In Fall 2005, I spent my last semester of graduate school studying the area around Oak Park Avenue and Loew Park in the Ward 16 portion of Old Brooklyn. The objective of the project was for Master of Urban Planning, Design, and Development students to record observations on the aesthetics and physical aspects to garner a greater understanding of a unique part of Northeast Ohio, then offer recommendations with justification for improvements.
Located between State and Broadview Roads, Oak Park Avenue is lined with tall, mature oak trees growing from large tree lawns. These trees seem to reach for the sky with their branches opened proudly, forming a canopy above the street and creating a feeling of enclosure. Along Oak Park is a series of one-and-a-half and two-story bungalows, which were likely built during the 1920's. Longer setbacks from the street make homes appear more prestigious.
At Oak Park and West 32nd Street is the historic William Cullen Bryant Elementary School, an elaborately-designed brick building composed of organic-colored bricks and carved stone. Tall windows have been situated strategically in pairs to create a sense of visual harmony and repetition. Meandering paths approach the main entrance of the building, encouraging persons to visually explore its beautiful landscaping, which includes a wide array of trees, flowers, and other plants. Due to the work of neighbors and other community stakeholders, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District intends to renovate the existing William Cullen Bryant school, as opposed to razing and constructing a new building as previously planned.
Directly adjacent to and accessible from Oak Park Avenue is Loew Park, an expansive twenty-three-acre greenspace. Loew Park bears the name of Marcus Loew, who in 1920, established many of the theaters in Cleveland's Playhouse Square. Tall trees are scattered throughout the relatively flat space, with a well-kept green lawn.
Within Loew Park is an outdoor swimming pool that operates in the summer season. The City of Cleveland has budgeted for improvements, including the addition of a "sprayground," to be undertaken in 2009. The park also accommodates five baseball fields, which host games of several local leagues, picnic pavilions, tennis courts, and a playground.
(Editor's Note: My primary recommendations for Loew Park would be to establish an asphalt trail on the periphery of the greenspace to improve its accessibility to disabled persons, joggers, bicyclists, and dog-walkers, regardless of weather conditions or seasons. It could also serve as a safer, more direct route to school for children from the neighborhood, as well as connect focal points, like the playground, park entrances, baseball diamonds, and tennis courts. Benches can be situated along the trail for persons needing a break from exercise, looking to have lunch or read a book outdoors, or simply become engulfed in nature. Comfortable places to sit would convey to park patrons that they are welcome to stay a while. There currently is a deficient number of seats in Loew Park that are not associated with areas for active sports or the playground.)
To view a photo slideshow of Loew Park and Oak Park Avenue, please click here. The set also includes shots of Ralph Avenue, which borders Loew Park to the south.