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Uptown District

NBBJ, Stanley Saitowitz, Natoma Architects, Farshid Moussavi, Field Operations

Project Name

Uptown District

Project Status


Year Completed



Cleveland Foundation



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Project Description


Located at a convergence of neighborhoods three miles south of downtown Cleveland, Uptown District is the redevelopment of a corridor linking art, educational, and healthcare institutions with surrounding neighborhoods, producing outdoor gathering spaces, retail shops and restaurants, student and market-rate housing, and public transit connections in the process. The new development has transformed two city blocks of Euclid Avenue between two of the city’s leading cultural institutions that were a no man’s land of vacant and underused properties into a community gateway and destination.

The sleek, aluminum-clad buildings of the district were designed by San Francisco-based Stanley Saitowitz of Natoma Architects and developed by MRN Ltd., a local, family owned real estate company responsible for the successful East 4th Street district in downtown Cleveland.  The ground floors host retailers and restaurants including nationally and locally owned businesses such as the Barnes and Noble Case Western Reserve University Bookstore, Mitchell’s Ice Cream, The Corner Alley bowling and entertainment venue, and Constantino’s, the area’s only grocery store. Upper floors include contemporary, market-rate rental apartments and student housing for Cleveland Institute of Art freshmen.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland designed by Farshid Moussavi anchors Toby’s Plaza, a large public space at the corner of Euclid Avenue and Mayfield Road designed by Field Operations. The plaza is enlivened with public art installations such as Faces of Uptown and The Great Picnic as well as programming and events that draw people to the district and reinforce its emerging identity as the community’s “living room.”

Envisioned as an arts and entertainment area, a key goal of the project was to create “connective tissue” that linked its cultural institutions with downtown Cleveland and adjoining communities. A design charrette and plan completed by Chan Krieger Associates (now NBBJ) informed the massing and design principles of the development, which includes mid-block passageways and an internal “boulevard” that provide visual and pedestrian connections between Euclid Avenue and adjoining buildings, plazas, and parking.

Uptown District is an outcome of the Cleveland Foundation’s Greater University Circle Initiative, a public private partnership between leading anchor institutions, philanthropies, financial institutions, community groups, and the City of Cleveland that seeks to leverage institutional resources to improve a four-square mile area housing key cultural institutions such as the Cleveland Museum of Art, Case Western Reserve University, and University Hospitals and connect it with surrounding neighborhoods. 

The more than $150 million project was constructed in two phases, the last of which was completed in 2014. Financing was provided by the Cleveland Foundation, New Market Tax Credits, and the City of Cleveland. Transportation to the development was enhanced by investments in two new Cleveland Regional Transit Authority rail stations at the edges of the district and the popular HealthLine bus-rapid transit system on Euclid Avenue that connects Uptown with downtown and East Cleveland

Uptown District highlights the role of anchor institutions in catalyzing and leading community change. The development has drawn national media attention for its design and institution-led approach. Locally, the project has affirmed the value of multidisciplinary collaboration and partnerships, and the importance of taking risks to invest in a long-term vision with broad community benefits. People in the area refer to Uptown’s “rock and ripple effect” as activity in the district leads to additional interest and development and increased pride in the Cleveland as a whole.

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