Placemaking: A civic effort to reimagine and revitalize University Circle’s eastern gateway

Blog Circle East District

Placemaking: A civic effort to reimagine and revitalize University Circle’s eastern gateway

For almost a decade, residents near the in-development Circle East District have been generous with their time, perspective and needs; they have been devoted to helping revitalize their neighborhood; and they have played a critical role in crafting a plan that will create a new and buzzing community. East Cleveland residents who have taken the time to share their vision with the staff of the Cuyahoga Land Bank have done so with passion and enthusiasm.

While the efforts to reshape this neighborhood officially began in 2015, the formal placemaking study that involved almost 150 participants across a variety of engagement events, surveys and meet-ups, ran from January through August 2023. The results of all of these interactions have been memorialized in a formal publication, Connect East Cleveland.  Here is a look at the results and both current and upcoming work to fulfill these requests and initiatives.

Four Key Themes Emerged

Residents offered a valuable framework that we were able to distill into four themes that will guide the development of the Circle East District:

 1. Nature-inspired designs that encourage healing and sustainability:  Residents want more opportunities to connect with nature and to increase their tree canopy.

2. Arts and culture combining both historic and current artists:  Residents are proud of their city, its roots and location near historic and present amenities, like the arts organizations in University Circle.

3. Brighten up the neighborhood with colorful and bold moments throughout:  East Clevelanders want their pride and enthusiasm reflected throughout the community with bold, bright, inviting colors.

4. A welcoming spirit expressing local pride and diversity:  Residents shared their preference to live in a community that invites all people to come and appreciate the local culture.

Five Areas of Focus

After more than 30 placemaking recommendations were identified from conversations with residents, we crafted an action plan that prioritizes them into short-, medium- and long-term priorities. Some of these actions will be handled by the Land Bank, and others will require action by the City of East Cleveland and other organizations, like RTA. The recommendations fell into five categories:

Greenway: The highest priority for the community was a greenway/park that made the neighborhood more walkable and provided a place for new and existing residents to get to know each other and socialize, exercise and play together.

Pocket Park: A small park in a highly visible location was also considered desirable.

Public Art: This was a recurring theme both along Euclid Avenue and within the neighborhood.

Landscape: Residents expressed their interest in more trees and other greenery to beautify the area.

Streetscape: Residents wanted elements such as bike racks, café seating, crosswalks, wider sidewalks and street pole banners to improve safety, build neighborhood identity and increase visual appeal.

Where We Are Now

  • A $3.5 million dollar renovation of the Mickey’s Building, a 25,000-square foot commercial building, is complete. A ribbon cutting will be held soon.
  • $190,000 of grant funds have been invested in repairs of ten owner occupied homes in the neighborhood and another ten applications are being processed with bids for work being sought.
  • Planters have been installed outside the Mickey’s building to begin the neighborhood brightening and beautification process.
  • The community-requested greenway space is in development, with land having been cleared, dead trees removed and new trees planted. We are waiting for bids to start constructing the improvements requested by residents, including a play area, a walking and biking path, and picnic benches. Work should take place over summer and be completed by September.

So, What’s Next?

The first new single-family homes on Woodlawn, which will be built by the Cuyahoga Land Bank, will break ground in fall of this year. Three other builders have signed on to build a combination of townhomes and single-family homes along Woodlawn.

Stay Connected

In the meantime, continual updates will be shared on the Circle East District website, where articles and news clips will be posted regularly about the neighborhood’s features, development and upcoming events.

Follow along on Instagram, too, for regularly posted information about the progress of the highly anticipated greenspace and all other news related to Circle East District. From breaking ground through completion, the greenway project is estimated to take about four months to complete.

Cuyahoga Land Bank is thankful to be in partnership with both East Cleveland and Cuyahoga County’s councils and the people who are invested in this beautiful historic community. With their direction, the Land Bank is reimagining, rebuilding and revitalizing.