Public Square Building Instant Capacity With Metroparks' "Loaned Executive"

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Coming your way June 1.
  • Coming your way June 1.
Cleveland's Group Plan Commission has announced the appointment of marketing executive Sanaa Julien as the CEO of Programming and Operations at Public Square.

Julien, the Chief Marketing Officer at the Cleveland Metroparks, will be on loan to the Group Plan Commission (GPC, not to be confused with the GCP) for a one-year stint during which she'll oversee the branding and events for the new $50 million flagship downtown space.

Public Square is slated to officially open June 1.

In an interview with Scene, the GPC's executive director, Jeremy Paris, said that the position will be a permanent one, but that Julien (a veteran marketer whom the Metroparks offered up in the spirit of collaboration) will bring "instant capacity" to a public space that needs to hit the ground running.

Julien will be tasked with building a small staff — a manager of programs and events, a manager of operations, a coordinator of digital marketing, possibly one other position — and will also tackle finding her permanent replacement. (Those positions, in another convolved partnership, will be employees of the Downtown Cleveland Alliance, but will be paid from the GPC's funding bucket.) 

Meantime, Julien will coordinate sponsorships — "a concert series brought to you by so-and-so," Paris explained — and, in Julien's own words, "really define what [Public Square] looks like, what it feels like and what the community takes away from it when they visit."  

The Group Plan Commission will pay Julien's salary out of a $3.8-million reservoir they've managed to assemble for ongoing maintenance and operations costs. Part of that money came from foundations that chipped in for construction and stipulated that portions of their donations be used for down-the-road upkeep. Paris said that they're still trying to raise about $3 million more.  

Construction costs, at least, have been accounted for. After Mayor Jackson appealed to the state for dollars to put Public Square over the finish line, the state sort of heeded the call. In the Capital budget bill passed in January, Ohio reallocated $3.5 million originally slated for the lakefront pedestrian bridge. That reallocation gave Public Square the last juice it needed; it's also why the GCP prioritized an $8.5 million ask for the pedestrian bridge in the capital-projects wish list it submitted to the state last month. 

When Scene spoke with the Greater Cleveland Partnership's Senior VP Marty McGann, he said that the lakefront pedestrian bridge was in fact the only project GCP felt was important enough to assign a specific dollar figure ($8.5 million, $3.5 million of which represented the Public Square "backfill").

"Out of deference to the legislature, who wanted to play more of a role," McGann said, "we said, but for this one project, we'll let you decide."  

As for Julien herself, Paris said he's optimistic, due to her passion for Public Square and her leadership credentials. 

"With essentially the light of the world right on Public Square for the RNC, we knew we had to get this right," Paris said. "We're going to be fully activated after that, and we're really excited about it." 

As noted above, Julien will now have a CEO title to her name — an on-paper promotion that struck Scene as odd, given the collaborative's already confusing organizational structure and the fact that Julien will report to Paris, the Executive Director of the Group Plan Commission. 

"I actually think it makes a lot of sense," Paris said. "Sanaa's team won't be autonomous, but our role is empowering them, making sure that they have the tools to really execute.

"The vision of this was always as a collaborative," he went on. [The Group Plan Commission's] role is to provide funding, oversight and make sure the vision is being met. LAND Studio is a key part of this Collaborative, to ensure the design and construction is carried through, as well as the public art and cultural art component. Downtown Cleveland Alliance, aside from the employment structure, works with how this integrates into the downtown footprint, and collaborates on marketing and communications. And then of course the Metroparks, in providing Sanaa, helps us get up and running."

MAINTENANCE
Maintenance at the Square — a question Scene has been asking internally for some time — will be, according to Paris, a collaboration between the City of Cleveland and "Sanaa's team." The city will handle some of it, and various landscapers with whom Julien contracts will maintain some of the more primo finishings — the permeable pavement, for instance, and the copses of ginkgo.

"I don't think that means Sanaa will be out there tending the garden personally," Paris said, "but she'll have oversight over the landscaping."

Paris said that the plan for the Square was always for it to be an "activated space," with not only events, but regular programs and activities. 

"And it's got to be maintained at the highest level," he said. "We've got to nail the fundamentals: It's got to be safe at all times, and it's got to be clean at all times." 

THE METROPARKS VACANCY
Julien's "loaned executive" status leaves the Metroparks without a permanent Chief Marketing Officer on the eve of its Centennial. Communications Director Rick Haase said that the Metroparks' Director of Marketing and Strategy, Kelly Manderfield, will become the "Interim Chief Marketing Officer" in Julien's absence.

"In that role, Kelly is responsible for all day-to-day activities of the Cleveland Metroparks Marketing Department," Haase wrote Scene in an email. That includes formulating the marketing plans for Centennial events.

Haase also said that Julien will remain officially in the employ of the Metroparks for her year on loan. Though the Group Plan Commission will pay her salary, the Metroparks will continue to pay her benefits. 

Metroparks' CEO Brian Zimmerman also chimed in: 

“As we approach the Cleveland Metroparks’ 100th anniversary in July 2017, we’re proud to help reshape Public Square – and the City of Cleveland – for the next 100 years,” he said in a press release. "Sanaa Julien’s 30-plus-years of expertise in programming, marketing, corporate branding and identity, and project management... make her the perfect choice to spearhead the Public Square project.”


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