Cleveland, OH (October 10, 2003) – The restored and improved Wade Oval, a 7-acre public park located in Cleveland’s University Circle and surrounded by some of the city’s most respected cultural institutions, was unveiled at a re-dedication ceremony on Friday, October 10, 2003.
Project for Public Spaces (PPS) proposed the improvements in February 2002 to the Wade Oval Advisory Committee, an agency that represents community groups, the City of Cleveland, and neighboring institutions, including the Cleveland Botanical Garden, Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland Institute of Music, Cleveland Institute of Art, and the Western Reserve Historical Society.
When the construction fences came down at the re-dedication, they revealed new walkways, pathway lighting, benches, lampposts, drinking fountains, and a performance stage that blends in with the surrounding landscape. In addition, neighbor Case Western Reserve University began supplying free wireless internet service in the park.
Wade Oval had last been renovated in 1971, and wear and tear had left it in less-than-ideal condition when PPS began work on the project in 2000. “It was a little raggedy, and the irrigation system didn’t work and we didn’t have a sufficient electrical [system],” said Bob Reeves, Director of Community Development for University Circle, Inc. (UCI). “Plus we’ve been doing more and more festivals on the site over the last few years, and it was just wearing out.”
Furthermore, many of the institutions surrounding the Oval were in the process of their own high-profile renovations and expansions. The Botanical Garden is in the midst of a $38 million renovation and expansion; the Museum of Natural History just completed an $8 million planetarium; and the Museum of Art is planning a $225 million expansion project. To fit with its world-class neighbors, Wade Oval needed to become a world-class public space.
Knowing PPS’s reputation for thorough observation and community involvement, Reeves sought them out: “We felt we needed to understand what the space was before we started, and PPS has a specialty in public open spaces.”
PPS led an intensive planning process that brought surrounding institutions and residents of neighboring communities together to improve the space. “The vision that came out of our work with stakeholders was very compelling,” said PPS Vice-President Kathy Madden. “Wade Oval should be a destination that serves as an active and welcoming front door to the cultural heart of University Circle.”
The cultural spirit of the new Wade Oval was apparent in the re-dedication ceremony itself, which featured music and performances by several of the surrounding institutions, ending with a community concert presented by UCI and Case Western Reserve University. The festivities were part of a five-day celebration called “Fall for the Circle” that ran from October 8-12, featuring activities and events such as Concerts performed by the Cleveland Orchestra and an herb fair at the Botanical Garden.
The physical changes unveiled at the re-dedication are in fact the first stage of an overall plan for Wade Oval and the University Circle district. Many of the improvements, such as the lighting system and performance stage, were implemented with public events in mind. The next step is to implement a plan for programming and events that will make Wade Oval a destination unto itself.
The revitalized space is already generating renewed interest as a venue. “Several groups that have not been here before have already asked to use the space for a public event,” said Reeves.
University Circle may finally have a public space to match its prestigious institutions.