Thursday, August 5, 2010

Goodbye LeBron Banner, Hello Sunshine — Workers Behind the LeBron Billboard Speak

Posted By on Thu, Aug 5, 2010 at 1:19 PM


By D.X. Ferris

LeBron’s gone, and sunlight is back in their lives.

James’ departure has affected the workplace atmosphere for Clevelanders who spend weekdays in Sherwin-Williams’ Landmark Office Tower building. Some say their everyday life is better, and some say it’s worse. Either way, it’s LeBron’s fault.

Nike’s super-sized Witness banner hung on the downtown building — which faces the Quicken Loans Arena — since late 2005. When the giant display went up, it covered 40 windows. Offices, hallways, and entire businesses were plunged into shadow. Behind the banner, IT guys, cashiers, and marketing executives were all witnesses to a perpetual haze — moreso than your average Northeast Ohioan.

“It was dark,” recalls Landmark Café manager Kristin Selby, whose windows were all obscured. “It always looked gloomy outside. It’s much nicer now.”

The café is on the 8th floor, around the level of the “WE ARE ALL WITNESSES” slogan, which floated in blackness two-thirds up the 110-ten-feet high, 212-feet-wide banner. Now the massive poster is gone, and so are the unnaturally gray days. The light returned when Cleveland’s biggest roadside ad went down in July — but so did the heat. There’s no escaping the heat in the LeBron conversation.

“It’s much hotter now, because the sun comes in,” complains Harold Nickens, a utility worker. “I didn’t miss it.”

Selby says customers didn’t seem to mind the neverending midday dusk, though some have told her they like the new, brighter atmosphere. Her employees’ opinions are mixed about the change; the view is better, but now they spend more time cleaning windows. Opinions on the former no. 23, however, are uniform. Asked how he feels about the departed one, Nickens says “Who?”

“It always looked like it was ready to rain,” says cook Eve Garam. “Now we can see the sun.”

Like much of downtown Cleveland, the building itself is a disorienting labyrinth, built around obtuse angles. On other floors, Sherwin-Williams workers are less eager to talk than the food-service staff.

According to one paint company employee who works by a newly uncovered window, his open office became just “a tad darker” when the giant mesh shade went up. And it only made “a minor change” when it was removed. Despite the half-decade of dimness, he says, “It was nice working at Landmark. It was something that people knew and recognized.”

Now the few Clevelanders who saw the other side of the banner can look across Ontario Street with an unfiltered view of the Q. The short-lived optimism in watercooler conversation is dialed down, but work days at the office continue as they did before the LBJ administration.

“It really hasn’t changed, aside from the fact that he’s gone,” says the office worker. “I’m glad they took it down instead of keeping up a shrine to someone who wasn’t there. Out of sight, out of mind.”

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