A Minute with Pete Spittler on the Flats East Bank Project

Pete Spittler

Pete Spittler

Pete Spittler and the team at his design firms, GSI Architect, Forum Architects and Forum Architectural Services created Flats East Bank Project, a mixed-use community in downtown Cleveland. We sat down to ask Pete Spittler what makes this community unique and where its design influences came from.

Gathering of Experts: How did you get chosen to help design the Flats East Bank Project?

Pete Spittler:GSI Architects, Inc., was actually chosen through a design competition. We presented a total of five mockups that met the established goals for the neighborhood.

Gathering of Experts: How did those mockups turn into the finalized plan for the buildings?

Pete Spittler:We merged strongest elements from several design solutions to create the final product.

Gathering of Experts: What principles were those mockups based on?

Pete Spittler:The elements we wanted to work with included a strong urban design, a proven commercial design, a varied architectural flair, and a developer’s intuition for how the project can come to fruition.

Gathering of Experts:Does combining all of those elements help the process?

Pete Spittler:It does. When you bring in multiple elements into the design process, you’re forced to make tough decisions that ultimately make a positive impact.

Gathering of Experts: How does it feel to create a new community from the ground up?

Pete Spittler:It’s a rare experience that architects like me cherish, because you really get to leave your mark on the city. Building a community like this is like putting your signature on an entire city.

Gathering of Experts: How does this project differ from other community planning projects?

Pete Spittler:Many mixed-use communities are built in preexisting areas, whereas Flats East Bank became a clean slate as a result of it being a brownfield remediation site.

Gathering of Experts: What was your inspiration for the visual design of the buildings?

Pete Spittler:We really wanted to incorporate the visual style of the nearby Warehouse District. We wanted the buildings to look iconic and historic, but also visually striking and modern.

Gathering of Experts: How was the overall community aspect taken into account of the design?

Pete Spittler:We created a system of streets, alleys, and passageways to promote foot traffic and pedestrian scaled blocks that encourage a sense of community and a tight-knit feel for the residents.

Gathering of Experts: Did you sample any local neighborhoods for design inspiration?

Pete Spittler:We did! We took a look at some of Cleveland’s iconic neighborhoods, including Little Italy, Shaker Square, and Coventry.

Gathering of Experts: How many residential units are available?

Pete Spittler:There are 245 residential units for rent, and there will be luxury condos that range in size from 1,500 to 2,800 square feet.

Gathering of Experts: What is the ultimate goal of this project?

Pete Spittler: We want to promote it as a destination for young professionals to live, work, eat, and play. We also want it to open up the waterfront area and serve as a gateway to the city.


Pete Spittler is a graduate of the architecture program at Kent State University. He has had a varied professional career, and much of his life has been spent in the fields of real estate, architecture, and urban development. Pete Spittler is the president and founder of GSI Architects, Inc.

Conversation with Peter F. Spittler on Energy Conservation

Peter F. Spittler

Peter F. Spittler

A Gathering of Experts Blog sat down for a conversation with Peter F. Spittler of Forum Architects today. Peter F. Spittler is an architect and designer with a considerable track record in energy conservation, green-building and sustainable designs.

Gathering of Experts: Welcome, Peter F. Spittler, thanks for taking some time with us today.

Peter F. Spittler: Certainly, glad to be of help.

Gathering of Experts: To begin, how would you respond to someone who said building construction or refits to energy-conservation specs can be expensive?

Peter F. Spittler: That’s a pretty common misconception. Yes, there are things that can cost more money on the front end, but that money is more than made up for over the years, in terms of energy savings and ROI. Also, many building product and system manufacturers have caught up to the Green movement and today product and systems are more available and less costly.

Gathering of Experts: I’ve heard a lot about LEED. What exactly is LEED?

Peter F. Spittler: LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

Gathering of Experts: What does LEED do?

Peter F. Spittler: LEED sets best-practice guidelines and benchmarks in place for energy-efficient building designs. LEED is a third-party, market-driven system, and awards certifications to building designs that meet their marks.

Gathering of Experts: Aren’t there incentives available for LEED compliance?

Peter F. Spittler: Yes, the federal government extends incentives for builders who meet LEED benchmarks. The deal can be sweetened further with incentives from state and local governments.

Gathering of Experts: What other sorts of misconceptions have you come across in green building?

Peter F. Spittler: One of the most prevalent ones is the idea that all solutions are high-tech! Things like skylights to let in more natural lighting, reflective white roofing material that doesn’t absorb heat, or shade trees to protect buildings during the hottest part of the day…those are all great green building ideas that make a real difference.

Gathering of Experts: Those actually sound like fairly old-fashioned ideas…

Peter F. Spittler: They are. Some of those designs were incorporated into buildings hundreds  of years ago, and we lost sight of them.

Gathering of Experts: Is LEED certification mainly for new construction?

Peter F. Spittler: No, we’ve done plenty of refits of old buildings to bring them into compliance.

Gathering of Experts: Such as?

Peter F. Spittler: The building for the Chronicle-Telegram in Elyria, Ohio is a great example. That building is upwards of 70 years old, and we managed to do a complete overhaul that made it much more energy-efficient without sacrificing the building’s heritage and character.

Gathering of Experts: That’s a great idea!

Peter F. Spittler: Yes, the owners of the paper felt a commitment to their community and didn’t want to leave an abandoned building in the middle of town, so it worked well for all involved.

Gathering of Experts: Thanks for taking some time with us today.

Peter F. Spittler: Absolutely. Glad to do it.