The Cleveland Comeback: Version 5.0

Every decade or so in Cleveland the headlines reappear like locusts—a Renaissance, a Rebirth.  In fact the city has been remade in the visions of its leaders over and over.  But today, we are still poor, still municipally cash-strapped, more vacant, and shrunk.

Today is 2011, and the reality is not what was envisioned in the late 80’s and 90’s—or that Cleveland heyday of being high on the renaissance hog.  After all, the leaders had been building new stuff: the Galleria (’87), Key Tower (’91), the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (’95), the Great Lakes Science Center (’96), Jacob’s Field (’94), Gund Arena (’94), and Tower City (’91). And new stuff means things will inevitably get better, a comeback for the “Comeback City” yo.

At least that was the belief being fermented by the civic booster of the time, the New Cleveland Campaign. And the belief eventually made its way into the PD with headlines like: “Cool! Cleveland’s hot — they like us! they really like us! City basks in the glow of national admiration” (1995). And national admiration there was: “The Mistake Wakes Up, Roaring” (New York Times, 1996). And even the academics were feeling it. Here’s a bit from a 1997 article entitled “The Rise and Fall and Rise of Cleveland” from the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science of all places: “Cleveland has enjoyed a….renaissance and has swiftly moved from backwater to the forefront of contemporary urban change”.

It’s apparent, though, that we receded to being “backwater” again.  Why?

It boils down to method. And the renaissance method back then (and one which still dominates today) was about big, stand alone projects that will either attract tourists (e.g., Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) or the suburban diaspora (e.g., downtown malls like the Galleria). The thinking was to get a critical mass through splashy—if non-unique—development so as to increase the tax base through sales and other spin-off projects. That is: city investment was being catered toward non-residents and away from neighborhoods, no doubt an acquiescing of sorts that the immediate future of the Rust Belt city was not through its neighborhood real estate.  And it was a strategy that perhaps pushed back the immediate future of Cleveland even more far off.

The failures rested heavily on two faults of the investment: product type, and placement.  Regarding product, the development in the 90’s was for the most part layered on top of the city’s history and culture as opposed to being built through it. Copycatting a suburban, glass-built mall as a means to recapture retail market is a prime example of being what you’re not, and the signal this sends works at cross-purposes to your intent, i.e., “you love the suburbs so much we’re bringing it into the city for you”. But it’s much easier to stay in the suburbs to buy your coat. And so people did, and now both Tower City Center and the Galleria are both cash cow liabilities emptied of cheerleading, not to mention coats.

And then there are the splashier tourist attractions like the Rock and Roll Hall. Here, the concept is more unique to the Cleveland identity but the look and experience of place effectively vanilla’s the shit out of the opportunity to differentiate the city by making a Rust Belt Chic stamp on the landscape. In fact, whatever you think of I.M. Pei this does not exactly sing the Kinks or WMMS. It’s rather every big-ticket building on every city’s waterfront and is thus lost in the non-imagination of everyman’s mind’s eye.  (Note: Below embodies WMMS. And I still remember their efforts at rallying the city to give Cleveland the Hall of Fame nod.  That said, the Rock Hall in an adaptive, industrial reuse would’ve been killer.)

Making matters worse is the obvious: the developments for the most part are islands. And given that Downtown Cleveland is an expansive CBD with expansive streets (I was shocked walking the Philly and Boston CBD as I was so used to the swaths of C-town’s avenues), the effect was to make it a one-trip wonder for the suburban diaspora or an unwelcoming field of streets for the out-of-town would-be pedestrian. Moreover, if you want to start a fire—or in this case: a mass—you don’t do it by starting the ends of disparate sticks. You do it through strategic placement and flow.  And in a city like Cleveland where you only have a few matches, you better sit, think, and make strikes on the matchbox count.

Hopefully this time they’ll count, as with a grip of new projects in the pipeline—namely the Medical Mart and the casino—we are at it again, with the voices of the renaissance reaching a crescendo both locally and nationally (hell, even the White House believes it). And whether or not we’ve learned from past mistakes is uncertain, yet there appears to be some proof that this is the case, at least relating to placement and connectivity.

