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Public Square wins national honor, but Jersey barriers will stay for now

September 25, 2018

Public Square wins national honor, but Jersey barriers will stay for now

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Chicago-based American Planning Association honored Cleveland’s Public Square Tuesday by naming it one of its five great public spaces for 2018.

The recognition is part of the 11th year in which the APA has honored 15 great neighborhoods, streets and public spaces.

It’s meant to highlight “places that are unique and exemplary in their amenities and infrastructure, cultural identity, and use of sustainable and innovative practices,” the organization said in a news release.

The APA didn’t mention the City of Cleveland’s placement of concrete Jersey barriers along Superior Avenue in the square in 2017 in response to what it called Homeland Security concerns posed by motorists who could ram vehicles into pedestrians.

The landscape architecture firm of James Corner Field Operations, which designed the $50 million renovation of the square, completed in 2016 in time for the Republican National Convention, has come up with a $2 million plan to replace the barriers with bollards.

Anthony Coyne, chairman of the city-county Group Plan Commission, which shepherded the project and manages it, said it is “hopeful that the city and other government entities are able to allocate funding for the permanent safety improvements advocated by law enforcement and Homeland Security.”

Coyne’s statement also said: “We are prepared and look forward to helping support such fundraising initiatives. Once initial commitments are made we hope the private sector continues to be generous in supporting our programming of the Square for Cleveland families to enjoy.”

The administration of Mayor Frank Jackson did not respond to an emailed question about funding for the bollards.

But the mayor’s office released a short statement saying he thanked the APA for its recognition of the square.

“It would not have happened without the support of the public, private, and philanthropic communities, or the vision of Tony Coyne and the Group Plan Commission,” the mayor was quoted as having said.

In addition to Public Square, the other five public spaces honored by the APA are: The Plaza, Orange, CA; Aspen Pedestrian Mall, Aspen, CO; Mill River Park, Stamford, CT; and RiversEdge at Marcum Park, Hamilton, O.

Cynthia Bowen, president of APA, said in a news release that Public Square “is a national example of how public spaces effectively create a sense of place that creates access and opportunity for all.”

Sanaa Julien, CEO of the Group Plan Commission, said the square hosts 250 or more programs a year. Operations cost $2.2 million annually, she said. Money comes from earned income and donations from funders including including the Cleveland and Gund Foundations, KeyBank.

“I’m thrilled to see Public Square honored not only because of the hard work that everybody has committed to make the project successful in the short time it took to develop, but also because of how the community has embraced the space,” Julien said.

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