Thursday, April 21, 2011

Cleveland Lakefront and the Browns: (2 of 5 posts)


Browns join efforts to improve lakefront

Browns hope to serve as catalyst for advancing Lakefront development

April 20, 2011 – The Cleveland Browns today announced that they are joining a united effort with the City of Cleveland, their stadium neighbors and the Greater Cleveland Partnership (GCP) to develop a Lakefront that offers a year-round vibrancy and is better connected to downtown.
Browns President Mike Holmgren joined with Mayor Frank G. Jackson to present a concept for “The Lakefront District” that would transform the area around the stadium into a diverse waterfront neighborhood with new retail, recreational and entertainment venues complementing existing attractions such as the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Great Lakes Science Center.  Holmgren said that The Lakefront District can exist in harmony with the adjacent Port of Cleveland. The district also calls for improved public accessibility to the waterfront. 
“Public investments have made Northcoast Harbor a valuable community asset,” Mayor Jackson said.  “What’s needed now – and was anticipated in the earlier planning – is catalytic private investment to create an even more dynamic waterfront.  We are encouraged that the Browns are stepping up to take a direct and active role in bringing private investment to the waterfront.”
On the heels of the Mayor’s Group Plan effort, which last year convened the public and private sectors together to determine how to connect and maximize the impact of the $1.5 billion in development underway in downtown Cleveland, Holmgren said the Browns wanted to step up to help the City realize the enormous potential of the Lakefront.
“Like the rest of the community, we see the Lakefront as such an enormous but underutilized asset,” Holmgren said.  “By working together in collaboration with our stadium neighbors, we want to help jumpstart the public and commercial aspirations for this real estate by driving the private investment that is vital to take our Lakefront to the next level.”
While the Browns have many concepts in mind for The Lakefront District, the specifics of the potential development have yet to be determined.  With the help of the GCP and City, there will be discussions to assure all private and public sector efforts are coordinated and compatible. The GCP will help the Browns lead an outreach initiative to the business community to encourage private investment in the Lakefront.
Additionally, the Browns hope to attract interest from their longstanding partner, the Cleveland Clinic, with some type of sports medicine or community wellness facility on the Lakefront.  Holmgren said “the Cleveland Clinic has been a great partner to the Cleveland Browns for many years.  The impetus for Cleveland’s new Medical Mart and Convention Center is the recognition of health care as a driving force in our regional economy.  We think there’s a place for that focus on the Lakefront.”
Mayor Jackson said he would welcome seeing the Browns and the Cleveland Clinic working together to help drive the project.
“It would be great to see the Clinic with a presence downtown,” Jackson said.  “There are billions of dollars being spent on new projects in Cleveland, and this proposal could fit in very well with our other downtown initiatives.  We welcome the Browns’ assistance in achieving the right mix of private development on this City property.”
The Browns have hired Wisconsin-based Hammes Company, a national expert in both sports facility- and health care-related development.  Hammes was construction manager for the $295 million renovation of Lambeau Field in Green Bay and is developing the $1.3 billion stadium for the New York Jets and New York Giants
Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner said he has long been interested in the intersection between sports, health and community.
“This is a unique opportunity for Cleveland to come together,” Lerner said.  “We think the time has come to make the Lakefront a more dynamic and inviting area. We are very pleased to help with this concept, and we hope our interest attracts other private sector development geared toward making the Lakefront what it could and should be for the Cleveland community.” 
Connecting all the dots
The Browns’ concept for the Lakefront is consistent with the values and vision of the new Group Plan Commission for connectivity, and could provide the solution for a pedestrian-friendly link over the shoreway to get Clevelanders to their great lake. 
There is already one significant linkage in place for the Lakefront and other downtown attractions with the RTA’s Waterfront Line and free trolley service.  The routes, combined with RTA’s proposed new trolley connections, would finally connect all downtown attractions such as the Lakefront, Gateway District, Playhouse Square, Flats East Bank, Tower City, the Warehouse District, Medical Mart and others.
The conceptual plans include a new parking garage that connects the Malls with the Lakefront and could provide needed parking for both the Lakefront and the Medical Mart/Convention Center.
Compatible with prior studies, other plans
Mayor Jackson said the concept presented by the Browns is consistent with the City and Port Authority goals for a vibrant Lakefront energized with private investment, improved public access, mixed-use development and maritime operations.
It is the next step in a public process that the City of Cleveland began with its 2004 waterfront plan. That plan was approved after a two-year public process that included dozens of community meetings. Thousands of comments and ideas were received.
In 2009, the Port commissioned a development study to examine development opportunities along the lakefront from the Cuyahoga River to North Coast Harbor.  That study called for a Harbor District along the waterfront north of the stadium to E. 9th street.  The concept was to bring private investment to the waterfront for a mixed use development.  The plan was conditionally adopted by the City Planning Commission. 
In 2010, the City launched a companion study to consider development options for the swath of land running from Dock 32 to the western edge of Burke Lakefront Airport.  That study is not yet finalized, but its vision is consistent with the 2009 plan.
The City believes the Browns’ conceptual plan is consistent with the 2009 vision for the Harbor District and will mesh with the plans – still under development – for the area that extends further east to Burke.
“The concepts we have presented are just that, concepts,” Holmgren said.  “They will evolve into specific plans as actual development opportunities arise. We believe there is enough room for us to exist and function in harmony and, in fact, we think the port and the Lakefront District can complement each other. We are working collaboratively with the Port to ensure the dual strategic goals of growing a maritime port while simultaneously maximizing our Lakefront’s development and public use options.”

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