COMMENTARY: Another Vision for Shaker Square by Kevin Cronin


I grew up in Ellen Connally’s Shaker Square neighborhood and while I now live downtown in the St Clair/Superior neighborhood, I have some experience with the Square’s needs. I don’t like disagreeing with my neighbor Ellen.  Shaker Square is broke and needs fixing or the downward spiral will worsen.  The heart of Ellen’s opposition is the consequence of closing Shaker Boulevard for the two blocks of the Square to create green space. The result is suburban motorists will require two minutes added to their commute to navigate around the Square to Shaker Boulevard/Woodland Avenue or Cedar Hill route to University Circle and downtown.

While I absolutely agree that black and white Cleveland residents need to come together, they don’t need to come together to protect suburban motorists. I absolutely agree with Ellen that black-white agreement is critical issue for this area that has done a better job navigating racial issues than elsewhere in Cleveland. The Shaker Square re-design to create a north-south orientation and spacially more attractive space with greenery to bring people together is the best way to do it.  Far from the California kumbaya Ellen faults, this is genuine effort to create more opportunities for racial cooperation, social activity and sharing, things Cleveland desperately needs now.

The fate of Shaker Square depends less on Shaker Heights and more on Cleveland residents, those in the neighborhoods north and south of the square. The Shaker Square plan is designed to strengthen a north-south orientation to take advantage of a long awaited and much needed re-development plan for the largely abandoned Buckeye neighborhood south of the of the Square.  A strong Buckeye neighborhood leads to a strong Shaker Square. That north-south relationship is to create a tighter link in neighborhoods north and south, actually connecting Shaker Square to the Doan Brook water shed and Fairhill.

There are significant safety concerns to address.  Does this re-route lead to a safety risk for the smaller Cleveland side streets with motorists seeking to avoid the Square entirely, a short-cut that could put kids walking or riding bikes to school or awaiting school buses at risk.  I think that’s a significant concern, as some motorists already treat these roads like a race track, yet regrettably, Ellen doesn’t raise this point of concern. Cleveland and Shaker Heights need to agree to create some sort of physical barrier, not just signs that have proved to be ineffective in limiting entry to small side streets in the morning when kids are walking and biking to school or waiting for a bus.

I wish we didn’t waste time with manufactured problems.  Ellen raised concern for fire trucks being forced to navigate around the Square.  Fire stations, whether Shaker Heights or Cleveland, aren’t nearby and don’t have to navigate the square to get anyone who needs it. The Shaker Boulevard cut through the Square is designed to help suburban motorist on their way to work, nothing else.

I am mystified by the desire to protect the two minute commuting motorist burden by arguing against closing the central block of Shaker Square. Those traveling through Shaker Square on their commute don’t see the need for real change at Shaker Square. While I have known and admired Ellen for my entire professional life (and even worked to help her win election as County Council President), Shaker Square reformation shouldn’t start off catering to suburban motorists.  It’s about residents and strong neighborhoods, both north and south of the historic Square. I share Ellen’s affection for a romantic day of Shaker Square’s past, but rather than recalling one store replaced with another, I also recall stores like Wade Music Store, which now lies empty. New plans are needed to energize the Square.  Motorists don’t need support. Shoppers and residents do.

Kevin Cronin is a local attorney and activist, especially known for his advocacy for bicyclists, and a League of American Bicyclists certified bicycling instructor.




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3 Responses to “COMMENTARY: Another Vision for Shaker Square by Kevin Cronin”

  1. I lived down the street from Shaker Square for years and it is still one rapid stop away from where I live now. The racial diversity is what I love about the Square. The Square is closed a few times for events and it is a bit of a headache getting around it at those times, but only a minute or two. I do understand for Edwins and others, closing it permanently would hurt their business, but with free parking and a marketing campaign to drive people there, it might be more of a benefit long term.

  2. Rich L.

    I have to say this article is nicely written and appears to have good intentions. This has been a struggle in Cleveland, development that is. Everyone has an opinion about it. What seems to work well elsewhere is community input and what I’ve read in several articles and seen on tv is that the local community doesn’t agree with it. The square that I remember was a grand place and hope it can achieve that status again but without the support of local residents and shop owners I can’t see that happening. It has also been said that the agency’s driving the planning are struggling financially and this is an attempt to develop and make money. I sure hope that is not the case. I will continue to read Mr. Cronin’s articles and Judge Connaly’s because they are public voices that are nice to read.

  3. Deb Newell

    While, being a westsider, I don’t have a lot of opportunity to visit Shaker Square these days I do appreciate the “experience” of the area. Some of my fondest Christmas memories as a child are of visiting the Square to see the wonderful light & decoration displays. But to address the present issue, now being a senior and have some mobility problems, the trouble with turning Shaker Square-and so many other newly “revitalized” areas into pedestrian only spaces leaves those of us with limitations completely out of the space. Those with physical limitations most often cannot navigate such a large area without the ability to drive/park close to the shops, restaurants, etc. I know I cannot. I must assume that Mr Cronin is a very able bodied person and simply doesn’t understand that it’s not just about traffic time, it is also about accessibility for many people.

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