Heights residents respond to CSU Viking Planners' Cedar Lee study
On May 9, Cleveland State University’s Viking Planners, a team of graduate students from the school’s Levin College of Urban Affairs, presented the findings of its Cedar Lee Market Study to the Cleveland Heights community at the Cedar Lee Theatre. The students’ study produced many recommendations concerning branding, design, wayfinding, and residential development for the business district. FutureHeights, the nonprofit community development organization that had commissioned the study, created an online survey to solicit community feedback on the plan. Forty-six community members responded.
The survey asked for opinions on Viking Planners’ branding recommendations for Cedar Lee, which included a “Heart of the Heights” logo and tagline, with three sub-districts named Cain, Cedar and Silsby. The students proposed gateway signs at the district's entrances, information kiosks, a new Heart Park on a lot at the west end of Lee Road and Meadowbrook Boulevard, branded sidewalks and branded bike racks. Respondents said that gateway signs would have the highest positive impact, followed by information kiosks, Heart Park, branded sidewalks, and branded bike racks. Respondents rated branded information kiosks as being the most helpful for visitors navigating the district.
Most respondents were supportive of branding the district, as well as the need for a logo and tagline; however, they believed they needed more refinement and were unsure about creating sub-districts. “I think the breakdown in pieces parts is kind of silly,” said one respondent. “It’s the whole package.” Another said, “Cedar Lee is known for the theater and restaurants. The library anchors the end of the district and is a community draw, not an external draw. The focus should be on what the area is known for.” One respondent suggested that the district consider “banner signage on light poles.”
Viking Planners recommended several special events to help "activate" Cedar Lee, including regular live music performances, outdoor movie showings, a sidewalk chef food tour, a pop-up book mobile, and pop-up educational art or acting classes. Respondents said that live music performances would have the biggest impact in bringing new patrons to the district, followed by a sidewalk food tour. Respondents rated outdoor movie events as being somewhat effective in bringing people to the district, while the pop-up bookmobile, and art or acting classes were rated not effective at all.
Viking Planners' design recommendations included a new pocket park and a consistent greenway along the length of Lee Road, as well as enhancements to the existing pocket park next to Heights Arts. Other ideas were for higher building-façade walls; a Lee Road Promenade connecting Lee Road to the parking lot, located between The Wine Spot and Bill’s Dry Cleaning; murals and crosswalk art. Survey respondents rated the murals and promenade as having the highest positive impact on the district, while higher building walls were rated as having the least impact. Crosswalk art, a new pocket park, and enhancements to the existing pocket park were all rated favorably by survey respondents, but not as favorable as the promenade and murals.
Survey respondents were asked to rate the current vehicular signs (parking and directions) and pedestrian signs (maps, points of interest). The vehicular signs were rated between effective and somewhat effective while the current pedestrian signs were rated between somewhat effective and not effective. “All signage needs a major update, both in terms of cohesive branding as well as simple clarity in wayfinding. We need big signs with arrows pointing to points of interest as well as many more signs noting public parking,” said one respondent.
In addition to branding and design ideas, Viking Planners considered several sites for potential mixed-use redevelopment: the vacant Rite Aid, 2007 Lee Road (a former day care), the Meadowbrook site, the Wendy’s lot, and Fairfax Elementary School. Sites on Lee and Cedar roads would feature residential units above retail storefronts. Respondents rated the Meadowbrook site as the highest priority, followed by the Rite Aid site, 2007 Lee Road, the Wendy’s lot and Fairfax Elementary School.
One respondent said, “[I] would love to see more apartment or condo options in the neighborhood, especially if they catered to students and young professionals. CH already has an aging population, but younger people seem to be more engaged and spend money in our bars and restaurants.”
Deanna Bremer Fisher, executive director of FutureHeights, said that the next step would be to discuss the Viking Planners’ study and community feedback with city economic development staff and members of the Cedar Lee Special Improvement District. “We are grateful that we have a study and several creative ideas for the district,” she said. “Once the streetscape is completed, there may be opportunities to secure funding for some of the most promising ones.”
Kirby Suntala was a Cleveland Foundation summer intern at FutureHeights. He is a student at Cleveland State University.