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A fresh look at Cleveland

A fresh look at Cleveland: Cleveland Convention Center at Lakeside Ave.
A fresh look at Cleveland: Cleveland Convention Center at Lakeside Ave.
Photos by Rick Zimmerman

Yes, it's time to take a fresh look at The Forest City, the Best Location in the Nation — Cleveland, Ohio — where the twisting, turning Cuyahoga River meets the southern shore of that Great Lake, Erie.

Opening in the summer of 2013, the newly redesigned and reconstructed Cleveland Convention Center emerges from beneath a sprawling urban lawn to raise its long glazed lobby to Lakeside Avenue. In the process, it extends it's long entry brow to form a story-high pedestrian promenade atop its grassed roof, one that commands a prime view north to Cleveland's lake shore. There one can spy, studding the lakefront, not only First Energy Stadium, the newly christened home of the Cleveland Browns National Football League team, but also the gently twirling blades of the wind energy turbine before the Great Lakes Science Center, and the crisp white geometric form of the prismatic Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Elsewhere along the stretch of shore dock the William S. Mather Museum ore ship, the U.S.S. Cod submarine museum and the Goodtime III lake cruise vessel. Voinovich Park provides a restive respite at the city's Inner Harbor, while Burke Lakefront Airport to the east offers executive, commuter and recreational air traffic options.

Punctuating the grassed roof of the Convention Center and the Huntington Park garage to its north are clusters of mirrored prisms housing exits and air shafts. These frame and fracture views, and provide punctuation to several raked terraces of seating provided for impromptu parties in the park. The long pedestrian way at the northernmost stretch nearest the lake returns the view and enjoyment of the waterfront to Cleveland's citizens.

The glassed lobby of the Convention Center offers fragmented reflected views of many of the older historic structures in the vicinity. For ringed about the vast urban lawn of the Convention Center's sloped roof are many of the downtown core's most notable structures. To the south and directly on axis with the lawn rises the substantial red-stone-clad mass of the former BP Headquarters building, which now houses the central offices of The Huntington Bank. That structure, which towers high above the eastern flank of Public Square, ranks third in height overall within the city's skyline.

First place in hight and dominance is occupied, of course, by the 57-story terraced pinnacle of Key Tower, home of Key Bank, which rises high above the northern face of Public Square. As part of the same development complex, the multi-story Marriott at Key Center hotel is housed within a companion structure at the corner of St. Clair Avenue and Ontario Street.

Ontario Street bisects Public Square north-south, and continues to its termination at Lakeside Avenue. There it encounters the central entrance façade of the historic Cuyahoga County Courthouse. That four-story Beaux-Arts edifice was one of a number of Classical Revival structures built as components of Cleveland's core plan of the early 20th Century. A pair of fine monumental sculptures by Daniel Chester French — of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton — frame the boldly colonnaded and pedimented entrance to this palace of justice.

Speaking of justice, The City of Cleveland — Cuyahoga County Justice Center occupies the western side of the last block of Ontario Street before Lakeside Avenue. The stoutly rectilinear mass of its Courts Tower rises high in the early morning sunshine.

Settling in beneath these towering entities, and opening outward toward this new urban lawn, is the recently completed boxy mass of the Global Center for Health Innovation. With a crinkly facing of wavering concrete panels and random 'waves' of glass panels, the Center embraces views of the lawn through its massive glazed curtain wall. Along Ontario Street, the Center presents a public plaza populated with lush sustainable landscaping.

The multi-block redevelopment embracing the new Cleveland Convention Center and the Global Center for Health Innovation is but one of many fresh new ideas that are enlivening The Forest City. Equally noteworthy are the continuing growth of both The Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals, substantial additional investments at Case Western Reserve University and the institutions of University Circle on the city's East Side, the addition of the Horseshoe Casino to the downtown scene, the dynamism of such neighborhoods as the Near West Side, Lakewood, Tremont and Ohio City, and the thriving entertainment scenes of East Fourth Street and the Warehouse District.

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