Until Scott Wolstein’s bulldozers start swinging this spring, the Flats’ East Bank will be among the most desolate stretches in this, the City of Desolate Stretches. Old River Road, a former epicenter of debauchery, has been on life support for years. Now, save for the Hustler Club, that resilient ode to naked ladies, the plug has officially been pulled. It’s a ghost town with a view.
But Terry Schwartz has a vision for the East Bank. Sadly, it has nothing to do with naked ladies. But it’s wild nonetheless.
Schwartz, a planner with Cleveland’s Urban Design Collaborative who’s also helped with the strategic shrinking of Youngstown
, is designing a so-called Pop-Up City for the deserted site – a one-day party to “remind people what they loved about the Flats.” It’s ambitious, considering that the party won’t have booze, and what everybody loved about the Flats was getting memorably smashed. But the party, slated for February 29, will have an ice-skating rink, a massive video-game display, live entertainment, food, and – here’s where you can get smashed -- imported snowboarding parks from Boston Mills and Brandywine.
The logic behind “Leap Night” is totally dreamy, precisely what you’d expect from a former city planner: “This city has such a tremendous amount of vacant land,” Schwartz says, with odd cheer in her voice. Making permanent use of Cleveland’s desolation takes years, she says. It also involves talking with politicians, a leading cause of depression. So Schwartz has found grant money – yes, there’s grant money for this stuff – to take our bum-infested lemons and turn them into lemonade.
“Vacant land is an adventure,” Schwartz says, and, strangely enough, she seems to believe it. -- Joe P. Tone
For more more information on "Leap Night" and other pop-up city events, visit www.popupcleveland.com. The site's still fledgling but will add info as it comes.