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Restoring ‘The Sixth City’

Updated on February 18, 2015
Downtown Cleveland, Ohio
Downtown Cleveland, Ohio

When foreign individuals are questioned about their thoughts on Ohio, the few terms that come to mind are the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame, Cedar Point, The Drew Carey Show, and cornfields.

Since the end of the twentieth century, the revolutionary historic marvels of this once-great state has been forgotten, even by it's own citizens. The financially distraught state has let it's most recognized city, Cleveland, fall into disrepair. The condition has driven away native individuals and detoured tourists from visiting.

Before further damage is done, it is vital for Cleveland to act now to save this beautiful city and state.

Public Square (1857)
Public Square (1857)

The Beautiful City Movement

It has been two hundred and nineteen years since Connecticut surveyor, General Moses Cleaveland, laid the foundation for what would later become downtown Cleveland, also known as Public Square.

Despite the less than favorable marshland and frigid winters, the advantage of the Ohio and Erie Canal (1832), Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati Railroads (1851); Standard Oil Company (1870), and the abundance of automotive companies, such as Winton (1890), White (1900), Peerless (1900), Gaeth (1902), Chandler (1913), and Jordan (1916); sparked rapid growth and prosperity that would place the Cleveland as one of the nation’s primary commercial centers and the fifth largest populated city of the twentieth century.

The Millionaire's Row (1880)
The Millionaire's Row (1880)

With sudden wealth and crowding, architects Daniel Burnham, John Carrère, and Arnold W. Brunner were hired to develop the Group Plan (1903), which was inspired by the City Beautiful movement of the nineteenth century, to transform the city to reflect the attitude of the citizens. The movement was a rehabilitative outlook that used ornate structures and urban planning to promote social order and improve the quality of life. The once decaying properties were rejuvenated, creating the monumental Cleveland Mall (1910-1931). Although, the most impressive structures lined the neighborhood, Euclid Avenue, also known as “Millionaire's Row."

Upon knowing the rooted history of Cleveland, it baffles citizens and tourists to see how the “Metropolis of the Western Reserve” has fallen. Amidst the megar twelve historical districts, structures, nearly a century old, continue to be neglected, boarded up, and torn down. More shockingly, entire neighborhoods have disappeared altogether. According to the National Register of Historic Places, there are currently 234 structures listed. That is disregarding the thousands of buildings within the city that are not mentioned, as well as, fifteen structures that have recently been demolished that are still listed.

Similar to the ideals of the City Beautiful movement, it is proposed that it is necessary for the city to restore and preserve these history-rich properties to eradicate stigmas and renew the attitude and economic wealth of Cleveland.

The Solution

Tackling this issue begins with the re-introduction of the City Beautiful movement, as well as, promoting awareness of the historical significance of protecting these structures. The astounding ignorance toward these accomplishments and influential figures of Cleveland ancestry have only aided in the process of riding these buildings.

According to the article, “What To Do With The Vacant Homes Is A Cleveland Quandary,” Cleveland council member, Jeffrey Johnson, admited that the idea of restoring these, “...once livable and architecturally valuable homes,” is anything but far-fetched (Atassi, par. 5).

Surprisingly, the issues occur while the property is in a state of limbo. In the article, “Warren Considers Alternative to Boarding Up Houses”, reporter Jeff Levkulich expresses, “...once the plywood goes up the property values goes down” (Levkulich, par. 1). The longer a building sits vacant, the less interested the investors become and the more damage is done to the structure. To detour from harming the building further, a substitute to plywood was introduced, “The product is called SecureView. It is a Plexiglas material that fits over the doors and windows of the home” (Levkulich, par. 3).

The Savings

Currently, the cost to demolish an abandoned or condemned building begins at approximately $6,000, that is if there is no asbestos to remove. Although, before tearing down the structure, plywood is nailed onto the doorways and windows, which unfortunately, does little to prevent the entrance of squatters, vandals, and looters that further aid in the decay of the property. Mayor Doug Franklin of Warren, Ohio has stated, “There are houses we have to come out 10 to 20 times to re-board up because they are unsafe” (Levkulich, par. 9).

Considering that a decent sized sheet of plywood roughly costs $20-30, the expenses of having to continuously re-apply wood could rise up to $600 for one house. That is not including nails ($1-10 per box), employee wages ($7.25 per hour, not including union wages), and transportation ($2-4 per unleaded gallon). Not to mention, once the building is torn down, the property value, as well the neighborhood value, is significantly decreased due to the stigma of demolished areas as being “bad” or a “lost cause”. Altogether, the total price comes to a minimum of $7,000 of taxpayers money that could be used for more productive alternatives.

Installing SecureView to the structures only comes to $1,200, eliminating the bulk of security costs and potential further degradation of the lot and surrounding areas, leaving more time and money to set aside to preserve and restore the history and architecture that is no longer present in the twenty-first century.

© 2015 samanthamjordan

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