The city of Cleveland is sprucing up its biggest welcome mat now that an estimated 50,000 people are set to arrive on our doorstep for the 2016 Republican National Convention. Thanks to an $8 million pledge by the Cleveland Foundation and $5 million grant by the George Gund Foundation for the renovation of Public Square, construction is expected to begin this fall on the $30 million redesign. Plans for the city's neglected center include a bustling, green-lined park with a splash fountain, event lawn, entertainment and cafe. Richard Kennedy, a principal with New York City's James Corner Field Operations, and lead designer of the redesign, walks us through the changes.
Square One: In order to create a singular, pedestrian-friendly space, the city will close Ontario Street within the square and narrow the dimensions of Superior Avenue from 77 to 44 feet. "What we wanted to do with Public Square is to connect the four disparate parts and make the four quadrants feel like one central space," explains Kennedy. The city is working with the transportation firm Nelson\Nygaard to study how traffic will be redirected around the square.
Fountain of Youth: One of the centerpieces of the redesigned square will be an interactive spray fountain, inspired by the Crown Fountain at Chicago's Millennium Park, which kids can splash around in during the day and can also be turned into a Bellagio-like light show at night. "Water is a great conduit of light — and as the water arches up, it's a fantastic thing to view as you're walking into the square," says Kennedy.
Entertainment Tonight: A portion of the Public Square renovation budget has been set aside for programming and entertainment. City planners visualize hosting weekday movie nights, weekend dance troupes and concerts in the space. "Great public spaces have attractions that keep you there throughout the day," says Kennedy. "Our redesign is only successful if there is effective programming."
Rules of the Road: A new tree-lined walking path will connect all four corners of the square and lead into Terminal Tower, Key Center and the downtown malls. The new trail "will create a pleasurable walking route that also provides an important physical connection to the city's urban landscape," says Kennedy.
Historical Markers: The Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument will no longer be isolated in its own enclave. Instead, steps and terraces will lead from the square to the plaza. "We've been working with the friends of the Soldiers' monument to make sure it feels integrated into the square, yet still maintain the intimate moments of the monument," says Kennedy.
Time Table: Construction is slated to begin later this fall — and finish by late spring 2016, right in time for the Republican National Convention to arrive. "We're used to tight deadlines," says Kennedy.