Heart of downtown: South Euclid Food Truck Park returns for season two

After a successful inaugural season last summer, the South Euclid Food Truck Park will open for its second season in the heart of the South Euclid downtown district on Friday, June 7.

The city parking lot is transformed into an outdoor gathering place—strung with café lights, has picnic tables and lounge chairs, an elevated stage, tents, and plenty of space for food trucks.

Northeast Ohio’s first city-owned food truck park will be open this summer on Fridays and Saturdays, and a few Bingo Night Thursdays, through Saturday, Aug. 3.

South Euclid Food Truck ParkSouth Euclid Food Truck ParkThe City of South Euclid and One South Euclid Community Development Corporation (CDC) will celebrate the opening of the South Euclid Food Truck Park together on June 7 with One South Euclid’s annual summer kickoff party, Intersection, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. at 4477 Rushton Road, in the city parking lot just southeast of the Mayfield Road and South Green Road intersection.

The event will truly celebrate the start of summer, with the 80s band The Attraxxion on stage at 7 p.m., the Euclid Beach Rocket Car touring guests around the downtown district, and food trucks Off the Griddle, CLE Chicken, and Henry’s Creamery, on site—offering everything from gyros, veggie pitas, and tacos to chicken sandwiches, wraps, and tater tots, to artisanal ice cream, to vegetarian and vegan options.

On Saturday, June 8, the reggae rebel Shākē Ground Band will take the stage, with The Urban Wrap Co., Squash the Beef, and Henry’s Creamery feeding the crowd.

A good cause

South Euclid will handle adult beverage sales, with 90% of the proceeds going to a selected nonprofit at each event throughout the summer.

Daniel Subwick, South Euclid director of parks and recreation, says he got the idea from the former Platform Brewery, which used to designate days when a portion of its profits went to a designated charity.

“They had specific days where you come, get a drink, and you’d get a token that goes towards a nonprofit or an organization, so that a portion of the sales goes to help people doing good work here in Cleveland,” he explains of his inspiration. “Government and nonprofits are not designed to think strictly about profit—they're designed for public service. So we partnered with different nonprofits last year and over $8,000 was donated to local nonprofits. All we ask is for the nonprofits to do to have a presence at the event.”

South Euclid Food Truck ParkSouth Euclid Food Truck ParkHe says nonprofits supported last year included the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, the South Euclid-Lyndhurst Historical Society, and the South Euclid Humane Society. This year, organizations include Team Couture Youth Center, Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry, and Browns Barkers, among several other nonprofits.

Proceeds from the June 7 event will go to One South Euclid, and Brush PTSA will benefit on Saturday, June 8.

Tactical Urbanism

The South Euclid Food Truck Park is a successful effort by city officials to revitalize and enliven Downtown South Euclid at Mayfield and South Green Roads. The effort began in 2018 in the same parking lot when the City of South Euclid and One South Euclid designated the intersection as downtown, partnered with urban growth firm Yard & Co., and began looking at where they could create a buzz by repurposing forgotten and underutilized spaces and attracting more people to the district. The downtown district and the parking lot fit the bill.

“One of the things that Yard & Co. focuses on is demand and supply—basically creating a reason for people to be in the district, and then the supply follows, which is in the form of new businesses, new residents, new housing units, etcetera,” explains South Euclid planning and development director Michael Love, “We wanted to start with the demand side because that's the side that we can most easily control. The city controls parking lots in the district, but we don't actually control any properties with structures on them.”

To create demand the organizations began Intersection in the summer of 2019—five Friday evening events to create energy in the district and establish it as downtown.

“This was a way to bring the energy that Rock the Block brings once a year,” Love says, “and create that same energy throughout the summer and show Mayfield and Green as a destination district.”

The plan was working until the pandemic brought the momentum to a halt, Love says, and in 2021 the city and One South Euclid started slowly bringing back events like Intersection and a Browns tailgate watch party. “The success of 2021, followed by 2022, really showed us we needed to do something more to bring that demand to the district,” Love says.

South Euclid Food Truck ParkSouth Euclid Food Truck ParkHe says they had been focusing on creating demand, but by the end of 2022 they knew they had to focus on supply by creating something more permanent.

“[We decided to] bring a permanent amenity to the district that also complements everything else that’s in the district and create the region's first municipally owned food truck park.”

Subwick calls the transformation of a city parking lot with meters still in place an obvious and affordable way to make an impact.

“This is a great redevelopment project in the style of tactical urbanism—repurposing forgotten spaces or underutilized spaces,” he says, reflecting back on 2019 when the city first started using the lot for happy hours.

“This municipal parking lot was just used for parking and we saw we could coordinate with different agencies to bring activities,” he continues. “We had Cleveland Museum of Art’s Studio Go there. We would always just stick with the same formula: Music, food, and people. We think all these things, when they come together, make extraordinary experiences.”

South Euclid Truck Park opens its second season on Friday, June 7 at 5 p.m. at 4477 Rushton Road, 44121. The park operates Fridays and Saturdays from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. through Saturday, Aug. 3. The performance and food truck schedule is subject to change.

Karin Connelly Rice
Karin Connelly Rice

About the Author: Karin Connelly Rice

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.