Tuesday, June 12, 2012

PROPOSED DUNHAM GREEN: GOOD OR BAD FOR THE URBAN FABRIC?


6611 Euclid Avenue Building with Dunham Tavern to its right. (Google Earth.)

A Cleveland developer has dropped his plans to convert a former warehouse building at 6611 Euclid Avenue into a tech incubator.1 The folks who run the Dunham Tavern Museum next door, a historic stagecoach stop and accompanying urban garden, have purchased the warehouse and plan to demolish it.  While the Dunham Tavern won’t have to live in the shadow of this structure any longer, it remains to be seen whether the loss of the building will be beneficial for the neighborhood and the city as a whole.

BENEFITS OF REHABBING AN EXISTING STRUCTURE
When the rehab project for 6611 was announced last December, it seemed to be a good idea.2  It would have made use of an existing vacant structure, and the proposed tech incubator would have generated additional activity along the Healthline transit corridor.

West Fa├žade of 6611 Euclid Avenue Building. (Google Earth.)
The 6611 building has an expressive character and a muscular exposed concrete structure.  This aesthetic would have fit well with the edgy, forward thinking world of tech startups. Rehabbing the building would be an environmentally sustainable course of action, which also has appeal to these types of companies. 

Reusing the building would also preserve a memory of Cleveland’s industrial legacy.  The layering of history in a city helps make a place more interesting and unique.  Christopher Busta-Peck gives an insightful take on this idea at his  Cleveland Area History blog.  Busta-Peck says, "6611 Euclid . . . provides real context for the museum.  It illustrates how the city grew up around this tavern, and the level of development threats faced by it.  It hints at how close the tavern might have come to being demolished itself."3 He adds in another post, "The Dunham Tavern will be much less impressive as a survivor when we lose the physical manifestation of the changes that it lived through."4

PROPOSED DUNHAM GREEN
On the other hand, a green square park surrounding the Dunham Museum does have some appeal.  This green space could become an amenity that adds value to the surrounding properties, and to the buildings that eventually may cluster around it.  Think of Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia.   Rittenhouse Square and the proposed Dunham Green would be about the same size—approximately 650 feet by 650 feet.  If this new ‘town green’ in Midtown could become the center of a dense, mixed use neighborhood fabric, it would be a good thing. 

But that’s a big ‘If.’

 Aerial photo of Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia.  (Google Earth.)

Compare the area surrounding Rittenhouse Square with the current density surrounding the 6611 Euclid property in the accompanying aerial photos.  Rittenhouse Square has been an elite address and the center of its Philadelphia neighborhood since the early 1800’s, and much of the surrounding historic urban fabric is still intact.  Also, Rittenhouse Square is only 4 blocks/¼ mile/a 5 min. walk from Market StreetPhiladelphia’s main commercial street—and about ½ mile from their City Hall.
 
Aerial photo of Dunham Tavern  and 6611 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland.  (Google Earth.) 

In Cleveland, much of the fabric around the Dunham Tavern has been demolished, or is light industrial in use.  The proposed Dunham Green doesn’t have the same proximity to a thriving commercial center as Rittenhouse Square does.  However, the Tavern’s location right on the Healthline does shorten travel distances. Dunham is 1 mile/20 min. walk/6 min. on the Healthline from Cleveland Clinic, and 1.5 miles/30 min. walking/10 min. by bus from CSU.  It is 2 miles from University Circle, 3 miles from Public Square.  So there is potential for redevelopment around this site. 

DAYDREAM INTO REALITY
One can envision Dunham Green as an oasis in the middle of a dense city fabric that stretches from Downtown to University Circle

It’s a nice urban daydream.  But it’s a long haul from today’s existing conditions to get there. 

If the city wants this dream to become a reality, it should create a master plan for the blocks directly adjacent to the new Green, including a form-based code to ensure that future development on these properties is in alignment with this urban vision.  
 
CONCLUSION
Still hate to see these great warehouse buildings being torn down.  There’s a lot of embedded energy in that concrete structure.  More importantly, buildings of character are vanishing literally each day from our city.  And the unique perspective that these structures lend to understanding our history—where we have been and where we are now—is disappearing along with them.


NOTES
1 Michelle Jarboe McFee, “Developer drops plan to remake Euclid Ave. building; nearby museum wants to knock it down,” The Plain Dealer, 3 February 2012:
2 Michelle Jarboe McFee, “Regional Transit Authority to sell blighted building that mars Cleveland's Health-Tech Corridor,” The Plain Dealer, 23 December 2011:
3 Christopher Busta-Peck, Euclid Avenue: What We've Lost and What We Will Probably Lose,” Cleveland Area History, 27 September 2010.  Web.  12 June 2012:
4 Christopher Busta-Peck, Cincinnati and Cleveland,” Cleveland Area History, 1 March 2011.  Web.  12 June 2012:

1 comment:

  1. I guess the folks at the Dunham Tavern have had enough with the atrocity next door to them. They expect to be in business at the same location into the distant future and have the financial means to change their physical surroundings. A business owner and neighbor who is opportunistic like them can solve the problem of the mess that towers over them in one fell swoop as unfortunate as it is for the overall beauty, greenness, and history of the city. Adios 6611 Euclid, Hola Parc Ivresse.

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