Demolition of Columbia Building Not Justified

Given the current auto-oriented, anti-pedestrian design of a “Welcome Center” for the casino in downtown Cleveland—and considering the already many gaping holes of empty space and parking lots there—these, among other reasons do not justify the demolition of a part of the city’s historical fabric for the sake of parking.


While an important part of the project, parking should not solely determine the design of downtown—Especially, if this is a temporary casino location and if we’re trying to encourage more foot traffic at street level. And, if a temporary location, why permanently alter the already pedestrian oriented infrastructure downtown? The current street-scape not only encourages more walking and less dependency on oil, it also has the potential to bring much needed foot traffic at street level, and create the pedestrian connectivity of which casino supporters hope.

Seriously folks, the worst part of this design is a sky-pedestrian bridge that herds people like cattle going to slaughter, from their cars, to the bridge, to the casino? Are we TRYING to remove foot traffic from street level in an already desolate spot? Was this Gilbert and friends idea of “urban connectivity?” Is this designed for people who are too lazy to walk, or too afraid to walk outside and deal with a panhandler? (I just hope that when they lose money at the gambling tables, they’re not joining the panhandlers!)
If the latter is the case, then we assure panhandling will be one of the few scenes in this area of downtown when no one else is placed on the street level!

Tearing down perfectly good buildings is also NOT a show of environmental sustainability that Cleveland is trying to demonstrate in contrast to its opposite polluting past. Adaptive re-use of a building, however, IS a shoe of sustainability and opportunity for local designers to cleverly alter the block while at the same time preserving the history there. Cities who demonstrate such ideas bask in the glow of international praise and have people wanting to visit them from all over. Portland, Seattle, San Francisco to name a few cities. Maybe we have something to lean about that….as those places are no slack places!


The current design of the welcome center does everything to discourage connectivity at street level, promotion of more walking and foot traffic downtown!
Seeing the current welcome center design, the city is allowing developers to dictate the planning; with developers making the city adapt around their plans. This is OPPOSITE of how it is supposed to be, and a failure on the city/planning commission to realize that.

What planners are paid to do: PLAN with critical thinking…and set the table of quality planning for our city—and NOT allow the developer to do it. He will do whatever is quickest and cheapest with residents bearing externality costs in the future in one way or another. Such is a recipe that does not guarantee goodness or benefits to the majority in the city, and only for a few.

Again, another example of what I have said before: That allowing developers to dictate city planning is like letting loggers dictate forest management! Some politicians here are obviously in the pockets of a few developers, parking czars, and gaming promoting salesmen.

This lack of vision, that does not demand a welcome center design that would be sensitive to the city’s historical and pedestrian oriented fabric—And, to instead whore ourselves out to something inferior in the name of parking is utterly unreal! Such just demonstrates a low self esteem and that Cleveland will be anyone’s whore as long as you mention jobs and tax revenue.


Speaking of revenue… Hmmm.. Let’s see: There is also revenue in making the city appealing to live in for stakeholders that will move here and pay property tax and raise a family. Those who desire a walking friendly and safe city with vibrant downtown streets lined with pedestrians walking, doing business, shopping, and entertaining.

Maybe we should focuses more on that component of revitalization instead of building an economy around that which ultimately seeds dysfunction and could very well cost us in other ways in the long run via social dysfunction and all that may be attached to compulsive gambling! Afterall, was this not the mayor’s tag line in the election campaign to make Cleveland “A city of CHOICE?”

By “choice” I assumed he was talking about attracting new residents. Its time we pay attention to creating a place people want to live and raise a family, instead of just catering to fly by night visitors in the hope we’ll gain at the expense of their vices or habits. Demolishing the Columbia Building, instead of exploring creative ways in adaptive re-use of the building and integrating it in with the project is an act in utter haste and waste.


City officials promoting the project insist that there are no alternatives to demolishing the building. Really? I would like to see in detail all the alternatives they actually did review. I have noticed many urban enthusiasts on local city forum websites that have come up with plenty of possible alternative design ideas that could satisfy all.

Still I ask…Do city planners have answers when questioned about all the alternatives they sought to prevent demolition of the Columbia? I think there are none, as there was probably little expectation that people would actually stand up to the demolition and demand some answers. The design and request for demolition was probably assumed that this would be rammed through with ease and no one would take notice—therefore, they’re not prepared to answer!


The local news appears to jump aboard the “rush it through” bandwagon in their brief coverage of the issue placing on it a spin as though this is about “preservationists opposing progress”, probably hoping that those who oppose will be made to look like they’re against something good for Cleveland. But, if they had done their job instead of fluffing and dramatizing, they would learn that for the opponents the demolition it is not about blindly opposing “progress” it is all about opposing BLIND progress and a piss poor design, or should I say lack there-of?


