Van Aken District: Transit Station Upgrades
The Van Aken District was conceived as a transit-oriented development, which means it was designed to be a dense, mixed-use, walkable, and bikeable neighborhood, centered on a public transit station.
Phase One of the District delivered on that promise. The District is pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly with two new multi-purpose paths, an ample sidewalk network, lively outdoor dining, the Living Room park, and bike racks. And the Warrensville-Van Aken Transit Station is at its heart.
But there’s always room for improvement, which is where the new Van Aken District Public Realm Plan comes in. (The public realm means the publicly owned spaces and amenities accessible to everyone.)
With $3.5 million worth of enhancements being planned by RTA, CEI, and the City in the area around the Van Aken transit station, City leaders felt it was important for the organizations to work together, along with District owner RMS, to ensure coordination and cohesive planning. The team began holding regular virtual meetings last spring with consultant WSP USA, Inc. to devise a vision.
The upshot: Next year, the Warrensville-Van Aken station will undergo a major overhaul.
RTA will install new relocated train tracks to better integrate the Rapid and busway, new shelters to protect users from the elements, and a new waiting area with a comfort station with restrooms.
“This is unique for RTA,” says City Planning Director Joyce Braverman. “CEI will upgrade electrical service and we will add lighting and improved walkways, so as you approach the busway, it looks polished and of the same quality as the rest of Shaker.”
The City also wants the Rapid station to be better integrated into the District. To that end, the City has been allocated $1.5 million from the NOACA Transportation Alternative Program for the construction of improvements in 2023. The improvements will build on the already substantial public and private investments in the District.
“The improvements will create a sense of arrival at the Rapid station and blend it into the District,” explains Braverman. “Right now, the station is an outlier and doesn’t draw your eye.”
The most striking improvement will be a new public plaza across from the busway, replacing part of the lower area of the Walgreens parking lot. This area will also serve as an additional multi-use space for farmers’ markets and other events. Other improvements designed to enhance the pedestrian experience include landscaping, fencing/screening, green infrastructure, and public art.
The improvements will upgrade the environment for current RTA users, encourage new users to use public transit, and add an amenity for those who live and work in and around the District. They also support the plans for Phase 2 of the District, which include new residential apartments on the Farnsleigh Road parking lot.
“That will increase ridership,” says Braverman. “We want that kind of dense development.”
“Having the bus and the Rapid really does create a sustainable, transit-oriented District and community,” Braverman says. “We are fortunate to have two Rapid transit lines and bus lines. This is an advantage to our community and we need to play off that.”