Cleveland Play House Complex to be Demolished by Cleveland Clinic for Parking Lot

click to enlarge The Cleveland Playhouse - Sam Allard / Scene
Sam Allard / Scene
The Cleveland Playhouse

Eastward the Cleveland Clinic's imperial expansion makes its way.

Local real estate and development blog NEO Trans reported Friday that the Clinic intends to demolish the former Cleveland Play House complex on East 86th and Euclid, a 1983 megachurch-ish structure designed by native son Philip Johnson that houses four total theaters and encompasses upwards of 300,000 square feet.

The Cleveland Play House, which launched in 1915, is the longest-running professional theater in the United States. And until 2011, it operated out of the largest regional theater complex in the country. 

But in 2011, the Cleveland Play House relocated to the Allen Theatre at Playhouse Square, largely due to declining attendance and the financial burden of maintaining the Johnson building.

The Clinic has not yet responded to Scene's request for confirmation and elaboration on its demolition plans, but NEO Trans spoke with two sources who said that the entire complex, including the former Sears department store on Carnegie which was converted into CPH's production facility, will be razed. Demolition could begin as soon as this winter.

Though the 11-plus-acre site will presumably be ripe for development, situated as it is in the heart of Cleveland's new, so-called "innovation district," there is no firm plan for the site as yet. NEO Trans reported that the Clinic, which purchased the building in 2009, never found a sensible and regular use for it, only occasionally hosting police trainings and the odd seminar there. Once demolished, the short-term plan for the site is merely to use it as an expanded parking lot and staging area for construction materials.

There will be plenty of those on the horizon, as the Clinic will soon begin building the Global Center for Pathogen Research & Human Health on Cedar Avenue, down between East 96th and East 105th. (That project now includes a $45 million subsidy from the state as part of the Innovation District public financing package.) 

Philip Johnson, of "Glass House" fame, was born in Cleveland in 1906. And while his postmodernist theater was met with local acclaim when it first opened in the 80s — though the blasé productions from the 1984 season sure weren't! — it has since become the subject of derision. Architecture critic Kate Wagner, author of the architecture blog McMansion Hell, referred to Johnson's Cleveland Play House in 2020 as the "mcmansion of postmodernism, probably the worst postmodernist building by a famous architect, just insipid." 

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About The Author

Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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