Browns owners say they don’t need new stadium so long as city spends maybe $95m to deck over nearby highway

How long, exactly, have we been doing this stadium-watch stuff? Long enough that the very first conversation my Joanna Cagan and I had about possibly writing something together was when her hometown of Cleveland was talking about building a new stadium for the Browns at the same time that their school system had been placed into receivership. That stadium eventually opened in September1999 (one year after the first edition of Field of Schemes came out), and that was almost 20 years ago, people, so of course the Browns owners (who of course aren’t the same Browns owners as they were then) want something new, and that something new is … a bridge?

The team, as the Haslams reiterated Tuesday, is hoping a pedestrian bridge can be built over State Route 2 that would better connect FES to the city…

A pedestrian bridge was originally supposed to be completed prior to the 2016 Republican National Convention.

But a 2014 proposal was scrapped. Another plan, as Crain’s reported in February, is being discussed, but the potential price — which would go well beyond the $25 million raised for the 2014 proposal — is a sticking point.

The proposal, if you click through, is actually for a “land bridge” that would build a 5.3-acre park spanning railroad tracks and the highway, which you can see why it would cost more than $25 million. And while it wouldn’t be entirely for the Haslams’ benefit — there are also plans for housing development near the stadium, and also of course Cleveland residents would get a small park out of the deal — it sounds like the Browns owners are going to make themselves front and center in pushing for such a plan.

How much more than $25 million could a deck park cost? Here is a helpful paper titled “Cost-Effectiveness of Capping Freeways for Use as Parks” that notes that Freeway Park in Seattle, which is similarly a 5.2-acre deck park above a ground-level highway, “came at a relatively low cost of $18 million per acre.” That would price a Cleveland bridge-park at $95.4 million, which is a chunk of change, though obviously a lot less than building a new stadium. Though co-owner Dee Haslam also said that they would “make improvements to the stadium,” and didn’t say who’d pay for that, so we could still be looking at a nine-figure ask, but at least it’s a lot less than a billion dollars for a new stadium, and oh here comes our old friend anchoring again!

 


8 comments on “Browns owners say they don’t need new stadium so long as city spends maybe $95m to deck over nearby highway

  1. Is there no artist rendering for the Cleveland highway cap? The rendering in the one linked article is just a fancy bridge with the full highway still being visible.

    These cap ideas essentially turn roadways into tunnels after the fact. They’re really expensive because the caps need to permanently hold up tons upon tons of earth, trees, etc. I’m curious if anybody has had to do major repairs on one because if the structure ever was compromised the only real option is closing down the highway until repairs can be made. And with full-sized trees producing roots, plumbing for sprinklers, fountains, etc. there’s plenty that COULD eventually impact the structure.

  2. There is a lot more to this than the Stadium. If the Browns had never come back or if the stadium was build elsewhere this project would still be needed because Route 2 cuts the lakefront away from the rest of downtown. The city has been wasting what should be prime lakefront real estate for decades. Its disgraceful. A 5 minute walk east of the stadium is a private airport that’s primarily used for flight schools and a handful of corporate planes (no commercial traffic). Between the stadium and the airport there is a park that no one goes to because its a pain to get to. There is also a lot of land north of the stadium before you get to the Lake (again should be prime real estate) that needs to be developed but again you have access problems. So you would need to do something like this stadium or not to make lakefront development happen,

  3. Unless I misread the “helpful” Seattle paper, there is something not quite right with the author’s conclusions.

    The $18.5M per acre was for projects completed in the 1970s and 90s. I did not see a reference for adjustments to inflation. So that makes those projects way more expensive today.

    The author cited the US project average to be $19M/acre and derided studies that put costs of more recently proposed Seattle parks at $70M for a 1.5 acre park lid and $52M for a 2.3 acre lid. That’s a big difference per acre.

    It’s hard to compare apples to oranges on projects given local dynamics and differentiated engineering required, but, to further Neil’s point, it would seem like Cleveland is really lowballing it.

    • That area does look underutilized. How much demand is there for new buildings though? What is the residential/retail/office vacancy rate?

      Developing the lakefront sounds nice, but I am not sure there is a pressing public interest in relocating a half dozen restaurants 6 blocks further north or whatever.

  4. Couldn’t they just remove the highway and turn it into a boulevard of some sort (or, possibly, with nothing)? I mean, it is a state route, not an interstate and I-90 cuts through on the other side of downtown just a few miles away.

    I mean this has less to do with stadiums that the fact almost every US city built near water built giant freeways between their city centers and water back when the waterfront was considered grimy and unappealing. Some have simply removed some of those freeways and replaced them with more normal roads (San Francisco, Portland, the West Side of Manhattan, the East Side of Toronto). Some have left them in place with little or no change (Philadelphia, St Louis, the rest of Toronto, the East Side of Manhattan). Some have built expensive mega-projects that descended into absurdity but ultimately met the goal at a huge cost (Boston, Seattle).

    In the matter of how Cleveland should or shouldn’t reconnect their downtown to their waterfront, the stadium seems like the tail wagging the dog. It would seem the easiest thing would be to remove the freeway entirely especially as the region is shrinking and probably doesn’t especially need it anymore.

    • Yeah that proposal has been around since at least 2003 (when I first moved to Cleveland). Here is the problem: Cleveland politicians and leadership suck and can’t be moved to do anything unless it is literally driven by one of the sports teams