Research on the run: How a Cleveland city planner is mapping his city

Phil Kidd moved to Cleveland two years ago to work as a city planner. In the midst of the pandemic, he decided to start an ambitious project to better understand his adopted city. Kidd has started a project to run all 3,000 street miles in Cleveland, and he researches, and writes about each run on his blog, "Every Street Cleveland." Special Correspondent Karla Murthy reports from Cleveland.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Tomorrow, about 20,000 runners will compete in the 125th Boston Marathon. It's the first time that the race is being run since April of 2019. But while the Boston Marathon was on pause during the pandemic, running alone remained a crucial outlet for millions of americans when very little else seemed safe.

    In Cleveland, one resident is turning his pandemic running hobby into an ambitious project to get a better understanding of his adopted city.

    NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Karla Murthy caught up with him to learn more about "Every Street Cleveland."

  • Karla Murthy:

    Phil Kidd is on one of his runs, about 6 miles long, on average, and at a pace that would leave many weekend warriors in the dust. But the 42-year old isn't training for a race, he's systematically running every street in Cleveland, about 3,000 miles or so, as part of a project to document and better understand this rust belt city.

  • Phil Kidd:

    Cleveland is a city that was built for a million people, but only about three hundred and seventy two thousand people live here now, and there's been a lot of loss over time. There's been a lot of demolition. There's been a lot of change. But running these streets, you can still see a lot of the original infrastructure and really the history of the city.

  • Karla Murthy:

    For the last year and a half, Kidd has been posting his runs, along with photos and historical context on his blog, "Every Street Cleveland." It's a personal project, but one that he says informs his work as a city planner with a local nonprofit. .

  • Phil Kidd:

    It gives you such a deeper context to the history of how and why certain parts of the neighborhood developed the way they did, what immigrant groups came in initially and then after and after. You can see that reflected in everything from architecture style to names of businesses that change to street names. When you're thinking about doing the type of work that I do, which oftentimes has to do with redevelopment, things that could impact longtime residents that have lived here, having that deep level of understanding and that context helps inform all these decisions that you make. So its been really, really important.

  • Karla Murthy:

    Kidd extensively researches and plans each route in advance to make sure he doesn't miss a street or known landmark. And he tracks himself using GPS on his phone, creating a Pacman-like record of where he's run,

  • Phil Kidd:

    It's just a constant kind of balance between keeping my eye on my GPS, then stopping, photo documenting, turning this back on, you know, I still got the music playing and not get hit by a car, so…

  • Karla Murthy:

    It's a lot!

  • Phil Kidd:

    It's a lot

  • Karla Murthy:

    That's a lot to juggle.

  • Phil Kidd:

    It's a lot going on, yeah.

  • Karla Murthy:

    We followed him on a run in his west Cleveland neighborhood and first stop was an old industrial building at the end of a dead end street.

  • Phil Kidd:

    This is the old Westinghouse building, which was one of the two major industrial businesses that helped form this neighborhood.

  • Karla Murthy:

    Westinghouse used to manufacture industrial lighting here, and employed more than 500 people. In recent years a developer has proposed turning this building into a residential development. Kidd says this historical building is just one example of the kind of thing he likes to highlight on his blog.

  • Phil Kidd:

    A lot of people are going to drive on the Shoreway right down here and they see this, this huge towering facade and they see Westinghouse on top, and the logos there. But they're not going to see this. They're not even really see the rest of that facade unless they're coming up in this neighborhood. And this is a dead end street. So what reason would someone have to really even come down here? That's the reason why I do the blog and why I run every street, is I want to tell those stories and expose those cool things. And there's lots of this on, in every neighborhood, all throughout Cleveland.

  • Karla Murthy:

    Telling those stories, means capturing what he sees.

  • Phil Kidd:

    We can get a sense of this ornate metal artwork, but then also, you can kind of catch a glimpse of the new development at the end of the street. So it tells a story in some way.

  • Karla Murthy:

    After running past some newer residential developments, and a park which he notes the city will be redoing with community input in the next couple of years, Kidd ends up in another formerly industrial area: this one famous for manufacturing Energizer batteries.

  • Phil Kidd:

    A lot of those former industrial sites have been repurposed for new residential housing. So that's kind of been the trend here. But it still, you know, has kind of an industrial kind of feel to it. There's still an active rail line, so it's really kind of a mix of old and new.

  • Karla Murthy:

    Next stop is a pedestrian tunnel under the train line, with an intricate mosaic mural, designed by a local artist more than 15 years ago.

  • Phil Kidd:

    That's a map of the neighborhood and the streets we just ran through. So, yeah, really, really cool.

  • Karla Murthy:

    Documenting details in the mural, Kidd notes the significance of a nondescript travel agency building that was run by the family of a former council member.

  • Phil Kidd:

    His father was the one that prevented the highway from cutting right through this area and bisecting this neighborhood during the whole urban renewal process. And so it's kind of a cool little nod to them.

  • Karla Murthy:

    So far, Kidd has completed 55 runs and a total of 336 miles, which is only about 10 percent of Cleveland's streets. He says the length and depth of the project is part of the point: Each run exposes him, and his readers, to things he didn't see before.

  • Phil Kidd:

    To me, it's like seeing The Matrix, you know, you can kind of see the layers, the history, and I know what's on all the little back alleys. I know the story behind why this street is named after this person. I know how the city got the land for this park from a landfill development project that went awry. You know, all of that kind of information is really interesting, and I think when people are reading about that, they find it fascinating too.

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