Said Joe Marinucci, CEO of the Downtown Cleveland Alliance: “Where we may have failed is we haven’t connected those investments properly in the past.” And so connectedness—or hemming the places of investment with public paths to be interspersed with revamped public spaces—has been a large focus.  In fact the task was delegated by the Mayor Jackson to a newly-formed Group Plan Commission.  Some of their recommendations to breathe circulation in Downtown are as follows:

  • Creating a new pedestrian bridge from the east end of the revamped Mall (which is Cleveland’s rather inert piazza as well as the site of the new Medical Mart and underground convention center) to isolated past investments along the Lake. This is needed, as the entry points crossing a dividing Route 2 are limited (Est. cost $13 mill).
  • Complete street policies–referred to in the plan as “Healthy Streets”–would be put into effect along the East/West streets of Lakeside and St. Clair. Bike lanes would be added filling a multi-modal gap between the Euclid Corridor and various bike-laned bridges heading into the western neighborhoods. As well, Rockwell Avenue—currently a small wasteful street along the southern edge of the Mall—will be closed and turned into a greenway with bike lanes connecting Public Square to the new investment (Est. cost $6 mill).
  • Public Square, Cleveland’s other grand public place but with actual humans mostly smoking smokes or swisher sweets and eating hot dogs from the vendor (pretty Cleveland really), will be turned into two sections from four with the closing of Ontario (Est. cost $40 mill). The idea is to inject life with the creation of an urban forest designed by Field Operations.

Now, regarding product type there is room for debate.  Because as was stated, the problem with big ticket development is that it usually comes from the idea of some other success story and is then layered on top of a city’s topography like a toupee covering the internal dynamics of balding.  Shave it, get tats: that’s the Cleveland way. And so if we are going to have a casino, at least make it Cleveland and not some night- club-lame, multi-colored neon egg that is this rendering for Phase 2. Make it more like Phase 1: historically accentuated, subtle, stone—and facing out into the winds of Erie.

As well—as far as branding—I think Gilbert and Harrah’s really missed an opportunity to create a Rust Belt Chic brand through the gritty, rock and roll culture that is Cleveland. Instead, it’s the Horseshoe brand. It could’ve been a really unique dynamic  between the Rock Hall and the casino, complete with Kiss slots.

As for the Medical Mart, I for one am optimistic. First—and perhaps most importantly—it’s a development through the Cleveland lineage, the concept an amalgam of Cleveland’s health care and manufacturing histories. Second, it acts as a legitimate counterpoint to the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals along the bus rapid transit axis that is the Euclid Corridor. Now if we can only make it run like a BRT, i.e., rapid, and get a criticial mass to and from these endpoints, then I feel increased movement along Euclid can serve to create investment into Cleveland’s forgotten East Side…

You know what—eff it—maybe 5.0 is where it’s at.  Maybe we have perfected failure to the extent where we are coming out the other side: coal into diamonds.  Cleveland: we’re back baby!

–Richey Piiparinen


Filed under Economic Development, Featured

27 responses to “The Cleveland Comeback: Version 5.0

  1. Jeff

    Nice post, I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks all our problems can be solved with arts districts, outdoor malls and shiny new buildings, although I’m sure an Urban Outfitters would look perfectly natural next to the Justice building (sarcasm).

  2. Richey

    Thanks Jeff. The benefit of being a one-time goliath shrinking city is that we got the cool bones without the Urban Outfit. My last visit to Chicago (I lived in Humboldt Park and Roscoe Village circa 2001) was bittersweet. It’s downright serene sometimes in Downtown so as to be eerily comforting. That right there could be part of the branding…

  3. schmange

    I like Urban Outfitters. I think it’s really depressing that Cleveland’s is in some field masquerading as a downtown (Crocker Park). In New Orleans, Columbus, Miami, those stores in in walkable shopping districts in the city. But Cleveland doesn’t have that. Perhaps because it hasn’t done a good job making the city walkable …

  4. I strongly agree that obsession with suburbanites often at the expense of city residents is a big problem. It is in Pittsburgh.

