Gloria Ferris

one woman’s view from a place by the zoo in the city

Word on the Street vs. Fact

with 11 comments

June 1, I attended the City Planning Commission Committee Hearing  where Architect Doug Hoffman of Weber Murphy Fox used the above title for his powerpoint presentation.  It was informative and gave a good case for renovation and restoration of the Breuer Tower. A study paid for by the architectural firm itself was used as the fact to refute the “word on the street”.  It built a good case for adaptive reuse of the only skyscraper Marcel Breuer designed. Mr. Hoffman showed why his team chose adaptive  reuse of the existing building tying it to our heritage with the rotunda and bringing it into the 21st century by wrapping the Breuer Tower partially with glass.  Detailed architecural plans were submitted showing how the historic Cleveland Trust Rotunda would be used in the overall scheme of things.  It showed how public spaces would draw pedestrians and others into the building. It showed a space for a public garden.  It showed floor plans of how the infrastructure would change so that the floor space would be more efficient.  It showed how cables and other things needed for newer technologies would be hidden from view and that it would not hinder the aesthetics or the effficiency of the building.

And then, and then, he talked about the EMPLOYEES of the county and how their comfort level would be enhanced by temperature controls in the cubicles so that they controlled their own COMFORT level.  He talked about how DAYLIGHT reached almost to the core of the building.  He talked about privacy for employees but also work spaces where they could come together to collaborate. And I thought to myself now this is innovation-considering the employees-so that productivity and efficiency would be enhanced. I thought to myself why didn’t they choose this plan, but I left with an open mind and a heart filled with hope that next week on June 8th when Robert Madison International Inc. and his team presented their plan for the site, I would see an even better plan since this was the team chosen to tear down the Beuer Tower and build new.

Instead, I saw nothing that I could use to compare the two.  There were no numbers to stand side by side in comparison.  Instead this team refuted the numbers of the week before by saying the savings were too high and the costs were too low, but I didn’t see much of this team’s stand alone costs so that the public and the planning commission could be informed ensuring that a reasoned decision could be made. In fact, I said as much during my testimony.  I said I had come seeking answers to specific monetary questions, but I was left with aesthetics and “pie-in-the-sky” promises  that the rotunda was the core and central to the complex but when asked how it would be incorporated Mr. Madison replied that that had not been decided yet.  I came to see architectural plans of what the new complex would look like; I saw conceptual plans. Disclaimers abounded that these were concepts and were not meant to be considered as the actual plans.  Huh?  This firm and its partners just won a multi-million contract with the county and these were CONCEPTS. 

And the employee portion, I heard a lot about transformational workplaces, the need to guard against asbestos exposure, and a spokesman from a company indicted for kickbacks on a Lorain project, but more importantly, a company that has never demolished a building taller than thirteen stories.  The one time that we need a national expert not available here in Cleveland, we award the contract to an  intown boy and his crew.  And this use of transformational in regards to tearing down and building new really rubbed me the wrong way.  Tearing down and building new is simply replacement. Transformational means taking what is and changing it into something  brighter and better. 

All of this vague talk concerning a multi-million dollar expenditure of taxypayer’s money was disturbing, but the most disturbing thing to me was the way a meeting that began very organized and methodical turned into such a muddled mess at the end with people left scratching their heads and wondering what had just happened.  Well, folks, here is my theory and understand it is just that.  In fact, it is nothing more than word on the street, but I think it is worth pondering because of what happened at that meeting.  This is my prediction and I am sticking to it.  Joe Cimperman has his eyes set on a much bigger piece of the pie than being councilman of Ward 13.  And soon, I will tell you what position he is vying for and why.

