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Cleveland's Erieview Tower

Rick is a Cleveland-area architect who writes extensively about local architecture, landmarks, attractions, and sustainable development.

A Tower Rising from a Plaza

Erieview Tower, with amazing views of Lake Erie.

Erieview Tower, with amazing views of Lake Erie.

A Landmark for a Half-Century and More

Originally conceived by the noted Modernist architectural firm of Harrison & Abramovitz, the 40-story Tower at Erieview has, over the years, been alternately referred to as Erieview, 100 Erieview, Erieview Plaza, and Erieview Tower. This striking dark structure has for decades marked arrival in downtown Cleveland for generations of citizens and visitors alike.

Named for its commanding bluff-top views of Lake Erie, the Erieview Urban Renewal Project of 1960 encompassed 160+ acres of prime real estate along the eastern flank of East 9th Street near the core of the City of Cleveland. Chaired by famed architect I.M. Pei, the team charged with the planning of Erieview foresaw a signature structure dominating an extensive public plaza, which would in turn be ringed by a variety of mid-rise office structures. Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to all at the time, The Tower at Erieview was fated to be the sole signature structure of Erieview for years hence as development stalled, with its stark modernity derided, and with the massive plaza with fountains and pool at it base becoming a raging windswept glacier during the city’s fierce winters. One grudging amenity: dining at the Top of the Town restaurant on the uppermost floor of the Tower to enjoy the panoramic spectacle of the city skyline and the expanse of the Lake.

The Tower and The Galleria

The blue-black prism of Erieview Tower was initially developed by a partnership of the John Galbreath organization and Peter Ruffin. It was completed by 1964, as was its below-grade multi-level 450-space parking garage. The vast Erieview Plaza at the base of the Tower — punctuated by planters, fountains, and decorative pavings — ran from the grade-level entry doors to the bustling traffic of East 9th Street, the City's prime commercial corridor at the time. The windswept, often bitterly cold and intimidating Plaza was finally subsumed beneath The Galleria in 1964. That shimmering glass-and-metal triple-barreled skylit shopping mall was designed by the architectural team of Kober + Belluschi, and developed by premier Cleveland developer, The Richard E. Jacobs Group.

At its opening, The Galleria at Erieview's two levels incorporated a variety of up-market retailers, several popular restaurants, and a large food court and dining area, linked to an outdoor dining plaza. Through the 1960s and 1970s, this last feature proved quite popular to the city's swelling population of downtown office workers. The massive decorated and lit Christmas tree situated annually at center court under The Galleria's massive glass roof became a holiday treat for all visitors. Well into the 1990s, The Galleria at Erieview provided one of only two prime retail destinations in downtown Cleveland — the other being The Avenue at Tower City Center within the base of the Terminal Tower.

Fleshing Out Erieview

The original footprint of the early-1960s Erieview urban renewal district was eventually fully built out by about 2000 — in fairly faithful homage to the planners' original conception. The curved mass of banded stone and glass forming the Ameritech (now AT&T) building arose on the northwest corner of Erieview's Plaza, while the chiseled silver form of the One Cleveland Center high-rise arose just across St. Clair Avenue. Meanwhile, the long barrel-vaulted two-story Galleria shopping center spanned from the base of Erieview Tower to East 9th Street. Finally, the former Cleveland Press newspaper headquarters to the north was replaced by the North Point complex of interconnected buildings.

Both the Erieview Tower and The Galleria have sinned passed through the hands of multiple owners. Dollar bank established its headquarters and primary downtown branch within The Galleria's southwest corner. Retail tenancies have given way to a large YMCA presence. Also, by 2007, development had begun on what was to be multiple structures of in-town condominium living, just east of Erieview. After the completion of just one structure, however, another recession halted the nascent Avenue District.

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