The test for Public Square came quickly. Just 18 days after the more unified square opened, protestors, police, politicians and media descended upon our new front lawn. “It was the most contentious setting possible,” says Greg Peckham, executive director of Land Studio, which was tasked with the transformation. But the $50 million makeover lived up to the challenge. “The new Public Square became a symbol of openness to dialogue and different ideas.” Here are three lessons as we tackle new public spaces such as Irishtown Bend.
Go all in
The 6-acre space, with its vast lawn to the north and cafe and fountain to the south, serves as a front porch for daytime workers and the backyard for new downtown residents, Peckham says. “This is not an amenity project,” he says. “If we’re going to continue positive development downtown, it has to be a melting pot — the physical and psychological center of the city.”
The biggest challenge for Land Studio was maintaining the square’s role as a hub for public transportation. Yet despite the controversy about opening Superior Avenue to bus traffic, the square’s adaptability can be a model for future projects. “It has been open to transit and worked fine and been closed to transit and worked fine,” Peckham says. “Having this flexibility was unthinkable in years past.”
Public Square was intended to be a center for arts, culture and community — “a public space for all Clevelanders to benefit from,” says Peckham. This summer, the square hosts events from poetry slams and movie nights to outdoor yoga and a same-sex wedding. “We have a strong focus on improving livability that reflects and meets the needs of local communities,” says Peckham. “We want everyone to experience the vibrancy of well-planned and well-executed public spaces.”