University Circle Incorporated growing function, context and identity

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Sun, 04/23/2006 - 22:20.



For so many reasons, University Circle and its institutions and the surrounding neighborhood are core to what I value in NEO, and I look forward to seeing all that continually expand in significance to me, the region and world. But, University Circle is a small geographic domain, which must be optimized for 21 organizational stakeholders, and their 1,000,000s of stakeholders, including everyone associated with Case, University Hospitals, the VA, CIA, Cleveland Museum(s), Institute of Music, Orchestra, etc., and all others in the community.

In visioning for a better region and future here, consider a broader interpretation of University Circle from the small cultural, healthcare and university center of Cleveland to the center of the entire University Community of NEO.


To envision this UCI, you must have a perspective of abundance rather than scarcity, excellence rather than mediocrity, and opportunity rather than crisis. And, you must envision significant change over time beyond your lifespan.

Today's University Circle, as a geographic place, will always be a global center of healthcare, learning and cultural excellence, but will it always be home to the Cleveland Institute of Art? The Crawford Auto and Aviation Museum?

The UCI real estate development focus is shifting to lifestyle enhancements, optimizing strengths like the parks, hospital and museum, while leveraging its "Central Park" potentials for unique living excellence. That means constructing upscale residential, retail, restaurants and other amenities on every possible site - in addition to the development required for the growth of member institutions.

I agree with this vision, as I believe many enlightened people will want to move to this area from throughout the region and world.

This prospect poses interesting challenges.

  • Over the last century, public housing has largely been eliminated from University Circle
    • Dormitories have been expanded on the Case campus.
    • Other than students who live on Case facilities, all other University Circle institutions' workers, students and other stakeholders currently must live away from their core community, destabilizing development of traditional neighborhood environs and dynamics.
    • Large concentrations of UCI stakeholders in Cleveland Heights and Little Italy, where they are not well served
    • UCI Institutions and community are ramping up programs to help institution stakeholders buy housing near UCI
  • Geography, proximity, and the radical mix of property use in the area result in significant traffic flow and parking issues for all.
  • Since commercial space is limited and property costs high, most small businesses have been eliminated.
    • Not walkable neighborhoods
    • Few restaurants, cafes - no pleasant hang-outs
  • UCI institutions have tended to turn their back on the outside, literally, putting industrial buildings, parking, low value service centers and infrastructure around the edges of UCI and creating a moat
    • Especially entrenched where there have been perceived barriers such as the elevation to the Heights to the south and the rail and municipal disconnection with East Cleveland and Little Italy.
    • There have always been many bridges to University Circle, but it was not always well connected with the greater community - physically and philosophically.
    • Must now infill moat

To help optimize benefits for everyone, University Circle Incorporated (UCI) works as a not for profit Community Development Corporation (CDC) helping develop and manage University Circle for its 21 member organizations, and the public.  The UCI CDC has unique resources and expertise no other CDC can leverage, making UCI uniquely qualified to make important things happen in the region, and UCI stakeholders are collectively world-significant institutions, individually lead, staffed and populated by world-leaders, driving growth in our economy in immeasurable ways across the region.

The former Cleveland City Chief of Staff Chris Ronayne was recently selected as President of UCI, which brings to the institution a powerful planner with broad regional perspectives. Chris is uniquely able to play a larger planning role in the region beyond directing the UCI CDC (Community Development Corporation), while optimizing his role there.

Chris has a responsibility to support development of his "client" organizations, wherever that may take them. And, the regional and global success of UCI clients influences their value for University Circle, and literally the value of the region. Our world-class orchestra has a significant local economic impact from global success... University Hospitals development in University Circle is accelerated by growth for them in other suburbs, and business world-wide, all benefitting the region.

There are $ 1 billion+ in projects in constructon and planning in University Circle, and UCI stakeholders have $100 millions in additional development planned in the near future that will occur places other than University Circle, because there are community needs of UCI stakeholder services elsewhere in the region. Examples include recently announces University Hospitals plans for a $200+ million hospital in Cleveland eastern suburbs. Inside and outside University Circle, over the next decade or so all this development and investment will add 1,000,000s of square feet of classrooms, hospital rooms, retail space, labs, offices, public facilities, cultural space and all imaginable types of housing to the region.

Much of this will be centered in University Circle. 

Imagine a condo with a view across the botanical gardens and down Rockefeller Park to Lake Erie... coffee at the museum... a show at MoCA... pizza in Little Italy... all in walking distance... 10 minutes by Red or Silver Line to downtown... starting at $500K (try $5,000,000 on Central Park East). Well, that's what you could get at a new development where the old CIA building is now, in a few short years.

