Elements of Urbanism: Cleveland

August 21, 2009 30 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Metro Jacksonville explores a waterfront city that has built its urban redevelopment scene around connectivity, adaptive reuse, and mass transit: Cleveland.

Tale of the Tape:

Cleveland Pop. 2008: 433,748 (City); 2,088,291 (Metro) - (incorporated in 1836)

Jacksonville Pop. 2008: 807,815 (City); 1,313,228 (Metro) - (incorporated in 1832)

City population 1950: Jacksonville (204,517); Cleveland (914,808)

Metropolitan Area Growth rate (2000-2008)

Cleveland: -2.79%
Jacksonville: +16.97%

Urban Area Population (2000 census)

Cleveland: 1,786,647 (ranked 21 nationwide)
Jacksonville: 882,295 (ranked 43 nationwide)

Urban Area Population Density (2000 census)

Cleveland: 2,761.4 people per square mile
Jacksonville: 2,149.2 people per square mile

City Population Growth from 2000 to 2008

Cleveland: -44,655
Jacksonville: +72,312

Convention Center Exhibition Space:

Cleveland: Cleveland Convention Center (1979)  - 375,000 square feet on two levels
Jacksonville: Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center (1986) - 78,500 square feet

Adjacent to Convention Center:

Cleveland: Crowne Plaza Cleveland City Centre (470 rooms)
Jacksonville: N/A

Tallest Building:

Cleveland: Key Tower - 948 feet
Jacksonville: Bank of America Tower - 617 feet

Fortune 500 companies 2009:

Cleveland: Eaton (164), Parker Hannifin (221), Sherwin-Williams (322), Key Corp (382),
Jacksonville: CSX (240), Winn-Dixie (340)

Urban infill obstacles:

Cleveland: An expressway cuts off downtown from the waterfront.
Jacksonville: State & Union Streets cut off Downtown Jacksonville from Springfield.

Downtown Nightlife:

Cleveland: 4th Street Live, Warehouse District, The Flats
Jacksonville: East Bay Street, located between Main Street and Liberty Street.

Common Downtown Albatross:

Better integration of downtown core with nearby urban neighborhoods.

Who's Downtown is more walkable?

Cleveland: 95 out of 100, according to walkscore.com (Downtown neighborhood)
Jacksonville: 88 out of 100, according to walkscore.com (Downtown neighborhood)

Top 4 Walkable Neighborhoods, according to walkscore.com

Cleveland: Downtown (95 out of 100), Ohio City (77), Detroit Shoreway (75) and University District (75)
Jacksonville: Downtown (88 out of 100), San Marco (80), Fairfax (71) and Riverside (71)

Visual Information

Green = Jacksonville's city limits (current urban core) before consolidation in 1968
Red = Jacksonville's current consolidated city-county limits

Jacksonville's current and original city limit boundaries over Cleveland's city limits (highlighted in red).

Downtown Cleveland

Downtown Cleveland is centered around Public Square and includes a wide range of diverse districts. Downtown Cleveland is home to the traditional Financial District and Civic Center, as well as the distinct Theatre District. Downtown is also home to Mixed-use neighborhoods such as the Flats and the Warehouse District, which are occupied by industrial and office buildings and also by restaurants and bars.

Erieview District (Financial District)

The Erieview District has traditionally been the heart of the office district. In fact, due to the many financial institutions along E. 9th Street (Key Bank, Amtrust Bank, National City, and Huntington Bank), this area is also referred to as the financial district of Cleveland.

When it opened in 1987, the Galleria at Erieview was the first major retail venture in downtown since the 1920s. While it helped spark downtown revitalization in the 1990's, by 2005, the two-story mall had only 36 tenants out of a possible 66.  Today, after the addition of Dollar Bank and Good Karma Broadcasting, the Galleria now enjoys near full occupancy.

Historic Gateway District

The Historic Gateway Neighborhood is best known for being the home to Quicken Loans Arena and Progressive Field (the home of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Indians), but the district is also home to historic arcades, several great hotels and one of the hottest entertainment districts in the city, E. 4th Street.

Running east from Public Square through University Circle is Euclid Avenue, which was known for its prestige and elegance. In the late 1880's, writer Bayard Taylor described it as "the most beautiful street in the world." Known as "Millionaire's Row", Euclid Avenue was world-renowned as the home of such internationally known names as Rockefeller, Hanna, and Hay.

Along Euclid Avenue, parallel parking is free, for up to an hour.

E. 4th has quickly become one of the most entertaining districts in the city. With unique restaurants like Zocalo Mexican Tequileria and Lola, concerts at the House of Blues, comedy shows at Pickwick & Frolic or bowling at The Corner Alley, E.4th Street has something to offer every night of the week.

The Arcade in downtown Cleveland, Ohio, is a Victorian-era structure of two nine-story buildings, joined by a five-story arcade with a glass skylight spanning over 300 feet (91 m), along the four balconies. Erected in 1890, at a cost of $867,000, the Arcade opened on Memorial Day (May 31, 1890), and is identified as the first indoor shopping mall in the United States.

In 2001, the Hyatt corporation redeveloped the Arcade into Cleveland's first Hyatt Regency hotel. The Hyatt Regency occupies the two towers and the top three floors of the atrium area. The two lower floors of the atrium area remain open to the public with retail merchants and a food court.

Civic Center District

The Civic Center District, which stretches from the Cuyahoga River to the railroad tracks just north of City Hall, contains some of Downtown's most iconic buildings and public spaces. The center of the district, Public Square, is also the official center of Downtown Cleveland. It is home to the city's largest office towers as well as a number of statues, monuments and historic buildings.
The large public spaces known as 'The Malls' are the center of a historic civic development known as the Group Plan of 1903. It was designed as a grand civic district for Cleveland and includes The Cuyahoga County Courthouse, Cleveland City Hall, The Cleveland Convention Center, The Cleveland Board of Education, Cleveland Public Library, and The Metzenbaum Courthouse.

