Monday, April 20, 2009

Med Mart: Dan Gilbert's weak argument

The Plain Dealer gave Cavs owner Dan Gilbert's argument for putting the Medical Mart at Tower City page-one play again Sunday. This time the lead was Gilbert's comparison of downtown Cleveland to downtown Detroit.

Gilbert argues that Detroit made a terrible mistake when it put three casinos in different places, two of them too far from the city's center. They lost a chance to give downtown Detroit a connected core.

True, but there's no lesson for Cleveland there. "NOTE: Maps are not at the same scale," says the fine print on page A16 under the PD's Detroit and Cleveland maps.

Detroit's downtown is much bigger and sprawled-out than Cleveland's. The Motor City Casino is 1.4 miles from Detroit's convention center, Cobo Hall. But the convention center site on our Mall is a half-mile from the Q, with East Fourth Street halfway between.

Yes, the Tower City site's big advantage is that it's connected to the Rapid, a shopping center, two hotels and the arena. But the mall site is hardly isolated -- it's next to two hotels, a block from Public Square, and the new center would have a big glass window overlooking the Rock Hall and the lakefront.

Developer Jeffrey P. Jacobs took out a full-page ad in yesterday's paper supporting the Mall site. His letter makes an interesting point about connecting downtown. "Successful urban planning... involves the creation of multiple traffic generators," Jacobs writes. "Moving visitor traffic throughout downtown will help sustain a community of businesses."

In other words, grouping things fairly close together is good -- but you do want conventioneers to get outside, into taxicabs, onto the streets.

{Correction, 4/21: In an earlier version of this post, I wrote that Jeff Jacobs' father, Dick Jacobs, owns the Marriott at Key Center, across from the Mall site. Actually, reports tonight that the Jacobs Group relinquished its 50% stake in Key Center this fall. See my new post.}

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