Only have $250K - there's the Beach and Triangle, soon to enter development in the mid-tier, for professors, doctors, other professionals and speculators seeking location, location. location.

For those on a budget, or seeking value, there are 10,000s of units seeking love and coming back into optimal use within a mile or so of the World's Most Powerful Learning Environment, in every direction. With life comes lifestyles, and many amazing enhancements are planned throughout this dynamic environment. The true potentials of this abundance are just being explored.

Consider there is no reason to bound UCI by University Circle, any more than its member institutions are limited by their local geography. In serving member institutions, the community, and its mission, UCI should seek ways to leverage resources to partner across the community and world - whether using their planning expertice to assist the CIA's expansion in Europe or their bond underwriting relations to fund MoCA Tower on the old Gund CIA site.

 UCI is already collaborating with other CDCs, the City of Cleveland and private investors and companies to expand the economic impact of University Circle institutions beyond the circle, so the framework is well in place. Now to better define the portfolio of opportunities in this expanded vision of University Circle.

A logical UCI collaboration is with the City of East Cleveland, just to the east of University Circle, where there is significant land and 1,000s of buildings are in need of restoration, redevelopment or replacement. East Cleveland seeks development of market-rate housing and mixed use facilities serving current residents and attracting a diverse base for the future. East Cleveland would also like to attract educational and cultural facilities, and would welcome being part of "the world's most powerful learning environment", offered through affiliation with Case and other UCI institutions. Collaboration between East Cleveland, UCI and some of their stakeholders seems to make good sense.

Benefits of the University Circle East Cleveland community would be significant and far reaching. For UCI institutions, it would offer space for expansion far beyond what is possible within the current UCI bounds, at far lower cost.

Institutional developments, like a campus for the CIA, can be combined with commercial development, like a residential village and retail on Euclid Avenue, offering financial benefits for each.

Through such collaboration, East Cleveland will accelerate development of their University Circle neighborhood, including a historic district, to the highest and best imaginable use, with certain economic benefits to the community.

This model offers East Cleveland leadership the ability to construct very creative relations with many institutions that would not otherwise operate in East Cleveland.

None of this is possible without a central plan representing all stakeholder interests, and planning processes to insure the best interests of all stakeholders are always included.

Right now, we have plans for UCI, and for each member institution, and for East Cleveland, but this is the first document connecting them together in proposing planning University Circle East Cleveland. This must be formalized, and the UCI institution plans need to begin flowing onto East Cleveland property. At the same time, East Cleveland property owners need to be protected from opportunists and overly enthusiastic planners.

Envision a complete redevelopment of East Cleveland that leverages the regional potential of UCI and East Cleveland. Now, the area of East Cleveland from University Circle to Superior becomes University Circle East Cleveland, and every property is either restored and integrated into a healthy, sustainable development plan, or moved, or demolished, and acres will be transformed.

Envision in the development a new RTA Red Line stop at a new campus of the Cleveland Institute of Art, which would be adjacent to great charter schools for from early-child to college, and all surrounded by arts and crafts and planned, enforced greenness, and affordable housing, and small businesses that grow in such a nurturing environment.



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I don’t believe the UC circle area is the right location to place our metro center bet for the future.  The northward looking sloped area doesn’t even face the sun in a healthy manner.  That’s a big problem. 

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Physically the UC area is a dog – it has no significant natural feature – any orientation of the entire area to something else is missing.  And the players have historically gone  exactly the opposite direction from civic dynamism.  The chicken has come home to roost. 

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Consider   most any other pumped urban center and you will find that the heart of that urban center is powered up by the reflected energy/excitement from  other nearby natural or man made physical features.  

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Jamming money into UC will not overcome its fatal faults.  The only way for NEO is  to start over somewhere else.  Think Brazilia.   Is this what Peter thinks too?   Good luck Chris.

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UCI News and suggestions

Today's PD has this story about UCI plans.

University Circle envisions $7 million for Euclid plan

Includes signs, visitors center, lighting
Friday, February 23, 2007
Tom Breckenridge

Plain Dealer Reporter

University Circle wants to spend $7 million on the little things that could make its growing district inviting.

Leaders of University Circle Inc. said Thursday that they have already raised half of what they need to add new signs, a visitors center, decorative lighting and other touches over the next five years, under an effort dubbed "Bring Back Euclid Avenue."

University Circle "doesn't have the feel of a place you just amble around in," University Circle Inc. President Chris Ronayne said. "That's what we aspire for it to be."

The effort along Euclid, from East 105th Street to East 118th, would dovetail with two projects that will soon transform how the historic artery looks.

