The intersection is confusing, congested and unsafe. 45,000 vehicles travel through it per day. It is #1 in accidents in Shaker Heights and #11 in Cuyahoga County. Drivers wait up to three minutes at the light and there are left turn restrictions. This results in congestion, and in drivers avoiding the intersection and cutting through the neighborhood. It is also difficult for pedestrians to cross the street. Reconfiguring the intersection is the first step in redeveloping the area into a walkable, mixed-use district.
The intersection will go from six streets entering the intersection to four. To accomplish this, Van Aken will end at Farnsleigh and Northfield Road will be relocated to the south. The new Northfield will turn left and intersect Warrensville Center Road just north of the Post Office. Where Van Aken ends at Farnsleigh, drivers may turn right to continue on Chagrin or left to turn onto Warrensville. View the intersection reconfiguration plan.
The 2008 study included a detailed traffic study, done by an engineering firm, URS. This study modeled future traffic and road changes. A computer simulation was also done. The intersection improvements at Chagrin and Warrensville will create an intersection with a light cycle of 90 seconds instead of the current three minutes. Traffic will be reduced from 45,000 cars/day to 37,000 at the intersection. There will no longer be turn restrictions, so left turns will be allowed in all directions. These improvements will make the intersection easier to navigate.
We expect construction to take two years. It will be done in phases. The first phase includes construction of the new Northfield Road and the work at Farnsleigh and Chagrin. The next phase will be work at the intersection of Warrensville and Chagrin. During this phase, Van Aken will be closed between Farnsleigh and Warrensville. The details of timing and lane closures are still to be determined. View the construction sequence map.
Businesses will be open during construction. Access will be maintained and signs will be posted. During the first phase, access to businesses at Shaker Plaza and Van Aken Center will not be changed. When Van Aken is closed in the second phase, Van Aken Center will have access from Farnsleigh; Shaker Plaza will maintain access from Chagrin and from Farnsleigh; stores on the south side of Chagrin including MotoPhoto and Lucy’s will retain access from Lomond; and businesses on Farnsleigh such as Key Bank and Ohio Savings will have access from Farnsleigh Road.
The contractor and the Cuyahoga County Public Works Department will work with the Shaker Heights Police to determine when and where temporary turn restriction signs may be necessary to prevent cut-through traffic. Areas of potential concern already identified include areas around Winslow and Farnsleigh. Detour signs will be posted alerting drivers in advance of specific construction areas, and Shaker Heights Police will be on site during the construction in order to maintain traffic flow.
Farnsleigh will be straightened slightly to meet Chagrin at a right angle instead of a curve. There will be a pair of traffic signals—one at Farnsleigh and one at Lomond—that will work together to move traffic in a coordinated fashion.
Currently, left turns from Warrensville onto Scottsdale are restricted. Many residents loop around by the Post Office in order to make a right turn into Scottsdale. There will still be a way to access the University Hospitals lot and come down Warrensville to make a right turn into Scottsdale. After all road work is complete, the City will study if any turn restrictions in the Sussex neighborhood should be adjusted.
Currently, there are a number of turn restrictions in place to deter cut-through traffic in the Sussex neighborhood. After all road work is complete, the City will study if any of these turn restrictions in the Sussex neighborhood should be changed.
The idea to improve the Warrensville/Van Aken/Chagrin intersection has been around since the 1960s! In both 2000 and 2008 the City hosted public meetings where hundreds of residents participated and helped shape the vision for the Van Aken District. The 2000 Strategic Investment Plan recommended improving the area to reflect the character of Shaker Heights and create a mixed-use downtown. Opportunities for public input included meetings, charrettes and workshops. In 2008, the Warrensville Van Aken Transit Oriented Development Plan suggested the road reconfiguration. Several public meetings took place where residents helped draw out the future of the district.
A federal transportation project takes time for many reasons. Amassing grants and funding takes several years. Acquisition of right of way (for the new Northfield Road and temporary easements for construction) also takes time. A one year period is required to negotiate with owners and acquire the right of way. All government agencies involved in the project review the final construction documents and plans. As our project partner, Cuyahoga County is managing the bidding process and construction work due to their expertise in constructing roads. Karvo Paving Company is the general contractor for the project.
