Birdtown Update: This neighborhood is taking off!

by hhf3

The name of the plan had to be changed from the Birdtown Flightplan to the Birdtown Action Plan, but regardless, the comprehensive plan for the Birdtown neighborhood in southeastern Lakewood will provide guidance for the future of the community. The project was completed by myself, Ryan Noles, Angela Schmitt and Julia Ferguson, under the guidance and mentorship of Dru Siley, assistant director of planning for Lakewood. We are graduate students in the urban planning program at Cleveland State University.

The plan is now available online for everyone to read.

Birdtown Action Plan Cover Image

Cover of the Birdtown Action Plan

The last post I wrote on Birdtown was far and above the most popular post on my blog thus far. It did have the extra push of being posted on the Cuyahoga County Planning Weblog and the Cool Cleveland email blasts (even being a top 5 clicked link from the first email it was in!), but I think a lot of the hits stemmed from the interest in the neighborhood. It’s a historically Eastern European neighborhood, and was originally built as worker housing for the National Carbon Company factory, located where Graftech is today at Madison & West 117th Street. It’s still possible to hear Eastern European dialects on the streets, all of which feature architecture unique to the neighborhood. It is currently the only historic district in the City of Lakewood.

Today it is a dense urban residential neighborhood, bordered by a rapid line, a park, industrial uses and the retail district on Madison Ave. At its heart is the brand new elementary school, Harrison. Beautiful church steeples dot the skylines, and the area is home to many community gardens. Got your interest yet? Yeah, it’s that cool of a neighborhood. It is unfortunately plagued, however, with a mostly un-founded negative perception that Birdtown is full of crime (no worse than the rest of the city) and is full of foreclosures (again, no worse than the city at a whole). There are many opportunities for this neighborhood to become even stronger; these are detailed in the plan.

We presented the plan to the residents of the neighborhood at a public meeting in December. Despite the bitter cold and the blowing snow that evening, we nearly packed the meeting room at Mahall’s Twenty Lanes. There were initially some concerns regarding some buildings that had been demolished earlier that week, but the reactions to the plan itself were very positive. Every copy we brought was distributed by the next day.

Some changes in the neighborhood have already occurred as a result of our planning process. Aside from the demolition of the unsafe houses, they are proceeding with plans to build some infill housing. I saw the renderings for one on Dowd (I think), it looked great: a modern home anyone would be proud of, but one that fit into the context of the neighborhood. At Madison Park, they are in the process of taking down the old, obsolete bleachers from Usher Field and are going to be re-using the lumber onsite. They are also in the process of coordinating block clubs for the neighborhood.

Personally, this project has turned into an internship with the planning department of Lakewood, as well as the chance to meet some very cool people. I know it has been a boon for my group-mates as well. Think of the strength of our portfolios now! If you’d like to contact any of us students directly, our emails are:

  • Julia Ferguson: julia.ferguson [at]
  • Heather Furman: heather.h.furman [at]
  • Ryan Noles: noles.ryan [at]
  • Angie Schmitt: schmitt.81 [at]

If you have any questions about the plan and implementation thereof, please contact the Lakewood Planning Department at (216) 529-6630.

Cleveland area, keep your eyes on Birdtown. This is a neighborhood taking off.