As many of you know, Cleveland Public Theatre has been a client of The Project Group for several years now.

But even with such full disclosure, I’m telling you to mark your calendars for Pandemonium – CPT’s Annual Benefit, and the best party of the year in The CLE.  It’s nothing less than phantasmagoric!

The event takes place on Saturday, 12 September at 7PM.

Featuring dozens of area theatre, dance, visual and performance artists along with fabulous food and drink, Pandemonium is a benefit like no other — and an evening not to be missed.  The action takes place in unexpected places throughout the CPT campus as guests decide how they choose to experience this innovative and unusual benefit!

If you happened to miss out on Pandemonium 2014 or just want a little reminder of that magical night, check this from Pandemonium 2013:


To purchase tickets online, click here.

I’ll be hangin’ out — see ya there!!



Last Friday nite, Marie and I attended the opening of “Fire on the Water” at Cleveland Public Theatre. It’s a stunning success for CPT and Raymond Bobgan, its Executive Artistic Director (full disclosure, CPT is a client).

 ”Fire on the Water” is a fast-paced series of short plays inspired by a pivotal moment in Cleveland’s history — the burning of the Cuyahoga River on 22 June 1969.

 It’s a story that neither begins nor ends on that infamous night.  Rather, it stretches back to the glacial retreat at the end of the last Ice Age (over 13,000 years ago) — before catapulting the audience into the Common Era thru a tangle of myth and memory, Cleveland’s industrial history, the ’69 fire and beyond.

Created by a diverse team of playwrights, directors and actors, the production features original work by CPT and co-producers Theater Ninjas, Talespinner Children’s Theatre, Ohio City Theatre Project and Blank Canvas Theatre.

I think it’s a powerful theatrical event that explores how the environment shapes identity — while celebrating the remarkable recovery of Cleveland’s waterways.

With 6 more performances, it plays thru 14 February — and it’s had terrific buzz.  To purchase tickets online, click here.



 Just this last Sunday, The Plain Dealer featured my brother, Ron Zayac — and his amazing ability to “grow tomatoes as high as an elephant’s eye“!

Ronny (we still call each other by our boyhood monikers) is the Wizard of Canterbury Creek Gardens – at the corner of Detroit and Canterbury Roads in Westlake.

He’s been featured many times before in The PD and other local and national publications.  But this article focused on his “behemoth” tomato plants — and their extraordinary fertility, noting that “when you look up at the tomato plants, they blot out the trees behind them.”

One plant, the Jasper variety, is 8 feet high and 20 feet wide — “and it’s still putting out blossoms in early fall.”

Ronny runs an all-organic garden center, and he has always said that his secret to growing plants is “soil and fertilizer.  It comes back to providing the nutrition it needs.”

The writer, Julie Washington (she’s just terrific; check her out) notes several of Ronny’s secrets:

He uses unsterilized soil — containing beneficial microbes;

  • He makes his own fertilizer mix — with poultry manure, kelp for trace minerals, beneficial microbes and fungus;

  • He starts seeds indoors each spring — waiting until the soil is warm in early June and keeps planting new seedlings through August;

  • He uses containers about 12 inches deep. He puts only a few plants in one container, giving them room to spread out — because “gardeners don’t need to plant more plants; just make a few plants work harder;”

  • He grows winter rye in his containers — keeping the soil’s microbes alive during winter;

  • He grows onions and shallots grow alongside tomatoes — because those vegetables feed beneficial microbes in the soil; and

  • He prunes most of the leaves off the tomato plants — making it easier to pick the tomatoes and to encourage the plant to make strong stems.

As a final touch, he plays oldies, classical or jazz tune for his potted friends.   “Our plants like eclectic music,” he joked.

Maybe he’s on to something there.  He shared the front page of Sunday’s North Coast section with an homage to Michael Stanley. 

Two rock stars, huh?



As many of you know, Cleveland Public Theatre has been a client of The Project Group for several years now.

But even with such full disclosure, I’m telling you to mark your calendars for Pandemonium – CPT’s Annual Benefit, and the best party of the year in The CLE.  It’s nothing less than phantasmagoric!

The event takes place on Saturday, 13 September at 7PM.


