On the heels of Pride in the CLE, good news out of Gordon Square: after 20 years of operating out of a 5,000-square-foot basement at 6600 Detroit Ave., the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland is ready to move into a prominent, custom-designed and -built, and proud new home across the street at 6705 Detroit.
“It’s a beautiful space,” says Phyllis Harris, the center’s executive director. “It’s very utilitarian, but it’s also gorgeous.”
The two-story, 15,000-square-foot building is the result of ongoing discussions among board and staff members since 2012 about whether to make renovations or move to another location. According to Harris, an anonymous donor made the idea of building a facility from scratch a reality with a $4.9 million donation for the land purchase, demolition, and new construction of the building, as well as program and operations support.
The center broke ground in December 2017, and on Friday, June 14, the organization will hold its official grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony. The staff is expected to make the move next week.
In addition to the anonymous donation, the center has received numerous individual donations via a capital campaign that kicked off in 2014. A $300,000 grant from the George Gund Foundation helped with construction costs and ensures the building meets LEED Silver certification standards. (The LEED certification application is now underway.) A $500,000 one-to-one matching grant from the Milton and Tamar Maltz Family Foundation was met and now totals $1 million. The Cleveland Foundation manages the Center’s Facility Endowment Fund, which is currently at $1.1 million.
The new LGBT Community Center“It’s important for folks to know this has been a real partnership and process in making this building sustainable,” says Harris. “This is just part of our movement forward.”
The new center features plenty of natural light and fits in with both the contemporary and historic buildings that line Detroit Avenue, says David Thal, who served as designer/architect on the project and is a senior associate with Weber Murphy Fox.
“It’s light-filled building with lots of large glass and metal storefront that complement the walking aspects of the neighborhood,” he explains, adding that a fast food chain occupied the land previously. Thal designed the building to close the open gaps between buildings that existed previously: “It fills that gap and creates walkability and density the Detroit Shoreway is looking for.”
The exterior is constructed using three different colored bricks—tan, terra cotta, and raisin—silver metal panels, and plenty of glass. Additionally, there are some parking spaces for the center.
The facility was constructed by &build, which served as construction manager.
Inside, flexible, open spaces house a teaching kitchen, lounge, meeting rooms, offices, event space, and a cyber center funded by the David Bohnett Foundation that will allow for free wi-fi throughout the building. Also on-site are a 500-book resource library, small business and entrepreneur space, and an outdoor terrace, all meant to make the LGBT Community Center a true neighborhood resource.
“Flexibility is key,” says Thal. “We obviously wanted to design and build for their current needs but [also] adapt for future needs. We have areas that blend into each other; and we have other areas that can become larger.”
Thal says he used pivoting doors in some areas and sliding barn doors in others “to really have a dynamic space and welcome and serve the community.”
Thal adds that while the interior is done in a neutral shell, there are areas of exposed structure and exposed ceilings that reveal the inner workings of the building. He says wayfinding and placemaking tricks help define the spaces.
“We used pops of color throughout the space, like forward fuchsia in the lounge or chartreuse on the stairs,” he says. “The exposed ceilings are braced by floating ceiling planes to give a sense of placemaking.”
The building is fully accessible, thanks to an elevator, but perhaps the centerpiece is an open monumental cantilevered stair with a stainless steel handrail and glass guardrail. “There are no supports,” Thal says of the cantilever. “It’s amazing.”
The HVAC system, daylight harvesting systems, and LED dimmable lighting controls throughout the building help contribute to the LEED certification criteria.
A piece by local artist Andrew Reach, titled “Fifty Three Rhombuses” is already hanging in the building, says Harris, and an art committee has been formed to commission additional works.
Harris believes the new LGBT Community Center, with its larger space, free wi-fi, and windows to take in the activities around Detroit Shoreway will truly be an asset to the neighborhood.
“We’re going to bring a lot to Gordon Square, where people can get a cup of coffee, put up posters about what is happening, or bring your laptop and look out the windows,” she says. “We’ll be a destination spot for Gordon Square, and we’re contributing to the economic development for Cleveland.”
Harris says the timing of the opening fits not only with Pride Month in June, but also the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village, New York City—a catalyst for the gay liberation movement.
Says Harris, “This bright, shiny, accessible building is a visible sign of resilience, existence, and continuing support for the LGBTQ being worthy of the rights everyone has."