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? of the Day: What is the future of the Cleveland Playhouse?
Submitted by Norm Roulet on Mon, 05/15/2006 - 07:59.
I commented, in a posting about an event at the Cleveland Playhouse, "I hate going to anything at the Cleveland Playhouse/MOCA complex - my last choice of venue for anything in NEO - which makes me sad, since I like good theater and they have the only significant Philip Johnson building in town".
I don't want to be critical, without explanation and enabling constructive feedback. But, bottom line, the area around the Cleveland Clinic is highly disturbing to me - the clinic has a huge population and massive facilities that are not designed to flow and integrate well with the community - it is an island, with its own police force, bridges, and fortresses enclosing a self-sufficient world, separate from its Cleveland neighborhoods by a moat of dozens of blocks of underutilized property, which includes the Cleveland Playhouse... acres of land and 300,000 sq ft of buildings in the moat... just like HealthSpace, just acquired by the Clinic. The primary functional value of the moat is to benefit the Clinic, in security, parking and other low-value services to Clinic workers and visitors.
Imagine if in its years of developing its hospital the Clinic had encouraged livable neighborhood development all around its facilities - a community for its doctors, residents, staff and the public to live, shop, dine and be entertained - imagine the cash flow in such a community. Thus, Mid-Town would be booming today... it could have been the center of the Cleveland arts and theater scene, anchored by a Cleveland Playhouse Arts neighborhood... there has always been plenty of land nearby in need if smart development, and Karamu made such great outcomes happen in their neighborhood, just a few blocks but many demographics away.
Instead, the Clinic has benefited from blight in the area, which drives down real estate costs, adding cost benefits for expansion of core facilities, at the loss of livable neighborhoods - thus, the Playhouse is in Clinicland, and that is not a healthy place for anyone but Clinic stakeholders and its patients.
What to do? I'd suggest move the Playhouse and let the Clinic have more land. There are significant new and expanding entertainment district developments in downtown Cleveland that would benefit from location of the Cleveland Playhouse nearby or within, like Playhouse Square (leveraging IdeaStream and the area theaters), E4th Street (how about in the May Company Building), even the Gateway District, Warehouse District, around the Galleria or Tower Press, or the Flats... in a livable part of town.
Or combine facilities with Karamu, or meld into several University Circle institutions... MoCA, The Cleveland Museum of Art, Case, Cleveland Institute of Music and Cleveland Institute of Art are all expanding and could accommodate part or all of Playhouse initiative. The Foundations just funded the merger of Cleveland Opera and Lyric Opera in recognition our arts organizations and facilities need to consolidate, and it is safe to say this need applies to theater as well as Opera (and ballet, which we've lost completely, for the time being).
Mid-Town is pushing to become a bio/nano/high tech and medical industries and services part of town - an innovation zone - and that is taking off and a good fit with CAMP, BioEnterprise, Clinic, Case/UH and other private and public development initiative in the area. They all need to work together in a master plan for the entire midtown community - which includes much of the Euclid Corridor - hopefully in recognition they are all part of many neighborhoods.
For more inside insight on the state of the Cleveland Playhouse, take a look at the notes from a 2005 "Tuesday@REI" with the Director of the Cleveland Playhouse, held at the former Center for Regional Economic Issues (REI) at Case, March 15, 2005, posted here and as a comment below for convenience...
What are your thoughts on all this? Any suggestions?