Pearl Road Becomes A Boulevard In Parma Heights Residential Section
“Are there going to be trees in the middle of Pearl Road?” “The most beautiful crosswalks in Ohio.” “Love the new signs.” With all the great comments we are hearing at city hall, it’s clear that people are buzzing about Parma Heights! There are a lot of physical changes taking place on Pearl Road but before I get into a summary, let me answer that first question.
Yes, there are going to be trees in the middle of Pearl Road! In the area that used to be marked with diagonal yellow lines designating no left turns, we are creating a boulevard by installing a median filled with trees and plants. With the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) project, we seized the opportunity to beautify the city by bridging five lanes of traffic to connect neighborhoods on both sides of our community while offering a safe median haven for pedestrians that will feature the installation of a HAWK signal: a pedestrian-activated traffic control device.
The 830 foot-long median will be beautiful and simple with only two plant species; red creeping thyme ground cover crowned with 18 Mushashino Japaese Zelkova trees selected for their beautiful columnar form and that fact that they do exceptionally well in tough urban conditions, especially in parkways.
These and the other amazing changes you see taking place on our Main Street are coming after years of study, planning, and the accumulation of grant funding all focused around two big issues: 1.) how can we define our community and let people know when they are in Parma Heights, and 2.) how do we redefine Pearl Road, our Main Street, to reflect today’s lifestyle and work better for our community.
When I took office in 2010, one of my goals was to highlight our beautiful parks and further “green” the community. Residents came forward to restart the Garden Club revitalizing our Community Garden in the Greenbrier Commons and, in cooperation with local businesses, creating our “Daffodil Project”.
On the administrative side, we began researching the latest municipal trends. As a result, back in 2013 Parma Heights was one of the first communities to be awarded a grant from the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission’s brand-new Transportation for Livable Communities (TLCI) program. Our project, the “Pearl Road Complete and Green Streets Initiative” was the starting point that has brought us to where we are today.
Led by a team of experts, through a process of consideration using public meetings and cooperating stakeholders - like ODOT – we came to the conclusion that our community’s portion of Pearl Road could be divided into three segments: Residential, Town Center, and Commercial. Then the work began to find ways to enhance each segment while physically connecting them into one homogenous entity. A tall order but we wanted to show the positive results that can be achieved when an urban inner-core community adapts, incorporates new ideas, and reinvents itself.
After deciding on the transformational boulevard concept for the Residential section, we turned our attention to the Town Center area realizing immediately that we needed to add wayfinding to address concerns like: “Where is Nathan Hale park?” Next we looked at the heart of our community with citizen input through additional public meetings and a survey available online and on paper to see what the community needed and wanted.
With Complete Streets in mind, we were aware of the Northeast Ohio Coordinating Agency’s (NOACA) Regional Bicycle Plan so we looked at that issue as well. A traffic study determined that given the width of Pearl Road and the number of vehicles traversing it, we could not reduce the lanes of traffic. However, we could add bike lanes in the Residential section and in the area northeast of the Commons to guide bikers into and out of the Commons area.
Finally, we looked at the Commercial District, and among other issues, realized the need for updated, visible, attractive crosswalks to link our community not just in this District but along the entire Pearl Road corridor. We decided to add pocket parks on the northbound side of the street; one across from Wendy’s with another by the cemetery. We also recognized the need to clearly mark the southwestern gateway into the city at W. 130th Street. In addition to our new logo featured in the signage at the Speedway station, our first public mural will be installed this summer enlivening the side of the Party Décor building at 6708 Pearl, courtesy of the building’s owners Alina and Tony Saini and a Cuyahoga County Arts & Culture grant secured by the Parma Heights Historical Society in a joint project with the city.
Once the TLCI was completed, over the years we pushed on with a Cuyahoga County Master Plan Update, a Community Development Supplemental Grant (CDSG) for a Branding & Wayfinding Master Plan that resulted in our new logo and tag line “Community Grows Here”, four implementation grants and then negotiated to secure the sites for the pocket parks. (Links for the TLCI, Master Plan Update and Branding & Wayfinding Master Plan can be found on the Economic Development page of our city website www.parmaheightsoh.gov .)
When the Pearl Road Reconstruction project is finished, everyone will know when they are on our Main Street within the boundaries of our wonderful community; not only because of the signage, not only because of the decorative crosswalks, not only because of the beautiful new median turning the residential section of Pearl Road into a boulevard – but because all of these things reflect the fact that this is Parma Heights and “Community Grows Here”.
Michael P. Byrne is the Mayor of Parma Heights, Ohio.