The Cleveland Browns NFL American football team has offered its “full support” to the City of Cleveland as plans take shape to develop the lakefront area near FirstEnergy Stadium.

The Browns have worked with the city on a preliminary visioning process over the past two-plus years, with research and consultation having taken place with city planners, landscape architects and stakeholders.

Plans for a pedestrian pathway that would increase the number of natural public spaces accessible are now set to move forward and the Browns have backed the proposals. The city has applied to the Ohio Department of Transportation for federal funding through a Transportation Review Advisory Council (TRAC) application.

The Browns have worked closely with Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects to create renderings for the proposed project, which has also had input from Osborn Engineering, AoDK Architecture and CallisonRTKL.

The plans would create a “one-of-a-kind” substantial land bridge from the roof of the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland and over Route 2 and the train tracks, which currently prevent full connectivity between some of the area’s destination spots, including FirstEnergy Stadium.

The walkway would be lined with trees and green spaces and include multiple points of entry and exit. The number of parking areas underneath the walkway would also be increased, potentially through the transformation of the Route 2 Shoreway by removing the flyover that currently runs alongside FirstEnergy Stadium.

The proposals also include a facelift for the North Coast Harbor, which recently served as the central location for the 2021 NFL Draft.

Dee and Jimmy Haslam, owners of the Browns, said: “We appreciate the opportunity to help further Mayor Jackson’s vision for properly connecting downtown to Cleveland’s greatest natural resource, the lake.

“Lakefront connectivity has long been a complicated issue for our region, and a long-term solution has been elusive. Our preliminary vision, led by a landscape architect with experience around the world, intends to create a transformational pedestrian pathway unlocking public spaces and significant development opportunities on the lakefront.

“It would create year-round destinations accessible to our entire region, provide direct connections to nature and result in substantial economic development while driving density and engagement in the lakefront neighbourhood our community shares.

“We recognise that there is a long road ahead for a project of this magnitude. Still, it must start with a vision, which will be appropriately studied, vetted and modified based on input from community stakeholders. We greatly appreciate the city’s leadership and commitment to transforming the Lakefront and look forward to supporting the city as it engages in a community dialogue to understand better what is best for our region.”

The Browns have played at FirstEnergy Stadium since 1999. In 2019, the team reaffirmed its commitment to the stadium, with the Haslams detailing plans to improve the 67,000-seat venue. Dee Haslam said at the time that the team was looking at developing the downtown area around the stadium and making it more accessible to the city.

Images: Cleveland Browns