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150-year-old Ohio Awning moves, leaves historic building in good hands

Earlier this month, Ohio Awning and Manufacturing, which was founded in 1865 by Civil War veteran James Wagner, moved from its historic 78,000-square-foot factory at the corner of Scranton Road and Auburn Avenue in Tremont to 5777 Grant Avenue in Slavic Village.
 
Ohio Awning vice president William Morse says of the company's former space, "it's just a gorgeous building with hardwood floors and big redwood beams and tons of windows. It's also incredibly inefficient," he adds, citing the drafty windows and the structure's antiquated four-story layout. With welding on one floor and sewing on another, there was much inefficient labor usage, including hand-carrying materials and finished products up and down stairs.
 
"To bring a 40-foot awning down the stairs really got to be inconvenient," says Morse. "It’s a couple hundred pounds. It took six to eight guys."
 
Hence their new 110,000-square-foot single-floor space makes life a lot easier, although they're only occupying about 65,000 square feet of it. They intend to lease another 40,000 square feet and also plan to open a 4,000-square-foot showroom mid-summer, where customers can view awning samples, touch and feel different fabrics and see an electronic rendering of their future awning, provided they bring a photo of their home.
 
"We'll have the ability to put it up on a television and add the awning to the picture," says Morse. "We can design your awning in our showroom."
 
The company purchased the Grant Avenue property last November for $1.05 million. Chase Optical built the structure in 1960 and expanded it in 1978. The last occupant began a build out, but then vacated the property, fortuitously leaving it in move-in condition for Ohio Awning.
 
The company's old digs will continue on as a landmark in the historic South Scranton neighborhood, with a stunning transformation that will make the 1893 structure, well, brand new. The group that brought the Fairmont Creamery project to fruition, Sustainable Community Associates, secured a $1.7 million state tax credit, which will help to realize more than 50 apartments and 10,000-square-feet of office space in the old Wagner factory. Vintage photos and project updates are available at the Wagner Awning Building's Facebook page.
 
Morse's father, Andrew, purchased the company in 1995 shortly after the name had changed from Wagner Awning to Ohio Awning and Manufacturing. While Morse has no flashy plans to celebrate the company's 150th birthday, he notes the history that's unfurled over the years, including a slew of military contracts going back through both World Wars and even to the Civil War. There were gentler events as well.
 
"We've got a bunch of old scrapbooks with old pictures of the tents we used to put up in the  '30s and '40—for the Hanna wedding and the Ernst wedding and somebody's debutant ball and this party and that party … just gorgeous old tent structures."
 
Some of the dance floors that went inside those tents have been transformed into desks in the company's offices and even a conference table for Ohio Awning's new location.
 
"The amount of history, all the different things we've been involved in," says Morse, "it's a little bit overwhelming to think of all the things we've done."
 
And while Ohio Awning and its employees will miss the Scranton Road location, Morse is happy to know it's headed for a new incarnation.
 
"It is in good hands. The character and just that nice feeling of the building will be maintained. I think it was a little wasted on us just because people were too busy working. A whole lot more people will be able to enjoy it."

 

Flashstarts move aims to create centralized innovation hub on Public Square

The Flashstarts business accelerator and venture fund recently moved from Playhouse Square to a much larger location in Terminal Tower for two basic reasons, says cofounder Charles Stack.

The first reason was to make it easier for startup companies to find stable office space. The second was to condense newbie entrepreneurial efforts into StartMart, a single, highly energetic nucleus where water cooler moments can foster new ideas and economic growth.

This concept of "engineered serendipity"  began May 16th when Flashstarts, which provides coaching, funds and other resources to new companies that participate in a 12-week program, left for its new 30,000-square-foot headquarters on Public Square, a space six times larger than its previous office.

"I've been doing this for 30 years, and I've never been more optimistic about startups having the opportunity to turn this region into a powerhouse," says Stack, who began planning StartMart with fellow Flashstarts founder Jennifer Neundorfer last spring. "This move is a small step in that direction."

