This weekend offers a reminder that urban renewal wasn’t invented this century. On Friday, dozens of former residents of the legendary Plaza Apartments will convene at the Beachland Ballroom for a musical and arts celebration commemorating their former legendariness.
From the late 1960s through the mid-1980s, the hulking, ivy-covered, vaguely gothic apartment at 3206 Prospect Ave. was an unprecedented launch pad for a community of underground musicians, artists, writers — even professors from Tri-C and Cleveland State.
“We were urban pioneers before the term was coined,” says Scott Krauss, a former drummer for the groundbreaking Cleveland art-rock band Pere Ubu. “Like the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead had their band houses, we had the Plaza. It was an energy house. So much came out of there.”
The place was immortalized on the jacket of Pere Ubu’s Dub Housing and in the writing of ex-Pere Ubu member Allen Ravenstine, who owned the building with painter David Bloomquist for a dozen eventful years, back when prostitution still flourished in the neighborhood.
The place still stands today, mostly serving as living quarters for CSU students. The original community dissolved by around 1986, in some ways a victim of its own success.
“Our mission was accomplished,” says Bloomquist, who lives in Georgia. “We helped establish the neighborhood as Cleveland’s first historic district.” — Anastasia Pantsios