Federal grant awarded to stabilize Irishtown Bend, build park

CLEVELAND-- A project to stabilize a hillside along the Cuyahoga River and turn it into a park is one step closer to reality.

Millions of dollars in federal funding was awarded last week to help restore Irishtown Bend.

“The Cuyahoga River is a federal navigation channel,and it has a tremendous amount of economic activity that helps the region,” said Grace Gallucci, executive director of the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency.

“We're talking about $3.5 billion worth of economic activity related to the iron ore industry, the steel industry and all of the manufacturing industries.”

The hillside has been eroding away and slowly sliding toward the river, causing land to shift and roadways like Franklin Boulevard to buckle, threatening shipping.

“There is a severe risk of catastrophic failure of the hillside, meaning the hillside would collapse into the waterway,” Gallucci said.

A $36 million stabilization project would include the addition of 3,200 feet of new steel bulkheads along the river.

The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the project a $9 million grant, bringing the total raised so far to $25.5 million, according to Gallucci.

“With utmost certainty we can close that (funding) gap using this federal grant as the leverage,” Gallucci said.

Ohio City Incorporated is among more than 20 community partners working on the project, which will include a park with sweeping views of downtown Cleveland.

“I think we all know now that this is going to be a reality,” said Ohio City Incorporated Executive Director Tom McNair.

“I think that all of us know that this is something that is vitally important, not just to stabilize the ship channel for our economy, but also that idea of opening up our riverfront to the people of our neighborhoods.”

The 23-acre park would connect several trails and include a riverside boardwalk.

“You're essentially talking about a 23-acre waterfront park that will be a trail head that will be able to get you from Edgewater Beach to Peninsula,” McNair said. “This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a civic asset that Northeast Ohio is going to be known for.”

McNair said most properties along West 25th Street that will border the park have been purchased by the West Creek Conservancy and some buildings could be demolished as soon as this fall.

A firm has been hired to complete construction drawings, which are expected to take 12 to 18 months, after which major work could begin.

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