Sunday, April 01, 2007

From the Commissioners' Chambers

Thursday, March 29th marked the Commissioners' official vote on the fate of the Marcel Breuer-designed Cleveland Trust Tower. An agenda item requesting that the County's Department of Central Services advertise for bids for the abatement and demolition of several of the buildings on the County-owned property, including the 29-story tower, required that the Commissioners make a vote on whether the Tower should be reused or razed. The vote went 2-1 in favor of demolishing the Tower.

While the public attendance was strong, only six individuals spoke due to the public comment book closing at 11:30 sharp (many speakers streamed into the meeting after the book was 'closed' to public comment). Several AIA members were in attendance - Anthony Hiti, chair of the Historic Preservation Committee thoroughly described AIA's positions on the issue.

After public comment (in which Dimora interrupted at least once to argue that the speaker was "lying"), each Commissioner stated their position. Peter Lawson-Jones spoke eloquently about his method for evaluating several factors that weigh important in this particular decision. His "decision matrix" was composed of factors such as design, efficiency, sustainability, and economics. After measuring each of the factors, he explained, he arrived at a decision to re-use the tower. The most compelling reasons were: saving energy from demolition and material from landfill, utilizing federal and state tax credits, the opportunity to showcase designs of several eras on the same site, small floorplates may require internal stairs and creative 'grouping' of departments, and saving costs to strengthen social programs.

After Lawson-Jones spoke (and drew a sustained applause), Hagan and Dimora each summarized their decision in fewer than five minutes combined. Hagan was convinced that architect Madison would leave the public a building that would be widely admired befitting of Cleveland architecture hero, Robert P. Madison. Hagan failed to note that the design will be a mark of New York firm Kohn Pederson Fox, not that of Robert P. Madison International. Mr. Dimora simply disagreed with many of Lawson-Jones points about saving cash in the short term and long term (without justification) and put his confidence behind consultants who arrived at a decision to tear the tower down. Dimora even cited the six architecture firms who competed for the County Administration project by pointing out that five of six firms proposed demolishing the Tower. Like Hagan, Dimora failed to note that the County 'encouraged' each design team to demolish the Tower prior to their design submission.

Marc Lefkowitz further summarizes the meeting and includes several quotes by Commissioners Lawson-Jones, Hagan, and Dimora and architect Robert Madison at


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