The casino trumps the landmark. The city Landmarks Commission voted 4-3 today to let the Columbia Building on Prospect Avenue be torn down to make way for valet parking for the Higbee Building casino.
Preservation advocates rallied to try to save the Columbia at today’s 2½ hour meeting. (One attendee tweeted the meeting.)
But the Landmarks Commission staff had failed to find an alternative that made room for casino parking on that block but spared the vacant eight-story building, built in 1908.
The Jackson Administration, which encouraged Dan Gilbert to open his casino in the Higbee Building, supported the demolition. (Here’s my earlier post on that.)
The casino plans are a painful tradeoff for people who love downtown’s historic character. Losing the Columbia Building means losing a stately, century-old streetscape.
Also, the bridge that’ll connect the parking to the Higbee Building casino will slice diagonally through the historic intersection of Ontario and Prospect. Architecture critic Steven Litt recently called it the type of move that could “erode a city’s visual integrity and sense of place, even its identity.” This attractive rendering of the future casino isn’t accurate anymore, as a commenter on my blog pointed out.
The parking bridge will connect to the Higbee Building right at that attractive corner façade.
It's an awkward change to a much-beloved Public Square landmark -- one that's also going to be heavily renovated to give it that modern, high-rolling casino style.
It’s not easy to wedge a mini-Vegas into a historic downtown. Lots of preservation-minded people don’t want to make the compromise and lose the Columbia. But in this post on his Cleveland History Blog, Cleveland State librarian Bill Barrow gently and humorously encourages them to make the trade.
Update, 6/13: Steven Litt is mad. His Sunday column blasts Rock Gaming for revealing its plans little by little, making it hard to judge the casino's true impact on downtown. He calls the Columbia Building vote kabuki theater, "a form of drama in which the outcome is always predictable."