Short sighted politics

10 06 2011


Let me start off this post by disclaiming that I am not politically affiliated because I care about the issues and not the people who are in office.  As the optimist that I am about our cities, and Cleveland in particular, I feel that politics is indeed going to play a huge role in the outcome of our cities and regions, but I do not like to get into political debates about one party over the other and this post will not intentionally be based around such a debate.  And now to the post…

Image courtesy of

At 9AM this morning  the Cleveland Landmarks Commission hosted a meeting to discuss the demolition of the Columbia Building located downtown.  The  building is currently vacant but still structurally sound.  The debate that brought out, by some accounts, over 450 people centered around the sacrifice of the 103 year old building to make way for a new parking garage for the upcoming casino to be located downtown.  While I will readily admit that I am by no means an architectural preservationist, I also admit that I am an urbanist and as a result care deeply about the urban fabric of our cities.  While the demolition of the urban fabric is often a temporary necessity for the betterment of the overall urban experience, this isn’t the case with this particular building.  The last thing that the Public Square area needs in another parking facility, especially one that removes pedestrian foot traffic but instead funnels people directly from a parking deck into an adjacent building bypassing the potential for revenue for other local businesses, decreasing the amount of people visible in the city.

After much debate the Landmarks Commission voted to allow the demolition of the building by a vote of 4-3, which forced me to the realization that our city, particularly our politicians have become so afraid of losing out on any potential money that no one is asking whether it’s the right thing.  As Steve Litt points out in his article published yesterday, the architect’s design concept shows how the building could be re-used without any negative economic effects to the casino.

Image courtesy of KA Architects via


A few hours later, while attending a Washington University function at the Marriott located downtown, I found myself in the middle of a discussion about the city and what is needed to help revitalize Cleveland.  Having a great view of the hole in the ground that will be the future Medical Mart, I again came back to the idea of political leadership and the need for leadership that has a holistic approach to development and economic growth of the city and region.  How much longer will we as citizens allow our politicians and decision makers to utilize these types of short sighted decisions to determine the future of our built environment with no repercussions?  A common complaint about the city by Clevelanders is that the current planning is doomed to fail because the designs aren’t beautiful, or won’t attract people downtown, or won’t create economic development but when faced with an opportunity to help promote all of these, our decision makers falter and select to do the easy thing instead of the right thing!




One response

10 06 2011

You make a very good point Matt. Those of us who love Cleveland desperately want to see it pull out of this recession and shine with all of the wonderful things it has to offer. While there are positive changes happening, the mentalitly of our politicians mirrors the conservative (in this case a synonym for safe) view of the constituants. It may be out of fear or it may be from lack of exposure and knowledge of how these risks could actually benefit the city in the long run. Let’s face the fact that Clevelanders like to play it safe.

I think that it would be great to have a voice of our generation stand up to the powers that be and start a political movement to change the city. You have a bigger love for Cleveland than most people I know. You should seriously consider getting involved on a political level and push through those innovative ideas with all of the Cleveland passion that you have. You’d definitely have a pretty big fan base!!

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