Port of Cleveland kicks off $60 million Irishtown Bend stabilization project at the Cuyahoga River
Project is culmination of more than a decade of work and collaboration; Port praises multiple partners who were crucial to project start
CLEVELAND, August 25, 2023 – Irish immigrants flocked to Cleveland after the potato famine in the 1840s and an enclave on the near west side became known as Irishtown Bend, named as such because it was alongside a large curve in the meandering Cuyahoga River. By the 1900s, most Irish residents and other immigrants had left the area. The neighborhood fell into decline and was razed in the 1950s. Fill material was placed on the hillside in the 1960s which combined with a weak clay layer deep beneath the surface, creates the conditions for a catastrophic landslide that would block shipping.
Today, horns blew from vessels on the river and triggered a community celebration and the start of excavators operating to stabilize the hillside. The project is reality now after more than a decade of work and collaboration. The $60 million stabilization project sets the stage to transform the hillside into a 23-acre public park and community amenity, in total a $100 million+ project.
The Port of Cleveland has been leading the effort to stabilize Irishtown Bend since 2010 and credited multiple community stakeholders in getting to this point.
“Today, we add another pivotal marker to the history of Irishtown Bend,” said Port President and CEO William Friedman. “This project would not be happening without the extensive teamwork and financial support of a variety of government and non-profit entities. The danger that this hillside could catastrophically collapse into the shipping channel and impact our $4.7 billion million maritime shipping economy and the 22,000 jobs it supports was very real.”
“Protecting this shipping channel is critical to keep our economy flowing, but also a priority for the Port is maximizing the potential of Cleveland’s waterfront – balancing tourism, public access, recreational uses and, of course, vital job-creating industrial uses. All these things mean economic growth and an improved quality of life,” Friedman continued.
More than $14 million in federal dollars are supporting the project, and Friedman credited Senator Sherrod Brown for being a steadfast advocate on behalf of Greater Cleveland.
“So many of us have fought for so long to get this project done, and today we finally begin this new chapter for our lake and for Cleveland,” said Senator Brown. “The Irishtown Bend project will play an important role in the continued economic resurgence of Northeast Ohio, connecting communities with the lakefront, protecting vital waterways, and encouraging future economic and maritime development.”
Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb said “No big project in Cleveland gets done in a vacuum. This is a prime example of what can be accomplished when the private and public sectors align on equitable initiative
in support of all Clevelanders. Partners are critical, and I’d like to thank every agency here for looking at the big picture and planning for the future.”
County Executive Chris Ronayne agreed.
“Today is an exciting day, as we watch years of planning turn into action,” he said. “County Executive Chris Ronayne. “The Cuyahoga River valley is seeing a tremendous amount of investment including the completion of the Towpath Trail, the construction of Canal Basin Park, and now the vision for the future of the Veterans Memorial Bridge. The protection and stabilization of Irishtown Bend is critical to our economy and I am thrilled that we’ll soon see a new public space, where nature and the Cuyahoga River can be enjoyed by residents for decades to come.”
Councilman Kerry McCormack said he is looking forward to the years ahead, when the stabilized hillside is home to a new park with extensive views of the river and Cleveland’s downtown skyline.
“This project will dramatically change the Cleveland landscape,” he said. “It is a symbol of Cleveland’s history and a positive reflection of where Cleveland is going. This is so much more than a major infrastructure project, it is also the foundation for equitable access to new high quality public green space for Cleveland residents, including thousands living in public housing, and visitors of all different backgrounds.”
Friedman recognized Grace Gallucci, Executive Director and CEO of the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordination Agency, for being stalwart in her efforts that helped secure at least 40 percent of the funding for the project.
Gallucci said, “This project is crucial to economic development and quality of life in the region, and that’s why NOACA contributed nearly half of the necessary funding to bring it to fruition.’’
In addition to NOACA and the City, County and Federal governments, Friedman acknowledged other key partners and funders including:
- West Creek Conservancy
- Ohio City Inc.
- LAND studio
- Cleveland Metroparks
- The State of Ohio (including ODNR, ODOT and the Ohio Public Works Commission)
The first step in the stabilization process will be to remove fill material placed on the hillside in the 1960s, which will reduce the forces causing the slope failure when combined with the natural geology of the site. That slope failure has eroded and caused the 2007 closure of Riverbed Road and threatens a key sewer line that services Cleveland’s west side, which will be repaired as well. The project also includes installing more than 2,100 linear feet of bulkhead at the river’s edge.
In addition to the more than $14 million in federal funds, the project includes $14.5 million from the State of Ohio and a total of nearly $19 million from the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, the City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County.
Goettle Inc., a Cincinnati-based company with expertise in deep foundations, earth retention systems and marine construction, is the lead contractor on the stabilization project.