective, non-Cleveland standards is the day those condo-tower seeds I planted 3 years ago in parking lots start sprouting (if only).  Our streets are a million lanes wide and spread in every direction; people could adjust to this change.  OK, I guess I could live with some trial runs like Oompa suggests, but I suspect steaming asphalt streets on a hot summer day aren't too tempting to hang out on even if the traffic is diverted.  I'd hate to see the whole idea killed because some half-assed experiment proved unsuccessful.

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after smelling the strong urine again this morning walking through the NE quadrant - even after crazy rains last night...and why isn't the fountain on?  it is the middle of June, not January...

 

I think 3 or 4 of these are in order.  Put one on public square, one in star plaza, one by rock hall/voinovich park, one near settlers landing, one in wade circle, etc.   Use the OneCommunity network to monitor their status, equip them with security cameras, whatever...

 

toilet.jpg

 

Here is a description from SF website:

http://www.sfgov.org/site/sfdpw_page.asp?id=32434

 

The Automatic Public Toilet Program was developed because of a growing civic concern about the lack of sufficient public toilet facilities in the City. The toilets cost a quarter to operate, are designed to automatically clean themselves after each use, and are fully accessible to people with disabilities. Free tokens distributed by various non-profit organizations are given to those that cannot afford the 25 cents entry fee. This program is operated at no cost to the City. In exchange for the toilets, the City allows the contractor to install public service/advertising kiosks on City sidewalks. Advertising revenue generated by the kiosks pays for the installation and maintenance of the toilets. Click here for a list of Self-Cleaning Public Pay Toilet Locations.

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Here's another beauty by Roldo.  He is getting more and more inaccurate:

 

RoldoLINK

Shallow Plan For Public Square

By Roldo Bartimole

 

 

“The square is a ‘sleeping giant,’ according to downtown Councilman Joe Cimperman.” So writes the Plain Dealer in an article entitled “Civic leaders envision revitalized Public Square.”

 

 

Cimperman has gone from a promising, bright, young and aggressive freshman Councilman to a sadly predictable politician. He lacks even the possible charm of a charlatan. It’s not all his fault. Reporters look for quotes to fit a need and Cimperman’s too accommodating.

 

 

The Public Square article represents a model example of how certain people and interests get their personal agendas before the public. Their pitch may have little relevance in the extensive list of public need. Its only distinction regards its proponents’ mostly self-interested desires.

 

 

When a politician makes such a trite remark as Cimperman did, you know the bullshit is already knee high. Check your wading pants if you are going downtown.

 

 

The article tries to hit every civic responsibility button imaginable to sell its bill of goods. Please check your wallet pocket and pocketbooks.

 

 

Not until the final couple of 39 paragraphs (and 90 inches of space, including photo and drawing), does some reality find life in the piece by Tom Breckenridge. (I don’t blame the reporter as much as the editors who assigned and allowed this pie-in-the-sky reportage to find public exposure.)

 

 

Near the end of the drawn out propaganda piece we learn that even City Planning Commission chair Tony Coyne – typically eager to support downtown corporate interests – cautioned about the city’s tight budget. County Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones, who also typically jumps aboard such civic propelled yearnings, also hit a bit skeptical tone.

 

 

However, the rest of the article smacks of a press release that should have been discarded on its way into the PD offices. News is not supposed to be someone’s PR dreaming.

 

 

That’s, however, what we get.

 

 

The project is described as making Public Square “hipper.”

 

 

Can you use a more un-chic phrase as “a hipper square?” That’s how this yearning is described. Someone is really reaching for superlatives to dress up a dog.

 

 

The article says, “A band of civic leaders says it is time to push for retail, dining and entertainment amenities that would make the square a destination.”

 

 

The names of proponents, however, indicate not “a band of civic leaders,” but a few of the same downtown trick artists: Ann Zoller, described as an “urban-park specialist, who once headed up ParkWorks, a worthy operation;” architect-developer Paul Volpe; and Joe Marinucci of the Downtown Partnership. These are people with a self-interest attached to their businesses and occupations.

 

 

The selling job is painful.

