By Joe Baur
A couple weeks ago I was finishing up a bike ride heading north on E. 14th from Slavic Village. After passing the sprawling madness of the Innerbelt and its on and off ramps, I finally came to a tad more scenic setting for a welcoming to Downtown Cleveland.
Rolling past Erie Cemetery toward Prospect, I saw the Playhouse Square arches had risen. Riding underneath, it felt like I had actually entered a city. Unlike the aforementioned highway monstrosity, Playhouse Square is distinctively Cleveland.
Similar arches had been put up at Huron and Prospect; a setting that I believe has great potential for a pet dream of mine. That dream is to close Huron from Prospect to Euclid in a bid to create the next East Fourth pedestrian thoroughfare.
Cleveland is less than half its peak population, yet we have the road infrastructure of our glory days. At the same time, Downtown is the region’s fastest growing neighborhood. I can think of no better nod to this welcomed trend than to begin strategically selecting roads in our core that are overbuilt and underused for road diets or rezoning entirely to make the most of our infrastructure in a way that supports sustainability and vibrancy.
Let’s start with Huron.
Huron, especially between Euclid and Prospect, serves little purpose for Downtown Cleveland. The only action it sees is during rush hour when cars try to essentially cut lines to the highway off E. 9th. The result is a bottleneck that forces the city to send out traffic cops to help continue the flow of overeager drivers trying to flee the city.
Is this really the best use of our resources? Methinks not.
Closing Huron would, as road-closures in other cities have, help direct the flow of automobile traffic much more efficiently than the current chutes and ladders system. Better yet, it would encourage growth in an area of Downtown that is seeing an influx of money and residents much in the same way East Fourth did a decade ago and continues to.
The M9, county headquarters, and the Cleveland Trust complex are all well underway with their respective construction projects, which include more apartments to join existing residents adjacent to the county project. Further up the road we have Star Plaza’s renovation next to even more new apartments in the Residences at Hanna.
Why not connect these two intersections by focusing on the most common mode of transportation this corridor sees on a daily basis for accessing businesses and apartments?
Redeveloping Huron for pedestrians and cyclists will give a seamless connection between two of Downtown Cleveland’s fastest growing intersections. We already know Downtown’s influx of residents prefer walking and cycling to driving. We also know that pedestrians are happier on average than drivers.
So in a nod to those willing to return to the City of Cleveland, how about we give the people what they want? Give the streets back to the people. Let them walk underneath the Playhouse arches over Prospect and Huron, enjoy the fresh air, and continue the push of repurposing Cleveland’s crumbling infrastructure for safe and healthy living.
[Photo via PlayhouseSquare]
Joe Baur is a freelance writer, filmmaker and satirist with a diverse array of interests including travel, adventure, craft beer, health, urban issues, culture and politics. He ranks his allegiances in the order of Cleveland, the state of Ohio and the Rust Belt, and enjoys a fried egg on a variety of meats. Joe has a B.A. in Mass Communication with a focus on production from Miami University. Follow him at http://JoeBaur.com and on Twitter @BaurJoe.