New shopping mall at Muni Lot may impact Cleveland Browns tailgaters

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 29: Cleveland Browns fans celebrate after the Browns defeated the Baltimore Ravens 40-25 at M&T Bank Stadium on September 29, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 29: Cleveland Browns fans celebrate after the Browns defeated the Baltimore Ravens 40-25 at M&T Bank Stadium on September 29, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

A new shopping mall is planned for the Muni Lot near FirstEnergy Field, home of the Cleveland Browns. It may impede tailgating and reduce available parking.

The latest buzz is that there is a plan for an outlet shopping mall located in the eastern portion of what is now the Cleveland Lakefront Municipal Parking Lot, which is currently a temporary home ten days a year for tailgating fans of the Cleveland Browns.

Horizon Group Properties Inc. proposes to build the Outlet Shoppes at Cleveland with a target date of 2022. 19 News reports that there could be 60 national outlet retailers with some 90,000 square feet targeted at restaurants and entertainment. It sounds breathtaking in its scope and ambition and would mean a lot to the city if it can really be accomplished and done right.

While most of us are wildly supportive of the basic idea of creating a retail center in downtown Cleveland, if this is done with the normal Cleveland procedure of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing, it could be a mess. It behooves the City of Cleveland to make sure that the Outlet Shoppes goes forward in such a way that it positively affects the Browns and their fans as well as their neighbors such as the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Great Lakes Science Museum.

Reports from, 19 News and others describe a 320,000 square foot facility, with 1,461 parking spots, or some 839 fewer parking spots than currently available. These parking spots are usually not used, but what is at stake is that the Muni Lot is jammed with tailgaters ten times a year when the Browns play there. The Browns may not have the greatest record, but they lead the NFL in tailgating, for sure.

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Veteran tailgater Dennis Dice of Xenia, who is a regular denizen of the Muni Lot along with his brother Frank and their respective families, offered his thoughts:

"“It’s going to be a logistic issue. I’m sure those who love the Muni Lot will find a way to tailgate, but it just won’t be the same. The fun and shenanigans and history of Muni is like none other. I just hope the other lots are ready to be taken over by the best tailgaters in the Land, namely the Muni Lot Backers and all the friends and family who have been tailgating in that lot for many years.”"

So, between the City of Cleveland and Horizon Group Properties Inc., is there a plan for the Browns to replace 839 parking spots? And is the mall going to be closed on Sundays to allow fans to use the remaining 1,461 parking spots? What if the Browns, God forbid, are invited to play on Monday night football or Thursday night football, or a Saturday playoff game? In that case, if the Mall is in full operation at the same time as the Browns game, then essentially all of the old Muni Lot capacity will have been lost.

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A parking garage would potentially solve those problems, though that would be expensive, and tend to negate the attraction of the Muni Lot as a source of discounted available parking. Perhaps that is already in the plan, though if so, this fan could find no evidence of it.

Usually, it doesn’t make sense to remove parking capacity while adding retail capacity.  Anyway, is 1,461 parking spots enough? If you believe the American Planning Association, parking capacity ranges from 3 to 13 cars per 1,000 square feet of retail space (average about 8 cars per 1000 square feet of retail space).

The building will occupy 320,000 square feet according to the current plan. Perhaps not all of that will be occupied by retail (say, half), but it will have at least two levels, so there might really be every bit of 320,000 square feet of retail space. If we assume 8 cars per 1,000 square feet, as many as 4,800 parking spaces may be needed to support a successful mall, based on guidelines provided by

Anyway, if the project succeeds brilliantly, it will synergize growth and activity downtown, and bring people downtown while at the same time they are removing parking capacity. Please, someone, tell me that that is not actually the plan and that indeed they plan to add parking capacity rather than subtract from it.

However, the limited information released to the public domain to date suggests that the plan is indeed to remove parking capacity and tailgating capacity while bringing many more people downtown. That’s going to be messier than planners might think.

Speaking of bringing people downtown, another question is whether the planners have thought about getting the Rapid Transit or another shuttle to take people from the Rapid directly to the new Mall, i.e., will it be possible to walk from South Harbor Station to the Outlet Shoppes without having to go outside? Hence, people may want to park at the Outlet Shoppes, and then travel on the Rapid to get to Synergy Field.

Indeed, the Rapid will take you to Tower City Center now while keeping you undercover the entire time. So presumably the Outlet Shoppes will be designed to be equally convenient for retail customers and fans.

Will the Outlet Shoppes will also contain souvenir stores for the Browns, Indians, Cavs and other local sports teams? That seems like an opportunity that should not be missed.

If the logistical issues can be worked out — and here’s hoping that they already have been — then the new shopping mall could be a great asset for the city and for their neighbors including the Browns.

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However, to make us feel better, the Cleveland Browns front office and/or ownership should explain what the impact will be upon the Muni Lot and its tailgating community. This fan hopes to hear very soon how this will all work out.