Saturday, August 18th, 2018

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PlayhouseSquare’s transformation lures urban dwellers to live, work, play

by Sarah Jaquay

A former marketing director for PlayhouseSquare remarked in the 1990s, “Who would have thought when I moved here in 1978 there would be weekend traffic jams at E. 14th and Euclid?” I agreed. My commencement in the un-restored Palace Theatre in 1981 was definitely downscale: cement floors with temporary seats and lots of dust. What happened next to the PlayhouseSquare theatres is almost urban allegory: closed and in disrepair; saved from the wrecking ball at the 11th hour and lovingly restored to become the country’s second-largest theatre complex.

Traffic can still be heavy after performances, but there’s a growing number of patrons who walk home. While PlayhouseSquare has traditionally been an entertainment district drawing suburbanites downtown for dinner and a show, it’s becoming a vibrant neighborhood where people live, work and play —emphasis on the play.

“We’ve had a strategic plan for creating a 24/7 neighborhood and we’re well on our way,” Art Falco, president and CEO of Playhouse Square explained. Falco said a few years ago there were 1500-1600 residential units within Playhouse Square’s footprint. Since then, the Embassy Suites was converted into apartments and residences in the Hanna Building Annex have been developed. Falco estimates PlayhouseSquare is approaching 2,000 residential units with approximately 3,000 residents. With more apartments planned at the corner of E. 9th and Euclid and new residences on Cleveland State’s campus, there’s a critical mass within easy reach of PlayhouseSquare. Growing demand begets amenities. Downtown dwellers once had to climb Cedar Hill to grocery shop, get an ice cream cone or have their hair coiffed. That’s no longer the case.

“It’s a game-changer,” Falco said of the Heinen’s grocery store opening in the former Ameritrust complex at E. 9th and Euclid this fall. He also notes ice cream lovers can stroll to Dynomite Burgers on Star Plaza and chase Zack Bruell’s gourmet burgers with soft-serve ice cream. For those who prefer the hard stuff, Rothchild Farms will sell ice cream in the Hanna Building. The Hanna also has a hair salon and barber shop.

More importantly, there’s no better neighborhood for entertainment. Beyond its ever-expanding dining scene and the six theatres offering everything from Broadway musicals to ballet, opera and jazz, PlayhouseSquare is taking a leap northward. The Hofbrauhaus Cleveland, an authentic licensee of Munich’s  original Hofbrauhaus, will wrap around the Tudor mansion on Dodge Court known as the Hermit Club — a group that celebrates the performing arts. This 660-seat restaurant, brewery and outdoor beer garden is scheduled to open this fall.

“We’re not just a restaurant,” said Andi Udris, managing member of Brauhaus Cleveland, LLC and developer of Hofbrau-haus Cleveland. Udris was involved in opening the first U.S. licensee near Cincinnati in 2003. He’s from Lakewood originally and thought it was time Northeast Ohioans have the same opportunities for Hofbrauhaus beer, German cuisine and Oktoberfest celebrations as other cities.

Although many Clevelanders associate Hofbrauhaus with the former restaurant on E. 55th, this complex will be different: a replication of sorts of the venerable Munich institution that’s been welcoming guests since 1589.

In keeping with the district’s theme, the Hofbrauhaus will have daily entertainment by musicians with Teutonic flair. Udris described the daytime playlist as “classic oom pah-pah switching to high-powered, high-energy oom pah-pah rock” in the evenings. The chef will have extensive European training and the menu will offer traditional German fare with local favorites such as pierogies.

All Hofbrauhaus beers will be brewed on-premise or imported from Germany. Udris said there will be a light lager, a Helles Munich selection, a hefeweizen (wheat beer) and a dark lager — something for diverse palates. Beer will be made in compliance with the German Purity Law of 1516 and served in proper glassware.

Both Udris and Falco think Hofbrauhaus Cleveland will bring a younger crowd to the neighborhood and keep it hopping during warm weather: when dining al fresco on grilled bratwurst, chicken or mackerel on a stick and sipping fresh brews in a Medieval Munich setting will make any traffic hassles worth the wait.

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