Cleveland Votes to Demolish Breuer's Only Skyscraper

Medium-sized image unavailable for this photo.
Breuer's tower, vacant for more than two decades, will fall for the
county's new administrative complex.

Credit: Mary Ann Sullivan, Bluffton University

Cleveland has turned its back on Marcel Breuer (1902-1981).

His 29-story Ameritrust Tower, the architect's only skyscraper, has been vacant since the late 1980s. Now the city has decided to tear it down for county offices. On June 29, after Mayor Frank Jackson weighed in against preservation, the city planning commission voted 5-2 to approve the 1971 building's demolition.

"In many communities, there would never have been a debate about this. The building would have been adaptively reused," says Peter Lawson Jones, Cuyahoga County commissioner, who cast the dissenting vote in the March 2-1 decision to demolish the concrete structure. "The fact that the planning council, in the face of significant political pressure, made the determination it did certainly doesn't change my view that the building should be preserved rather than demolished."

The county bought the former Cleveland Trust Co. tower and five nearby buildings two years ago for $21.7 million. Although the county wants to build a complex that can be LEED-certified, it asked five architects to submit designs and assume that the forgotten Ameritrust Tower would be demolished.

"We as the local historic preservation organization initially didn't even realize it was built by Marcel Breuer," says Kathleen Crowther, executive director of the Cleveland Restoration Society, who testified at a planning council meeting last month. "We're in a ‘time blind-spot' on assessing the architectural significance of a building that is still so new."

Jones, who points out that the county could save $20 million by reusing the building, says that lack of funds could save the Ameritrust Tower.

"I'm still very hopeful that the building will stand. The county doesn't have the resources to proceed with this project," Jones says. "We'll have to see what happens." 

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