Ann Zoller, executive director of ParkWorks, has taken her nonprofit far beyond trees and flowers. She believes creating exciting public spaces is not just about carefree recreation — it’s a key to making Cleveland a place more people want to live. She wants to guide downtown’s landmark public spaces from the dull, gray present to a spring-like rebirth.
Zoller, more than anyone else, is responsible for this summer's rebuilding of Perk Plaza, site of a shocking 2009 murder, as a safer, more welcoming park. She’s also helping the Medical Mart developer redesign the century-old downtown malls. Even more ambitious, ParkWorks and the Downtown Cleveland Alliance want to radically remake Public Square into a destination as inspiring as the best urban parks in the country, possibly even by building a giant hill right over Superior Avenue and Ontario Street.
That’s why I profiled Zoller in “Urban Outfitter,” my feature in the June issue of Cleveland Magazine.
Zoller's political savvy helps her get things done. The former Mike White aide enjoys a solid partnership with the Jackson Administration (though that doesn't necessarily mean the mayor will fund a radically remade Public Square). And she's emerging as a key ally of influential younger politicians, such as Joe Cimperman and Chris Ronayne, who are trying to put their optimistic stamp on the city.
“For some people, a plan is the world,” says Cimperman. “They just love to plan. For Ann, the plan is just a means of getting something done.”
(To read my profile of Zoller, click here. You can link to it with this shortcut: tinyurl.com/CMZoller.)