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Tower Power

Marc Lefkowitz  |  11/14/07 @ 4:34pm

The Marcel Breuer-designed Ameritrust Tower's days were numbered when the ink dried on Cuyahoga County purchase agreement, local preservationists argue. The 28-story modernist office tower rose in 1971 at E. 9th Street and Euclid Avenue as an addition to the neoclassical 1908 Rotunda Building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. That makes the tower eligible for federal rehabilitation tax credits if preserved, a savings to the county of $20 million compared to building new, according to one estimate.

It's not enough to convince two of three county commissioners that the tower can be reconfigured-its floor plates are currently too small to consolidate the county administrative offices. Knowing that, the county's ownership all but sealed the tower's fate.

This week, Metropolis Magazine shines a national spotlight on the rush to demolish the Breuer Tower, the only high-rise building designed by one of America's most prominent Early Modern architects. The county promises to build a LEED-Silver Certified building in its place, arguing that energy savings justify new. But, as national preservation expert Donovan Rypkema recently told a Cleveland Restoration Society audience, preservation is the very definition of sustainability. Rypkema states that a new building, even a 'green' one, costs 15 times more in the energy equation because it has to account for the embodied energy of its and the old, demolished building's materials.

Buildings are testaments to what our culture values; tearing them down is easy, but it robs the city of its ability to tell the story of how our values grow and change. GCBL reader Steve McQuillin has started a forum discussion about saving the Breuer Tower, offering some background on the building, and an opportunity for you to weigh in.

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