After much speculation over the past few years, Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Museum of Art officially announced in January the purchase of the Gund Building property located on East Boulevard, just north of Kelvin Smith Library and Thwing Center.
The property was formerly owned by the Cleveland Institute of Art and was utilized as one of their main centers for education. Currently, CIA is in the process of moving their main base of operations south to Euclid Ave. at the new Joseph McCullough Center for Visual Art (JMC).
JMC was originally a Ford Model T assembly factory and was recently renovated as part of the $66.2 million Uptown project, which has brought new life to the north side of campus. The $9.2 million paid for the Gund property is likely to help cover costs in finishing the JMC project.
According to CIA, JMC is designed to be “the future site of a modern and unified campus.” Currently, about half of CIA’s studios are located in Gund and will be gradually relocated.
CWRU and the Cleveland Museum of Art are both equal owners of the Gund property now, and the property is expected to totally change hands in the next two years.
Both CWRU President Barbara R. Snyder and CMA art director David Franklin have indicated their eagerness to purchase the property to discourage private development of the land.
In a statement President Snyder said, “We knew that it could be something that there was a potential to develop, something truly outstanding that reflects the institutions.”
Reports have indicated that neither President Snyder nor Franklin have given any major plans as to what the land will be used for, but Franklin did suggest the property could be a good place to expand the current joint art-history program.
Perhaps what seems most likely is residential development for students. Currently, the land is zoned by the city of Cleveland for residential purposes. Zoning currently allows for up to a 175-foot residential tower, but community development nonprofit, University Circle, Inc., has indicated that a higher height could potentially be negotiated if deemed necessary.
The likelihood for a residential property is further emphasized by the fact that CWRU undergraduate housing facilities are currently overwhelmed. The university was forced to transition all of Clarke Tower into a first-year residence hall following the record-size freshmen class. In the past, the property was reserved for second-year students.
Further questions have been raised as to how the record-size freshmen class will be able to move to South Side, where it appears improbable that all the students will be able to be housed in existing second-year housing. CWRU housing restrictions says that all first and second year students must live on campus during their first two years at CWRU.
Housing concerns, therefore, are a key idea for developing the 4.1 acre property, one of the largest in University Circle.
The Gund property is also located directly across the street from CWRU’s new student center, the Tinkham Veale University Center, which is currently under construction and is to be completed within the next two years.
The new student center is slated to include more meal options for students, which could further allow for living on what some are considering the beginning of “West Campus.”
Regardless, immediate development of the property is highly unlikely. CIA is not expected to leave the property immediately and funding would need to be established before ground could be broken on any new development.
In a statement made by President Snyder, reported in the CWRU law school newspaper The Docket, Snyder said, “We have lots of time to think about the potential use of the property and to plan for that.”
“We will focus on what’s good for the Cleveland Museum of Art, Case Western Reserve University and all our stakeholders in the community.”