Skip to main content

See also:

Tower City Center: Cleveland's Hidden Treasure

I went to Cleveland and hung out one weekend to catch an Indians night game at Progressive Field. Like many U.S. cities, Cleveland's downtown area has its trendy points of interest while other areas are vacant or deteriorated from a stunned or slowed economic growth.

Tower City Center is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, located in the downtown area of Cleveland. With numerous other interconnected buildings, it stretches across 4 square blocks.
Photo by Miguel A. Sanchez
Cleveland's Downtown Area
Photo by Miguel A. Sanchez

Tower City Center is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This mix use facility is located in the downtown area, in the middle of an inclined triangular parcel of land, in front of the Public Square. It includes a shopping mall, a casino, the main hub to Cleveland Transit System, and office space.

There are numerous other interconnected buildings that extend across 4 square blocks, a triangle in a square peg. No matter where you go, the peak of the 52 story Terminal Tower projects over the cityscape and serves as a reference point, just like the Washington Monument is to Washington D.C. or the Space Needle is to Seattle.

Construction of this complex goes as far back as 1926 when ground was broken for a huge train terminal. At the time, it was the second largest excavation project in the world, behind the Panama Canal. This Terminal Tower was also complete little after, about the same time. From its completion to 1964, It was considered the tallest building in North America, outside of New York City, the Empire State Building was completed in 1931 at 103 stories high.

In 1964, Prudential Tower in Boston was also completed and matched Terminal Tower at 52 stories. Sears Tower (currently known as Willis Tower) in Chicago would soon take hold of the record, in 1973, of the world's tallest building at 108 stories. Today, the record stands in Dubai with Burj Khalifa. That Building goes 163 stories high. Terminal Tower was once a part of that race to the sky.

In 1968, Cleveland Transit System completed the train line from Tower City Center to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, making it the first North American City to have direct public transit access from its airport to its downtown. Cleveland will safely keep that record. Today, it seems "behind the times" for a major city to not have that infrastructure.

Over the years, many changes have been made. Most notable are the additions that were made during the 1980's and 1990's, when the shopping mall and the towers built gave the rear section of the complex a new look that continued to fill the skyline.

Within walking distance of Tower City Center is the campus of Cleveland State University. There are also several venues nearby; The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, State Theatre (stage for Broadway type productions), Greater Cleveland Aquarium (an interactive marine exhibit), Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica (a 5,000 seat waterfront concert venue), Quicken Loans Arena (home of the Cleveland Cavaliers), First Energy Stadium (home of the Cleveland Browns), and Progressive Field (home of the Cleveland Indians). Its definitely a sports town.

The Public Square, in front of Terminal Tower, can also be a rough part of town. "The Plain Dealer" reported that early design stages for a $30M makeover of Public Square and revisions to Progressive Field have been approved by the city's Planning Commission. If it goes as planned, work is set to begin this Fall. So far, half the needed funds have been raised. As a society, we tend to wedge the affluent and the destitute together. Perhaps its the sign of a dwindling Middle Class. There are many explanations for this. But, solutions are limited. Nonetheless, Tower City Center can be the epicenter that, given the right conditions, could provide needed growth not only to the downtown area, but to Cleveland at large.