 

 

Zoller goes so far as to say in favor of redevelopment of Public Square, “You get people into public spaces, and the (homeless) problem takes care of itself.” Do they disappear into thin air, Zoller?

 

 

When you get that desperate for reasoning to do something, you apparently are into selling ice to Eskimos.

 

 

“A reconstructed square would generate nearly 4 million more visits a year, a 50 percent increase in use, the survey said. If every visitor spent just $5 at new businesses on the square that would spin an extra $20 million yearly into the downtown economy,” the article says.

 

 

How many times can you sell something tired downtown by claiming a doubling of visitors and millions of dollars in added revenue?

 

 

Please. This comes, it says, from a “study” of Case economics students. I’m told these were papers for credit by students. However, e-mails to the economics professor in charge for copies went unanswered. He may be on vacation, I’m told.

 

 

It also stated, “Residents would tolerate a county-wide tax of $10 a year, generating $5 million.” Well that’s easier said than done.

 

 

Volpe wants to be the big cheese for the project. Volpe is quoted saying, “We could do astounding things.” Public Square could be the “next big project,” he says.

 

 

He wants some $40 million in public investment.

 

 

What is Volpe proposing?

 

 

He suggests (remember on public land) retail business, a restaurant, ice rink and amphitheater. Does Volpe understand that Public Square sits in front of Tower City, which cannot keep its retail alive? We sure need to spend tax dollars for a restaurant to compete with all the downtown restaurants we already have. Another amphitheater? We have two in the Flats. Should we use public money to subsidize competition to them?

 

 

Does all this belong on public land, or as the article grandly calls it, “the iconic, nine-acre heart of downtown?”

 

 

Who is trying to fool whom with this?

 

 

Sounds to me as though Volpe wants another subsidized job.

 

 

Breckenridge - and the proponents - unfortunately, try to cover every possible base in the sales pitch.

 

 

Joe Marinucci of the Cleveland Downtown Partnership classically finds this exciting. That’s why he’s paid so well, $204,000 with some $18,000 in benefits and expenses in 2004. He worries about the lack of safety in the Square. So he proposes (with Cuyahoga County paying half of $300,000) “clean and safety patrols.”

 

 

“The ‘clean and safety’ program soon will hire a licensed social worker who will work to get homeless people off the streets. To discourage begging, the alliance will ask people to give to social service agencies rather than panhandlers, says Marinucci,” according to the article.

 

 

Now there is progress on the homeless program. Give your spare change to United Way.

 

 

A few years ago, the Plain Dealer tried to hold developers somewhat in check by demanding that assurance of financing accompany their grand announcements. Apparently, this policy is now kaput.

 

 

When you sell – and that’s what the PD is doing – these projects that may never come to fruition you simply undermine public confidence in the city’s ability to produce what it says it will do. When things do not happen though they get a big push off in the paper it damages people’s confidence.

 

What the Plain Dealer should be pushing around Public Square at this time is for Dick Jacobs to build the promised structures where the parking lot on the west side has sat unproductively for the last 15 years.

 

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While Roldo is dead on with the last paragraph, the rest of the article is crap.  He makes so many assumptions in this article and presents them as fact. 

 

By the way, Tony Coyne was pretty upset because his quote was completely taken out of context.

 

 

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Roldo's only idea is to force the development of the parking lot on the west side of the square?

 

Yeah, I'd love to see Jacob's build on that lot, but we can't exactly force someone to build a skyscraper.  Roldo's a dumbass.

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The theory I have developed regarding Public Square or any "public square" for that matter is that it doesn't really matter too much what is inside the square, rather than what is around its perimeter. First of all - you take any famous town Square in Europe and you will find that it is essentially just a large flat paved (or rather cobblestone) surface. There is hardly any landscaping, greenspace, amphitheaters, decoration, signage, etc. What makes European squares so great and vibrant are the buildings and pedestrian activity around the perimeter. Brussel's Grand Platz, Madrid's Plaza Mayor, or San Marco's in Venice are just a few examples that come to mind. Second of all - permanently closing a square off from automobile traffic doesn't exactly make it more vibrant. There are instances where squares open to traffic do just fine. People don't seem to avoid Times Square just because automobile traffic cuts through it.

