Total Furmanation

"Our job is to record, each in his own way, this world of light and shadow and time that will never come again exactly as it is today." – E. Abbey

This Old Apartment Building

One of my courses for this final (!) semester is Historic Preservation. We have two assignments, one is a project done in pairs where we research a historic district in Cleveland. I’ll be doing Hessler Road with my friend Adam. Our other project, done individually, is to write a paper mimicking the National Register for Historic Places application. I wasn’t a fan of writing a fake application, so I asked around to see if there were any buildings whose owners were looking to have someone fill out the application on their behalf: a real project. My boss at my internship in Lakewood directed me to an architect on their Heritage Advisory Board, and I am now working on the application for this apartment building:

Apologies for the ‘taken-with-my-cell-phone-through-a-car-windshield’ picture, but I am sans-digital camera at the moment. This beautiful Tudor apartment building is in the Gold Coast neighborhood in Lakewood, Ohio (just to the west of Cleveland, for my non-familiar-with-the-CLE readers). I don’t know too much about it yet, but I can’t wait to research it! If you’d like to see the building for yourself, it’s 12065 Edgewater Drive.


Here’s a beautiful picture from the Cleveland Memory project:

Edgewater-Cove Apartments

Source: Cleveland Memory Project

Cleveland, let’s get fit

Well, would ya take a look at this: Travel + Leisure Magazine ranked America’s fittest cities. 32 cities made the cut (that’s a lot, don’t you think?), and guess who is #25:

#25 Cleveland

This Lake Erie city’s new rep as a hot midwestern culinary destination might be to blame, but there’s room for improvement when it comes to Clevelanders’ less-than-active lifestyles.

Get Fit: Swim, golf, fish, even toboggan in the city’s “emerald necklace” of Metroparks —16 nature parks with more than 21,000 combined acres.

Yes, Cleveland, you have room for improvement. I think Travel + Leisure just called you all fat and lazy.

In my experience over the past 5.5 years spent in various insitutions of higher learning in Cleveland, I have realized that Clevelanders are really into sports… watching them, that is. The unconditional rabid fan support is, to me, a bit mind-boggling, but I’m not a native. I digress.

I’d like to echo Travel + Leisure’s recommendation to check out the Metroparks. First off, there’s probably one not too far from you. Being an East Sider, I’m a bit biased towards the ones east of me. I’ve cycled several times to the South Chagrin one, mostly because they have a water fountain at the polo fields. Last weekend, a friend and I went hiking in the North Chagrin one. You can get a great workout on some of the trails, and you can even check out a castle:

Squires Castle

The Furmanator contemplates the view from Squires Castle. Photo credit: RAN

And, if I may be so bold, I’d like to add another suggestion to Travel + Leisure’s Metroparks one. Those of us who live in the Heights area are lucky to be so close to a vertiable urban wilderness along Doan Brook. It includes the two Shaker Lakes, the Shaker Nature Center, paved paths and some seriously beautiful trails along the water. It’s great for mini-hikes, trail running, walking the dog, xc skiing or cycling. You can even go rock-climbing!

Doan Brook

Hard to believe this in a dense urban area. Photo credit: DMN

Cleveland, it’s time to get fit. It’s a New Year, so get outside and enjoy the free acitivities I mentioned above. Yeah: free. What’s your excuse now, huh?

Transforming Public Square @ the Levin Forum

Per my most recent post, I thought I should pass this along. If you’ve never been to a forum at the Levin College, you are missing out. Plus you might get a chance to meet James Corner of High Line and Freshkills fame.

