Dan Gilbert’s land bridge is a blight on the cityscape

by Cleveland Frowns on December 4, 2013

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 Courthouse, framed 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.

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 dollar 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.

And Gilbert’s Cleveland Cavaliers are 5-12, good for a .294 winning percentage, second-to-last in the NBA’s Central Division, and the inside track on another one of Gilbert’s annual private jet draft lottery jams. Chad Zumock and the Norton Furniture guy better #LaceUp.

  • whosevelt

    Not strictly relevant to this, but I visited Detroit recently and spoke to a few people about Gilbert’s role in Detroit. The people I spoke to were middle class residents of surrounding suburbs (full disclosure, etc.) and they saw Gilbert as a very positive presence in the city. Importing business and setting up his own infrastructure in a town that couldn’t provide anyone seems to have attracted the trickle of other “early-adopters” who are returning to the city.
    (I also happened to speak to a bankruptcy attorney on the Detroit case who is a former colleague of yours, although not about Gilbert.)

    • p_forever

      detroit should rename itself pottersville, in my opinion. (gilbertsville would be gauche even for gilbert.)

      yay to new beginnings, especially those premised on trickle-down economics.

      • actovegin1armstrong

        “Gilbert’s positive presence poignant to the progressive people of Pottersville prepares patrons for his permanent performance.”

    • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

      Gilbert’s “positive presence in Detroit” has been examined in detail here. http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/2013/10/dan-gilbert-would-like-to-get-on-with-the-suspension-of-democracy-already/ I think a good question to ask is “Early adopters” of what? And of course certain “middle class residents of surrounding suburbs” are OK at the top of this house of cards for now.

      • whosevelt

        Yes, I know; we went back and forth there, and then I went to Detroit afterward and was interested in the opinions of the people I knew there. By early adopters I mean people who control startups or who can work from anywhere. There seems to be a discernible trend of such people moving to Detroit, and the couple people whom I spoke to mentioned Gilbert’s business activity as a factor that put them at ease.
        It is starting to seem that the only activity you’d accept from any entity or individual is cash money to anyone deemed to be “underprivileged”. Leaving aside “job creator” “bootstraps” and “lazy” rhetoric, which I agree is generally silly, it will undoubtedly take people with income to revitalize the area.
        (And I didn’t invoke your former colleague to make any sort of point. She was very pleasant, and was working on the Detroit bankruptcy, and my mind wandered to our previous discussion, whereupon I googled and found that you had been colleagues.)

        • Joe Baur

          I was recently in Detroit as well. The sense I got wasn’t that they necessarily viewed Gilbert as a positive force, but rather an inevitable force. Whenever we went past vacant land, which was often, people made cracks about Gilbert buying it up along with the rest of the city.

          There’s nothing the people of Detroit can do about Gilbert, so my sense is that they’re trying to make the best of it.

        • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns


          Re: “Gilbert’s business activity,” please tell me what part of it is not in the business of collecting rents or otherwise transferring wealth upward while creating no discernible sustainable benefit at all to humanity-at-large.

          Re: Your statement that “it is starting to seem that the only activity [I’d] accept from any entity or individual is cash money to anyone deemed to be ‘underprivileged,'” we have been over this in detail in the comments section to the same Gilbert post that I linked in my first response to your comment here. I think it’s really simple and I’ll repost here. You never replied the last time. Maybe this time you will? Here goes, slightly edited:

          What’s most insane about this exchange is the assumption underlying your questions that guys like Gilbert are the only ones who can possibly create jobs, and if the only jobs they decide to create happen to be in the confidence games industry, then that’s the breaks for everyone else. Yet there is actually an impossible load of work that needs to be done that would create infinity jobs in Detroit and all over the world. These include the jobs of feeding millions of hungry people, providing health care to people who are dying or suffering from preventable illness, (actually) educating millions and millions of children, and most importantly reversing humanity’s relentless and soon-to-be fatal destruction of the planet.

          At this point we have all the technology we need to accomplish these goals so that nobody would ever need a “Quicken Loan” and so that it would never occur to anyone that it would be fun to play a casino game stacked in favor of a gilded slumlord. Painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, porcelain (gymnastics, softball, Cheddar Bay, etc. http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/33545.html ) would be the only things for anyone to worry about.

          But instead we have to let 99% of the world burn because our “leaders” are so taken with the power they’ve been able to accumulate racing to the bottom to exploit this technology (all developed per “socialism” by any possible analysis, by the way) that not only will they not countenance a system that would do anything else, they militantly propagate the lie that the “free market” is humanity’s only option.

