From The Master Plan - Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation
Pearl Road is the main street that connects the two neighborhoods and historically was the primary retail/commercial corridor that connected the neighborhoods to downtown Cleveland and to the southwest suburbs. Each neighborhood’s primary “downtown” retail district is located at the north and south ends of the Brooklyn Brighton Bridge respectively. Additional, though smaller, retail and general commercial uses are located along other main streets, including State, Broadview, Memphis Roads, Denison and Ridge Roads, and at major intersections along Brookpark Road. Most of the retail floor area in Old Brooklyn and Brooklyn Centre was constructed between 1910 and 1950, when the population base of the city was much larger and before the advent of big box retail. Changes in retail shopping patterns no longer support the linear commercial corridors. The retail/commercial inventory conducted for the Master Plan determined that there are approximately 500,000 square feet of vacant retail space, which is 13% of the nearly 3.8 million square feet of the retail/office floor area in the study area. In addition, these neighborhood retail districts are now in direct competition with the new Steelyard Commons regional retail center, located just northeast of Brooklyn Centre as well as the Ridge Park Square Shopping Center at Ridge Road and I-480 in Brooklyn.
The 2008 recession dealt a significant blow to the retail industry: job uncertainties, dwindling investments and continued concerns about foreclosures resulted in a severe downturn in consumer spending. As a result, many retailers went out of business or reduced the number of stores, and it is expected that the vacancy rate in the study area increased. The current fragile economic environment certainly makes it difficult to envision new retail development, yet now is a good time to take advantage of opportunities to strengthen retail areas, make improvements and plan for development opportunities that may arise when the economy recovers.
The Connecting Cleveland 2020 Citywide Plan stresses that neighborhood shopping districts are “integral to the life and viability of the local community” and advocates that these districts be gathering places for the neighborhoods ‘lively, bustling forums where people gather to shop, dine, meet, converse and have a good time… a “town center’ that gives a neighborhood its special character and identity.”
After discussing existing conditions and issues related to retail uses, the advisory committee identified three goals to maximize the neighborhoods’ retail and entertainment assets: foster unique shopping and entertainment destinations, promote attractive and convenient shopping environments, and ensure commercially viable and economically robust retail environments in appropriate locations.
In addition to general strategies that apply across the board to retail activities in the two neighborhoods, location specific strategies are discussed for opportunity sites in Chapter 6. Specific recommendations are included for the Old Brooklyn “downtown” area, Brooklyn Centre at Pearl and Denison, the Memphis/Fulton retail area, and shopping areas along Brookpark Road.
Goal 4: Create unique shopping and entertainment destinations.
Neighborhood business districts succeed as “town centers” and neighborhood gathering places having a mix of uses that attract people for multiple purposes, having public areas that encourage informal and formal socializing and by establishing an identity,. In the 2002 Ward 15 Commercial Revitalization Study, it was noted that the Old Brooklyn “downtown” district lacks any identifiable characteristics, and that there is a need for the identification and refinement of specialized niche markets. The Old Brooklyn/ Brooklyn Centre Market Strategy suggested that in order to compete with nearby Steelyard Commons, the neighborhood “downtown” retail centers must focus on local flavor, including boutique shops and specialty retail. This goal focuses on identifying strategies for enhancing the existing districts so they attract and foster more activity and help establish an identity that is distinguished from other neighborhood centers in Cleveland.
According to the Project for Public Spaces, “Cities and regions that thrive in the 21st Century will be differentiated by their lively neighborhoods and business districts, cultural and recreational attractions, great sense of place, protected natural areas, and deep pride in local character, products and foods.”
Recruit businesses and entertainment activities that meet the needs of targeted markets.
Construction of trail connections and the redevelopment of the Lower Big Creek Valley proposed in the Lower Big Creek Greenway Redevelopment & Restoration (R&R) Plan will begin to establish a regional reputation for the neighborhoods as a location for adventure and outdoor activities. At the same time, the emergence of the MetroHealth Senior Health and Wellness Center as a destination for older adults from not only the Old Brooklyn and Brooklyn Centre neighborhoods but also from the greater Cleveland area will be maximized for the benefit of the Old Brooklyn “downtown”.
Potential markets include: local residents, local employees, patients and visitors to the MetroHealth System – hospital and the Senior Health and Wellness Center, and Cleveland Metropark’s Zoo visitors.
Recruitment efforts include:
- Adventure Sports facilities and programming.
