Ho Ho HoJo

Cleveland, you gotta’ be kiddin’ me.

I pass this amazing piece of crap twice a day, every morning and every evening, and I’m always amazed that it exists.

How long are you going to sit passively in your cars and pass this wretched hulk day after day? Take a good look, Cleveland, because this is the real face of our city:

What's left of Howard Johnson's Cleveland Lakefront Hotel. Nice, eh?

A real beauty, right?

The city could probably take this building by Eminent Domain, and for a song. The only problem is that this hulk has been sitting on this spot, just like this, for years: open, broken windows, open doors — the works. It’s probably going to cost a fortune to clean the hazardous waste out of this building.

What? Hazardous waste? What hazardous waste? In an empty building?

You bet: just about every bird living within 10 miles of the city has to know that this nice, little shelter is here waiting for them in bad weather. Just about every rat the size of Shamu does, too. And every stray dog, too. What about snakes? We have them in this region of Ohio. And I’ll bet there’s more bird shit and rat shit in there than Exxon has oil.

THAT hazardous waste. (It’s time to call in Mike Rowe for another episode of “Dirty Jobs.”)

The land could be worth a fortune — if it were habitable, which it’s not. Not by a long shot. You could build something very nice here: a housing complex, perhaps, or an aquarium, maybe, or an office building, possibly. Gee: maybe even — dare I say it — a casino? Not that I’m for having one in Cleveland, but if we did have one, this would be an excellent location…

The possibilities are endless for a property with an outstanding lake view like this.

But instead, we have this hulk just sitting here, taking up space, rotting from the inside out and the outside in, housing all sorts of vermin, rodentia, and the like. Just a thought: if mosquitoes are breeding there, and they are breeding in water polluted with rabid or diseased animal waste, you have to wonder what kind of diseases they carry with them — and what they can infect us with.

Our priorities are elsewhere: a convention center, a medical mart… not that these things are unimportant — they certainly are important — but you can’t forget about severe rot like this. Not in an area so visible.

So, Cleveland, there you have it: your fair city. This is the face of Cleveland, Ohio, like it or not: this is what every visitor to this city sees every time they go down to Progressive Field, or Cleveland Browns Stadium, or the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame, or one of those supposed conventions our politicians want so badly that we never seem to be able to attract.

They blame the lack of hotel space (ironically — and laughably — this is an abandoned Howard Johnson Hotel!) for the lack of conventions here. Yeah, right. If you were hosting a convention, and you had a choice between just about any other American city — and this dung heap — what would you choose?

I’ve been meaning to get down there with my real camera and take some better photos; I just might tomorrow morning, if the weather holds. I will post more photos here as I take them, believe me.


  • by Eric Meyer 03 May 2008 at 11:32 am

    Because other cities don’t have abandoned and rotting buildings, of course.

  • by Will 03 May 2008 at 1:54 pm

    Indeed. None of this is to say that other cities don’t have abandoned and rotting buildings, of course. Heck, just a quick day trip to Detroit would dispel that idea right away. And you really don’t have to go all that far, either: the mid-town corridor has plenty of deterioration as well.

    But the idea here is that this highly visible eyesore has been there for a long time in a deteriorating state, right under our noses, and we as a city have done absolutely nothing about it.

    Our politicians want to spur economic development — yet they ignore obvious avenues of advancement. Somehow, I don’t think ignoring this building qualifies as a valid strategy for Strategema.

    This place has been empty for a very long time: Jill Zimon twittered me last night with a reminder that this building used to house one of the best Chinese restaurants in the region — something I had totally forgotten about because it has been closed for so long.

    As it stands right now — and you’ll see this in some photos I took this morning that I will post in a little bit — there is no way anything could be built there unless someone puts some major work into the place. The easiest course of action would be to detonate it and scoop up the debris and bury it somewhere.

  • by Joe R. 05 May 2008 at 10:24 am

    Sadly, your post hit’s very close to home. If I had the money (aka resources) I would have bought & redeveloped that property so long ago.

    My high school class (Aviation High, Class of 1987) had our prom dinner there at the restaurant located on/near the top floor.

  • by Rick 06 May 2008 at 3:22 pm

    Somebody made the Coliseum in Richfield disappear, practically overnight.



    Nary a sign that it ever existed.

    You’d think this place could at least earn a similar fate.

