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Issue Date: September 2007 Issue

Tower Outage

Lynne Thompson, Photograph by Eric Mull
After two years of being shrouded in scaffolding, the cupola of the city’s Terminal Tower is once again visible. Even from the ground, the top of the 77-year-old landmark looks better than most people can remember. But few really know what has been (and still is) going on up there. We asked Terminal Tower general manager 
Stephen Bir to fill us in.

The Problem: Old age, an affliction particularly evident on the gold-pigmented iron cupola and ornate terra cotta facade gracing the 34th to 50th floors. “The cupola was built with a cement backing over a steel cap,” Bir says. “Over the years, the expansion and contraction of the concrete had split some of the 
metal. And some of the cracks in the terra cotta had given way to Cleveland’s weather, rusting some of the steel behind it.”

The Solution: A major facelift that includes reinforcing the underlying steel and rebuilding the cupola and facade. The cupola was painted a shade that approximates the original gold tint. “It had been painted many different colors over the years — brown, pewter, a mustard color,” Bir says. The building is being cleaned with a kinder, gentler version of power washing as work is completed.

Interior Upgrades: All 21 elevators are being replaced. “People got stuck in them occasionally,” Bir says. “Even our president and chief executive officer was stuck in them various times over the years.”

Completion Date: Late 2010

Price Tag: The job costs about $40 million, provided by Forest City Enterprises. It includes replacing all of the building’s 2,050 single-pane steel windows. “They were, in some 
areas, very dilapidated,” Bir says. “We had to put [interior] storm windows on because the snow would come in through the sides.”

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