 

I'm not opposed to making some of the proposed changes to Public Square, but some of the arguements for these changes I find flawed. You won't get people to just go hang around in Public Square by making all these changes. When the surrounding buildings and adjacent districts to Public Square improve; so will use and enjoyment of Public Square.

 

By the way, the shutting down of Ontario avenue in Public Square today revealed such a traffic calamity that it was ever permanently closed, then I doubt it could be tolerated on a year-round basis.

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The theory I have developed regarding Public Square or any "public square" for that matter is that it doesn't really matter too much what is inside the square, rather than what is around its perimeter.

 

An excellent point

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Vulp, I think you might be on to something with regards to amphitheaters, etc., but don't think any of Plaza Mayor, Grand Platz and Pza. San Marco are quadrisected by 6 lane roads.  Or even surrounded by busy roads for that matter.  And check out Boston's Government Plaza for one bad example of taking the European model too far (I'm not suggesting that is what you want but it is an interesting object lesson that Bostonians have been trying to change for years).

 

Yes, if Downtown's population exploded and retail cam flooding back to Euclid public square would be better used but not sure it would be a better space.

 

As for Time Squares, I don't know a single person, not one, who lives in NYC and thinks Times Square is anything but a tourist clogged hell-hole to be avoided at all costs.  This is not a knock on tourists- Times Square is a fascinating spectacle...but not something to emulate.

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I hung out in PSquare a little this week, and I think the biggest problem with it is all those streets make it incoherent. When you are on foot, you can't tell that there are four different portions of this place with their own flavor. Those streets break up it up too much. Forget adding the ampitheater and the rolleycosters or whatever (lol) and just work on those streets. It kills the whole vibe.

 

I do agree with the above, though. More development/business around it would help a lot. Walking by tonight in the dark, I was able to peek inside a bunch of buildings. There is one near the square on Euclid that has paintings hanging neatly inside, which looks nice during the day. At night, you can see the whole place inside is gutted. That was a little horrifying. And the Higby and May Company buildings bum me out because they are so cool. C'est la vie.

 

 

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^^Vulpster, you couldn't be more dead-on in your assessment, and why I'm lukewarm to all this (PD-spurred) Public Square redevelopment talk: a public sq in itself doesn't draw people, it's what's going on around it.  THAT'S WHERE THE FOCUS SHOULD BE.  And you're also right about gaining instant insight/ a snapshot of a closed Ontario/southern Sq. half would be like: did you note the crush of traffic forced onto Prospect?  What a mess, particularly before/after those Indians-Yankees games... As I've said, elsewhere, if your going to talk about closing those arteries -- esp in the east-west, you either had better: a) beef up current Rapid service (including routing more buses into outer stations, and/or b) revisit the subject of an east-west subway through the Square, which could potentially eliminate all bus traffic through the area.

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There are opportunities for street level retail vacancies on Public Square right now that would be a good place to start:

 

The May Company Building - obviously

The street level retail space of the Renaissance Hotel building

Numerous space available on Ontario St.

The possiblitly of altering the BP Atrium.

The parking lot on Public Square.

 

I do agree that the quadrants are in a state of disconnect that should be adressed. To connect them I'd like to see the outer edges connected with a unified walkway similar to that of the pedestrian portion of Las Ramblas in Barcelona. The walkway would be set in from the street a little with a tree-lined buffer, and have benches, permenant tables and seating, and vendor stands.

 

1c-Ramblas1.jpg

 

View_from_the_balcony_of_our_hostel_This_is_Las_Ramblas_We_were_right_on_the_main_drag.jpg

 

80355-Las-Ramblas-1.jpg

 

barcelona-las-ramblas-08.jpg

 

Las_Ramblas_5.jpg

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^^Wow, that'd be awesome! Let's do it!

 

Did anyone else attend the orchestra's free performance on PS Friday? I attended for the first few hours after work as a volunteer and then switched over to "civilian mode" to enjoy the music. This helped me better see it as the true heart of Cleveland.