    Actually, many of the major projects mentioned like the stadiums are guaranteed to subtract rather than add life to the city. You have to have a massive parking footprint around them for the few times thay are sold out. Games are not that frequent, so the rest of the time this is a daed space in the city. During peak game times, one has traffic problems for residents.

    Jane Jacob’s thoughts about having a variety of small things which operate at different times of day was very wise. Gordon Square and Pittsburgh’s theater district renovations have worked more like that.

    Now I’m gonna make a batty suggestion. IMHO, Cleveland like most city’s has missed the boat with casinos. These venues operate at all hours and could play a more possitive role.

    Suppose instead of one giant car orriented, slot cassino, one had 5 or 6 smaller card and skill game orriented venues, linked to hotels, restaurants and more targeted at high end gamblers. These smaller places would be less world’s set apart and would encourage walking and shopping.

    Atlantic City is now handing out some smaller casino licenses.

  5. anon

    Downtowns were never meant to be residential with all night activity. That’s a recent reuse that haPpened because some people want to live in dense areas and downtown is the only area that is dense and safe in most metros. Dtwn is the center of the trolley network because it has the activities that gather people from across the metro – specialized work, gov’t functions , entertainment. Would you rather hAve the stadium in the burbs? Dtwn malls fail because shopping is available evrywhere.

  6. alki

    I enjoyed reading your article and its attachments. I found it very thought provoking. As I was reading, it struck me that your leaders either don’t know what will turn around the Cleveland economy…..and I mean all of Cleveland, not just downtown, or that they do know what the solution[s] are but have deemed them too complex and difficult to implement, and so go for the easy way…..the one where you throw money at an idea, build something new and glitzy, and hope for the best. Clearly, their approach hasn’t worked and enough is enough. It seems to me its time for you all to start making demands of your leaders; for them to come up with a plan that makes sense. Not something pie in the sky and covered with reflective glass but a sound analysis of the metro’s problems, its strengths and what can be done to play to those strengths.

    From what I have been reading, I think Pittsburgh and Milwaukee have been doing things right. And I think Buffalo and maybe even Detroit are starting to do things in a way that truly benefits their cities. Buffalo is fixing up a building here; sprucing up the waterfront over there; opening new restaurants; promoting their strong architectural history and built environment in a video; snagging new industry where it can. They are not spending all their money on one big project or 2 or 3 big projects, but on a lot of small projects that when taken together constitute the beginning of a renaissance.

    In my experience, cities are organic and live and die like any living being. You cut off an arm or knock down a few buildings and there is blood. It wasn’t one thing that brought down Buffalo, Pittsburgh or Cleveland….but a multiple series of events that caused them deep wounds, undermined their economic foundations and then their confidence. Reinstilling confidence in Clevelanders requires that there be some successes. And there have been a few…….revival of the flats, the developments along East 4th Street, the gentrifying of neighborhoods like Ohio City and Little Italy. Figure out what can be done to build on those successes and keep doing it. Actually, make your leaders to keep doing it……that’s what they are paid to do…….and stop wasting their time on pie in the sky projects that just drain state and local treasuries and ultimately lead to more failures.

  7. Would you rather have the stadium in the burbs?

    Yes, the really big stadiums like for football are almost always empty and need huge empty parking footprints. They would be much better if they existed out of town.

  8. Richey

    I think the big part here is not so much that the city is at it again with big projects. these will always happen. everywhere. the human ego loves big, be it in downtowns or in mcmansions. i think the hope is the connectivity. people are moving downtown so the investments in connectivity is not just for visitors and to support big projects but for the citizens–both equity purposes, safety, and quality of life.

  9. “The human ego loves big, be it in downtowns or in mcmansions.”