Three Strategies for Enhancing Cleveland’s Civic Core
Presented by The Levin College Forum, ParkWorks and the Downtown Cleveland Alliance

Thursday, January 21, 2010
5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Cleveland State University
Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs
Glickman-Miller Hall, Atrium
1717 Euclid Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44115 

Join us for this interactive forum to learn more about the latest design strategies for Public Square.  James Corner, noted urban designer and landscape architect with James Corner Field Operations, and the Kent State Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative will present three designs for Public Square.  Participants will have ample opportunity to view the plans, ask questions, share their ideas and discuss ways to make Public Square a vital center and gathering place connecting Cleveland’s downtown.
James Corner Field Operations is a leading-edge urban design and landscape architecture practice based in New York City. Serving an international clientele, the practice is renowned for strong contemporary design across a variety of high-profile project types and scales. Current projects include the highly publicized High Line linear park in New York City; transformation of the 2,200-acre Staten Island landfill site Fresh Kills into New York City’s largest urban park as well as projects in Baltimore, Memphis, Paterson, New Jersey and a number of international projects.

Presented by
The Levin College Forum, ParkWorks and the Downtown Cleveland Alliance

Free and open to the public.
To Register visit Forum or call (216)523-7330

If I am able to attend (it does conflict with my capstone class), I’ll report out for you all.

Forget four square, let’s just have one

The heart of downtown Cleveland is, to me, Public Square. The city’s three tallest buildings front on to the square. Large civic events like the Cleveland Orchestra’s 4th of July concert are held here. It also functions as an enormous transit station, with bus stops on pretty much every side of each of the squares.

Public Square

The four squares of Public Square. Image credit: Green City Blue Lake

But this is a weakly beating heart. Remove the bus stops and I’m not sure you’d have much of a reason to go there. It mostly seems to function right now as a place you stop on your way to get somewhere else. Sure, you could go visit the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, but does anyone else aside from me find that building to look intimidating in its current setting? I guess you could sit out on the benches, but you’d be serenaded by the guy with the speaker preaching or have bums ask you for money.

That, and it should really be called Public Squares. The heart of Cleveland is bisected by two roads. Four almost unusable squares – four little isolated islands – with some one-way streets and some two-way streets with buses everywhere. It’s confusing in a car, and scary on bike. It’s a pain to walk across/around. But what do you do with a such a weak public space?

This is what you do: you bring in the big guns: the designers of the New York City’s gem High Line Park and the innovative Fresh Kills Park: James Corner Field Operations.

And this is why you bring them in:

One of the proposed new designs for public square. Image credit: Fast Company

The best I could personally come up with was a roundabout (it is clear I am not cut out for landscape architecture). There’s a reason why they brought in the best and brightest to tackle Public Square. Look at the rendering! A softly flowing showpiece park! The Soldiers and Sailors monument finally looks at home. My only concern is how it would function for all the bus lines that have stops here. Aside from that, I love this proposal. It looks appropriate, and the biomorphic shape softens the hard edges of all the buildings and roads. This looks a place in which one wouldn’t mind hanging out for a bit, maybe even pass the afternoon on a blanket with some cheese and bread from the West Side Market. The Downtown Cleveland Alliance and ParkWorks were right to invest upfront in design. This really captured my imagination, and I hope it captured the imagination of all of Cleveland. This city deserves good design, and should demand it. Especially in its heart.

Twenty ten

I ended 2009 with a stomach ache and a bed time of around 10pm. An auspicious end to what honestly was not the best year ever for me.

Great beginning to 2010, though. Woke up feeling pretty much all better, went to the YMCA with my mother, and had a great workout. I rode the spinning bike for 40 minutes; usually I’m not the biggest fan of spinning bikes, but I actually enjoyed myself, and without having an instructor! Ate an enormous lunch after, and then my parents and I went to LL Bean’s to return a Christmas present, and I ended up getting a good deal on a Camelbak for Bike & Build. It’s this one, in tan and brown. Probably not my top color choice, but when it’s discounted by nearly 20$, you take whatever color you can get!

Now I’m back in Cleveland after those lovely two weeks at home. Was welcomed back by -2 windchill and blowing snow, which was exactly what I left from. I love winter, but seriously?? As my friend Miss JF says, it is “permachill” from here on out. Brr.

