Front Page Dream Factory

Submitted by Roldo on Tue, 05/27/2008 - 08:43.

Anybody can dream dreams. They don’t deserve big headlines on the front page of our only daily newspaper.

So will the Plain Dealer please stop acting as the public relations outlet of downtown developer  dreams! I know that we all want to hear “good news” about our economic progress. However, “good news” that never seems to materialize is “bad news.”

I’m not sure how many versions we’ve now been entertain with  by Bob Stark’s Warehouse District development. Does he actually own more than a small plot of the land? Another version found its way to the front page of the Plain Dealer again a few days ago.

Luckily, it was only a short six inch one column headline on Page One with the headline: “Developer adjusts plans for downtown.”

However, inside we’re treated to three full columns of some 20 inches in depth and a fanciful list of new downtown restaurants we can expect to feast at soon. Do we even need any more downtown restaurants? Anyone can walk around and find empty spots that once housed a “downtown restaurant.”

Probably no one remembers the blazing headline, top of page one in the PD in December 1999: “Downtown hotel, condos planned.” Subhead: Larry Dolan leads $130 million venture.”

Yeah, where is it?

This was another Flats area dream, a headline away from reality.

Maybe Larry Dolan should have been paying more attention to his Cleveland Indians.

The Plain Dealer would do us a big favor if it waited until there was some reality to these BIG PLANS before they have us dancing in the street only to forget that what we danced about never happened.

Let's print news and leave the propaganda to the advertising people.

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an interesting reprise

I remember once, in Toastmasters, I won some sort of speech contest by merely taking the last year's headlines and reading them aloud, with feeling and facial expressions.


How would it look to run a chronology of PD headlines since they became cheerleaders for anybody who proclaimed himself or herself to be a developer? When was it they actually started doing this sort of promotion pro bono?


We passed through the Terminal Tower this Sunday on our way to the Rapid; Gloria picked out Ruth Ratner Miller (1925-1996) from among Herb and the REIT guys all decked out in '70s sartorial splendor and asked me to write down Ruth's prescription/proscription for real-estate development: "You start with people, not buildings."

File under F for fantasy

I was amused to see one of the prospective tenants as Forth and Towne, a Gap spinoff that they pulled the plug on way back in August of 2007. 


Developers building walls rather than planning community

The newest Jacob's design design for Public Square isn't a fantasy... it is a spoiler. What Jacobs clearly has done is hire an architect to build a wall blocking access, sunlight, value and views to anything Stark plans to build behind Jacobs, in the Warehouse District.

Whether this is out of spite (and there is a building in Cleveland Heights called Spite House becuase it was designed to block a neighbor's view) or to get a piece of Stark's action doesn't matter - the PD should have seen through this lame and offensive design for what it is... antisocial. And that is our development community - antisocial. And so they develop dysfunctional places. If Ratner and Miller and Jacobs and Stark and Wolstein and other developers had worked together with planners and competent government for the past 5 decades this would be a very different place. It is not too late, but we need planners and the media to be more progressive and forthright in performing their jobs....

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I like the Hines involvement

I like a couple of things about Jacobs and Hines latest--first of all, the involvement of Hines Realty gives me some hope of getting a good building that is properly managed. Nationally, I'd say they are the ones who most have it together, in many ways.


Second, I really appreciate the fact that the parking lot, that gaping hole in the streetscape of a downtown, is getting filled in. We've all gotten used to it, but it was truly an awful statement about the health and prosperity of the city.


This site makes a lot more sense to me than re-shifting the center of town, again, to the Flats development. The bus lines, the rapid lines, the automobile traffic, all converge at the square. Amenities are close. Putting an improvement back on this vacant land is the key to a huge puzzle, one that should have been obvious.


This big building will, in a zero-sum game mentality, take from other developments going on at the Breuer Tower and in the Flats. What needs to happen is to have somebody preach, and believe in, the gospel of infinite abundance, and to gather disciples. It all starts with saying things like, "Gee, I love this town," and inviting others in to benefit from our wealth and our value.


So far as the design is concerned, what else should it look like? It will mirror the mirrors over at 55 Public Square--perhaps we'll call it all The Big Fun House.

