As any real estate agent can tell you, it’s all about location. So Euclid, an inner-ring suburb sandwiched between Cleveland and Lake Erie, should be attracting new residents. But, Euclid’s eponymous main street is an unremarkable stretch of five-lanes dotted with low-rise suburban offices and industrial parks that are pockmarked with vacancies or have a shopworn feel. Population has fallen from 60,000 in 1980 to 48,000 in 2012. Many have fled east to distant places like Mentor.
How Euclid tries to climb out of this Recession will be instructive to other suburbs that boomed in the post-World War II era and are now teetering from vacancy and loss of tax base.
The playbook that Euclid, a decidedly car-driven environment, is considering is to retrofit main street from a drive-thru to a destination that can be walked and biked comfortably.
It began with a city-commissioned study which identifies retiring Baby Boomers as either an opportunity or a threat that will further impact housing markets as they leave single-family homes for condos and apartments in numbers that Millennials cannot fill even if they wanted to.
“They will be looking for retirement communities which offer a wealth of amenities,” the report, a Potentials Analysis of what’s possible on Euclid Avenue, states. “They will like to be near goods and services as well as recreation. Higher density mixed use will accommodate this group.”
New bike connections are also called for in the plan, which was funded by the region’s transportation agency (NOACA). It envisions an off-road path on Euclid and on important north-south E. 222nd Street to connect downtown Euclid with parks at the lakefront.
The plan also states that “there are plans to develop a multipurpose trail that will connect the two sections of the Cleveland Metroparks Euclid Creek Reservation. The trail is proposed to traverse a portion of the current Central Middle School. This plan proposes that the site be converted to parkland with a portion of the proposed Euclid Creek Trail running along it.”
The study predicts that car traffic will continue to lighten on Euclid and recommends a ‘road diet’ or repurposing one of its current five lanes to make room for an extension of the HealthLine bus-rapid transit line and a green median.
RTA is currently weighing the option of adding HealthLine service east from University Circle and E. Cleveland against an extension of the Red Line Rapid also through Euclid. Some observers have noted that the cost-benefit of extending the HealthLine up Euclid Avenue -- because of its potential economic spin off (the HealthLine has reportedly leveraged $4 billion in redevelopment on Euclid Avenue in Cleveland) -- gives it the edge.
Euclid’s plan for the avenue seems to anticipate transit-oriented development potential. It includes Sustainable Design Principles to make an argument that dense, infill development is one of the greenest acts a city can make. It calls for a “recreationway featuring a series of mixed-use villages along Euclid Avenue that are linked by a continuous linear park.”
The spine would be secured with a new transit line.
It turns out that Euclid Avenue and E. 222nd have excess space in their treelawn—and on the road—for bike infrastructure and bus-rapid transit (BRT). In one scenario from RTA, a 9-mile long BRT line includes stations a quarter- to half-mile apart. In order to make the transit line more financially viable, increasing density of land uses on Euclid Avenue would be necessary. Estimates on the density needed to support high-level transit like this range from 14 housing units per acre to 24 units per acre (Euclid is fairly dense for a suburb, but still has an estimated density of 4 units per acre).
One critique we might offer on the plan: Instead of using a lane on Euclid for a stormwater median and going for the very expensive ($9 million) off-road bike path, the city would get more bang for the buck (and attract more cyclists) by re-using existing infrastructure—do the road diet, but build a bike lane or dedicated bus lane from existing roadway.
If the city can sell the idea that adaptive reuse—like the 1 million sq. ft. former GM Inland /Fisher Body Plant—is at stake, would it help their case in securing the $220 million (probably more) that Cleveland did for its bus-rapid transit line (admittedly a long shot)? A fall-back strategy would likely call for a “BRT-lite” line similar to that which Cleveland and Lakewood are building on Clifton (a dedicated bus lane at the curb not the center like the HealthLine).
Another Euclid strength is its proximity to University Circle (only a few miles away) which could make transit and new housing attractive for students as well as retirees, the study notes. In an initial retail analysis, the study found unmet demand for grocery, restaurant and services on Euclid.
The remaking of Euclid could bring a first to the area—the roundabout (not counting the headache inducing roundabout on W. 14th at Steelyard). Though roundabouts take a little getting used to, the study notes their worldwide track record of handling traffic flow and improving safety.
In the regional picture, Cleveland Heights’ plan to introduce bike lanes on Noble Road will make for an interesting east side bike connection. We can see a future where it is likely a cyclist coming from the Heights could ride in bike lanes all the way to the lakefront (bike lanes on Noble Road, connect to bike lanes on Euclid and a bike path on E. 222nd all the way to Lake Shore Boulevard, small parks like Kenneth J. Sims, pictured, and out to Mentor).