          Instead of using his billions to coordinate an effort to change this completely unsustainable state of affairs, Gilbert wants to build more casinos (and gerbil tunnels to them), sell us more loans, and convince us that the pain of $3.5 billion in defaulted retirement accounts will fade away soon if we just get on with it. This planet is a complete disaster, and by playing the role that he does on it Gilbert is effectively a high-five over a coffin. There’s no defense for him or the system that makes him happen.

          As another commenter noted, “the Gilberts of the world have refined rent-seeking into high art as they get their tax breaks and deals, AND separate you from your money, AND get community acclaim as ‘good citizens.’

          “It’s as if we made prostitution legal and then started to celebrate and embrace the pimps of the world.”

          • whosevelt

            You’re right, we did have this conversation already.

  • p_forever

    the land bridge and everything it represents truly make me sick.

    by the way, gilbert building the land bridge not only goes against vigorous public objection and unrebutted evidence showing the negative impact land bridges have on city streets – it also goes against gilbert’s own promise to cleveland that his casino would be “different” from the ones in detroit and in other cities precisely because all of the entrances would be at street level. when he was politicking for support of the casino vote he talked at length about how the casino would not be self-contained, which is how he convinced (some) people that the business close to the casino would benefit from its success.

    surely he already had the plans for building the land bridge in his desk drawer at the time (the plans for building an actual new casino instead of using the old higbees building “temporarily” had already been burned, no doubt).

  • http://www.redright88.com/ Tom_RedRight88

    Well of course the casino needs a dedicated bridge from the parking garage to the casino. Otherwise, people may get distracted while walking from their cars to the casino and actually choose to spend money somewhere else in the city. Can’t have that happening, now can we?

    Probably won’t be long before they install slot machines along the walkway so people don’t have to even wait to enter the casino to start winning money to spend on swag.

    • Bryan

      If they add slot machines to the land bridge, they may need to add a second land bridge that merges into the current land bridge and connects to a second dedicated parking garage. 10 years out we’ll just have a casino made of land bridges and parking garages.

  • pkorf

    I live downtown…..the bridge cant even be seen from ANY of the freeways. The view looking north to the courthouse you show s from a completely different position when shown with the bridge. If you actually showed a picture from the same vantage point prior to the bridge being built we would see that the courthouse isn’t that visible from that end of the city anyways. They tore down an eyesore…. hence the photo…
    Im not saying I want these bridges all over the place but I don’t see what the big friggin deal is…..

    • Joe Baur

      I live downtown as well and led the charge, so to speak, to stop it. You’re quite honestly the first inner city resident I’ve seen not objecting to this. We communicated with plenty of downtown residents and workers who thought it was a bad idea. We were able to persuade anyone neutral once we walked them through the facts and trends being set by other cities.

      But bottom line, we got a petitioned signed by over 500-plus Clevelanders and neither Councilman Cimperman nor Mayor Jackson agreed to meet with us. Yet Councilman Cimperman was more than happy to lead the charge against McDonald’s when those residents spoke up. We just want to be treated like a neighborhood by our leaders, just as Ohio City was (rightfully) in the McDonald’s case.

      • pkorf

        Well I certainly cant disagree about that. I just don’t see what the big deal about the bridge is. As someone who lives downtown and has only been to the casino twice, im not the typical supporter of the bridge being built. That being said, I don’t think it changes the view….or skyline hardly at all. If it does, its in such a small manner that almost doesn’t matter.
        Now, since we are talking about skyline changes, why hasn’t anything been said of the new convention hotel? If anything will change the face of the landscape that’s it…but no one is against that being built….I bet it has some sort of connection the new convention center…not to mention the other surrounding hotels to the convention center. I’m for anything that makes people more comfortable during their visit to Cleveland. Usually it means more people returning. Not all ideas are good ideas but some are unpreventable.

        • Joe Baur

          The skywalk doesn’t change the skyline, but it changes Downtown’s commitment to dense, sustainable building in the urban core.

          Skywalks have been proven to take feet off the street. We’re not at a point in Downtown’s population where we can flirt with taking feet off the street. We need more vibrancy, not less. Plus skywalks feed the perception that an area is unsafe, which is a stereotype we’re constantly battling as a city. If folks were that concerned about the 200-foot walk across the street, then there was already a shuttle operating 24/hours a day. That should have been the compromise.

          Finally, a point-to-point skywalk like this benefits only the casino. It adds no community benefit.

          • Jim

            Whose feet is this skywalk taking off the street? Gamblers like Tiffany Few? My guess is that with or without the skywalk, Tiffany and her ilk are not making the streets of downtown Cleveland more vibrant.

