On September 25-26, 2009, the lower level of the Detroit-Superior Bridge was re-opened to the public. The two-day Bridge Project event included installations and performances by local artists organized by the Ingenuity Festival, in collaboration with All Go Signs and the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative. The project took place with the cooperation with the Office of Cuyahoga County Engineer Robert Klaiber and with permission of the Cuyahoga County Commissioners.


As part of the Bridge Project, students from Kent State University’s College of Architecture and Environmental Design and Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School participated in a community design [build] charrette. The charrette (or design workshop) focused on the role of infrastructure in a depopulating city. Cleveland has far more roads, bridges, sewers, and power lines than are needed to meet the demands of our current population. Case in point, the Detroit Superior Bridge (a.k.a. the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge or the High Level Bridge). This massive two-level bridge across the Cuyahoga River was the biggest structure of its kind 100 years ago. Originally, the top level was used for cars and pedestrians, while the bottom level was for streetcars. The streetcar line was closed in 1954 and the lower level has not been used since. What remains is a vast, cathedral-like space suspended over the river with views of the industrial valley, downtown, and the Flats.

The charrette was a design/build exercise. The students, working with the staff of the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative, developed a range of temporary uses and installations for the bridge that enabled this space to function as a community resource. The design team spent two weeks developing schematic designs for the bridge. The most compelling ideas were then constructed rapidly, at full-scale on the lower level of the bridge.

The bridge design ideas focused on:

  • Differentiating the space The bridge is over half a mile long from end-to-end, so breaking things up and creating intimate spaces within the larger structure was a key aspect of the work.
  • Functional aspects of the bridge For example, illuminating dark places, eliminating trip hazards, and establishing places where people could sit and linger.
  • Wayfinding designs to help people find the bridge and draw attention to the entry points.

The Bridge Project clearly demonstrated the potential of the lower level of the Detroit Superior Bridge to become one of Cleveland’s most dramatic and beloved public spaces. The Greater Cleveland community showed its support for this idea by turning in large numbers, donating at the entry gates, and sharing positive feedback throughout the two-day event.

Download The Bridge Project Design [Build] Charrette Report

Participants included SPACES gallery, Cleveland State University Theatre Department, Opera Circle, Opera per Tutti, and many others. Funders included The National Association of Office and Industrial Projects, The Mastriana Endowment, The Ohio Arts Council, The George Gund Foundation, The Cleveland Foundation, Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, and The Center for Community Solutions.


After the 2009 student design [build] charrette, it was clear that a planning study needed to be further developed. In order to better address the public needs a series of 3 events took place over the summer of 2012 on the bridge. The first event, on July 7, 2012, the Cuyahoga County Department of Public works opened the lower level of the bridge and presented the background and history, while the CUDC engaged visitors through presentations of our work on the bridge and asked for input for the future. Stations were placed throughout the bridge to engage, invoke, and help visitors envision a possible future. An estimated 1100 visitors participated.

The second public engagement event for the Detroit-Superior Bridge Connectivity Plan took place on August 24, 2012. The focus was on ease of use, access and safety concerns for cyclists and pedestrians. Stations were set up at both entrances and along the span of the bridge, which presented design options intended to transform the bridge's lower level into an active year-round public space. Temporary "mock-ups" of bike lane configurations were installed using over 600 yards of duct tape for attendees to test and assess. The Cleveland Bike Rack provided free bike rentals for all those that wanted to try out the temporary cycling facilities.

The last event was a full day of activities on September 21, 2012. The bridge was open from 7am to 11pm which gave visitors a chance to experience the bridge at multiple times throughout the day. This event was an opportunity to try out new uses that had been suggested at previous public meetings. This included yoga, vendors, music, and late night movies on the bridge. After the events the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative and our constituents compiled the information and produced the Detroit-Superior Bridge Project Connectivity Plan as part of Transportation for Livable Cities Initiative (TLCI) study. It was made possible by the support, feedback, and inquiries from the public.

Download the Detroit-Superior Bridge Project Connectivity Plan - Full Report

Public Event 1 - Images from July 7, 2012
Public Event 2 - Images from August 24, 2012
Public Event 3 - Images from September 21, 2012

Project Partners included City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga Department of Public Works. Funders included Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, Ohio Department of Transportation, National Endowment for the Arts, Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, Ohio City, Inc., The George Gund Foundation, The Cleveland Foundation, Third Federal Foundation.



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