- Outdoor outfitters, bicycle shop which sells and/or rents bikes and specialty bike products (similar to Century Cycles in Peninsula, Ohio), ice cream shops, and other uses that will meet the needs of those who are in the neighborhoods to use the trails, camping, and/or adventure sports venues.
- Businesses that cater to the aging population, i.e. home medical equipment, supplies, and service, travel agencies, etc…
- Specialty retail shops and services that accommodate needs of employees at MetroHealth Hospital and the Senior Wellness Center.
- Museum of Comedy - There are a number of famous comedians from Cleveland, including Drew Carey, Bob Hope, Arsenio Hall and Tim Conway. A small museum devoted to the several famous comedians from Cleveland, and situated in the downtown core so as to draw visitors there.
Create public gathering places or plazas.
The traditional layout of the neighborhoods’ older retail districts are linear corridors with no public open space or area for informal or formal gatherings to take place. Yet there is recognition that one primary element of a successful town center is public or civic space. Such space can be an extension of the community, providing a setting for celebrations, markets, and other community events, enhancing the surrounding buildings, and providing a landmark for the neighborhood.
Create a destination public space in the Old Brooklyn downtown area
Create a destination public space in the Old Brooklyn downtown area; a high-quality public space that attracts employees, shoppers, residents as well as visitors. Such a space will encourage users to socialize, eat, shop, view art, or attend a programmed event, as well as visit the space for sedentary, individual activities of reading and relaxing. According to the New Urbanism guidelines, such a civic space should be at least ½ acre. It should be located in the heart of the downtown with frontage on Pearl Road between Broadview Road and State Road. It should be large enough to accommodate community events that are intended to bring together residents from both neighborhoods, yet well designed and located to be used by patrons of the Senior Health and Wellness Center, other visitors to the district and area residents.
Create smaller plazas in all the retail nodes
Create smaller plazas in all the retail nodes to provide places for pedestrians and shoppers. The TLCI plan recommends such a plaza at the current parking lot at the northwest corner of Pearl and Broadview Roads.
Depending on where the public spaces are located, the spaces could be privately owned and maintained with agreed-upon hours of operation, such as the Eastman Reading Garden situated between the new and old wings of the Downtown Main Branch of the Cleveland Library.
Use streetscape and gateway enhancements and public art to establish identities for the neighborhood “downtown” districts.
Developing an identity for the downtown districts helps consumers (residents, businesses and tourists) distinguish the area from other neighborhoods. There are a number of assets that are unique to Old Brooklyn and Brooklyn Centre that can be used to improve the identities of the two “downtowns”. The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Brookside Reservation and its baseball history, a restored Big Creek and the Ohio and Erie Canal Scenic Byway provide elements that could be combined into a coordinated theme for both the Old Brooklyn and Brooklyn Centre “downtowns” to provide a connection between the two neighborhoods, allowing both to take advantage of these shared assets.
Below are some ways to incorporate marketing theme(s) chosen for the two neighborhood “downtown” districts in highly visible locations using streetscape and gateway enhancements and public art. Many of the place-making recommendations discussed in Goal 13 apply here as well and will help to establish and reinforce identities for each area.
- Replace standard parking meters with specially designed meters in shape of animals
- Install banners and public art on the Brooklyn Brighton Bridge which provides a large “canvas” to reinforce the theme and to provide a linkage between the two neighborhood “downtowns”.
- Install animal or other character sculptures and other outdoor art
- Construct sidewalk “hall of fames” with specific themes in different target areas along commercial corridors.
- Install historic pictures/texts on architecturally or culturally significant buildings or plaques commemorating previous buildings or historic activities that occurred on the site.
- Install special lighting to enhance the nighttime appearance of the districts.
- Conduct programs and marketing events that reinforce the themes; partner with Zoo to provide programming during the Zoo’s popular annual events, such as the Boo at the Zoo, EarthFest, and Twilight at the Zoo.
Goal 5: Ensure attractive and convenient shopping environments.
The design and maintenance of urban environments must be carefully considered in order to promote a pedestrian-friendly environment, attract customers, and enhance personal safety and property security. When good design is employed, it has been shown to enhance property values as well as reduce opportunities for crime and anti social behavior, Improved design (e.g. layout of building entrances, connections to parking lots and sidewalks, and lighting levels), regular property maintenance and increased enforcement through the establishment of additional safety patrols will help to increase pedestrian and shopper activity.
