Downtown Cleveland, OH

Facade Renovation

Repurposing an Institution

Downtown YMCA

The Downtown YMCA in Cleveland served thousands over the years and was a landmark downtown. The building is gorgeous, but in order to serve a new purpose, the new owners had to have a unique vision and think outside the box. The new owners decided that it would make a great living space for students at Cleveland State University because of its proximity to the school. The irony is that the Cleveland Institute of Technology of the YMCA was founded in 1921, and that would later become the foundation for CSU itself. Coming full circle means renovation, and that’s where Cleveland Building Restoration stepped up to the challenge.

Making Old New Again

The Challenge

This historic building is known for beautiful terra cotta and artisan stone on top of the building. The brick masonry on the outside of the building is unique and irreplaceable. Most brick today is created in a gas kiln, but these bricks were forged with charcoal, giving them a unique appearance. Because of the significance of the building, all work was monitored by the Cleveland Historic Landmark District*. Everything not only had to measure up to code and OSHA standards, but it also had to fulfill requirements to keep its designation as a landmark. Because the brick and masonry is impossible to replace, it was necessary to salvage as much of it as possible and reuse it. Couple these factors with a building that is currently inhabited by college students and put the masonry work 9 stories above Downtown Cleveland, and you’ve got both a masonry challenge and a safety challenge to overcome. The Cleveland Building Restoration team was facing a tall task.

All in the Details

Our Process

Color, aggregate and contour. When you are matching new mortar to existing stone and brick, these three details determine your success. Because of the importance of getting this part of the process right, the crew was kept small, so there was continuity when completing the matching tasks. 2 crews of 2 people worked above with one support crewmate on the ground. It wasn’t all just detail work. The job also called for 100% removal and replacement of the existing steel lentils and installation of new galvanized stainless steel drip flashing and a through-wall rubber membrane from Carlisle including weep tubes to help keep moisture out of the walls. These weep tubes were installed above every opening – 144 openings to be exact – so you can imagine the work involved there.

As mentioned earlier, much of this work is being done 9 stories up, with college kids going in and out of the building below, so attention to safety is imperative. The crew was very meticulous in planning out the rigging of their equipment and paid close attention to all of their materials as not to injure or disturb any of the occupants. Restoring the building is important, but as always, the safety of our crew and the tenants of the building comes first.

Phase One Complete

The Outcome

Phase one is complete, but this project will take 4 years to be all the way done. The work done on the South elevation in phase one will be completed on all sides of the building, but that’s not all that needs to be wrapped up. The expansion cracks will need to be filled, and the parapet at the top of the building will need to be replaced. For now, the team got a great start on the building before Cleveland turns white for the winter. But this spring, Cleveland Building Restoration will be back on site to tackle the next phase of this legendary building’s rebirth!

CBR was honored to have won a Construction Employers Association (CEA) Building Excellence Award as a Bricklayers Category Winner for our work on this beautiful landmark.

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