Today in Bad Ideas: Casino Developer Wants to Bulldoze Part of Downtown Cleveland

We’ve written time and time again that cities should embrace their urbaness and not do everything they can to be second-rate suburbs. This post from Ashley Shaw’s blog Shroomin’ with Shaw looks at an issue in Cleveland, where casino developer Rock Gaming wants to bulldoze a portion of downtown to make the experience as isolated from its surroundings as possible. Here’s what Ashley has to say:

Plain Dealer published an article on Thursday discussing a revised plan for Cleveland’s casino, set to open in 2012. The proposed casino, costing an estimated $350 million is just phase I of the development process. This temporary casino will be located in the Higbee Building while the permanent casino is constructed.

Rock Gaming’s revised Casino plan proposes the demolition of a historic building to construct a parking garage and pedestrian walkway. (Photo Courtesy of Plain Dealer) 

Why the heck is that guy floating in space?

According to the Plain Dealer article, the revised plan proposes the construction of a new parking garage on the opposite side of Ontario Street which is directly connected to the casino by 170-foot-long overhead pedestrian-walkway. This walkway would obstruct views to and from Public Square and the parking garage would require demolition of a historic Cleveland landmark – the Columbia Building.

This new parking plan shows us that we may have previously been lead on by Rock Gaming, who has implied that the casino would open its doors to the city and encourage visitors to explore the rest of Downtown. I had originally supported this project and was actually excited to see the transformation in Downtown. Unfortunately, after seeing the revised plan, I’ve changed my mind. Not only do I strongly oppose this new plan, I’ve also lost faith in the project’s developer – Rock Gaming, LLC.

I was especially disappointed to read that Mayor Jackson supports this plan. I personally asked the Mayor just a few weeks ago about plans for Casino parking and he assured me that every measure would be taken to retain the historic character of our Downtown, that the residents’ feelings would be considered during the planning process and another Downtown district would not be turned into a giant parking lot/garage.

The historic Columbia Building, built in 1908 (Photo courtesy of Flickr)

The city of Cleveland seems to be motivated by the amount of money the casino will bring to the city. I can only imagine how much of an economic impact the casino will have on our city if visitors are encouraged to walk our streets and patronize the surrounding bars and restaurants.

Downtown is one of Cleveland’s safest neighborhoods. Herding the 5 million+ visitors through what one of my professors refers to as a “Honkey Tunnel” only sends the message that downtown is not safe. There is safety in numbers and the more people who walk our streets, the better!

This is just another effort to cater to auto-centric suburban visitors rather than the residents of Cleveland. We have to live here everyday and what makes downtown Cleveland so attractive and unique is its historic buildings. Please don’t take that away from us. As a classmate of mine, Gregory Soltis stated in a letter to the editor, we can never get these buildings back.

Please help to Save Lower Prospect Avenue by writing to the Mayor’s office or by emailing them directly at mayorsactioncenter@city.cleveland.oh.us.