  • by Strok jl 18 May 2008 at 11:06 pm

    Here’s the funny thing about this site. If it was worth something to the market then someone would have built on it by now. After all it went through the foreclosure process in 2006 and landed in sheriff’s sale for $633,334. It then sold to some group calling themselves Lakeview 2006, LLC in April 2007 for $2.5 mil. Now that’s a tidy profit. Anyway, maybe this is the market catching up with the property; but I’m guessing it’s a speculator. But I’ll get to that in a sec. The thing is that if this group is looking to develop, it will take some time to get the project off the ground, but I’m thinking this isn’t the case. Noone’s talking about this site right now… But I digress.

    The problem with the site is that it’s not close enough to anywhere where most people want to be. And it would be a terrible retail local I think. But here’s the thing, and my point about speculation. If the Port Authority does move to the end of E. 55th that land will have great industrial value almost overnight. It’s not quite three acres of almost flat land along two major transportation routes and will be literally across the street from a break bulk point.

    Right now the county has that land valued at just shy of $700,000. And that’s with a worthless shell of a building that will cost a ton of cash to bring down (and let’s face it even if you like the architecture of the building it has very few reuse options). Anyway the city can’t just take the land through eminent domain just because the owner isn’t doing anything with it. (if that were true then someone should take that airport FROM the city) There does have to be some public good that will come from it, and lining the pocket of a developer isn’t in my book of public good items. Even if there were a public good to be had in the taking of the property it could mean that the property will fall off the tax roles, which is bad as well.

    I guess my overall point is that while I agree that it is a shame and waste of resources to have that hulking shell stare vacantly over the city, I don’t think that anything’s going to happen for a few years now until the whole port deal is decided. And until someone see’s an opportunity I think we’ll have to wait, after all there is a latent value in lake front property like this. (This Lakeview 2006, LLC group must agree since they paid 2.5 mil for a property valued at $925,000). Let the government look into the rest of the city. After all we can all list the wasted properties, this one will fall back into the market sooner than later compared to most of the rest of the east side.

  • by Will 18 May 2008 at 11:37 pm

    Some good points there. I was researching the property and found the same history as you, and was going to present it with the photos I took that weekend (which will be coming with the redesign, sorry — give me another week or so for my upgrade to go through — I just devved out the page, but in the new WP on my local dev environment).

    And I have to agree with you that nothing will happen with the site for a couple of years, until the port deal goes through. However, we’ve seen City Council say many things and then finally do other things, so I’m not getting my hopes up just yet…

    By the way, the airport is on a very soft landfill (1930s — it was a Public Works project, along with Municipal Stadium and the Memorial Shoreway), and nothing more than two stories tall can be erected there. The landfill itself is primarily garbage from the early half of last century, which, well, I don’t even want to think about what’s in it… ;-)

    The funny thing about it is that every time the conversation of closing Burke and building something grand there comes up, the engineers get involved, and the grandiose plans go away very quietly — every time. The truth is that they can’t build anything else there but… well… an airport.

  • by David B 23 May 2008 at 10:37 am

    Regarding the long-abandoned HoJo Lakefront Hotel.. This location has become a local target for ‘urban explorers’ (they’re the ones who enter abandoned sites for kicks). A couple of years ago, one of them entered the hotel to take pictures, and one of those images leaves me with nightmares: Its the swimming pool filled with standing water. The pool is indoors, but an outside wall of the pool area has collapsed -exposing the pool to the great outdoors, undoubtedly allowing billions of mosquitos to breed there. Photos of this serious menace to public health can be found at http://illicitohio.illicitohio.com/clevelandhotel.htm

  • by Will 23 May 2008 at 6:44 pm

    David, that is awesome! Those pictures blew me away!

    Now that I know that someone actually went in there, it’d be kinda cool to go in there and snoop around a little. Alas, the time…


  • by Will 23 May 2008 at 10:17 pm

    UPDATE — I had the chance to snoop around those photos some more, and am awed at what I see. That feeling of someone watching you was probably very real, especially if you noticed those plastic chairs. Those chairs are a recent design, only having been on the market for a few years — maybe 8 or 9 at the most — which makes them a sign that there was someone there very recently.

    The porn is another clue — I sincerely doubt that someone left that there when the hotel closed…

    It’s not as dark in there as I had thought it would be; I was impressed with the amount of light there truly is.

    And thanks for the tip to the Illicit Ohio Web site — while I can’t say much for the design (like this one is all that great right now, itself, right?), I have a lot of respect for the subject matter: it’d be cool to do exploring like this myself…

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