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the center street through playhouse square illuminated at night
Playhouse Square

60-Acre Theater District Revitalization


Playhouse Square

Project Location

Cleveland, OH


Allen Theater, Palace Theater, Ohio Theater, State Theater, Hanna Theater


National Trust for Historic Preservation, Honor Award for Preservation of a Downtown, 1988

In downtown Cleveland at Playhouse Square lies a remarkable group of 1920s theaters that were saved from demolition in the 1970s and redeveloped over the past four decades to create a vibrant arts and entertainment district. Our firm has been involved with this revitalization process since the beginning, orchestrating a master plan that encompassed the theaters and commercial properties in adjacent buildings.Much of the original vision has been fully executed and Playhouse Square contributes more than $60 million to the local economy and attracts over 1,000,000 patrons to 1,000+ arts and entertainment events annually.

Using the Master Plan as a roadmap, our firm designed the initial restoration and reopening of the magnificent Palace, State, and Ohio Theatres, which resulted in Playhouse Square becoming a top tour spot for Broadway producers. We adapted an adjacent historic commercial building for Idea Center, an integrated broadcast media, performing arts, and education facility and new home for WVIZ/PBS and 90.3 WCPN ideastream (affiliates of National Public Radio and Public Television) and Playhouse Square Foundation’s arts education programs. We renovated the Hanna Theatre, sensitively converting its 1,400-seat house into an intimate 560-seat proscenium/thrust stage for repertory theater. At the Allen Theatre, we inserted a new 512-seat proscenium theater within the volume of the existing 3,080-seat movie palace and developed two new venues – a 300-seat multi-form theater and a 150-seat black box – in new construction. The complex is shared by the Tony Award-winning Cleveland Play House and Cleveland State University’s Theatre Department. We completed a new 30-year master plan for the District in 2014, resulting in several additional projects such as the re-creation of the Ohio Theatre’s historic lobby and recent renovations to the seating, box office, and back of house areas in the Key Bank State Theatre.

Together with our forward-thinking client, we have creatively leveraged historic and new markets tax credits, sustainable design within historic structures, and community partnerships to turn Playhouse Square into a major visitor attraction and economic development catalyst for the city. We provided master planning; architecture; interiors; electrical, mechanical, and structural engineering; acoustics, audiovisual; information transport; life safety & security; lighting; preservation; signage/wayfinding; sustainability; and theater technical design services.


Our firm has renovated and reimagined all eight of Playhouse Square’s theaters as well as restaurant and banquet facilities, a parking structure, a central box office, and adaptations of adjacent buildings for art galleries, workplaces, and educational spaces.


Idea Center

In a partnership that was the first of its kind in the nation, WVIZ/PBS and 90.3 WCPN ideastream, affiliates of National Public Radio and Public Television, and the Playhouse Square Foundation joined forces to co-locate within a single facility, integrating broadcast media, performing arts, dance and education programs. The design leverages a highly visible, street-front location on the main corridor of the city’s urban core.

a television studio

A street-level studio accommodates multiple purposes, from rehearsal to television broadcast.

a sound stage studio with audience seating

The 300-seat Westfield Studio Theatre is a flexible black box with retractable seating for live performance and television broadcast.

Repertory Theater

Hanna Theatre

Great Lakes Theater, one of the country’s top regional theater companies, was originally constructed in 1921 and was renovated to provide a home for the Great Lakes Theater, one of the country's top regional theaters. The project re-imagined and modernized the 1,400-seat theater into an intimate 560-seat proscenium/thrust stage. The project conformed to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation and was structured to take advantage of federal and state Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits.


Allen Theatre Complex

The Tony Award-winning Cleveland Play House, the nation’s first professional regional theater, and Cleveland State University were both in need of new theater facilities. Our team’s transformative renovation and expansion of the Allen Theatre creates an arts hub where CSU’s theater students work alongside professionals and graduate students in the Cleveland Play House / Case Western Reserve University MFA acting program. The complex includes a 512-seat proscenium theater; a 300-seat multi-form theatre; and a 150-seat black box.

in the round theater with full house of patrons

Outcalt Second Stage is capable of in-the-round, three-quarter thrust, runway, or endstage configurations.

A pedestrian connector to the parking garage reveals the historic brick of the former exterior wall.

Public Space

Ohio Lobby Restoration

The Ohio Theatre Lobby functions as an important pre- and post-performance and event gathering space within Playhouse Square. Our restoration of the lobby returns the massive space to its original 1921 neoclassical splendor. Using the original architectural drawings, photo archives, and remnants of surviving ornamental plaster detail, the restoration recreates original paint colors, plaster ornamentation, and columns, accurately replicating the original design, while accommodating current building codes.

a carpeted lobby with colorful frescoes in a coffered ceiling and a double sided grand stair

Winner: Ohio Historic Preservation Office, Preservation Merit Award, 2017.

a carpeted hallway with corinthian columns and colorful ceiling frescoes in the ohio theater lobby

Three hand-painted, 30-foot-by-10-foot murals – recreated from the French neoclassical-inspired originals – along with two fireplaces and a marble and mahogany wainscot adorn the walls.

Design and Preservation Awards

Honor Award for Preservation of a Downtown, 1988

National Trust for Historic Preservation

Reuse & Retrofit of Older Structures Award, 2012 (Allen Theatre Complex)

Cleveland Restoration Society and AIA Cleveland

2012 Peggy Ezekiel Award of Outstanding Achievement for Professional Audiovisual Design

Allen Theatre Complex honored by USITT Ohio Valley Chapter.

2007 Sustainable Development Award

Idea Center honored by the International Downtown Association.

2010 Twenty-Five Year Award

Playhouse Square honored by AIA Ohio.

2017 Honor Award for Interior Architecture

Ohio Theatre Lobby honored by AIA Cleveland.

2017 Preservation Merit Award

Ohio Theatre Lobby honored by the Ohio Historic Preservation Office.

2014 Award of Merit, Hanna Theatre

Hanna Theatre honored by the Ohio Historic Preservation Office.

2009 Silver Award

Hanna Theatre honored by Building Design & Construction magazine.

2006 Merit Award

Idea Center honored by AIA Cleveland.

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