“Should Burke Lakefront Airport Close? Coalition Keeps Important Question Alive”

proposed plan for burke by matt busa

Proposed Land Use Plan in Matt Busa’s Presentation for Burke Lakefront Airport Repurposing

Thanks to the PD for covering the July 30 panel discussion on Burke in this August 11, 2019 article by Steve Litt, who regularly covers the architecture beat. “15 years after it finished the biggest lakefront plan in a half century, Cleveland is still far behind waterfront cities including Chicago and Toronto and playing catch-up,” writes Litt.

The panel discussion featured a proposal by Cleveland landscape architect Matt Busa, who developed a concept illustrating how the airport can be turned into a large park with a dense, transit-oriented neighborhood at its western edge. Other panelists discussed the logistics of developing the concept, including critical issues of concern, such as the large cost of the project and serving the flight operations that are still coming into Burke.

Lit concludes the article with a call to explore options to make the most of Cleveland’s lakefront treasure.

Early 2018 List of Projects & Map

Cleveland Lakefront/Flats Projects

Canal Basin Connector – from Canal Basin Park to Lake Link Trail using Center St Bridge

Canal Basin Park – 20 acres, northern terminus of old Ohio & Erie Canal

City of Euclid “Breakwall” – Extend a public trail ¾ of a mile east from Sims Park (23131            Lakeshore), reconstruct shoreline, control erosion, add wildlife habitat

Cleveland Foundation Centennial Trail – “Lake Link Trail” from Columbus Rd to the bridge over Old River Channel to Wendy Park, portion from under the Detroit-Superior bridge area to the Wendy Park Bridge uses an old railroad right of way and is done. Portion from Columbus Rd to under the Detroit-Superior Bridge is part of the Irishtown Bend project and listed as “proposed.”

Cleveland Lakefront Bikeway Connector – From W 25th/Detroit to Lake Link Trail

Gordon Park/I-90 relocation between E 55th and MLK per GRC/ Bob Gardin – Move I-90 south towards railroad tracks using now vacated First Energy Site. This would add about 50 acres and make this Metropark as big as Edgewater. Use of First Energy site will be decided in 2018 or 2019 at the latest.

Inner Harbor Bridge – Rosales design to close loop of Inner Harbor

Irishtown Bend – 17-acres west side of Cuyahoga River between Detroit and Columbus Roads, emphasizing shoreline stabilization as first stage, add Lake Link Trail, reworking of Franklin Ave and W 25th St, rework greenspace.

Lakefront Greenway- various facets between E 9th and MLK along I-90, continuous loop along N and S Marginal Rd, connections from neighborhoods, I-90 underpasses at E 55th, E 72nd and MLK.

Main Ave- W 9th to Old River Rd, creative lighting of this area to counter gloomy aura cast by the Main Ave Bridge, from a design competition.


Mall C Land Bridge – GRC/Bob Gardin’s design alternative to Rosales’ Bridge


Mall C Pedestrian Bridge – Rosales’ design of cable stayed bridge to connect Mall C with Rock Hall/ Great Lakes Science Center


Old Coast Guard Station Renovation/Metroparks – Burning River Foundation Partnership


Red Line Greenway – pedestrian and bikeway along RTA tracks from Columbus Rd/Lorain Ave to W 54th. No plans for extension to downtown using RTA Bridge.


Scranton Peninsula – Commercial project- 70 acres- environmental remediation


Summit Ave- Group Plan Commission, from E 9th to W 9th, designed to capitalize on great views of North Coast Harbor and Lake (at Mall C and behind City Hall and the Country Courthouse, as well as great views of Port, mouth of Cuyahoga River, and Lake at an overlook between W 3rd and W 9th.)


Towpath Trail – connect Cuyahoga National Park to Canal Basin Park (about 5 miles) in various stages, completion date of 2020.


Wendy Park Bridge – from Flats West Bank to Wendy Park over railroad tracks uses Lake Link Trail to connect to Towpath Trail.


West Shoreway – funded / final stages of completion


Whiskey Island Connector – uses Ed Hauser Way- rework connection between Edgewater and Wendy Park, adds a dedicated bike/pedestrian path

Bridges Connecting Northcoast Harbor

Northcoast Harbor

There have been two bridge proposals in the North Coast Harbor area. Both are tantalizingly close to being realized but still face hurdles. Both bridges have been designed by Miguel Rosales of the firm, Rosales and Partners. Other examples of Mr. Rosales’ work can be seen at

The North Coast Harbor bridge is needed to close a loop around the Inner Harbor. The span to close the loop is about 90 feet. A federal grant for about 3/4 of the estimated $5 million was awarded in 2005. The original design was not accepted due to its high percentage of foreign components and costs that were approaching $10 million. A clam shell design has been submitted and approved. Steve Litt of the PD characterizes the support for this design as “underwhelming.”

