Group Plan Commission
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Group Plan Commission

Current Mall Overview South View Masterplan Full Build Out Connection Public Square to Mall View from East Promenade View from West Mall Drive

About the Work

We know that investments in world-class public spaces can drive development and dollars. Done well, they can define a city and leverage both public and private investment, creating a more livable city, and paving the way for more growth. This vision is becoming a reality through public-private collaboration among the city, the country, the business community and philanthropic organizations, with the support of world-class urban planners, landscape architects, and professionals.

The vision of the Group Plan Commission (GPC) is to create world-class public spaces that transform downtown and redefine how Clevelanders connect with one another, leveraging existing development and paving the way for future growth. The GPC seeks to: 1) revitalize Public Square, 2) create enhancements on the Mall within the Group Plan District; and 3) build an iconic pedestrian connector from the Mall to the lakefront. These projects will connect downtown to the lakefront, downtown attraction to each other, and Clevelanders to all of these places.

The GPC’s projects will bring to life a vision for a vibrant, greener, more connected, pedestrian-friendly city. We aim to make downtown a vital destination for Clevelanders and visitors alike and once again, a point of pride.

Public Square
Our vision is for a dramatically new Public Square as a vibrant public space in the heart of Cleveland.

Public Square is a massive space and is dysfunctional in its current condition, reflecting years of disinvestment.

What's proposed is not a small scale fix, but a bold vision for a completely new space that can be a destination as well as a connecter for other destinations.

LAND studio, in partnership with James Corner Field, best known for New York’s High Line, has crafted a visionary plan for Public Square. Together with the Group Plan Commission (GPC) we propose true placemaking – equally weighted between physical transformation and ongoing programming that is needed to make Public Square a vibrant hub for Cleveland,  day and night, year round.

Before pursuing design work, the GPC worked hand in hand with RTA and Nelson Nygaard, a leading traffic consultant, to ensure that cars and buses will continue to flow smoothly through downtown after Public Square is transformed.

THE Process

2009 – Initial engagement of James Corner Field Operations

2011-2012 – Nelson Nygaard conducts Phase 1 of traffic and transit study and presents findings

2012-2013 – JCFO unveils schematic designs collects key stakeholder feedback and refines design

April 2013 – Initial schematic design phase concludes

March 2014 – JCFO presents revised 50% designs and collects feedback

Spring-Fall 2014 – JCFO continues design development, Nelson Nygaard conducts Phase 2 of traffic and transit study

The Mall is a key landmark of Cleveland and a natural nexus for downtown activity with a huge amount of potential.
By enhancing the design of the Mall, we will create an inviting green space that is a natural extension of Public Square. We will develop a gathering place for Clevelanders and visitors for everyday activities throughout the year and provide signature events. We will also create a connection between Public Square and the Link to the Lake, enabling people to easily move from one area to another.
The conceptual design by celebrated landscape architects Gustafson Guthrie Nichol (GGN) demonstrates the power of leveraging quality design to activate public spaces, with planned enhancements to the Mall and major connection points at East 3rd Street and Rockwell Avenue. We will continue to work with GGN and key community stakeholders to refine the design of the Mall. We will also work closely with the new hotel designers to ensure a cohesive and mutually supportive plan for the Mall.

Link to the Lake
Our goal is to create an iconic pedestrian connector that will span rail and highway barriers and enable people to easily move from Downtown to the lakefront. In doing so, we will link Cleveland’s revitalized civic core – a soon-to-be transformed Public Square and Mall, along with the new Cleveland Convention Center, Global Center for Health Innovation and Convention Center Hilton hotel – with our world-class cultural amenities and natural resources on the lakefront. Creating an accessible connection to the lakefront will unify Downtown Cleveland, serve as the foundation for generating additional investment, and result in our lakefront becoming a more sustainable and robust economic engine than it has been in the past.

Creative Team

City of Cleveland -

Gustafson Guthrie Nichol -

James Corner Field Operations -

Nelson Nygaard -

Parsons Brinckerhoff -

Rosales + Partners -

How It Started

On August 17, 1903, famed architects and planners Daniel Burnham, John M. Carrere and Arnold R. Brunner – the original Group Plan Commission – presented “The Group Plan of the Public Buildings of the City of Cleveland,” or Group Plan of 1903, an iconic vision that has shaped the heart of our city for more than a century. Based on the designs of great civic centers in Paris, London, Vienna, and Florence, The Group Plan called for “no little plans” and outlined the development of a series of public spaces flanked by the city’s major civic and government buildings. Cleveland’s leadership, including then-Mayor Tom L. Johnson, embraced the concept and quickly moved forward with implementing the vision. This helped spur a Downtown renaissance that redefined Cleveland and propelled the city into a period of accelerated growth that would last more than a half-century.

More than a century later, as downtown Cleveland prepared itself for new growth and investment, Mayor Frank Jackson appointed a new Group Plan Commission (GPC) to update that vision for the 21st Century. This Commission was charged with reimagining our signature public spaces and connecting catalytic developments such as the Flats East Bank, Cleveland Convention Center, Global Center for Health and Innovation and the Horseshoe Casino. Its 2011 report articulated a bold yet achievable vision for several compelling projects to transform Downtown Cleveland for today’s Clevelanders and for generations to come. 

Other Facts

The GPC is a unique collaboration between the City of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, and a broad set of civic stakeholders (including GCP, DCA, LAND studio), reflecting broad support for our transformative projects. We were set up to deliver on a civic priority of reinventing our signature public spaces.

Years of broad civic interest and engagement, including the work of the initial Group Plan Commission gathered by Mayor Frank Jackson in 2010, have put in a great position.

Robust, free community programming is a priority for the GPC, and essential for creating vibrant public spaces. We are bringing in best practices in the programming of public spaces and ensuring that funds raised for our projects include a reserve for maintenance and programming. 

For more information about GPC, please visit 

featured project location pin


Downtown Cleveland
Cleveland, Ohio 44113

comments (+) Comment

keith 3 years ago

Consider the past when planning the link to the lakefront over the RR tracks. Built at a cost at the time of 80k during the GreatLakesExposition, the Court of the Presidents Bridge could be recreated in a more contemporary design while honoring the past.

Patrick Staunton 5 years ago

looking at the aerial view, the mall with Public Square looks unbalanced. Has any thought gone into trying to incorporate design themes from North Coast Harbor into Public Square in an effort to make North Coast Harbor the counter-balance to Public Square? Keep up the world class work!

Downtown Worker 5 years ago

Was the installation of pedestrian refuges or islands considered as part of this plan? As a downtown worker, I can attest to the fact that, at a minimum, the following crosswalks need pedestrian refuges and islands to help make pedestrians more comfortable and safer as they cross our super-wide streets to walk to their destinations within Downtown: (i) the crosswalk between Mall A and Mall B; (ii) the crosswalk between the Arcade and the Library; and (iii) the crosswalks immediately east and west of Public Square. It seems that a pedestrian refuge or island can be installed in each of these locations without changing the existing motor vehicle traffic patterns, because they are where a left turn is not permitted (i.e., the ones near public square) or are well before the point where the left turn begins (i.e., the ones near the Arcade and between the Malls).

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