          • Joe Baur

            I’m not going to dissect what kind of people make Cleveland seem more vibrant. We’re not at a population density where we can pick and choose who we welcome to the streets in the name of vibrancy. While I’ve never been a supporter of the casino or locating it downtown (put it out in the far out ‘burbs where their clientele want to be, like the Rocksino), I’m certainly not in favor of developing separate infrastructure that keeps people away from the streets. Because even if you don’t accept that the skywalk is taking enough people off the street to make or break vibrancy, skywalks are proven to feed the perception that the area is dangerous. The last thing Cleveland needs is to feed notions that the heart of our city isn’t safe. Especially when it very much is safe.

        • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

          Of course a cityscape isn’t the same thing as a skyline, but you must realize that there’s a whole field of study and practice in urban planning. This is presumably because city planners’ decisions about where to put what have significant consequences.

          There used to be quite a grand view of Cleveland’s cityscape that communicated, quite grandly, that democracy and justice were priorities in Cleveland. That grand view has been abandoned so that we can connect a casino to a parking garage.

          I certainly don’t expect everyone to be as upset about it as I am, especially not those who seem to think that directing people to a casino is the best thing that Cleveland can be doing with its limited resources — cash, open skyspace, or otherwise.

          Of course the new hotel is a horrendous idea as well but for much different reasons. http://www.clevescene.com/scene-and-heard/archives/2013/11/14/welcome-to-the-hotel-cuyahoga

          Also, what Joe said.

          • BigDigg

            Yikes. I hadn’t heard of the hotel and have to think that’s going to be a disaster for the city. Maybe the new convention center will draw the crowds to make it work but it’s risky. Can’t believe that the downtown businesses could support this otherwise.

            I recall that I used to be able to get the Hyatt at the Old Arcade for $25/night on weekends regularly when I was back in town and out with friends. That’s a pretty nice Hotel actually and made for a nice insurance policy if myself or friends drank too much. Maybe the supply/demand downtown has changed but $260M is a lot of cheese…

    • bupalos

      >>>I live downtown…..the bridge cant even be seen from ANY of the freeways. >>>

      Because the way to increase city vibrancy is to dress up the view from the freeway? Your name would’t happen to be Tiffany Few of Cuyahoga falls, would it?

      • actovegin1armstrong

        Thanks for nothing Bupa, you beat me to the “view from the freeways” dig.

  • pkorf

    ID like one person to show me the facts about the casino NOT bringing people downtown and into the city to spend money in and around the casino?????? I can almost guarantee that 90% of people commenting haven’t worked / lived downtown…..

    • Chris Mc

      Hi Dan. Next time, use comic sans for this.

    • actovegin1armstrong

      I can guarantee that you made up your entire comment with no evidence whatsoever.
      A fully operational guillotine bringing billionaires in on Segway powered tumbrils would have no one person to to show facts about NOT bringing people downtown either, but I am certain that the facts would be as convoluted as your sentence structure.

      • BigDigg

        While studies and common sense may show that Casinos have a net negative economic impact on a city/region, let’s not be completely blind to some of the advantages here. For good and (mostly) bad it’s here and we collectively voted for this.

        Not everyone visiting the Casino is on welfare. Channeling my inner 20’s dude persona sans two kids, i can see how a segment of society that isn’t broke or degenerate might see the Casino as part of a night on the town. Hit up a local restaurant, maybe a game, hit the tables for an hour or two and then head over to E. 4th. I’m not nor have ever been a fan of lighting my own money on fire so it’s not my cup of tea. But I have plenty of non-degenerate friends that seem to enjoy it. It’s something to do.

  • DOM

    Because DT Cle has really been flourishing the way it is now..

    • bupalos

      Right. We’re making such slow progress, let’s turn around and march into the sea!!

      • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

        #LaceUp #getbuckets

  • GRRustlers

    Why do temporary casinos need a permanent bridge?

    I’m still waiting for Dan to speak on this but he has been awfully quiet lately on Twitter.

    Admitting that I am not qualified to speak on our grand casino since I live 30 miles away and have still not been there.

    Granted…If I had the chance to use Jordan Lynch to take money out of his pocket I would have been there weekly but we all know how evil sports gambling is.

    • Chris Mc

      “Why do temporary casinos need a permanent bridge?”

      I was trying to come up with this exact sentence, and it eluded me.

  • bupalos

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


    I’m torn on this whole skywalk issue. On the one hand, it’s diametrically opposed to everything good, right, and holy in the world. On the other hand, it means swag-loving “players” like Tiffany Few of Cuyahoga Falls are kept in a darkened lucite box. It’s a tough call.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1kbBmlAvdI PML

    I generally found the skywalks in Minneapolis and Cincinnati preferable to freezing my nads off when visiting in winter. However, they actually connected vital office buildings in the downtown areas.