Flashstarts itself will be the hub's first official tenant in the lead-up to a public launch in September. Over the summer, the accelerator will engage the community for feedback on StartMart's design and begin identifying and communicating with potential members. Though the group's focus is on use of software and technology, Stack expects a diverse range of occupants to fill the space.

"It's wide open to anyone who wants to join," he says.

Participants will work in a flexible space where privacy is an option even as collaboration is encouraged. Ultimately, StartMart will stand as a focal point for large-scale innovation.

"We want this to be a global center for startups," says Stack. "Cleveland can be a great home base (for small businesses), and we need to play up that strength."

First residents jump into Solarize Cleveland

"We're thrilled," says Barbara Hermes of the 23 new solar panels that grace the roof of her Parma home. The installation was completed just last week.
 
Hermes and her husband Rudy are two of the area's first residents to take advantage of Solarize Cleveland, an all-in-one program that allows homeowners to enter their address online and build a virtual solar installation that's custom to their home, complete with an estimate of their prospective energy savings.
 
"This is solar made easy for homeowners," says Mandy Metcalf, director of the Affordable Green Housing Center at Environmental Health Watch (EHW), which is helping to promote the program. "The program will walk you through all the options so you can make an educated decision."
 
Endorsed by both the World Wildlife Fund and Sustainable Cleveland 2019, Solarize Cleveland is administered by the national firm Geostellar, which aims to lower costs to homeowners with bulk purchasing power for the solar panels, inverters and mounting racks.
 
"They've got the cost of solar down to about $3.5 a watt," says Metcalf. "It's starting to make sense for more people."
 
Per Metcalf, the average residential installation costs between $10,000 and $20,000. Thirty percent of that, however, comes back as a direct rebate via a federal tax credit. Owners of energy generating solar panels may also sell Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), a market driven commodity. RECs in Ohio, however, have taken a hit on the market due to Ohio Senate Bill 310, which, per Cleveland.com, "(froze) state rules requiring electric utilities to sell more power generated by wind and solar." Governor Kasich signed SB310 into law last June.
 
If panels produce more energy than the homeowners use, they can sell the surplus back to the grid.
 
"I just love watching that meter," says Rudy of his new system.
 
Geostellar also offers financing options and arranges installation with one of four local contractors: Bold Alternatives, YellowLite, Third Sun Solar or Appropriate Applied Technologies.
 
While the program kicked off last November, the harsh winter months tend to eclipse the idea of a solar panel installation for most people. To date, the Hermes and one Cleveland Heights resident have committed to the program, although ten others are in the fulfillment process, which includes final design, permitting and/or financing. Approximately 100 people have pursued the program by establishing a solar home profile.
 
"The theory is that when it starts to get warm and sunny," says Metcalf, "people start to think about solar."
 
The Hermes are well beyond the thinking stage. The couple expects to see an energy savings of 60 percent on their future electric bill courtesy of the panels, which will generate up to six kilowatts per hour.
 
"We strongly believe in green technology," says Barbara. "Even on this relatively cloudy day, we're gathering sun. We hope that we will inspire other people in our neighborhood and in our community to follow suit."

Motorcars Honda expands with unique assembly line, solar canopy

Cleveland Heights institution, Motorcars Honda, 2953 Mayfield Road, is pouring $6 million into a sweeping renovation that will include an innovative new service installation and vast solar canopy.
 
"We're the largest single structure solar panel in country for automotive dealerships," says Motorcars general manager Trevor Gile. "That's why this is so unique."
 
Athens, Ohio-based Dovetail Solar and Wind designed the canopy. More than eighty percent of the steel used for the structural beams came from recycled cars. The canopy will cover nearly 24,000 square feet and generate an estimated 50 to 75 percent of the facility's energy. The solar installation will cost $1.7 million, which is subject to 30 percent in federal tax credits.
 
