Building design should be compatible with neighborhoods

A recent Facebook commentary by Ken Goldberg shows how important the Cleveland Heights Architectural Board of Review (ABR) can be.  Ken has a master’s degree in art history, and his observations were thoughtful.

Ken criticized the design of the new addition to the Noble Road public library building.  He questioned whether a priority for exterior compatibility had been “thrown to the winds.”  He saw no connection with the original building in [the addition’s] brick color, window design or proportions, height, or roofline. He complained that the addition “has no real style and is without trim, while the original Walker & Weeks building is delightfully Georgian Revival.”

No doubt, Ken believes that the original building of historical significance was not sufficiently respected.

Architects often design their projects to stand out and be unique. Compatibility with the neighborhood be damned!

That almost happened with the present Cleveland Heights City Hall. Originally, it was designed to face the access road from Mayfield Road to the Ring Road.  But the ABR refused to approve that design. It believed the present orientation of the building, facing the old mall location, someday would result in a true “town center.” This was a case in which compatibility was demanded.

Another example was the Cedar Road fire station. Originally, it was quite controversial because of its location near majestic, large houses. But the architects paid attention to location and design. When someone later called City Hall to inquire how to buy one of the new “condominiums,” it became clear that the design of the fire station had a proper level of compatibility.

Another example, hopefully, will be the $66 million Cedar Lee Meadowbrook project. Obviously, modern construction will rarely resemble nearby older structures. But attention is being paid to compatibility. Exterior materials will fit the look of the neighborhood, with its many brick facades. Thank goodness there was no attempt there to build a concrete block monstrosity!

Cleveland Heights has a history of fine architecture. We must hope that the ABR will always respect that history. It may be too late to fix what was done on Noble Road. But hopefully, a lesson will be learned, and mistakes made there will not be repeated.

Alan Rapoport

Alan Rapoport, a longtime CH resident, served on city council (1980–87) and as council president (1982–87). CH City Hall and the fire station were built during his tenure.

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Volume 17, Issue 7, Posted 7:49 AM, 06.26.2024