Marc Lefkowitz | 05/02/08 @ 3:05pm
The Lake Erie shoreline and the Cuyahoga Valley are "sunken assets and hidden treasures" that can be recovered for the benefit of the entire region, Chris Warren, Cleveland's Chief of Regional Development, told a gathering at the Greater Cleveland Partnership offices listening to presentations for salvaging the U.S. Coast Guard Station.
Whether it's the station as part of the Lakefront Plan, a Dike 14 Nature Preserve or connecting it to the Towpath Trail and the Cuyahoga Valley Initiative, all of the plans for regional attraction depend on finding resources, Warren says.
His hopes are bouyed by the soon-to-be-released Northeast Ohio Mayors and Managers Association study that will recommend pathways for the region to boost its economic prospects and deal with the costs of fragmentation. The 23-member group studied the model of regionalism in the Twin Cities, and are expected to recommend a similar strategy of regional land-use and tax sharing in 16-county Northeast Ohio.
The costs of sprawl and redundant infrastructure are too high to ignore, Warren explains, as the region consumed 50% more land in the last decade while population and wealth flattened out.
"What we're talking about is a pool where forty percent is redistributed in favor of communities based on age and density. Not just Cleveland, but the inner-ring suburbs and county seats," Warren said. "The allies are looking at the fiscal sense of living within our means. We'll reinvest in the transformation of places that are near and dear, like the coast guard station."
The lakefront and coast guard station are competing with dozens of compelling issues, he said.
It's a lesson internalized by the winning team of Katalin Blankenship, Laura Demitrack and Alexa Kyrkos, Case students who participated in the 2008 Richard Shatten Public Policy Competition and Awards. Last night, the class presented economic feasibility studies to adaptively reuse the coast guard station located on the eastern edge of Whiskey Island, where the river meets the lake.
The students set out to randomly survey 1,000 residents of Cuyahoga County, eventually reaching 350 people who were asked to choose between renovating, removing or leaving the Deco-era station in its current state of disrepair. A thin majority, some 53% wanted to remove the historic landmark, with its white-concrete station and light tower, promenade and a boat house huddled on a scant two-and-a-half acre spit of land. Forty-five percent opted for a new use and 2% chose to leave it and let nature continue dismantling the wooden roof and fill its basement with water.
Because of the split results of the survey, the winning team recommended a $5.3 million renovation of only the station building. They would seek grants from state and federal funds and private sources such as Save America's Treasures and historic preservation funds.
The group also recommends immediate repairs including a new roof and pumping the water out of the basement. Architects for the city as well as Paul Westlake estimate those repairs will cost $300-$600,000.
The city, which owns the station, has been in conversation with the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District and Pat Conway of Great Lakes Brewing about a small restaurant within a center devoted to interpreting the historic effort in the 1970s to clean up Lake Erie and the burning Cuyahoga River.
"We've had four meetings with the Sewer District and at some point we have to decide are we doing this or not?" Cleveland Planning Director Bob Brown said. "Until we have an end user, we cannot ask for $10 million (for a full renovation) if it sits empty."
The last Brown's heard, the Sewer District was meeting with Case about housing a consortium of environmental programs at the station. A restaurant would only work as an adjunct to a permanent tenant, Brown thinks.
Meanwhile, the public will be able to visit the station and Whiskey Island again with the re-opening on May 17 of the two lane road from Edgewater Park, which includes a new bridge for cars and an adjacent bridge for bikes and pedestrians that will align with a proposed bike path. County Planning staffer Carol Thaler says her office plans to hire a team to survey the land north of the road where the path would run this summer.