“Why is nothing here, instead of something?”
As someone who was born and raised in Cleveland, that’s a question I’ve often asked myself about various parts of the city, especially as I’ve witnessed the wrong kind of changes to it. As a kid, I stood on the pitcher’s mound at Municipal Stadium (as you can see in the profile picture above), and as a teenager I worked at a grocery store that has since been razed, so I’ve seen the real world impact of the city’s economic situation and overall reputation. By coming together as a community, we can help reverse these trends and turn the nothing that exists on the shoreline of the Cuyahoga River into something monumentous.
The Cleveland Bridge Loop (www.clevelandbridgeloop.com) is a proposal to construct a walking/biking path that will loop around the Cuyahoga River near downtown to provide unrivaled access to the water. It’s an idea that takes advantage of the history and legacy of the iconic bridges that are spread across the river. It’s It’s a plan to lay the groundwork for important economic and cultural initiatives that will help change the narrative about the city. It’s a concept that will pull the community together and ensure it remains together to create a legacy that will resonate long after the project is complete. Is that something you want to be part of?
The proposed path of the Cleveland Bridge Loop is below. It’s set to pass under or by 17 different bridges around the Cuyahoga River from the area where the river meets Lake Erie down to I-90.
Navigating the political and financial obstacles around this kind of project is no small task, which is why the push to make the Cleveland Bridge Loop a reality needs to come from the greater Cleveland area community. You can sign up right now to become part of this community, which will be focused on making the outlined path above something the whole city can enjoy and share with the world.
To understand the type of impact this project could enable, just look at the kind of change the Christmas Story House has made to the neighborhood which sits just five minutes from downtown Cleveland. A house that was formerly dilapidated was restored and turned into a Cleveland landmark which draws in an audience from all over. A similar effort to transform the area surrounding the Cuyahoga River near downtown would enable visitors to experience and appreciate the “city of bridges” in an entirely new way.
The reasons to make the Cleveland Bridge Loop a reality are numerous, the least of which are associated with the impact it’s designed to have on the economy and culture of the city. Ultimately though, this project is about allowing you to create the kind of Cleveland you want to live in. Do you want to live in one that celebrates the past or is stuck in it? Do you want to live in a Cleveland that offers you a place to enjoy the natural beauty of the region in a totally new way, or one that has a riverfront which is inhospitable? Do you want to live in a Cleveland that features icons which will create a legacy for the next generation, or one that leaves behind nothing of substance?
Based on those answers alone, I know what my choice is, and if you already do as well, please join our community. But if you still need convincing, the reasons to do so are laid out below in both words and pictures. However, you shouldn’t focus on the nothing that currently exists in these pictures. Instead, envision the something that we’re going to create, but remember that the only way it can happen is if we all come together to turn this idea into reality.
A City of Bridges
Cleveland has often been referred to as a city of bridges, and it’s easy to see why. The bridges throughout the Cleveland area and even the entirety of Cuyahoga County have played an important part in the city’s history, and they continue to have a visual impact. While bridges like the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Bridge #463 have been out of commission for some time, it’s one of the numerous operational and non-operational bridges that plays a prominent position in many photos of the city skyline.
To give you a sense of this history, a book entitled Bridges of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County was first published in 1918. Bridges of Metropolitan Cleveland: Past and Present was published in 1981. These books celebrate the history of bridges like the Detroit-Superior Bridge (Veterans Memorial Bridge), which opened in 1918. At the time of its completion, it was the largest steel and concrete reinforced bridge in the world. The Main Avenue (Harold H. Burton Memorial) Bridge was the longest elevated structure in Ohio until very recently. Both of these bridges will serve as crucial points of interest on the Cleveland Bridge Loop.
That’s a brief look at just a couple of the numerous working bridges that will be able to be viewed and experienced on the Cleveland Bridge Loop. Other notable bridges such as the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Bridge #464, the Flats Industrial Railroad Bridge, the Center Street Bridge and the Cuyahoga River Bridge are set to be included as well. Each of the bridges throughout the Cleveland Bridge Loop will have their history and story on display, similar to the way in which other bridges celebrate and showcase their history. Everything from facts and figures to historic moments to engineering logistics can be highlighted in words, pictures and diagrams. Visitors will be able to appreciate how and why these bridges have become iconic for the city of Cleveland. These setups and displays will ensure the history associated with these bridges is not lost or forgotten and will instead be celebrated in an entirely new manner.
The Cleveland Bridge Loop is designed to highlight the aesthetic beauty of these Cleveland icons, but it will also look to create an experience that will be an attraction for both residents and tourists. It will be an experience that is as unique as it is notable for visitors regardless of whether they’re coming from across the city or across the world.
A Cleveland Experience
Neighborhood developments in Cleveland like the Uptown District and the Historic Warehouse District demonstrate how areas can be revived in a major way. This kind of revitalization isn’t just about creating residential and commercial spaces though. It’s about making critical areas of the city accessible so that everyone can enjoy them in their own way. The most essential element associated with the Cleveland Bridge Loop will surround the creation of a path that allows residents and viewers to experience the city in a personal manner, all while getting in a good bit of exercise.