Norm Krumholz moved that the City Planning Commission vote to deny the demolition permit.  Voting for this denial would have put a six month review process in place which would have answered many of the thoughtful and valid questions that the commision had. The motion was defeated by a four to three vote.  David Bowen said that he could not vote for denying the permit at this point in time because he needed a lot more information such as detailed plans, why the figures this week differed so greatly from last week, why the ceiling height this week was a foot and a half lower than what was told to the commission last week if renovation was used.  He shared Lillian Kuri’s concerns about public spaces and public access and the use of the rotunda. And this one was huge, but no one from the county had an answer.  How many downtown spaces would be empty when the county moves to the new location?  What exactly are the economic advantages of this “complex”?  How did federal and state historic credits fit into this plan?  No one knew.  

 And then, and then, Joe opens his mouth and says how long are we going to hold up this project, these are our partners, are you saying we mistrust them, we have parking lots all over town because people came before this commission with no better plans than we have seen today. Huh?What’s up with that? And then, as far as I am concerned the whole meeting went up for grabs. Someone asked when was the county planning commission consulted on the project probably thinking if there were results from those meetings they would be very helpful and there would be less time needed.  But then, Lee Trotter looked at those sitting beside him, and he had to tell the commission that the COUNTY PLANNING COMMISSION had NOT been involved in the decision making.  So, there we were, a county project in the making  for the last ten years has no architecural plan, did not consult its own planning commission, and said that they would need longer than one week to answer these questions.  But the planning commission decides to go ahead with a one week time frame anyway.

Here is my theory.  Joe Cimperman is going to run for county commissioner.  Why else would he turn his back on the reasoned testimony of former City Planner Hunter Morrison who presented  a seven point plan used in the past when planning a major project like this one-Key Tower probably being the most  prominent one. Why would he turn his back on his own colleagues and push for unsupported claims of “better” ?  Why would he sacrifice the reputation of the second oldest planning commission in the nation if he were not only thinking of his own ambitions?  Why would he turn his back on the city that he vowed to serve if he was not ready to move on?  And let’s face it, he needs the County Democratic Chairman in his corner if he intends to replace Tim Hagan on the commission?  And, he needs to set the stage for the Medical Mart and the Convention Center votes which will also come before this august commission.  If this demolition permit is approved with as little oversight as it appears there is now, the case will be made for any other county project coming before the CITY Planning Commission to be rubber stamped just as Joe feels this one should be.

This Commission needs to stand firm and insist that they receive the information needed to make an informed decision.  We need an appointed board to stand up and represent the taxpayers of this city and this county.  We need them to make sure that the numbers make sense, and that we know what we will have at the end of the day when the County Complex is reality not “concept”. Listen to the urban planners in your midst-Norm Kruholz and Hunter Morrison and INSIST on the information needed to make a decision worthy of a Planning Commission that understands the word plan. Do not be swayed by the politicians in your midst-Mayor Frank Jackson, Council President Martin Sweeney.  If these men were true leaders, they would trust their judgment in appointing you and allow you to do your job.   And certainly, do not be swayed by the member in your midst guided by personal ambition.  Pleaase, please do something truly transformational and make a reasoned decision, not an expedient political one. 


Written by Gloria Ferris

June 14th, 2007 at 9:21 am

Posted in Cleveland,politics

11 Responses to 'Word on the Street vs. Fact'

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  1. Solid.


    14 Jun 07 at 11:06 AM

  2. Heavy.


    14 Jun 07 at 11:11 AM

  3. Not only is your post lucid and comprehensive, Gloria, but you’ve brought up some essential questions. Naturally, the proceedings we’re witnessing are disturbing, but one point in particular seems totally nonsensical to me. Why would David Bowen vote to DENY the demolition permit if he openly admits that the facts aren’t all available, and those facts already in evidence are contradictory? In other words, he’ll let the demolition proceed because the situation is unclear? Since when did it become prudent to err on the side of recklessness and destruction?

    Obviously, if you’re right about Joe Cimperman, what we will see in the near future is not “transformation,” but rather, more of the same corruption and back-door deals that have gone on for decades at City Hall and the Commissioners’ office. It would seem that most of our leading local officials, whether city or county-wide, are feeding from the same trough of payoffs. I predict that we are heading for straits even more dire than we’ve seen thus far.


