Sidewalk in Hessler: What is historic, and what best replicates historic?
And what is this to the Cleveland Landmarks Commission?
Should past historically inappropriate work by developer be taken into account while considering his new proposal?
By Lee Batdorff
In an earlier Thoroughdays.com story, The State of Hessler-1 , it was said that only flagstone sidewalk slabs would suffice to keep to historic standards. Apparently this is not so.
Before their April 22nd meeting, many people wrote letters to the Landmarks Commission advocating that while considering developers Rick Maron and Russell Berusch’s proposed Hessler apartment building—that the Landmarks Commission must first conduct a review of Russell Berusch’s treatment of the sidewalk and yard in front of his building on Hessler that he had renovated in 2017.
This debate on sidewalk appearance is in regard to a stretch of white cement sidewalk that was poured in 2018—in front of the five row houses at 11319-11327 Hessler Road. While this sidewalk is not tinted, cement tinted to match the existing flagstone sidewalks is okay according to a 39-year-old document from the Cleveland Landmarks Commission and found at the Public Affairs Library at Cleveland City Hall.
On January 8, 1982 a certificate of appropriateness for a new walkway was granted only after the late Pitter (Donna) Pratt, leader of the then Hessler Design Review Committee of the Cleveland Landmarks Commission, stipulated that new cement must be tinted to match the color of the original stone slabs. (See copy of document here.)
“Discussion centered on the concern for the appearance of new sidewalks and the desire to have the entire district completed under one contract,” said John Cimperman, (no relation to the former Cleveland councilman, Joe Cimperman), who was the first Secretary of the Landmarks Commission.
“The new type of sidewalk concrete texture is almost all white. The Commission would not want that used on Hessler. Presently, the sidewalks are flagstone but the driveways are concrete. It was determined by the Commission that concrete sidewalks would be acceptable it they were of the proper color and texture. The material to be used will be determined when the request for a Certificate of Appropriateness is approved by the Commission,” John Cimperman said.
Michelle Anderson, a three-year member of the Cleveland Landmarks Commission, and an agent for Progressive Urban Real Estate in Ohio City, said after their April 22nd meeting considering this proposal, that she’d had not seen one instance of any issues about sidewalks and landscaping brought up before the commission during her tenure. “We deal in bricks and mortar,” she said.
On May 27, the Landmarks Commission will vote on the proposed 12 micro unit apartment building for Hessler.
Architectural historian: Sidewalks and yards should be included as historical features
Architectural historian Jessica Wobig said, “A district should include features of the setting, such as original street material, curbs, sidewalks, or open space/yards in addition to architecture and historic significance.
“Things like fences or original outbuildings/garages are normally included when they have good integrity (look like they did when the place gained its specialness/period of significance).”
Landmarks Commission has minimal preservation standards
“The Landmarks Commission does review case-by-case for all certificates of appropriateness—they could have a preservation plan in place that would allow for agreed upon standards to guide their decisions,” said Ms.Wobig who worked for the Landmarks Commission from 2011 to 2014.
“Without that decision guide, lots of things can be overlooked and complicate new construction or major rehabilitation projects—because there is no specific guidance for the district to follow other than the very broad (U.S.) Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.
“These standards (provide) more guiding principles rather than district specific instructions. They really need district specific guidelines, and then an overall procedure on how to carry out environmental reviews with public comment.
“My goal on this point is that a survey and plan could be made for the district and should be in place already—(ever) since it was designated in 1975. We have to ask why hasn’t it, and why can’t it be done?
“I found one (neighborhood historical survey) for the Warehouse District from the 1990s, which was an adaptive reuse plan. The plan was used for planning activities in the Warehouse District that included changing buildings from industrial to residential use.
Historical survey studies for developers, why not for residents of Cleveland?
“So if these studies can be done when they benefit developers, then why can’t the City and/or Community Development Corporation complete studies that benefit the residents who live in the Hessler Road Landmark District?
“Even if they (Cleveland Landmarks Commision) did survey it, normally survey information older than five years is reassessed when environmental review occurs. Due to the small acreage of the district, completing such an analysis is really about 40 hours of work. Even with two staff, some kind of abbreviated study could and should happen.
“If there is precedence that sidewalks were already considered, then this should help them address that one feature. Though they have more info gaps to solve, (Editor: such as gravel covered front yards that replaced original with grass yards and small trees when 11319-11327 was renovated by Russell Berusch in 2017).
Hessler Road should be included with Hessler Court with national historic designation
While Hessler Road has Cleveland historic designation status, it does not have national historic status.
“The Hessler Court wooden pavement, a wooden road structure in the district, is also listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP),” said Ms. Wobig.
“If the road structure merited designation at a national level then surely the remainder of the district would also be eligible for the NRHP or at least consideration for preservation as part of a local district.
“I’d recommend that streetscape, including sidewalks and development pattern or rhythm, should be included in the district due to the rarity of the brick and wood road surfaces as well as the residential nature of the district (you see (both) the road and homes when you look at Hessler).
“Presently, the Landmarks Commission does not have an updated historic resources survey or planning document (preservation plan or design guidelines) that (may) help us understand what is really part of the district or contributes. We’ve (the Hessler Coalition), requested that this type of assessment is done before any further landmarks review so that the district is fairly considered. We’ve asked the councilman to support this request, because it should be a due diligence requirement and part of the environmental review process,” said Wobig.
Existence hard for three-year-old inappropriate cement sidewalk
At left is a crack that looks like a spider web apparently made by something heavy having been dropped on the sidewalk. At right on top is a noticeable cross sidewalk panel crack and at bottom a second less-noticeable cross sidewalk crack . Why is it that cross sidewalk cracks so often occur, (here and elsewhere), outside the provide three-quarter inch deep contraction joints?
Correction made to original post of this article; the sidewalk was poured in 2018, not 2017, and was three not four years ago.
To help the Hessler neighbors make their case against this development click on the link here.
For ongoing discussion of the proposal click on this link here.
For more about the history and construction of wood block Hessler Court click on this link here.