Cleveland Civic Core
This former mall in Cleveland has been redesigned as a core organizing space for city life while further activating the space.
More than 100 years after Daniel Burnham created one of the most complete examples of the City Beautiful Movement, the new Cleveland Mall Civic Core and Convention Center Complex reinvigorates the architect’s vision and has helped catalyze the city’s revitalization.
Beyond its early-20th-century heyday, Cleveland’s Civic Core experienced a deep decline as it lost half of its downtown population in the decades spanning 1950 to 1990. Born out of the city’s 2007 comprehensive plan, Connecting Cleveland 2020 Citywide Plan, the redesign of Cleveland Mall was one of the central civic infrastructure projects assigned to the recently re-created Group Plan Commission.
The design helps re-establish the underused asset as a core organizing space for city life while further activating the space. Formal paved promenades have given way to lush gardens and ample lawn space for recreation, while allées lined with American elms frame views of Lake Erie. For the new convention facilities, the team monopolized the excavated footprint of the existing below-grade center. The expanded and reconfigured center is capped with a dramatic architectural gesture, the “lakeside lift,” which serves as a light well for the center’s exhibition hall, a defining street presence, and an additional vantage point for visitors and those using the park.
Engaging directly with life on the street and the mall, the new Global Center for Health Innovation represents a modern take on the prominent buildings that flank the central lawn. Negotiating the aesthetics and monumentality of the existing Beaux-Arts language, the building also plays with the informality of the new mall. A showroom for the city’s booming medical research industry, the space helps drive regional economic growth and create new convention possibilities.
Benefiting from the many voices that informed the project, both civic and private, this major investment in the city has activated the community, generated visitorship, and reconnected residents with Cleveland’s iconic public space.