CLEVELAND---“Building momentum. Accelerating Change. The future is within our reach.”
Those phrases were part of the introduction to the presentation unveiling the Cleveland Lakefront District Concept during a press conference inside the Legends Club at Cleveland Browns Stadium on Wednesday morning.
The concept is six-fold and involves job creation, private development, connections among the existing assets, developing public spaces, leveraging investment and community use.
“This is kind of an exciting day for us,” said Browns president Mike Holmgren. “We are going to, hopefully, paint a picture that can be exciting for the city of Cleveland. I am here because of Randy Lerner. He has given me the opportunity of a lifetime. He cares deeply about this city; he cares deeply about his football team. As we were piecing the ideas together, he said, ‘Full speed ahead. Let’s go. This is a great idea.’ He has been a part of this since Day One.”
“When I looked at the Lakefront, even in my lifetime, I can see the changes,” Cleveland mayor Frank G. Jackson said. “We have developed numerous plans around the development of the Lakefront and those plans served as a general blueprint of how to proceed. If we’re to move the agenda forward and really begin to get into the doing phase, we’re going to have to have significant private investment.”
Fred Nance, a senior advisor to Holmgren, gave the presentation.
“We’re not going to get hung up on turf; we’re not going to get hung up on, ‘Well, my plan goes 50 yards this way and your plan goes 50 yards into my plan,’” Nance said. “The idea is, we’re all in this together. We want this community developed; we want this lakefront developed and we’re going to go out and determine what is the appetite in the private sector to invest in this lakefront.
“We’ll work out any differences, any issues,” he continued. “There is no reason this beautiful lakefront can’t be an asset that makes us all successful.”
Holmgren and Jackson were joined at the press conference by Joe Roman (Greater Cleveland Partnership), Will Friedman (Cleveland, Cuyahoga Port Authority), Linda Abraham-Silver (Great Lakes Science Center), Terry Stewart (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), Joe Calabrese (Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority), Ricky Smith (Department of Port Control, City of Cleveland), Tony Coyne (Cleveland City Planning Commission and Group Plan Commission), Martin J. Sweeney (Cleveland City Council President) and Ron Robinson (Hammes Company).
Hammes Company has worked on multiple unique projects, including New Meadowlands Stadium for the New York Giants and Jets, Ford Field in Detroit and renovations at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field.
“When we started working on that project (in Green Bay) back in 1999 and 2000, their annual visitation at the stadium was about 700,000 people for the football games,” Robinson said. “Today, in Green Bay, their annual visitation is over three million. The next phase will increase that visitation. These types of facilities and the magic of NFL football really do work as an agent to catalyze different, unique assets and brings things together in a way that many other things can’t.”
With regard to the connecting of existing assets, the concept is to get downtown visitors to use the waterfront line and RTA’s current and proposed trolley routes to arrive at a multitude of landmarks, including the Great Lake Science Center, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Lakefront Entertainment, Community and Waterfront Districts, Cleveland’s Medical Mart, Cleveland Convention Center, Cleveland Browns Stadium, Quicken Loans Arena, Progressive Field, Tower City Center, 4th Street, Playhouse Square, as well as the businesses and residents in the Warehouse District.
“We are not developers; we are in the football business,” Holmgren said. “We are a neighbor, a partner with these people in this area. We saw our role, as much as anything, as a catalyst and maybe the group that can bring people together and encourage other investors.
“I was a football coach for 40 years; that’s what I did and that was my focus,” he concluded. “Where we lived, we became a part of that city. We moved to Cleveland. Cleveland is our city. This is my city and in my role as president, it is my obligation to not only put a good product on the field, but to get involved in helping Cleveland, doing what we can as an organization, to make this better.”