Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Visions of Parma

If one was to exhibit urban design speculations about the storied suburb of Parma, Ohio, where would that be? Of course, the exhibtion would be hung in Parmatown Mall.

Work from Kent State's CUDC Fall 2007 Urban Design Studio is now on display in a vacant storefront in the Mall. The student work considered a Parma 2.0, the next iteration of this suburb that is currently losing population, investment, and value. How does a blue-collar suburb regain its footing as heavy manufacturing leaves the city and the region? How does design instigate needed change?

Student proposals include the imposition of cultural concourses, linear universities, race-track urbanisms, religious enclave networks, and the construction of a Parma Dam and resulting Lake Parma. A more sober proposal looks at the potential of reclaiming and re-appropriating foreclosed properties to create a new suburbansim.

All are worth a look.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Permanent Convention Trip

While the County Commissioners are all hot and bothered about the new Convention Center and Medical Mart deal that will be signed today, several conventions-worth of Cuyahoga County citizens are going, this year alone, on a permanent convention trip, never to come back. See the PD article from this morning.

13,000 people left the county - - -last year!

Cuyahoga County has lost more people (97,887) in the last seven years than any other county in the country, except for Orleans Parish (New Orleans), which we all know was related to Hurricane Katrina.

How and why is this happening? We have some of the country's leading arts and cultural institutions, as well as leading academic institutions. We are located on the world's largest reservoir of fresh water. Etc, Etc.

Although we here at BOTC believe the in the catalytic nature of design, design is not going to save us. We firmly believe that the obstacles to the transformation and emergence of a new Cleveland + Cuyahoga County are located in the inert pyramids of local and state political power. They need to be toppled, obliterated, and rebuilt as more nimble apparatuses that can anticipate the shifts in economies, demographics, and culture. Only after we have re-constructed our decision-making bodies will true non-machine created leadership will emerge that begin to salvage our region.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Let us be your convention guide . . .

Since Cuyahoga County has signed the deal to bring the Medical Mart to Cleveland and to establish a new convention center, many in the design community need to voice their opinions on the future sites of such institutions. Surely we know more about design than Dimora + Hagan.

The placement of each building or buildings within the downtown context will impact how the city is used, how the city is experienced, and how the city will literally wear away or strengthen. The investment made in the near future will alter the dynamics of our downtown core for decades to come. The ramifications of these impositions need to understood.

BOTC agrees with Steve Litt that the process should be open to the public because of the civic nature of projects. We also believe that studies for the placement of the convention sites should include a broader study of the entirety of downtown since the placement of the convention center in relation to hotels, transportation hubs, attraction districts, and university campuses, will alter the hydraulics of the city.

For example, if the Medical Mart is built in the Tower City complex and the convention center is built on the Mall, Public Square suddenly takes on the important function of connector tissue than transcends everyday Clevelander use. Should Public Square then be re-designed?

These questions should be asked and answered before any downtown site is ultimately chosen. We here at Blog on the City in coordination with Cleveland Design City will track the deliberations and critique as needed.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Simple Care for the City

BOTC walks the streets of Downtown Cleveland everyday, usually working our way down East East 14th and Euclid, between the parking garage and the office. When you walk the same route everyday, you tend to notice things--little things--that can inform you to the state of the city. The details and micro-conditions are usually indicitive of the greater whole, or to steal a phrase from architectural theorist Marco Frascari, the detail tells the tale.

While constuction continues on the Euclid Corridor project, new details emerge, like the symbolic cross walk paving, the embedded public art, the articulated trash cans, and such. These are exciting, pleasing, and exhibit a care for the city.

Other "details" emerge after something like the recent blizzard, that exhibit a disregard for the city and the people who use it everyday. These "details" are not design related, yet testify to the lack of care for the city. Namely, along Euclid Avenue, the phenomenom of un-shoveled and icy city sidewalks and public spaces in front of absentee landlord-owned properties exhibit a disinterest in the greater good of downtown pedestrians. While some building owners assisduously clear and maintain clear sidewalks for their building tenants, as well as the passer-by, others disrespect the city by not investing this small gesture to make Cleveland more friendly and simply walkable.

Creating a better city does not always necessitate investment of million of dollars. Rather a better city can be realized with ten minutes with a shovel and some salt.
UPDATE: A BOTC colleague expressed dismay that the Union Club, a bastion of Euclid Avenue rectitude, is also guilty of failing to clear their sidewalks.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Bad Water Rising on Public Square

BOTC is usually optomisitc about our fair city, despite its many faults.

However, this morning, the literal belly button of Cleveland burst and then caved-in.

A water main break at the heart of Public Square, at the intersection of Ontario + Superior, has created one hell of crater. See the NewsChannel 5 slideshow here.

This is not a good omen for the city.

And as Design Rag reminded me, why not take the opportunity to re-think the Square?