Promote the establishment of Business Improvement Districts to increase maintenance and security in the “downtown” districts.
One mechanism that can be used to provide regular maintenance and increased security in the neighborhood retail areas is establishing Business Improvement Districts (BID). A BID is a designated area where property owners within the district agree to levy assessments on their real property for specific improvements that are above and beyond those that the city provides. The assessment funds are collected by the county as part of its real estate tax collections and turned over to the BID. The funds are typically used for increased security as well as maintenance and repair of public spaces, litter control and marketing. In some cases, capital improvements such as streetscape enhancements and landscaping are also funded. BIDs are formed only through the support of property owners in a geographically defined area since these owners must agree to pay the additional assessment. BIDs are separate from the Business Revitalization District (BRD) designation, which establishes design review for a specific area.
BIDs are not new in Cleveland, though only a few currently exist. Downtown Cleveland property owners established a BID in December 2005. The Downtown Cleveland Improvement Corporation (DCIC) represents the property owners and administers all BID assessments that are collected. The non-profit Downtown Cleveland Alliance (DCA) carries out all of the services of the BID, and has been successful in engendering a welcoming, safe, and vibrant Downtown Cleveland through its Clean and Safe Program. The Clean and Safe program employs dozens of workers to augment current municipal services such as street clean-up. DCA’s Clean and Safe “ambassadors” are available to provide safe escort to one’s car in the evening, and have a direct line to law enforcement if they see illegal or suspicious activity.
Another example of a CDC working to establish a BID is Kamm’s Corners Development Corporation. In fall of 2008, the development corporation was seeking a consultant to assist in the establishment of a BID for the Kamm’s Corners retail area as well.
According to state law, properties in a BID must be contiguous, so separate BIDs would be required for the Old Brooklyn and Brooklyn Centre “downtown” districts and other retail districts.
The BID requirements would ensure frequent trash pickups on sidewalks, streets and public places, and could fund the placement of additional trash bins in various locations – at intersections, near bus stops, near parking lot pedestrian entrances – to encourage their use.
Adopt Design Guidelines for Business Districts.
“Design review” is a process in which new buildings, building renovations, and property improvements (such as parking, signs, fencing and landscaping) are reviewed to ensure that their design is compatible with the character of surrounding buildings. Design review considers such subjects as architectural style, building placement, color, materials, landscaping, and driveway locations. Areas dominated by historic structures undergo strict review through designation as a Landmarks District, such as in Brooklyn Centre. Design review in other areas of Cleveland is carried out with the Business Revitalization District (BRD) designation.
The city’s design review regulations allow BRDs to adopt design guidelines that specify building layouts, orientations, massing, and other design elements that are preferred and determined to be compatible with the character of the area. While the guidelines are suggestions for design, they do provide significant guidance to applicants during the beginning stages of project development. The following principles and guidelines could be incorporated into a set of design requirements and guidelines that, if adopted, would be used by the design review committee for all projects that undergo review:
Maximize visibility and surveillance
Maximize visibility and surveillance of building entrances, public parking areas and open spaces. When there are ‘eyes on the street’ or ‘natural surveillance’ from passers-by, or when public places are overlooked from adjoining buildings, people feel safer and potential offenders feel exposed. Avoid landscaping that may conceal offenders or obscure lighting or entrances.
Provide for safe movement, good connections and clearly marked access
Provide for safe movement, good connections and clearly marked access between public parking areas, public open spaces and store entrances, with well-lighted clear sightlines.
- Multiple entrances to public spaces and parking lots allow for alternative routes if one route appears blocked or unsafe.
- Arrange parking spaces to provide effective sightlines from moving cars, and between parked cars, so that pedestrian safety is enhanced.
Require appropriate, sufficient and energy efficient lighting
Require appropriate, sufficient and energy efficient lighting for streets, paths, alleys, and parks. Adequate lighting allows pedestrians to see into the interior of cars and eliminates shadows between cars.
Encourage internal theft deterrent
Encourage internal theft deterrent mechanisms instead of external solid grills, bars and shutters on storefronts.
Goal 6: Ensure robust retail and commercial environments in appropriate locations.
There are over 580 retail, office and general commercial establishments operating in Old Brooklyn and Brooklyn Centre neighborhoods. There are an additional 110 or so retail spaces scattered throughout the two traditional downtown districts, the Memphis/Fulton Shopping center, shopping centers along Brookpark Road, and numerous establishments located along Pearl Road, Broadview Road, State Road and Memphis Avenue.
