I see London, I see... Paris.
"It's just a coincidence," Jeremy Paris, Executive Director of the Group Plan Commission, told Scene
by phone Thursday evening, in a conversation about his departure.
It was announced via press release Thursday afternoon that Paris would be ending his tenure on Friday, December 2 — today.
"This had been in the works since late summer. And I've been working with our partners and [Public Square CEO of Programming and Operations] Sanaa Julien trying to ensure continuity. Sanaa has a team in place and we'll be moving more toward programming and operations," Paris said.
The Group Plan Commission is the body formed by the city and county that works to "transform and connect the city’s signature public spaces." It was instrumental in the planning of the renovated Public Square and also works on the downtown Mall and the lakefront pedestrian bridge. Paris, a Shaker Heights native, arrived via Washington D.C. to serve as the GPC's first full-time Executive Director in 2014.
But the announcement that Paris would be ending his tenure arrived only one day after a heated city council hearing
regarding buses on Public Square and a growing public debate on that issue. Paris said he should've made clearer that one had nothing to do with the other.
"I don't want it to be perceived that way at all,
" Paris stressed. The decision had been "mutual and amicable," in the wording of the press release, and Paris added that the timing was ideal for both parties, now that construction of the Square was complete and the Holidays were around the corner.
"This was actually supposed to happen before Thanksgiving," he said.
He told Scene
he has no specific landing spot, but this was nonetheless an ideal time to move on. He's had conversations with several community leaders and is eager to reflect on ways to put his skills and experience to good use in the region.
On the current Public Square controversy, Paris would say only that "this was the Mayor's decision." The GPC was neutral, focused on creating a world-class public space. He said GPC wants to to work with the city to find next steps right away.
"We want to continue to be an active stakeholder," Paris said. "I would hate for [the bus controversy] to be an unnecessary coda to what has been a stunning success. We will chart a path forward together."
As for the Square's future, Sanaa Julien, who's technically on loan from the Cleveland Metroparks until March, will likely stay on in a long-term capacity. Paris confirmed that Julien had built and developed a team, and that "long-term or permanent options" were being explored for her employment.
Reflecting on his tenure, Paris said he couldn't have found a better job in Cleveland in his wildest dreams.
"Unbelievable leaders have been working with passion and energy to make Public Square a reality for years," he said. "I love that I could take part in this. I've got a young son, and being able to take him to Public Square, and to see him and other kids play on the Square for years to come is special.
"I think the goal now, with this crazy year behind us, is not to stop and pat ourselves on the back," he continued. "We've got to say what's next? And then we've got to figure out how to get there and keep the momentum going. I hope this is a platform for more growth and opportunity."