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University Circle activists advocate for a Balanced Circle while institutions rethink
by Lee Batdorff Friday, Mar. 04, 2005 at 11:49 AM 216-932-8358 2825 Derbyshire Road, Cleveland Heights, OH 44118

From Friends of Hessler: Four decades of citizen activism in Cleveland Ohio's University Circle area continued in 2004 with three meetings between University Circle Inc. and Hessler and University Circle residents. Late 2004 brought the powerful comments of insurance tycoon Peter B. Lewis who Case Western Reserve University is trying to attract to help fund new buildings. Then Case purchased the Triangle property at the northeast corner of Euclid-Mayfield. This substantially alters the political geography of Central Unversity Circle. After three emotionally brusing meetings with neighbors in 2004, and the arrival of Case in a big way, University Circle Incorporated and its chosen developer are now laying low. There has been ongoing local media attention to Central University Circle, plus Friends of Hessler posted as part of the Balanced Circle Campaign. And yes, "Harmony Park" at the corner of Bellflower Rd. and Hessler Court, shall be in existance during the 2005 Hessler Street Fair, Sat. & Sun. May 21-22 Your input in the Balanced Circle Campaign and the 2005 Hessler Street Fair is welcome.

Residents of University Circle made their voices heard by University Circle Incorporated at three meetings in 2004 concerning the "College Town" proposal. And perhaps even Case Western Reserve University has listened to neighbors a little bit concerning the proposed 20,000 square foot Mandel Center for Non-profit Organizations proposed for the popular "Harmony Park" and the Hessler Community Garden at the corner of Bellflower Rd. and Hessler Court.

University Circle Inc. has placed the College Town proposal for the Euclid-Ford intersection on hold. Case Western Reserve University has informed the Hessler neighbors that it will be June before the University wants to talk in detail about the future of this University-owned property which neighbors call "Harmony Park." No zoning amendments have been requested for either the College Town proposal and Mandel Center proposal.

An informal group calling themselves Friends of Hessler is staging the Balanced Circle Campaign. The group's Web site, posted in January is It offers what it calls "A Citizens' Comprehensive Planning Overview." This is a set of planning concepts given from the viewpoint of residents living in what the site describes as "Central University Circle." The Web site states: "A Citizens' Comprehensive Planning Overview advocates for a broad based planning process for the people who are often overlooked in big city planning: the neighbors of the project, people who have to live with the results of a plan."

The site continues: "In the view of Hessler neighbors, the year 2004 saw UCI and Case stepping back from involving neighbors and citizens in the planning process for major projects that will affect the residents."

On November 16, Peter B. Lewis, the local insurance tycoon who built Progressive Insurance into a major automobile insurer, spoke to what were called "315 movers and shakers," in the Plain Dealer. He was not impressed with plans presented by University Circle Inc. and Case for the Euclid-Ford property, affectionately known as "The Beach." It runs along Euclid Ave. from Ford Dr. to E. 115th Street. The University and UCI, which is the neighborhood's Community Development Corporation, had employed Mr. Lewis' favorite architect Frank Geary who worked up a new plan for The Beach. The neighbors never saw this plan. Mr. Geary designed the world famous Peter B. Lewis Weatherhead School of Management Building at the southwest corner of Ford Dr. and Bellflower Rd. as well as other prominent buildings in the U.S. and abroad.

Somehow Lewis was less than pleased with the Geary design and went on to talk about how interesting the University Circle neighborhood and nearby Doan's Corners (Euclid-E 105th St. intersection) were when he lived in the Circle as a youth about 60 years ago.

The Plain Dealer account of the Lewis speech by reporter Tom Breckenridge quotes Lewis to say, "The university and institutions have failed 'to generate activity and street life somewhere near the university,' places where students, residents and visitors to the area can socialize."

In December 2004 the political geography of the Central Circle started shifting when Case Western Reserve University purchased the land under Triangle buildings at the southeast corner of Euclid Ave. and Mayfield Road. The Triangle commercial building, which has a large abstract white elephant sculpture in front of it, drew harsh critique from Steven Litt, architecture critic for the Plain Dealer. In a Jan. 9, 2005 article he wrote "As an urban complex, the Triangle falls so far short of the potential of its location that it truly deserves to be demolished. It's a problem of both form and content." Case is said to complete the purchase of the four buildings and one parking garage from Associated Estates by Spring 2005.

The March 2, 2005 Bruce Blog, which focuses on planning issues in Greater Cleveland, published an update about the College Town proposal. In part this story states: "Bruce blog has obtained information that explains the deafening silence of late surrounding the proposed $35 million retail-residential development at the corner of Ford and Euclid. For starters, Heritage Development Co., the developer, has not acquired the rezoning and variances from the city. The process has stalled in large part because the university is now insisting that the developer conduct a market analysis for the proposed supermarket tenant, a traffic analysis, and an analysis of residential rents."

This is something the Hessler neighbors started calling for in January 2004 when University Circle Inc. and Heritage unveiled their College Town proposal! You can read the rest of the article in Bruce Blog by going to and clicking on "Updates" and "media." And the Feb. 23 Cool Cleveland called the Web site an, "admirable grass-roots effort."

"Harmony Park" will be available for the 2005 Hessler Street Fair on Saturday May 21 and Sunday May 22. It is still unknown if the Hessler Community Garden can be planted here again this year. Find more about the Hessler Street Fair at

-Lee Batdorff of Friends of Hessler - March 4, 2005

add your comments

Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 5 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
Error? sciesla Monday, Dec. 12, 2005 at 3:47 PM
1950's Hough Street crosspost / elle Sunday, Mar. 13, 2005 at 4:27 PM
History Of University Circle crosspost / elle Sunday, Mar. 13, 2005 at 4:23 PM
History of the Hessler Street Fair crosspost / elle Sunday, Mar. 13, 2005 at 4:18 PM
Is there really a "University Circle" andy Sunday, Mar. 13, 2005 at 7:22 AM
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