A model for all coastal cities: Cleveland’s port project combines urban revitalization, ecological restoration & climate resilience

In October of 2022, the Cleveland Harbor Eastern Embayment Resilience Strategy (CHEERS) project partners announced that this revitalizing waterfront project had entered its design phase.

The CHEERS project is a visionary concept that emerged from a yearlong study to determine how to transform Cleveland’s lakeshore through reconnecting communities to the lake, improving public health, bolstering the economy, and benefiting the environment and natural habitat.

By combining the goals ore revitalization and resilience—and by achieving them by repurposing, renewing and reconnecting existing assets—CHEERS harnesses the primary success factors documented in the 2020 book, RECONOMICS: The Path To Resilient Prosperity.

The Port of Cleveland’s Board of Directors approved a $3.75 million contract with Arup to undertake the design and permitting services needed to proceed. This is exactly the kind of project that could be enhanced by the new revitalization and resilience-building tools being offered by the RISING PLACES initiative.

We’re excited to be moving forward into the design phase of this transformational and vital project that will benefit Northeast Ohio communities for generations to come,” said William D. Friedman, President and CEO of the Port.

CHEERS project partners include the City of Cleveland, Ohio Department of Transportation, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Black Environmental Leaders Association, Cleveland Metroparks and the Port of Cleveland.

Work is funded through a combination of matching funds provided by each partner and grant funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s National Coastal Resilience Fund and the Maritime Assistance Program.

We’re thrilled to move the CHEERS project into the design phase and create a more resilient, equitable and prosperous lakefront,” said Cleveland Metroparks CEO Brian M. Zimmerman.

The CHEERS project will be transformational for Cleveland’s East Side by protecting critical infrastructure, improving park access, and expanding natural habitat along the Lake Erie shoreline,” he continued.

We are excited to see CHEERS continue to gain momentum,” said Cleveland’s Chief of Integrated Development Jeff Epstein. “This project has the potential to have transformational impact on Cleveland’s East Side lakefront and to eliminate longstanding barriers to access for residents.”

Arup was chosen after a request for proposal was released in March and a review of the submissions was made by CHEERS partner organizations, determining that Arup was the most qualified firm for the project.

The project envisions returning the hardened edge of Cleveland’s East Side lakefront to a natural living shoreline with play spaces, amenities, trails, picnic lawns, fishing areas, habitats and overlooks.

The beneficial use of dredge material from the Cuyahoga River will be used to create a more naturalized shoreline of habitat and parks, mitigate the impacts of the lake on existing infrastructure, including Interstate 90, and create a sheltered embayment where visitors can safely access Lake Erie.

The estimated 30-year plan envisions a phased development of shoreline and features including creating a new accessible isle along the lake.

CHEERS is led by the Port of Cleveland, Cleveland Metroparks, the City of Cleveland, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Ohio Department of Transportation and Black Environmental Leaders Association, a statewide non-profit advocacy group.

These parties joined efforts to address lakefront challenges faced by each organization and to provide mutual benefit and improved public assets.

The Port of Cleveland is one of the largest ports on the Great Lakes. Over 20,000 jobs and $3.5 billion in annual economic activity are tied to the roughly 13 million tons of cargo that move through Cleveland Harbor each year.

The Port of Cleveland is the only local government agency whose sole mission is to spur job creation and economic vitality in Cuyahoga County. The Port is an economic engine for the community, a key to Northeast Ohio’s global competitiveness, and a crucial partner in building Cuyahoga County’s future.

Cleveland Metroparks spans more than 24,000 acres across Northeast Ohio and includes 18 reservations, more than 325 miles of trails, eight golf courses, eight lakefront parks, dining and retail venues, and the nationally acclaimed Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.

Learn more about the CHEERS project.

See Port of Cleveland website.

See Cleveland Metroparks website.

See Arup website.

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