I guess this is the part where I should lay out my goals or resolutions or whatever you call it for the new year. Being a student, this doesn’t make much sense for me, so I’m going to go for three time periods: now until I graduate, graduation until Bike & Build arrives in Vancouver, and um, the rest of my life??? Going backwards, I see no point in making goals for the rest of my life because I have no idea what I’m doing after August 29. The whole of Bike & Build is pretty much laid out for me, so I guess my goal there is to finish. As for the semester, however, that is something that is worthy of some goals:

  1. Graduate.
  2. Bike a lot.
  3. Don’t bite off more than I chew.
  4. Graduate.
  5. Eat at a Michael Symon resturant.
  6. Learn to spell restaurant.
  7. Graduate.
  8. Raise $4,000 for Bike & Build/affordable housing.
  9. Graduate.

I realize #5 is more apropos to be on some sort of Cleveland bucket list or something, but that’s what you’re going to get. Here we gooo!!! Last semester… EVER.

Hot stuff: trying out hot yoga

Hot Yoga Saratoga

My longest friend Amy (longest as in length of time I’ve known her, sorry, you’re just not my tallest friend!) is home, too, over the holidays. She’s been into hot yoga lately, I’ve been into regular yoga over the past year, so we decided to check out a local hot yoga studio in Saratoga. We went twice: Boxing Day and today.

The yoga practice on Boxing Day was Bikram yoga. I’ve never done Bikram before, let alone in a 90 degree room for an hour and a half! I was soaked through by the end: they definitely weren’t kidding about the hot part. It was great: I could touch my toes with relative ease. Bikram is definitely a challenge for me; it’s more strength-based than I am used to.

Today’s practice was Vinyasa yoga, which is what we’ve been doing for the past year at work. We have a yoga teacher come in on Mondays for an hour long lunchtime practice. It is always one of the highlights of my week, so I was happy to try it hot-style. Today’s practice was easier for me: didn’t quite get as sweaty and didn’t have to sit out any poses (except the one I can’t do, where you hold your leg out in front of you). I am definitely a fan of hot yoga, and might look into finding a studio when I get back to Cleveland. I’d like to do yoga more than once a week this upcoming spring. Cycling leaves me with tight muscles (not as bad as running!) so I want to be as loose and flexible as possible before Bike & Build, and hot yoga definitely helps with that. The one run I did this past weekend I was able to run faster than I would normally after being sick, so I am sold! Plus, yoga is great mentally, too.

If you’re ever in Saratoga, NY, I highly recommend Hot Yoga Saratoga. Great studio!

Seriously, don’t get hit by a car

It’s been about 10 weeks since getting hit by a cop car. I’ve had all my injuries checked out, had my bike repaired, finally conquered crossing in that crosswalk without getting nervous. I had all the stuff for my claim to the City of Cleveland (they self-insure their police) assembled. Told the story enough times that I have it distilled down to 30 seconds. I was about ready to be finally done with it all.

Until today.
A routine dental appointment (scary enough to begin with) revealed two chips in the enamel in some molars the left hand side of my mouth. Apparently it looked like I had been hit in the chin… I haven’t, but the only even remotely tramautic thing I’ve had happen to me since my last appointment is the bike accident, so it must be that. So now, on Wednesday, I am getting my first two fillings ever (and hopefully the last!). I have never even had a cavity. Just goes to show: you can take perfect care of your teeth but it is not going to prevent dental work!
In my post about the accident, I encouraged everyone to read Cycling Tip’s post on what to do if you’re involved in an accident. I’d like to add “visit the dentist” to the list. Even if you don’t think you did anything to your teeth (I didn’t think I did! nothing hurt!), it is a good idea for them to check your teeth out to see if you did any damage. Trust me, you don’t want to spend the day before Christmas Eve getting fillings. NO FUN!
I am looking forward to the post-dental-work milkshake, though. The silver lining!! Am going to look for a place that has something other than just vanilla or chocolate shakes. Stewart’s, maybe?

