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Cleveland: Public Square Redesign

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OK, I know lists are highly subjective... In its December newsletter, the Project for Public Spaces didn't include Cleveland's Public Square in its list of best public squares in the U.S. and Canada. But, after looking at pictures of those that did make the list, I can see why Cleveland's doesn't make the grade.

 

Here's a link to an article about the list:

 

http://www.pps.org/info/newsletter/december2005/us_canada_squares

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To be completely honest, Campus Martius does not belong in the Top 12 either as functionally it attracts people yet only because it's "newish" and has an Au Bon Pain (okay, the last part is a joke).  It's almost a scattering of different ideas surrounded by a 4 lane traffic circle.

 

I'm surprised Dupont Circle isn't on that list, as it has one of the best public spaces in the country.

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Agreed.  Dupont kicks the hell out of Campus Martius and Rockefeller Center.  How many other places can you win big (or lose your ass) playing high-stakes "speed" chess?  LOL

The park in front of the Ontario Parliament building in Toronto is pretty damn nice too, although I'm not sure one could consider it a "square".  Where the hell is the Boston Common, though!  Come on!

 

Public Square has a long way to go, unfortunately.  Too much accommodation for the Holy Automobile, IMHO which tends to run contrary to pleasant green spaces.   

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That plus the surrounding land uses are unsupportive and volunteers from different charitable groups turn our City's Living Room into an open air soup kitchen on a nightly basis.

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To be completely honest, Campus Martius does not belong in the Top 12 either as functionally it attracts people yet only because it's "newish" and has an Au Bon Pain (okay, the last part is a joke).  It's almost a scattering of different ideas surrounded by a 4 lane traffic circle.

 

I'm surprised Dupont Circle isn't on that list, as it has one of the best public spaces in the country.

 

i'm not saying campus martius should be top 12 either, but based on experience, and discussion with locals, the "newish" quality has worn off, and people actually return for a myriad of reasons (free concerts daily, festivals, ice skating, green space for lunch, etc.)

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i'm not saying campus martius should be top 12 either, but based on experience, and discussion with locals, the "newish" quality has worn off, and people actually return for a myriad of reasons (free concerts daily, festivals, ice skating, green space for lunch, etc.)

 

That's another good point.  Outside of a few large events, Public Square isn't really programmed at all.  Small concerts on the weekends or a market of some sort would make it much better.

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i'm not saying campus martius should be top 12 either, but based on experience, and discussion with locals, the "newish" quality has worn off, and people actually return for a myriad of reasons (free concerts daily, festivals, ice skating, green space for lunch, etc.)

 

That's another good point.  Outside of a few large events, Public Square isn't really programmed at all.  Small concerts on the weekends or a market of some sort would make it much better.

 

almost forgot too: Part of the endowment for CMP is for "security" which serves a two purposes: answering questions and more importantly; ushering out all homeless/panhandlers

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Oh, we don't usher the homeless out.  Oh no.  We have suburbanites drive in from Westlake who feed them on the Public Square so that they keep coming back.  I always want to ask them if they would do that in their neighborhood park, but I've never been cold blooded enough to do so.

 

Better yet, one of these days I should rent a bus and buy some hotdogs.  I'll pick up all the guys sleeping on the benches of Public Square, get them in the bus, and take them out to Cahoon Park in Bay Village for a "picnic".  Once everyone has had their fill of lips and assholes, they will all look up and say to each other "where did that X guy go with our bus?" and then "I told you never to get in a vehicle with a man named 'X'. "

 

But I won't.

 

But I wanna.

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Colday and DaninDC, I take it you both have been to Campus Martius Park?  I think it is much too early to say that the only reason Cmart attracts people is because it is "newish".  That is a specious statement.

 

While I'm not so sure that the park is one of the 12 best on the entire continent, it has done a phenomenal job of bringing a very diverse crowd back into the heart of downtown Detroit.  Also the investment and development surrounding the park on all sides will ensure the park's success into the future.

