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Save a Tiffany? Sure. The Breuer? That was different story.

Marc Lefkowitz  |  10/07/13 @ 2:15pm  |  Posted in Green buildings

The announcement last week that the Marriott, Heinen’s and luxury apartments are slated for three historic buildings being renovated at Cleveland’s East Ninth Street and Euclid Avenue reminds us to look back to 2007 when the former Cuyahoga County Commissioners purchased and then decided to tear them down.

Greening Modernism<br />The equivalent of thousands of gallons of gasoline will be saved as these buildings in Cleveland are reused.

A grassroots effort to reuse the Ameritrust complex—with its Tiffany stained-glass domed rotunda and 28-story tower from Bauhaus architect Marcel Breuer—brought together green building, historic preservation, and a rarely discussed aspect of both: What to do with a large stock of Modern era buildings?

GreenCityBlueLake and others strongly believed there was a case for ‘adaptive reuse’ in both the easy-to-love neoclassical rotunda and the ‘brutalist’ Breuer Tower. GCBL helped organize, with advocates like Susan Miller and David Ellison, a series that calculated the ‘embodied energy’ of the buildings and explored the significant contribution to building science that is part of the legacy of Modernism. The forum featured a keynote address from Carl Stein, an architect who wrote a seminal book about greening Modernism.

We’ll leave the judgement about the commissioners decision and the impact the forum and reporting played in expressing the views of the community to others. But with the development moving forward, which consolidates the county administration to the only new building added to the complex, we’re reminded that, lest we think that all the power is in the hands of the appointed few, the foundation of our democratic institution—and the imperative that they act sustainably—are built from informed civil discourse.

Bringing vibrancy back to the street level of a long vacant stretch of E. 9th and Euclid, once the city’s financial district, is of great symbolic value. It also literally closes a gap between the entertainment districts at Gateway and Playhouse Square and with the addition of 125 new residents and a full-service grocery store, continues downtown’s impressive growth as a 24/7 neighborhood. It's not the only story of adaptive reuse of a Modern-era building in Cleveland. The former East Ohio Gas mid-rise office tower conversion, after many years of discussion, to apartments, and the reuse of the Sheraton as a Westin Hotel are just two examples of mid-century buildings finding new life.

GCBL recounts the effort that saved the Ameritrust complex from the wrecking ball on a newly created project page.

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