Greetings from the winter holiday "break"

The semester may be over according the school calendar, and I might be home already, but I still have one more paper to wrap up. When a professor (who incidentally is the dean of your college) tells you take an incomplete so you can give your final paper the attention it deserves, you do not question it and you take it gratefully. So here I am, paying out the nose for internet at a Starbuck’s, writing my last paper for fall 2009. It’s only a 10 page memo… but one where we have to more or less solve the poverty problem in Cleveland. Gulp. I might as well tackle climate change or world hunger or peace in the Middle East or something. Technically, we’re putting on our policy wonk hats to write a comprehensive community development agenda for Cleveland (which is a much less scary way of approaching this assignment). My outline is almost 2 pages already. I did my usual mind mapping stuff and am now turning it into a bona fide outline (just might be my first one ever). This should make writing this baby a breeze. If you’ve never mind-mapped a paper before, try it. It just might make it easier for you, especially if you’re a visual person like me who doesn’t necessarily think in a logical order.

I am really struggling not to turn this assignment into a “plan” à la what urban planners make. It is pretty clear I am no policy wonk!

I have learned so much this semester, but the most important that my limit is much less than my brain seems to think I can do. For next semester, my only goal (aside from the obvious ones of graduating and raising the $4k for Bike and Build) is not bite off more than I can chew.

Birdtown Flightplan: A Neighborhood Taking Off

This past semester I have participated in an independent study class, working with the City of Lakewood (just to the west of Cleveland proper). Three classmates and I have created a neighborhood plan for Birdtown, a neighborhood in the southeastern corner of Lakewood. Named Birdtown for its many streets featuring names of indigenous birds, it is a low to moderate income area. It is a well-defined neighborhood, and features a recently renovated park, brand new elementary school and community gardens.

The neighborhood planning process is long; ours was abbreviated to be a semester long. We started off by researching the neighborhood. Site visits, data crunching and reading about the history helped us ascertain the current conditions in the neighborhood, its development over time and lastly, opportunities for improvement. We also held a community meeting with the dual purpose of introducing them to the planning process as well as for us to gather information from the most important people of all: the current residents.
With this information in hand, we set about dreaming up suggestions to address some of the concerns that had arisen from the research stage. Some were invented by us; others were best practices from elsewhere. We organized our proposals into three key areas: commercial, housing and transportation. Each of the proposals was assigned at least one of the following categories in a fashion similar to the “tags” found on blogs such as this one: neighborhood identity, safety, connectivity and urban design. Once our ideas were developed, we moved into the production phase.
In addition to assembling the text for a plan, we created many images to help express our proposals. We used ArcGIS to create maps, Google Sketch-up to create some three-dimensional models and Adobe Photoshop to create photographic renderings. In a neighborhood plan, the visuals are every bit as important as the text.
To create the actual plan document, we sketched some possible layouts on paper. From there, we chose the best one and created a layout in Adobe InDesign. All the text and images were assembled into a thirty page document on legal size paper, in landscape mode. We titled it: “Birdtown Flightplan: A Neighborhood Taking Off.” To ease navigation through the document, it features multi-colored bars on the outer edges of the pages. It also includes a resource guide for the residents, with information on municipal resources.
The last step is to submit our plan to the residents of the Birdtown neighborhood. We are presenting it to them this coming Tuesday at another community meeting. As this is a project completed by students, we will also be presenting it to selected faculty members of the Levin College of Urban Affairs this coming Thursday.
This semester has been an incredible opportunity for a not-yet-certified planner. To actively participate in this process, to create 1/4 of the final product, to actually create a real plan that will be implemented- this is huge to me. My educational career has been full of “make-believe” projects, with my only chances at working on real projects through internships. This is the real deal, though. It has been a great window into my future career, and I’m looking forward to including the plan document into my portfolio.

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