Dan Gilbert’s Land Bridge is a Blight on the Cityscape

2015-02-15T15:35:59+00:00 February 16th, 2014|

Editor’s Note: We’re pleased to announce and debut an intermittent collaboration with Cleveland Frowns, published by Peter Pattakos, a Cleveland attorney who’s sure that the Browns, Cavs and Indians should be publicly owned and believes that The Curse of Chief Wahoo is the best evidence there is of a benevolent metaphysical order. First up, Pattakos comments on Dan Gilbert’s land bridge. This piece was originally published December 4, 2013.

By Peter Pattakos

Here’s a photo of the view north up Ontario Street from Superior Avenue, just off Public Square in the heart of downtown Cleveland.

Ontario Street Cleveland

Pictured is the beautiful Cuyahoga County Courthouseframed as a crown jewel of the North Coast between two more century-old landmarks, the Old Stone Church (which is actually almost two centuries old), and the Society for Savings Building (which stood as the tallest building in Cleveland for seven years until 1896). This view used to extend from three blocks south of where the above photo was taken, all the way from the cliff bordering downtown and the river where Ontario meets Huron Road and veers north into the center of the city.

But that was before city leaders, led by Mayor Frank Jackson and Councilman Joe Cimperman, rubber-stamped Dan Gilbert’s proposal to build a five-million dollar “skywalk” connecting Gilbert’s Horseshoe Casino with a parking lot for casino customers. This approval came over vigorous public objection and unrebutted evidence, including testimony from officials in comparable American cities like Minneapolis and Cincinnati, showing the negative impact that such land bridges have on city streets.

And now the view up Ontario from Huron looks like this:

Land Bridged

Which must have at least something to do with what Plain Dealer architectural critic Steven Litt was talking about when he said back in 2011 that: “The negative impacts of the changes proposed by [Gilbert’s casino company] Rock Gaming are hard to quantify [including the construction of the skywalk and the related demolition of the landmark Columbia Building to make room for the parking garage], but they’re the kind of actions that can erode a city’s visual integrity and sense of place, even its identity.”

Though Mr. Litt surely must appreciate the symbolism of Gilbert’s giant black slash through Cleveland’s grandest monument to democracy and justice.

[blocktext align=”right”]The Rust Belt’s steady transformation into Biff’s 1985 continues apace.[/blocktext]All so that a few people — the ones who can’t find anything more interesting to wager on than spinning numbers that are stacked in favor of a gilded slumlord — don’t have to walk across the street outside to get from a parking garage to a casino.

“The gaming customer is not comfortable parking outside a certain radius without climate control and security,” Gilbert’s Rock Gaming partner Nate Forbes explained when the proposal for the skywalk was first announced in 2011. “We need proprietary control.”

“It’ll cut back on us getting wet when it’s raining or it’s snowing,” said casino patron Tiffany Few of Cuyahoga Falls to Cleveland’s Newsnet5. “We don’t have to fight the traffic and it will be great.”

Great. And that’s it. The land bridge connects the casino with absolutely nothing else but a casino parking garage ($15 per hour minimum, unless you’re a casino “Total Rewards” member (Note: “Restraint has been left off the menu.”));


And a gift shop that sells the “swag that every gambler needs.”

Hell is a Horseshoe Casino gift shop

The bridge from nowhere isn’t open for “public” use just yet, but here’s what the street outside of “the soul of Cleveland, a 24-hour city” looked like at 12:45 PM on Tuesday three weeks ago:

24 hour city

In related news, Gilbert was recently appointed chairman of a $300 million federally funded “blight task force” in Detroit by which he plans to bulldoze pretty much whatever the hell.

The Rust Belt’s steady transformation into Biff’s 1985 continues apace.

 Peter Pattakos is a Cleveland attorney and publisher of the website clevelandfrowns.com.