Featuring dozens of area theatre, dance, visual and performance artists along with fabulous food and drink, Pandemonium is a benefit like no other and an evening not to be missed.  The action takes place in unexpected places throughout the CPT campus as guests decide how they choose to experience this innovative and unusual benefit!

If you happened to miss out on Pandemonium 2013 or just want a little reminder of that magical night, check this from Pandemonium 2013:

To purchase tickets online, click here.

I’ll be hangin’ out — see ya there!!



Last month, Wells Fargo Securities published aSpecial Commentary entitled “Cleveland: Things Are Starting to Look Up.”

The article starts out a bit cautious, saying that “Employment growth remains exceptionally modest today but appears to be taking a turn for the better… The nearly simultaneous announcements that Cleveland will host the 2016 Republican National Convention and thatLeBron James will rejoin the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA team has lifted the spirits of the area and helped focus attention on the positive attributes of Northeast Ohio.”

But it then notes that “the region’s manufacturing sector is also showing signs of regaining its footing… More growth appears on the way” as Team NEO has “recruited a record high 16 new or expanded operations” in the past year… Northeast Ohio is well positioned to benefit from the growth of the region’s energy exploration business.”

The article notes that high-visibility events are focusing attention on the “New Cleveland” as The CLE is “capitalizing on its current strengths and leaders are working to redevelop the metro area as a destination for businesses and tourists alike… Downtown Cleveland is quickly becoming a popular destination for events and conventions” — citing the return of LeBron and the RNC convention.

“Demographics remain favorable for the (health care) industry… home sales continue to improve… demand for apartments remains very strong, driving the vacancy rate down to 3.0 percent.”

The piece concludes by noting that “Cleveland finally appears to be catching a break… Changes to (its) economy are more than cosmetic… The region has become more diverse… More jobs could result from new facilities meant to foster innovation in the (health care) industry.”

This article is another in a series of national publications that are coming to the conclusion that The CLE is in the midst of remarkable resurgence in fortunes. For example, in January, I published a Z-Notes entitled “Fortune Magazine: Betting on The CLE as 2014′s Breakout Town.”

 And in June, I featured an article in Forbes Magazine entitled “Shaking Off the Rust: Cleveland Workforce Gets Smarter and Younger.”

As I said at the end of that edition, “First one in, turn on the lights!”


Last week, Forbes Magazine published a story entitled “Shaking off the Rust: Cleveland’s Workforce Gets Younger and Smarter“.

It’s a stunning article — and dramatically contravenes the conventional wisdom about Rust Belt Cities like Cleveland and Pittsburgh.  The article notes that “between 2000 and 2012, the Cleveland metro area logged a net gain of about 60,000 people 25 and over with a college degree, while losing a net 70,000 of those without a bachelor’s” degree (my emphases).


The article also notes that “the picture of Cleveland that emerges… is a very different one from that to which we are accustomed.  Rather than a metro area left behind by the information revolution, Cleveland boasts an increasingly youthful workforce that is among the better educated in the nation… ahead of such “brain centers” as Chicago, Austin and Seattle.”

The Forbes piece was based on last month’s report by Richey Piiparinen and Jim Russell of Cleveland State University.  Entitled “Globalizing Cleveland: A Path Forward“, the report is Part 2 of a 3-part series sketching a theory of change for the CLE relating to economic and community development.


The report documents some broad trends:

·         Simultaneously, higher-educated people are moving into the CLE, while lower-educated people are moving out;

·         This phenomenon has resulted in a net population loss, but also in a net per capita income gain; and

·         The Rust Belt offers a far better value proposition than “spiky” coastal cities like San Francisco and Manhattan.  For example, housing in the CLE is 25% the cost , based on income, than San Francisco.


More particular findings follow:

·         CLE’s emergent knowledge industry, measured by STEM (i.e., science, technology, engineering, manufacturing) and Health Care employment, increased its job totals by nearly 25% from 2003 to 2013.

·         A region’s growing knowledge economy translates into wage growth. CLE’s per capita income increased from $33,359 in 2003 to $44,775 in 2012 — a gain of 34%.

·         Also driving up per capita income, the CLE is experiencing a brain gain.

