Cleveland, OH

Cleveland Clinic to demolish ex-Cleveland Play House

Clinic has no long-term development plans for the siteGoogle

Featuring three theaters around a central rotunda, the 1984 renovation of the Cleveland Play House and inclusion of the former Sears department store resulted in the largest regional theater complex in the United States totaling nearly 300,000 square feet. But since CPH moved to the Allen Theater downtown in 2011, Cleveland Clinic Foundation has struggled to find a new use for the facility which is to be razed.

Redesigned by a world-famous architect in his hometown. Site of the first stage performances by the Clevelander who made The Wicked Witch of the West famous. Shaker Heights native Paul Newman and many other notable actors also got their starts at the place once called the 86th Street Theater.

According to two sources, the Cleveland Clinic Foundation will seek to demolish all structures that were once part of the Cleveland Play House (CPH), 8500 Euclid Ave. That includes the adjacent former Sears department store along Carnegie Avenue. Demolition could occur this winter.

In the near term, the Clinic will reportedly continue to use the site for employee parking as well as for the staging of construction materials and equipment for major capital projects starting in 2022, including its planned 900,000-plus-square-foot Neurological Institute. The new Neurological Institute is proposed to rise on the current site of the Surgery Center (called the P Building), 2083 E. 89th St. At the end of this year, its employees will be relocated so the 1968-built, eight-story, 160,000-square-foot building can be razed, one of the sources said recently.

After the Cleveland Clinic constructs the new Neurological Institute, new Global Center for Pathogen Research & Human Health and an expanded Cole Eye Institute over the next couple of years, the Clinic reportedly has no firm plans at this time for the former CPH property. It’s a huge piece of land for an urban setting, representing 11.3 acres. And that doesn’t include a grassy 0.465-acre parcel within the site owned by Euclid 8400, LLC of Henderson, Nevada.
Site of the former Cleveland Play House, as well as its juxtaposition to the new site for the massive new Neurological InstituteGoogle

Sources say the old CPH complex will be razed by the Cleveland Clinic Foundation to provide a construction staging area for the new Neurological Institute and be a future development site.

Although there’s no long-term plan now, this area was recently designated by the State of Ohio as its second Innovation District. Within that district, stakeholders including the Clinic, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland State University, University Hospitals, MetroHealth System, community development officials and others anticipate up to 20,000 jobs and 10,000 housing units to be added over the next 15 years. The Clinic seeks to be directly involved in developments that support the addition of housing and spin-off jobs.

It’s not the first time the Cleveland Clinic demolished notable, historic structures without first having a plan for how it would use the cleared property. In August 2020, the Clinic demolished the nearby ORCA House, 1905 E. 89th., just south of Chester Avenue. ORCA House, now part of Signature Health Inc., is one of the oldest African-American founded and operated adult substance abuse treatment centers in the country.

Although CPH continues to operate and perform at the Allen Theater in downtown Cleveland’s Playhouse Square, its home for more than 80 years was at the old 86th Street Theater. It is distinct from the the Playhouse Settlement which later became Karamu House, another performing arts institution located in the Fairfax neighborhood.

The nearly 300,000-square-foot ex-CPH complex was bought by Cleveland Clinic in 2009 for $13 million, public records show. CPH moved downtown two years later. However, Cleveland Clinic seldom uses the former CPH buildings except for occasional seminars or Clinic police training, as well as the employee parking lots to augment the 4,000-space East 89th Street Employee Garage across East 86th.

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