Ten Ways to Improve Shaker Square

Some of these ideas for improving Shaker Square are almost without cost, others are "big ticket" items. All but one have been previously mentioned on these pages. So here they are, in no particular order.

1 - Early Bird Dinners

Dewey Forward tells me that the Senior Wednesdays on the Square promotion he and I started in 2008 is working well. (Zanzibar is the most recent place to sign on.) That got me to thinking that thousands of persons over 65 live around the Square, yet there is no restaurant on the Square that offers an incentive for older residents (or anyone, for that matter) to come to dinner earlier. It could be a different menu or a lower price. Even simple practices such as including salad or dessert with meals ordered before a certain time could increase business, with the early diners leaving before the after-work crowd showed up. (NIGHTTOWN has done this quietly and successfully for years.)

2 - Promotion

We've never understood why almost all the Square's promotions are large crowd events that bring families, many with young children, to the Square - often at times when our restaurants are busy, parking is hard to find, and the stores are closed.

Why not:

  • Ads and promotions geared to holidays such as Fathers Day and Mothers Day?

  • Shaker Square gift certificates?

  • Radio, television and internet ads for the Square?
    (Have you ever heard or seen one? I haven't.)

  • Saturday promotions, each week for a different quadrant of the Square? Why by quadrant? So  greater traffic at one store might lead to more business at its neighbors.

(postscript: In November 2009 The Coral Company announced that there would be no holiday tree-lighting.)

3 - All Coral Company's Meters Should Give Free Short Term Parking

Early in 2007 the Coral Company helped businesses on the Square when it changed its 60 meters around the Square to give free short-term parking. But their parking meters behind the northwest quadrant stores (Grotto, Subway, US Bank, etc) did not change. Let's do the whole job and make them free for short-term parkers too!

(Postscript: since that time the Coral Company has doubled the parking meter rates and only about one in four still offers a free 15 minutes.)

4 -Cleveland's Parking Meters Should Give Free Short Term Parking

Cleveland's parking meters along Shaker Boulevard east and west-bound do not give free short term parking. We've learned that no city meters do that and the city code would need to change. That, it seems to us, would benefit all of Cleveland's stores and restaurants: from the Square to downtown and west to Kamm's Corners.

In September 2007 at SHAD's annual meeting, Councilman Ken Johnson said he was working on it. We're waiting Mr Johnson ... but not patiently.

Sadly, in April 2015 the City of Cleveland changed its ordinances on parking. Rates were doubled (they had not changed for about 15 years) and sadly, even though Councilman Johnson was chair of the committee involved, THERE WAS NO PROVISION FOR FREE SHORT TERM PARKING!

Did you know that Cleveland allows free short-term parking? Two examples at Playhouse Square at Euclid and East 14th, in front in front of Starbucks and the theaters, and also at Euclid and East 17th in front of the Urban Studies Building.

5 - More Parking

On our Tale of Two Cities page we point out how Shaker Heights helps local businesses with free short-term parking and small parking lots, and Cleveland does not. Cleveland Heights also offers free short-term parking and parking structures at Coventry Village and on Lee Road.

How about it Cleveland? The payback: collecting more long-term revenues from sales, property and payroll taxes. Or, said less positively: avoiding long-term declines in tax collections.

With the buildings on Van Aken almost empty, perhaps Cleveland could replace them with parking.

The only new investment at the Square is a traffic enforcement camera!

6 - A "Hot Line" Phone Number for the Square

Yes, we all know to call 911 when we see something that needs immediate police, fire or EMS response. But what do we do if we see something on the Square that we think is messy, wrong, dangerous or broken? Many of us who see the Square as "our space" would be glad to take out our mobile phones and call a number -- but we don't know what number to call.

Each quadrant now has a directory of stores and restaurants. How about adding a Coral Company "hot line" number to these new directories?

7 - A Visitor Center for the Square

The University Circle area plans to add nearly 1,000 units of housing over the next several years. To help support that, they have opened a Visitor and Living in the Circle Center on Euclid Avenue near Mayfield Road. Would such a place be great for the Square? Have a look at their Center, then read our Community Spaces page.

8 - Community Space

Outdoor concert space is fine, but to build community we need indoors, day and evening, year-round space too. To learn more, please see our page About Public Spaces and Community. And whatever happened to the $500,000 grant that the Cleveland Foundation made in the fall of 2004 for improved public spaces at the Square? There was a design competition, then silence.

9 - Let Merchants Do Their Own Promotion

As we understand it, businesses on the Square pay a monthly amount for promotion to the Coral Company which spends their money (though frankly we don't know on what). Change that practice. Set up a separate promotion fund and let the merchants control the spending. After all, the Coral Company is a real estate developer, while many of the store owners and restauranteurs have skills and experiences that can help the Square. They are nearly all "locals": tough, smart, creative business owners.

We think this more participatory, less paternalistic approach to marketing the Square will get better results than what we've seen in recent years. And when the Coral Company sells the Square and leaves, the businesses on the Square will be able to run the Square's promotions themselves, like a real Merchants Association.

10 - A branch library at the Square  (new)

When this page was posted it had only nine suggestions and we invited visitors to submit a tenth. Here it is.

Have a branch of the Shaker Heights Library at the Square. Why Shaker and not Cleveland? First, the Cleveland Public Library has just opened a new branch at Shaker Boulevard and East 116th Street. more... Second: Shaker Square and all who live nearby pay our school property taxes to the Shaker Heights City Schools, which includes support of the Shaker Heights Library, and not to Cleveland. It need not, at first, be a big commitment. Even a place to enter book and film requests and to return loaned items would be a help, and they could be in a cooperating business or, even better, in our hoped for indoors community space. Learn more.

See you on the Square.

Arnold Berger

August 8, 2009
updated 9/14/11, 7/5/13, 2/17/14 and 4/23/14, 5/28/15

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