The Built Environment

Physical Cleveland

Enhancement of the Built Environment

Playhouse Square. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. The Health Tech Corridor in midtown Cleveland. The revitalization of the Gordon Square neighborhood on the city’s near west side. MOCA Cleveland’s gleaming gallery space in University Circle. These are some of the signature developments that have enhanced the built environment of Cleveland in recent years. As one would expect, the city’s largest grantmaker has helped to underwrite each of these high-profile projects. What may not be fully appreciated: how many other important but perhaps less celebrated bricks-and-mortar projects have received Cleveland Foundation support. More than 1,000 separate capital grants have been awarded since the mid-1950s.


The commitment to be a responsive capital provider was made at that time because America’s system of higher education, already crowded and underfinanced, faced what the Cleveland Foundation deemed to be a serious crisis. How would the skyrocketing number of students who were seeking (often with the assistance of the GI Bill) a college education be accommodated? To meet their share of this responsibility, colleges and universities across Greater Cleveland were planning desperately needed expansions of their facilities. The Cleveland Foundation did not customarily devote a major portion of its income to capital fund drives. However, the board recognized the urgency and importance of meeting the growing demand for higher education and workforce preparation. In 1956, it approved grants totaling more than $200,000, or about $1.7 million in today’s dollars, to help underwrite capital improvement projects at Baldwin Wallace College, Case Institute of Technology, Fenn College, John Carroll University and Western Reserve University. With this change in policy, the foundation once again demonstrated its ability to be flexible in addressing unforeseen new challenges.

Hospitals were the next institutions to initiate building programs. The baby boom and, later on, the establishment of Medicare and Medicaid triggered the requirement for additional healthcare facilities. Again, the board of the Cleveland Foundation felt compelled to help underwrite new hospital construction, additions or renovations. During the expansionary period between 1957 and 1972, the foundation stepped forward with a new round of capital grants whose hospital recipients included Deaconess, Euclid-Glenville, Forest City, Hillcrest, Huron Road, Ingleside, Lakewood, Lutheran, Marymount, Mt. Sinai, Parma Community, Rainbow Babies and Children’s, St. Luke’s, Southeast Polyclinic and University Hospitals of Cleveland.

By the 1980s, requests for assistance in upgrading every element of Cleveland’s civic infrastructure and building new physical assets had outstripped the foundation’s resources. To enable the board to prioritize requests, the program staff developed clear guidelines for capital grants. Chief among the requirements: Grantees must be financially stable and able to absorb increased maintenance and utility costs, and the project must be central to the grantee’s mission and help to meet a compelling community need. A new requirement was added in 2007 with the goal of making Cleveland a more environmentally conscious community. Henceforth, capital grants would be awarded only to projects that had adopted “green building” principles and qualified for the U.S. Green Building Council’s “LEED Silver” certification, in the case of new construction. Expansions or renovations of existing buildings must be “LEED-certified.”

The capital grants awarded by the Cleveland Foundation since 1956 exceed more than $150 million (in absolute dollars). After factoring in inflation, the present-day value of these awards would be many times greater. Even that sum would not adequately convey the impact on Greater Cleveland’s appearance, functionality and physical amenities of the capital improvements that the foundation has helped to underwrite. To give a clearer sense of the foundation’s supportive role, one or more representative capital grants awarded in every year since 1956 are listed here.


  • Cleveland Institute of Art, new building, $25,000
  • Jewish Community Center of Cleveland, new building, $25,000
  • Cleveland Museum of Natural History, new library, $7,500 
  • Cleveland Music School Settlement, new west-side branch, $3,678 
  • Cleveland Institute of Music, new building, $30,000


  • Hiram House, camp building program, $20,000
  • Benjamin Rose Institute, new nursing home, $10,000
  • Salvation Army, new emergency shelter, $50,000
  • YMCA, building program, $51,820
  • Garden Center of Greater Cleveland, new building, $25,000
  • Vocational Guidance and Rehabilitation Services, building program, $50,000
  • Dobama Theatre, renovation, $2,000
  • City Mission, building program, $5,000
  • Baldwin Wallace College, administration building construction, $50,000
  • Baycrafters, building renovation, $10,000
  • Blossom Music Center, building program, $160,000
  • Eliza Jennings Home, expansion program, $25,000
  • Holden Arboretum, capital improvements, $20,000
  • Karamu House, capital improvements, $15,000
  • Lakeland Community College, building program, $50,000


  • Juvenile Court of Cleveland, suburban branch office, $13,450
  • National Council of Jewish Women, headquarters renovation, $31,833
  • Huron Road Mall, downtown construction, $40,000
  • Severance Hall, renovation, $41,191
  • Rainey Institute, building repair, $3,000
  • Kenneth C. Beck Center for the Cultural Arts, new building, $100,000
  • Garden Club of Cleveland, Public Square renovation, $100,000
  • Western Reserve Historical Society, new library and expansion of exhibit space, $150,000
  • Cleveland Play House, architectural planning for new theater and clubhouse, $50,000
  • Sokol Hall, restoration, $17,671
  • Cleveland State University, Cleveland Marshall College of Law library, $50,000
  • Case Western Reserve University, School of Applied Social Sciences, renovation, $100,000
  • Women’s City Club of Cleveland, Cuyahoga River waterfront improvement, $20,000