North Coast District

The North Coast District, also known as the North Coast Harbor, sits on Erie’s shores and is the home to such popular destinations as Cleveland Browns Stadium, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and the Great Lakes Science Center. While the district is primarily a tourist district, it is the home to Burke Lakefront Airport (the primary airport for smaller commuter aircraft and corporate plane) and the Port of Greater Cleveland.

The Quadrangle

The Quadrangle is home to established educational and medical institutions such as Cleveland State University, Cuyahoga County Community College’s Metro Campus, and St. Vincent Charity Hospital, but is also home to a growing community of artists that transformed old warehouses and factories into a dynamic live-work neighborhood. This eclectic mix makes The Quadrangle a unique district worthy of exploration and full of discovery.


Theatre District

PlayhouseSquare is the center for performing arts in northeast Ohio, in fact, it is the second largest center for performing arts in the entire country! In addition to the Broadway shows, Shakespeare, Opera, plays, concerts and educational programming, PlayhouseSquare is a thriving neighborhood for technology companies and partnerships with regional schools and universities.

Playhouse Square

Along Euclid Avenue, Playhouse Square Center is the second-largest theater complex in the country behind New York's Lincoln Center. The renovation of this complex has been called "one of the top ten successes in Cleveland history.

The Flats
Along the banks of the Cuyahoga River near the site of the city's founding lies the Flats Oxbow District. The district comprises both the east and the west banks of the Cuyahoga River. While the Flats was originally an industrial district focused on its access to the river, it has become better associated with entertainment and more recently, residential living.
Today, you can still watch everything from Great Lakes ships to small kayaks stream upriver, and those views are a main attraction for hundreds of residents living in the nearby buildings of the Stonebridge development on the West Bank. On the East Bank, one of the city’s most ambitious developments is planning to transform the former entertainment district into a thriving mixed-use development.

The Historic Warehouse District

This historic district used to be where many of Cleveland’s companies would house goods ready for distribution. Now, these historic warehouses have been restored and converted into apartments, condos and offices. These spaces offer some of the most dramatic historic rehab spaces in the city; they are also the perfect backdrop for what has become one of the cities strongest light life districts, with dozens of great restaurants and bars.
Since the Warehouse District represents the strongest concentration of downtown residents, the district has developed into a strong neighborhood with several coffee shops, salons, a full service grocery store and dozens of other amenities.

University Circle

The Euclid Corridor BRT project directly connects Downtown Cleveland to University Circle.

Red = Subway; Green = Light Rail; Blue = Light Rail; Purple = Euclid Corridor BRT

University Circle is the cultural, educational, and medical center of Greater Cleveland, and is located on the east side of Cleveland, Ohio. University Circle occupies approximately 550 acres (2.2 kmē) around the campus of Case Western Reserve University and the adjacent Wade Park Oval. It borders Cleveland's Little Italy, home to many private art galleries and restaurants, as well as the neighborhoods of Hough, Glenville, Buckeye-Shaker, and Fairfax (also known as Midtown).

University Circle is a major source of employment in the Cleveland area, currently providing more than 30,000 jobs in a variety of fields. Over 13,000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students attend area institutions, and approximately 2.5 million people visit the Circle each year. University Circle Incorporated, a not-for-profit corporation established in 1957, fulfills many administrative and quasi-governmental functions for the area, including security, transportation administration, and marketing. Nearly 50 cultural, medical, educational, religious, and social service institutions are based in the University Circle area, the largest of which is Case Western Reserve University.

Unique Cleveland

  • Cleveland nicknames include "The Forest City," "The Cleve," "America's North Coast," "The Sixth City," "The Rock 'n' Roll Capitol of the World and "C-Town."

  • The city's population reached its peak of 914,808, and in 1949 Cleveland was named an All-America City for the first time.

  • National media began referring to Cleveland as "the mistake on the lake" around this time, in reference to the city's financial difficulties, a notorious 1969 fire on the Cuyahoga River (where industrial waste on the river's surface caught on fire), and its struggling professional sports teams.

Little Italy

Adjacent to University Circle, Little Italy was once the home of the largest Mafia organization between New York and Chicago.  Today, the small urban district serves as the center of Italian culture in the Cleveland area and home to many Italian restaurants.

Ohio City

Located across the Cuyahoga River from Downtown, Ohio City was an independent municipality that was annexed by Cleveland in 1836. The focal point of the community is the historic West Side Market.

West Side Market is the city's oldest operating indoor/outdoor market space.  While the market originally began in 1840, the present structure was completed in 1912.

Established in 1988 and located near the West Side Market, Great Lakes Brewing Company started out as the first brewpub and microbrewery in the state of Ohio.

Shaker Heights

Shaker Heights is an inner-ring streetcar suburb of Cleveland. With Shaker Square (a historic shopping center, surrounding a rapid transit station) and a line of dense development along the rail corridor, Shaker Heights is a good example of how fixed mass transit can impact a suburb. In 1981, the Blue Line's PCC Streetcars were replaced with Breda Light Rail Vehicles.


From fixed-route mass transit alternatives to sustainable infill development and wayfinding signage, Cleveland is a community that has implemented many of the urban livability ideas still heavily debated and not totally accepted by Jacksonville's leadership.  

Despite the region's economic woes, the areas of Cleveland heavily invested in sustainable features stand out as the most vibrant and viable areas of this Great Lake metropolis.  For those doubting the power of connectivity and mass transit, a trip to Cleveland (or at least this photo article) is a must.

Article by Ennis Davis