Courtesy of the Greater Cleveland Partnership

Group Plan Projects: Transforming and Connecting the Heart of Cleveland

The next step in transforming Downtown Cleveland into a vibrant, thriving urban core is to create a unique public space that links pockets of existing development and promotes further growth. The Group Plan Commission has identified three priority projects – redesigning and revitalizing Public Square, enhancing the Mall and bridging the gap between Downtown and the lakefront.

The goal is to create inviting, people-friendly spaces where Clevelanders and visitors feel welcome and at home. This vision is becoming a reality through public-private collaboration among the city, the county, the business community and philanthropic organizations, with the support of world-class urban planners, landscape architects and professionals.

The Link to the Lake

The Vision

Our goal is to create an iconic pedestrian connector that will span rail and highway barriers and enable people to easily move from Downtown to the lakefront. In doing so, we will link Cleveland’s revitalized civic core – a soon-to-be transformed Public Square and Mall, along with the new Cleveland Convention Center, Global Center for Health Innovation and Convention Center Hilton hotel – with our world-class cultural amenities and natural resources on the lakefront. Creating an accessible connection to the lakefront will unify Downtown Cleveland, serve as the foundation for generating additional investment and result in our lakefront becoming a more sustainable and robust economic engine than it has been in the past.

Public Square

The Vision

Photo: James Corner Field Operations

Friends enjoying lunch at the outdoor café. A family ice skating during the winter holidays. A couple enjoying a glass of wine before a well-attended evening concert. Colleagues strolling along the pathways and admiring the latest art installations during lunch. Kids splashing in a cool fountain. These are just a few of the examples of the vision for Public Square.

Our goal is to create a vibrant public space for all of Cleveland in the heart of the city. We want to develop a destination that attracts citizens and visitors to Downtown and encourages them to stay. We want to connect pockets of existing development including Tower City, East 4th Street, the Cleveland Convention Center and the Global Center for Health Innovation. And we want to catalyze future economic growth.

“We want it to be about people,” Corner said Tuesday, speaking by phone from his office in New York. “We want to make sure it's active, that there's a pride of place and a sense of excitement to be in the city.” – Steven Litt, The Plain Dealer, April 11, 2013

The Design

We have partnered with James Corner Field Operations (JCFO) to develop an active and engaging Public Square. JCFO is a world-renowned landscape architect firm that has created dynamic and inviting public spaces in Chicago, New York, Toronto, Brazil, Norway and more.

In developing the design for Public Square, JCFO has honored the historical vision of the Group Plan of 1903 and also created a modern-day public space that focuses on people. Public Square will be transformed from four individual quadrants into a singular public park that can be used throughout the year for a wide range of programs and events. Landscape and design will create a soft colorful space that invites people in and encourages them to stay. The Square will include pedestrian pathways, green spaces for concerts and events, areas to sit and lounge, a water feature, a café and restrooms. The Soldiers and Sailors Monument will remain, but will be integrated into the overall park and become more accessible. 

The Commission has and continues to work closely with RTA and Nelson/Nygaard, a leading traffic consultant, to ensure that cars and buses will continue to flow smoothly through Downtown. Based on an extensive traffic-transit study and numerous discussions with RTA, the existing design for Public Square will close Ontario Street and narrow Superior Avenue, perhaps ultimately serving only public transit and enabling closures for special weekend events. Further traffic studies are needed to finalize the flow of traffic in and around Public Square.

The Commission is currently targeting a summer 2016 completion date.

The Mall

Photo: Gustafson Guthrie Nichol

The Mall is a key landmark of Cleveland and a natural nexus for downtown activity. But we recognize the potential of what the Mall could be.

By enhancing the design of the Mall, we will create an inviting green space that is a natural extension of Public Square. We will develop a gathering place for Clevelanders and visitors for everyday activities throughout the year and signature events. We will also create a connection between Public Square and the Link to the Lake, enabling people to easily move from one area to another.

We will build on the momentum of signature developments next to the Mall, including the Cleveland Convention Center, the Global Center for Health Innovation and the planned Convention Center Hilton hotel and spur additional growth.

