David Adjaye tapped to join riverfront redevelopment team in Cleveland

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David Adjaye tapped to join riverfront redevelopment team in Cleveland

Architect Sir David Adjaye with Cleveland Mayor Mayor Justin M. Bibb and Bedrock CEO Koffi Bonner. (Courtesy Bedrock)

Bedrock, the real estate arm of Cleveland Cavaliers owner-slash–Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert’s Detroit-headquartered business empire, has announced that celebrated Ghanaian-British architect David Adjaye has joined on to a development team setting out to transform a 130-acre stretch of Cleveland’s Cuyahoga Riverfront into a sustainable, “15-minute neighborhood” over a 20- to 30-year span.

The multi-phase, mixed-use riverfront redevelopment project, envisioned as what Bedrock CEO Kofi Bonner referred to as a “residential community with office, retail, entertainment, and other recreational amenities,” will be anchored by a revamped and reimagined Tower City Center. The landmark downtown Cleveland commercial complex was once home to a major rail hub that was ultimately shuttered in the late 1970s after decades of decline. (Today, it’s home to a rapid transit station.) Designed by Chicago firm Graham, Anderson, Probst & White, the National Register of Historic Places–listed building first debuted opposite Cleveland’s Public Square 1930; for decades, its titular 52-story Beaux Arts office high-rise ranked as the tallest skyscraper in North America outside of New York City.

In 1990, Tower City’s erstwhile rail terminal was converted into a (now ailing) 366,000-square-foot shopping mall, the Avenue Shops, by then-owner Forest City Enterprises as part of a major renovation. As noted by Bedrock in a press release, together with Adjaye it will “conceptualize plans to maximize Tower City Center’s potential as a destination marketplace.”

view of a historic train hall converted into amall
Tower City Center’s train hall-turned-shopping mall pictured in 2015. (Erick Drost/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

Bedrock bought Tower City Center and its mall in 2016 for $56.5 million.

“It is a true honor to collaborate with Bedrock and the City of Cleveland on this important initiative to reinvigorate and reimagine the Cuyahoga Riverfront,” said Adjaye in a statement. “As with all of my projects, becoming immersed in what makes a city so dynamic, while also engaging with its people, places and culture will guide the development of our multi-phased proposal.”

Bonner, a Ghana-born architect and planner who formerly served as deputy executive director of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency and as chief administrative officer with the Cleveland Browns before joining Bedrock as CEO in 2020, praised Adjaye for his “unique ability to curate distinctive and memorable places.” He that added that his contributions to the team “will enable us to connect a world class sustainable Riverfront neighborhood to the historic Tower City Center and downtown, while respecting the great work of the community detailed in the Vision for the Valley.”

rendering of the cleveland riverfront
A revitalized Cleveland riverfront. (Courtesy Bedrock)

In announcing the involvement of Adjaye, Bedrock also revealed that it had selected civil engineering firm Osborn Engineering as part of a competitive procurement process to join the growing team—one being assembled to “accelerate the development of Cleveland’s waterfront neighborhood, with a focus on sustainability and resiliency, including new complete streets, digital access, enhanced public spaces and pathways to the Riverfront, and transit-oriented development in line with the City’s Vision for the Valley.”

As for the so-called Vision for the Valley, it is a larger plan adopted by the Cleveland Planning Commission to serve as a roadmap for development and investment activities along an 8-mile stretch of riverfront just east of the city’s fast-growing downtown, as Eric Heisig explained for Bedrock’s development proposal, first announced in September 2021, is a “strategically aligned” counterpart to Vision for the Valley being carried out in partnership with the City of Cleveland. Per, Bedrock owns roughly 30 percent of the land, including Tower City, within the proposed redevelopment zone.

AN will follow up to this story when Adjaye’s conceptual visions are released further down the line.