When people think of the most desirable convention cities, they often think of beachy destinations offering a variety of visitor attractions – places like LA and Orlando. It may surprise you to learn that Cleveland, Ohio, floating along the Erie shore, is just such a place. It has recently morphed into a stand-out convention destination, with state-of-the-art, eco-friendly facilities and an array of cultural and entertainment choices for visitors.
In recent years, civic and business leaders in Cleveland have joined in transforming their city from a rust-belt relic to a newly-minted penny, with modern infrastructure, a revitalization of historic landmarks and an innovative approach to economic development. Home to three major professional sports franchises (Go Lebron!), a world-class theater district and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, this historic city was the original hub of the auto industry and a playground for the great industrialists.
Cleveland’s original convention center, or Public Auditorium, was constructed on Cleveland’s Mall in 1922, and over the years the site has played host to a panoply of events. After several incarnations, progressive city leaders recognized the Cleveland Convention Center (CCC) needed major renovation to accommodate modern tradeshows.
Part of a city-wide renaissance, a plan was put into action not only to modernize the CCC, but to create a themed convention destination. Cleveland boasts two of the world’s leading health care institutions – Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals. According to local attorney and civic trailblazer, Frederick Nance, these institutions have “developed cutting-edge technology for the innovation and delivery of health care,” attracting an influx of talent and resources that have been vital to the city’s redevelopment.
Nance and a group of like-minded civic leaders conceived a health care-themed convention center, “based on what has been done at other convention centers for industries like furniture, jewelry and fashion, but a place where people could experience the latest medical devices, products and supplies,” Nance said. “If we could put them together in a single building, next to the convention center, we believed it would drive medical meetings and conventions to Cleveland.”
And that is exactly what happened. Connected to the facility’s 225,000 square feet of Class A exhibit space is the Global Center for Health Innovation, described as the mecca of “health and health care innovation, technology, education and commerce through state-of-the-art spaces, programs and virtual offerings.”
The sustainability of Cleveland’s new convention center was a leading priority in a city where sustainability has become a key element of urban renewal. Nance explained, “In 2005, the City of Cleveland established the Office of Sustainability to reduce the City’s ecological footprint as well as costs. The City is committed to building green and has adopted a Sustainable Municipal Building Policy that requires LEED Silver certification for new construction and efficiency requirements for ‘fix it first’ projects in existing buildings. Moreover, developers that receive financial support from the City are required to adopt green building principles.”
Green features have been thoughtfully incorporated into every aspect of the facility and its culture. Recycling is implemented throughout, and blue bins are made available to any convention group that wishes to use them. Strategies for reduction of energy and water use are effectively minimizing the facility’s carbon footprint.
The CCC also encourages convention-goers to use alternative transportation. Its location in the heart of downtown places it within walking distance to convention hotels and near RTA bus and rail lines. Nearly 300 bike racks are available throughout the campus, and water refill stations are located throughout the building to reduce use of plastic bottles.
The CCC offers visitors a panoramic view of Cleveland’s beautiful downtown and lakefront. While much of the building is below ground to increase energy efficiency, Nance commented that the CCC “nevertheless utilizes natural light in a large portion of its spaces. The block-wide glass building entrance is 16 feet tall, permitting natural light to flow freely throughout, minimizing that cavernous effect … that is commonly an issue in many large convention centers. The Grand Ballroom on the north end of the building has floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Lake Erie, creating fabulous views. Similarly, the four themed floors of the Global Center for Health Innovation are flooded with natural light from floor-to-ceiling windows on the east side of the building.”
The Cleveland Convention Center offers a unique forum for the exchange of commerce, ideas and culture.