Today’s shopping patterns no longer support the urban, streetcar-oriented shopping corridors. Consolidating and contracting retail has been recommended in previous studies and plans, including the 2006 Big-Box Centers Impact Study, and the 2020 Citywide Plan. In order to ensure that the Old Brooklyn and Brooklyn Centre retail and commercial areas are strong and viable, efforts are needed to consolidate retail in selected locations, upgrade the physical environment, recruit and retain the right mix of uses and undertake a marketing campaign.
Consolidate retail uses in selected nodes.
Prime retail locations are those that have a high amount of customer traffic. A compact retail district with a variety of stores and services provides customers with numerous shopping choices. Encouraging existing businesses to relocate to the primary retail nodes (Old Brooklyn and Brooklyn Centre downtowns, Memphis Fulton, shopping centers along Brookpark Road, and at major intersections) where road and transit networks converge and where traffic and visibility are highest will maximize retail potential.
Encourage existing neighborhood retail stores and offices that are not currently located in the designated retail nodes to relocate to these areas.
Provide relocation assistance and other tools to incentivize establishments to shift to more prominent and more productive locations.
Apply the Pedestrian Retail Overlay District
Apply the Pedestrian Retail Overlay District to retail nodes to ensure that any reoccupancy, redevelopment or new construction complies with design and use requirements that are meant to ensure a pedestrian-oriented environment.
Rezone areas that are no longer suitable for retail uses.
In order to reduce vacancy rates, some percentage of the existing retail square footage needs to be converted to other uses and removed from the retail market supply. The 2020 Citywide Plan identifies selected areas along commercial corridors in Old Brooklyn and Brooklyn Centre for non-retail commercial uses. However, the current commercial zoning districts are not structured to segregate commercial uses, and instead use a pyramid approach that allows retail and office uses to locate in more intense commercial districts. In order to effectively encourage retail to locate at nodes, the permitted uses in some commercial zoning districts will need to be reviewed to restrict retail uses.
This conversion may create nonconforming uses, which, under the City’s zoning ordinance, can continue to operate, until they are discontinued. However, the use is not permitted to expand or be enlarged except if the Board of Zoning Appeals issues a variance. Chapter 359 stipulates when a nonconforming use has been discontinued for as little as six months the business is considered discontinued. The regulations prohibit rebuilding when a building is destroyed by more than 50%.
Encourage property owners to upgrade buildings and properties in the neighborhood centers.
Promote the Storefront Renovation Program in Targeted Areas.
Rehabilitating historic buildings and encouraging storefront renovations and upgrades not only enhances the physical appearance of the neighborhood downtown districts, but also makes the businesses more competitive in Cleveland’s regional shopping market.
The city of Cleveland, through its Department of Community Development, has developed a Storefront Renovation Program (SRP) to provide technical, design and financial assistance to qualifying commercial property owners. The program uses a two tiered approach: it provides an attractive rebate for rehabilitation projects when located in the CDC “Target Areas”; and a low interest loan to property owners who are not in the Target Areas. The SRP has also published a detailed manual showcasing the exterior commercial rehabilitation design standards and techniques and appropriate materials used in the Program.
Each year, the SRP updates the Target Areas. In 2008, the Target Areas for the Old Brooklyn and Brooklyn Centre neighborhoods were extensive, including nearly the entire length of Pearl Road, see Section 12.3. The Target Areas for Old Brooklyn and Brooklyn Centre should be limited to the retail nodes outlined in this Plan in order to maximize the impact of renovations.
Establish a program to install temporary uses in vacant storefronts.
Whenever there are vacant storefronts in the retail nodes, work with property owners to enhance the storefronts, using temporary displays for community events, local student achievements, and/or showcasing local art. Temporary uses that occupy the retail space can include art and craft galleries, marketing office for local redevelopment project, and seasonal/holiday sales.
Conduct a concerted retail recruitment and retention effort to ensure establishments provide goods and services that meet the neighborhoods’ needs.
Section 4.1 discusses recruiting businesses for creating unique destinations. Yet, it is important that the shopping needs of residents continue to be met.
Therefore, this strategy focuses on recruiting the desired types of new retailers that have been identified through this planning process and/or suggested by the Big-Box Centers Impact Study and the Old Brooklyn/Brooklyn Centre Market Strategy.
