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Success of Market Avenue pop-up park shows need for green space

As soon as officials with Ohio City Incorporated (OCI) began pulling furniture off the truck earlier this month, the crowds started to gather. By the time they were finished, the new Market Avenue pop-up park was bustling with activity, and it hasn’t stopped since.

“They were pulling picnic tables off the truck when a group just came and sat down to eat lunch,” says Ashley Shaw, OCI’s director of neighborhood planning and economic development. “The park was full as soon as we got the turf down and put the picnic tables down.”

The new pop-up park, which planners are calling Market Avenue West, now boasts kid-sized furniture, bright blue plastic Adirondack chairs, café tables and chairs, large wooden dice, and corn hole boards set up for anyone to stop by and enjoy the sights and sounds of summer in Ohio City. The street is blocked off by bike corrals at either end. The bike stations and much of the furniture were lent to the city through NOACA’s Street Supplies program.

The green space is part of a recent parkland renaissance in Cleveland, though of course, much more work is needed to bring the city up to par. Cleveland is ranked 35th in parkland among major U.S. cities according to the Trust for Public Land’s 2019 Parkscore rating.

The pop-up park opened on Monday, July 1 and will remain open at least through October 1, says Shaw, as a trial run to see if the city should permanently close Market Avenue between W. 24th and W. 26th Streets.

Shaw says they have talked about blocking off the street periodically over the past 10 years, especially with the 2011 renovation of Market Square Park. This year, she says they decided to go ahead and try it with temporary closure permits.

Part of the goal was to create green space in the neighborhood. The plan seems to have worked. “We have families constantly sitting on tables and chairs, sitting on the turf,” says Shaw. “It shows us people are pining for green space.”

Since the area is free from the clutter that normally fills Ohio City sidewalks, Shaw says she’s also seen many people using wheelchairs and strollers take advantage of the park. “We want this to be an inclusive space,” says Shaw, adding that she’s seen kids playing in the park area while parents dine on the patios of nearby Flying Fig or Great Lakes Brewing Company.

Shaw says they will spend the summer evaluating whether the space warrants a permanent park installation next year. OCI is working with LAND Studio on a vision of what a permanent park should look like.

In the meantime, Shaw says plans are in the works for another park—deemed Market Avenue East—between W. 25th Street and W. 24th Place by Market Garden Brewery. She says they hope to install a mural and lighting sometime this summer, as well as new signage for the crosswalk on Lorain Avenue. All three components—Market Avenue West, Market Avenue East, and the crosswalk—will be a part of the permanent vision Ohio City Incorporated and LAND Studio are working on.

They are also collecting data via social media channels and people who tag #PlayOnMarket and Ohio City during their visits. Time lapse cameras installed at the park also track how people are using the space.

“We’re blown away by how many people are using it,” Shaw says. “People are coming from all over.”

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