    A novel idea might be to return to the time when people stroked their egos with their own money or what they could raise from willing lenders or investors. The plain fact is that the people who are doing this have not put their own cash on the line and have little incentive to think these things out.

    The size of these projects and the overwhelming dependence on extracting tax dollars and land through force has a huge effect on how likely any of these projects will ever connect or relate.

    It’s a chicken and egg problem since the damaging effects go much deeper. There is no way to ever know how many legit owners and potential projects never happened because of fears of eminent domain–or just the high taxes these projects place on the remaining residents and taxpayers.

    Everyone, from developers to banks know which areas the city power players consider “critical” or “blighted” and won’t touch them with a pole. In Pittsburgh, any land near the downtown, North Shore or Lower Hill is the domain of inside dealers.

    Not suprisingly, positive private investment has moved towards the ignored places like the South Side, Bloomfield and Lawrenceville.

    In Cleveland, it looks like almost all the East side is in that position.

  10. The funny thing is Our huge Stadiums are built to use existing parking( and actually the Rock Hall, Science Center and adjoining “harbor” were built where the old stadium’s parking lot was. One parking garage was built for then Jacobs field and Gund Arena. Browns Stadium uses existing dock parking, and used to use convention center parking(torn up for the medical mart) and Tower City lot along with Street and other Private lots that dot downtown.( it was supposed to be the Great Lakes version of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, and that is why we have the Galleria which flourished until Tower City was built) I don’t know about the casinoes either, they are competing with neighboring states and with other cities within ohio. The State Constitution is so solid, that no other caasinoes can be built without a vote of the State legislature, in fact ownership cannot change hands without it either. Gilbert may be stuck with the choice of either abandoning the Higbee casino when his Airport hanger casino is built, or not build the second Casino at all. he is appealing to the state to get a special waiver to connect the Higbee casino with the phase three casino still to be built. I am wondering if it will be too big to sustain itself. I mean when it is cheaper to fly from anywhere to Vegas than Cleveland. Outside of Northeast ohio who are they going to attract? what will they do to existing business(restaurants and other entertainment venues) downtown?

  11. “Were built where the old stadium’s parking lot was.”

    That still means you have a whole lot of parking and unpleasant, unattractive dead space, non tax generating property on your key waterfront land.

    As to the casino–well there you have another–government created disaster in the making.

    Nobody, creates great properties or attractions or thinks about good design and improvements if the state hands out exclusive limited licenses. All of exlusive restrictions should come with the label–To ensure poor quality”.

    The boom in Vegas, came about because it was the only place in which licenses were widely distributed and companies had to compete.

    The casino looks like a pile of yuk using the most bare bones investment.

    Bad casino designs in America are very much a result of our percieving them as “necessary evils”–much like PA’s state liquor stores. If they were instead just looked at as another spending/entertainment option and just part of life, many different designs would emerge.

    The great irony here is that the state claims it’s protecting the public while endorsing casino’s which seem targeted at the poor.

    Why exactly isn’t high end and skill type gaming allowed instead of the lowest odds slot machine casinos?

  12. “And other Private lots that dot downtown.”

    I rest my case. The stadium (Browns stadium in particular) is not an addition but a subtraction from the city. I assume, you would hope some other development happened on those lots? Look at how damaging and nasty it is to live near them.

  13. One more point.

    Michael, you said, the goal of Cleveland was to copy the success of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

    The problem is that the Inner Harbor is not a success. (And if it was, Cleveland would have almost no shot a copying it)

    To put it in perspective, the NYC metro area has about 20 million residents alone. My guess is that 30-35 million people live within a reasonable day’s drive (say a 5 hour drive) of Baltimore. That’s a huge market for the mini vacation getaway market Baltimore seems to have targeted. The D.C. metro area is the nation’s wealthiest.

    Cleveland might have a total market of 5 million within the same distance. Many of whom are poor.

    Even so, the stories I have heard about the Inner Harbor are of less than stellar performance and very little ability to connect itself to Baltimore’s downtown or help attract any urban residents.

