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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Cleveland Foundation Gives $8 Million for Public Square Redesign

Posted By on Tue, Jul 15, 2014 at 11:46 AM

click to enlarge Joe Cimperman is here using the word "ethereal" to describe the Cleveland Foundation's major gift. - SAM ALLARD / SCENE
  • Sam Allard / Scene
  • Joe Cimperman is here using the word "ethereal" to describe the Cleveland Foundation's major gift.

Tuesday morning's landmark press conference at Public Square was not, as it turned out, a gathering of Cleveland's civic leaders to see who among them could use the words "vibrant," "vital," "bold," "world-class" and "robust," the most times.

The purpose, this alt-weekly correspondent was humbled to learn, was to announce a "catalytic" $8 million gift from the Cleveland Foundation to LAND Studio, which leaders hope will spur investment from area corporations and benefactors to complete the overhaul of Public Square by May, 2016, just in time for the Republican National Convention. Though no official groundbreaking date was announced, it's presumed that construction will be underway in a hurry. 

The southwest quadrant of the square will be dubbed the Cleveland Foundation Centennial Plaza, in honor of the Cleveland Foundation's gift and, more broadly, its 100 years of service to the region via what CEO Ron Richard called "placed-based philanthropy." 

click to enlarge SAM ALLARD / SCENE
  • Sam Allard / Scene
The Cleveland Group Plan Commission's Dan Walsh kicked off the windswept festivities with the assertion that "we are on the cusp of a transformation in the heart of Cleveland," which assertion he defended with the recent news of the RNC and the return of LeBron James.   

In Walsh's view, the Public Square redesign, by architect James Corner (of New York High Line fame), will be "vital" and "vibrant" and "world-class."  He applauded the city's public servants for making Cleveland's public spaces a civic priority.

Forest City Enterprises' Jim Ratner, Chairman of the Cleveland Foundation's Board, called the redesign one of the finest pieces of urban design he's ever seen. He echoed Walsh's comments about the vitality and vibrancy of what will be one of the nation's flagship public urban spaces. 

"This is not a footnote to the story of Cleveland's momentum," Ratner testified, applauding the city's public servants for their commitment to bold, robust green space and sustainability.

Ron Richard then approached the lectern to deploy some real heavy-handed medical imagery — Public Square is the "beating heart" of the city; it's time for a "heart transplant," etc. — which went over well with the crowd, the Cavs' Len Komoroski and the Greater Cleveland Partnership's Joe Roman among them.

Richard happily announced the $8 million gift.  

After the unveiling of the name and some remarks by Joe Cimperman (speaking on behalf of Mayor Frank Jackson), remarks which were somehow both flowery and stirring, Ed FitzGerald quipped that today is perhaps the first day in history when Joe Cimperman's enthusiasm "actually matches reality."

FitzGerald applauded the work of the GCP, the Downtown Cleveland Alliance and LAND Studio for their collaborative efforts to make the Public Square redesign a robust and world-class reality. He speculated off the cuff that there hasn't been this much good news in the region "since World Word II." 

The Group Plan Commission's Tony Coyne, painted as a kind of stage manager, liaising and variously synergizing behind the scenes, spoke on the subject of Cleveland's fruitful public-private partnerships, calling Public Square not only "vibrant" and "vital," but also a "vital hub," and a "world-class public space to match Cleveland's world-class amenities." 

The press conference was in most respects a civic circle jerk, but also a rallying cry for rapid and substantial donations. And though the rhetoric was certainly redundant — it's not like these guys wrote their speeches together, in their defense — based on the renderings, we have every reason to assume that Public Square really will be pretty vibrant, vital and robust.  

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