Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock ‘evaluating’ relationship with architect David Adjaye on major downtown Cleveland project
Bedrock, the Detroit-based developer with ambitious plans for Cleveland’s downtown riverfront, is assessing its relationship with the prominent architect behind that vision.
The Financial Times reported this week that three former employees have accused Sir David Adjaye of sexual misconduct. The newspaper’s investigation, published Tuesday, July 4, also describes a “toxic” work environment at his design firm’s office in Ghana.
Adjaye is disputing the claims. “These allegations are untrue, distressing for me and my family and run counter to everything I stand for,” he said in a statement to the Financial Times.
But the British-Ghananian architect, who designed the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, D.C., has resigned from advisory roles and ceremonial positions in the wake of the reporting. And at least one U.S. client, the Multnomah County Library in Oregon, has parted ways with Adjaye’s eponymous firm this week.
Bedrock, the real estate arm of billionaire Dan Gilbert’s Rock family of companies, hired Adjaye Associates last year to develop a master plan for the ailing Tower City shopping mall and a sweep of riverfront property behind it. The developer released that plan, a blueprint for $3.5 billion in development, in December and recently secured preliminary approval for the concept from the Cleveland City Planning Commission.
By email, a Bedrock spokeswoman acknowledged the controversy around Adjaye.
“Bedrock has been made aware of the very serious allegations and in light of this, we are evaluating the business association as we continue to move the project forward,” she wrote.
Adjaye and Bedrock’s CEO, Kofi Bonner, previously worked together on a master plan for the San Francisco Shipyard, a large project in California. In Cleveland, the Adjaye Associates plan spans approximately 35 acres of waterfront land and reimagines Tower City as the link between Public Square and the east bank of the Cuyahoga River.
“Our redevelopment strategy for the downtown Cleveland riverfront taps into the lost heritage of the city, establishing a new relationship between the urban core and the shore,” Adjaye said in a December news release. “As I became more deeply immersed, the need to build a more tempered flow of movement through the city became immensely clear.”
That plan, which could take 15 to 20 years to realize, calls for 3.5 million square feet of buildings, 12 acres of public open space — and extensive collaboration with the public sector to navigate site complexities and finance costly infrastructure upgrades.
The development footprint includes the 9.6-acre site of the Sherwin-Williams Co.’s Breen Technology Center, which Bedrock purchased last week in a deal that also included the coatings giant’s historic headquarters complex on Prospect Avenue.