Oct 24, 2023 - News

Cleveland lakefront plan envisions boutique hotel, food hall, "porch culture"

A rendering of the downtown Cleveland lakefront north of the Browns Stadium

What could be, if this plan actually comes to fruition. Rendering: Field Operations

In Cleveland, "lakefront planning" is practically a mayoral rite of passage.

  • Since Daniel Burnham's 1903 Group Plan, there have been 16 separate attempts to redesign the city's waterfront.

Driving the news: Mayor Justin Bibb wants the 17th attempt to be the last.

  • Landscape architecture firm Field Operations, which is spearheading the redesign, presented its latest draft of the Lakefront Master Plan on Monday.

Why it matters: In a city where only 20% of the waterfront is accessible to the public, Bibb wants the plan to prioritize racial equity, economic opportunity and climate resiliency.

Details: As in past versions, what is now asphalt acreage north of Browns Stadium would be connected to downtown via a curving land bridge, called the North Coast Connector.

  • The plan also envisions a boutique hotel, a food hall, commercial and residential development, recreation and play areas and cozy spaces to gather and relax.

Plus: The new version includes a reconfigured coastline with a natural wetland buffer, additional east-west pedestrian connections to the Rock Hall and Great Lakes Science Center and a multimodal transit hub attached to the land bridge that could be used by Amtrak, RTA and Greyhound.

Facing north, the proposed multi-modal transit hub bottom right. Rendering: Field Operations

What they're saying: Field Operations partner Lisa Switkin said the design elements reflect resident feedback that emphasized desires for green space, community programming and affordable dining.

Zoom in: Informal gatherings on Cleveland porches were the inspiration for one key design element.

  • A series of intimate covered areas meant to replicate the vibe of a front porch will be scattered throughout the 22 acres north of Browns Stadium, all embodying distinctive architectural styles and using different building materials.

The big picture: Planners said the waterfront is meant to simulate a "village-like neighborhood" setting, complete with gardens, walkways and places to dine and shop.

  • These public "porches" are a response to a specific element of resident feedback — many people said they wanted places to sit and enjoy the water, to feel more connected to it.
Renderings of covered areas in rows and colums
The "porches" of the waterfront. Rendering: Field Operations

Between the lines: The Cleveland Browns have not yet published renderings of their proposed stadium renovation, but Cleveland planning director Joyce Huang said the city's understanding is that the first floor will include "active frontage" that the public will be able to access outside of game days.

By the numbers: The project does not have a price tag yet, but Huang said once the plan has been presented to the Cleveland Planning Commission in January and approved, partners will launch a "full sprint" to pursue state and federal funding.

Reality check: The master plan is an ambitious "vision document" that would take years, if not decades, to implement in full.

The promenade at the waterfront's western end
The promenade at the waterfront's western edge. Rendering: Field Operations
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