When I learned of a local parking lot czar’s acquisition of nearly an entire block of buildings in downtown Cleveland near the site of the future casino, I developed immediate concerns that downtown Cleveland would be losing more of its density and interesting historic urban fabric. The reason?….to create more surface parking lots! Recent news regarding this issue seems to verify the concerns. The last thing downtown Cleveland needs is more surface parking lots. There are simply too many existing such spaces, or available spaces to justify another one.
Cleveland is a city that local boosters are working toward becoming more environmentally sustainable—and part of this effort includes creating a downtown environment that is walkable. “Walkable”, meaning that the layout of the city is built primarily around the needs of two walking legs; and not the needs of four wheels and consumption of oil.
Cleveland is also a city that wants to beacon itself to world tourism and wants to attract new residents. Those who travel the world looking for unique destinations to visit with individual personality, are not going to spend their vacation dollars to see clone zone America. By this, I mean the typical suburban sprawling sea-of-pavement parking lot scene that can be found around the fringe of any city in the country.
Why then would we want to tear down more our historic core which offers our own unique architectural heritage, and replace it with a scene that is cut out of the former? If Cleveland wants to attract world class visitors, then it needs to present a world class downtown. Parking lots does not offer the kind of world class I am talking about. Visit many thriving cities and you will not see, or rarely see, surface parking lots in the core of the city.
Instead, you will see an urban fabric that is dense and interwoven between the buildings, streets and people. There is interaction between the buildings and people who utilize them. On attracting new residents, the same logic as above applies. Here again, Cleveland needs to offer what is truly unique about it. Our historic downtown core IS what separates us from sprawl-burg America and offers hat uniqueness.
City boosters also claim to want to create a community with pedestrian oriented links. Parking lots do not link anything to pedestrians and do not encourage more foot traffic. In fact, they isolate by creating vast people less, lifeless, emptiness. They create remote dead zones in the city that are void of shops, galleries, residences, offices, restaurants and other such establishment that create a fully functional non-auto-dependent neighborhood. A neighborhood that is attractive to potential new residents and visitors alike.
There is a growing number of younger people who look for cities where you can live life car light. Ripping away our urban fabric and replacing it with surface parking lots is simply repeating all the bad mistakes of the late 50’s through mid 70’s, when such demolitions were at a peak. The idea of removing an entire city block of what is NOW a walkable infrastructure—for scenes that promote more oil dependence and driving—such as surface parking—is an abomination—and evidence of the mentality that has grown up on the suburban model only. That model is NOT how Cleveland was built from the start, or how world class cities around the world are built to date.
Historically, Cleveland was built as any urban environment should be built, and that is to serve the needs of pedestrians, and not solely the use of cars, as it became increasingly as people forgot how to walk! In the day and age of becoming more environmentally responsible, and less dependent on oil…and to avoid the high costs of oil in the future, parking lot scenes in the urban core are NOT the model we should be platting.
A decision to allow more surface parking would be a travesty, a disregard and slap in the face of the city’s architectural heritage—And effort to become a walkable, functioning downtown community of connections. Connections are established through density and the buildings—and by people who will utilize them.
More parking lots would appeal to only those who come, park, party, and leave—and will offer nothing to stakeholders in the community. Parking lot scenes will not be what will make Cleveland a great city in which to live or attract the talented minds we have seen trickle away from here for years and who locate in places that DO offer the non-auto-dependent urban scenes they seek.
We cannot allow old and archaic mentalities dictate this city’s future by bullying it around to build more parking lots. I appeal to all: Planners, activists, residents, preservationists, environmentalists, council people, Mayor, city planners, zoning board, etc, please realize that you must do all you can to cease this idea in the bud. The city core needs to be fully developed and not ruined by anti-urban interests. Establish a “NO DEMOLITION ZONE” and re-purpose these buildings, period.