The Design

The conceptual design by celebrated landscape architects Gustafson Guthrie Nichol (GGN) demonstrates the power of leveraging quality design to activate public spaces, with planned enhancements to the Mall and major connection points at East 3rd Street and Rockwell Avenue. We will continue to work with GGN and key community stakeholders to refine the design of the Mall. We will also work closely with the new hotel designers to ensure a cohesive and mutually supportive plan for the Mall.

The Process

The Group Plan and its partners, the City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County, ensured that a baseline renovation of the Mall was incorporated into the construction of the new Cleveland Convention Center and Global Center for Health Innovation that would allow for the addition of future elements such as a water feature, a stage or play structures. This means that the basic infrastructure to support future electrical utilities has already been installed, paving the way for future enhancements. 

Leveraging Wave of Investment in Downtown Cleveland

Click to enlarge image

The creation of accessible, central public spaces is critical to the success of world-class cities. These spaces bring citizens and visitors together and connect them to the city. They improve the quality of life. They drive development and economic growth. Yet, world-class cities also know that these spaces must be updated and renovated in order to remain relevant to their citizens and to continue growth.

Downtown Cleveland is experiencing a surge in economic development with nearly $3 billion of capital investment completed or underway since 2010. The redesign and revitalization of Public Square, the enhancement of the Mall and the creation of an iconic pedestrian connection between Downtown and the lakefront will leverage Cleveland’s significant capital projects and spur additional growth. These interrelated projects will provide lasting benefits for both today’s Clevelanders and future generations.

Here are some of the catalytic projects recently completed or underway in downtown Cleveland:

Downtown Cleveland Lakefront Plan

Phased development of 21 acres into lakefront neighborhood

1000 residential units, 80,000 sf office space, and 40,000 sf retail space

Construction expected to begin in 2015 

Hilton Cleveland Downtown

$272 million project scheduled for completion in 2016

600 guest rooms, additional meeting space connected to Convention Center

Iconic 32-story tower with first-floor restaurant and rooftop bar

Flats East Bank, Phase 1

$275 million project completed in Summer 2013

150-room Aloft Hotel adjacent to 23-story office tower

Three restaurants include Ken Stewart’s, Lago, and The Wileyville

Horseshoe Casino Cleveland, Phase 1

$450 million project opened in Spring 2012

Conversion of historic former department store into Ohio’s first casino

 Features 89 table games, 1,700 slot machines, and three restaurants 

Drury Plaza Hotel Cleveland

Conversion of historic former Board of Education building

80 guest rooms near Convention Center

Expected to open in late 2015


Residences at 1717

$65 million conversion of former office building into luxury apartments

223 rental units in 21-story tower

·Project will include fitness center, ground floor restaurant, and convenience store

The 9

$250 million conversion of two office towers and historic bank rotunda

156-room Metropolitan hotel, 194 apartment units, and a 33,000 sf Heinen’s grocery store

Also includes a ground-floor restaurant, rooftop bar, theater, and indoor dog park.

Westin Cleveland Downtown

$64 million renovation completed in Summer 2014

484 guest rooms one block from Convention Center

Urban Famer steakhouse features local and organic dining options

GPC 72 - Flats East Bank - Phase 2.jpg

Flats East Bank, Phase 2

$150 million second phase to be completed in Spring 2015

243 upscale apartments, additional office space, and 10-15 restaurants and night clubs

Riverfront access with 1,200 foot boardwalk and additional public space

Cleveland Casino, Phase 2

Potentially a $600 million development along Huron Road

·Would be connected to Phase 1 with views overlooking the Cuyahoga River


Cleveland Convention Center & Global Center for Health Innovation

$465 million project opened in Spring 2013

225,000 sf exhibition space, 35 meeting rooms, and 35,000 grand ballroom

Four-story Global Center is the only permanent medical showplace in the world

Standard Building Apartments

Potentially a $60 million conversion of historic 21-story office building

Could feature as many as 287 apartment units with first floor retail

Estimated completion in late 2016