New Cedar Lee Streetscape in the Works
Business owners and others combine forces and plan to give the Cedar Lee area a face-lift
As we all know, the Cedar Lee business district is a popular destination for those seeking unique culinary treats, independent films, outdoor entertainment in the summer, art gallery treasures and many other attractions.
Over the years, however, any business district will begin to show its age, thereby losing contact with the people who enrich and enliven the area.
That is why plans are in place to revitalize the strip of Lee Road between Cain Park and the main branch of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library. This mile-long Cedar Lee Streetscape project is being developed by the Cedar Lee Special Improvement District (SID) in cooperation with the City of Cleveland Heights and the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA).
The project is vital to accommodate the future growth of the area, said Cleveland Heights Mayor Ed Kelley.
“The Cedar Lee district is one of the hottest, fastest-growing areas in Northeast Ohio. It’s going to be bursting at the seams, and we need to make the whole area more attractive and inviting,” Kelley said.
An architectural plan for this zone has already been completed and an engineering plan is the next step, so that funding for the $1 million to $2 million project can be sought from both public and private sources.
In the words of the initial architectural plan, produced by studioTECHNE architects, Inc., which also designed the new Lee Road Library, the project goals are to leverage the existing popularity of the Cedar Lee business district by providing:
- A Sense of Place. Create a place for creative living and working, based on the strong cultural, educational and commercial traditions in the area.
- A Coherent Visual Identity. Reinforce the image of the area as a regionally competitive, multi-use urban neighborhood.
- An Updated Environment. Attract residents, patrons and businesses to the district.
The project is driven by a group of local business owners who have established their own SID. This entity allows a specified group to tax themselves and apply that money to fund necessary studies and small, targeted improvements — in this case, improvements that will bring the Cedar Lee area closer to the envisioned goal.
In addition to making the studies possible, initial funding has already been spent on “wayfinding” signage that helps visitors locate parking lots and various destinations. Other improvements already implemented include new bike racks and benches.
Eventual changes to the area involve many more trees planted along the streets, mini-parks including a kiddie park, artistic lighting, more outdoor dining, enhanced areas for bench seating, and crosswalk improvements with special decorative paving treatments inside the intersections.
John Zagara, owner of Zagara’s Marketplace that is located within the district, says the planning process is well on its way.
“We anticipate that the engineering study will be done by this fall," Zagara said. "Then we can make applications for funding, since our project will essentially be ‘shovel ready.’”
While the area will still maintain vehicle thoroughfares, the intent is for some “traffic calming.”
“We want to increase the visual appeal along the entire stretch of the Cedar Lee district," said Kelly Robinson, director of the Cleveland Heights SID. "Along with that, the enhanced crosswalks and pavement designs should help ease the traffic and make the area more people- and pedestrian-friendly.”
Although there is no timetable for finishing the project, because the more intensive funding process has not yet begun, progress is being made daily. And if the movers and shakers in town have their way, Cedar Lee will have a contemporary look and feel to compete with Legacy Village and other top-flight retail areas.
You can see the Cedar Lee Streetscape master plan at the NOACA Web site: http://www.noaca.org/cedarlee.pdf