Star Neighborhood Development Plan For Gund Building and CIA Site

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Wed, 12/05/2007 - 11:50.

Cleveland Institute of Art Gund Back Door

As part of the Star Neighborhood Development planning for the Star Complex and surrounding one mile radius, I have been planning the redevelopment of the current Cleveland Institute of Art Gund Building and land, on East Boulevard in Cleveland, shown below (full size image here).

Cleveland Institute of Art and Cleveland Museum of Art

Let me be among the first to irritate many people and say the Cleveland Institute of Art Gund Building, at arguably the most important and valuable site in Ohio, should not be demolished, as is the informal but expressed plan today, but should be integrated into an innovative mixed use intergenerational development, that preserves and reuses the current CIA Gund building, for public good, in combination with a new landmark highrise residential building to tower above, where the CIA surface parking lot currently wastes valuable space with runoff. The residential tower should rise as high as is feasible, to take advantage of remarkable views in all directions, and should include as many units as is possible, to grow affordable residential density in a neighborhood lacking housing. It should be iconic, but sensible, as I believe is the case with the current expansion plans for CIA on Euclid Avenue.

I have spoken with enough people deeply involved in CIA planning to feel confident there are no firm proposals on the table for this site, so this is the first and I offer it for serious deliberation.

Cleveland Institute of Art and Cleveland Museum of Art

A published history of the CIA explains that, during the development and funding stage for the then just-planned CIA building on East Boulevard, back in the 1950s, CIA leadership presented the new building design to the people of Cleveland as "one of the great art bargains in the city's history" (full size image here). At that time, up until 1966, George Gund was chairman of the CIA board and provided much of its funding and business leadership. It is safe to say that the Gund Building is more than a tribute by name to George Gund, but is quite literally the building George Gund built. In determining what buildings are historically important, such associations with significant historical figures are very important. Further documentation of the connections between George Gund and the Gund building must be explored, as it is clear they run as deep as Cleveland's history.

Research is not required to determine the historical and cultural significance of the Gund Building's visionary funder, engineer and namesake, however, as the Gund name remains known and active in arts and culture in Northeast Ohio, through George's foundation and family. Overlooked, I believe, is that the modern success of CIA, as one of the world's leading art and design schools, reflects the vision of this man, 70 years ago, in planning this building, as I'm sure he saw more to those walls than a place to hang art. The new CIA building represented a significant expansion of the traditional art school, replacing a smaller building nearby, which came in the optimistic post-WWII period when America was booming and needed more graphic and product designers. I'm confident George Gund was aware of this need of his growing industrial town, leading him to invest in growing more design resources at home. I imagine George would approve of the current CIA slogan, "making art work", of the school's next phase of expansion, and of their choice of designs for the newly consolidated campus, on Euclid, which appears very frugal and lean.

Cleveland Institute of Art Gund Building

The Gund building (full size image here) is not attributed to a famous European architect, although the design is modern, innovative and "International". It was designed by the important Cleveland firm of Garfield, Harris, Robinson & Schafer, under project architect Edward A. Flynn. The general contractor was the George Rutherford Company, founded in 1896.

Garfield, Harris, Robinson & Schafer has the most remarkable roots of any architecture firm in the region's history, being founded in 1897 by President Garfield's son, Abram Garfield. Abram first partnered with Frank Meade, forming Meade & Garfield, premier residential architects. Garfield was a founder and first president of the Cleveland School of Architecture, served on the Group Plan Commission and the Cleveland Planning Commission (1928-42), as chairman in 1930-42, and he helped found, and was president of, the Regional Association of Cleveland, being the actual roots of regionalism for Northeast Ohio, going back 80 years. Adding to his prominence, as if all that weren't enough, Garfield married Sarah Grainger Williams, of Sherwin-Williams. As such, as a dominant planner and leader of Northeast Ohio, for the first half of the 20th Century, Garfield shared many boards and committees with George Gund, of Gund Building fame, and with George's father, George Gund Sr. Passing away on October 16, 1958, Garfield was still alive and active with his firm when it designed the Gund Building.

It is also worth noting the Gund Building was built to expand the CIA from a historically remarkable building, constructed in 1904 on Juniper and Magnolia Drive, designed for the school by important architects HUBBELL & BENES, who also designed the original Cleveland Museum of Art. This building is no longer there, and there is no longer an intersection at Juniper and Magnolia Drive, but rather a compound of unimpressive dormitory buildings for Case. As the first landmark CIA Building was demolished, it is timely to consider whether we have learned about preservation of important architecture, since.

The Battle of the Breuer could not be more timely or valuable for the future of Northeast Ohio, as lessons learned make us a more enlightened, empowered and intelligent community. We have learned about the importance of preserving modern architecture and landmarks significant to our cultural landscape and social fabric, regardless of the current aesthetic tastes of some people, especially as our world has entered an energy crisis that is escalating and without changed human behavior will end our existence, and reuse of existing buildings, versus demolition and replacement with new structures, conserves valuable embodied energy, and renovated buildings may be as energy efficient as new constructions, a higher percentage of the embodied energy of renovated buildings is related to labor, translated into jobs, and renovations tend to use a higher percentage of local labor than new construction. Such very real economic, cultural and environmental considerations that influence the decision to preserve or destroy the Breuer must be applied to all future building and infrastructure planning for Northeast Ohio, as we pursue a leadership position with advanced energy and as an intellectual center in the new economy.