    This made my day:


    • bupalos

      I didn’t even know you did commercials PML. You can really sell it!

      • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1kbBmlAvdI PML

        YOU BUY NOW!

  • ChuckKoz

    excellent work frowns. it really is sad.

    and that “phase 2” thing seems like a big lie too (although that would actually be a good thing if that doesnt happen)

  • Steve White

    What I don’t get is this: why not a pedestrian tunnel? It would still keep Tiffany firmly on the ranch but it wouldn’t be the above-ground eyesore that the bridge clearly is.

    That bridge is butt-ugly. And diagonal! I guess Tiffany couldn’t handle a right turn?

    At least in Chicago when we build something we build it big, and grand, and stick the grandkids with the tab. See Millennium Park.

    • actovegin1armstrong

      Steve, what are you thinking?
      A pedestrian catapult is the only way.

  • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

    The Pats (and the refs) might have stolen that game from the Browns, but they’ll never be able to take this moment away from us: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQg1Hnc_CGk

    Someone get this man a Couch bottle.

  • Steve White

    Anybody see interference on McFadden? I sure didn’t.

    But how in the world do you leave the middle open on an on-side kick when you KNOW it’s your opponent’s only chance?

    • etc

      Someone on reddit tried to argue that McFadden blocked the receiver’s view with his left hand and actually touched him. It’s really hard to tell with the one picture the dude posted.

      Was there a conference about it afterwards? Was he the only official down there?

      The Browns played a great game against a top notch team. Campbell checked down a few times but in general he played well. Loved Norv’s play calling.

    • bupalos

      I kind of just want to say that every now and then onsides are going to work.

      But then, it really was badly covered. It’s a little troubling.

      The McFadden “PI” was quite the joke, but on that too it’s a little disconcerting that our rookie is one on one out there without help in that particular situation.

      • Steve White

        Well sure, the stats say that 5% of onsides attempts work when the other side knows it’s coming. That means that 5% are really badly covered.

        We’re in violent agreement.

        • bupalos

          There’s a difference between having it be successful and covering it badly. You should be able to design your coverage so you have at least as many players in the area as the other team. Sometimes the ball will bounce wrong, but you should at least be able to provide even numbers.

          As I replay it in my head, the Browns had 2 guys with any realistic shot at the ball, the Pats had about 5. Part of that was the nice slow dribbler they managed, but part was our coverage team sticking to their slots when the Pats went into that funnel-to-the-middle motion.

  • bossman09

    Apparently you don’t travel outside of Cleveland. Many many many cities have these and most northern cities live off of them. Just another example of your personal crusade gone out of control. I’m pretty sure if Gilbert donated a million dollars to a charity, you would still find a way to vilify it.
    Sure, I understand the eyesore part, but try being some of the people trying to cross that intersection. It’s a mess – and it’s surprising the more people are not hit there on a regular bases. And really, 50% of Cleveland is an eyesore and if you did real “before and after” shots, you would know that the intersection is substantially better than it was 5 years ago even with the skybridge.

  • bupalos

    It’s interesting to compare that game with the big Mangini win back in aught six or whenever. Both had good game plans, but that one felt pretty much pure game plan. Made you feel great about the coaching, but not much else. This one I actually felt like we had the better players overall, but there seems to be an inattention to detail. That onside kick was dead perfect and it might have worked anyway, but our coverage scheme, with 100% certainty that the onsides was coming, was pretty bad. Then the defensive timeout 1st and goal on the 1 with :35 left was absolute numbers nonsense. I wouldn’t call it even if it somehow magically made NE lose a down.

    It may be that these guys are more into big picture right now getting new systems running. But I’m a little worried that that’s just who they are and the details will always slip.

  • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

    Tony Rizzo arrested for beating on his wife on Friday night, has been on air ever since as if nothing happened. Kevin Kleps of Crain’s got a statement from Good Karma Broadcasting who confirmed that Rizzo’s status with the radio station is “unaffected” by the arrest.


    • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns
      • Rashida

        Cleveland Browns, your waiting to hire a coach but he has to get fired from his current position? Cleveland Cavs, we brought back a coach that was fired from a golden ticket team (Lakers) cause he BLEW IT like he’s BLOWING IT for the Cavs now. GOD! It’s like we keep hiring bottom feeders and/or somebody’s friend. Fire your friends and spend the money for us to win SOMETHING! With allllllll that money, you would think a brain is in there somewhere.

    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1kbBmlAvdI PML


      – not sure if I heard him right.

  • alexb

    i get that the season is over but still….does anyone here still talk about the browns much?

    • beeej

      Nope. It really is quite sad.

      Those intentional grounding calls/non-calls were ridiculous.

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