Five alive: A handful of projects set to show off Cleveland's boom to RNC visitors

In less than three months, the 2016 Republic National Convention (RNC) will bustle into town amid spectacle, ceremony and presidential candidates with their pompadours and motorcades. The much ballyhooed event is an opportunity to show off a rising downtown in the midst of what many Clevelanders see as an unprecedented revival, although there is a strong chorus of dissenting voices.
As Cleveland's sizzling RNC summer approaches, Fresh Water has spotlighted five exciting downtown projects either fully completed or scheduled to come online in the future that will be with us long after the elephants have lumbered out of town.

1. Hilton Cleveland Downtown (Convention Center Hotel)

According to the convention host committee, Northeast Ohio will have 17,000 rooms available within a 45-minute drive of downtown and just under 5,000 rooms in the immediate metro area when a projected 50,000 delegates and media arrive for RNC's first day. The 32-story Hilton Cleveland Downtown Hotel will provide 600 guest spaces alone when it opens in June.
The $276 million tower is connected to the Cleveland Convention Center and is just one of the new hotels to emerge in concurrence with the RNC. Along with the Hilton, the Drury Plaza Hotel will be ready to welcome conventioneers, and the Kimpton Schofield Hotel already is. For those keeping score at home, add in aloft, The 9 and the Holiday Inn Cleveland Clinic and that's six new downtown hotels in four years, with guest capacity equating to a 55 percent leap from Cleveland's 2013 supply of hotel rooms, reports Destination Cleveland.

2. Parker Hannifin YMCA at the Galleria: Showcase on Repurpose
Should the city's summer guests feel the need to work up a sweat between bouts of heated political debate, the Parker Hannifin Downtown YMCA is just a 15-minute walk from the main convention area at Quicken Loans Arena. The YMCA opened its 40,000 square feet of premium health and wellness space in the Galleria in March, and has since drawn 2,000 new members hankering for a perspiration-inducing selection of exercise options.  
Though the YMCA is still determining its RNC visitor plans, prospective walk-ins to the $12 million complex may use its 70 pieces of cardio and strength equipment or three-lane lap pool. Exercise studios, a spinning area, message therapy rooms and a physician-assisted health clinic are also available.
The facility is expected to house twice the number of members as its old digs at East 22nd Street and Prospect Avenue. Just as critically, the new YMCA adds an anchor to the emergent NineTwelve District for an overall downtown population anticipated by Downtown Cleveland Alliance to grow to 18,000 within the next two years.
The project also highlights how Cleveland area developers are reimagining spaces. Just down the street, visitors will find a grocery store in a former bank lobby and a tony restaurant in another in nearby Ohio City. Similarly, the new YMCA is housed in a former retail space. Hence, YMCA officials believe the fitness center will continue on as part of the unique Cleveland experience well beyond the much-anticipated RNC.
"The Y has been a positive force downtown since 1854, and will continue to be at its new home in the Galleria," says marketing director Amanda Lloyd.

3. Cleveland Hopkins Upgrade: Upping the Game on Getting Here
Cleveland Hopkins International Airport is nearing completion of a $22-million refurbishment of its exterior and portions of the ticketing and baggage areas in the main building. The multi-phased project will modernize and upgrade the airport's departure-level ticketing lobby and facade, a pair of necessities that Hopkins' administrators say will improve the overall traveling experience.
The project, which began construction in February 2015, is on track to finish up next month. Flyers jetting out of Cleveland over the last year have dealt with partial parking lot closures and other inconveniences since work commenced, but airport officials say the final result will be worth the hassle, particularly when tens of thousands of guests arrive for the GOP presidential nominating convention.

Photo courtesy of James Corner Field Operations
4.   Public Square Revamp: Central to the Action
An unusually mild winter is helping keep the $57 million Public Square makeover on track for completion in time for the RNC in July. The staggering overhaul, designed by landscape architecture firm James Corner Field Operations, intends to create a vibrant green space in a highly trafficked area historically fragmented by roadways.

"Public Square is going to be a bold transformation of a really broken part of the city to something that will be an incredible front door to the city," said LAND Studio's managing director Gregory Peckham in this extensive profile.
The 10-acre previously partitioned grid will be transformed by reconfiguring and limiting the traffic pattern. Some fifty thousand square feet of concrete and pavement has come out, which will increase the green space by 40 percent. Amenities include a water feature with fountains, outdoor cafe, event lawn, fresh landscaping around the 1894 Soldiers and Sailors Monument and a meandering promenade that hugs it all. The project is scheduled to finish by June 1, a mere 48 days before the convention rolls into Cleveland.

5. Health Education Campus: Looking Forward
The $515 million Health Education Campus (HEC), a joint project from Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) and the Cleveland Clinic, has a ways to go before completion. By July, however, conventioneers will see evidence that the Cleveland boom will continue long after they've gone. A dozen concrete shafts associated with the HEC project will be in place, transforming the area along Euclid Avenue and East 93rd Street into an active construction site that will eventually become a four-story, multi-disciplinary educational hub for medical, dental and nursing students from both Cleveland institutions.
Although HEC won't welcome its student population until July 2019, proponents believe the facility will have significant impact on a regional healthcare hub that already has more than 60 hospitals. It will also be a nice complement to CSU's new Center for Innovation in Medical Practices, which opened last year.
Classrooms, simulation labs and auditorium space are highlights of the 487,000-square-foot venture. The building will also feature state-of-the-art technology, including utilization of Microsoft HoloLens devices, which will allow attendees to learn anatomy using three-dimensional holographic images.
The facility, designed by Foster + Partners, is intended to promote collaboration among students from the Clinic's Lerner College of Medicine and CWRU's school of medicine, school of dental medicine and its Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing.
Meanwhile, a separate 150,000-square-foot dental clinic planned for the Hough neighborhood is part of the larger campus. The three-story clinic will open alongside the main building, with both facilities set to host CWRU dental students.
Ultimately, the HEC's team-based care approach can stake Cleveland's place as an epicenter for innovative health education, Clinic and CWRU officials noted in a joint statement to Fresh Water.
"Students will learn, study and dine in a common space, learning about the skills and knowledge within each discipline and how best to mesh expertise in the best interests of patients," officials say. "Our students will graduate prepared to lead in this exceptionally promising approach."

Read more articles by Douglas J. Guth.

Douglas J. Guth is a Cleveland Heights-based freelance writer and journalist. In addition to Fresh Water, his work has been published by Midwest Energy News, Kaleidoscope Magazine and Think, the alumni publication of Case Western Reserve University. A die-hard Cleveland sports fan, he also writes for the cynically named (yet humorously written) blog Cleveland Sports Torture.   
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