A long-planned development project in Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood that features a new public library, apartments, and office and retail space may begin construction in March, according to a developer on the project.
Plans to transform University Circle’s Circle Square into an expanded urban town center have been in development since 2014. The project, spearheaded by Midwest Development Partners, aims to add a variety of mixed-use buildings to the area over the next several years and reconfigure its street design and infrastructure.
Paul Volpe, a consultant on the project, said during a city planning commission meeting Sept. 4 that Circle Square’s location at the center of the greater University Circle district makes it an ideal space for a town center.
“There needs to be a central place where not just the institutions, but the neighborhoods can celebrate living in University Circle,” Volpe said.
One of the Circle Square project’s main developments will be a new Martin Luther King Jr. library, which will replace the current branch located on Stokes Boulevard. The 11-story building will include a two-story library and nine-story apartment block above it, known as “Library Lofts.”
“The two work together to give a sense of place and scale and make living here the hallmark of this new city center,” Volpe said.
Jean Duncan McFarren, interim coordinator for the facilities master plan at the Cleveland Public Library, said the new building will be the public library’s largest branch and serve as an anchor for other library branches on Cleveland’s east side. The new library will feature meeting room space and sections dedicated to children and teens, she said.
“It’s just a really exciting opportunity for us to be a part of this growth in the University Circle area,” Duncan McFarren said.
The building’s designs received approval from Cleveland’s Euclid Corridor Design Review Committee in February. Steve Rubin, partner with Midwest Development Partners, said during the Sept. 4 meeting that construction will occur around the current branch so it can remain open until the new building is completed.
Additionally, Volpe said the Circle Square project will focus on redesigning the area’s infrastructure. Five major streets — Euclid Avenue, Chester Avenue, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Stokes Boulevard and Reserve Court — will undergo changes. Some adjustments include shortening crosswalks and widening sidewalks on Chester Avenue, removing a turn lane on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, transforming Stokes Boulevard into a shopping street and making Reserve Court a pedestrian-oriented service street.
Volpe said they will be taking out turn lanes on Chester Avenue and removing the Liberty Boulevard cross street. They will add “full intersections, narrower streets, shorter crosswalks, beautiful landscaping and buildings on every block, on every corner because buildings mean people,” Volpe said. The Cleveland City Planning Commission approved the plans during its meeting Sept. 4.
The planning commission also approved designs for a parking garage and a 24-story apartment building at 10600 Chester Ave., where a Cleveland police station was previously located. The apartment building’s ground floor will have 14,000 square feet of retail space, located on the corner of Chester Avenue and Stokes Boulevard. The project will need to receive final approval from the planning commission before construction can begin.
In the future, Volpe said they hope to build an office building in Circle Square. He said Midwest Development Partners has started a marketing effort to determine if it would be possible.
Director of City Planning Freddy Collier said during the meeting that the project will give the area a sense of urbanism and make the environment more walkable.
“We believe this is an appropriate approach to developing this area,” Collier said.
Paige Bennett is a journalist and recent Kent State University graduate. She previously served as general assignment editor for The Kent Stater and KentWired and managing editor for A Magazine. This article was produced through a reporting partnership with the Collaborative News Lab at Kent State University.