CLEVELAND — The razing of a landmark downtown tower is off — for now — since the city’s planning commission refused to approve its demolition to make way for a county government complex.
City Planning Commission Chairman Tony Coyne criticized county officials for not seriously considering saving the 29-story Ameritrust tower as part of the new complex.
“We don’t get it in Cleveland,” Coyne said. “In downtown Chicago, they would never tear this down.”
Cuyahoga County Commissioner Tim Hagan responded by saying architects found the tower wouldn’t fit the county’s needs.
“This is beyond anything I’ve confronted in my political life,” Hagan said Friday. “An unelected group dictating to commissioners what kind of building should be built in a city where the mayor and City Council president support it. That’s exactly what’s wrong with the city.”
Mayor Frank Jackson and City Council President Martin Sweeney supported the commissioners’ 2-1 vote in March to raze the stark tower, designed in the Brutalist style by renowned architect Marcel Breuer. It opened in 1971.
The new complex would consolidate county agencies employing nearly 2,000, giving the city an opportunity to boost commerce in its core, county officials said.
But a group of preservationists and architects — including several with national reputations — are trying to save the tower for reuse. They say savings on demolition and preparation, along with tax credits, could total $19 million to $35 million.
At Friday’s Planning Commission meeting, members learned that historic tax credits could be used only if the county transferred the property to a private developer. And the county could lease back only 35 percent of the building, not enough for its space needs.
Coyne said he may yet support demolition of the tower, but he is unhappy that the county didn’t involve city planners in the site-selection process and that the county hasn’t shown more detail of the new complex and its impact on downtown.