Reimagined Plan for the Cuyahoga River Valley Driven by Multi-Party Collaboration and Robust Community Feedback
Since Cleveland’s founding over 200 years ago, the Cuyahoga River Valley has served a vital role in fueling the city’s economy via its connection to Cleveland’s Lake Erie shoreline and resulting access to both domestic and international trade markets. In recent decades, recreational, restoration and redevelopment interests have led to the renaissance of the Cuyahoga River as a cleaner, greener river—evidenced by a growing array of fish and wildlife species, the transformation of vacant industrial sites into mixed-use developments, the introduction of trails and public park spaces and an increase in recreational boating activity. As investments continue within the river valley, the need has arisen for a unified vision to guide growth and decision making for future initiatives while maintaining the industrial business, maritime shipping and transportation commerce that has existed since its beginnings.
Recognizing this need, the City of Cleveland, Cleveland Metroparks, the Port of Cleveland, Flats Forward and the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) partnered with OHM Advisors and our consultant team to develop a cohesive plan that balances both river- and land-based uses and outlines a vision for sustainable, future growth.
Creating this comprehensive vision hinged on breaking down traditional barriers and divisions between agencies, organizations, businesses and community members to work toward a common purpose. To do this, our team employed a variety of in-person and virtual outreach and engagement tactics over nine months including design charrettes, an interactive project website, virtual reality drone tours, virtual and in-person open houses, interviews, participation at the Sustainable Cleveland Summit Expo, real-time smartphone surveys and social media efforts. The result is a plan rooted in over 1,000 interactions with the public and key stakeholders and thousands of ideas gathered to shape the plan recommendations. Due to challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, our team had to be nimble and flexible in our approach to public engagement to progress the project while maintaining equitable interaction.
The plan is organized into six overarching categories: land use; mobility and connectivity; water safety and access; public space; the environment and nature; and marketing and branding. Recommendations associated with these categories are applied to the entire valley study area and four key focus areas within the study limits—The Old River Channel Area, Collision Bend, Jefferson Link and Big Creek Gateway—which present optimal opportunities for future growth and development. Through an inclusive planning process that sought out ideas and inspiration from the public, key stakeholders and businesses and area governmental agencies, the plan sets the course for focusing investments in the river valley for the next 20 years.
Project Highlights: planning, landscape architecture, urban design, land use planning, transportation planning, economic development planning, community engagement
The City of Cleveland has been working with OHM on a new vision for the Cuyahoga River Valley. As part of this process the project was impacted by Covid-19. OHM has demonstrated a tremendous amount of flexibility to quickly find creative ways to virtually keep the project moving, maintain equitable interaction, and facilitate design process and design direction on this legacy city project.