·         From 2000 to 2012, the CLE gained over 60,000 people aged 25 and over with a college degree. Most of these gains, approximately 40,000, were made from 2006 to 2012.

·         Fueling this brain gain are young Clevelanders. The number of college-educated 25- to 34-year-olds in Greater Cleveland increased by 23% from 2006 to 2012 – with an 11% increase occurring from 2011 to 2012.

·         The skill level of the metro’s young adult workforce is world class. In 2009, according to Pitt economist Chris Briem, 15% of the CLE’s workers aged 25 to 34 had a graduate or professional degree, which ranks the city 7th in the nation — ahead of Chicago, Seattle and Austin.

·         The sources of the CLE’s brain gain are geographically diverse. Nearly 50% of educated individuals coming into Cuyahoga County from 2007 to 2011 did so from another state.

·         When it comes to net migration, Atlanta, Detroit, and Pittsburgh were the biggest feeders for those arriving with a bachelor’s degree — while Chicago, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Pittsburgh sent the most in-migrants with a graduate or professional degree.

·         Concerning international brain gain, 50% of the immigrants that came into Cuyahoga County from 2007 to 2011 were college educated.  Out of those educated migrants, 64% were Asian, 14% were European and 8% were African. Sixty percent (60%) of all educated migrants had graduate or professional degrees.

·         The landing spots for young and educated migrants, termed “Global Neighborhoods”, included parts of Downtown, Ohio City, Tremont and Edgewater — as well as inner-ring suburbs of Lakewood and Cleveland Heights.

·         The parts of Cleveland experiencing the greatest brain gain are also where the greatest wage increases are occurring. Nearly 50% of the residents of the CLE’s Global Neighborhoods work in emerging industries — particularly the “eds and meds.”  The number of Global Neighborhood residents who made more than $40,000 a year increased by nearly 50% from 2002 to 2011.


The Forbes article concludes by stating that “the Rust Belt retains many natural resources — oil, gas and, perhaps most importantly, water — that position it to be a major contributor.  If the opportunity is recognized by a new generation, the future could prove surprisingly bright in what has long been seen as a fading region.”

First one in, turn on the lights!




As my buddy, Seymour from Leroy, wrote me last week, “It’s not every day when a bridge goes floating past your porch.”

The story of the reconstruction of the Columbus Road Lift Bridge has been nothing short of remarkable.  Here at my perch in Duck Island, I’ve had a birds-eye view of this $32 million project immediately below us — where Columbus Road crosses the Cuyahoga River.

As Alison Grant of The Plain Dealer has writtenin her terrific coverage, “American Bridge Co. crews have worked on the span — the lift part of the Columbus Road bridge — at a site just west of the Carter Road Bridge in the Flats since mid-2013.

“The finished product (was) shipped down the river to the towers it will be connected to.  The bridge is the fifth rendition of a permanent crossing over the Cuyahoga at Columbus Road. The first, horse-and-buggy, version was built in 1836.

“The fourth Columbus Road bridge, built in 1940, was closed last year and its span torn out and scrapped, after inspections determined it was in serious condition.  Some floor beams and gusset plates were rated critical, meaning they were no longer functioning as designed. Lifting components were rated poor.”

The 2.2 million-pound bridge was moved onto its barge Monday last (July 28th) at a rate of 15 feet per 40 minutes.  The next morning, it was shipped about 0.5-mile downriver to its two restored towers.  By Friday, it was hoisted up in the air about 70 feet — and the ship channel was reopened to riverborne traffic.

For a civil engineer, this was a real treat!

Rollin down a river…


Last week, I explained that in late June, Marie and I took a vacation to the Black Hills of South Dakota.  In that edition, I focused on Rapid City as our “jumping off” place.

Today, I’ll focus on some of the sites to see, and I’ll just arrange them in chronological order.


The Badlands National Park was our first stop.  It’s about 70 miles east of Rapid City in southwest South Dakota.

The Badlands is home to about 250,000 sharply-eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires blended with the largest undisturbed mixed grass prairiein the country. It’s also one of the best fossil-hunting spots on the planet!