This should be a public square property

Considering there were probably exceptional, urban buildings where there is now a blighting parking lot, Cleveland is already a loser over this property and there will never be a sum gain - and the people who blighted this property should be taken to court and lose the property to the public, making it an extension of the Public Square. Then, the community should plan a good use for it. There is not a need for another lame "modern" office tower to serve the elite, but there is need for a smart new center for social activity downtown, that is not owned by Ratner or Miller, who lock out the public, or Jacobs, who in so many cases around the region has blighted and corrupted the public trust.

If an office building is to be built, I couldn't envision much worse.... perhaps something from Beechwood (oh yeah, that blight is largely Jacobs...).

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deal with the present

I'm getting tired of fantasy, from all quarters--people bemoaning the losses of the past, fearing the shabby design that might come about in the future, floating speculative drawings of projects to see which way the wind blows, setting up the morality play of the elite and the public.


Merely dealing with what everybody has to work with here should cut to the essence of the issue quickly: the public should not provide financing, the entity should pay its fair share of taxes, there should be no sweetheart deals, the property should be something compatible with the surroundings in terms of quality and appearance.


Extending public square merely extends the area that the city can't take care of properly. Over the past few days, we've noticed the trash building up more and more, left to the ministrations of the union help, and the temporary wires and the leaning poles have been around for a good while. The light bulbs don't match.


The "smart new center for social activity" sounds like something out of somebody else's playbook, and I'm fairly certain Hines won't be running it.

Norm is correct. There were

Norm is correct. There were workable buildings on that site.

Jacobs, of course, had them emptied and knocked down. He bore the cost.

If you'll remember, Jacobs got city approval for a tax abated building, similar to Key Center,  and a Hyatt Hotel, also tax abated, similar to the Marriott. There were also attempts to get UDAG money at no interest rate, similar to the Key and Marriott, which to this day do no pay property taxes.

I think it is probably obvious that these developers are trying to outdo each other and get buildings up because there is some market now since some older businesses want glossy new addresses.

Jacobs never built on the West Public Square site,though he cleared it, because the market wasn't there for our economy. The tax abatements obviously didn't make up the difference of lack of market.

Now it should be clear that none of these buildings now proposed - Jacobs, Wolstein, Stark - should get any public money and they should pay their FULL property taxes.

This should be a major public issue. However, the PD is too busy with crying about downtown clean-up crews from the city getting paid instead of the Alliance taking over those chores.

We need a political leader with some foresight to raise these issues. I don't see any other way for them to  be raised since there are no unbought organizations in Cleveland that are doing the public's work.



Do you think this is going to be the equivalent of Microsoft's vaporware? I do get tired of getting faked out, as does everybody else. I would imagine we also get tired of being teased and then bent over to make the much-heralded deal materialize.

improvising schema weighs in on the issue

Back when we were fighting to save the Breuer Tower, there was a great blog called Improvised Schema. At some point I went to find it, and it was gone - lost its domain name.


Now it's back in the present tense with its characteristic biting criticism interspersed with lyricism.


Who is Improvising Schema? Probably some CAD Monkey (monkeys?) in some large architectural firm like WRL, Fleischman, maybe even CUDC or Dick Bowen's office. Who knows. What we do know is that s/he/they have their finger(s) on the pulse of the architectural reality of the city. I cruise to Cleveland Design City daily to see what's up with the young designers.


Here's their post on the new glass box for the west side of the square: why are we being stuck with another impersonal glass box in Cleveland?


I agree, Tim, that something needed to fill the void of what Jacobs did not build there when Ameritrust was bought by Society (now Key Bank). Would the original Kohn Pederesen Fox design have been suitable? (I have an image somewhere but cannot publish it - it's copyrighted - email me if you're curious).


Despite discussion of the "Mall site" as the best location for the MedMartConCenter, I prefer David Ellison and Mark Jackson's idea of how to complete the Burnham Mall - The Municipal Casino at Cleveland; Monte Carlo of Lake Erie; Vegas of the Great Lakes. Gamble this way, gamble that way - as long as Cleveland gets the money and the buildings are beautiful, jobs are created, people are trained and working - cottage industries, baby, cottage industries - that's the future - let's get this intergenerational learning before our ancestors are gone.

I'm curious

hit me

traditional crafts and Beaux Art style Municipal Casino


The details are here. I mentioned it and linked to it a few months back here at realneo. Be sure to scroll down to read the text.


