The Group Plan: a Three Step Process

by Christine Coyne

Over the past few years, you may have noticed a lot of development within the city of downtown Cleveland: Restaurants and small business are thriving, the sports teams (well, some of them) are doing better than ever before, and new public projects seem to be assembling everyday. Cleveland is on the rise to becoming the affluent city it once was one hundred years ago.

A key contributor to Cleveland’s historic wealth and prosperity was the architect and city planner, Daniel Burnham. In 1903, Burnham joined a team of architects, designers, builders, and planners to create an urban renewal proposal, known as the “Group Plan”. Burnham’s sole purpose of this assembly was to beautify the downtown area and create a space for people to enjoy and admire. His developments and designs were critical to revamp the downtown Cleveland space. However, after the Great Depression, urban improvement was no longer the focus and the downtown area began to weaken.

In 2011, Cleveland mayor Frank Jackson decided that it was time to concentrate on downtown Cleveland’s urban spaces once again. Like Burnham, he appointed a team and cleverly named it “The Group Plan Commission”. This untiring group of members has created a straightforward plan to successfully enhance downtown Cleveland. The Group Plan’s mission statement reads that they hope to “renew the heart of Downtown Cleveland for today’s citizens and future generations by transforming and connecting the city’s signature public spaces.”

The first step of the plan was to revamp and extend the historic Mall located on St. Clair Avenue. This step has been successfully executed and is open to the public. There is ample green space for picnics, parties, and recreational activities. Along with this, a contemporary Convention Center was rehabbed just beneath the middle grounds. Below is an image of the layout for the Mall before the construction was finalized:

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The second step of the plan was to create a more central and welcoming space in downtown Cleveland’s heart, Public Square. Like the Mall, this plan has been very successfully completed and has gotten national attention for its transformation. The Square now includes a delicious restaurant, Rebol, a playful water feature, and an up and coming ice rink during the wintertime. Below is an image of the layout for Public Square before the construction was finalized:

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The third and final step of the plan is to build a pedestrian bridge that will connect the Mall to the lakefront area. Currently, it is quite a hassle travelling from the downtown area to the lakefront features, which includes the Science Center, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the metro parks, restaurants and more. With this linkage to the lakefront, walking or biking from downtown Cleveland to the water will be more accessible. Below is an image of the layout for this bridge:

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The Group Plan Commission is determined to creating a downtown area that not only tourists can enjoy, but Clevelanders as well. The Mall is the perfect spot for your afternoon picnic. On a hot summers day, the water features and beverages at Public Square will cool you down. In the next few years, the bridge to the lakefront will open up so many more downtown experiences to have. It is time for residents in Cleveland and the Greater Cleveland area to come downtown and enjoy the new amenities and spaces that were built just for them.

For more information on The Group Plan Commission you can check your local newspaper for upcoming projects or you can check out the website: http://www.groupplan.org/#home