Sept. 5, 2023
One of the reasons I ran for Cuyahoga County Executive was to connect our residents to all of the assets and potential I know we have in our community. Potential doesn't mean anything without hard work, but with leadership, vision, and a strong team, I know we can turn that potential into progress.
In 2001, I was the mayoral campaign manager for then County Commissioner Jane Campbell, who would become Cleveland's 56th and first female mayor. We had a vision for a more connected lakefront with not just pockets of access, but access spanning Cleveland's entire eight-mile stretch of Lake Erie. We laid out a huge map of the Cleveland lakefront across her kitchen table, drawing, moving, and envisioning what could be.
After her election, I joined the administration as planning director, and we worked together with Cleveland Lakefront Partners to make a vibrant, accessible waterfront a reality.
It was vital that the Waterfront District Plan would connect the lakefront to everyone, not just a privileged few. We held more than 200 public meetings, design charettes, focus groups, and one-on-one conversations to glean as much input as possible from people living in all of Cleveland's communities. This was the first time the public was engaged so extensively in a plan like this.
Our Waterfront District Plan laid out a vision for eight miles of Cleveland's lakefront, marking the first time in 50 years that the area had been looked at so comprehensively. As the top planner responsible for this massive plan, my team and I remained centered on its goal: to enhance and populate existing lakefront neighborhoods, create vibrant, new lakefront communities, and connect people to the lake. We wanted to shape the lakefront as the most vital element in the transformation of Cleveland as a place to live, work, and play.
The plan envisioned doing this by protecting the shoreline with new islands made from dredged river sediment, adding new waterfront trails and parks, and creating additional north-south connections to neighborhoods. It was an ambitious plan, with an estimated $1 billion price tag, and while the Waterfront District Plan hasn't been completed exactly as proposed, hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested into lakefront projects. Private investments have been multiplied, community partners like the Cleveland Metroparks have taken a more active role, and Lake Erie access has increased for tens of thousands of residents.
Now, as Cuyahoga County Executive, I'm still working with partners throughout the region to actualize the potential for the lakefront. While my scope of responsibility now spans many more miles than Cleveland's eight, the goal is the same: open up the shoreline in all of our lakefront communities and stake our claim as the freshwater capital of the world. Across the decades since these ideas have been proposed, discussed, and drafted, we've brought on a host of leaders and elected officials who support better lakefront access. What once started as just two people huddled around a kitchen table has grown to a mountain of advocates in our corner.