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Economy and Business

Cuyahoga County finding a future for the Ameritrust building and the public discovers its past
County could announce new owner for the Ameritrust building this week, while the elaborate rotunda is being opened to the public for holiday concerts.

Kevin Niedermier
Cuyahoga County's Ameritrust complex in downtown Cleveland could have a new owner this week.
Courtesy of Kevin Niedermier
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It’s the most recognizable of the thirteen properties Cuyahoga County has up for sale. And, the long-vacant Ameritrust complex in downtown Cleveland could have a new owner as early as this week. For now, the elaborate 104-year-old building is playing host to holiday concerts, drawing in a public whose tax dollars have been paying for the building since 2005. WKSU’s Kevin Niedermier reports on how it’s being used for the holidays, and what the building’s future might be.

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Cuyahoga County’s old government bought the more than century-old Ameritrust complex, with its Tiffany-style stained glass dome and elaborate murals in the rotunda, for $22-million. The plan was to convert it into a new county administration building.  The county poured in another  $23-million, but the building was never used. It’s one of thirteen county properties up for sale. Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald expects news this week on the current administration building and Ameritrust.                                  

A buyer for the Ameritrust complex could be announced this week
Meanwhile, the Ameritrust rotunda are University Circle Inc. are hosting a series of holiday concerts each Wednesday. The idea is to give the public a chance to see inside the long-closed venue. During last week’s event, Paul Bok and his wife came from Rocky River to hear the music and re-visit the rotunda. He says it’s been about 15-years since he’s been inside.

Cleveland area residents recall the splendor of the rotunda
“I remember this as the Cleveland Trust Building growing up. My grandmother worked here then. I remember in 1980s, I had friends working here when it was a thriving bank. It’s interesting to come back now and see the architecture in this rotunda.
It doesn’t look like it’s changed, but someone has spent money restoring it. I’d like to look around a see what they’re doing with the rest of the building.”

We step into the main floor vault.

“It’s a fantastic space, I guess they don’t make them like this anymore. But I think with the creativity I’ve seen from people in and around the downtown area, someone could turn this into a great wine cellar.”

Kim Bailey of Seven Hills works at Medical Mutual across East 9th Street from the Ameritrust Building, but has never been inside the rotunda.

“When they were filming the Avengers movie here last summer , we watched from Medical Mutual how people were coming out of the windows here. So to come over here and see the inside of the building, it’s fantastic. It’s beautiful, I had no idea about the murals inside. When you go in a lot of the other bank buildings, PNC, Huntington, there’s such history here in Cleveland with these beautiful buildings. And it’s a great idea to open this for the holidays and let people see it.”

The Ameritrust complex includes a 28-story “honeycomb-style ” office tower. Modernist architect Marcel Breuer designed the building.  A criteria for the bidding was to ensure that the downtown properties would be used to enhance downtown Cleveland’s development boom stemming from the new casino and up-coming Medical Mart and convention center.  County Executive FitzGerald says that has been achieved.

County Executive FitzGerald says bidders will enhance developments
“The serious proposals, and we’ve received several of them, all would stimulate downtown development and be consistent with the growth we’ve started to see here. They’ve all met the criteria, but some in different ways.”

The Ameritrust complex is expected to be converted into a hotel, retail and residential center….
(Click image for larger view.)

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