CLEVELAND — The 2021 NFL Draft is in the books, and after thousands of people flocked to Cleveland's shoreline for the three-day event, many are wondering why there isn't more to do along the edge of Lake Erie on a regular basis.
"Everything is primed for a downtown Cleveland lakefront development," Dick Pace, president of Cumberland Development, told 3News. "People love being by the water."
Pace had a hand in the development of Nuevo Modern Mexican & Tequila Bar and Harbor Verandas along the late, and also had the development rights to the 20 acres of property north of FirstEnergy Stadium and was preparing to break ground last year. However, he says, that’s when the mayor had a change of heart.
"All that was necessary was a building permit," Pace claimed. "We had the financing, we had the tenants and we were ready to go. It's sad. There's no reason for it to be on hold, other than the mayor doesn't want it to happen right now."
Mayor Frank G. Jackson's office didn't respond for comment today, but City Council President Kevin Kelley (himself a candidate for mayor) says the city doesn’t want to rush through the development of one parcel of the land. Instead, they want a master plan for the whole area.
"I think when that grand vision comes that provides public access to the lake, provides housing opportunities, green space and really allows people to enjoy this great asset, we will make that happen," Kelley said.
Pace disagrees with the idea, saying that by waiting for the perfect plan to come, the city is missing out. He also argues that every plan, more or less, involves the same thing.
"They all resonate with the same thing: mixed-used development," Pace said. "Have people live, work and play there."
The other issue that continues to come up is Burke Lakefront Airport and how it factors into the concept. While many wonder why the city doesn't just close it and build there, Kelley says there's good reason.
"Burke is an old landfill, and it's a landfill that was created when they used to burn the garbage," he said. "It was also a dumping site for drudge.
"We have looked at that and studied that option. It is just too soft and environmentally compromised. That's even before you get into the FAA issues and the airport issues."
Regardless of how the lakefront is eventually developed, everyone agrees the NFL Draft gave us a glimpse of what’s possible. It's an idea that's been in the works for a while, but now it seems the city is on the clock and possibly getting close to making a pick.
"Everybody wants to see this happen," Pace said. "It just takes political will."
"We can definitely do more to connect our people to our lakefront," Kelley added. "It's a great asset, and our people deserve it."