Gustafson Guthrie Nichol is working to revive the urban heart of Cleveland, Ohio through two catalytic projects: the Cleveland Medical Mart and Convention Center and the Connecting Downtown Cleveland Plan. These focus on the Mall and Civic District, originally designed in 1903 by the Group Plan Commission which included architect Daniel Burnham, and stand as a rare example of constructed, extant Burnham planning with principals and proportions revealing Burnham’s involvement in the McMillan Plan for the National Mall in Washington, DC. Gustafson Guthrie Nichol’s work revives many of the originally planned axial relationships that have been modified during the past 100 years, and marries contemporary urban design tenets with those of the City Beautiful Movement, which shared a focus on ‘order, system, and reserve’ as well as ‘circulation, hygiene, and art’.
Gustafson Guthrie Nichol envisions a revived Group Plan District as the demonstration district for Cleveland’s commitment to technical innovation, environmental health, water quality, and quality of life in Downtown Cleveland. The vision stresses the importance of improving the center of the city -- rather than its periphery -- and establishes clear identities for the large open spaces in the downtown core, including Public Square as the ‘heart’ of the city, a unified civic Mall as the ‘civic soul’, and the Lake Erie lakefront as a ‘destination escape’. Recommendations include a clear definition for the civic district as a demonstration ground that incorporates city initiatives including Complete Streets, Green Streets, LED lighting, stormwater treatment, improved pedestrian connections, Green City Blue Lake, Clean Cleveland, and Cleveland Public Art. The vision also includes a dramatic facelift at the historic courthouse and City Hall, through the replacement of existing parking garages with a green public view park that improves waterfront access.
Working with LMN Architects in Seattle, Gustafson Guthrie Nichol has already completed a framework design for two of three blocks along the Mall that are currently under construction as part of the Cleveland Medical Mart and Convention Center. The project will create a hub for medical product showrooms and tradeshows similar to the Chicago Merchandise Mart, and operated by the same client. The Vision Plan for further enhancements includes additions to the third mall to create a united, single Mall; lighting to highlight the existing historic buildings; a new forecourt to the Mall on 3rd Street; and a series
of flexible program ‘rooms’ that provide a sequence of smaller-scaled experiences along the edge of the mall and create opportunities for adjacent building activities to flow into the Mall. These are programmed with interchangeable outdoor displays, performances, demonstration gardens, urban play areas, and smaller seating areas.
The vision plans are being overseen by a contemporary Group Plan Commission comprised of Cleveland business leaders, architects and city planners; the Commission will make recommendations to the Mayor of Cleveland in mid-February.