CITY PLANNING - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History
CITY PLANNING. Like most American cities, Cleveland began as a speculative venture in real estate. Conceived as the capital of New Connecticut, the city was laid out in 1796 by surveyors with the original Moses Cleaveland expedition. The plat, a faithful reproduction of a New England town, with its characteristic commons, failed to treat either river or lakefront as a public amenity. After 1830, the OHIO AND ERIE CANAL (which operated from the east bank of the river, much to the disadvantage of rival OHIO CITY (CITY OF OHIO) on the west) provided a regular outlet for the region's goods, and harbor improvements promoted shipping. Roads entering the city from south and east gradually insinuated themselves into the orthogonal street plan, and several radiating diagonals, including Euclid, Prospect, and Kinsman streets, were cut through. Residences crept out along the east-west axis as the center of town increasingly was given over to retail trade. Property values also were inflated along the river and on the lakefront, where industrial development was centered.
Gradually, and sometimes reluctantly, city government responded to the demand for more public services. During the first half of the 19th century, the city assumed responsibility for planking and lighting the streets, installing sidewalks and culverts, and providing a water supply and gas works. Zoning was unknown except for a ban on wooden structures in the business district in the interest of fire protection. A critical event in Cleveland's evolution from overgrown village to mature city occurred in 1851 when RAILROADS entered the city, occupying valuable waterfront properties and bringing factories and warehouses in their wake. The canal was soon overwhelmed by the competition from the railroads, but further harbor improvements were critically important when ore boats from the Superior region sought the coal necessary for smelting and, later, for the open-hearth furnaces used in steel production. Good transportation also contributed to the city's becoming the hub of JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER†'s oil-refining empire late in the century. Although street extensions were still controlled by the original plat during the early industrial period, east of Willson Ave. (E. 55th St.) the pattern of growth no longer reflected the vision of the CONNECTICUT LAND CO. This period also saw the siting of educational and cultural institutions at UNIVERSITY CIRCLE, some 5 mi. from downtown. The city assumed responsibility for refuse collection and sewerage. Streets were improved and extended; bridges spanned the river (Ohio City was annexed in 1854). The poor, however, many of them immigrants, still lived in want of clean air and water and amenities as basic as parks.
City planning was confined to mundane engineering necessities until the rise of progressivism brought a new and elevated conception of the, possibilities of municipal life. Under Mayor TOM L. JOHNSON†, the city gradually assumed responsibility for many services that had previously been left to the private sector; it also incurred a burdensome debt. The innovation that best signified the city's progressive spirit was the Group Plan, calling for the organization of Cleveland's public buildings around a mall similar to that then under construction in Washington, DC (see the MALL). Unveiled by the leading architects of the day in 1903, Cleveland's civic center was conceived as the city's official gateway, a monumental corridor leading from a union railroad depot on the lakefront (never realized) to PUBLIC SQUARE. Few cities were as successful in putting their City Beautiful plans into effect. Mayor NEWTON D. BAKER† appointed Cleveland's City Plan Commission after Cleveland adopted its new HOME RULE charter in 1913 and charged it with overseeing the city's works of art, reviewing public works, public grounds, streets, and platting, and preparing a city plan. At about this time, the city's need for open space and recreation was met by the legislature's passage of an act authorizing creation of the Metropolitan Park Board. The father of Cleveland's Metroparks system, which was considered exemplary, was WILLIAM A. STINCHCOMB†, although many others, including Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., made contributions. During the same period, General Electric's Lamp Division developed NELA PARK in suburban Cleveland, an innovative wedding of the City Beautiful with the industrial park concept. On the eve of World War I, the prospects for modern city planning in Cleveland must have seemed bright indeed.
But forces then at work were bent on demonstrating the continued efficacy of that older type of American city--the city as speculative real-estate venture. The ease of municipal incorporation made continued annexation difficult, and so Cleveland, much to the detriment of its tax base, was gradually hemmed in on all sides. Of Cleveland's suburbs, one--SHAKER HEIGHTS--is particularly noteworthy. Building on the site of a utopian Shaker community that had disbanded in 1889, the Van Sweringen brothers developed a suburb where middle-class (i.e., property) values were protected through strict controls on land use, deeds, and architecture. Setting aside some of the most desirable tracts for schools and churches (and country clubs), they organized neighborhoods around elementary schools; commerce was confined to the periphery (most notably at SHAKER SQUARE); industry was excluded altogether. As Shaker Village was too remote for streetcar service, the brothers undertook to build a light rail system, which obliged them to purchase the Nickel Plate Railroad (see NICKEL PLATE ROAD) (to acquire a few miles of, right-of-way), to see to the passage of a referendum (substituting Public Square, where they owned property, for the lakefront as the site of a union station), and to construct the celebrated CLEVELAND UNION TERMINAL anchoring the western terminus of their Shaker Rapid.
