CLEVELAND, Ohio — There won’t be much to look at next summer except grass when the 101-mile Towpath Trail finally reaches its terminus, the 20-acre Canal Basin Park on Columbus Road Peninsula, just downhill from downtown Cleveland.
It will be an anticlimax after the $57 million and 12 years of hard, complex work it took to build the northernmost six miles of the Towpath, from Harvard Road north to Canal Basin.
But that could change quickly. In 2022, Cleveland Metroparks plans to build 12 docks for day-use boaters at the edge of the park, creating a new link between land and water.
And, with luck and some additional money, the nonprofit LAND Studio could then build an architecturally fanciful open-air pavilion at the park, called Forum, as an early attempt to provide a sense of destination and a focal point for activity.
Designed by Studio Weave, an architecture firm based in London, England, the pavilion will resemble a diminutive version of a traditional, gable-roofed factory standing atop playful-looking cone-shaped columns.
“This is a vertical element that shows people you’re arriving somewhere,’’ said LAND Studio Associate Director Nora Romanoff.
The completion of the trail by the City of Cleveland, Cleveland Metroparks, Cuyahoga County and the nonprofit Canalway Partners will focus fresh attention on the potential of the park, which will stretch across the narrow neck of the oxbow formed by the Columbus Road Peninsula
The goal is to mark the original north end of the 1832 Ohio & Erie Canal.
Meanwhile, plans are taking shape for a second new park across the river at Irishtown Bend, opposite Metroparks’ Rivergate Park, at the south end of the Columbus Road Peninsula
The two new parks, which could become major regional attractions in years to come, have been a fixture of city plans for more than a dozen years. But they’re developing on differing schedules, with different levels of funding and planning.
Preventing a landslide
The future park at Irishtown Bend is part of a larger project to stabilize a curving, brush-covered hillside that threatens to slide into the river and block shipping to upstream industries including the ArcelorMittal steel mill.
Some $30 million has been raised for a project, led by the Port of Cleveland, to stabilize the slope by removing tons of landfill, and to install 2,600 feet of bulkheads along the river’s edge.
Work could begin as soon as 2022, Linda Sternheimer, the port’s director of planning and urban development, said in a recent interview.
Conceptual plans for the park, which will be built atop the reconfigured hillside, were approved by the city’s planning commission in 2017.
A more refined plan is being developed by landscape architect and Youngstown native Scott Cataffa, founder of the San Francisco firm of Plural, working in tandem with Osborn Engineering of Cleveland, the firm designing the stabilization project for the port.
The park plans are also evolving around a separate project to realign the portion of Franklin Boulevard on the Irishtown Bend slope. The nonprofit LAND Studio is working on the park plan, along with Ohio City Inc.
The big view
Meanwhile, this fall, Cleveland Metroparks, another partner in the project, will demolish two vacant Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority office buildings along West 25th Street atop Irishtown Bend this fall, opening up skyline views that will give an early idea of how impressive the future park could be.
But it won’t be until 2024 at the earliest that a half-mile section of the Cleveland Foundation Centennial Lake Link Trail could be extended through the park, said Sean McDermott, Metroparks’ chief planning and design officer. Four years would qualify as fast timing, given the complexity of stabilizing the slope, McDermott and other Metroparks officials said.
Fewer dollars have been raised for long-term improvements at Canal Basin Park, but there will be more visible progress in the near future.
Between now and next summer, the city will remove two parking lots at the site, using $550,440 from the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, matched by $137,600 of city money. Bike racks, benches and other amenities are part of the package.
The Forum pavilion, which will measure 24 by 36 feet and stand 28 feet high, will be made of wood with special marquetry panels inside, designed by Cleveland artists to evoke the theme of “home,’’ Romanoff said.
She declined to provide an estimated cost because the budget is being re-evaluated. But she said only $100,000 more needs to be raised.
The project was originally intended as a temporary installation on Public Square, but city officials welcomed the idea of making it a permanent fixture at Canal Basin, Romanoff said.
“It’s kind of a happy accident,’’ she said. “We love how it’s been embraced.”
A framework plan for the park, released by the city in 2015, estimated that the total cost of Canal Basin Park could reach $37 million.
The city and its partners sought $3 million for the project in the 2020 state capital budget, but the coronavirus pandemic has delayed action on the request, said Tom Yablonsky, a founding member of the board of directors of the nonprofit Canalway Partners.
He said that in coming years, thematic elements exploring the history of Canal Basin would be added incrementally.
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