It is only fair to the public that all possibilities are unveiled to creating this welcome center. Personally, I feel the existing infrastructure can be integrated into a design that would offer parking too, while preserving and renovating a block of Cleveland history. Do you think visitors and residents alike will be more proud of just another parking deck that will likely look crappy in only 10 years time, or possibly be obsolete, given the current building maintenance ethics of many downtown Cleveland property owners?—OR more proud of an iconic restored block of classic history integrated well with the new?….

More proud of an intimidating auto dead zone that obstructs pedestrian traffic, or one filled with street life such as shops, galleries, restaurants, etc? I feel the project can be done in such a way that will have long lasting appeal. Let’s not repeat the same logic and past mistakes that almost saw all the theaters on Playhouse Square demolished and have us looking down Ontario Street and wondering some day.. “What in the hell were they thinking?”


The Columbia needs to be spared. It has great potential to be integrated into a quality design, perhaps for residential with street level business space (which the current welcome center design lacks!)These are just some of the reasons I can offer for saving this structure. I am sure many of you can chime in and add more reasons. I heard it said that in the future, we will be judged not only by what we create but also by what we refuse to destroy! This makes sense to me! How about you?


Posted by Angry Man In The Basement at 3:34 PM No comments:

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When I learned of a local parking lot czar’s acquisition of nearly an entire block of buildings in downtown Cleveland near the site of the future casino, I developed immediate concerns that downtown Cleveland would be losing more of its density and interesting historic urban fabric. The reason?….to create more surface parking lots! Recent news regarding this issue seems to verify the concerns. The last thing downtown Cleveland needs is more surface parking lots. There are simply too many existing such spaces, or available spaces to justify another one.

Cleveland is a city that local boosters are working toward becoming more environmentally sustainable—and part of this effort includes creating a downtown environment that is walkable. “Walkable”, meaning that the layout of the city is built primarily around the needs of two walking legs; and not the needs of four wheels and consumption of oil.

Cleveland is also a city that wants to beacon itself to world tourism and wants to attract new residents. Those who travel the world looking for unique destinations to visit with individual personality, are not going to spend their vacation dollars to see clone zone America. By this, I mean the typical suburban sprawling sea-of-pavement parking lot scene that can be found around the fringe of any city in the country.
Why then would we want to tear down more our historic core which offers our own unique architectural heritage, and replace it with a scene that is cut out of the former? If Cleveland wants to attract world class visitors, then it needs to present a world class downtown. Parking lots does not offer the kind of world class I am talking about. Visit many thriving cities and you will not see, or rarely see, surface parking lots in the core of the city.

Instead, you will see an urban fabric that is dense and interwoven between the buildings, streets and people. There is interaction between the buildings and people who utilize them. On attracting new residents, the same logic as above applies. Here again, Cleveland needs to offer what is truly unique about it. Our historic downtown core IS what separates us from sprawl-burg America and offers hat uniqueness.

City boosters also claim to want to create a community with pedestrian oriented links. Parking lots do not link anything to pedestrians and do not encourage more foot traffic. In fact, they isolate by creating vast people less, lifeless, emptiness. They create remote dead zones in the city that are void of shops, galleries, residences, offices, restaurants and other such establishment that create a fully functional non-auto-dependent neighborhood. A neighborhood that is attractive to potential new residents and visitors alike.

There is a growing number of younger people who look for cities where you can live life car light. Ripping away our urban fabric and replacing it with surface parking lots is simply repeating all the bad mistakes of the late 50’s through mid 70’s, when such demolitions were at a peak. The idea of removing an entire city block of what is NOW a walkable infrastructure—for scenes that promote more oil dependence and driving—such as surface parking—is an abomination—and evidence of the mentality that has grown up on the suburban model only. That model is NOT how Cleveland was built from the start, or how world class cities around the world are built to date.

Historically, Cleveland was built as any urban environment should be built, and that is to serve the needs of pedestrians, and not solely the use of cars, as it became increasingly as people forgot how to walk! In the day and age of becoming more environmentally responsible, and less dependent on oil…and to avoid the high costs of oil in the future, parking lot scenes in the urban core are NOT the model we should be platting.

A decision to allow more surface parking would be a travesty, a disregard and slap in the face of the city’s architectural heritage—And effort to become a walkable, functioning downtown community of connections. Connections are established through density and the buildings—and by people who will utilize them.

More parking lots would appeal to only those who come, park, party, and leave—and will offer nothing to stakeholders in the community. Parking lot scenes will not be what will make Cleveland a great city in which to live or attract the talented minds we have seen trickle away from here for years and who locate in places that DO offer the non-auto-dependent urban scenes they seek.

We cannot allow old and archaic mentalities dictate this city’s future by bullying it around to build more parking lots. I appeal to all: Planners, activists, residents, preservationists, environmentalists, council people, Mayor, city planners, zoning board, etc, please realize that you must do all you can to cease this idea in the bud. The city core needs to be fully developed and not ruined by anti-urban interests. Establish a “NO DEMOLITION ZONE” and re-purpose these buildings, period.

Thank You!

Posted by Angry Man In The Basement at 7:31 AM No comments: