Cleveland. The poorest major city in the United States—with a more than 50% population loss since the 1950s and a top crime rate for its size. The automobile, with all it enables and requires, has indeed left its mark: middle class flight to suburbs, a thruway cleaving the city off from the lake, a downtown core ringed with visual wastelands in the form of parking lots.
Yet Cleveland also examples incredible success: a re-directed post-industrial identity and economy, a leading mass-transportation system in advance of today’s obvious mandate for sustainability, host to world class arts and culinary offerings, and extensive civic space revitalization efforts. The reasons to re-awaken downtown Cleveland as an important regional transportation hub are many, as are reasons to envision it not only as a place to pass through, but also one in which linger and stay.
Our proposal considers the program of a multi-modal transportation center within the larger context of the downtown streetscape and the city’s relationship to the lake. The Mall has been left ‘unfinished’ in the sense that there is no grand terminal at its northern end as Burnham proposed—but this also means the opportunity remains to celebrate clear views to the lake, which one may positively interpret as suggesting an expansive horizon of possibilities.
A multi-modal transportation center is conceived as being a multi-nodal transportation corridor situated over the existing gap between downtown and the North Coast Harbor areas. Up to three levels of parking could be contained, and concealed, by a green-roof that extends the downtown bluff into a park overlooking the edge of Lake Erie. Vertical nodes at consistent junctures connect rail, bus, car, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic modes. Rising out of the ground, somewhat like fossils percolating to the surface, they create stops or moments for pause within an extended east-west flow current. The areas between the park/roof’s lyrical network of paths, which contrast the rectilinear formalism of the Mall, afford opportunities for sustainable and recreational programming—from playgrounds to urban agriculture initiatives—to support increased downtown residency and enduring quality of civic life.