The Mount Rushmore National Memorial is asculpture carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore just west of Rapid City.  Sculpted by Danish-American Gutzon Borglum and his son,Lincoln, Mount Rushmore features 60-foot sculptures of the heads of George Washington,Thomas JeffersonTheodore Roosevelt andAbraham Lincoln.

Construction on the memorial began in 1927, and the presidents’ faces were completed between 1934 and 1939.  Upon Gutzon’s death in March 1941, his son took over construction.  Although the initial concept called for each president to be depicted from head to waist, lack of funding forced construction to end in late October 1941.

Mount Rushmore attracts 2 to 3 million visitors a year — and has become an iconic symbol of presidential greatness.


The Crazy Horse Memorial is just astonishing, and dwarfs Mount Rushmore.  It’s a mountainmonument that depicts Crazy Horse, anOglala Lakota Sioux warrior, riding a horse and pointing into the distance.

Begun by the late sculptor Korczak Ziolkowskiin 1948, his work is carried on by his family.  The sculpture’s final dimensions are planned to be 641 feet wide and 563 feet high.  The head of Crazy Horse will be 87 feet tall; by comparison, the heads of the four U.S. Presidents at Mount Rushmore are each 60 feet high.

The monument is far from completion.  If completed, it may become the world’s largest sculpture.

The Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway is a 66-mile double loop that honors a South Dakota conservationist, Governor, and U.S. Senator.

Known as “An Ordinary Man with an Extraordinary Vision,” he is credited with an impressive list of conservation accomplishments.  To the people of South Dakota and the nation, he bequeathed an enduring legacy through the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway.


Custer State Park is about 40 miles south of Rapid City, and encompasses comprises 71,000 acres.  One of the nation’s largest state parks, the Park has been home to diverse cultural heritages for thousands of years and has provided an array of scenic beauty and outdoor recreation for visitors since the early 1900s.

Today, Custer State Park is famous for its bison herds (the largest publicly-owned herd in the country), other wildlife, scenic drives, historic sites, visitor centers, fishing lakes, resorts, campgrounds and interpretive programs.

When Wind Cave National Park was established in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt, it was the 7th U.S. National Park — and the first cave to be designated a national park anywhere in the world.  The cave is notable for its displays of the calcite formation known as boxwork.

About 95%of the world’s discovered boxwork formations are found in Wind Cave.  It’s also recognized as the densest (most passage volume per cubic mile) cave system in the world.

Wind Cave is currently the 6th-longest in the world — with 141 miles of explored cave passageways, with an average of 4 new miles of cave being discovered each year.  Above ground, the park includes the largest remaining natural mixed-grass prairie in the United States.

Jewel Cave National Monument is the 3rd-longest cave in the world. With over 170 miles of mapped and surveyed passages, this underground wilderness appeals to human curiosity.

Its splendor is revealed through fragile formations and glimpses of brilliant color. Its maze of passages lure explorers, and its scientific wealth remains a mystery.

The Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway is a 22-mile journey that cuts thru Spearfish Canyon — a deep but narrow gorgecarved by Spearfish Creek on the northern edge of theBlack Hills National Forest.

Many tourists drive through the canyon, drawn to the region due to its wide range of plant and wildlife, geology, rock formations, and waterfalls.  Although I’m not a fisherman, I’m told that Spearfish Creek holds populations of rainbow and brown trout and is dammed in several spots – affording fishing opportunities.

The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally annually transforms this small South Dakota town – as an estimated 500,000 motorcyclists from around the world set out to Sturgis for the 74th annual rally.  This year’s rally starts next Monday, o4 August and runs thru the following Sunday.

The entire city of Deadwood is on the National Historic Register. Here, you’ll see a careful, accurate restoration of a historically significant city. Deadwood’s extensive Victorian architecture is unique to the West.

While the gold rush of 1876 brought the likes of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane, it also provided the wealth to construct a thriving commercial center in the heart of the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Devil’s Tower National Monument is a fantastic geologic feature protruding out of the rolling prairie that surrounds the Black Hills.

About 90 miles west of Rapid City in eastern Wyoming, the site is considered sacred to the Lakota Sioux and other tribes.  Hundreds of parallel cracks make it one of the finest traditional crack climbing areas in North America.

Stephen Speilberg used it as a backdrop to his blockbuster movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” – released in 1977.

