Irishtown Bend is about to get a major glow up. What was once known as an Irish neighborhood in the mid-1800s has since become a neglected, overgrown hillside in Ohio City overlooking the Cuyahoga River. But a collaboration between organizations including Land Studio, Cleveland Metroparks and Ohio City Inc. plans to transform the space into an eye-catching 23-acre community park that stretches from West 25th Street down to the riverfront. With plans to open to the public within five years, this ambitious development will put a forgotten slice of Cleveland’s West Side back on the map. “Right now, Irishtown Bend is a forlorn space that people drive by, rather than stopping,” says Joel Wimbiscus, project manager at Land Studio. “It’s going to be an incredible improvement for this part of the city.” Here’s five things you need to know about Irishtown Bend.
Going Green: Back in 2017, the design team unveiled its vision of Irishtown Bend as a 23-acre waterfront park complete with a cultural center, garden space and a canopy walk. Visitors will be able to walk from West 25th, down the sloped hillside, to a boardwalk at the river’s edge. “There’s not much green space here right now,” says Wimbiscus, “and this will provide a blast of green in a very prominent part of the neighborhood.”
Solid Ground: With the hillside slowly eroding into the Cuyahoga River, the risk of a catastrophic collapse looms in the future. Such a disaster could block the river’s key shipping channel, which could affect 20,000 jobs and $3 billion worth of economic impact. The Port of Cleveland has teamed up with Osborn Engineering to install stronger bulkheads before any work on the community park can begin. “Stabilizing Irishtown Bend gives this project a huge economic component, too,” Wimbiscus says.
Connecting Cleveland: Built alongside public housing and just blocks from single-family homes and apartments, Irishtown Bend promises to be a communal gathering spot for the diverse residents of Ohio City. “It will feel like a place for everyone,” says Wimbiscus. “We’re designing it in a way that embraces public housing and the near West Side, bringing different groups together. Irishtown Bend is meant to be a unifying place.”
Dramatic View: Demolition of two vacant Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority properties began in February and will unlock the new Irishtown Bend’s secret weapon: a vista of downtown Cleveland. “We’re drawing back the curtains on a view that most people don’t even know about because it’s been hidden for a long time,” says Wimbiscus. “Think of Irishtown Bend almost like a theater and center stage is The Flats and downtown Cleveland.”
Missing Link: Irishtown Bend is the final piece in the Cleveland Foundation Centennial Trail — better known as the Lake Link Trail — which finally connects Cuyahoga Valley National Park (via the Towpath) to the North Shore. “This is basically the Grand Central Station of trails in Cleveland,” says Wimbiscus. “Plus, as people come through on these trails, they will be drawn into Ohio City, the West Side Market, and all that’s here for people to see and experience.”