Behind the fences, the new Public Square is becoming less of a fantasy.
During a tour of the site in late February, Group Plan Commission executive director Jeremy Paris reaffirmed that the $37 million construction project will be completed by June 1 — in time for the Republican National Convention.
Across the square — now two halves instead of quarters, bricklayers are finishing cobblestone walkways, the statue of former Cleveland mayor Tom L. Johnson has a new home and the space is beginning to look more like a park than an asphalt checkerboard. "It had those four quadrants, so it never functioned well," says Paris. "[Now] it highlights the architecture of those beautiful buildings around it that you ignored because you were doing the Frogger dance across the square."
The northern half of the city's new centerpiece will feature the Jack Joseph and Morton Mandel Concert Hill performance space and Overlook Hill — where a single oak tree imported from Maryland will sit with a wraparound viewing stand. "You'll be able to go up there and look down," says Paris.
Bisecting the new halves, the bus-only Superior Avenue will be reduced from the original 77 feet to 48 feet across with wide crosswalks and eight bus stops.
The southern end's fountain will create a place for kids to rollick. A restaurant with indoor seating — still awaiting an operator — and an alcohol-friendly patio will surely be heady with activity from conventiongoers and media members looking to relax.
But while the RNC helped accelerate the project, Paris says, in order for this makeover to be successful, Cleveland has to think ahead. The Group Plan Commission has to plan how it will fund and program art installations and concerts on the square year-round.
"I'm as excited to reintroduce people to Public Square after the RNC as I am to open it for the RNC," he says.