  • Justice Center Art Advisory Committee, George Segal sculpture, $15,000
  • Eliza Bryant Center, nursing facility planning and construction, $750,000
  • Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland, Heights area renovation project, $40,000
  • Convention and Visitors Bureau of Greater Cleveland, Terminal Tower information center, $25,000
  • Cleveland Institute of Art, renovation of the Factory building, $300,000
  • The Temple, major repairs of national landmark building, $53,000
  • Ruffing Montessori School, building program, $50,000
  • WCPN, start-up capital and operating support, $300,000
  • Food Communities Organization of People, new Food Co-op facility, $50,000
  • Viaduct View, Inc., construction of pedestrian mall on Old Superior Viaduct, $15,000
  • Boys and Girls Clubs of Cleveland, capital and operating support for new west-side facility, $175,000
  • Cleveland Department of Parks, Recreation and Properties, city greenhouse renovation, $2,000
  • Cleveland Play House, “Finish the Theatre Campaign,” $250,000
  • Cleveland State University, Howe Mansion restoration, $50,000
  • Dial Industries, new handicapped training and employment center, $21,100
  • Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, facility planning, $50,000
  • Cleveland Beautiful Committee, Mall A renovation, $50,000
  • Cain Park, master redevelopment plan, $48,250
  • Health Hill Hospital for Children, new inpatient units, $35,000
  • Cleveland Small Business Incubator, building renovations, $80,000
  • Planned Parenthood of Greater Cleveland, headquarters renovation, $50,000


  • Fairhill Center for Aging, adult daycare facility renovation, $150,000
  • Hathaway Brown School, capital improvements, $25,000
  • Neighborhood Family Practice, renovations, $11,167
  • Hospice of the Western Reserve, residential facility, $25,000
  • Great Lakes Science Museum, design development and capital campaign, $250,000
  • Visiting Nurse Association of Cleveland, capital campaign, $35,000
  • United Way Services, new building, $30,000
  • CLEAN-LAND, OHIO, Trees for Tomorrow program, $7,000
  • Old Stone Church, cleaning and renovation, $10,000
  • Dunham Tavern Museum, education center, $5,000
  • Cleveland Clinic Foundation, research and education institutes, $450,000
  • Case Western Reserve University, Veale Convocation Center, $100,000
  • Broadway Area Housing Coalition, Mill Creek community center and pool, $7,500
  • Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, railroad car refurbishment, $10,000
  • Cornucopia, Inc., Nature’s Bin store renovations, $5,000
  • Western Reserve Historical Society, Euclid Beach carousel restoration, $200,000
  • Cleveland Opera, titling equipment and screens, $16,900
  • Chagrin River Land Conservancy, land protection fund, $15,000


  • Cleveland Zoological Society, Center for Zoological Medicine, $1,500,000
  • Therapeutic Riding Center, Inc., capital improvements, $50,000
  • Applewood Centers Inc., independent living facility, $25,000
  • Cleveland Botanical Garden, conservatory, $300,000
  • Cleveland Institute of Music, renovation and expansion, $300,000
  • Goodrich-Gannett Neighborhood Center, purchase of Hofbrau Haus, $100,000
  • Shaker Lakes Regional Nature Center, renovations, $5,000
  • Fine Arts Garden Commission, renovation, $100,000
  • Hanna Perkins Center for Child Development, Malvern School renovation, $30,000
  • Cleveland Museum of Art, renovation and expansion, $2,000,000
  • East Cleveland Public Library, capital campaign, $35,000
  • The Gathering Place, healing garden, $10,000
  • ideastream, One Playhouse Square renovation, $125,000
  • MOCA Cleveland, new building, $1,000,000
  • Cleveland Clinic Foundation, heart and vascular institute, $500,000
  • Domestic Violence Center, shelter renovation, $85,000
  • Great Lakes Theater Festival, Hanna Theatre renovation, $750,000
  • Cleveland Metropolitan School District, MC2-STEM High School, $750,000
  • Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, capital needs, $10,000
  • Cleveland Institute of Art, capital campaign, $50,000


  • Case Western Reserve University, The Temple's renovation as a performing arts center, $1,000,000
  • Hawken School, University Circle extension campus, $50,000
  • LAND Studio, public and green space creation, $325,000
  • Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, redevelopment of three University Circle stations, $175,000
  • MidTown Cleveland, Health-Tech Corridor creation and administration, $200,000
  • Friends of the Cleveland School of the Arts, design development for new school building, $75,000