Duck Island has always held an air of mystery. In fact, it might be the reason for the Cleveland neighborhood's name. The popular theory holds that its labyrinthine streets and location on a bluff above the Cuyahoga River made it an oasis for criminals to duck the cops. And despite its proximity to downtown and enviable skyline views, Duck Island has eluded the development of its Ohio City and Tremont neighbors. But that's changing. In 2013, a community planning process envisioned residential developments, better connectivity for bikers and pedestrians, and improved green space. We get a bird's-eye view of how some of the projects are coming to roost.
1. Green Alley The pilot project between West 18th and 19th streets is expected to be complete next year. The alleyway will be repaved with a pervious surface to absorb rainwater, and will offer garage access from the rear to eliminate driveway cuts on the main streets and improve pedestrian and bicycle traffic. "These are small green elements, but when multiplied, take stress off the sewer system," says Cory Riordan, executive director of Tremont West Development Corp.
2. Duck Island Development Duck Island resident Matt Berges owns 1.7 acres in the neighborhood. Along with his partners, Berges has plans for 60 housing units near West 18th and 19th streets, the first large-scale residential project since the 1900s. With two occupied and six under construction, the ultra-energy efficient homes offer heavy insulation and metal roofs for solar panels. "They don't make furnaces small enough for them," Berges says.
3. Red Line Greenway Plans to turn a 3-mile stretch of unused land along the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority's Red Line into a trail for walkers, runners and bicyclists took a big step this year. The hope is to have part of the trail, which runs from West 65th Street to downtown, operational by 2020, says Leonard Stover, Red Line Greenway project co-founder. "Duck Island will be one of the biggest beneficiaries," he says. "It's been separated from Ohio City by the train tracks."
4. Velvet Tango Room For almost 20 years, owner Paulius Nasvytis has been making his own ingredients for cocktails at the sumptuous Columbus Road bar, including simple syrup, ginger beer (it uses 40 pounds of ginger a week for the drink) and a red wine reduction that is used in place of sweet vermouth.
5. Forest City Brewery When Jay Demagall wanted to start brewing his own beer, the history buff was drawn to a building at Columbus Road and Freeman Avenue with a brewing past. Once home to the Atlantic Tavern and Beer Garden, Demagall's 12,000-square-foot Forest City Brewery plans a February opening. "When we saw the timber frames and found out this was an old beer garden, it all added up," Demagall says.
6. Duck Rabbit Coffee Cal Verga spent a decade in Oakland, California, but returned home with the mission of sharing everything he'd learned about roasting coffee. "It's more complex of a beverage than wine," he says. He roasts beans from small farms in Guatemala, Costa Rica and Kenya for his blends, which are available at the Local in Oberlin, Root Cafe in Lakewood and the Grocery in Ohio City. Verga plans to open a coffee shop in the Forest City Brewery building later this month.
7. St. Wendelin Parish Established in 1903, the church was closed by the diocese in 2009. But after appealing to the Vatican, it reopened in 2012. "This parish, like a lot of other things on Duck Island, is benefiting from new people," says the Rev. Robert Kropac. "In the next 10 years, it's got tremendous potential."