aerial view of the Nord Family Greenway, from Case Western Reserve University's Tinkham Veale University Center toward Cleveland Museum of Art and Maltz Performing Arts Center

Collaboration creates connection as Nord Family Greenway opens

Hundreds gathered Thursday evening to dedicate the Nord Family Greenway, a 2,200-foot-long expanse that exemplifies the accomplishments possible when organizations collaborate toward a common goal.

Begun years ago as a project to ease pedestrian transit between Case Western Reserve University’s main and west campuses, the 15-acre commons today offers open-air spaces suited to performances, picnics and even quiet contemplation.

Most of all, it is a permanent, living invitation to those beyond University Circle to explore not only the greenway itself, but the dozens of arts and cultural institutions that fill the roughly square-mile district.

“It was an honor to celebrate all of the individuals and organizations responsible for turning this inspiring creative concept into such a lush and welcoming landscape,” Case Western Reserve President Barbara R. Snyder said. “Their collective engagement and support have given our community, city and region a landmark space expressly designed to bring people together with nature—and with one another.”

The seeds of the project began in 2010, when Milton and Tamar Maltz made their initial naming gift to transform the historic Temple-Tifereth Israel into a performing arts center. The project announcement quickly prompted questions about how students and faculty would be able to move easily between main campus and the performing arts center—which in turn prompted talk of a pedestrian bridge.

Already heavily engaged in the area through its landmark Greater University Circle Initiative, the Cleveland Foundation agreed to sponsor a design competition for the project, with community integration as a key criterion. The winner of the contest was Massachusetts-based Sasaki Associates, whose proposal eschewed the idea of a bridge and instead embraced what already existed.

“This project is not only useful and beautiful, but it also advances the guiding principle of the Greater University Circle Initiative: to connect residents from neighborhoods including Upper Chester and Hough to the cultural, economic, and educational opportunities in University Circle,” Cleveland Foundation President and CEO Ronn Richard said, adding that it also will “allow University Circle institutions and employees to benefit from the wisdom, gifts, and energy of their neighbors.”

While the proposal immediately captured the imaginations of the selection committee, the university had two primary challenges remaining: persuade the Cleveland Museum of Art to allow the greenway to pass through its property, and raise the $15 million needed to pay for the project.

The museum’s leaders not only embraced the greenway idea—they added to it. First, they agreed to allow the greenway to incorporate the museum’s Fine Arts Garden and “Fountain of Waters.” From there, they partnered with the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District to redirect the flow of Doan Brook just north of the greenway—and also removed a city maintenance building to make way for its own 7-acre landscape project.

“The Nord Family Greenway enlivens the area outside our front door and improves visitor access to the Fine Arts Garden, one of the great public spaces in this country,” said William Griswold, director of the Cleveland Museum of Art. “The Greenway will provide a locus for events for the entire community and is a testament to what can be achieved when two great institutions work together in the interest of the common good.”

The vision and ambition of the project drew great interest among several longtime university supporters, including the Eric and Jane Nord Family, who provided its lead naming gift. The family and its foundation have been longtime supporters of the university, supporting major gifts to programs in engineering and the humanities, as well as buildings that house the disciplines.

Meanwhile, the Curt and Sara Moll family made their own significant commitment. Sara is an alumna of the university as well as a current trustee. As part of the commitment, the greenway features a quotation from Theo Moll, a family patriarch who co-founded the company that today is MTD Products, Inc.: “The past we inherit… the future we create.”

Toby Devan Lewis, also an alumna and trustee, made a generous contribution as well; it is recognized within the greenway on a hill that includes several-feet-wide steps cut into the gentle slope. It bears the name “Toby’s Terrace,” whose letters are stainless steel, inset into molded cavities cast within the architectural precast concrete seat walls.

In addition, the Cleveland Foundation provided the final $1 million needed to allow the project to proceed; along with earlier contributions, this commitment brought its total giving to the project to a total of $1.5 million. In recognition of its support, the east and west entrances to the greenway feature the foundation’s name and the inscribed words inspire, engage, connect and welcome.

Finally, Current, powered by GE, provided LED lighting for the greenway, including 160 fixtures and corresponding LightGrid nodes. The unique technology inside this system allows for remote operation and monitoring of all fixtures through a Web-enabled central management system. Jerry Duffy, one of GE’s Cleveland-based Product & Technology Leaders, was on hand for the dedication Thursday evening.