Cleveland Planning Commission Approves Convention Center Plans

Although it will cost $40 million more than the original design, the Cleveland City Planning Commission has approved revised plans for the city's new convention center, local newspaper The Plain Dealer reported this month.

In a unanimous vote on Oct. 1, the six-member commission gave the project's developer, Chicago-based MMPI Inc., the green light to move forward toward a planned groundbreaking this fall.

"This enables us to move full speed ahead," Cuyahoga County attorney and spokesperson Jeff Appelbaum told The Plain Dealer. "The conceptual issues are behind us."

In August, Seattle-based LMN Architects introduced its vision for the Cleveland Medical Mart, which will be built on the site of the existing, 85-year-old Cleveland Convention Center in downtown Cleveland, parts of which will be rebuilt in order to create a new and improved convention center facility that's connected to the medical mart.

The proposed design included a re-imagined Cleveland Mall consisting of a grassy slope rising more than 20 feet toward Lake Erie between the medical mart and Cleveland's Public Auditorium; a low glass-fronted building serving as the entrance to the underground convention center at the bottom of the hill; and tree-lined promenades lined with "urban rooms," such as gardens or a dog park.

Although city officials said they loved the design, they also raised questions about the size and functionality of its convention center component. In response, LMN spent September revising its convention center design, replacing what had been several multi-functional spaces with "single-purpose ballroom, exhibit and meeting spaces of higher quality," according to The Plain Dealer.

The final design — which would cost $40 million more than the original estimate, which was $425 million — will equip the new convention center with a 31,200-square-foot ballroom, 60,000 square feet of meeting rooms and 230,000 square feet of exhibit space. Together, the medical mart and convention center are expected to have approximately 120,000 square feet of permanent showrooms available for lease by medical manufacturers, as well as 300,000 square feet of exhibit space and approximately 160,000 square feet of meeting space.