by Chuck Hoven
(Plain Press, April, 2016) On March 2nd at Urban Community School, City of Cleveland officials joined with Ohio City Incorporated staff and Ward 3 Councilman Joe Cimperman to make a presentation to the community on upcoming changes at the West Side Market. Planned changes include changes to the parking lots, new lighting, landscaping, and the addition of Sunday hours at the West Side Market.
Jim McKnight, a landscape architect working for Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson’s Office of Capital Projects, outlined the changes planned for the Hicks and West Side Market parking lots. McNight joined with Ward 3 Councilman Joe Cimperman to explain the upcoming changes to those present. They said the capacity of the parking area would increase by 128 spaces from 498 to 626 parking spaces.
Cimperman said some of those spaces would come from closing W. 24th Street between the Hicks lot and the West Side Market Lot. McNight said the redesign of the West Side Market lot – making the tree islands smaller and making the entrance on the Lorain Avenue side more perpendicular to the street would contribute to the additional parking spaces as well.
McKnight said that grants from the Environmental Protection Agency and the North East Ohio Regional Sewer District would pay for adding some green infrastructure to the parking lots. This would include a Bio Swale on the west side of the Hicks Lot and pervious pavers in the market lot.
McKnight said that the lots would remain open during construction to the extent possible. The Hicks lot is scheduled for paving and restriping that will take between two and two and a half months. It should be completed by June 1st. The Lorain Avenue entrance to the West Side Market lot will be reconfigured between June 1 and August 15. Pervious pavers will be placed in the West Side Market Lot between August 15 and November 1st.
McNight mentioned a few other features including a new entry plaza outside the entrance to the Fruit and Vegetable stands and replacement of some lighting. He said at the eastern end of the West Side Market lot there will be an opening to connect to a possible future bike trail. A trail has been proposed that would connect W. 22nd to Columbus Road, but funds for the trail were not included in the budget for the parking lot.
Cimperman said when the lot is completed, the City will begin charging for parking. He said details have not been worked out as to how much free time will be allowed before the parking fee is charged. He said discussions have been held on up to two hours of free parking, but no final decision has been made.
A parishioner of St. Emeric Parish brought up the agreement between St. Emeric’s Church and the City of Cleveland made when St. Emeric Church relinquished some of its land for part of the West Side Market Parking lot. The agreement calls for free use of the market parking lot for the parish. The parishioner said that St. Emeric needs access to the parking lot “virtually every day.” He said in addition to mass on Sundays there are weddings, funerals, scout meetings and a number of things going on at the parish. He urged city officials to get together with the parish leadership to look over the agreement and work out the details.
The parishioner also took issue with the proposed relocation of the West Side Market dumpster to be in the rear area of the parking lot adjacent to St. Emeric. He didn’t see the utility of having the dumpster so far away from the market stands and said potential problems for the church included rodents, trash flying and the odor if it is not maintained perfectly. Mayor Jackson’s Chief of Staff Ken Silliman said, changing the planned relocation of the dumpster “is not an option.” He promised that each Saturday, at the close of business, the dumpster and the area around it would be “completely cleaned out” so it will not be a Sunday issue.
West Side Market Tenants Association President Vince Bertonaschi questioned why the City of Cleveland was having a public meeting to discuss the West Side Market when they had not met with the merchants in the last five months. He noted that the West Side Market Merchants had also purchased land that ended up as part of the Market Parking Lot. If St. Emeric’s parishioners were to receive special compensation for their contribution of land to the Market Parking Lot, shouldn’t the market merchants also receive special compensation?, he asked.
Silliman said it is Mayor Jackson’s understanding that the City of Cleveland owns the West Side Market Parking Lot today. We are not focused on who sold what to whom in the past, he said. He said the West Side Market Parking lot is a city asset owned by the city of Cleveland. He said he would be willing to look at documents to substantiate any claims the merchants may have.
Closer questioning of Silliman about how proceeds collected from parking at the West Side Market Parking lot would be used, revealed that the City of Cleveland has pledged the proceeds of all the parking lots its owns as security for bonds for three Gateway parking garages. Silliman said the city borrowed about $70 million in the 1990s for the three garages. He was unsure how much is still owed, but he estimated it is between $50 and $60 million. He said because of free spaces given the Cavs and Indians in leases in the 1990s, the revenue from those garages is not sufficient to pay off the bonds. When asked why the city didn’t renegotiate those leases, Silliman said, “We’ve been as aggressive with sports leases as any city in the country.”
Silliman explained that while revenue from the West Side Market lot would have to go to pay off the bonds on the downtown parking garages, revenue from the Hicks lot, which was built using federal Community Development Block Grant funds, was exempt from that obligation. Silliman said the net revenue from the Hicks lot would be used to make capital improvements at the West Side Market.
Councilman Cimperman said the funds from parking fees in the Hicks lot would provide the “opportunity to fix things that have been broken for a long time.” He also said the funds would allow for better lighting, better cameras and better security and make the market parking area cleaner and safer.
Silliman also spoke briefly about the plans to open the West Side Market on Sundays beginning on April 3rd from noon to 6 p.m. Silliman said opening the market on Sundays was the topic of a report in 2010 from Councilman Cimperman and Ohio City Incorporated which said market customers wanted the option of shopping on Sundays. Silliman said he and Director of Public Works Michael Cox met in December of last year they decided to add Sunday hours as an option for merchants who want to open on Sunday. He said merchants would be required to open four days a week. So merchants could open on Sunday as an alternative to Monday or in addition to it. He said merchants won’t be penalized for not opening on Sunday, but would be required to open on Monday, if they don’t open on Sunday.
A representative of Skylight Financial wondered about securing additional parking in the West Side Market District as his company plans to increase the number of employees at their office in the United Building. In response, Ohio City Inc. (OCI) Director Tom McNair talked about the difficulty of finding an appropriate place for a parking lot in the neighborhood and an economically feasible way to do it. McNair said it was too costly to build a parking garage at a cost of about $20,000 per parking space.
McNair said the parking fee at the West Side Market would be extremely low. He said permit parking for residents has been discussed to assure parking spots for residents. He also noted a special program with the Regional Transit Authority for employees of businesses in the Market District. He said the program offers to match $20 from an employer to discount monthly passes for area employees. If the employer chips in $20, a monthly pass (currently $85) would cost the employee only $45.00.
McNair said there have also been discussions with St. Ignatius, Lutheran Hospital and Voss Industries about use of their parking lots when they are not being fully utilized. McNair said there is already an agreement with Lutheran Hospital for Market District employees to be able to use their parking lot on Saturdays. He said OCI pays for a blanket insurance policy that includes the Lutheran parking lot. He said the lot is not that far from the businesses in the Market District. He called failure to make use of the lot “a perception issue.”
Councilman Cimperman said there have been some inquires about using part of the Ohio City Farm for additional parking. He said he and CMHA have issued a firm “no” to that possibility.
Kerry McCormack, Director of Community Affairs for OCI, said there will also be West Side Market bicycle parking added at the West Side Market on Lorain Avenue and at the North Side of the Produce Stands by the Hicks Parking Lot.