According to Walk Score, Cleveland is currently ranked near the bottom of cities that have a “Walk Score” and a “Bike Score”. This reality has created accessibility issues for residents and tourists, which the Cleveland Bridge Loop would help ease. It would also connect the various parks that currently exist along the riverfront, such as Rivergate Park, Scranton Flats, and Heritage Park 1 and 2. Doing so would help ensure that many more people have access to these parks for a variety of activities throughout the year.
The Cleveland Bridge Loop path will go across or near other iconic Cleveland landmarks like Tower City Center, the Greater Cleveland Aquarium and Wendy Park, just to name a few. It will create opportunities for businesses already in operation along the path, and also open up brand new opportunities for the development of new landmarks and businesses. All of this will ensure that the Cleveland Bridge Loop will be a destination unto itself that creates a totally genuine Cleveland experience.
Additionally, walking or biking on the Cleveland Bridge Loop during the day will be much different than doing so at night. While the logistics associated with making it so the Cleveland Bridge Loop is accessible during the night need to be worked out, being able to provide a different experience at night versus the day can be an important draw for visitors, and even create different economic opportunities for the businesses that are on or near the path. Those kinds of economic opportunities are numerous and powerful, as well as direct and indirect.
Ultimately, this endeavor is about creating a new way for the public to interact with the city. It’s an effort that needs to be driven by the greater Cleveland community in the process of coming together to decide what the future of the city should look like. That’s part of the reason this community will be directly involved with numerous decisions for the project.
The New Icons of Cleveland
Sculptures like the Free Stamp and the Fountain of Eternal Life have become iconic representations of the city, and the Cleveland Bridge Loop would showcase newly commissioned pieces that could create similar legacies. Each bridge on the path would have a piece of public art displayed around or near it, and the community will help determine what these pieces represent and look like. It’s an approach that has already been proven to work.
The Fremont Troll in Seattle, Washington, is one of the most iconic pieces of public art in the Northwest. It exists not because of the efforts of city or government officials, but because a group of citizens put out a call for artists to submit sketches of what they wanted to see under a bridge to clean up the area. The public voted on those sketches, and the most popular piece was the one that was commissioned. This effort to engage the community helped create a significant economic and cultural impact for the entire neighborhood and city. That impact continues to be felt to this day, long after the project was completed.
As part of Cleveland Bridge Loop, other pieces of history and city legacy can be erected at various locations around the Loop. The “Joseph Strauss Legacy Circle” has been created near the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge to celebrate the accomplishments of the bridge’s Chief Engineer. That Circle along with a variety of other attractions such as a memorial to the USS San Francisco have allowed visitors to form an entirely new appreciation of the history of the Golden Gate Bridge and the area that surrounds it.
By allowing residents of the Greater Cleveland Metropolitan area to take part in the selection of the icons that will be featured on the Cleveland Bridge Loop, a similar sense of ownership will be enabled for the entire region. We’ll look to engage with artists from all over, but especially ones that are listed in the Ohio Online Visual Artists registry, while also connecting with artists at various local colleges, organizations and historical societies. These pieces of art and history will be designed to serve as new icons of Cleveland and spur their own unique economic and cultural impact. All of it will be contingent on the support of the community though. These community efforts will be an essential aspect of the entire endeavor as they will help ensure it doesn’t end up fading out like other ambitious projects which were never able to gather enough support.
The Cleveland Bridge Loop is designed to create a legacy that lasts for generations, but the creation of this kind of legacy will be no small feat. It will rely entirely on the enthusiasm and support of the community we’re building. That support isn’t a financial question, but one that will require advocates to spread the word on Facebook and other social networks.
How Can We Make This Happen?
As of this moment, the Cleveland Bridge Loop is just an idea. It’s an idea that makes sense based on the economic potential and historic opportunities in the area, but the logistics associated with the concept have not been considered in full. Doing so is a financial and political endeavor, which is one that can only happen if the community come together to fuel the effort. That’s why the sole focus right now is around creating and building this community.
We’re asking anyone interested in this project to sign up and become part of the Cleveland Bridge Loop community. After doing so, we’ll send you direct updates about what’s happening with it, along with details around interacting with this community online and in person. The community you’re signing up for is one that will be involved with decisions around the Cleveland Bridge Loop, but it will also work to enable ongoing attractions and events at the location, and eventually re-imagine other pieces of obsolete infrastructure or deteriorating areas in and around Cleveland. Those are long-term goals, because right now, we’re solely focused on connecting with as many people as possible that are interested in the idea.
If you’d like to see the Cleveland Bridge Loop turn into a reality, please share this article on your social media platforms. Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter. Encourage others who might be interested in it to do the same. Whatever you opinion of the project, we’d love to see you share this post on Facebook or spread the word on Twitter to get people talking about it. Send people to www.clevelandbridgeloop.com for easy access to info about the project.
“Why is nothing here, instead of something?” can always be answered with, “because not enough people are asking that question.” Joining this community is about coming together with people who are asking that question, and convincing others throughout the Cleveland area that it’s one they need to start asking.