The $200 million Euclid Corridor is paving the way for rapid-transit buses, with new sidewalk treatments, sleek stations and public art.

Case Western Reserve University, meanwhile, is working with developers on a $120 million arts-and-retail development east of Euclid and Mayfield Road.

With expansions at the Cleveland Museum of Art, University Hospitals and the Cleveland Clinic, UCI wants to provide amenities for the thousands of new visitors and residents expected to follow the growth.

UCI wants to spend $1 million for way-finding signs, as part of a rebranding strategy.

It would spend at least $1.25 million more on distinctive streetscapes and lighting, similar to East Fourth Street downtown, home to a number of restaurants and clubs.

UCI wants to spend $100,000 initially on a visitors center in the University East Building on the south side of Euclid at Mayfield, and plans call for a permanent center with sales and marketing staff catering to prospective residents, Ronayne said.

Close to $600,000 is slated for acquiring land south of East 105th, where a project of offices, dwellings and retail is under discussion, Ronayne said.

UCI already has a pledge of $3.37 million from the Kent H. Smith Charitable Trust, Ronayne said, and is visiting foundations this week.

UCI has a friendly ear at the George Gund Foundation, which has already poured millions into University Circle-related projects.

"We need that neighborhood to be the kind of vibrant, urban place that attracts and retains talent," said Executive Director David Abbott, one-time head of UCI. "The missing piece is residential, retail and pedestrian amenities, which are most of the things that Chris is talking about."

Abbott had difficulty finding collaboration among University Circle institutions on similar efforts. But he and Cleveland Planning Director Bob Brown believe the time is right for University Circle's growth as a neighborhood, not just an institutional mecca.

"It's a surprise it has taken so long, because of all its assets," Brown said. "I think it's ready to take off."

Ronayne said UCI will push six other initiatives over the next five years, including adding 1,000 homes, creating a special-improvement district and promoting Opportunity Corridor, the proposed $260 million-plus boulevard that would link Interstate 490 where it ends at East 55th Street to East 105th.

Ronayne wants University Circle property owners to form a special district like the one formed last year downtown, which features "ambassadors," cleaning crews and security patrols on bikes.

He'll have a tough sell in University Circle, where many institutions already pay for their own security and maintenance.

Opportunity Corridor is years in the making. No money has been earmarked for construction.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:

tbreckenridge [at] plaind [dot] com, 216-999-4695

You can send comments to comments [at] universitycircle [dot] org

My comments are here:

Chris Ronayne:

Saw the article in the PD this morning. I don’t know who will be responsible for the sidewalks along Euclid, but if it is UCI, I would like to suggest the following: trees are part of a lively and livable streetscape, especially in the “Forest City” and it would be visionary for UCI to be part of the stormwater solution. Maybe Sam Miller would pay for it. These planters would be a great addition. I don’t get a kick back except in long-term cleaner water and the economic benefits for the region in reducing stowmwater pollution. In that UCI is the route for stowmwater flowing from the Heights down the portage escarpment and in that the restoration of Doan Brook has been stalled, it seems prudent for the new UCI Euclid corridor opportunities to include some absorption and filtration measures. We will be leaning on canes before Genevieve Ray’s good idea to daylight the brook re-emerge. In the meantime… I spoke with Andrew Watterson about these earlier this week and forwarded the correspondence below to him as well at his request.

I do hope also that a hand extended to East Cleveland border at the rail crossing over Euclid in the form of some innovative public art is included in this plan. Norm Roulet, David Deming, Tim Goler, and David Reed have begun discussions about the possibilities. I know you were included in the early emails about this.

We look to our cultural/educational hub for innovation; these are just two ideas to add to the mix.

Dreaming of a vibrant, green built and retrofitted UCI,

Susan Miller

Lots of eggs in this basket

Very interesting article - I expect great benefits from all this activity. But, as I was standing on the front steps of Severence Hall, Wednesday night, I was trying to picture University Circle as a vibrant, livable neighborhood and there are so many major obstacles, largely due to what is already built, and how that is laid out, and the economics of the little bits of land available for future development. The Triangle and surrounding neighborhoods all together have potential to become a very attractive area - not a new urban center but a higher learning, arts and culture district with some upscale housing, surrounded by historic neighborhoods infilled with innovative new housing and planned with optimal green space, bike accommodations, etc. When you expand the vision to a radius of 1 mile in every direction from Severence Hall then you have the opportunity to transform and develop 1,000s of housing units, and 1,000,000s of suare feet of commercial and industrial space, on 100s of acres - improving 1,000s of lives, in addition to the 1,000,000s who will benefit from better University Circle community experiences

Disrupt IT