A grocery store in the Old Brooklyn Downtown has been discussed for a number of years, but with the opening of the Steelyard Commons Wal-Mart supercenter, the idea seemed doomed. However, it has been reported that households that do not switch to a newly established supercenter are ones that devote a large percentage of their grocery expenditures to fresh produce, seafood, ands freshly-prepared, take-home meals. Senior citizens in the area as well as other residents with limited mobility would benefit from a small produce market in the Old Brooklyn downtown.
Major grocery stores have begun to experiment with smaller grocery stores of approximately 10,000 square feet to 15,000 square feet which emphasize prepared meals, fresh produce and grab-and-go drinks. The concept is to lure time-starved shoppers who want to pick up a few items or a fast meal without wandering long grocery aisles or paying restaurant prices. Giant Eagle recently opened a small Giant Eagle Express in a northern suburb of Pittsburgh to serve as the neighborhood market.
Target retailers that would not be in direct competition with Steelyard Commons, such as:
- Stores providing fresh produce and freshly prepared, take home meals.
- Local restaurants that cater to budget-conscious locals/regulars who prefer diners and other smaller more intimate settings because they are closer, quicker, more personal and even cheaper, and ones that offer ethnic cuisines. Based on community input, there is a desire for more lunch and coffee spots. These establishments could also attract restaurant-goers from outside of the community.
Another recurring recommendation from previous studies is the need to invest more in retail strategizing and implementation assistance. The Old Brooklyn/Brooklyn Centre Market Strategy suggests creating a recruitment/retention committee, but this is also a typical function of a Business Improvement District.
Key elements of a recruitment effort include:
- Creating a supportive business environment,
- Assembling recruitment and marketing materials,
- Generating leads, and
- Courting prospects.
Key elements to encourage retention include:
- Offering business administrative training and assistance,
- Promoting businesses to target markets,
- Helping businesses identify and develop growth and expansion opportunities,
- Recognizing and preventing the warning signs of business failure,
- Planning for business transition, and
- Supporting the local businesses by personally shopping locally.
Increase the visibility and access to parking in order to encourage patronage of neighborhood shops and restaurants.
Through this planning process a number of participants expressed concerns about parking in the downtown retail areas. In some areas, the amount of parking is adequate, but there is a need to create greater awareness of its location.
Create universal signage to indicate where parking is available.
Parking lots located behind buildings need to be clearly identified so that visitors can quickly identify and maneuver to the lots.
Consider extended parking hours
Consider extended parking hours for on-street parking and locations around retail areas (i.e. West 25th Street/ Broadview Road, and Pearl Road).
Develop a marketing campaign to promote the areas’ retail and commercial establishments.
Marketing the districts through events and advertising are effective in attracting not only customers, but also potential investors, new businesses, and visitors.
Feature new and existing businesses through multiple venues and mediums
Feature new and existing businesses through multiple venues and mediums(i.e. OBCDC to promote in its newsletter and on its website). Partner with local businesses, other organizations to make promotional materials available. Promotional materials could include:
- Re-issue restaurant guide.
- Brochure of auto repair/sales establishments meeting certain criteria.
- Publish a map featuring places of interest.
- Continue to annually update the OBCDC Business Directory & Service Guide and make it available online.
Encourage mutually-beneficial relationships
Encourage mutually-beneficial relationships between local retail or restaurant establishments and area institutions. Encourage area institutions to partner with local businesses and restaurants to offer discounts, coupons, and other promotional offers to employees and visitors.
Conduct programs and marketing events to encourage Buy It Local campaigns.
FutureHeights partnered with I BUY NEO to offer a community card that provides rebates to card purchasers when used at participating local businesses.
Promote increased residential densities.
Encourage residential uses on the second floors of retail buildings and adjacent to the retail districts to increase the number of people in the area beyond business hours. During the preparation of the Old Brooklyn/Brooklyn Center Market Strategy, the economic consultant stressed the importance of residential buying potential, and that it far exceeds the occasional expenditures the neighborhoods could expect from employees and visitors. Chapter 6, which provides details for the various opportunity sites, identifies areas within the neighborhoods where higher density residential development is encouraged.
Promote pedestrian access to retail nodes.
There are a number of long residential blocks south of the Old Brooklyn Downtown area, which make it difficult to reach the district on foot. In the event vacant parcels located mid-block on Roanoke, Searsdale, and Colburn Avenues become available, use the parcels to create neighborhood pathways according to the guidelines spelled out in the ReImaging Cleveland Pattern Book