Friday, April 06, 2007

Breuer Tower: What to do next.

There is a great conversation going on over in the Urban Ohio forum regarding the Breuer Tower issue. Here a very engaged group of citizens discuss every possible view of urban, suburban, rural, regional, state, national and international issues involving city life. Check it out for yourself. Anyway, one of the members wrote an email to Commissioner Peter Lawson-Jones regarding the possible demolition of the former Ameritrust Tower and he nice enough to forward it to us members. Here is the commissioners most excellent response:

Dear Concerned Citizen:

Thank you for your correspondence regarding the prospective demolition
of the Ameritrust Tower, located at the corner of Euclid Avenue and East
Ninth Street and designed by the renowned modernist architect, Marcel

As you are probably aware, on Thursday, March 29, 2007, the Cuyahoga
County Board of Commissioners (BOCC) voted 2-1 to raze the tower, with
me casting the dissenting vote to preserve the building. In determining
as I did, I employed a *decision matrix* that considered the
following factors: (1) architectural significance; (2) aesthetics; (3)
preservation/sustainability; (4) functionality/work flow; and (5) cost.

The Breuer Tower*s architectural significance is well documented and
cannot be dismissed. By retaining the *brutalist* structure as part
of a new complex that includes the neoclassical rotunda and a new 21st
century contemporary building, an opportunity is presented for a rare
*dialogue* amongst three different architectural expressions. The
resulting campus will provide not only a living laboratory for students
of architecture but also an attraction for our citizens and visitors
alike. The architectural significance of the tower clearly favors its

As regards aesthetics, some critics of the tower find it physically
unattractive. At the risk of sounding cliché, however, beauty is in the
eye of the beholder. Furthermore, tastes have a tendency to change over
time. Because some do not find the building visually pleasing, however,
is not reason enough to justify its demolition. Moreover, the highly
regarded firm of Davis, Brody and Bond demonstrated in a presentation to
the BOCC that the tower can be externally treated and the new structure
designed in a way that creates a physically compelling final product.

Our relatively recent embrace of preservation and sustainability as a
society and a community also militates for the preservation of the
tower. With the new administrative complex, we aspire at a minimum to
achieve silver LEEDS certification. The demolition of the tower will
jeopardize this goal, particularly as it has been designated a historic
structure by the Ohio Historic Preservation Office. Furthermore,
demolition will be tricky, given the proximity of other structures to
the site. Finally, the waste of the thousands of tons of materials that
went into the construction - less than forty years ago - of this
building as well as the adverse environmental impact resulting from the
dumping of the debris in local landfills hardly constitutes a positive
ecological outcome.

A fourth consideration is functionality and work flow. Although the
tower*s floor plates are too small to accommodate County departments
on a single and, in most cases, on even two floors, this concern is
exaggerated. Most office communication today is conducted via e-mail
and telephone. Moreover, through creative intra-departmental
organization and grouping, the desired face-to-face interaction can be
achieved. A competent interior workplace architect and designer need
only, as Tim exhorts the contestants in Project Runway, *Make it
work!* Floor plate sizes and ceiling heights should not be viewed as
insurmountable obstacles in our efforts to provide a physical
environment conducive to the delivery of world-class service to our

Finally, impossible to ignore is the matter of cost. A minimum of $20
million can be saved by choosing adaptive reuse over new construction.
An additional $15 million in federal historic tax credits will accompany
the preservation of the tower. As stewards of public funds, we must ask
if there is a better use of the $35 million that could be saved in the
short run by retaining the structure. Considering the burgeoning
economic development, workforce training and health and human service
needs of our community, the answer is self-evident. An investment that
addresses our critical social challenges will yield a far greater
return, a more consequential community benefit than will the expenditure
of valuable dollars on a pubic edifice.

The Marcel Breuer Tower debate now proceeds to the City of Cleveland
Planning Commission, which, by charter, must approve the demolition and
construction of all public buildings within the municipality*s
boundaries. On Friday, March 30, 2007, the Planning Commission voted to
approve the demolition of three smaller structures on the site and
passed a motion that no action is to be taken regarding the Breuer
building until the panel has the opportunity to:
1) review a master plan for the entire site;
2) review plans to ensure the safe removal of art work currently in
the building;
3) tour both the Breuer Tower and the remainder of the site; and
4) hear a comprehensive presentation on the merits of preserving
the Breuer Tower.
The Planning Commission also required that no asbestos abatement take
place in the Breuer Tower without prior Commission approval.

Now that the fate of the building resides with the Planning Commission,
I urge you to share your views to that body as well. The names, phone
numbers, and e-mail addresses of the panel members are provided below. I
also urge you to communicate with the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which, in
an editorial dated Tuesday, April 3, 2007, declared that the Marcel
Breuer Tower is not a *serious candidate for renovation.* You can
read the editorial at:

You may also wish to express your opinion on this important issue with
other news publications. In addition to that for the Plain Dealer, I
have included the contact information for the editorial departments of
the Call & Post, News-Herald and Sun Newspapers.

Again, I thank you for taking the time to share your views and concerns
regarding the Breuer Tower with me. As always, please do not hesitate
to contact my office if we can ever be of any assistance whatsoever.


Peter Lawson Jones
Cuyahoga County Commissioner



Anthony Coyne, Chair: 216-523-1500 (o)

David Bowen: 216-491-9300, ext. 808

Joe Cimpermann:216-664-2691

Norman Krumholz:216-687-6946

Lillian Kuri:216-659-4926

Larwrence Lumpkin: 216-299-1550

Gloria Pinkney: 216-751-5131

Robert N. Brown, Director
601 Lakeside Ave.
City Hall Room 501
Cleveland, Ohio 44114
Phone: 216-664-2210 ~ Fax: 216-664-3281

Meetings are held the first and third Friday*s of everything month @
9:00 am Please call for the schedule and the agenda.
Robert N. Brown, Director

Gary Newbacher, Chief City Planner

Jean Crawford, Private Secretary

Letters to the Editor

The Cleveland Plain Dealer
Letters to the Editor
1801 Superior Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44114

e-mail letters to:
fax: 216-999-6209

Include your full name, address and daytime telephone number for
verification purposes. Submissions should not exceed 200 words.

Call & Post
Attn. Constance Harper
11800 Shaker Boulevard
Cleveland, Ohio 44120

e-mail letters to
fax 216-451-0404

The New-Herald
Letters to the Editor
7085 Mentor Avenue
Willoughby, Ohio 44094

fax: 440-975-2293

The Sun News
The Sun News welcomes letters to the editor which are brief and to the
point, typewritten and double-spaced. We reserve the right to edit
letters. Deadline is 9 a.m. Monday, though we urge readers to submit
letters as early as possible. Letters are printed as space permits and
may not appear in the next edition, even when deadlines are met.
Sign your letter and include a telephone number at which you may be
called during business hours for verification purposes. Only names and
cities will be printed, not street addresses. We never print unsigned
Send "Letters to the Editor" to your local office or e-mail if you wish
with your address to:

Ladies and Gentlemen - Start your writing!