The canopy was the brainchild of Motorcars salesman Andrew Chiarelli, who shared it with management.
 
"We couldn't wrap our arms around it," says Gile. Then Dovetail presented the canopy as an energy producer that would also protect their stock, cutting down on snow removal and making car browsing more attractive during inclement weather. "At that point," says Gile, "it started making sense."

It also paid off. Earlier this month, Honda Motorcars was named Ohio Business of the Year by Green Energy of Ohio.
 
In addition, the firm is expanding with a new assembly line for car repair. The move will hopefully translate into savings for customers and efficiency for the service department.
 
"Cars will be pulled along kind of like a car wash," says Gile, adding that the assembly line, which will be part of an 11,250-square-foot addition, will make Motorcar's service department the most advanced in the country. "Things that would normally take two hours will be done in less than a half hour."
 
Construction started last November. The canopy will include 1,240 solar panels rated at 270-watts each and is slated for completion in early June. The assembly line expansion is scheduled for an August completion date. The renovations also include a total interior remodel, with the installation of LED lighting throughout. For a bird's eye view of the construction, poke around this page, which includes footage produced by videographer Ted Riolo with the help of a drone camera.
 
The renovation will also feature a new approximately 500-square-foot kids' play area with a very specific theme.
 
"It's going to be like an indoor kids' dealership," says Gile. "We'll have a little service department and a little showroom where kids will be able to design their own cars." The space will also have a 500-gallon fish tank.
 
Other new green practices will include alternatives to rental cars for those waiting on a vehicle in the service department. Gile is on a mission to purchase between six and 12 three-wheeled bikes and coming up with maps that outline walking routes around the neighborhood. He's also hoping to line up some coupon deals with area eateries and retail spots.
 
"People can get some exercise and not take a rental car."
 
In addition, the firm aims to expand green awareness with grass roots community involvement.
 
"We're trying to get a bunch of farmers markets to do an event under the solar panels and other events to help promote being green," says Gile.
 
"We hope to get some awareness for solar panels in Ohio. I think a lot of people don't think there's value in them, but there definitely can be."
 

Flowers, food and culture bloom at tiny Cleveland Heights farm

Nearly two decades ago, Jason Eugene Boarde, was a professional dancer with the Cleveland Ballet, but he left the North Coast to find his adventures. After a stint in New York, he settled in California and into a career with a global consulting agency, which went south when the Great Recession descended.
 
That's when Boarde took to the earth. He started cultivating produce on his property; a modest beginning that bloomed into so much more.
 
"We had such a surplus," recalls Boarde, "that we started donating to local charities. There was such a need."
 
Boarde dove into organic gardening, urban farming, environmental education and food policy. At the peak of his production efforts, he and the volunteer base he'd amassed oversaw more than six acres of urban farmland in the Los Angeles basin, the produce from which went to the area's underserved.
 
"We would take over vacant lots," Boarde says, "whatever little piece of land we could find to grow food for the needy."
 
Then in 2011, family issues brought Boarde back to Cleveland, where he enrolled in Cleveland State University to study urban and regional planning. Last fall, Boarde moved into a home at 2972 Yorkshire Road in Cleveland Heights. In a few short months, he's transformed the space into a glittering agricultural and cultural jewel.
 
Burnt Toast Farms is one part living florist, one part urban garden, one part community center and one part cultural studio, all of which fits on a scant quarter-acre-lot.
 
"This is not a market garden," explains Boarde. "This is basically a space for learning and connecting with community and coming to heal and find yourself."
 
Sunflowers, giant azaleas and night scented stalk are some of the cut flowers Boarde is experimenting with, while edibles include cabbage, onion, dill, carrot and beets among others.
 
"We only do heritage and organic seeds," says Boarde. "All of our seeds come from Seed Savers Exchange," which explains what kept him busy during the long winter: cultivating all those seedlings in his basement and sunroom.
 
Whether he's nurturing seedlings or Swiss chard, Boarde follows a bioorganic method of agriculture.
 
