The idea is to close Ontario to traffic and perhaps either close or limit traffic on Superior

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CLEVELAND -- It's the heart of Cleveland and the living room of Cleveland.

And it's about to get a massive makeover.

Public Square is now not a very people-friendly place.

There are four disconnected quadrants. It's 60 percent concrete.

It's basically a massive bus hub where 40,000 riders a day hop on and off public transportation.

It can be drab and dreary on rainy days with Tom Johnson's tarnished statue and a big cannon pointing aimlessly toward Ontario.

It comes alive several times a year for the Cleveland Orchestra's free summer concert, the holiday lighting festivities and a restarted New Year's Eve celebration.

Mayor Frank Jackson launched the push for a square makeover. He got the vision of a more inviting place largely from visiting Cleveland's European sister cities.

It's part of a goal to energize Cleveland's connecting spaces that link Cleveland's big places. Upgrading the mall by the Convention Center's the other big part of the plan.

Moses Cleaveland created the square, imagining it as a civic commons for a New England-style village. Sheep once grazed there.

Throughout the 19th century there was a tug-of-war over whether to leave it a park or open streets up for business. The business community won.

It was the center of big community celebrations for the end of wars . President Abraham Lincoln's body was viewed there on its way back to Illinois.

The design work is more than 50 percent done.

The new square will have lots of trees, grass, concert space, a splash center for kids, remade fountains and areas for public speakers and showing movies.

The free attractions are designed to benefit ordinary Clevelanders whose budgets cannot afford sports events, Q concerts or fancy restaurants.

As Jackson says, "It's PUBLIC Square, not private square, not business square or government square."

The idea is to close Ontario to traffic and perhaps either close or limit traffic on Superior.

Traffic studies are being done to see if rerouting buses around the Square can be done without creating traffic jams, tieups or headaches.

The total price tag for square improvements is around $30 million. Public and nonprofit funding's committed. Businesses will be wooed to buy naming rights to plazas and fountains.

Planners hope for a possible fall groundbreaking. Jackson does not make promises he cannot deliver on.

But Tony Coyne and Jeremy Paris, the men leading the process, believe ambitious goals are necessary to keep progress on track.

The project would take about a year and a half to complete. And if the city wins a 2016 political convention, this timeline would ensure the square's ready for delegates and visitors.

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