The suburban movement seemed, for the sake of city as well as suburb, to render even more imperative the establishment of a planning profession rooted in the neutral principles of science. One of those principles was ZONING, and a case emanating from a Cleveland suburb served as the cornerstone of all zoning law in the U.S. In VILLAGE OF EUCLID V. AMBLER REALTY CO., 272 U.S. 365 (1926), the Supreme Court upheld zoning as an appropriate exercise of the state police power. Cleveland's first zoning ordinance was adopted in 1929. During the 1930s, government addressed itself increasingly to urban problems, particularly housing. In the vanguard of the slum-clearance movement was Cleveland city councilman ERNEST J. BOHN†, who drafted the model for the public-housing statute adopted by the Ohio legislature in 1933--the first such act in the U.S. In the same year, Bohn became director of the Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Authority, where he oversaw construction of the nation's first public-housing estate, Cedar-Central Apts. Along with ABRAM GARFIELD†, he spearheaded the creation in 1937 of the local chapter of the Regional Planning Assn. of America, an organization founded by Lewis Mumford and others to promote the Garden City concept developed in England by Sir Ebenezer Howard.
The City Plan Commission, preoccupied with ordinary housekeeping duties, never produced a comprehensive city plan. A committee headed by Walter L. Flory recommended to Mayor FRANK LAUSCHE† that vigorous planning be employed to combat the "slow insidious rot" spreading in every direction from the Central-area slum. Practically every one of the specific recommendations of the Flory Report was written into a proposed amendment to the city charter and approved by the voters in 1942. The charter amendment gave the commission, now called the City Planning Commission, a professional staff and greatly expanded scope, including "mandatory referral power." Bohn was named chairman and John T. Howard planning director, and by 1949 Cleveland finally had its first comprehensive plan. The 1949 General Plan represents the triumph of the City Efficient over the City Beautiful. It was preoccupied with infrastructure, and especially with traffic problems; the General Plan still directs the work of the City Planning Commission and the professional staff. In the postwar period, federal policy was inconsistent: VA and FHA financing plans helped the middle class but encouraged urban sprawl. Other federal programs funded slum clearance and low-income housing, but they also aimed at downtown development., Cleveland pursued federal funds aggressively, the Longwood and Garden Valley public housing projects serving as national models. The truth is that in Cleveland, as elsewhere, urban renewal probably destroyed more low-cost housing than it built.
Downtown redevelopment was a more glamorous enterprise, and in Cleveland it had powerful sponsors: Bohn; James M. Lister, who was named head of the Department of Urban Renewal when it was created in 1957; Mayor Anthony J. Celebrezze; Upshur Evans of the CLEVELAND DEVELOPMENT FOUNDATION; and LOUIS SELTZER† of the CLEVELAND PRESS. Shortly after Planning Director Eric Grubb unveiled a new downtown development plan, it was announced that the city would commence the most ambitious project yet undertaken with federal urban-renewal funds. Part residential and part commercial, the ERIEVIEW project carried a price tag of $250 million. The firm of I. M. Pei & Associates was retained to draw up the development plan, which was based on the premise that Cleveland was growing, needed more office space, and was ripe for regentrification. The 163-acre parcel was to be assembled, with the help of eminent domain, then turned over to private developers, who would erect a complex of steel-and-glass slabs, creating a "ripple" effect that would spread prosperity through the city. However, litigation, ghetto riots, and changing political and economic climates all conspired to litter Erieview with makeshift parking lots. Finally, in the 1980s a construction boom generated the spectacular skyline that Erieview promised. Federal legislation also spawned the highway-building boom of the late 1950s and 1960s, which changed the face of Cleveland, as elsewhere. The interstate highway program spurred some economic development, but it tended to generate even more vehicular traffic, destroying neighborhoods, and facilitating the flight to suburbia that was eroding the city's tax base.
In the mid-1960s, disenchantment with the federal bulldozer helped fan the flames of ghetto riots in many cities, Cleveland included. Intellectually, it generated a backlash against physical planning and the profession's pretensions to value-neutrality. Critics charged that the development of the physical environment was virtually meaningless--if not cynically exploitative--when pursued with no consideration of justice and equality. This revisionism had little impact upon city planning departments--except in Cleveland, where the appointment of Norman Krumholz as planning director heralded a unique 10-year experiment in "advocacy planning." Shifting attention away from the General Plan and downtown and toward the neighborhoods and ordinary citizens, the City Planning Department was dedicated to promoting the interests of those Clevelanders--approx. one-third of the city's population, by Krumholz's reckoning--dependent on public transportation because they do not own cars. However, city planning in, Cleveland has never overcome a powerful edifice complex. During the mid-1980s, plans proceeded under Mayor George V. Voinovich and Planning Director Hunter Morrison for development of the lakefront and the Euclid Ave. corridor. A slum-and-blight study permitted the demolition of the noted CUYAHOGA BUILDING and cleared the way for BP America's $250 million headquarters on Public Square, while historic preservationists succeeded in saving the theaters at PLAYHOUSE SQUARE. Debate continued over the propriety and effectiveness of tax abatements and other inducements to investment. In the 1990s the face of Cleveland was changing. The $200 million TOWER CITY CENTER project in the Terminal group at Public Square opened in March 1990. By 1994, new housing had been built in blighted city neighborhoods, and CHURCH SQUARE SHOPPING CENTER, a new 23-store strip center at Euclid Ave. and E. 79th St. was open; in the spring of that year, the CLEVELAND INDIANS moved to a new baseball park in the Gateway Complex. The highest priority was placed on the lakefront where the ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME AND MUSEUM, the Great Lakes Museum of Science and Technology, and the Great Waters Aquarium are scheduled to be built.
Last Modified: 11 Jul 1997 01:54:47 PM
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