    Here’s a story about the problems the new convention center hotel is having.

  14. Michael

    John you missed the point about the stadium…NO PARKING LOTS WERE ADDED TO ACCOMODATE THE STADIUM.the old Stadium parking IS the rock hall, science center and harbor, it was wiped from existence.
    Most lots are in the lower floors of office buildings. As for copying Baltimore’s harbor, that was the inspiration of that area. As for looking at New york… when you have 50 -1 person ratio, you can throw a dart at almost anything and call it a successful way of doing things because the people are already there.
    Cleveland has to attract people and business.Not everyone has new jersey to dump their necessary evils in. And the Stadium is City owned, always has been Old & New building and lots so it did and does generate public revenue, the port lots used now are county owned so they generate income. They did at one time have their basketball/Hockey venue out in the Sticks between cleveland and Akron, the cavs were perrnnial Playoff team and they struggled to fill the place beyond 3/4 even during the Playoffs, So sometimes the dynamic population lends to having Stadiums and arenas downtown. You want a parking lot crime, the Cleveland Clinic is tearing down the historic playhouse theater( been on the same lot since the 1870’s) and the Cleveland Museum of Modern Art to put in a parking garage. The big deal is the Clinic could expand South as far as they want, but instead push west


    You pretty much shot your case when you then went on to admit they also use downtown lots. Is that what you really see as the highest possible use for that land? Is there any chance now of removing those lots to build real residential, office or retail?

    OK, so the city owns the lots and gets some parking revenue, once again is this what you see as a very great use of land?

    Likewise, as to copying the wonderful Inner Harbor–did anyone really check under the hood? Baltimore sits in about the center of an urbanised area of about 30 million people and it’s city is still losing population. The convention center hotel is deep in the red and the city is still not doing that great as a tourist attraction.

    Everyone jumped on this so called success story–that isn’t one.

    Cleveland’s has a shot by the numbers of doing about one fifth as well since that’s about the size of it’s relative larger metro area.

    Meanwhile, the real things that would make the city better, like thinking about residential, transit and the nearby neighborhoods are an afterthought.

  16. “They did at one time have their basketball/Hockey venue out in the Sticks between cleveland and Akron, the cavs were perrnnial Playoff team and they struggled to fill the place beyond 3/4 even during the Playoffs.”

    So What?!!!!

    Would you rather have a viable city and a tax base or a sports team? BTW, the Browns still suck.

  17. “Most lots are in the lower floors of office buildings.”

    Eeeeew Yuck! I remember a billboard Christian Dior once put up in NY.

    What’s NY without Christian Dior? Newark.

    What is New York with offices built on multilevel parking garages? Newark.

  18. MWBrown

    Interesting article. I think turning Daniel Burnham on his head is the key: “Make No Big Plans” – cuz failure or new information can’t be incorporated. Big projects get put through because their one-off’s with a few well-connected who stand to benefit mightily pushing for them. Doing lots of small things invariably will create the fine-knit urban fabric desired. Lots of strands are stronger and can successfully withstand the changing needs of a community.

    It may be worth considering too how projects are funded. Wall Street is now deeply involved in financing projects across the country. The old adage “location, location, location” is, if not dead and buried, on life support. Today, financing decisions are made via recommendations of REIT analysts managing huge piles of money. Projects must meet certain standards – The 19 Standard Real-Estate Products. Anything outside those narrow (homogenizing) standards either doesn’t get funded or has attached to it such onerous interest schedules as to kill them. So, what happens? We’re left with large, bland and homogenous projects.

    What Cleveland (and Toledo, Detroit, Akron, Cincinnati, Ft. Wayne, etc) need are lots and lots and lots and lots of small projects. Unfortunately, there is no way for a New York City banker to examine and analyze the request for a loan by a local baker to rehab an old haberdashery into a local bakery.

    Good luck Cleveland! I’m rooting for you and hope I can even help in the future (my new business plan!).

