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Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's $100 million expansion project approved by Cleveland Planning Commission

Construction on the project, which includes a new 50,000 square foot wing, could begin as soon as this fall.

CLEVELAND — The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's long-awaited $100 million expansion plan is a step closer to breaking ground after unanimous approval from the Cleveland Planning Commission on Friday. 

The commission had previously approved the schematic design of the expansion back in May, but had expressed several concerns to project leaders that were addressed during Friday's meeting. The commission's vote clears the way for construction to begin as soon as this fall. 

"We're in our 28th year, we've had 14 million guests and we've had a $2 billion economic impact to the region," said Rock Hall CEO Greg Harris at the start of the presentation to the commission. "One of the reasons for being here today is because we want to expand the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to better serve our community, to better grow our audiences, and to have a more positive effect on Cleveland."

The project is highlighted by a 50,000 square-foot addition to the existing pyramid structure that was originally designed by architect I.M. Pei and completed in 1995. The new addition on the west side of the building will allow for more programming spaces which can be used for the following: 

  • An additional 10,000 square feet for large-scale traveling exhibits 
  • Multipurpose spaces for indoor performances, community gatherings and private rentals 
  • Relocation of the administrative offices from the lower level
  • A new entrance lobby that will improve the flow of visitors
  • Open space for event & education programming
  • On-site archives for visitors to access the Rock Hall's unique collection

In addition, the project also creates a "museum campus" alongside the neighboring Great Lakes Science Center, with greenspace that will allow the public to engage with the lakefront. Some of the expansion stretches onto Science Center property, however CEO Kirsten Ellenbogen told the commission that she has had "clear and frequent" communication with the Rock Hall, adding that "the priority is the public." 

"It's (greenspace) going to have a gentle five percent or less grade, so it's ADA accessible from the lake up to the street and it's going to give the public a chance to really engage with the lakefront in a way they can't do at present," explained Harris. 

In May, the planning commission asked project leaders for further details of how the addition will join the existing building. They also requested that the new entrance be further evaluated for maintenance and asked if the East 9th Street portion of the property could be emphasized. 

While Mark Faulkner, representing New York-based firm Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU), addressed the building concerns on Friday, Lisa Switkin from James Corner Field Operations handled questions about East 9th Street. She said the new plan helps open the corner of East 9th and the Rock Hall with sloped paths to the plaza that are ADA accessible. "It's a really incredible vista and viewpoint," Switkin added. She told commissioners that the goal for the East 9th area will be for it to eventually reflect the city's ongoing lakefront master plan. 

Friday's vote by the Cleveland Planning Commission comes during a busy stretch of events for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Last week, the museum opened what Harris called its "blockbuster new exhibit" celebrating the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. Members of Run-D.M.C. and Public Enemy participated in the celebration. From the opening of "Holla If Ya Hear Me" on June 29 through the July 4th weekend, a total of 14,000 people visited the Rock Hall. 

You can watch Friday's Cleveland Planning Commission meeting by clicking here. The Rock Hall presentation comes at approximately the 1:51:00 mark of the meeting.

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