Gordon Square Arts District, Community Arts Leaders


The leaders are: Cleveland City councilman Matt Zone, Detroit Shoreway Community Development Corporation executive director Jeff Ramsey, Near West Theatre executive director Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek, Gordon Square Arts District executive director Joy Roller, Cleveland Public Theatre executive artistic director Raymond Bobgan, Cleveland Public Theatre founder James Levin and Detroit Shoreway Community Development Corporation founding executive director Ray Pianka.


People don’t just pass through the Gorden Square Arts District on Cleveland's west side. They have an aesthetic experience there. The street pavers in the crosswalks mirror the district’s logo—concentric circles like tree rings. The curved, backless street benches look like sculptures, with mood lighting. The bus shelters are designed to look like origami.

The successful revitalization of the stretch of Detroit Avenue between West 54th and West 78th streets is more than cosmetic, however.

The individuals who had the vision and influence to revitalize this inner-city neighborhood using the arts hope that their initial $30 million capital campaign will leverage $500 million in economic development. in the Gordon Square District. And they are not finished.

Since 2006, more than 30 businesses have opened in the neighborhood and more are planned. Over 500 permanent jobs and hundreds of construction jobs have been created, and more are expected as the project continues.

The district includes art galleries, theaters, independent and mainstream movie houses, restaurants, offices and shops. It’s the kind of neighborhood young professionals want to live in. They can walk to Lake Erie, and downtown Cleveland. is a quick commute away. But gentrification is a four-letter word to the Gordon Square sparkplugs, who are committed to keeping and attracting mixed-income residents.  

Creating such a place from a landscape that looked like it had been forgotten took extraordinary work and colloboration. It also took committed leadership to convince everybody else that the value and relevance of arts to the neighborhood could turn things around.

The revitalization effort was launched when, in a unique turn of events, three separate not-for-profits based near Gordon Square—Near West Theatre, Cleveland Public Theatre and the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization—decided to mount a single capital campaign.

Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson provided a strong boost, ensuring that the city committed $5 million toward the district’s initial capital campaign.

Finally, the campaign needed the backing of civic leaders who had the requisite clout, connections and persuasive abilities to pull off a redevelopment effort this ambitious. It found those champions in Richard Pogue, Albert Ratner and Tom Sullivan Sr., who agreed to serve as honorary chairmen of the capital campaign, and Larry Schultz, chairman of the board of the Gordon Square Arts District.

Working together, these visionary leaders effected the creation of a new streetscape, the restoration of the Capitol Theatre as a three-screen venue for movies, the completion of the first phase of Cleveland Public Theatre's capital improvement program and the expansion of parking for arts district patrons. The next step will be to break ground on the Near West Theatre’s new performance center.

—Susan Ruiz Patton

Cleveland Arts Prize
P.O. Box 21126 • Cleveland, OH 44121 • 440-523-9889 • info@clevelandartsprize.org