Thinking Inside the Box
With the West Side Market’s recent 100th anniversary celebration, a constant influx of new businesses, and a strong mixture of new and historic housing, Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood is on the rise. LAND studio is proud to be part of this momentum, both as a local business, and by leading big projects like the redesign and revitalization of Market Square Park. But we have also taken on a series of projects that cater to key neighborhood needs on a smaller scale. Three of these projects – the Ohio City Farm Stand, Bike Box, and CPL’s Book Box – have played upon a common “box” theme in unique ways that have added to the vitality, utility, and beauty of Ohio City.
“LAND studio is the perfect creative partner for this neighborhood,” said Eric Wobser, Executive Director of Ohio City Inc. (OCI), the community development corporation serving the area. “Their work is always well-designed and artistically inspiring, but in a way that also meets critical community needs—from supporting healthy, local food, to encouraging exercise, to bringing books, culture, and learning to the community.”
The Ohio City Farm Stand grew out of the neighborhood’s passion for healthy, locally produced food. With the help of startup funds from Neighborhood Progress, Inc., OCI partnered with Refugee Response, a local nonprofit that helps refugees adjust to life in Northeast Ohio, to transform six vacant acres off of West 25th Street into The Ohio City Farm. The result is one of the nation’s largest urban farms, a place where refugees and the mentally handicapped can find employment, and local urban farmers and gardeners can rent a plot of their own.
Once the farm was on its feet, OCI turned to LAND studio to provide the perfect setting for farmers to sell their produce. LAND partnered with a creative team including The Arcus Group, Jason Radcliffe of 44steel, and John Arthur of Bauhaus Builders, who collaborated to envision and execute a concept that transformed two shipping containers generously donated by Dave Ferrante of Kaplan Trucking, into the vibrant, eye-catching farm stand. And the stand is a success — OCI staff note that sales at the stand have doubled since opening in 2011.
With the success of the Farm Stand, LAND saw the potential for additional freestanding structures to improve the quality of life in the area, like Bike Box. The concept grew out of the neighborhood’s fondness for cycling and its growing concern with heavy car traffic. Conceived in partnership with Bike Cleveland’s Jacob Van Sickle and Nano Brew Cleveland owner Sam McNulty, supported with funds from Charter One Bank, and designed and built by local artisans at The Rustbelt Welding Company, The Bike Box once again repurposed a metal shipping container. This time, it was to provide covered parking for dozens of bicycles in a single parking space next to the new Nano Brew Cleveland on Bridge Avenue.
“Bike Box is the first of its kind, as far as we can tell,” explained McNulty. The goal was to encourage people to cycle, help cut down on automobile congestion and parking issues, and make the neighborhood more bike-friendly. “And It makes a bold statement about this neighborhood’s commitment to being bike and pedestrian friendly and not letting cars dominate the streets,” said McNulty. “It’s a really great example of local groups linking up and thinking creatively to achieve a shared purpose.” According to him, the concept is a hit, with bikes “spilling over” from Bike Box on occasion. And with the success of Ohio City’s Bike Box, the hope is to spread the concept to other neighborhoods across Cleveland.
Ohio City’s other new box on the block is Cleveland Public Library’s (CPL) Book Box, located across from the West Side Market in the newly refurbished Market Square Park. Open on Saturdays from 9:00am to 1:00pm, Book Box makes it easy for local patrons to check out books, including those on favorite Market District topics such as food, cooking, gardening, art, and urban agriculture. “Book Box is another opportunity for CPL to link the community with books and learning in a new, fun, and creative way,” said Felton Thomas, Director of CPL. “We were glad to partner with LAND tudio to make it happen, and have had great feedback from people.” The project was also another way to continue injecting life into the park through inventive programming.
“Each of these projects grew out of a specific neighborhood issue,” explained Greg Peckham, Managing Director of LAND studio. “Our focus has always been on responding to the needs of the community in creative ways that not only help improve the quality of life, but do so in a way that hopefully inspires people and creates a sense of neighborhood pride.”
Wobser agrees, also noting that “Ohio City is a historic neighborhood, but it’s also a place where people breathe new life into those historic places on a daily basis. And that’s what LAND studio has helped us do. They really speak to the ongoing rebirth and creative ethos of this community.”