 

Wasn't it so amazing to see all the people filing out of Tower City coming off the Rapid? And then when it was all over and the sidewalks were full as people walked back to the Rapid and their cars, I felt that vibrant "city" feeling. The restaraunts and ice cream store were open late. The lights were on in storefronts. Friday night made me so happy to be living and working here. I  actually listened to the performance and watched the fireworks from the monument. It was stunning. I think it might be my favorite "urban" experience ever. It reminded me of the July 4 fireworks in NYC, but less insane and more relaxing and fun.

 

What I don't understand is, how people could sit and listen to that wonderful music and see that stunning architecture and experience a vibrant, thriving Cleveland and then get in their cars and not come back for months.

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^^Wow, that'd be awesome! Let's do it!

 

Did anyone else attend the orchestra's free performance on PS Friday?

 

I wasn't at the performance, but I went to the Tribe game and Flannery's afterward. The combination of those two events had downtown going crazy. My friends and I sat outside to eat and there were just people and cars everywhere. I think it's one of  the naturally busiest times I've ever seen downtown Cleveland. Amazing!

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I showed up right at the beginning of the fireworks.  It was definitely a good night for downtown.  I can't wait for Ingenuity.

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^^Vulpster, you couldn't be more dead-on in your assessment, and why I'm lukewarm to all this (PD-spurred) Public Square redevelopment talk: a public sq in itself doesn't draw people, it's what's going on around it.  THAT'S WHERE THE FOCUS SHOULD BE.   And you're also right about gaining instant insight/ a snapshot of a closed Ontario/southern Sq. half would be like: did you note the crush of traffic forced onto Prospect?  What a mess, particularly before/after those Indians-Yankees games... As I've said, elsewhere, if your going to talk about closing those arteries -- esp in the east-west, you either had better: a) beef up current Rapid service (including routing more buses into outer stations, and/or b) revisit the subject of an east-west subway through the Square, which could potentially eliminate all bus traffic through the area.

 

So what happened to Ontario that it had to be closed [i promise it wasn't me doing live testing of my unified PS dream]?  How messy was it?  I'd like to think that traffic chaos could be avoided if drivers actually anticipated the streets through PS being closed but maybe I'm wrong.

 

I think everyone agrees that the edges of PS and the neighborhood in general need a lot more action, but I don't think it's really an alternative to improving the square itself-maybe something that should happen together (certainly there is some synergy there, no?).  I'm not big on the PD-style improvements either but I guess it's because I see them as too timid and little trite.

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I have to think that if there were an alternative that people KNEW about, then traffic wouldn't be a big deal.  A lot of people coming into the city have no idea of the construction and traffic patterns during that time.  "Traffic" in Cleveland is a joke anyway...it is not a bige deal here.  I DOUBT that closing off the square to any traffic is going to spell dooms day for the city.  I have read of tying in the shoreway all the way to the square and using subway UNDER the square....which sounds great...but we are dealing with Cleveland, RTA, and ODOT....so that most likely will never happen.  Why not redirect traffic around the square?  not a BIG deal

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^^Wow, that'd be awesome! Let's do it!

 

Did anyone else attend the orchestra's free performance on PS Friday?

 

I wasn't at the performance, but I went to the Tribe game and Flannery's afterward. The combination of those two events had downtown going crazy. My friends and I sat outside to eat and there were just people and cars everywhere. I think it's one of  the naturally busiest times I've ever seen downtown Cleveland. Amazing!

Hey, I was sitting outside at Flannery's after the fireworks too.  Downtown Friday night was very cool.

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^^Wow, that'd be awesome! Let's do it!

 

Did anyone else attend the orchestra's free performance on PS Friday?

 

I wasn't at the performance, but I went to the Tribe game and Flannery's afterward. The combination of those two events had downtown going crazy. My friends and I sat outside to eat and there were just people and cars everywhere. I think it's one of  the naturally busiest times I've ever seen downtown Cleveland. Amazing!

Hey, I was sitting outside at Flannery's after the fireworks too.  Downtown Friday night was very cool.

 

And I must have walked right by both of you on my way home without recognizing either of you.  Sorry.

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