It Had to be Done
One of the most important developments at Lee in the last 50 years was the closing of Church Street between 15th and 11th. By the mid-1980s, Lee had stopped the enrollment decline and appeared to be shaking off a malaise that had gripped the campus for a number of years.
Optimism was back in the air, but the school had a major problem.
Running right down the middle of campus was a busy road connecting Highway 60 to downtown. One side of the street was lined with Lee dormitories, the cafeteria, and an old heavily-used auditorium. On the other side were several academic buildings, forcing students to dodge traffic just to attend class.
To complicate the matter, Church Street was heavily used by Clevelanders and served as an important traffic artery for many local businesses. Conventional wisdom in town was that Lee shouldn’t try to get the road closed. By 1987, with the mounting pressures of a growing student body, it became clear that closing Church Street had to happen.
A long and tense community campaign finally resulted in a narrow 4-3 vote by the City Council to close the section of Church Street running through the Lee campus. A local developer, Jim Sharp, put his personal business aside to dedicate a year to reshaping the interior of the Lee campus. The final result was our beautiful Sharp Pedestrian Mall.
Today, the Pedestrian Mall is one of the most heavily-trafficked and important locations on campus. The thousands of students who have walked the Mall over the last 30 years could never guess beneath their feet is a project that almost didn’t happen.