My point is similar to this text which you will find in the proposal, " IV. Constructed using only locally owned contracting companies and employing only qualified local tradespeople, so as to give our region's talented and experienced builders and trade unions a challenge to which they may rise and surpass their own expectations and ours; and so that the value of the funding mechanism goes directly to benefit the residents and businesses of the region through wages, taxation and the resulting expenditures in our locality."


A while back, Mary Beth Matthews suggested that we figure out how to do traditional arts centers where grandmothers and grandfathers can teach the old world crafts like lace making, crochet, culinary arts, etc. This is a worthwhile intergenerational investment. The trades are what we need in addition to innovation along fiberoptic cables - they are part of Cleveland's authenticity. When Anthony Bourdain comes to Cleveland and drools over a little sausage shop on the west side, that's part of the realneo - one we can preserve, support and bolster. I bet they pay taxes, too.


Ya ever been to a Céilidh in Cleveland or another ethnic folkdancing get together in Cleveland? Ever savor a pierogi? Have you had the pignolis from Corbos in Little Italy or Mitchell's chocolates? These are traditions that make Cleveland unique - like local geography, a distinctive built environment, local food and old world tradition from many immigrant communities. So why not teach the construction trades like stonemasonry and wood carving and ironworking so they are not forgotten?


What is it that kids are learning in schools about their region? Are they growing up in TVland where they are taught to crave the homogenized marketed crap like WalMart and The Gap, Nike, ipod or are they getting a balance of local history and learning the lessons of Cleveland, its history, its geography, its tradition. Do they know where the Cuyahoga begins? Do they know Cleveland had some amazingly talented stonemasons, woodcarvers, inventors? Do they learn about the legacies we share that are unique in the world? Maybe not. As my brother used to say, "Everything you did up to this moment got you to where you are now." It’s been an interesting journey for Cleveland so far.

Arts and Crafts shouldn't just be for casinos

I'd like to see a focus here on integrating regional development with a new arts and crafts movement that provides a guaranteed revenue flow to craftspeople creating materials for the building trades. Examples would include art-tile and glass blocks, light fixtures, stone carvings, drawer pulls and other hardware, fabrics and wall-coverings, etc. There should only be public funding and tax benefits for local building and development projects if their budget includes some %age for public art, and some %age for local craft-build materials. With that type of incentive, we would see arts and crafts cooperatives thrive and multiply, and artists setting up productive studios and home/shops in many of the old working class neighborhoods where there is cheap space and room for industry, while still in the heart of it all.

And imagine if all those lame NEO suburban and Xurban developers over the last 70 years had done something smart like that... NEO suburbs wouldn't look like lego and we'd have a thriving, cool arts economy.

Too late to develop? Hell no. For over 125 years CIA has produced master craftspeople who are still in the region, and CIA produces more every year, in addition to a strong arts and craft core here... what is missing is an intelligent marketplace here. Arts and Crafts will be a major focus of the Star Village development.

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intelligent marketplace here

What does this look like Norm? Does it in any way shape or form resemble the District of Design concept? Of all the plans for returning the region's vitality, I prefer the District of Design and the Urban Tree Farm to the Port move, Flats Eastbank, Med Con. How about you? What do you propose as an intelligent marketplace here?

Intelligent Market with Intelligent Leaders

I like Dan Cuffaro and his pursuit of design excellence in and from the region, centered at CIA and the "District of Design" - but, I don't think of Milan as 20 square blocks nor do I think of good design coming from a district of Milan. I don't expect to buy any "designs" in a district. I design but am not in the district, nor would I want to be there. Everything is designed so if I buy a tub of Sherwin Williams paint in Timbuktu I am buying a Cleveland N&S design, but it wasn't from the district. And, to me, the center of design in Cleveland is CIA, which doesn't appear to be in the district. So to me the "District of Design" branding diminishes the value of design as a regional distinction.

