Total Revitalization Plan for Lakefront Convergence of the Doan Brook Watershed

With the urbanization of the region, Cleveland’s few remaining watershed habitats have become increasingly essential environments linking our communities together. The eastside Doan Brook Watershed plan is an 11-mile urban oasis of elegant residential communities where many of our cultural institutions are located along its park-lined banks. This is a world-class model of beautiful destinations descending through a natural habitat to the lake plain creating an opportunity to introduce site-specific features for a water front revitalization plan.

Separated by the I-90 freeway the dislocated parts of Gordon Park can be envisioned relating together in a single ecologically balanced environment by reincorporating the Doan Brook with a pond and inlet stream at The Lakefront State Park. An Inlet restoration for the Doan Brook becomes a logical landmark feature to resurface at Dike 14. A reconstituted inlet creates a solution for the watershed system flowing under the I-90 freeway. Providing day lighting the brook with a reservoir pond will attract waterfowl and wildlife energizing the Reserve. Now a reorganization of other segment functions disrupted by I-90 on the lakefront can come into play.

lakefront2Located at the end of MLK, the Dike 14 landfill can become a regional attraction by telling the big story about our science, education, culture, recreation and the historic experiences we find in the Doan Brook Watershed. Building sophistication with consciousness an intact environmental resource can provide Cleveland with a public amenity through its ecology. Working together with community representatives new opportunities begin to form. This variety of interests can serve as a mechanism for the evolution of the Doan Brook Watershed plan.

Foremost is an opportunity to build a correlation of parts in the form of a Nature Center. A distinct landmark structure providing education that serves as a protective gateway to the unspoiled sensitive environment of Dike 14. A bridge over the inlet waterway creates a formal threshold for entering the park. Another variation of the proposal theme includes a relocation of the City Greenhouse to the Lakefront State Park. Fitted into the former ODNR site overlooking Dike 14, a dynamic architectural structure would attract visitors with ample parking. Rededicated as a Lakefront Greenhouse Nature Center people can explore the Wildlife Refuge on walking path designations.

Spanning over I-90 and the train tracks, a second pedestrian suspension bridge brings connection from the City Greenhouse site directly to the Lakefront State Park. Walking over I-90 this new bridge completes a circular route over the freeway joining the lakefront between the Playing fields on the west to the Lakefront and to the Greenhouse site on east of I-90, a pedestrian resource accessible from all directions bypassing the I-90 and MLK traffic exchange.

The next phase of the plan is a redevelopment at the former Greenhouse site for new high performance green-built residential apartments that overlook the cultural gardens with a lake and city view. Further speculation for residential and commercial redevelopment becomes evident working with zoning maps where blocks of vacant land indicate opportunities to rebuild the neighborhood.

Green-built townhouses are envisioned constructing residential west of E.82 Street across MLK Blvd. facing the proposed apartment towers. The riparian embankment along E.82 Street is preserved as a public park habitat. Erosion is a factor.  There is an expressed interest to incorporate right of way trails from the lakefront to St. Clair Ave. however there are limits to how much intrusion the Cultural Garden Park can sustain.

Helping to drive new construction around the St Clair and 72 Street neighborhoods the scale and location for a development at the former White Motor Factory site provides a needed commercial retail and residential redevelopment opportunity.

Where the old Aquarium is located, a Community Center for Glenville would be a welcomed amenity. Joining existing baseball, football and tennis court areas, a social meeting place could provide interior spaces on the lakefront shore-way. Pedestrian access via the existing suspension bridge is the connecting link to the lakefront from this park. At 72 Street a request for a hotel provides an interesting opportunity to welcome overnight guests to stay at the park and enjoy a taste of our coastal living.

Across from the suspension bridge a new ODNR structure could be located at West Marginal Road with ample parking for park management. A restaurant could also be located here facing the lake and Wild Life Reserve on the NW Lakeshore Blvd. curve.

This study is also an opportunity to take advantage of the RTA Lakefront line. Extended east with new stops at 55 Street, 72 Street-Lakefront State Park and 105th Street this underutilized transportation resource becomes a functional option promoting a shared spirit on our waterfront through the extension of the existing public rail line.

Attending community meetings, I gained thoughtful insight for preservation. When the dredge landfill at the end of MLK had reestablished itself behind a protected fence it become a staging area for wildlife and over 260 species of migratory birds.

Further insights occurred meeting the director of the City Greenhouse who noted a need to upgrade the Rockefeller Greenhouse facility. In relation to the Botanical Garden Glass House enhancement, he was thinking about future vision for the greenhouse. I submitted an option to the Lakefront Plan Committee in 2003 considering a partnership for a Bird Sanctuary and Greenhouse Nature Center.

As team leader for the Environment Committee in the Bratenahl Future Search, a program where citizens volunteered to develop a master plan for the village of Bratenahl, I suggested an outline of these concepts. Individuals who took interest encouraged me to proceed with a plan I then presented to the Cleveland Foundation. A Cleveland Foundation mentor, Benson Lee, introduced me to pitch the project for creative development to the principle architect, Richard Parker of Schmidt Copland Parker Stevens.

Cleveland Foundation also invited me to attend the Civic Innovation Lab where others were offering presentations on community planning and development at the Case Weatherhead School, Case Western Reserve University.

I shared this plan with Linda Silver, CEO of The Great Lakes Science Center, The Nature Center at Shaker Lakes, The Natural History Museum, Chris Warren president of the Shore Bank, the Cuyahoga Planning director Paul Alsenas and other institutions and groups with similar motivations to garner support and information relative for the development of a Lakefront Nature Center.

The networking generated a buzz and interest, culminating in a Front Page story in the Cleveland Plane Dealer about Dike 14 and the Lakefront design development. The article presented a Nature Center at the Lakefront State Park pictured on site as a component of the planning process however, an opportunity to evolve the conceptual details did not materialize. Consensus reasoned the educational provision competed with existing learning resources about the Doan Brook and the Lakefront.

The effort enabled me to gather information for my vision to develop an integrated recreational resource. Placing a highway across the watershed presents an opportunity for action. Finding a solution is part of a need to locate relationships and facilitate an evolution of understanding to envision a strategic plan.

I believe stream habitats like the Doan Brook Watershed are a natural resource linking communities together. Learning how to restore our city through a relationship with the environment, we create encouragement about protecting our collective heritage.

lakefront 3This proposal demonstrates the importance of creating land and water relationships like the Doan Brook Watershed to enhance our connection to Lake Erie. By designing and planning with cross-linked support we demonstrate a commitment to cultivate location unity with respect for our natural ecology. Day-lighting the Doan Brook at Dike 14 into an inlet and pond completes a revitalization effort at this coastal habitat disrupted by I-90 Highway. The watershed reconnection on Lake Erie creates opportunity for an educational and recreational destination of attractions oriented to our region. The new Greenhouse Nature and Recreation Centers redefine public and private land use by stabilizing real estate along the cultural garden neighborhoods for both restoration and new residential and commercial reinvestment in Glenville. The conservation of our natural heritage will attract individuals interested in living within the proximity of these abundant resources to nourish our daily experiences.

Ten years later the framework of understanding this lakefront proposal remains to be demonstrated, leaving the lakefront option unresolved. Development upstream is engineering an urban revitalization, but simply adding or overlaying individual “environmental” systems in isolation doesn’t allow buildings and communities to benefit from available connections and interdependencies that can be identified in an integrated or whole system approach. The Inlet Nature Center at Dike 14 provides us with an example to experience first hand how the regional ecology works, establishing a precedent for conservation, we can successfully complete this world-class urban plan that has taken over a century of visionary stewardship to cultivate.