First look: Make way for The Music Settlement in Ohio City

A beloved University Circle institution is widening its footprint to include Ohio City. This fall, The Music Settlement (TMS) will open its doors on the ground floor of The Quarter, a new mixed-use development at the northwest corner of Detroit Avenue and West 25th Street.

“We get to be a bridge now,” says Lynn Johnson, director of marketing and communications. “We’ve been in University Circle since 1938 and now we get to bridge over to Ohio City and show our new neighbors our high-quality programs and outstanding teachers. The Music Settlement is 106 years old, yet also becoming brand-new at the same time, which is really exciting.”

Much like its predecessor in University Circle, the new TMS location will encompass music therapy, music instruction, and early childhood education, but the new location will have a distinctly different feel. While University Circle’s offerings are spread across a campus of five older “legacy buildings,” the Ohio City outpost will be integrated into one brand-new 19,045-square-foot space with a central lobby.

“This is absolutely the counterpart [to University Circle],” says Johnson. “And it’s completely built to spec.”

Currently, TMS Ohio City is at about 65 percent completion, on track for final completion in June (which coincides with the first residential move-in dates for The Quarter). On a big-picture level, developer Snavely Group is hopeful that TMS will help reinforce the neighborhood feel for this part of Ohio City—into which Snavely Group is putting a $70 million investment.

“We feel like this corner will be active morning through night,” says Zoe Adams, Snavely Group’s director of marketing. “Between The Music Settlement open all day, and the grocery store and dry cleaner [inside The Quarter], it will feel like a true urban neighborhood.”

Starting Off On the Right Note

With all TMS offerings now under one roof, the design of the Ohio City location needed to be highly intentional—accounting for privacy concerns and state requirements for the early childhood education program, soundproofing needs for the residents of The Quarter, and ways to make the space as flexible as possible.

Music therapy roomThe chance to build a new space also enabled TMS to “start from scratch” and improve upon various aspects of its long-time current location. For instance, extra acoustical padding has been added to better insulate the music instruction rooms.

“Having soundproof acoustical planning for the music instruction rooms is amazing,” says Karen Heitlinger, chair of the TMS Center for Early Childhood. “On the University Circle campus, we have gorgeous older buildings, but there is so much sound bleed.”

Other improvements are evident in the dance studio and the Center for Early Childhood’s science room. For the former, floor-to-ceiling mirrors were installed after getting feedback on the UC location’s mirrors, which end four inches off the ground. (“Now dancers can see their feet,” says Heitlinger.)

For the latter, an 824-square-foot room will provide three times the space of University Circle’s science room, making way for more STEM activities and for kids “to get messy and get active,” says Heitlinger. “[In University Circle], the science room is tiny; it used to be storage under the stairs. This will provide much more space, which will be so inspirational for the kids.”

Science room

Under the planned design, the Center for Early Childhood takes up almost 12,000 square feet of the total 19,000+ square feet, but Heitlinger points out that the musical aspect will also extend beyond the walls of The Quarter.

“A lot of our [music] programming will be in the form of community outreach in area schools and other facilities,” she explains. “Early childhood education occupies a majority of the on-site footprint, but as far as programming, the volume there is well-balanced across [the] Centers.”

For the TMS team, it was also imperative to strike the right balance between meeting the needs of the early childhood program and maximizing the full space. “During hours of operation for the licensed preschool, you cannot have shared space,” explains Heitlinger, “but this entire campus was built with flexible use in mind.”

Dance studioWith that in mind, the left wing is entirely dedicated to the early childhood education program, while the right wing houses the musical programming—but the center area will have applications for both departments, housing a library, multi-purpose room, dance studio, and two early childhood classrooms that can be used for other purposes during off-hours.

“The center corridor has a lot of multi-tasking to be done,” says Heitlinger. “This center part allows us to connect with community and [share the] programming that’s happening here for all ages and all creative arts."

Creating Community in Ohio City

According to Johnson, the new location has been in the works for about three years. Their decision to expand to Ohio City was largely sparked by the donation of the Bop Stop (TMS' listening room and performance venue in Hingetown).

“We didn’t want the Bop Stop to be its own satellite all alone; we wanted to be able to build a community," explains Johnson.

The Music Settlement team surveyed several locations along Detroit Avenue in searching for their second home, but Karen Heitlinger says the choice of The Quarter was relatively clear-cut. At the time, developer Snavely Group was seeking a community partner who could serve the neighborhood’s diverse demographic, and The Music Settlement’s all-ages appeal felt like the right fit.

“It wasn’t just the music programming, but also the early childhood education [offerings] that were attractive to Snavely in designing this,” explains Heitlinger. “They felt we could be a great anchor for the neighborhood and provide a reason for people to engage and for young families to stay.”

Ensemble room

To that end, the Ohio City location will essentially duplicate University Circle’s early childhood education model, but the music programming will be more customized to the new surroundings. Plans include short-term boot camps focusing on various instruments, guitar group classes for all ages, and a new music appreciation track for adults—as well as possibly a rock-and-pop group.

“It was very much about going out into the community and finding out, ‘What do you want to learn and how do you want to learn it?’” says Johnson. “We’ll certainly take some of the ensembles and musical styles we’re teaching in University Circle, but [in Ohio City], there will be more of a focus on groups, ensembles, and community-building.”

To demonstrate their long-term intent to stay in the area, TMS has purchased the space rather than leasing, and they’re especially proud of the fact that the new location will also create 20 new full-time jobs.

Johnson, among others, is eagerly anticipating how the new location will play out. "To see it now after talking about it and looking at it on paper for so long is so exciting," says Johnson. "It's for real."
TMS Ohio City: At a Glance

Center for Early Childhood

  • Six classrooms
  • Dance studio and multi-purpose room
  • Science room and library
  • Communal kitchen for snack preparation
  • Parent conference meeting rooms
  • Offices for admin staff
  • Outdoor playground
Center for Music
  • Two individual instruction classrooms
  • Three large music classrooms/ensemble rooms
  • Computer instruction classroom
  • Computer lab for composition/keyboard instruction
Center for Music Therapy
  • Two music therapy studios
  • Two separate observation rooms

Read more articles by Jen Jones Donatelli.

As an enthusiastic CLE-vangelist, Jen Jones Donatelli enjoys diving headfirst into her work with FreshWater Cleveland. Upon moving back to Cleveland after 16 years in Los Angeles, Jen served as FreshWater's managing editor for two years (2017-2019) and continues her work with the publication as a contributing editor and host of the FreshFaces podcast. When not typing the day away at her laptop, she teaches writing and creativity classes through her small business Creative Groove, as well as Literary Cleveland, Cleveland State University, and more. Jen is a proud graduate of Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.