When the din of voices suddenly becomes hushed, the footlights come up and the maestro raises his baton, it’s easy to feel like you’re in the heart of Times Square. But, this is off-Broadway in the truest sense — this is Cleveland’s theater district. The neighborhood has long been the home to Broadway shows, dance, comedy, concerts and so much more.
Since the opening of the Idea Center and its storefront television studios in 2006, Playhouse Square has attracted another audience, the public radio and television enthusiasts. It has also brought more creative and technology businesses to the area.
Tom Einhouse, vice president of real estate development for Playhouse Square, reveals that the district is in the midst of a master plan to expand its commercial profile by creating a “District of Design.” Einhouse explains this concept will bring the design departments of Ohio consumer-goods manufacturers Ohio to Playhouse Square. Manufacturers in small towns are attracted to the area because of its easy accessibility and urban location.
“We hope to develop a creative environment with a collection of these firms. There is high interest in major manufacturing of consumer household goods, in particular.”
In addition to its status as the largest entertainment district between New York City and Chicago, Playhouse Square continues to thrive with high occupancy rates. While young professionals have been flocking here, plans are in the works to develop additional housing within the next three to five years that will target empty-nesters. New construction of condominiums and plans for adaptive reuse will add even more residential options.
Livability for Mother and Daughter
Sally Andrews says her return to Cleveland after living in Fort Lauderdale for 12 years was a very good thing. She and her college-age daughter, Sara, now live in Huron Square. Sally commutes to her job as department coordinator for the executive board office at The Cleveland Clinic on the No. 6 RTA bus, while Sara walks to classes at Cleveland State University.
The duo chose Playhouse Square because they wanted to be near the arts. “I have fond memories of this part of town,” Sally says. “I liked the location. I wanted something quieter … something not near the bar scene.”
But Sally loves sports, too. She can even watch the Indians playing at Progressive Field from her bedroom window. “I can see the batter at home plate and can watch him run to first base. And that’s without binoculars. I could probably run over to my daughter’s bedroom and catch him rounding to third.” She also has the best seat in the house for watching Friday night fireworks.
In fact, her only lament when it comes to the Cleveland sports scene is “we have so much and so often we don’t see it. Take a look at what happened with arena football. Bernie Kosar had been in Florida yet he brought that back here. I wish people could see how great Cleveland is.”
Sally isn’t the only Cleveland fan in her family. Sara, a sophomore at Cleveland State University, loves it here. “She felt she wasn’t getting a great education at Florida Atlantic and is really happy at Cleveland State.” Although Sally was somewhat surprised by her daughter’s decision to join a sorority, she says that it works for her and that she’s become very active in the community.
“She walks to Cleveland State every day, boots and all. Of course, she loved the winter garb shopping.”
Both Andrews women walk a lot. Sally no longer feels the need to own a car. She walks to the Cleveland Public Library at least once a week. (“It offers so much.”) She shops at the West Side Market and Reserve Square.
A huge RTA fan, she discovered it provides easy access to her job and that it’s a great place to make friends and meet co-workers. One morning in particular stays in Sally’s mind. “I met a cute little girl from kindergarten who comes on the bus with her mom every morning. One day she gave me a Sponge Bob Valentine’s Day card. I made a comment to her mom about how happy her daughter is. When the little girl got off the bus, she yelled, ‘Happy Valentine’s Day, lady.’ ”
“Living here is like I returned to a different world. We’re in a kinder world here. I’m glad to be back in Cleveland.”
Few people know that the 320-foot-long lobby of Playhouse Square’s State Theater is the longest in the world. The State, tucked behind the Palace Theater, was built in 1921 with an extra long lobby so at least one part of it would stretch to the highly covetable street front space on Euclid Avenue. Four 40-foot-long wall murals by acclaimed modernist painter James Daugherty, including one that was featured on the cover of Life magazine in 1970, punctuate the lobby. IW