The Lakefront Pedestrian Bridge is designed to connect the northeast corner of Mall C with the Rock Hall and Great Lakes Science Center. The bridge would be 900 feet long and 14 feet wide. A 170 foot high V shaped tower would anchor an array of cables to hold up the bridge. The array of cables would be “strung like harp strings.” The sides of the bridge appear to have continuous rails and posts that support a chain link like fence on the sides and overhead clear panels that would partially shield against the elements. The bridge is not straight. It would curve gently between its start and end.

Cost and Funding: Total cost is estimated at $33 million. 10 million would come from the City, 10 million from the County, and 5 million from the State. We would note that an application for a Federal grant for $17.6 million in 2013 was rejected. This was the
3rd time Federal agencies had rejected an application for this this project. Hence the need for mostly local funding.

History: Bridges/connectors over the the railroad tracks in this area have been a goal of Cleveland planning since the railroads appeared in the late 1850’s. At that time, the shoreline was very close to where the tracks are. The Memorial Shoreway (Rt 2) was constructed in the late 30’s. The area north of the freeway (Rock Hall, Stadium, Burke Airport) was constructed with infill. We have bridges at W 3rd and E 9th Streets. The old connector bridge over the tracks that leads to 1st Energy Stadium has been closed as traffic patterns changed.Lack of wheelchair accessibility is also a problem. This 1940’s connector could still function if reworked. The cost would be considerably less than the Rosales bridge. It could be a complement to the Rosales bridge as it could handle more adverse weather.

Exposure to the elements: Previous visions for connecting the Mall to the Rock Hall emphasized protection against the elements (wind, rain, snow.) The current proposal is quite exposed to the elements over the course of its 900 foot expanse.

Local funding: We have noted the lack of federal funding for this project. We doubt that $20 million has been spent on any waterfront project (or two) other than the Rock Hall. We hope that there are local funds for other areas of the waterfront if this project goes thru. We would hate to think that this project would “tap us out” for a period of 5 to 10 years. We are reminded of the RTA Waterfront Line which did not apply for federal funding and relied on internal RTA financing. The Waterfront Line has had ridership problems and been a drag on the RTA’s finances.

As of April 13, 2016, the State is ready to approve $3.5 of the $8.5 million dollars that was requested by the Greater Cleveland Partnership. The $5 million balance remains to be financed.

Conclusion: We don’t doubt the cosmetic appeal of this project. We wish it offered more protection against the elements. We hope it is an example of our commitment to a connected waterfront. Connecting the waterfront with itself (east-west) and the city (north-south) is necessary for a great waterfront. We find it hard to imagine starting over with another design. Steve Litt of the PD wrote a column in January 2017 where he said that an intermodal (think Greyhound, Amtrak, RTA) transit hub in the area of the Amtrak station is being planned. He thinks the bridge should take the hub into account. In other words, wait for a plan for the hub. It is hard to argue with that.

– John Veres

Main Ave. Design Competition 2016

Main Avenue Connector design proposalThe Downtown Cleveland Alliance sponsored a design competition to make the Main Avenue connector from Old River Road to West 9th more attractive. Main Avenue is a critical connector from the Warehouse District to the Flats East Bank. It also lines up with the Metropark’s Water Taxi service to the west bank of the Flats. Getting from the North Coast Harbor/Rock Hall area to the Flats East Bank and West Bank should be a priority if our waterfront is going to be well connected. The area of Main Avenue near West 9th St has long had a dark, shadowy aura cast on it from the  bridge overhead and buildings nearby.

It is possible to get from West 9th to West 3rd by using Lakeside. There are spectacular vistas of the port, lake, and stadium in this area that are not highlighted from Lakeside. The vistas are on the north of Lakeside and are currently a collection of parking lots and a freeway entrance that may not be needed. The West 9th to West 3rd connection could use a design competition.  The Main Avenue connector  project holds promise for also upgrading this portion of the connection between the Flats East Bank and North Coast Harbor.

So, back to the winning design to upgrade Main Avenue.  PORT Urbanism of Chicago won the design competition and unveiled their design in April 2016. Their design was estimated to cost between  $800,000  and $1.6 million, depending on how much of the plan was implemented.

