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Tower City Center (formerly known as Cleveland Union Terminal) is a large mixed-use facility located on Public Squaremarker in downtown Clevelandmarker, Ohiomarker. The facility is composed of a number of interconnected office buildings, including the landmark Terminal Towermarker, a shopping mall, two hotels, and the main hubmarker of Cleveland's three rapid transit lines. On March 17, 1976, the tower was added to the National Register of Historic Places as the Union Terminal Group.

Construction and train station

Cleveland Union Terminal concourse in 1987.
The Cleveland Union Terminal was built by the Van Sweringen brothers as a terminal for all trains coming into Cleveland via the various railroad lines in a concept similar to New York Citymarker's Grand Central Terminalmarker. The facility also included a number of retail stores and restaurants. Original designs for the complex show that at first the brothers did not plan on building an office tower within the complex. However, they eventually decided to build the 52-story Terminal Towermarker on the northeast side of the complex facing Public Squaremarker. From its completion until 1964, the Terminal Tower was the tallest building in North America outside of New York City. Cleveland Union Terminal also served as the downtown station for the Van Sweringens' new Shaker Heights Rapid Transit Line.

The complex was designed by the firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst, and White. Site preparation began in 1922, and approximately 2,200 buildings were demolished. Construction began in 1926, and structural work was completed by 1927. At the time, it was the second-largest excavation project in the world after the Panama Canalmarker. The Terminal Tower opened to its first tenants in 1928. Three other office buildings, the Medical Arts Building, Builders Exchange Building, and Midland Building, were built in addition to the Terminal Tower. The three Art Deco buildings are collectively known as the Landmark Office Towers and were completed in 1929. In addition to the new buildings, the 1918 Hotel Cleveland (now the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel) was connected to the complex. Cleveland Union Terminal was dedicated and officially opened in 1930.

In 1931, the Higbee Company moved its main store to a new building connected to Cleveland Union Terminal. In 1934, the U.S. Postal Service moved its main Cleveland office to Union Terminal in a new connected building designed by the firm of Walker and Weeks. It is today known as M.K. Ferguson Plaza.

The Union Terminal served all rail lines – except for the Pennsylvania Railroad and initially the Erie Railroad – from completion until 1973. It was never particularly popular with the railroads, however. It required deviating from the quicker route along Lake Eriemarker. As the city would not allow trains to operate under steam power near the downtown area, trains were forced to switch from steam to electric power at a suburban rail yard when heading inbound and then reverse on the way out at another yard. As a result, some lines began to bypass the station entirely, heading along the lake route, and some trains stopped serving the city altogether. In addition, national passenger rail travel had already passed its peak and was starting its gradual decline in favor of the automobile and, later, the airplane. The Erie RR, owned by the Van Sweringens, could not afford the electric transfer and continued to use its own nearby station until 1948, when it replaced steam with diesel locomotives and was able to serve the Union Terminal under its own power.

In 1968, the Cleveland Transit System line finished its extension through Cleveland's west side to Cleveland Hopkins International Airportmarker and Cleveland became the first North American city with direct rapid transit access from downtown to an airport.

Cleveland Union Terminal becomes Tower City

Tower City Center's Hall of Fame
When Amtrak began serving Cleveland in 1973, it chose not to use the Union Terminal, instead serving a small stationmarker along the lake route. The former Erie railroad commuter service, ultimately inherited by Conrail, was discontinued in 1977, ending the facility's use as a train station. However, the three rapid transit lines – which by 1975 were all controlled by the newly created Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority – continued service.

Most of the platform area was demolished in the late 1980s renovation of the building. The station area itself was converted by Forest City Enterprises into a mall and food court known as The Avenue, which opened in 1990. As part of the renovation, RTA rebuilt its rapid transit stationmarker beneath the center. The rest of the platform area was turned into a parking garage for the new complex. The complex was renamed Tower City Center in 1991. When it opened, the mall housed many high-end retailers, including Fendi and Gucci. Over the following 17 years, many of those shops were replaced by more modest stores, some of them local retailers.

In 1991, two new 11-story office towers, the Skylight Office Tower and the Chase Financial Tower, were added. The Chase Building houses Cleveland's Ritz-Carlton Hotel and The Skylight Office Tower houses the Hard Rock Cafe. After the completion of the nearby Gateway projectmarker in 1994, RTA built an indoor walkway connecting Tower City to the complex. A second walkway was built in 2002 to connect Tower City with the Carl B.marker Stokes U.S.marker Courthousemarker.

Higbee's (by then bought by Dillard's) closed its department store in the complex in January 2002. Positively Cleveland (formerly the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Greater Cleveland) and the Greater Cleveland Partnership (the local chamber of commerce) opened offices in the Higbee Building in 2007. The Cleveland Plus Visitors Center now occupies its first floor.

In 2001, Time Warner Cable Amphitheater opened as an outdoor stage along the Cuyahoga Rivermarker near the Tower City Complex. A site on the Cuyahoga River side of the complex was proposed as a location for a new Cleveland convention center, but in January 2009 the Cuyahoga Countymarker Commissioners decided to redevelop the existing facilitymarker.

See also


  • Herrick, Clay. Cleveland Landmarks (1986) ISBN 0-9646459-0-4
  • Johannesen, Eric. Cleveland Architecture 1876-1976 (1979) ISBN 0-911704-21-3
  • Rarick, Holly. Progressive Vision: The Planning of Downtown Cleveland 1903-1930 (1986) ISBN 0-910386-86-2
  • Van Tassel, David. Grabowski, John. The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History (1987) ISBN 0-253-33056-4

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