Panel narrows firms with downtown revitalization plan

By LARRY C. BOWERS
Posted 11/5/17

The City of Cleveland is rapidly moving ahead with plans for the revitalization of the downtown area along Inman Street.Four renown consulting firms brought a wealth of planning, design and …

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Panel narrows firms with downtown revitalization plan

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The City of Cleveland is rapidly moving ahead with plans for the revitalization of the downtown area along Inman Street.

Four renown consulting firms brought a wealth of planning, design and construction professionals to  Cleveland Friday morning for presentations to a city-appointed selection committee.

This committee was tasked to determine (for the City Council) two consultants they would recommend to guide the city through an extension downtown revitalization process.

Each of the presentations was outstanding, creating a formidable task for the committee to narrow the prospects by a half.

Two of the firms were selected to advance to a work session of the Council at 1 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 13, in the city municipal building.

These two firms will provide much the same presentation they gave FridayThe Council will select who they wish to provide expertise for the downtown project.

Not only were Friday's presentations informative and impressive, but the credentials of each group of professionals were outstanding. Each went over how they would handle the planned Cleveland revitalization,

"Each of these consultant groups were very good, and each represented themselves very well. It made for a difficult decision by the selection committee," Cleveland City Manager Joe Fivas said,.

The two firms selected in Friday's elimination  process were the firm of Farmer/Morgan of Pikeville, and the global firm of WSP with team members from Nashville and Chattanooga.

Farmer-Morgan LLC is a design-based firm specializing in the creation of memorable places. Representatives claim they are committed to creating environments that connect people and places, allowing meaningful communities that are more livable and sustainable.

WSP's international headquarters is in New York City. The firm has 36,000 employees and 500 offices in 40 countries.

The two finalists selected are a smaller regional firm, and a large global enterprise, It will be up to City Council members to select one of the two to guide the city's fortunes.

The other two firms represented at Friday's presentation were Gresham, Smith and Partners of Nashville and Chattanooga, and Cannon and Cannon of Knoxville and other East Tennessee cities.

Both were eliminated in Friday's preliminary evaluations, despite exceptional presentations.

Each of the presenters complimented the Cleveland community for its plan to upgrade the downtown area, and praised the attendance of around 30 city staff members and community leaders at Friday's review session.

Mayor Tom Rowland and Fivas welcomed the planning, design and construction professionals, and thanking them for their participation.

The two firms eliminated were the first two presenters.

The third firm was Farmer-Morgan, led by principal partners Ben Farmer and Randy Morgan.

They discussed several projects they have been involved with, including revitalization of downtown Pikeville, and some similar work in Union City and Starkville, Miss.

Farmer discussed how the firm will approach the Cleveland project, in planning, development, design and construction. "To succeed, you must have strong civic involvement," he said.

Throughout each of the presentations, the professionals were liberally questioned by committee members. Many of the questioners have experiences in construction, planning and revitalization.

These questions including overall plans for the Inman Street corridor, parking needs, the old Cherokee Hotel, and the area in and around the old Whirlpool property and the Old Woolen Mill.

The professionals also had praised for the existing city revitalization master plan, which was put together by MainStreet Cleveland and the city in 2004. They pointed out that many considerations and situations have changed since that time.

The WSP presentation was coordinated by Doug Delaney of the firm's Nashville office. He was joined by Russell Moorehead, John Brown and Matt Winget of Chattanooga.

Delaney highlighted the firm's resources and discussed several previous projects of WSP, including Chattanooga's Tennessee Riverwalk, and Market Street upgrade. The company was also involved in the Urban Design Challenge, which it won, and 8th Street Urban Design.

"We believe we're put together as a team that will give Cleveland the best change for success," Delaney said.

Each of the WSP professionals discussed the team's strengths, in their respective skill area.

They then talked of opportunities, and threats, echoing what many in Cleveland believe. "People need to see something happening in downtown Cleveland," they said.

An impressive part of WSP's proposal was that they have constructed a computer model of the City of Cleveland. "We can place, and remove, various things in this model," Delaney said as he demonstrated the process.  He emphasized it will be a good guide for the public consumption, to know what is planned.

The model visualizes specific proposals for the downtown Cleveland area, and can remove or add new ideas.

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