While people discuss the upcoming Medical Mart, casino and other development projects promised to bring more life and vitality to downtown Cleveland, there's one area that is often neglected, even though the infrastructure for it already exists:
Whether it's the lighting of bridges in the Flats, downtown streetlights, lighting installations in PlayhouseSquare or even the lighting of public and private buildings, the lighting of downtown cities can create a sense of life, activity, excitement and safety.
But even though there are plenty of lights already existing in downtown Cleveland, all too often their bulbs are dark. Sometimes the bulbs need to be replaced while other times someone just forgot to flip the switch. During a nationally televised NBA game earlier this season, the soon-to-be national championship Cleveland Cavaliers were playing at home and the iconic Veterans Memorial Bridge, normally lit up in white and blue, was dark at tip off.
Huron Road, between Superior Avenue and Ontario, is mostly dark. This is an area where many people park and walk to Cavs games. The MegaBus, taking passengers to and from other cities such as Chicago, stops on this street as well. The Hard Rock Cafe and Tower City have main entrances on this road. And it's a potential site for a future (hopefully well-lit) casino. But now, the street's shadows can be somewhat ominous. This is one of the areas I show in the video below:
A couple of months ago, John Horton wrote about nonworking streetlights all over Cleveland. In that article, Cleveland Public Power commissioner Ivan Henderson claims that they "typically resolved problems within 16 to 17 days". So I decided to put that to a test.
As I mentioned in a previous article about downtown Cleveland safety, anyone who sees a burned out streetlight downtown can call CPP at 216-621-5483 and report it. I tried out this automated system myself about a month ago. The voice prompts ask you to tell them exactly where the problem is. I told them about a couple of burned out lights at the corner of West 6th Street and Huron near the state building. There's an option to leave your name and phone number and they'll call you when the streetlight is going to be fixed. I still haven't gotten a phone call. And the lights are still dark.
Cleveland City Councilman Joe Cimperman, whose ward includes downtown Cleveland, shares the frustration about burned out lights downtown. "There are no excuses," Cimperman said. "They're burned out because the city hasn't fixed them."
If someone sees a light out downtown, Cimperman doesn't think that person should have to leave a voicemail message for a machine. He encourages people to e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or to call his cell phone at 216-215-6765 and he will pass along their message to the appropriate parties. He also encourages people to e-mail Public Utilities Director Barry Withers or CPP commissioner Henderson at email@example.com.
One of the difficulties, according to Cimperman, is that downtown Cleveland has 12 different lighting styles. There isn't a standard design. So when a light is out, the first thing that has to be determined is what type of bulb needs to be used to fix replace it. Other cities, such as Chicago and Cincinnati, have changed their system to have only three styles which makes repairs easier.
It's not just public lighting systems that need attention. Many building owners could also do a better job with lighting on their buildings and signs. Some buildings are well lit: Key Tower and 200 Public Square are well lit. Progressive Field has its main sign lit at Ontario and Carnegie. PNC does a great job with floodlights on their building and a lit sign at the top. And the Terminal Tower recently had their entire lighting system redone.
Lighting is critical to the vitality of downtown Cleveland. While I don't feel bright lights actually contribute to safety, they do contribute to the perception of safety. And as the saying goes, perception is reality. Downtowns are supposed to be known for their bright lights. Let's make sure that's true for Cleveland.
For more information:
- Streetlight outage hotline: 216-621-5483 (216-621-LITE)
- Streetlight outage webpage on CPP.org
- Councilman Joe Cimperman: firstname.lastname@example.org or 216-215-6765
- Cleveland Public Power Commissioner Ivan Henderson: email@example.com
- Public Utilities Director Barry Withers
- Follow Jeremy Borger on Twitter