PlayhouseSquare has unveiled plans for a dramatic transformation of the theater district neighborhood to be completed in 2014. The plans call for a new electronic signage network and lighting, gateway entry points to define the PlayhouseSquare neighborhood, an update of Star Plaza and a one-of-a-kind iconic centerpiece at the intersection of E. 14th Street and Euclid Avenue.
“As we have celebrated the 90th anniversary of the completion of PlayhouseSquare’s historic theaters over the past year, we also have been looking forward to our 100th anniversary and beyond,” explained PlayhouseSquare President and CEO Art J. Falco, “PlayhouseSquare is a neighborhood already filled with energy and excitement, but we are ready to take things to the next level.”
Falco went on to say that the $16 million transformation is expected to attract more visitors to downtown Cleveland, further supporting the city’s economy. Public-private partnership, naming rights and philanthropic contributions will fund the project.
PlayhouseSquare has hired the experiential design firm The Barnycz Group, led by Chief Creatologist Danny Barnycz, to design and oversee the project. The firm specializes in the creation of unforgettable, large-scale, interactive, dynamic content environments and has orchestrated some of the world’s most attention-grabbing projects including the Crown Fountain at Chicago’s Millennium Park, American Eagle Outfitter’s Times Square Spectacular, LG’s Vegas Spectacular, the Dubai Mall and the Mall of the Emirates.
“When I first visited PlayhouseSquare, I was taken by the beauty and the history of the theaters,” said Barnycz, “but you are not able to enjoy that until you go inside. What we envision is bringing elements of the theater design and history outside in a dynamic, inviting way.”
The transformation plan includes five elements: gateways, electronic signage network, retro signage, the update of Star Plaza and LED displays, the highlight of which is a “chandelier spectacular.”
Four elegant gateways will be positioned at key entry points to signal arrival at PlayhouseSquare: E. 14th Street and Prospect Avenue, E. 17th Street and Euclid Avenue, E. 12th Street and Euclid Avenue and on Huron Road north of Prospect.
Eight electronic LCD boards will be strategically placed and networked throughout the neighborhood, allowing for vibrant, lively digital communications. “We plan to use this network not only to highlight neighborhood events and information, but also to provide unique opportunities for students, artists and visitors to PlayhouseSquare to share their creativity. We want to inspire performance by celebrating the creative spirit,” explained Falco.
Paying homage to PlayhouseSquare’s 1920s-era roots, a retro “stick built” sign structure will be installed on the Cowell & Hubbard Building at the corner of E. 13th Street and Euclid Avenue. The sign structure will feature 9-foot channel letters with 3-inch LED bulbs that simulate the classic signage that once graced the PlayhouseSquare neighborhood skyline.
Star Plaza Update
A popular summer gathering place for lunches and the nearly 80 concerts, fitness classes and other events hosted by PlayhouseSquare, the Star Plaza update will enable this urban park to be utilized for a greater part of the year, an especially attractive benefit for those who will soon call PlayhouseSquare “home” as they move into the new Residences at Hanna. The plan for Star Plaza includes updated outdoor seating, a permanent stage, a cozy fire pit and an al fresco dining experience featuring sandwiches, wine and beer, along with a technology upgrade to create a “plug and play” network, enabling sound and music for intimate performances and events to be controlled using smartphones and mp3 players.
Planned LED displays will add light to the area, as well as provide an energy-efficient update to some of PlayhouseSquare’s existing signage. The well-known “Playhouse Square Center” blade sign and marquee uprights, in addition to the news tickers on the Hanna Building and Idea Center® at PlayhouseSquare, will be replaced with LED signage. An LED video “stylon” will grace Star Plaza. Some of the neighborhood buildings will receive Parisian-style LED uplighting.
The most dramatic and unique element of the plan is the “chandelier spectacular” at E. 14th Street and Euclid Avenue. A 20-foot tall LED chandelier adorned with more than 4,600 crystals in the style of the grand chandeliers seen in the lobbies of the Allen, Palace and State Theatres, will hang right over the intersection, becoming the neighborhood focal point.
“This is the jaw-dropper,” said Barnycz. “This is what people will feel compelled to come and see, to photograph. We envision this becoming a true Cleveland landmark.”
“Not only will this be unique to the city of Cleveland, you won’t find anything like this anywhere else in the world,” added Falco.