What an arts and crafts district would look like is Dana Paterson's neon studio, with a neon vo-tech program and coop, near a Glass Bubble like coop, focused on producing multiples for use in construction (e.g. like the cast glass blocks Brent Marshall produces... in the District of Design, I believe), near a ceramics coop, specializing in tile, near lots of private arts and craft studios, many in residences and commercial buildings, near markets where crafts are sold and commissions are made, and there would be government leaders coming in to arrange for crafts in public works, and developers arranging for crafts in their facades. All it requires is lots of crafts people and cheap real estate, which we have, and innovative markets and leaders, which we do not have. So we have many micro-design centers of excellence, all over NEO, but no local market for their services to speak of... and it won't be found in the District of Design. I think it should be near the source - CIA - in the ultra-cheap, human scale, already walkable and livable neighborhoods of East Cleveland, Glenville and University. So, for example, we could take all the landbank properties in those human neighborhoods and offer them for free to artists and craft people participating in the NEO Arts and Crafts Movement. They will have the skill and initiative to fix them up, and can make a living therethrough... and to some extent they can fund each other by working as a crafts community and exchanging materials and services within the community... sort of like the Amish. And how rich are the Amish? Very rich.... and some of the best arts, crafts and design people in the world, not in the district.
So an intelligent arts and crafts marketplace would look Amish. That may sound strange, until you consider....

Amish QuiltAmish Quilt
Amish Quilts... 1930s

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fixing up homes in the hood - injecting some artists

giffels living room

It is true that artists have chutzpah and something beyond creativity that our leaders could learn from - discipline and tenacity. Here's a story - well two actually of a house fixed up by a writer and his wife in Akron. Giffels renovation in

Love, hard work transform home Beacon Journal's David Giffels shares family's journey of restoring Akron mansion in his new book (Giffels' story is also featured in this month's Northen Ohio Live, but not online). He'll be on WCPN 90.3 Sound of Ideas next week. He has written a book about it: All the Way Home: Building a Family in a Falling-Down House

Sound familiar, Norm and Evelyn? Sounds familiar to me. Our house was a steal when we bought it, but with a steal came the caved in ceilings, cracked foundation, chimney that housed critters and had not been swept in forever, etc. ad nauseum. How many doors and drawers visited the outside to be refinished? How many summers did we move into another room so floors could be refinished? Still, I love my house. Even if it is decorated in what my sister calls "early salvation army" and I add "early Cleveland Heights treelawn". My house is down the street from another artist writer's house - Michael Ruhlman (who will FINALLY win a Cleveland Arts Prize this year!). He too loved his house so much he wrote about it like a sort of Howard's End addition to the family.

He says, "It's also an answer to all the people who ask me why I still live in Cleveland. I never doubted the urge but I'd never explored the reason or understood the importance of living out my adult life in the place where I spent my childhood and adolescence, an increasing rarity in our vagabond culture. House: A Memoir is a love song to home, to the controversial notion of the suburb in America, to living where you grew up, to the history of this country and to the most contentious story of all, how we're using place in America."


I love the idea you presented and I hope that someone from the city is reading this exchange. I know that Bill and Harriet Gould worked long and hard to get live work space zoned in the city. I know that there are numerous homes that can be saved from demolition in the neighborhoods you mention. Sometimes in a moment of reverie, I imagine some old CMHA properties lovingly restored as artist's livework space. I love Lakeview Terrace for example and Woodhill Homes. "Lakeview, Outhwaite Homes and Woodhill Homes quickly followed the construction of Olde Cedar; all four of those properties are eligible for designation on the National Historic Register." Full of federal assistance to artists, these properties already have the art built in - it just needs to be lovingly restored.


There are others - James and Jill Levin were early pioneers in Ohio City - I remember being on their roof at many parties in the 80s. David Ellison has purchased 5 buildings in Ohio City so that he can walk to work. Cleveland could become a case study in how to gentrify a dying beast. But you're right about something else, too. All these folks should be paid big bucks to teach, talk, demo their considerable skills to our leaders. People who think the arts don't take tenacity and discipline and perseverance and knowing how to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear should visit a studio sometime or attend a rehearsal. They could look at something as simple (but discipline requiring as Liza Lou's Bead Kitchen and know that it takes discipline.


I am not sure that the district is any worse of an idea than scattering these things in a geography that is slightly less scattered than it already is. I don't know if Dana Patterson should move to Glenville for example, but there could be clusters and the district is a good place to begin a cluster if the spaces are available for folks who are not already settled where they are. We do have a district of antiques (along Lorain Avenue) which is not to say that that is the only place to find them because it is not, but it is a good cluster. Park and walk. Bike lanes and pocket parks, gardens and orchards, Lily Yeh and Grace Lee Boggs. Sounds like a sort of artist, crafts person version of mycoremedation to me. So unlike the  PD, here we can dream small (and big at the same time).  In the arts and crafts realneo, we can start where we are.