Monday, June 1, 2015

Just a Reminder that the Cool Red Line Greenway Project is Still a Long Way Off

Posted By on Mon, Jun 1, 2015 at 5:02 PM

click to enlarge CAITLIN SUMMERS / SCENE
  • Caitlin Summers / Scene
Before we lavish too much praise on the proposed Red Line Greenway project, we’d be wise to recall that, given the current funding picture, the earliest construction can begin on the linear park running adjacent to the RTA rapid tracks from Downtown to Detroit-Shoreway is 2019.

Nonetheless, project renderings were lovingly unveiled at a community meeting Wednesday evening and rehashed Thursday morning for the Cleveland Metroparks' Board of Commissioners.

Metroparks' CEO Brian Zimmerman advised that the funding for the Greenway’s $4.7 million first phase (of the estimated $13 million total) wouldn’t be available until 2019, though the $2 million Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) grant, awarded in January, is a nice start.

“The goal is to really build a coalition of support for outside dollars,” Zimmerman said at the board meeting, dropping the names of a few of the usual corporate suspects. “This is really a remarkable part of the revitalization of Cleveland. When you look at, again, that we’re supported by the property tax, and the reutilization and revitalization, 100 years from now, we will be touted for the work that we’re doing to revitalize the City of Cleveland.”

Regarding the time frame, we’re as stunned as you are. Most of us expected some mega-donor to emerge from the wooded shadows of Gates Mills, halo and white wings affixed, to write a seven-figure check and accelerate the building schedule in order to accommodate all the ambling Republicans next June. (For all we know, mega-donors are being mobilized as we speak).

As it stands, despite the handsome PowerPoint slides, prepared and presented by one Evan Peterson, a grad student from the LSU School of Landscape Architecture, this puppy’s still a long way off. The $7 million third phase, intended to connect the RTA’s Red Line viaduct to downtown, is still “highly conceptual, highly theoretical, very far off,” via Peterson. (The $7 million, then, must also be).

And if the involved community partners miss the RNC and thereafter invest as much time, focus and questionable dollars in the Red Line Greenway as they’ve invested in the Towpath Trail, for instance, we can expect a fully operational park, complete with restaurants, native plantings and a competitively compensated executive staff, just before the dawn of the 22nd century.

Cynicism aside, the proposal kicks some highly-theoretical ass. The affected neighborhoods (The Flats, Ohio City, Clark-Fulton, Stockyards, Detroit-Shoreway) would see a 2.8-mile park in their midst with 10 access points and an influx of greenspace. The additional greenspace, in particular, which would bump Cleveland’s dismal percentage a hair closer to the national average, Peterson said would help encourage all the obese children nearby to get outside and play.

Thirty-eight percent of the surrounding population (and 53 percent of the children) live in poverty, Peterson said, the majority of them south of Lorain Avenue.

click to enlarge CAITLIN SUMMERS / SCENE
  • Caitlin Summers / Scene
Framed as an answer to New York’s “High Line Park,” the Red Line Greenway has been championed by Cleveland’s Rotary Club, a group of volunteers from which has been steadfastly maintaining the acreage for 30-plus years. The nonprofit LAND Studio was in fact born out of the gardening efforts along the same stretch. They’re now teaming with a handful of local partners who all see the potential for a really cool public space.

Which, allow us to reiterate, will include not one but two restaurants in the current conception.

“Within a quarter mile radius of the West Side Market, there are 30-plus breweries and restaurants.” Peterson said in his presentation. “What I’m proposing is two restaurants on the Red Line Greenway, a permanent restaurant with a well-established chef, and a pop-up restaurant with rotating chefs, young and upcoming culinary artists who can show off their craft. That way, this project will not only embody the culture of Cleveland but help grow it as well.”

No word, yet, on how the restaurants will affect the plight of childhood obesity. (On second thought, the impoverished children nearby likely won’t be able to afford most of the items on the menu, so nbd).

One final note: This does indeed have the potential to be a transformative project, one which would improve pedestrian and commuter access on the city’s west side, and may go a long way to improve RTA ridership by beautifying the Red Line route. But an awful lot of money continues to be thrown at these trails (the Red Line Greenway, the Cleveland Foundation Centennial Lake Link, the Towpath), and the projected costs, at first blush, look quite high. These are pedestrian trails, not highways.

Additionally, the constant need to market these projects to and for the young urban professional crowd seems off-base in part because the majority of millennials around here are renters, and the Metroparks, for one, are funded by a levy on property taxes, by homeowners. (I know I know: The idea is that with unique local draws like this one, all these hip millennials will become homeowners. I'm just saying.)

But we’re putting our skepticism aside for a moment and keeping our fingers crossed. With any luck, this gets underway before all the old Rotary Dudes are confined to hospital beds.  

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