Reinterpreting a city is no easy task. But in Elyria, plans are being made for a new kind of town, one simultaneously urban and suburban. Designed by Kent State University's Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative, the JumpStart Elyria initiative is rethinking three of the city's central districts — Cleveland Street, downtown and Midway Mall — as a way to capitalize on the city's assets and overcome its obstacles.
This four-lane road, dominated by park-and-shop retail, is the main feeder for downtown traffic. To beautify the stretch, trees would be planted and wayfinding signs added to direct travelers downtown. To smooth the flow of traffic and benefit pedestrians, three lanes with a central turning lane and improved crosswalks are being considered. "If you want to cross the street, you shouldn't have to get in your car and drive," says Terry Schwarz, director of the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative.
With a beautiful square steps away from Cascade Park's waterfalls, downtown is already rich in cultural assets. Yet train tracks pass through town, creating dark overpasses that effectively cut off the falls from downtown. So walkable, street-level retail and public art projects that'll brighten overpasses and encourage jaunts to the falls are being added. "It's pretty unique to have this historic intact downtown and this majestic public park so close together," says Schwarz. "We'd like it to feel like one place."
This area north of the city center consists of mostly ailing big-box retail, including a now-shuttered Wal-Mart. In a triangle framed by the Wal-Mart site, West River Street and Ford Road, the collaborative plans for offices and apartment buildings to replace some of the strip malls, plus a bike path to connect the area to downtown. "If you're going to have some retail, you'd want to align them along Lorain Boulevard where people can see it," says Schwarz.