After more than a decade of efforts to sell and redevelop the former Cuyahoga County Juvenile Justice Court Building & Detention Center overlooking the Innerbelt freeway trench at East 22nd Street, the county has agreed to demolish the long-vacant building. The demolition will enable construction of a wide surface-level “cap’' over the highway trench with ample spaces for pedestrians, bicyclists and transit, helping reconnect Cleveland’s Central communities with the city’s central business district.
Community meetings held in 2021 during the planning of the St. Vincent Charity Health Campus as a hub to promote holistic health and wellness revealed how neighborhood residents felt about the facility, which was built in 1931.
“Residents expressed their negative associations with the building as a symbol of disinvestment and incarceration in the neighborhood,” said Mark Lammon, executive director, Campus District, Inc., who submitted the proposal to the county for the demolition. “This represents a chance to relink a neighborhood divided by redlining, the construction of a highway and clearing large areas of land for institution development.”
The Sisters of Charity Health System, Campus District, Inc. and county worked to spur redevelopment of the building when the former juvenile justice center moved in 2011. Despite years of efforts, studies and multiple requests for proposals, the courthouse and detention center building proved too difficult for any developers to create a new use for it.
The property is expected to be demolished within the next year, which coincides with long-term plans from the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) for redeveloping the Innerbelt. The demolition enables cost savings with the realignment of the exit ramp to Carnegie Avenue south of the highway instead of financing a costly deck to reroute the road around the site.
ODOT is proposing replacing the current narrow bridge over the Innerbelt with a cap over the highway nearly 120 feet wide with car lanes, a separated bike path and wide area for pedestrians and landscaping. The demolition also enables additional greenspace and future development opportunities.
“This solution provides a safer, cheaper alternative that allows for a connection from the Central neighborhood into the central business district and across Cleveland State University, the St. Vincent Charity Health Campus and Cuyahoga Community College – something that has been lacking for many decades,” added Lammon. “Similar highway caps in Columbus have been very successful at creating better, seamless connections and healing scars caused by construction of the freeway in the 1950s.”
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