Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

PSA still fights to save the past

Cleveland Press July 21, 1972

When the Playhouse Square Assn.came into being it announced plans to save four empty downtown theaters at an estimated cost of $4,000,000 to $5,000,000.

Now, two years later, it stands to lose two of the four theaters, and the estimated cost of the entire project is closer to $7,000,000.

But through it all, founder and director Ray K. Shepardson remains optimistic. While the owners of the State and Ohio Theaters have announced plans to tear them down and put a parking lot in their place, the Junior League has pledged $25,000 toward saving them.

Meanwhile Shepardson keeps busy planning a season of attractions for the Allen Theater.

"USING THE ALLEN keeps interest alive in the area,' he explained.

He is still trying for more memberships, has 500 now which, at $120 each, helps the association with running expenses. As for the larger, seven-figure sum, no money has been raised. As for saving the State and Ohio, he figures the association has about 30 to 60 days left.

"If they were torn down it would change our plans drastically," he said. "There could be no restaurant night club complex. What we would have then is a film center in the Allen and a concert hall in the Palace. And I think both would have a chance of succeeding.

"There's room in Cleveland for an enlarged season of dance and for an increase in concert audiences. And I would like to see a summer stock season downtown."

OSBORN C. DODSON JR., new board member who is aiding in the negotiations to save the buildings, is more cautious, feels it is too soon to make predictions.

"The decision is in the hands of the Millcap Corp., owners of the theaters," he said.

Shepardson says that part of the efforts to save the State and Ohio involves finding tenants for space in the lobby and offices, a plan he refers to as a holding action. Dodson says that progress is being made in the area, referred to it as "extremely encouraging."

WHAT HELP the organization might get from foundations depends on a restructuring of the association or creation of another group.

"The association is currently a non-profit social club " said Dodson. "To be eligible for foundation grants it would have to be either a charitable organization or educational.

"Our major interest right now is that whatever form it takes, whatever the project is, that it be economically sound and not another drain on the pocketbooks of wealthy Clevelanders."

SHEPARDSON SAYS he is encouraged by the announcement of plans for the Terminal development which includes three theaters and the Gateway plans which calls for a nightclub.

'These are realistic business people and I think their opinions are vindication of our plans. No, I don't see it as harming the Playhouse Square project. Ours involves the preservation of important buildings.

"These are new centers and they can only help downtown. Lincoln Center in New York and Kennedy Center In Washington didn't put the old places out of business.