The year 1969 was a tumultuous time in America. The Vietnam War continued
to rage as 250,000 Americans gathered on the Washington Mall in the nation's
largest anti-war protest. It was the year that Neil Armstrong walked on
the moon and the Byrds sang "Hey Mr. Spaceman." It was also the year the
legendary Woodstock Music and Art Festival was held at Max Yasgur's farm.
It was a time when minds were expanding and behaviors were changing.
In Cleveland Heights, Coventry Village was Cleveland's center for counter-cultural
life. Many in Cleveland Heights were worried that scruffy Coventry was
emerging as the city's first slum, while others welcomed the transformation
as modern and enlightening. While peace, love, and tie-dye seemed to be
the new order, some believed that serious decay was beginning to set in.
To many, the Cleveland Heights of 1969 was not considered particularly
historic; it was just an old community that was getting older. Many citizens
felt that something needed to be done before it was too late!
In September of 1969, Mayor Fred Stashower and Cleveland Heights City
Council mailed to each household a consultant's summary of studies by
the Battelle Institute of Columbus and Barton-Aschman Associates of Chicago.
The summary stated that Cleveland Heights was a good community, but that
the city needed to address its aging housing and commercial areas through
redevelopment. The report outlined some community concerns and outlined
some possible steps that might be taken in Cleveland Heights to attract
"good developers and stimulate redevelopment in aging residential and
commercial areas." The reports cited a growing need for public transportation
and the need for Cleveland Heights to facilitate redevelopment of older
neighborhoods like Coventry and Cedar-Fairmount.
Artists' rendering of Surrey Place, one
of the developments proposed for the point at Cedar and Euclid Heights
Blvd. Surrey Place would have featured a combination of new high-rise
and low-rise dwellings, office space, and direct access to a new rapid
A few years earlier, in 1963, the original
Severance Center "mall" was built at Mayfield and Taylor on the old Severance
estate. Severance Center was a pretty big deal back then and was at the
forefront of the new American shopping mall movement. Severance was viewed
as the new downtown for the Heights with convenient and plentiful parking.
Everyone was going to the new Severance. The mall had department stores,
a movie theater, a drug store and many other shops. Some of the stores
were very exclusive. Severance was seen the "new" Cleveland Heights.
In its study, Battelle strongly urged Cleveland Heights to promote an
extension of the CTS rapid transit up Cedar Glen, Euclid Heights Boulevard,
and through the neighborhoods (south of Mayfield) to Severance Center.
Much of the new rail line would reinvent the route that the old streetcars
once took to the Heights. The Euclid Heights portion of the line was proposed
to be below grade in an "open cut" similar in style to the Shaker Rapid's
open cut just west of Shaker Square. Ornamental acoustic walls to buffer
the rapid would line Euclid Heights Boulevard.
In the study, the scenario deemed "most attractive" would have the rapid
line coming down Coventry Road along Rock Court and then running behind
the commercial stores on the south side of the street. It would then run
eastward, south of Mayfield Road and through many residential neighborhoods,
until it reached Severance Center. A terminus capable of storing twenty
rapid transit cars was planned for a section of the Oakwood Country Club.
It was envisioned that major transit stations should be constructed on
Euclid Heights (between Cedar and Derbyshire/Surry), Coventry and Lee,
as well as at Severance and Oakwood.
Preliminary drawing showing the dramatic
changes that would have ensued in and around the Coventry business
district. Note that Coventry Road would no longer connect to Mayfield,
and that many of the homes and businesses we know today would have
been demolished for construction of several high-rise apartment buildings.
In addition, a new rapid transit line would have been established
though the area, ending at Severance Center.
The proposal would have required
that scores of apartment buildings, storefronts, and single family homes
be demolished. In Coventry, dramatic changes were envisioned that would
greatly alter the community. Most commercial buildings would be razed
and a transit station featuring new stores would be built on a relocated
Coventry. The residential plan boldly suggested clearing the land of numerous
apartment buildings and in their place a series of high-rise residential
structures would be constructed.
In the Cedar Fairmount neighborhood, massive demolition
would take place in the Cedar-Surry-Euclid Heights triangle. Some very
tall apartment buildings surrounded by townhouses would be built, as well
as a sort of performing arts center/open-air plaza. Called Surry Place,
it was seen as a dramatic and new "gateway to the Heights." It was even
thought that the Cleveland Play House might be persuaded to relocate to
While this massive Heights redevelopment proposal seems
curious and even scary to us today, 1969 was a year of contrasts, and
the plans represent what many hoped Cleveland Heights might become.