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Cleveland’s Global Center for Health Innovation

GCHI Entrance from St. Clair Avenue
GCHI Entrance from St. Clair Avenue
Photos by Rick Zimmerman

What began in 2005 as the mere concept of a ‘medical mart’ — akin to the famous Chicago Merchandise Mart, just health-related — now stands encased in waves of tinted glass and textured concrete, overlooking a vast public lawn in the heart of downtown Cleveland, Ohio. Now properly known as The Global Center for Health Innovation (GCHI), this structure adds another jewel to the Forest City’s increasingly appealing urban appearance.

As it approaches its grand opening in October 2013, GCHI is also beginning to show some of its touted potential as a magnet for health-related initiatives. In addition to local charter tenants like The Cleveland Clinic, GE Healthcare and Philips Healthcare, GCHI can now add the national player HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) to its residents. HIMSS is slated to occupy the fourth (and top) floor of the new facility. With its focus on improving health through better information technology, HIMSS sits directly astride one of the stated goals of the Center.

GCHI has been brought to reality through the combined efforts of Cuyahoga County, the City of Cleveland, Merchandise Mart Properties Incorporated (MMPI), and legions of concerned citizens, local boosters and politicos. The project entailed a significant revamping of the City’s Mall C, converting what was once a level plaza (and roof of the below-grade Convention Center) into a gently rising public lawn that crests a full story above Lakeside Avenue (and still the roof of the totally revamped below-grade Convention Center). At least now the Cleveland Convention Center has eyes toward the lakefront, and its public entry spaces have some connection to, and illumination from, the city streets above.

LMN Architects of Seattle — assisted by landscape architects Gustafson Guthrie Nichol of the same city — designed GCHI with an aim toward the LEED Silver rating of sustainability. When seen from its streetside façades, the shoebox-y rectilinear mass of the building has a satisfying heft within the cityscape. And, with a massive glassed void presented toward the broad greensward of Mall C and historic Public Auditorium beyond, the facility already feels right at home, playing well with its neighbors.

The skin of GCHI evolved as an evocation of organic DNA, with varied slashes of glass dancing among a taut fabric of textured concrete. Within that skin, the structure is intended to house the varied activities of education, display, sales, research and development — all directed toward the advancement of medical care and health initiatives into the future. Cleveland’s global players of The Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals will certainly link to, and make use of, GCHI in ever-expanding ways in years to come. The City of Cleveland also expects use of the Convention Center for health-related conventions, conferences and symposia to increase as well.