The six components of their program are:

  • Horizontal light bars on the building on the south side of Main Avenue near West 9th.  This area is dark and unwelcoming.   The shadow of the Main Avenue bridge  increases as you go up the hill to West 9th.
  • Graphics/signs  on W 9th to connect the East Bank and Warehouse District.
  • SW corner of West 9th and Main Avenue would get steps and a terrace to  soften this corner, this is the site of the Old Lighthouse that is referenced.
  • Better  lighting on the north side of the Main Avenue sidewalk using light boxes around the base of the bridge piers.
  • Painting the bridge piers (abutments) at Main and Old River Road to resemble a Triumphal Arch.
  • Creating a meeting point landscape at the SW side of the traffic circle at Old River Road and Main using decks and low benches.
  • Cleveland has a long history of innovation in the field of lighting and these proposals use lighting to spectacular effect.  It is important to have a connected lakefront trail and this project upgrades a  critical portion.

– John Veres

First Energy Lakeshore Plant Demolition And Re-Use

GRC Vision for Gordon Park

GRC Vision for Gordon Park

The Cleveland Planning Commission has voted to allow First Energy to tear down its Lakeshore power plant at East 70th and South Marginal Road. The coal burning plant operated from 1911 to April of 2015. In 2008, the plant was the second largest point source of air pollution in the Greater Cleveland area. First Energy determined that it was not worthwhile to upgrade the pollution control equipment for compliance with new clean air standards.

Thirteen of the 57 total acres will continue to house high-voltage transmission equipment.  These 13 acres are south of the main plant. The other structures will be demolished. After demolition, First Energy will spend $15 million on the initial cleanup of the site plus an unspecified amount later that would make the site clean enough for housing or a park. The level of remediation depends on the final use. Remediation currently scheduled includes removing and replacing the top two feet of topsoil. The property will also be graded so it drains to its former wastewater treatment ponds. Grass will be planted to ready the site for sale or reuse. The City of Cleveland felt that if the go ahead for demolition was delayed, the money for remediation might be spent on other coal fired plants that are closing.

Remediation projects often take a long time so we think the City was right to move quickly. Click here see an aerial map of the site and photos of the site. Note the twin water intake canals that go under I-90 and are in front of the main building. This is a very unique feature that could be creatively utilized in the future. The site is directly east of Gordon Park and divided from it by E 72nd St, which is a sparsely used road. Cleveland Metroparks are on the other side of I-90. The greenspace/parks usage seems obvious for most, if not all, of the site. Read about our proposal for a Gordon Park Expansion/East Shoreway Relocation project here.

– John Veres

Upgrades for East Side Lakefront Connections

Slides from the East Side Lakefront Greenway and Downtown Connector Study showing trails and amenities proposed by the Campus District Inc., St. Clair Superior Development and the Warehouse District.

Slides from the East Side Lakefront Greenway and Downtown Connector Study showing trails and amenities proposed by the Campus District Inc., St. Clair Superior Development and the Warehouse District.

A plan for improving the connections from east side and downtown neighborhoods to the lakefront and upgrading connections along the lakefront between E 9th St and MLK Jr Drive has been passed by the City Planning Commission. A group of Cleveland CDC’s (Campus District, St Clair Superior Development, and the Warehouse District) in concert with the City and the engineering firms of Michael Baker International and the Environmental Design Group put together and sponsored the plan.

The Plain Dealer characterized the plan as a “pragmatic, no frills vision for new trails and neighborhood connections.” Implementation is estimated to cost $24.5 million and breaks down as follows:

  1. $8.1 million to create an 8 foot wide greenway loop or trail along both the North and South Marginal Roads. The North Marginal Road has a greenway trail that would receive an upgrade by moving Burke Airport’s fence 3 feet to the north. This will allow the trail to achieve a uniform width of 8 feet and eliminate the fire hydrants that are in the middle of the current trail.

  2. $5.3 million for a new bike and pedestrian bridge to connect E 18th and Davenport (just north of Lakeside) with the South Marginal Road and the Municipal Parking Lot. This bridge spans the railroad tracks but not the Shoreway/I-90.

  3. $4.5 million for a new bike and pedestrian bridge form E 40th to the North Marginal Road. This bridge would span I-90.

  4. Sidewalk widening on the west side of the E 9th bridge over the Shoreway/I-90 by 14 feet to create “a more generous feel”.

  5. Sidewalk widening on the E 55th bridge over I-90 and also under the lakefront railroad tracks slightly south of the bridge.

  6. Sidewalk widening on the E 72nd/I-90 underpass by removing the median.

  7. Sidewalk widening on the MLK Jr Dr/I-90 underpass by removing the median. Lighting would also be improved.

We have long thought the connection between E 9th/North Coast Harbor and the E 55th Metropark Reservation needed upgrading. The plan achieves a good connection which is the minimum necessary for a well connected lakefront. Other aspects of the plan comprehensively address the connections from the neighborhoods. They are indispensable building blocks for the public use of our lakefront. Read the Plain Dealer story here.

– John Veres