July 22, 2024

Metroparks’ purchase of Grain Craft property in the Flats advances waterfront access along Cuyahoga River

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cleveland Metroparks sees its purchase of a key property along the Cuyahoga River as a big step toward creating a continuous path on or near the waterfront around the Columbus Road Peninsula in the Flats, downhill from downtown.

Kyle Baker, the Metroparks director of real estate told cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer that the $3.5 million acquisition of 3.3 acres from Grain Craft, a onetime flour mill formerly owned by Cereal Food Processors Inc., is a “once in a generation opportunity to secure land for public access on the river.”

The deal closed on December 27, following a vote in August 2023 by the Metroparks commissioners to authorize the purchase using the agency’s capital funds. The acquisition brings to nearly 11 acres the amount of land on the peninsula under Metroparks’ control, either through fee simple ownership, leases, or easements.

Sean McDermott, Metroparks’ chief planning and design officer, said the agency’s goal is to create a continuous pathway on or near the water’s edge from Settler’s landing at the foot of West Superior Avenue south around the tip of the thumb-shaped Columbus peninsula, and then back north to Collision Bend.

Such a loop would connect Settler’s Landing to the 35 acres on the east bank of the river, including Tower City Center, now held by Bedrock, the real estate company headed by Detroit billionaire Dan Gilbert, owner of the NBA Cavaliers.

Slides from a presentation prepared for the Friday, Oct. 20 review of early stage conceptual designs for the Cleveland Clinic Global Peak Performance Center being developed for the Clinic and the Cleveland Cavaliers by Bedrock as part of its Cuyahoga Riverfront Masterplan.

Gilbert is planning a 3.5 million- square-foot development along the riverfront west of Tower City that will include parks and a continuous public promenade looping around to the West Third Street Peninsula.

McDermott said the goal for Metroparks is to flesh out a network of parks and public spaces on the east side of the river as described in the City of Cleveland’s recently completed Vision for the Valley master plan for the lower Cuyahoga Valley.

New public spaces on the Columbus Road Peninsula would complement existing and future pathways on the west bank of the river, including the Cleveland Foundation Centennial Lake Link Trail.

A map details current and near-future property acquisitions on Columbus Road Peninsula near downtown Cleveland planned by Cleveland Metroparks.

The last gap in the Lake Link Trail is scheduled for completion within several years as part of the $100 million slope stabilization and park construction now underway at Irishtown Bend on the river’s west bank, opposite the Columbus Road Peninsula.

“You can start to see all these pieces coming together,” McDermott said.

A bird’s eye view gives a big-picture view of the latest plans proposed for the Irishtown Bend Park.

The acquisition of the Grain Craft property adds to 532 acres of waterfront parkland, primarily on Lake Erie, that Metroparks agreed to lease from the City of Cleveland in 2013. The agency took over after the State of Ohio, which had previously managed the lakefront parks, had allowed them to become run down.

Metroparks currently has 19 park and trail construction projects worth more than $74 million underway across its service area, including all of Cuyahoga County and part of northern Medina County. Many of the projects focus on improving community connections to waterfronts.

A map displays locations of 19 Cleveland Metroparks capital projects worth more than $74 million underway between now and 2026. The projects are designed to add to the original Emerald Necklace concept for the regional parks agency by extending parks and trail amenities deep into urban neighborhoods left out of earlier plans, and to plug gaps in existing networks. The work undertaken by Metroparks is part of a larger regional shift toward seeing public space as vital to the region’s economic and environmental, not as a frill.

The Grain Craft acquisition adds to other parcels owned or controlled by Metroparks on the Columbus Road Peninsula, including the 7.5 acres of Rivergate Park, home to the agency’s Merwin’s Wharf restaurant and boat docks for rowers and paddlers. The purchase, which includes a half-dozen buildings built between the late 19th and the middle 20th century, was first reported by Crain’s.

Metroparks also has a contract to close in May on the $4 million purchase of 1.24 acres on the riverfront adjacent to Grain Craft, owned by Marlin Investment Group LLC.

The parks agency is working with the city, the nonprofit Flats Forward community development corporation and consultants OHM Advisors on an emerging vision for the future of Columbus Road Peninsula. McDermott said the planning would likely be finished in late spring or early summer.

McDermott said the vision is “literally being executed a piece at a time. It’s something Cleveland has been waiting for and deserves. It’s exciting to be one step closer.”

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