 

As for Cleveland's public spaces, I think they are on par with Detroit's other downtown parks as far as what purpose they serve.  Public Square is nice and framed by downtown's spectacular architecture of the Terminal, Key, and BP towers but there isn't anything there to draw in the masses on a regular basis.  The malls are nice but likewise have no big draw.  Voinovich Park and Rotary Plaza were pretty busy when I visited, being surrounded by the tourist traps.

 

There is no reason downtown Cleveland can't have it's own version of Campus Martius Park, if god-forsaken Detroit can create such a place, than nearly any American city could.

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I posted my comments in an earlier thread about Public Square http://www.urbanohio.com/forum2/index.php?topic=2541.msg23948#msg23948

 

I said it before, I'll say it again - if you find Public Square "nearly impossible to reach by foot", you are obviously crippled and lack any sort of assistance (walker, wheelchair, etc.). It kills me that people equate 'pedestrian friendly' with 'ease of jaywalking'. Gee, sorry you can't just blindly amble into the street - guess that makes a place auto-centric!  :roll: For those who suggest totally closing Public Square to auto traffic, I strongly urge you to ask the city leaders of Youngstown why that's SUCH a great idea.

 

"We have suburbanites drive in from Westlake who feed them on the Public Square so that they keep coming back.  I always want to ask them if they would do that in their neighborhood park, but I've never been cold blooded enough to do so."

 

I'll go with you - if they want to help, they can volunteer at established food pantries, etc.

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I'm happy to say that I've been to most of those places and I agree with each of the ones they've listed there with perhaps only the exception of Rockefeller Center. 

 

Portland's Pioneer Square is fantastic...a multimodal transit hub, tourist center, great place to relax and well programmed.  It also has a handsome collection of historic architecture and is well maintained!

 

I might put Bryant Park on the top of the list, as it creates the most dramatic oasis of peace and quiet amongst the Times Square/Midtown madness.  Also, extremely well programmed and maintained.

 

It's also interesting to note that Washington Square in NYC is slated for a major remodeling and "renovation."  I worry about what this will do to the organic nature of much of the activities that make this place so attractive.  I know they've had more problems there than many of the other parks, but it's still an amazing place and should be rehabbed with much care and a keen eye on what makes it work so well right now!

 

As for Cleveland...the more successful places that come to mind are Market Square in Ohio City and Star Plaza in Playhouse Square.  The former has some decent programming during the summer months and is a nice place to visit on the weekends, but the overall feeling of the place is that it's "owned" by the homeless.  I don't mind sharing a slab of rock with someone I don't know and may not dress to my standards (!), but I know a lot of people that avoid that place like the plague.  It's a shame, too, because it's adjacent to some of the most vibrant blocks in the city. 

 

Star Plaza is, again, well-programmed in the summer months (thanks to Park Works), and is well dressed for the winter months, but it is still only treated as a place to walk through most times of the year.  I hope that they come up with a new use for the C-Tix kiosk that will soon be vacated and keep the music going!

 

Public Square?  Yeah, we need to rethink our "front yard" in a big way.  The most common solution I hear is cutting out the through automobile traffic.  Will this ever happen?  I have no idea!  Here's another thread on the subject: http://www.urbanohio.com/forum2/index.php?topic=2541.0

 

How about a couple pix?

 

TCChristmas.jpg

 

StoneKeyChristmas.jpg

 

OldStoneyChristmas.jpg

 

BPMayCoChristmas.jpg

 

 

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Yes, I've been to Campus Martius in Detroit.  I think that novelty is part of the reason people are attracted to it, but isn't that the reason people are attracted to any successful urban square?  I believe some Detroiters may be curious due to the newness, but only because there is a dearth of quality public spaces in that city.  Detroit has done a good job of defining this space at the historic center of town.  With all the parking lots downtown, definition of space was something that has been lacking for a while.  Interesting to note that prior to its completion, people in Detroit predicted traffic disasters around the roadway that encircles Campus Martius.  These have largely failed to come to fruition.  Could this be a lesson applicable to Public Square?

