Signs of Cleveland’s past uncovered as Lumen construction progresses in Playhouse Square

In early April, crews broke ground on The Lumen—the 34-story, 396-foot, 318-unit apartment building at the corner of Euclid Avenue and E. 17th Street in Playhouse Square—and construction crews have been moving along ever since.

“We’re building a bathtub in the first phase,” explains Allen Wiant, vice president of strategic development for Playhouse Square Real Estate Services. That “bathtub” is now 43,518 square feet, of which crews have dug down about 24 feet so far, says Wiant. A 90,000-pound excavator has removed 20,000 cubic yards of dirt from the site, with another 10,000 cubic yards to go. Vertical sheeting and tiebacks have been installed, and caissons—going down 175 feet­—are being installed this week.

What’s next? Wiant says they’ll “begin the foundation structure and pour the concrete in late October. We’ll basically be doing it [pouring the foundation] in two pours—the first will be 12 hours long, starting at 7 a.m. Sixty trucks will be coming to the site.”

As the routine foundation work has gone on over the past five months, crews with Gilbane Building Company and development manager Hines have uncovered some pieces of Cleveland’s history. They have discovered old building foundations, spread footers, and other signs of Cleveland’s development in the early 20th century.

“The hardest part of a project like this is getting out of the ground, because you’re encountering the unknown,” says Wiant.

For instance, Wiant says they discovered—and removed—the structure of a building that once stood at E. 17th, which was possibly a theater or hotel. They also found a couple of underground heating oil tanks. “Everything checked out okay,” he promises.

According to Wiant, crews also revealed nine 10’ x 10’ spread footers directly east of the Hanna Building. “These things are massive,” Wiant says. “To the naked eye, they appeared they could be possibly connected to the Hanna.” Upon further investigation, Wiant says they found the footers were from a 1923 three-story building—built after the Hanna—that was possibly a masonry company.

In fact, Wiant likens the excavation portion of the Lumen project to a Little Rascals surprise cake, adding that the discoveries of Cleveland’s past are common when building in an urban environment.

“We’re not building on farmland, we’re building on structures in an incredibly active section of Euclid Avenue during the late 1800s and early 1900s,” he says. “It’s not a surprise that you’d find something left. It’s a matter of what you will uncover.”

Designed by Chicago-based Solomon Cordwell Buenz, The Lumen is deemed the biggest residential project in 40 years. The building will sit on a former parking lot and will comprise 602,000 square feet of 318 one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments—complete with 22,000 square feet of amenities on a fifth-floor amenity deck.

“It will definitely change the Cleveland skyline for the better,” says Wiant. “There’s a lot of interest in the building, with a good buzz about it from people from all over Northeast Ohio—the downtown community, the far East side, the far West side, [and] even people from out of state.”

He reports that Playhouse Square has already amassed a list of more than 150 names of people who want updates on the building’s progress. “The list grows every week,” Wiant says. “We haven’t really even gotten out of the ground yet, so that’s a good sign.”

Wiant adds that the potential demographic of the interested residents is much broader than they had originally thought it would be. “We’ll have empty nesters, young professionals, Cleveland State professors, doctors from the Clinic and University Hospitals,” he says.

Amenities include 550 dedicated resident parking spaces on two below-grade levels. The amenities deck will include a fitness center with Fitness on Demand, a social area, a game area, pool, fire pit, and a large-screen television, as well as a dog run and pet spa. Wiant says the pet area has been thoughtfully designed to accommodate both pet lovers and residents who prefer not to interact with the animals.

Upon entering the building, residents are greeted by a concierge desk and monitored package delivery area. A bike storage area is in the building.

“The traffic patterns in the building are well thought out,” he says. “It’s a very efficient and well-designed building. There’s a lot of storage space for people who downsize and need a place to put their stuff.

Sitting so close to the marquee lights of the largest theater district outside of New York, developers chose the name “The Lumen” to reflect the energy encompassing Playhouse Square. As of now, the project is on schedule and due to be completed in summer 2020; it will employ about 2,000 people during the process. Other partners on The Lumen include Greystar and Vocon.

People can watch The Lumen being erected in 15-minute snapshots via a webcam mounted on the Hanna Building.


Karin Connelly Rice
Karin Connelly Rice

About the Author: Karin Connelly Rice

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.