Public Square in Downtown Cleveland was redesigned and pretty much rebuilt in 2016, to the tune of about $50 million. It’s the place where the East Side and West Side meet, the very heart of the city.
But just because it’s a place of union doesn’t mean everyone sees it the same way. In this audio piece, we hear from people stopped at random in the Square and asked to give their reflections on what they’re experiencing. The point? To get a sense of how different people view the same place.
Listen to (or read) what they say. Then, get out in the Square and let us know what you see. We’ll give details for getting in touch at the end of this post!
Deandre Terrell Raymond
I kind of like how the buildings are very symmetrical, like how the structure looks. That's what I like seeing, honestly. I kinda like how it just fits.
I'm actually not even from Cleveland, I'm actually originally from Florida. I got a job out here. It's like a call center job, so I've been working there for five months now. I work actually right there [points up at a building], so I'm actually right upstairs So like yeah, Monday to Friday, I'm usually here.
I like coming out here and like de-stress a little bit. I like nature. I feel like the trees are always greener here 'cause all that snow they get a lot of water and moisture. [laugh]
I just like that everybody’s kinda like doing their own things. I like how they turned this into a kids’ area - it’s just a pleasant vibe, you know. It’s kinda like a park theme.
I'm a singer-songwriter and right now I'm sitting in Public Square busking for change.
When I think about Public Square, I think about a melting pot. It’s a really interesting spot. I’ve been to a lot of different places in the country, especially on the East Coast, but like Public Square is one of the coolest places ever because you get the East Side of Cleveland, you get the West Side of Cleveland, you get all these business class, working class people. You also have people struggling with the struggle. But, like, yeah - it’s really beautiful.
The one thing i think could make Public Square even better would be more people playing music out here. And more people doing live art out like painting and stuff. Live art, to me, puts out that creative energy. What you put out resonates around you, so just by coming down here and doing something you love in public like that, might inspire somebody else walking by to come down here and do that.
I'm the Flower Guy. I'm Gary the Flower Guy.
Flowers are only three dollars today. So I run a deal where Sunday through Thursday, they're three dollars, the weekends they’re four. I'm holding basic roses. They’re fresh cut roses, they were cut fresh this morning.
Downtown, you get a lot of guys who have money, like these rich guys. I had a gentleman, I had a bucket of flowers and he goes, 'How much you want for all your flowers?' And I go, ‘Let me call my boss and I’ll check.’ My boss said, $400.' [So the guy goes] gave me $400. I wasn't even downtown five minutes. I called my boss up I said, 'Hey man, I got to come back and get more flowers.' He goes, 'Why?' I go, 'I just told this whole bucket of flowers.' He goes, 'You just made 400 dollars?' I go, 'Yeah.'
Sometimes business is good, sometimes business is bad. It just depends on the time of the day. But usually during the day you catch a lot of people out on their lunch break and stuff, so yeah.
Today? I feel blessed. And hot.
I haven't been down here in a while, and seeing all these beautiful people down here in these trucks and playing the games over there, and the water thing that's over there - I’m gonna bring my grandson down here, so he can play next week or one day this week.
You know Downtown has really grown. You see all these different people walking round here with their babies and children and it’s safe. It’s a safe place.
I'm a Brazilian singer-songwriter, playing for the Food Truck Tuesdays. I am from Valinhos, a small city at São Paulo state, and now I’m here. It’s just a fun, fun gig. i absolutely love it. I think from being Brazilian, I really connect with the sun. It gives me so much energy, this energy to play my guitar, and I feel a lot of freedom to improvise. It’s different from when you’re playing for a direct audience. It’s like people passing, and you’re just seeing how you capture them in the moment.
The thing that could be better, I wish this could be every day. Or i think it’s every day, but I’m not every day here. (laughs)
Michael Patterson (Phone Call #1)
I live in the Euclid Beach neighborhood. When I look out in Public Square, I feel like it's a lot of positive forces coming together. One of my experiences that I've had here that I remember when I first came to Cleveland, I remember the whole thing about LeBron James leaving and I remember standing in Public Square with a bunch of people holding signs. I forget what they said exactly but we adapted “We are the world, we are the children” to “Please stay LeBron” and we sang that song. He left anyway, but he came back. So what the heck.
Susan Grekian (Phone Call #2)
I live in Fairview Park. When I look out on Public Square, I feel nostalgic because I've been walking around Public Square for my whole life, which is like from 60 years. And I remember coming down here as a child and just watching the changes that I see now with all the improvements but now there's people walking around there's a lot of music there's a lot of events and times there's a farmers market. I see green, I see life.
Tim Long (Phone Call #3)
I live in Lakewood but work Downtown in Cleveland. (sigh) I'm supposed to say my feelings in Public Square. I think we messed up. If you notice there's a bunch of buses running through it. There's ugly Jersey barriers that have been here since we completed it, and there's no plan in place to really fix that. So I'm just wondering when we're going to get on that. Maybe some bollards or something like that. So Public Square needs a little more work.
Michael Gutierrez (Phone Call #4)
When I look out on Public Square, I feel good. I see people engaged I see people interacting with one another and enjoying everything that this is supposed to be. I was brought up here in Cleveland in the 1980s, part of the desegregation of our city schools, grew up in the inter-city with a single mom, and I remember Downtown being very uninhabited and abandoned. I remember Public Square being very sketchy. To see it now is of course incredible and I believe we're city of great contrast and that has only brought forth all the good that we’re actually witnessing today. This stems from in my opinion from a desire that was placed in us because of the contract in our past.
I'm reminded as I look out here today that we're not done, the manifestation’s not done. We're still building, we're still constructing and as our desires grow and as we want more and more for our community and our schools and our people, it's coming and it's coming because we're bridging gaps. Certainly there's problems throughout the city. We know that. But those problems, the violence and everything that's still there, is only leading to further development, further construction of good because for every bit of lack, there's more abundance on the other side and we're pulling it all together. I do love where the city’s going. I love actually where it came from. It's a Never Ending Story. It's constantly evolving it’s so fluid. It's really beautiful. And in my opinion, Cleveland represents so much of what America is in one small microcosm.
Hope you enjoyed these voices from Public Square! This program was recorded as part of For the Love of Cleveland, a series of outdoor talks in the square organized by the City Club of Cleveland. There’ll be another series next summer - we hope to see you there! But in the meantime, you can let us know your thoughts on Public Square by calling (440) 847-8510. We might use them in a future podcast.