 

In my opinion, the most successful urban squares are those where programming isn't required to attract people there--the places where people flock naturally because of the quality of location and spatial arrangement.  In such a place, something as simple as sitting still, perhaps with a cup of coffee, is enjoyable.  That's my criteria for defining a successful square. 

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i think one of the reasons that market square and star plaza work well is that they have a nice mix of mature, non-locust trees that actually make it feel like a park.  i also think that lincoln park in tremont is a great space as well.

 

although there are some larger trees on public square, and it might not be appropriate to block the soldiers monument with large plantings, there are numerous tree grates sitting empty, and the ones that are filled, have scrappy little locust trees.  not very fitting for a grand park in my opinion.   i think the streets could stay if they just lined them with nice trees and allowed the canopy to cover the streets.  these locust trees, although they love salt and pollution, never seem to get very large in the sidewalk plantings.

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Another problem with Public Square is that each portion of the square is inward looking.  There is never a cohesive feeling that you are in one grand public space.  It also makes the square feel less used than it is, and therefore unsafe.

 

In my opinion, the most successful urban squares are those where programming isn't required to attract people there--the places where people flock naturally because of the quality of location and spatial arrangement.  In such a place, something as simple as sitting still, perhaps with a cup of coffee, is enjoyable.  That's my criteria for defining a successful square.  

 

I agree with you on this point.  Part of the problem is that the land use around Public Square isn't supportive of this sort of "serendipitus" use outside of 9-5.  Their isn't much residential within walking distance, and Tower City closes at like 6 or 7 now.  The main users therefore tend to be either the homeless or people waiting to transfer at one of the many transit lines that goes through Public Square.

 

 

I posted my comments in an earlier thread about Public Square http://www.urbanohio.com/forum2/index.php?topic=2541.msg23948#msg23948

 

I said it before, I'll say it again - if you find Public Square "nearly impossible to reach by foot", you are obviously crippled and lack any sort of assistance (walker, wheelchair, etc.). It kills me that people equate 'pedestrian friendly' with 'ease of jaywalking'. Gee, sorry you can't just blindly amble into the street - guess that makes a place auto-centric!  :roll: For those who suggest totally closing Public Square to auto traffic, I strongly urge you to ask the city leaders of Youngstown why that's SUCH a great idea.

 

To reiterate my comments from that same thread:

 

I think that they should divert traffic from the Public Square area as much as is possible and then narrow the streets and repave them with brick or cobblestone to slow traffic and let people know that they are entering an important place, not one to be whizzed through at 50 mph.  Kind of a compromise, I guess.  And I would look into if we really need the "ring" road that seperates the square from the buildings fronting it.  Euclid seems obviously vital.  But the rest?

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"I think that they should divert traffic from the Public Square area as much as is possible and then narrow the streets and repave them with brick or cobblestone"

 

I like that idea, although keep in mind that Public Square currently serves as the hub for most of the major bus lines. If we divert traffic from there, that would include those bus lines. I could see reducing the streets by a lane each way, but again - the existing traffic is going to have to go somewhere else.

 

"I would look into if we really need the "ring" road that seperates the square from the buildings fronting it.  Euclid seems obviously vital.  But the rest?

 

Just to clarify, Euclid terminates at the eastern edge of the May Company building so are you proposing making Euclid a dead-end at Public Square? One idea I think could be a step in the right direction is to close Ontario at Public Square on either side but leave Superior as is. That would keep the east-west flow on Superior and prevent shifting all that traffic to side streets, but at the same time create better access for pedestrians via two halves (a north and south half) of the square.

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Actually, I was thinking that Euclid should at the very least have one exit.  That could mean making the ROW fronting on the Park Building and May Company into a two way extension of Euclid to Ontario, or it could mean keeping the section in front of the BP building, so that Euclid merges into Superior.

 

None of what I was saying should be interpreted as any sort of concrete proposal, however.  I was really just taking a stab at something I would like to see explored.

