A new Group Plan Commission, appointed by Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson in June 2010, is charged with creating a unified vision for signature public spaces that will link major catalytic projects - the Flats East Bank mixed use development, Cleveland Medical Mart & Convention Center, and a new casino - now moving forward in downtown Cleveland. Mayor Jackson asked City Planning Commission Chair Anthony J. Coyne to chair the Group Plan Commission. By the beginning of next year, it is expected to make recommendations on the redevelopment of the historic Public Square, the Malls at the center of Cleveland's Civic Center and vital connections to the downtown lakefront at North Coast Harbor.
Group Plan Commission of 2010
David T. Abbott (Executive Director, The George Gund Foundation)
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The Group Plan Commission presented its final report – Your Changing Cleveland: The Group Plan – to Mayor Frank G. Jackson in May 2011. This plan provides a unified vision for signature public spaces that will link major catalytic projects underway in downtown Cleveland. This plan provides a framework for the redevelopment of Public Square and concepts for additional features to further enhance the Mall from Superior Avenue to North Coast Harbor.
Group Plan of 1903
By 1890, Cleveland was a major industrial center and the tenth largest city in the United States. With its rapid rise as an urban center came the need for newer and larger buildings to house city, county and federal offices. Inspired by the 1893 Columbian Exposition that transformed 600 acres along Chicago’s lakefront into a visionary “White City” of 200 neoclassical buildings, lagoons and canals attracting 27 million people for a six-month World’s Fair, Cleveland’s young design professionals formed the Cleveland Architectural Club and sponsored a competition for the “Grouping of Cleveland’s Public Buildings” in 1895.
A similar competition was held in 1898. And in early 1899 the Chamber of Commerce formed a Grouping Plan Committee with appointees representing the various building commissions for new public facilities including a city hall, county courthouse and public library. On January 2, 1900, the Committee’s work culminated with the presentation of a plan – “Location of Public Buildings and Improvements of the Lakefront” – that proposed a grouping of public buildings on the bluff overlooking the downtown lakefront between present-day West 3rd and East 9th streets with new land being created at the water’s edge for with recreation grounds and bathhouses north of existing cross-country railroad tracks. The enthusiastic acceptance of this plan, led to the selection of sites for the Cuyahoga County Courthouse and Cleveland City Hall.
In 1901, Thomas L. Johnson was elected Cleveland’s mayor, in part on his staunch support of the group plan efforts. He encouraged continued efforts by the Chamber of Commerce to focus on the area between Public Square and the lakefront bluff. At the time, planning was not an authorized responsibility of local government. So in 1902, the local chapter of the Architectural Institute of America and the Chamber of Commerce presented a bill to the Ohio legislature to form a “Board of City Planning for Ohio Cities”. With its passage, Ohio Governor George K. Nash appointed Daniel H. Burnham, John M. Carrere and Arnold R. Brunner as the Group Plan Commission for Cleveland.
Daniel Burnham, the director of the Group Plan Commission, had been public works director for Chicago’s 1893 Columbian Exposition and was serving as a consultant in envisioning a grouping of public buildings around a mall in Washington, D.C. that would become the 1902 McMillan Plan. John Carrere was a New York City architect and planner who had been invited by Cleveland’s Chamber of Commerce in 1899 to give one of several addresses about planning and in 1901 he directed the development of Buffalo’s Pan-American Exposition. Arnold Brunner already had been named architect for the U.S. Post Office, Custom House and Court House on Superior Avenue at the northeast corner of Public Square.
Tasked with designing a new civic center for Cleveland, the Group Plan Commission established offices in New York City and studied the designs and plans of great civic centers in Paris, London, Vienna and Florence. On August 17, 1903 Burnham, Carrere and Brunner returned to Cleveland and presented “The Group Plan of the Public Buildings of the City of Cleveland”, now commonly referred to the Group Plan of 1903.