Written by Anthony Moujaes
The downtown Cleveland neighborhood that has been home to United Church of Christ's national offices since 1990 will get another upgrade with the addition of a restaurant this fall. The UCC's Local Church Ministries Board of Directors voted last week to approve a loan of more than a half-million dollars to renovate a space for a new restaurant inside the church-owned Radisson Hotel.The venture will offer a better dining experience to visitors of the UCC and Cleveland's Gateway District.
"Over the past year, our Radisson Hotel at the Church House has shown resurgence in both profit and potential, as the Cleveland Gateway neighborhood has become a popular destination place for tourists and travelers of all sorts," said the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, executive minister for LCM. "And later this year, the new Cleveland Convention Center will open only a few blocks from our doorstep, opening up opportunities for the hotel like never before."
LCM will provide a $578,000 loan to overhaul the existing restaurant spot, an amount that is expected to be repaid in full within five years. The LCM announcement came during a final joint gathering of the UCC's individual ministry boards March 8-9, and the UCC Hotel Venture Board gave the plan final approval on Tuesday. The city must provide the go-ahead to begin the project, which should be completed in October.
The restaurant will be accessible from inside the Radisson, and from a separate external street entrance. Plans call for a full-service bar with four large-screen televisions, a new menu and a lively atmosphere that seat about 140 people. The tentatively named Gateway Bar & Grill will be located blocks away from the venues for two professional sports teams – MLB's Cleveland Indians and the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers.
"The restaurant is an important investment in order for the Radisson to become more competitive for group room sales, and that's the main reason we're doing this," Guess said. "Our current restaurant space (The Library Grille), which seats fewer than 50 people in cramped quarters, is just not sufficient in a hotel with as many as 500 guests per night, especially for breakfast."
For years, the church-owned building on Huron Avenue just west of the hotel's main entrance has sat either vacant or was rented out to other businesses. By turning the underutilized space into a full-service restaurant, the hotel becomes more attractive to both business and casual travelers who won't have to leave the building in search of dining options.
As part of his role as LCM's executive minister, Guess also chairs the UCC Hotel Venture LLC Board of Directors. LCM has the majority financial investment in the property, but the hotel itself is managed by Marshall Hotels and Resorts.
There are two reasons why the UCC owns a hotel, Guess explained. First, the Church House is located adjacent to baseball and basketball facilities, and other popular venues. Second, a significant amount of business for the hotel is generated by the church itself, since the UCC hosts many denominational and ecumenical meetings there.
"It completes the original vision of building a 'Church House' when the UCC relocated to Cleveland from New York, a single place where national UCC groups can gather, sleep, eat, conduct business, and worship together, all in one location," Guess said.