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I propose to reduce the "ring" road by a lane, and close off Ontario and Superior through the square, filling the asphalt with meaningful park space.  Basically, make Public Square into a park within a giant traffic circle.

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"None of what I was saying should be interpreted as any sort of concrete proposal, however.  I was really just taking a stab at something I would like to see explored."

 

It's all good - and now that I understand what portion you're talking about, I think that could be feasible. That little stretch doesn't need to be as wide as it is for vehicular traffic.

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i'm not saying campus martius should be top 12 either, but based on experience, and discussion with locals, the "newish" quality has worn off, and people actually return for a myriad of reasons (free concerts daily, festivals, ice skating, green space for lunch, etc.)

 

What I meant by "newish" wasn't that it's more than a year old or so but simply that's a "new" (or in reality, refurbished) idea that Detroit hasn't seen in years.  It also helps to have daily concerts and such but as DanInDC said, it's much more about utility and not necessarily TRYING to attract people (with big spotlights and such; not saying Campus Martius does that but you know what I mean).

 

Colday and DaninDC, I take it you both have been to Campus Martius Park?  I think it is much too early to say that the only reason Cmart attracts people is because it is "newish".  That is a specious statement.

 

While I'm not so sure that the park is one of the 12 best on the entire continent, it has done a phenomenal job of bringing a very diverse crowd back into the heart of downtown Detroit.  Also the investment and development surrounding the park on all sides will ensure the park's success into the future.

 

The park acts more of a catalyst if anything than a public space, currently.  It attracted that Visteon (sp?) building along with various retail and condo projects surorunding it.  When it finally matures (we'll say, 5-10 years) THEN we'll see if it is a wonderful public space or just another space that lost its touch.  Presuming Detroit continues with residential development, it is a large guess that it should be fine.  Then again, Statler, Madison-Lennox, Hudson's, hopefully Comerica...don't help...

 

I wish Columbus would tear down City Center Mall and creat a public square there... 

 

It would be utterly useless.  No one would go there as there are no attractions or "point" of going there.  If anything, I hope City Center turns into an open-air mall, with street-connectivity and for CHRIST SAKES open up Rich Street.  Columbus' "square" could potentially be the parking lots east of the state capitol or that parking lot surrounded by Wall/Gay/Long/High.  Boy, that's a combo of names!

 

As for Cleveland...the more successful places that come to mind are Market Square in Ohio City and Star Plaza in Playhouse Square.  The former has some decent programming during the summer months and is a nice place to visit on the weekends, but the overall feeling of the place is that it's "owned" by the homeless.  I don't mind sharing a slab of rock with someone I don't know and may not dress to my standards (!), but I know a lot of people that avoid that place like the plague.  It's a shame, too, because it's adjacent to some of the most vibrant blocks in the city. 

 

Market Square is definately Cleveland's best public space (along with that space infront of that old theater in Coventry, but then again, that's in Cleveland Heights).  I also love watching the bocci (sp?) ball in the Little Italy area.

 

I propose to reduce the "ring" road by a lane, and close off Ontario and Superior through the square, filling the asphalt with meaningful park space.  Basically, make Public Square into a park within a giant traffic circle.

 

I'm surprised it hasn't been done already.

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Why does Public Square need to be a "programmed" park when we have THREE malls next door???  The mall area is much more accommodating when planning events of various sizes.

 

I would like less traffic on public square (a lane reduction in each direction) however, I would love to see the square revert back to four individual locations that perform well as an ensemble.  The square should be inviting and a place of solitude, with an occasional event.

 

Someone post a postcard of the square circa 1920/1930 i would like to see an updated version of this.

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Somehow, when I think of what Public Square should be, the word "solitude" doesn't come into it.  Public Square, by its nature, should be a social space.  It's Cleveland's living room.  It should be busy and full of people.

 

I do agree that the malls are better for programming larger events.  But I think that smaller events fit better in the more intimate space of Public Square.  It's easy for the vastness of the malls to swallow smaller events whole.

