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Cleveland's Avenue District Streetscape

Landscape Architecture, Architecture and Urban Design by City Architecture

The new lower median is planted with 'Aristocrat' pear trees to form a canopy over the roadway, while protective boulders along the curb line below are softened by low spreading shrubs, such as 'Lowfast' cotoneaster.

The Avenue District Neighborhood development plan was envisioned to revitalize a series of vacant parking lots surrounding East 12th Street in downtown Cleveland. As a key part of this plan, the reconfiguration and redevelopment of East 12th Street replaced uncrossable, raised-concrete medians with new pedestrian-friendly walkways, vibrant street trees and landscaping, intricate paving patterns and public art that create a fresh and inviting residential and office mixed-use environment. Implemented streetscape investments promote walking, bicycling, the use of public transportation and economic development.

Located just blocks from Cleveland's central business district, the Avenue District Neighborhood development plan brings life and vitality to one of Cleveland's most unique areas. The master plan rediscovers the potential of over six acres through the conversion of underutilized downtown sites into a dynamic mixed-use neighborhood punctuated with meaningful public spaces and vibrant streets.


BEFORE AND AFTER: Revitalizing vacant parking lots around East 12th Street has encouraged walking, bicycling and use of public transportation. The reduction of vehicle lanes allowed the addition of bike lanes, on street angled parking and increased landscape areas. The median narrows at points to provide dedicated turning lanes and mid-block crossing points defined by permeable paver pathways.

Townhomes and loft units provide much needed housing options while approximately 20,000 sq. ft. of street-level retail envisioned to serve the pedestrian-oriented streetscape.

A key component to the success of this neighborhood was the complete redesign of East 12th Street from Lakeside Avenue to Chester Avenue, transforming an expansive asphalt road into a green corridor. Prior to the project, East 12th Street comprised two driving lanes with on-street parallel parking in each direction, an overall width exceeding six roadway lanes. Bisecting the roadway was an elevated concrete median that served as an obtrusive and isolating barrier. The design team, working in close partnership with the city of Cleveland's Engineering and Traffic departments, determined a methodology for rebalancing the right-of-way to coordinate traffic and public transit volumes with aesthetic and functional enhancements. This collaborative and coordinated effort led to the reconfiguration of East 12th Street, reclaiming and repurposing the public right-of-way into a modern pedestrian-friendly urban corridor. By decreasing the amount of pavement, the design team was able to refocus the street's purpose from a pass through to a true urban place.

To create a multimodal street more conducive to a mixed-use neighborhood, the plan proposed reconfiguring East 12th Street into a boulevard comprised of a single lane of travel in each direction, with angled parking to maximize ground-floorretail, access to pedestrian areas and bicycle lanes. Wide, vibrant sidewalks lined with benches, bike racks, dining patios, public art, kiosks, district signage and bus shelters bring a new spark to the corridor and exemplify the area's new identity as a thriving neighborhood.

Incorporating pavement markings and designating a "buffer zone" along the backside of the on-street parking spaces accommodates bicycle traffic.

A new at-grade, curbed landscaped median and broad street trees create a canopy over the roadway. The median narrows at points to provide dedicated turning lanes and mid-block crossing points, which are defined by permeable paver pathways. Integrally-colored and patterned-concrete crosswalks bookend the city blocks and help calm traffic.

New street trees and generous landscaped areas form intimate spaces highlighted by decorative pavers that represent abstract area rugs. Street furniture arranged in a variety of configurations under pedestrian light fixtures finish the aesthetic of these outdoor rooms, offering places to read, enjoy a cup of coffee, or converse with friends and fellow city dwellers. East 12th Street is now a popular destination for lunchtime activity, drawing people from the many office buildings that line the street.

The sidewalk is well lit (reflector, shielded type), with plentiful chairs, benches and waste receptacles. The fenced planters have large decorative boulders and a variety of plantings: Andorra junipers, purple dome asters, 'Autumn Joy' sedums, Russian sage, purple coneflowers, wintergreen, daylilies and a canopy of London planetrees. Multicolored concrete pavers and metal inlays by artist Sarah Kabot add interest to the concrete walk.

Special attention was given to the transit stops along the road. Bicycle racks, benches, trash receptacles and shade trees clustered around these hubs make waiting for the bus a more pleasant experience. The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority was a strong partner in the street's reconstruction, providing new bus shelters that continue the modern aesthetic and character of the streetscape. The team recognized that capitalizing on these public transportation opportunities was a critical factor in furthering the district's multimodal identity.

Public art infused into the plan adds vibrancy and meaningful connections to the community. The design team worked with local artists to create one-of-a-kind elements to highlight gateways to the neighborhood and major nodes along the street. Artist-designed components include decorative paving patterns, banners and animated fencing around landscaped "front yards." The artists used ornamental fencing to create interpretive, contextual symbols.

Bricks and traditional picket fences represent a residential theme, while modern, geometric bubbles and rectangles accentuate the street's playfulness and growing social activities. As mentioned previously, artist-designed and detailed paving patterns integrate multicolored units of precast concrete pavers and custom inlaid metal to highlight public gathering spaces and add variety along the sidewalks. The public art elements integrate with the streetscape design to transform what was a dull concrete-dominated streetscape into a neighborhood amenity.

A carefully selected plant palette complements the public art, offering rich, colorful textures and layerings. Groundcovers are paired with specimen plantings. Each season finds portions of the plant palette in full bloom, offering color and delight year round. Ornamental boulders provide visual interest in the larger planting beds, while smaller rocks line the center median. The rocks help protect the plants from the salt spray during winter months.

Artist Mark Reigelman II contributed to the streetscape by sculpting metal fencing to protect the planting beds. The plant palette was carefully devised to withstand the tough urban environmental conditions. Sedums, junipers and daylilies were selected for their urban and drought tolerance. The vitality and success of the plant material is
crucial in providing year-round interest in the landscape beds.

Large-caliper London planetrees and Cleveland select pear trees line the street to form a canopy over the extended sidewalks. The large trees created an immediate impact, quickly establishing a new character and look for the downtown neighborhood. Their impression the trees make on the streetscape is emphasized with dramatic uplighting. The lighting establishes the corridor's nighttime presence, but also increases security.

Through the enhancement of its existing assets and engagement with the downtown Cleveland population, the renewed Avenue District neighborhood is growing with new opportunities for residential and retail development. The revitalized streetscape gives Cleveland an exciting and active urban district, connecting and unifying investments, while setting the stage for further development. The streetscape is a public display of the neighborhood's new life and a bright, successful future. The culmination of urban design, engineering and landscape architecture has redefined this emerging neighborhood and set a new standard for infrastructure design in the city of Cleveland.

Project Team
Downtown Cleveland, East 12th Street Team List
Architecture and Urban Design: City Architecture
Civil Engineering: Michael Benza and Associates
Electrical Engineer: Roger J. Zakrajsek, P.E.
Consultant: Phil Hatcher
Public Artists
-Mark Reigelman II, ornamental fences
Sarah Kabot, pavers

Benches: Keystone Ridge Designs, 'Atticus Bench'
Bicycle Racks: Landscape Forms, 'FLO Rack'
Chairs: Keystone Ridge Designs, 'Exeter Chair'
Fencing, Custom: Tony Pidala - Pidala Ornamental Iron
Unit Pavers: Hanover Pavers
Waste Receptacles: Landscape Forms, 'Chase Park

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November 20, 2019, 2:33 pm PDT

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