Demolition begins on Columbia Building for new casino garage, welcome center

CLEVELAND - The fight to save Cleveland's landmark Columbia Building was a contentious one. But nearly six weeks after the city's Landmarks Commission gave the green light for its demolition, the century-old building started to come down.

Crews began razing the building from the rear, slicing their way through Columbia's eight floors, exposing its history and its many lives in the process. 

Desks and file cabinets could be seen on one floor, ready to come down on the next swipe of construction equipment. An exposed former classroom with its overhead fluorescent lighting still in tact was visible on another floor.

Hanging down from floor-to-floor like strands of spaghetti was rebar, or reinforced steel bars, that made this place the first reinforced concrete building in Cleveland.

The steel, in some cases, looked shiny and new, just as it had when it last saw the light of day in 1908.

In its spot will rise the Horseshoe Casino Cleveland's welcome center and garage, a place where casino patrons will be able to valet or self park and walk into the $350 million casino, currently now under construction.

The garage project is about two weeks behind the schedule put forth to the Landmarks Commission by Rock Ohio Caesars in May. But casino officials remain optimistic that the opening of the welcome center, and the casino itself, can come at the same time in March of 2012.

Other business is being affected though by the demolition and will continue to be with the eventual construction on East 2nd Street. That's the home of High Street Grill which is still open to foot traffic. Owner Matt Wyrick hopes the first day, when his lunch crowd numbered three, isn't an indication of things to come.

"Because of all the dust and lack of parking now, I mean it looks like a prison," he said, referring to the construction fencing. "Nobody will come in. The quicker they tear down the building, the better. It'll create some visibility until they completely close us in," he said.

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