Browns home in Cleveland connectivity plan

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The National Football League (NFL) team Cleveland Browns have extended their full support to the City of Cleveland (US) as it looks to take the next big steps in enhancing the connectivity between downtown and the lakefront.

The ‘Cleveland Browns’ stated that the team has worked in close collaboration with the City as it’s gone through a preliminary visioning process that has stretched over the past two-plus years. After significant research and consultation with City planners, landscape architects and stakeholders, the City of Cleveland is poised to take the next, big, exciting step with plans for a transformational pedestrian pathway that would increase the number of natural public spaces accessible to all while unlocking substantial economic development opportunities in the areas surrounding Cleveland’s North Coast Harbor.

The Cleveland Browns are a professional American football team based in Cleveland (US). Named after original coach and co-founder Paul Brown, they compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the American Football Conference North division.

The 67,895-capacity FirstEnergy Stadium is a multipurpose stadium in Cleveland, Ohio, United States, primarily for American football. It is the home field of the Cleveland Browns of the National Football League (NFL), and serves as a venue for other events such as college and high school football, soccer and concerts.

Co-owners of Cleveland Browns Dee and Jimmy Haslam said, “We appreciate the opportunity to help further Mayor Jackson’s vision for properly connecting downtown to Cleveland’s greatest natural resource, the lake. Lakefront connectivity has long been a complicated issue for our region, and a long-term solution has been elusive. Our preliminary vision, led by a landscape architect with experience around the world, intends to create a transformational pedestrian pathway unlocking public spaces and significant development opportunities on the lakefront. It would create year-round destinations accessible to our entire region, provide direct connections to nature and result in substantial economic development while driving density and engagement in the lakefront neighborhood our community shares.”

The duo added, “We recognize that there is a long road ahead for a project of this magnitude. Still, it must start with a vision, which will be appropriately studied, vetted and modified based on input from community stakeholders. We greatly appreciate the City’s leadership and commitment to transforming the Lakefront and look forward to supporting the City as it engages in a community dialog to understand better what is best for our region. We support the City’s Transportation Review Advisory Council (TRAC) application for funding to study this initial vision and are grateful for the positive reactions we’ve received so far as we’ve shared preliminary details with stakeholders whose support will be critical for a concept like this to become a successful reality for all.”

The ‘Cleveland Browns’ further stated that the City has applied to the Ohio Department of Transportation for federal funding through a TRAC application. The funding would allow for the City to conduct the numerous required studies and assessments, as well as a public engagement and input process, to ensure the logistical viability of the proposed plans. TRAC finalists will be announced on July 14th and recipients will be announced on August 25th.

The Browns worked closely with Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects to create renderings for the proposed project. Osborn Engineering, AoDK Architecture and CallisonRTKL were also part of the vision team.

As per the potential plans, a one-of-a-kind substantial land bridge would be built to run from the roof of the recently repurposed Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland and over Route 2 and the train tracks that currently prevent full connectivity and walkability between Downtown Cleveland and its destination spots along Lake Erie, including the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Great Lakes Science Center and FirstEnergy Stadium. The walkway would be a kind of tree boulevard and boast verdant spaces and include multiple points of entry and exit. A much-needed increase of parking areas would sit underneath the walkway.

To accomplish this structure, the City could potentially transform the Route 2 Shoreway, which would run underneath the pedestrian pathway, by removing the flyover that currently runs alongside FirstEnergy Stadium and redirecting the traffic flow to what would become a revamped Shoreway Boulevard. A portion of the preliminary TRAC funding for which the City has applied would be used to conduct a traffic study to determine the impact of the Route 2 transformation for Cleveland and Northeast Ohio residents.

Also proposed in the vision is a complete spruce-up of the North Coast Harbor, which recently served as the central location for the 2021 NFL Draft, drawing humongous visitors to the lakefront over the course of three days. The possibilities – whether it is retail, office, residential or public spaces – are seemingly endless for the area, which is currently dramatically underutilized as essentially a parking lot on the water.

Enhancing access to the lakefront makes these exciting possibilities for the region all the more realistic – something Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson emphasized as a priority all the way back in 2014 with a thesis that has guided the Browns and the City throughout this process.

Mayor Jackson had stated way back in 2014, “This is all about the connectivity of Cleveland to its major asset, which is water. It’s about how do we develop our waterfront in a way that maintains its public nature – so no one owns it and so it’s still accessible to the public, but also creates the economic vitality that we need to move Cleveland to the next stage.”

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