The ongoing efforts of artists and designers to reignite the spark of downtown development in aging industrial cities face no simple task. But as architects and developers begin to put pencil to paper, the best public art projects draw on the spiritual side of that renewal.
Flint, Michigan’s inaugural Free City Festival, held May 3-5, did just that when it revived a mile-long stretch of now-razed Chevrolet plants with public art, transformational lighting displays and a reverberating gospel choir.
The annual Cleveland Design Competition, organized by architects Micahel Christoff and Bradley Fink, called on designers to imagine a revitalized Detroit-Superior Bridge spanning the Cuyahoga River. The jury unanimously awarded first prize to two submissions that highlighted the bridge as a catalyst for urban reinvigoration.
“Transforming The Bridge” asked competitors to redesign the abandoned lower deck of the bridge, also known as Veterans Memorial Bridge, which connects downtown Cleveland with its industrial Flats neighborhood and west side.
In its ongoing march to reclaim downtown neighborhoods marred by blight and suburban exodus, Cincinnati this week added Pendleton to the Neighborhood Enhancement Program. The district is known for its art center, and was a natural choice for the program now in 14 areas of the city.
Like its neighbor to the west, Over-the-Rhine, Pendleton has struggled with crime. The “90-day blitz of city services” offered by NEP is designed to begin the process of long-term revitalization for the neighborhood by addressing that issue. Kennedy Heights saw a 16 percent drop in crime after it embarked on NEP earlier this year. The program will be reevaluated every 90 days, and again six months after completion.
After nine years of fundraising, a transformed park in downtown Cleveland seems to personify the spirit of reinvention that has recently overtaken the city. Perk Park, originally built in 1972, was first conceived by I.M. Pei as a small piece of the 200-acre Urban Renewal District. It was once called Chester Commons (for its location at East 12th Street and Chester Avenue), but was renamed in 1996 for 1970s Mayor Ralph Perk.