Friday, January 23, 2009

The Right Choice

For once, BOTC agrees with the Cuyahoga County Commissioners.

BOTC believes that the Mall site is a far better choice for the Medical Mart and Convention Center than the Tower City site. However, our reasoning is not based on money, but rather, based on what we believe is good for downtown urbanism.

BOTC has felt that the placement of the facility at Tower City would have dampened the dynamism of Cleveland’s central core. A visitor to Cleveland could have come to Tower City and never set a foot outside the complex. A medical mart visitor would come from the airport via the Rapid and conducted business, eated, and sleept all in one complex and never emerged into the city.

With the convention facility on the Mall, visitors will be required to navigate the entire central core. Visitors will migrate from hotels around downtown, traverse Daniel Burnham’s Mall, Public Square, and the Warehouse District and Playhouse Square, because they will not be able to stay in one self-serve complex. Cleveland natives will mix everyday with convention visitors on our downtown sidewalks, hopefully enhancing city life.

BOTC also likes the Mall site because the architects and urban designers will be forced to re-interpret and grapple with Daniel Burnham. The Mall was designed as the "green lungs" of a growing industrial city—yet the Mall has remained somewhat fallow in recent decades. The insertion of a magnet facility will re-energize the Mall and resuscitate Burnham’s vision of civic Cleveland.

Now, let’s hope we can get this thing built without corruption.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Coosje van Bruggen, RIP

May the enigmatic Free Stamp always remain enigmatic.


BOTC became very upset this morning upon reading about Mayor Jackson's trip to Chicago.

How is it that Cleveland's most important urban project is being hatched, designed, and thrown toghether in a secluded Chicago conference room with no public or critical comment?

The urban design implications of this project are profound. If this is screwed up, downtown can die. It this is successful, dowtown can thrive. Are local designers + planners even involved with the project?

BOTC has warned about the implications of the Medical Mart before:

Since Cuyahoga County has signed the deal to bring the Medical Mart to Cleveland and to establish a new convention center, many in the design community need to voice their opinions on the future sites of such institutions. Surely we know more about design than Dimora + Hagan.The placement of each building or buildings within the downtown context will impact how the city is used, how the city is experienced, and how the city will literally wear away or strengthen. The investment made in the near future will alter the dynamics of our downtown core for decades to come. The ramifications of these impositions need to understood.

BOTC agrees with Steve Litt that the process should be open to the public because of the civic nature of projects. We also believe that studies for the placement of the convention sites should include a broader study of the entirety of downtown since the placement of the convention center in relation to hotels, transportation hubs, attraction districts, and university campuses, will alter the hydraulics of the city.

For example, if the Medical Mart is built in the Tower City complex and the convention center is built on the Mall, Public Square suddenly takes on the important function of connector tissue than transcends everyday Clevelander use. Should Public Square then be re-designed?These questions should be asked and answered before any downtown site is ultimately chosen.

Previous plans for Cleveland were developed in Chicago offices - - but Daniel Burnham was a genius. We should not have the same confidence in our Chicago counterparts today without intense design scrutiny.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Public Square as it should be used . . .

BOTC has long believed that Public Square is an archaic remnant of a past urbanism. Public Square does not seem to maintain a place in the collective memory of Northeast Ohioans like it once did (a la Dick Feagler). The Square is a glorified RTA stop with a Civil War monument and a statue of Tom Johnson.
However, over the past few days, the Square has come alive with protest and argument. Local Jews and Palestians have transformed the common public space into a figurative sparring ground to vent their disgust, frustrations, and agony over the latest Middle East violence. See video and the story from the Plain Dealer here.
So maybe BOTC is wrong about Public Square. However, we lament that it required a war to make Public Square a vibrant American commons.