  1. LP February 17, 2014 at 2:20 pm - Reply

    I don’t like the whole casino thing myself, but once we accept that there is going to be a casino there I think the bridge makes sense. There is no point in funding these casinos only to have them fail. Additionally, while these bridges are certainly fugly, they have a number of them in University Circle (around the hospital) yet the streets seem no more empty of pedestrians than before they were built (in fact, I think there are more people on e.g. Cornell Rd. than before that bridge).

    • Brian February 20, 2014 at 2:45 pm - Reply

      I can’t see the “lack of landbridge” would cause the casino to fail. Would anyone really base their decision to drive downtown and go to the casino on whether or not they have to walk outside for +/-50 yards?

      • LP February 24, 2014 at 1:01 pm - Reply

        Yes, given the fixation of suburbanites, old people, and others on parking and “crime” I actually think it is possible that it would make a big difference. Again, not condoning any of this, just trying to look at it realistically.

  2. Suburban Cleveland February 25, 2014 at 8:31 am - Reply

    “The gaming customer is not comfortable parking outside a certain radius without climate control and security,”

    Let’s call this what it is.

    This gaming customer was being harassed by the “local” population of panhandlers and pickpockets prior to the bridge.

    I have been to the casino one time and that was prior to the bridge. I was accosted a total of 3 times on my way in and out and I can certainly understand why patrons would want to avoid that.

    The fleas come with the dog and while the bridge is probably a net negative overall, I certainly can understand the need for it.

  3. Wango Tango February 26, 2014 at 7:24 pm - Reply

    First, a little realization here. The casino is no big deal in any respect for downtown Cleveland and the land bridge is nothing much either. The casino draws mostly older suburbanites who are going some place to kill time while they are waiting to die. Most of these people come from places like Eastlake and dislike all things that are not like them or where they come from. That especially includes age and ethnicity of people so that is the main reason the land bridge is there. They do not want to see ANY people while walking from the garage to the casino. And it isn’t like these people are going to be stopping at bars and restaurants on their way back to their car and drop any cash downtown. I have been sort of confused as to why the trendy urbanites have latched on to this issue. There are bigger issues (public sq. redesign, burke airport closing, redevelopment in Oh city and elsewhere, rehab vs. teardown, etc.) that actually have some meaning. Because I have no real interest if the old people from Eastlake come downtown to waste time as they are waiting to die want to get to the casino from a parking garage via a raised enclosed walkway or walking a half a block. Nothing much changes if they are on the sidewalks or above them. The casino and its inhabitants are very insignificant in the whole scheme of things, so don’t act like this enclosed walkway is some slap in the face of economically sustainable and pedestrian-friendly urban planning. It’s not.

  4. BumperMan March 29, 2014 at 6:24 pm - Reply

    As someone who lived downtown for five years (and now in Tremont for the last four), I’m always amused by landscape “expert” views of downtown. The view towards the courthouse from south of the garage is hardly pleasing. However, unless your living behind the bridge, (that would be no no one) what difference does it make. The west side of the parking garage is the nicest thing this stretch of Ontario has seen in the last 30 years. Look across the street at the stretch of Prospect between Flannery’s and The Tilted Kilt, or the stretch of Ontario before the Casino garage was built….is that what you miss?

  5. catherine April 27, 2014 at 4:37 pm - Reply

    Thanks, Peter. I still can’t think about this issue without wondering if I’ll stroke out momentarily. And thanks for your work on the Cleveland baseball team logo/name/etc.

  6. charles September 12, 2014 at 10:43 am - Reply

    Is it a (negative) pedestrian bridge or is it a (positive) arch?
    I’m an optimist and see the latter: an overhead obstruction that offers just a glimpse of the sunsplashed square beyond it, drawing you toward that public space. By most measures, that’s pretty gd landscape architecture.

    Stick some Christmas lights around it for the holidays and it’ll be fine.

  7. […] of the public, Gilbert went ahead and made a mockery of the city’s space, erecting a land bridge that connects the entertainment venues of downtown to each other. One can safely experience […]

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