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Public Square Kicks Off Its First Holiday Season With Ice Skating and WinterFest

The $50 million renovation of Public Square includes and iceskating rink.

Public Square in Cleveland will be the place for free ice skating this coming weekend, the first large-scale winter event on the renovated plaza. WKSU’s Kabir Bhatia reports on whether the $50 million makeover has been paying off.

The opening of the ice-skating rink this coming Saturday on Public Square is part of Winterfest, a day-long event that will include the lighting of the square’s Christmas tree. It’s one of many events to take place in the space which was renovated in time for the Republican National Convention in July.

Sanaa Julien is with the Group Plan Commission – which runs Public Square – and says the key to increasing foot traffic has been programming.

“We created a lot of family activities on the weekend including -- around Air Show weekend -- we had ‘build your own airplane’ for kids. We decorated pumpkins with kids. We had Big City Boo down here, which was an extension of the city’s traditional Halloween activities that they have at the community centers.”

Julien adds that the redesign square has boosted attendance for the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument on the southeast corner of the square, and boosted awareness of the museum inside the monument.

Joe Marinucci is CEO of the Downtown Cleveland Alliance – which runs WinterFest – and says the increased foot traffic has led to interest in redeveloping the whole downtown neighborhood.

“Westin and Citimark Capital, for example, [are] looking to do a four-phase, mixed use development that would bring close to 1,200 residential units over a multi-year period to that location. We are seeing some interest in ground-up construction [and] new construction. We’re also seeing reinvestment in some of the existing buildings surrounding the square, and I think the best example of that would be the old BP Building.”

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.