  19. First John follow the rules:
    Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.
    Second: you missed the point again sports venues or no Sports Venues those parking lots would still be there.
    As for this:

    “Meanwhile, the real things that would make the city better, like thinking about residential, transit and the nearby neighborhoods are an afterthought.”

    Those again are going out from downtown. you have Battery Park going on with the Gordon Square rejuvination outside of Ohio city and Tremont, two thriving urban neighborhoods. the Fairfax neighborhood on the east side built to acomodate Clinic employees who did not wander out the nearby burbs. the waterloo district even furthur out.
    One of the biggest problems with urban development is the Tax base for homes within the city which is highr than Cleveland heights, University Heights, lakewood, Rocky river and other border burbs. most get abated for 10 years.
    Another problem is the ever chewing up of Property by CSU and The Cleveland Clinic.
    As for the parking spaces in General I would like to see them build them underground and put Green spaces above like near the Science Center.
    As for the transit up until 1954, you could take a trolley anywhere.
    Now we have one main line that goes from the Airport West/southwest to the windemere neighborhood east. Two lines that serve Shaker Heights and southeast cleveland. and one line that serves the Flats and inner harbor(that a poster on another Blog wants removed for bike traffic :

    “A bridge from Whiskey Island to the Port Authority area north of the existing Conrail Bridge. A multipurpose trail that would connect Whiskey Island and North Coast Harbor. We suggest that the RTA Waterfront Line is close to an ideal connection if the rails were taken out and rubber tired vehicles were used (think Lolly the Trolley). With a “Lolly”, the “road” or trail could be shared..”

    The Problem with this idea is the Waterfront line never crosses the river to Whiskey island, it goes over the conrail tracks to the Harbor.
    And of Course our new Governor threw away 425 million in rail funds, that could have jumpstarted a renewal in transit traffic, I am sure new yorkers will love their new trains.

    As for all your Newark cheapshots, they only make my point, Cleveland doesn’t have a Newark or Meadowlands to put their stadiums and parking lots in, they have to be part of the infrastructure( I guess new yorkers Park their cars in newark and Train over to the city for work)
    So john please stop comparing Apples and Plums( referencing ceveland’s failed publicity tag: If New york is the big apple, Cleveland’s a Plum)

  20. Richey

    John: to say we are not investing in the neighborhoods is not exactly fair. I live in one that is being invested in. Back in the 90’s however, it’s a different story.

    All: There are also small little projects downtown that I didn’t talk about in the article. One is small pedestrian bridge by Miguel Rosales that connects the isolated Voinovich Park at the end of E. 9th with the Rock Hall’s “backyard”. This is a key connection. Also in that area the city is investing in a 50-transient slip marina that can be rented for a few nights. There will be a boathouse of sorts with showers,and they are trying to get a restaurant nearby to serve those staying for dinner. These are the little things that add up.

    MWBrown: Thanks for providing the business angle, and please do come to the City to help out. We need it!

  21. Most of the investments you talk of do seem very good but are really dealing in small change in relation to these big projects.

    I’m not sure what the “no spam”, keep it clen comment is supposed to mean. My points are quite on topic.

    Generally you are living in a dream world, Michael with no real awarness of the destructive effects of these stadiums.

    “As for the parking spaces in General I would like to see them build them underground and put Green spaces above like near the Science Center.”

    Do you have the slightest idea how much that might cost? Here’s a hint, Downtown LA did that with the Gehry opera house downtown. The expense of the underground parking is almost half the cost of the Opera House.

    “Upon completion in 2003, the project had cost an estimated $274 million, including the parking garage which had solely cost $110 million.” (Including interest on the bonds the cost is much higher)

    No way does Cleveland have the money to do those things. Even if it did, this would not limit the peak game traffic loads–and if subsidised would only encourage more driving and the need for more parking.

    No, it was not written in stone that the parking would always be needed–perhaps a more livable downtown would have attracted residential investment. Likewise, greater small investments in the surounding neighborhoods might have made transit more viable.

    Instead, one has doubled down on the one particular thing–huge stadiums that in almost all cases require massive parking.

