I lived near Baltimore briefly and had a friend in Roland Park; never knew it was the Van model; interesting.
Well, whatever one can make of OP's optimism/semi-recklessness, what clearly set him (and bro MJ in tow) apart was, the Vans' vision to build on such a grand scale for Cleveland -- Of course, as you note, many, if not most, of the Vans' work had precedent somewhere – in America or overseas -- in some form or another, as in Copenhagen's Amalienborg Square, for Shaker Sq; Rowland Park (and maybe Boston's Brookline, to a degree), for Shaker Hts, although the totally underground, air-rights skyscraper railroad terminal seems pretty much their own innovation, at least by US standards; even New York hadn’t quite done a Terminal Tower RR station (besides architecturally, of course, in NYC’s 1914 Municipal Building’s truncated spire which Van architects, the famed NYC firm of McKim, Mead and White, reproduced on top the stretched Public Square rectangle). The other distinguishing Van fact is how incredibly well they built, with all Big 4 Van projects – Shaker Heights, Shaker Square (including the magnificent Moreland Courts condo), the Shaker Rapid and the Terminal Group, not only surviving, but thriving today in pretty much their original (though each project having been expanded over time – a tribute to each projects’ staying power and success) albeit, in the Terminal’s case, in a slightly altered function with railroads and the station removed and a shopping mall in its place.
Back to the Rapid Transit:
And, of course, as we’ve been talking about, laying the concrete foundation for today’s RTA Red Line (and really, the ingress/egress for the Waterfront Line as well). My guess is there would probably been some kind of wealthy development where Shaker Heights is today, but of course, probably not as large, grand or well organized… Certainly without the Vans, there’d be nothing approaching Shaker Square meaning, I’m sure, no large scale, TOD-type apartment district with the retail/transit center we have today. The streetcar-influenced Euclid Avenue/Doan’s Corners up through Euclid Heights, in Cleveland Hts, would probably be the main East Side apartment district, today, absent the Vans… And of course, there would not be a rapid transit network like what we have today in Cleveland without the Vans… I dare say, without the brothers, Cleveland more than likely would have no rapid transit at all, esp here in the transit-conservative Midwest.