Union Building

Cleveland State University, Arkinetics architects + urbanists, and Liberty Development Company for the preservation and rehabilitation of the 1913 Union Building at Cleveland State University

The Union Building,which boasts an ornate, white terra cotta façade, was constructed in 1913 by the Union Building and Improvement Company. It was substantially expanded in 1915 and two floors were added in 1917. After nine decades of vibrancy as office and retail space, the building's future became uncertain due to vacancy and its deteriorating condition. 

Being located directly across the street from Cleveland State University provided important opportunities for development. After considering various apartment and condo options, Liberty Development collaborated with the university to convert the building into facilities for “NEOMED,” a partnership between CSU and the Northeast Ohio Medical University, to educate physicians who will serve the medically under served communities of Cleveland. 

Through this rehabilitation, new storefronts once again offer an inviting street level presence. Doors have been relocated to their historic entry places. Pedestrians walking by on the street now experience welcoming, enhanced retail space. The other significant improvement on the facade is the re-opening of bricked-in transom windows on the first floor. Original windows on the second floor were refurbished and insulated glazing installed. All other windows have been restored to their original larger sizes. Inside, the once dark lobby has been freshly painted with historic colors, including the decorative arched ceiling. 

Chandeliers have been refurbished and original terrazzo flooring polished. A clear glass security wall between the lobby and second floor replaces a former metal fence. All mechanicals in the building are new and designed to the highest standard of sustainability. 

The key to making the Union Building rehabilitation a financially sound project was the use of historic tax credits, which effectively lowered the rents, making Cleveland State University a viable tenant. 

This makeover has revealed another piece of Cleveland’s architectural heritage to a new generation of Clevelanders. The addition of NEOMED to the building brings doctors and students to Cleveland who are committed to practicing in an urban neighborhood, and NEOMED scholarships are designed to encourage students to stay in the area, further contributing to the prosperity of the local economy. As a result, support for preservation is growing in the surrounding business community.

Click here to return to the list of 2013 State Historic Preservation Office Award recipients.

Click here  for a list of past State Historic Preservation Office Award recipients.