For years, the heart of downtown Cleveland, Ohio, was home to a neglected 10-acre civic space that was bisected by two of the city’s busiest streets, limiting its community value. But a 15-month, $50-million renovation has transformed the space into a park-like destination that now provides a centerpiece to the city’s ongoing redevelopment efforts.
The redevelopment project involved reorganizing streets, rerouting traffic, and creating a lush green center for the city’s growing population. However, delivering the designer’s vision in just 15 months in a city known for its harsh winters and heavy traffic was no easy task, says Veronica Rivera, associate architect at James Corner Field Operations in San Francisco, Calif.
The need for speed, durability, and versatility in the design made it a perfect fit for precast concrete. “The utilization of precast allowed us to continue installation throughout the year with the precision and quality desired,” Rivera says. “It would not have been possible to achieve with any other construction methodology.”
The project included 1300 individual precast concrete elements, including low linear walls to frame the perimeter gardens, and continuous, sinuous walls reaching up to 8 ft in height to frame the “Key Bank Promenade” at the center of the square. The precast concrete walls were also used to create artificial topography, which “framed critical design features while articulating an otherwise flat site,” Rivera says.
To ensure that all of the various pieces would fit together seamlessly, the precaster created 800 custom molds, including one to support a 9-ft-tall, 20,000-lb precast concrete piece. The design also included special aggregates, pigments, and admixtures, incorporating 1200 pieces of concrete weighing in at over two million pounds, Rivera reports. “The utilization of precast concrete allowed us as the designers to have absolute control over the finish and concrete design mix.”
The finished park, which opened in time for the July 2016 Republican Convention, now provides a beautiful setting for the people of Cleveland that surpassed the expectations of the planning commission and showcases the many benefits of choosing precast concrete for this type of project, she says. “Precast was used both for its flexibility in design and customization, as well as for its long-term durability and low maintenance in what is now the central civic space for the city of Cleveland.”