Assuming the Gund will be preserved and reused, as part of this mixed-use "lifestyle" development, the appearance and ownership structure of the complex are certainly open to all options. The CIA Gund site is in a remarkable "Central Park"-like setting, offering a unique world-class intellectual, arts and culture lifestyle not bettered anywhere on Earth. The economic potential of development on this site is as high as anywhere in Midwest, America (full size image here).

Cleveland Institute of Art back lot

One development option is to sell to or partner with a "lifestyle center" developer, like Stark or Wolstein, who will do their Crocker-Legacy-type things - newest building fads, to current market tastes, presold to chain anchors, with maximum political and public subsidy, as easily and profitably as possible. I contend, the CIA Gund site has far more potential and deserves more enlightened development than that, which fits well with plans for the Star Neighborhood.

To find the optimal ownership model for protecting the Gund Building and the dynamics of the site, I suggest looking right around the corner, to Hessler Street, where a few of the truest residents of University Circle, and greatest historic preservationists, ever, formed a cooperative to purchase and protect housing on Hessler (and start the Food Co-op), having Hessler designated the region's first national historic landmark district, all in the interest of preventing Case Western Reserve University from demolishing this most important place. These "hippies" - actually, artists, musicians, workers... activists - have since maintained the only stable, livable neighborhood in University Circle, including launching the best grocery store in the region, and that is one of the most exceptional developments in the history of the region. Development of the Gund site should be as inspired and remarkable, so perhaps a cooperative model is appropriate.

Regardless of the model, my family is committed to purchase or invest in the first unit, so is a customer for this development.

This CIA site in University Circle is very different from the site of the other CIA school building in University Circle, on Euclid - "The Factory" - which is planned for renovation and expansion as the sole CIA campus, as part of the Triangle redevelopment that also includes plans for a new Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) and mixed use retail, commercial and residential developments. The Triangle intends to be a new "Arts and Culture Entertainment District", appealing to students and young professionals seeking a hip, artsy, shopping, dining, opening kind of lifestyle. That is not the Wade Oval vibe, found at the site of the CIA Gund, just a few blocks away.

I know this well, as I lived for a few years on Hessler Street, two blocks to the southeast, and my grandmother lived for a few years on Mistletoe, a few blocks to the northeast. We each had wonderful, walkable lives in University Circle, and there is no doubt this is the best location in Northeast Ohio (see full size here).

Cleveland Institute of Art Gund Building Site

As such, this is a very valuable site, which will be in very high demand. It is already assumed, by all, that the old Gund building will be demolished to make room for as large a new development as possible, for the site... even though I do not believe there are any real plans proposed by any developers, at least in public. As there are no concrete plans, there is time to consider the merits of including the current Gund building in future plans. We should explore this building's significance to the community, as an architectural and social landmark, and the environmental benefits of reuse and renovation, as we are doing with the Marcel Breuer Cleveland Trust Tower, downtown.

And I believe reuse is especially attractive in consideration of related residential and other developments in the area. That it is a college building, with an outstanding gallery space, theater, library, dining areas, gardens, elevator and unique common areas, suggests it would make a remarkable community center that would bring more public interaction into the neighborhood, and a better lifestyle to those living in surrounding developments. As more arts, culture and educational entities in University Circle struggle to make ends meet, and renovate or restore facilities, it will make sense for others to follow CIA's lead and redevelop their assets. I'd lke all of these to fit with the intergenerational Star Neighborhood model.

Consider reuse of land and facilities - parking lots alone - around the Cleveland Institute of Music and Music Settlement, Western Reserve Historical Society and Crawford Auto Museum, Natural History Museum, Botanical Gardens and Cleveland Museum of Art - not to mention Case - which sit on 100s of acres of land that is poorly utilized, including for scores of separate surface parking lots all over the oval. With a combination of transit oriented development, enhanced public transportation, car sharing and walk and bike way improvements, all surface parking lots and some wasted green spaces in University Circle could be transformed into housing and better public spaces that make for a remarkable livable neighborhood. In the process, all participating organizations will build stronger individual communities, now with supporters living in their back yards. The economic benefits of such partnering will be enormous.

An example of how we may innovate like this, in addition to with the CIA Gund Site, is in planning redevelopment of the Cleveland Natural History Museum, now in the fundraising stage. Imagine if the museum were part of a larger development, on the same site, reusing the current buildings but adding museum and mixed use space to other areas of the site, which is large and quite interesting. People really interested to support the museum may buy a condo above.

If this sounds outlandish, consider in the redevelopment of the Museum of Modern Art, in New York, New York, a residential tower was added to the site, offering financial benefits to MoMA. We can do the same here, on our most valuable land (full size image here).

Cleveland Institute of Art Gund Building Site

Expensive land and world-class design and construction could become very expensive, making these developments very expensive... especially if they must also help fund renovations of public spaces and buildings like at the CIA and Natural History Museum. And condos in this setting could easily sell at the very top of the real estate market. However, it is also possible to make these developments affordable.

I have made this suggestion to several people affiliated with CIA and most have agreed with me, that the Gund Building should be saved. Now, let's discuss this proposal for a cooperative way.... the REALNEO header of the day (full size here.



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Bad Dream

  Thank you Norm.  Every time I think I am waking up to a hopeful design future, I find that some one has proposed a nightmare.  I love the new red look of CIA's Gund Building.  I know that it shaped some BIG design minds in this city.  Please tell me that the proposal to destroy it, is just another bad dream.