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The Heart of Cleveland: Public Square in the 20th Centaury, is a good book on this particular subject. Loaded with all sorts of stuff on this subject. Shows proposals, events that occured there, buildings built around there, etc.. Pretty much any book published through cleveland landmark press has alot of stuff for us "urban cleveland fanatics"

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Here's my take on Campus Martius. Its nice park, but I wouldn't name it one of the top 12 public squares in North America. The only reason its probably on the list is becuase its in Detroit and the city hasn't seen something like this in years.

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That's probably a big factor.

 

By the way, welcome to the forum, Detroitrising!

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  If I recall correctly, under the Campbell administration, a study was done on the idea of making Public Square on big park eliminiating the streets that disect it.  Unfortunately, the study showed it would create too many traffic problems in downtown.  I haven't heard anything since.  Cleveland, in my opinion, doesn't even have a traffic problem, rush hour is more like rush"15 minutes"...too bad they didn't go through with the plan.  The other problem I would forsee is the homeless and panhandlers that would call this park their permanent home.  As much as people need a place to stay, that wouldn't be the place.  People go to the park to relax, not to be hassled by people asking for money or having their children see people urinating in public (which unfortunately already happens).  Public Square is the gateway into the city..the city center...it is unfortunate that it is basically a giant dirty bus stop.  It is also sad to see that the homeless advocates choose this area to pass out free meals to the homeless.  Isn't there a better spot to do this?  As much good as they think they are doing, they don't realize this is the showcase area of the city(or should be).  I think if they choose to pass out the meals there, then they should be held accountable for picking up all the trash that is left behind on the ground because of the people that don't seem to realize what trash cans are for.  It sucks to see all the trash blowing areond the square.  This area shouls be a prized area....unforunately, it seems this has been, and only will be, an area that is used for the less fortunate to gather.

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^  There is some momemtum on trying to better coordinate homeless outreach in cleveland.  It is sad that some simple things still haven't been done:

 

Aritcle in PD: http://www.cleveland.com/news/plaindealer/index.ssf?/base/cuyahoga/1141205978140360.xml&coll=2

Cleveland Grapevine: http://homelessgrapevine.blogspot.com

Cleveland Homeless: http://clevelandhomeless.blogspot.com/

 

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   It is also sad to see that the homeless advocates choose this area to pass out free meals to the homeless.  Isn't there a better spot to do this?  As much good as they think they are doing, they don't realize this is the showcase area of the city(or should be). 

 

That's a pretty arrogant statement, don't you think?  Where should these people feed the homeless that would work better for you? 

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Cleveland, in my opinion, doesn't even have a traffic problem, rush hour is more like rush"15 minutes"...

 

This is certainly my impression although the only regular downtown Cleveland commuting I have ever experienced has been on the rapid or on slightly off hours.  Always made me suspicious when traffic flow was used as an excuse not to unify public square or pursue the duel hub rail plan above ground as opposed to digging a downtown subway (I heard a traffic commisioner explicitly say this at one point).  The potential damage to RTA bus schedules is a real concern I suppose.

 

I know this topic has been explored at length, but indulge me: for those more familiar than I with the downtown traffic situation, what would really happen if public square were unified:

 

Downtown drivers get fed up and employers flee to the 'burbs?

 

Downtown drivers learn to deal with it like drivers in other cities?

 

Could RTA learn to route around it?

 

I like to think a well programmed and maintained unified public square could be a hit both with downtown workers (those who can deal with the traffic anyway) and the growing residential population both to its east and west.

 

 

 

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I don't know that this is the answer, but the first thing that comes to mind is that the RTA has so many routes that run through Public Square and continue down Superior.  They've just solidified this route with the improvements they made to Superior and the addition of "bus only" lanes.  However, I don't see why they couldn't run the buses around the square before the continue down Superior. 

 

One of my major complaints with the Downtown (Public Square) hub is that there's not enough information for the transit rider who doesn't know exactly what they're doing.  For example, if I decided that I wasn't going to take my normal bus home and wanted to head out to Old Brooklyn instead of Ohio City, how am I to know which bus will get me there without asking around or heading down to the basement of Tower City for some maps?  There needs to be better signage and information at those major bus stops and more clarity as to where a rider should go to catch a bus headed in their direction.

 

I think that running all the buses around the square could make this that much simpler.  They're doing this with the Euclid Corridor "silver line" buses and creating new shelters and bus stops around the square.  Couldn't they do the same with the other routes?  This would serve as THE bus mall for the Downtown hub and it could serve not only tourists and visitors, but the average RTA rider as well.  I've got lots of ideas on how to do this and started to share them with Joe Calabrese while riding the silver line with him, but there was much left unsaid.

 

As for private automobiles...I'm not too concerned with how they get around the square.  There are so many options Downtown and the traffic around the square isn't too heavy that it couldn't be manageable. 

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DC..funny how you chose to only post PART of my statement in order to make me (again on this site) look to be an anti liberal monster.  There are PLENTY of places in the downtown area to do this....just not on the doorstep to the city...just what every visitor here wants to see...panhandlers and garbage floating around like tumbleweeds...

Is the idea of doing it somewhere else downtown THAT bad of an idea?...I am not saying starve these people, I am just saying find a better place to do it.  This has to be the most sensitive website I have ever been part of.

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Wow..everything is literal on here isn't it...tourists, people who want to enjoy a clean square on some random afternoon...oh hell....forget it....lets just not give a shit about anything if it somehow infringes upon the rights of the homeless, blond haired people, gay, straight, people over 5'10" tall, etc, etc.....not EVERYONE is always going to be happy at all times!

All I would like too see is a nice clean public square without a bunch of people that linger there bothering people who would just like to be left alone and enjoy themselves!  I guess there is NO other place in the downtown area that the homeless could be fed?  Why not use a county building, or city hall....why does it always have to be right there on the square?  It just makes the city look desolate and downtrodden, which I have heard many out of town people say...but hey, if you enjoy the filth and garbage left behind, and you think it makes public square look vibrant and safe...then it's fine with me.

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part of the problem is that many suburban churches want to help, but don't know where to go, so in an uncoordinated fashion, they show up at public square a few times a month and hand out food and supplies. 

 

public square could be one area to have a food drop, but the bigger problem seems to be that 3 or 4 church groups will show up one day and then there will be no food for many days, so a homeless person will eat 3 meals one day and then have no food for a few days.  not very effective in getting a schedule down to have some support if a person truly wants to get back to work, find a home, etc.

 

i would suggest that the food and supply drops should be more closely aligned with points in the city and suburbs that can provide additional services - health screenings, churches, housing agencies, other non profits.  Many of the homeless in cleveland may be long term homeless due to a number of factors, but i think a more coordinated effort to address the problem makes the most sense. 

 

dropping food off at a park (no matter where the park is) doesn't seem to be a solution to the problem - it is a short term fix to hunger, but not the bigger issue of homelessness. 

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The various social organizations that feed the homeless in DC do the same thing--they park alongside the squares downtown and feed the homeless during rush hour.  The problem at Public Square in Cleveland, I suspect, isn't so much feeding the homeless as it is that the Square isn't populated by many other people. 

 

In other words, treat the disease, not the symptom.

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Tough crowd!  JDD, I'm sympathetic to your point that if the city has ambitions in making public square a more attractive place, it probably shouldn't be a hub of emergency social service provision.  I don't think my bleeding hart bone fides are compromised in any way by saying that I rather read a book, drink a beer, eat lunch or people-watch in a park rather than a soup kitchen (actually, people-watching might be a close call).  If I read JDD's posts correctly, he is not advocating forcible removal or guarded entries.

 

In any case, as long as the quadrants are little more than traffic islands, I don't think the food distribution is what's keeping public square from urban greatness.

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