Funding for the project comes from seven different federal, state, county and local sources. The Cuyahoga County Public Works Department, NOACA and ODOT have been the City’s partners in bringing the project funding together and have been tremendously supportive. The support of our elected representatives in Columbus and Washington has also been instrumental. The funding sources are: Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA), Issue 1, State Safety Grant, City of Shaker Heights, Cuyahoga County, Federal Appropriation and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
The RTA tracks will not be extended during the first phase of the project. RTA is currently seeking federal funding to pay for the rapid transit track upgrade. As part of the funding application process, RTA is analyzing the alternatives and impacts for improving the Blue Line rapid transit tracks through the Warrensville /Van Aken intersection to various endpoints. For more information, visit the RTA website.
Conditions for pedestrians will be much improved with distinctive, new crosswalks throughout the area. Roads will be narrowed, reducing crossing distances and the amount of time it takes to walk from one side to the other. Pedestrian countdown signals will also be installed. The primary bicycle route through the district will be on Farnsleigh Road; the City will evaluate ways to accommodate bicyclists as part of a Farnsleigh streetscape study in 2014.
The City has applied for funding to prepare final streetscape design plans. If funding is received, we expect the design process to occur in 2014-2015. This will be coordinated with private development on adjacent parcels of land.
Starbucks closed its Van Aken district location on December 27, 2013. It was located on a section of Van Aken Blvd (between Warrensville and Farnsleigh) that will be closed as part of the road reconstruction. But they will be back! The company is discussing several locations -- all within the Van Aken district -- and hopes to return in 2015. Remember to visit the other coffee and gathering places in Shaker: J. Pistone, Gimme Java, Juma Gallery and Lucy's Sweet Surrender.
Construction in the main intersection will not occur until 2015, so Van Aken Center and Shaker Plaza will not be affected this year. We are working with the contractor to determine what impact the straightening of Farnsleigh will have in 2014 on the businesses on Chagrin. The County and contractor have committed to signage to help direct customers and to ensure that people know the businesses are open at all times. As plans for the 2015 construction season become clear, we will work closely with the businesses and shopping center owners to ensure the businesses are supported.
Community feedback and our market study indicate that a sustainable, thriving neighborhood center for Shaker Heights will focus on local niche businesses, independent restaurants and everyday lifestyle uses like childcare, fitness and food/beverage. Many of the current businesses fit into these categories so the shopping center owners and the City hope to retain them in the district.
While the City has historic apartment and condo buildings at every price point, the housing study commissioned by the developer demonstrated strong demand for new rental housing with modern floor plans. This housing stock is critical in order to attract new young professionals and to retain existing residents who would like to stay in the community but would like the simplicity of apartment living. A thriving Van Aken district should increase the demand for and value of existing condo and apartment buildings in the surrounding area.
A boutique hotel, extended-stay housing for professionals and a bed and breakfast are common requests from residents and employers. While the low office density in the area and distance from the freeway make this a challenging project to assemble today, it is an idea that could be achievable once the “place” is created in phase one and there is a larger office presence in the district.
Entertainment uses for all ages and the addition of the performing arts are aspirational goals for the district. Shaker Heights and surrounding communities have the demographics and density to support such uses. We need to establish “Shaker’s living room” in phase one with great public gathering spaces, restaurants and niche retail in order to attract the performing arts or entertainment uses.
High quality design is essential for the project’s success. Shaker Heights has high standards and demands the best. The area is zoned Commercial-Mixed Use and must adhere to City zoning standards and design guidelines. The project will be reviewed by the Architectural Board of Review and by the City Planning Commission. We will work with private property owners and developers to ensure design meets the high standards of Shaker Heights.
The City is working with RMS and other private property owners on their financing packages. Shaker Heights’ commercial property tax rate adds significant cost to building owners and tenants. A package of incentives may be proposed to bring this project to fruition. In addition, a parking garage, which is critical to creating density and a mixture of uses, may require public support.
Community feedback and our market study indicate that a sustainable, thriving neighborhood center for Shaker Heights will focus on local niche businesses, independent restaurants and everyday lifestyle uses like childcare, fitness and food/beverage. New office space and luxury apartments will feed the restaurant/retail mix.