    14 Jun 07 at 12:40 PM

  4. Oops. Meant to say, “Why would Bowen NOT vote to DENY a demolition permit?” Got too hasty in my outrage.


    14 Jun 07 at 12:43 PM

  5. Thanks for your report on the two meetings. It’s a civic

    First, one would believe that one could get an adequate report
    our single newspaper on such importand issues. Another example of why it’s so disturbing that so much coverage is given to a basketball team and so little to what this community needs – public disclosure, scrutiny and debate on crucial matters.

    Joe C. – the chattering chipmunk, I call him – has been bought and paid for via campaign contributions for years. The hope of an independent, intelligent voice for local politics was quickly dashed as Joe’s ambition exceeded his public responsibility.

    Yes, he’d like to be County Commissioner. Or mayor if that’s open. Anything but councilman.

    However, this entire Breuer episode with the county demands a real public discussion of the County Commission and the County offices. There’s no need for all the offices – treasurer, recorder, auditor. These are functions that could be operated without elected public officials.

    There needs to be – if we continue with three commissioners the
    (see no evil, say no evil, speak no evil trio)- a renegade run for the next opening, be he or she Republican or Democrat. Let’s get rid of Hagan and Dimora – neither qualify as
    public servants but are merely
    private entrepreneurs for private interests.

    I believe that bloggers can be a political force locally, as they certainly have become nationally, but they have to keep their eye on the target and, hopefully, do it in cooperation and without private political desires of power on their own agenda.

    roldo bartimole

    14 Jun 07 at 2:36 PM

  6. I meant to add one thing.

    RTA is spending some $225-million or more on Euclid Avenue.

    That public investment should attract – at one of the city’s central spots, E. 9th & Euclid – a private investment in an office structure, not another public building simply taking workers from other downtown sites and placing them were private enterprise should invest and bring in new employees.

    The County takes a prime site, spends hundreds of millions of public dollars, destroys a historic building and muscles out a private investment at a strategic corner, formerly the center of Cleveland’s banking interests. Two of the three corner sites there are bank building offices.

    What a lose-lose waste.

    roldo bartimole

    14 Jun 07 at 2:43 PM

  7. Excellent summary of the case. One wonders about the personal and professional integrity of the lead architects, Kohn Pederson Fox, and Robert Madison offering their so-called personal and impartial observations that the Breuer Tower was not that great a building when their multi-million dollar contracts are dependant on the tower’s coming down. This whole issue was decided in private over two years ago. Now comes the embassassing display of professionals coming up with all sorts of inane reasons why the tower cannot be saved. The biggest laugh was that the building was not earthquake resistant enough.

    Our community needs more people like Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones. Throughout this whole process he has been such an excellent and effective spokesperson for historic preservation. I’d hate to see him leave as Commissioner, but he might make an excellent candidate for the U. S. Senate in a few years.

    Steve McQuillin

    14 Jun 07 at 3:44 PM

  8. Gloria ~

    As you know, I have said from my first days in Cleveland that Joe’s only agenda is his political advancement. However, while County Commissioner may be a stepping stone, I think Joe’s goal is Columbus. I also think he will make a run at being elected mayor of Cleveland. All-in-all, this is just one more example of everyone who thinks they are someone sleeping with everyone else who thinks the same. Its called incestuous politics.


    Frank A. Mills

    14 Jun 07 at 4:34 PM

  9. Gloria,

    There is a pretty interesting photograph of the tower under construction at that supports some of the issues with regard to the Rotunda, specifically that it was not conceived as a freestanding building, but rather as a well articulated streetwall building. It would seem to me that surrounding the Rotunda with an open plaza is not beneficial to the Rotunda either aesthetically or functionally, and probably not so great in terms of the urban fabric either.

    Will Paxson

    14 Jun 07 at 7:22 PM

  10. Roldo, thanks for giving me a name for Joe Chimperman that I can use in polite company (“Joe C. – the chattering chipmunk, I call him”). I nearly have a Tourette’s seizure every time I see the boy.


    14 Jun 07 at 9:17 PM

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