Two downtown malls from Cleveland's 1990s "renaissance" get make-overs; art & fiction can re-tell the history of the city
Marc Lefkowitz | 02/04/11 @ 3:40pm
- Powerful is the idea of transforming dead spaces of commerce, such as one defunct Cleveland shopping mall, The Galleria, into a greenhouse and local food resource. The Gardens Under Glass project garnered a spot on Travel + Leisure magazine's World's Most Visionary Cities feature.
- Speaking of great adaptive reuse stories, how about the $350 million investment by Cavs owner Dan Gilbert to turn the defunct Higbee's Department Store on Public Square into a casino? Sure, it's a palace of vice, but it will generate a ton of foot traffic and maybe some renewed focus on restoring the vibrancy at the Tower City mall-a thriving spot back in the 1990s before Crocker Park and Legacy Village helped sap away all of the big chain stores.
- Imagine if the Higbees never left? Imagine if Cleveland didn't sell off its streetcars to Toronto and pull out the rail lines? Imagine if instead of the river burning, a group of visionaries emerged at the turn of the century and had the benefit of (your) hindsight while offering a sustainable plan to grow Cleveland's industrial base and place a check on rampant pollution (maybe you'd invent huge holding tanks that made their contents the responsibility of the company to reformulate)?
Clevelanders are very good at these sort of 'what if' scenarios, and that's why "Cleveland Stories: True until proven otherwise" should be a fascinating read. The Cleveland Urban Design Center and Cleveland Institute of Art are issuing a call for entries to re-imagine the history of the city. Write or illustrate an alternative history thriller, docu-drama or maybe a graphic novel that envisions what could be (past, present or future) if only good sense prevailed and you had infinite power to right some of the worst decisions made in the history of our fair burg. Winners will be published in the annual journal of the Kent State Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative, and will have dioramas of their work built by art students! For more information, contactBruce Checefsky at 216.421.7407 or at email@example.com.
- Not all of Tower City's and the Galleria's woes were because people wanted to drive to far suburbs and shop in faux towns. And so it is with the restoration of spaces that sustainable business models are needed if we have any hope to look beyond one fixed point of commerce. Credit then, Forest City sustainability manager Jon Ratner and the city of Cleveland's Office of Sustainability, which will re-invent what was a store space at the Tower City mall with the Green Exchange. Plans call for the Office of Sustainability to move from its current location this year and for a green resource center to serve the public there.
- Art and sustainability will help the residents of W. 83rd Street make sense-and hopefully begin to heal the scars-of the explosion that rocked their world a year ago. One of the condemned houses due to the explosion will become the canvas for a community art therapy project (with cut-throughs in the house displaying art inside). Another house will be deconstructed and the pieces used to enhance a public reading garden and outdoor classroom. Project leader Richey Piiparinen writes in Rust Wire:"Images are powerful and narratives are powerful, yet in an urban world dominated by the concrete of skyscrapers and the transactions in banks, the undercurrents of people struggling and feeling can get left out. These undercurrents can weigh down the trajectory of a city's future because there is no future in a city of ghosts. Bringing the facts of loss and the need for the acceptance to the forefront of city planning can become immeasurable to the unleashing of potentials. This can be done with novel projects, or projects that create images and capture attention and tell real stories of what we all feel but are often ashamed to admit.