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Casino Planned For Higbee Building - Cont'd

Dating from 1932, the Higbee Building is part of the Cleveland Union Terminal, a complex of buildings at the southwest part of Public Square, extending to the Cuyahoga river and centered about the 52-story Terminal Tower. This complex is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is significant as one of the largest planned private urban developments in the United States. It was developed by the Van Sweringen brothers and designs for the major components were primarily by the Chicago architectural firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst & White, successors to D. H. Burnham & Co. The Higbee Building is the largest single component of that complex in terms of its floor area, nearly 1 million square feet on 14 levels.  

The first floor has 20-ft. ceilings and broad open spaces defined by rows of square columns centered about wide center bays that extend from Public Square south to Prospect Avenue. Since the 1950s, these center bays were accented by a row of chandeliers and were the focus of holiday decorations for the department store. Under the plan to convert these lower floors into a casino operation, the first floor's center bays will be sued for public circulation, interspersed with gaming tables and accented by new chandeliers that recall the 1950s fixtures.  

Currently, the northern third of the first floor is used for offices and meeting facilities for the Greater Cleveland Partnership while the remainder of the floor is vacant. GCP also has offices on the second floor. The basement and third floor are vacant. The basement would house a large public cafeteria and restrooms plus back-of-house space. The basement entrance from Tower City Center would be re-opened. the second floor would also house gaming space while the third floor would serve as an operations center for the Cleveland casino.  

Key Bank, which opened a major operations center in the Higbee Building earlier this year on the 6th, 8th and 9th floors, is a major tenant. Telecom operations occupy much of the 7th floor. The famed Silver Grille and the auditorium are on the 10th floor. Only the 4th and 5th floors would remain vacant.  

The exterior of the Higbee Building would be restored, with the flagpoles on Public Square and along Ontario St. refurbished and fitted out with flags. Unobtrusive building lighting would highlight its classical exterior and street trees installed along Ontario.  

KA Architects is leading the design team for the project and Steven McQuillin is preservation consultant. Steve has served as preservation consultant for various owners of the Higbee Building since 1984, when it was still a department store occupying all of the floors. Now, ten years after it closed as a department store, the Higbee Building promises to be a vital center of the downtown once again, used by thousands on a daily basis.