Leap Night brings winter wonderland to Cleveland Flats

Kelsey Henninger

Cleveland’s first large-scale “Pop Up City,” designed by the Urban Design Center is transforming a vacant lot in the Flats into a winter wonderland tonight.

These Pop Up Cities, courtesy of the Urban Design Center in Cleveland, Kent State’s graduate program for urban architecture and design, are temporary events. They usually last one day and occupy vacant buildings or vacant land.

These cities aim to attract people to underused properties.

“We bring these dead spots to life,” said Terry Schwartz, senior planner at the Urban Design Center. ” Our ideas have a free-spirited quality about them.”

Tonight’s event, Leap Night, is free to the public and will feature an ice-skating rink, a snowboard ramp and rail jam competitions. The winner of the rail jam competition will receive a cash prize.

There will also be an outdoor Rock BandTM video game competition, a snowsuit fashion show, performances by SAFMOD (Cleveland’s multi-media performance ensemble) and food and drink vendors.

“We created public space where people can come together,” Schwartz said. “It’s a beautiful place, we hope people see it with new eyes.”

Located at 1100 Old River Rd., between Main Avenue and Front Street on the East Bank in the Flats, the site offers ample free parking and is accessible via the RTA Waterfront Line, East Bank Station.

The sponsors see this as an advantage to bring people back to the Flats, Schwartz said.

The first Pop Up City event was Bazaar Bizarre, a craft fair with handcrafted do-it-yourself clothing and off-beat entertainment. Bazaar Bizarre started in Boston in 2001 and hit Cleveland Dec. 1, 2007 in the Sincere Building on E. 4th St.

Future ideas for Pop Up City include a roof-top restaurant where local produce can be prepared and served.

Schwartz said this dinning experience wouldn’t be free and the profits would help fund other Pop Up City events.

Another suggestion was turning a vacant lot into a dog park, where local pet owners could meet and their canines could exercise.

Schwartz said the idea of a dog park is positive because it shows people are “growing roots” and settling in the city.

She also said shrinking cities are a world phenomenon. Urban populations are declining and urban vacancy is increasing.

Cleveland had close to 1 million people and now the population is about 450 thousand, Schwartz said.

She thought of bringing Pop Up Cities to Cleveland after she heard about a successful German project which allowed people to skate through vacant buildings.

Schwartz said Pop Up Cities will continue to bring life to vacant areas until its $30,000 funding and sponsors’ donations run out.

“We think we can change the whole city one night at a time,” Schwartz said.

Contact architecture and interior design reporter Kelsey Henninger at [email protected].