MeetingsFocus.com looks at facilities on the way in Cleveland:
Hard Hat FAM
Clneveland; Sept. 14-16, 2011
by Gary Singh
Cleveland is unusually awash in many large-scale projects, with the brand-new $465 million Cleveland Medical Mart and Convention Center emerging from the ground up, the 70,000-square-foot Greater Cleveland Aquarium soon to open in the old Powerhouse building, and its East Flats going through a gargantuan, $275 million redevelopment.
What’s more, the historic Higbee Building is currently being transformed into the $350 million Horseshoe Casino, the first casino in Ohio.
Meeting planners and journalists recently attended a tour of the new projects, plus some current hotels, to see the transformation firsthand. MEETINGS FOCUS EAST also stopped in at the Cleveland Museum of Art near University Circle, as well as the future location of the $26.3 million Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) at the corner of Euclid Avenue and Mayfield Road. The former is currently undergoing a massive reconstruction project while the latter is scheduled to open in fall 2012.
If planners desire to taxi an airplane directly from the Cleveland Hopkins Airport into the International Exposition Center (I-X Center), rest assured, it can be done. Although FAM attendees didn’t get to do that, the 2 million-square-foot facility was mighty impressive nonetheless.
Originally a facility manufacturing bombers during World War II, the building later served as a plant for manufacturing tanks. Today, it remains one of the largest trade show facilities in the US. It also houses the country’s largest indoor Ferris wheel. As it continues its 25th anniversary season, the I-X Center plans to invest another $25 million to $35 million over the next few years.
At the future site of the new Convention Center and Medical Mart, construction crews were obviously experienced at giving detailed tours. They supplied all FAM attendees with hard hats, fluorescent yellow construction vests and goggles for the grand tour. Safely outfitted, the group of 30 traversed the landscape of steel beams, palettes, forklifts, dust, mud, hoses, pumps, girders and machinery. A sonic menagerie of construction sounds exploded from every corner of the scene.
The Medical Mart will be one of the world’s only facilities targeted specifically to the medical and healthcare industries, and will feature an exhibition hall, conference facilities and state-of-the-art technology. The entire complex, which is shooting for LEED silver-certification, will open in fall 2013.
Locals seemed ecstatic that a new convention center had finally broken ground, as the old convention center was outdated and dying a natural death. In fact, it didn’t even have wired Internet access or cell phone reception.
In the West Bank of the Flats, the FirstEnergy Powerhouse building will soon be home to the new 70,000-square-foot Greater Cleveland Aquarium. The first phase includes 42 tanks integrated into the historic building to create an underwater environment.
As FAM attendees toured the construction, again with hard hats, workers pointed out old signage remaining from when the building was used as a nightclub. Sitting along the Cuyahoga River, the Powerhouse building is just one component of the Nautica Entertainment Complex, which includes a banquet facility and an outdoor concert amphitheater on the river. Marinescapes, a New Zealand-based designer of walk-through aquariums, is teaming with Jacobs Entertainment to build out the facility. The first phase is scheduled for completion this year.
As if that wasn’t enough, a monumental development project is geared for the East Bank Flats. A complicated real estate endeavor with over 20 investors, the plan is to erect a brand-new Starwood Aloft boutique hotel by 2013, which would anchor a $275 million project connecting the East Bank of the Flats with the Warehouse District. The ambitious plan includes retail, entertainment, a 1,200-foot boardwalk, a three-acre riverfront beach and 10 acres of public parks.
And what would all of this be without a place to literally roll the dice? The Cleveland Horseshoe Casino wasn’t viewable yet, but tourism bureau officials had nothing but praise for the idea. Ohio voters green-lighted the project two years ago and the casino should open next year in the historic Higbee Building, famously portrayed in A Christmas Story. The next phase of the project will eventually see the casino extending all the way to the bank of the Cuyahoga River.
The Ritz-Carlton provided dessert and the rest was history. The hotel includes more than 19,000 square feet of meeting and function space and 12 well-appointed meeting rooms, including three permanent boardrooms. Certain areas are also graced with artifacts from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.
Only in Cleveland would one see a Gibson Flying V guitar hanging on the wall in a Ritz-Carlton executive concierge area.
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