For those of you who have read this far, thanx!  It was a helluva trip!!


In late June, Marie and I took a vacation to the Black Hills of South Dakota.  Our “jumping off” point was Rapid City — and were we surprised to find the town so jumpin’!

Rapid City is a town of about 70,000, and sits on the eastern slope of the Black Hills mountain range.  It’s known as the “Gateway to the Black Hills” and the “City of Presidents.”

The historic “old west” town of Deadwood is nearby. So is Sturgis — the home of the famous (and notorious) annual motorcycle rally.

In the neighboring Black Hills are Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse MemorialWind Cave National Park and Jewel Cave National Monument.  Custer State Park – the largest state park in the country and also the home of the largest publicly-owned buffalo herd in the nation — is just 50 miles south.

To the east about 70 miles are the Badlands, and to the west about the same distance is Devil’s Tower.  Winding thru these popular tourist attractions are the stunning Peter Norbeck and the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byways.

But more on these attractions next week.  Today, I want to focus on Rapid City.

Frankly, we were astonished at how hip and happenin’ Rapid City is. We stayed at the historic Hotel Alex Johnson – at the absolute center of town. Just across the street one way is the Prairie Edge Gallery – one of the best galleries I’ve ever visited (way cool) and featuring contemporary Lakota Sioux artwork (bought too much!).

On the other side of street is one of the coolest little public parks I’ve seen — programmed constantly with events for toddlers to totterers. It’s just a wonderful family atmosphere — with lots to do, lots to see, and a whole lotta fun!

Rapid City.  It be jumpin’!




The new $73 million Westin Hotel that opened last week is a triumph for local artists.  Across the street from Cleveland’s new Convention Center, the project is a joint venture of Optima Ventures of Miami, FL; and, Sage Hospitality of Denver, CO.

The developers have an extraordinary commitment to local art.  Fortunately, my firm, The Project Group, was part of a team retained by the developer to procure and install over 1,500 pieces of art by local artists.  Other teammembers included Greg Peckham, Lora DiFranco and Erin Guido of LAND studio in Ohio City; and, Brian Jasinski of Epstein Design Partners near Shaker Square.

The exterior of the hotel features a 30-foot tall mural of the Cuyahoga River Valley — a work of public art by SarahKabot that can be enjoyed by both visitors and passersby.  At nite, the stainless steel skin of the building is washed in a stunning show of color provided by a state-of-the-art array of LED lighting.

Scattered throughout the hotel are more than 1,500 works by local artists, including Liz Maugans, Michael Loderstedt, Dana Oldfather, Jen Craun, Olga Ziemska and Anne Kibbe, to name a few.  Sage Hospitality worked with our team to select and feature artists in the lobby, public spaces and 484 guest rooms.

The guest-room art demanded a logistical effort worthy of a computer scientist.  Here, 29 original pieces were configured into 18 different sets of work for the 480 regular guest rooms (the 4 penthouse suites received unique treatments).

Each piece was reproduced between 48 and 56 times — so more than 1,500 pieces of artwork are hanging in the 12 different types of guest rooms.  As a result, a guest has less than a 1% chance of seeing the artwork if they come and stay for a second visit!

In last week’s FreshWater Cleveland, LAND studio’s Peckham stated that,

“This is kind of an incredible investment for a group from outside of Cleveland to make, and they did it because this was a way to make this project truly local… It generates a tremendous amount of goodwill, but also a true investment in the local arts economy.  This project put a job on the table for three local framers for a year.  There’s a lot of spinoff effect and benefit of this one small aspect of a $73 million project.  It also feels distinctively Cleveland; it’s not something you could find in another city.” 

The Plain Dealer reported that early bookings put occupancy in the 60% range — with occupancy expected to reach the high 60s or low 70s as business ramps up and word circulates that the hotel is open.  In particular, the Westin is banking on traffic from loyal customers of the Starwood Hotels & Resorts family, which has only one other brand — the Aloft – in downtown Cleveland’s Flats East Bank project.

Marous Brothers Construction was the design/build contractor for the project, with Colum McCartan of New York City the interior designer.

This was one cool project to work on. Do yourself a favor and check it out!