    There was absolutely no requirement that all that these had to be in town or that the taxpayers had to fund them. That was your choice.

    Yes, one or two of these things like the Rock Hall and either the Cavs or Indians Stadium might have worked into a downtown design. The smaller the venue, the more all season it’s use the more logical it is.

    Putting all these things, in one place, especially the very infrequently used Football Stadium was insane.

    Like it or not, the main aspects of the downtown’s character now can’t really be changed as long as these stadiums are there.

    One has to understand the divided motives the team owners now have. Any downtown development that limits traffic flow or parking, no matter how great it might be for the city is bad for them.

    We pretty much have the same sad situation in Pittsburgh. The Steelers, who happily looted the taxpayers to fund thier mostly empty stadium then actually sued the casino operator (an entity which will actually pay taxes) because they were worried about game day traffic.

  22. Paul

    Nice article, enjoyed it.

    I think Progressive Field (Indians) attracts enough foot traffic to justify the development that occurred in the Gateway district. Gund Arena also has a significant economic impact on the local district due to the large number of Cavs games, hockey, and concerts, etc. So I contend that the Gateway district is an economic success. You also get free national advertising on certain game days.

    The Browns stadium is not an economic success – no doubt the football stadium is a loser economically. Its also in a terrible place but that die is cast.

    So to turn around Cleveland, build upon the Euclid Corridor, pour money into Cleveland State and CCC, consider another BRT line to replace the W. Shoreway. Develop the Lakefront plan per the planning commission.

  23. I agree that Browns Stadium is the overwhelming disaster here. Football Stadiums are by nature anti urban.

    PNC Park in Pittsburgh is a very good design, in a good location, and was compatable with dense mixed use waterfront development. Heinz Field destroyed the whole deal, wasted almost the whole waterfront –perhaps a billion dollars worth of property.

    Using terms like the “The die is cast” is unwise. At the very least, people need to be aware and educated about the stadiums destructive effect so it has as short a life as possible.

  24. Paul

    John – It would be nice to rip out Browns Stadium but its pretty new. The article above talks about the pedestrian bridge going towards the stadium. This bridge provides a much needed crossing over train tracks and a highway and provides a logical link between downtown’s mall/park areas and the waterfront. The problem is of course, the stadium is between the bridge and the water!

    Looks like Heinz field did something similar. Maybe some day we can get back to playing football on a field with simple bleachers that could be removed after the game. That would probably work in my hometown but not yours 🙂

  25. Yes, Heinz field is very similar and it proves that even the field of a big time winning team can be a liability if put in the wrong place.

    Pittsburgh’s move was much worse. Our city is very small, at only 48 square miles, with extreme hills that limit construction. This made the margin for error less in terms of how crucial this land was.

    We also, unlike Cleveland don’t have anything like the lake effect snows that hit you in the winter. If you know, Pittsburgh, you can see the Allegheny where Heinz Field sits is hardly a significant barrier to the downtown, allowing attractive, convenient development on both sides of the river.

    Instead of that, we now have a massive albatross blocking the kind of walkable dense and taxpaying property Pittsburgh needs. As a result of this car oriented mentality, the entire North Side can support only one substandard supermarket.

  26. I would actually say that Heinz field is so poorly located and damaging that the city should seriosly consider making the team an offer to clear out and get lost.

    The city struck it big with a big federal grant to connect Heinz Field with the downtown with a light rail tunnel. This rail line, then makes dense construction even more attractive and almost certainly would have been of great use if Heinz Field wasn’t there.
    (Exactly why the Feds gave out this money–knowing it lead to place that sat empty almost every day of the year is beyond me)

    With the rail line, the land Heinz Field sits on and surrounding property could easily support a $500 million to a billion in well planned commercial development.

  27. Here’s the link about the rail extension to Heinz Field.

    To put all this in perspective, there’s a very good chance this is the last big chunk of change the city gets to extend or develop it’s light rail system. The location of the stadium makes it mostly a waste.

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