"You're really working with the earth and the soil and are cognizant of natural systems and bio organisms," he says, adding that he eschews traditional garden chemicals.
 
Boarde's growing space includes traditional beds as well as vertical gutter gardens, which are ordinary roof gutters mounted on a vertical wall and then used as planters. His goal is to eventually have every square inch of his property in production.
 
Fertility, however, isn't limited to things that sprout from the soil at Burnt Toast Farms.
 
"People who live in the city not only appreciate and love food, they also love art, literature, creativity and culture," says Boarde, so the question arose: why not be a space that blends all of these things?
 
To that end, Burnt Toast's event page is burgeoning with an array of offerings, including Tango lessons, a bioorganic classroom and a woodworking studio among others. There's also a brunch series and plans for a "Bon Vivant" dinner series as well as a catering venture. Visiting artist will include the likes of local photographer Peter Larson, animator Dustin Grella and artist Melissa Daubert.
 
Although he's only been part of the neighborhood since last September, Boarde reports that he's taking root with area residents.
 
"I'm really happy that people like what were doing here," he says. "I just have this big grin on my face."

 

Agora foods, Le Petit Triangle teaming up for new retail space/eatery in Gordon Square

While the lion's share of the 24,000-square-foot building at 5417 Detroit Avenue currently houses Agora Foods International, the front section of the building is on the verge of a transformation that will undoubtedly delight neighbors and foodies from near and far.
 
"We're going to have a specialty shop and a small tapas café operation," says Steve Daniels, vice president of Agora, a Mediterranean food importer and distributor that formerly operated at 3007 Clinton Avenue in Ohio City. "We're not just going to do Greek, we're going to do the whole Mediterranean region." The store and café will collectively be called Astoria.
 
Tom and Joy Harlor will helm the café, which will seat approximately 45. The couple is best known for their popular Ohio City nosh spot, Le Petit Triangle Café, at 1881 Fulton Avenue.
 
The café will be open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, with full liquor service Monday through Saturday and beer-only on Sunday, although Daniels is petitioning to expand the Sunday offerings.
 
Retail selections will include cheeses, olive oils, dry cured meats, grains, roasted vegetables and olives that Agora imports from around the world and are currently only available to its commercial clients. Astoria will be approximately 4,000 square feet and will feature an open floor plan that will accommodate the retail sales area, dine-in seating, a small bar and an open kitchen.
 
Currently, the entire front of the building is walled-in, unattractive from the outside and cave-like on the inside, but that's about to change.
 
"It's going to be one big room, all windows, with light coming in to make it nice and bright and sunny," says Daniels of Astoria, noting his team's affinity for the area.
 
"We're excited for the area and, hopefully, they'll be excited for us," Considering the new windows and storefront renovation will completely transform the corner of West 55th Street and Detroit Avenue, that's a pretty safe bet.
 
Daniels expects the final building permit to be in hand by press time, with work starting as soon as possible. He anticipates the windows and signage to be in place as early as July, with a tentative Astoria opening date this November. The architect on the project is Dale Serne and the contractor is Manhattan Construction.
 
Astoria will also eventually feature an outdoor patio and private party room that will double as a conference and tasting room for the Agora Food portion of the business.
 
"We're trying to keep this old-world," says Daniels of the future entertainment space, noting the exposed vintage brick and ceiling beams.
 
Agora president George Kantzios and Daniels purchased the property in May of 2013 for $275,000 via a separate business, Detroit Investment. Agora Foods International, which had been operating at the Clinton Avenue location since 2008, moved into the building in July 2014.
 
"It's just been a long process," says Daniels, adding that he's anxious to see construction on Astoria move forward.
 
At one time, the ambling space was home to Edgewater Chevrolet. Astoria will be in the area that housed the former Detroit Avenue showroom, once full up with gleaming Corvettes, Impalas and even a few special pennies.  The old service bays and subsequent additions now accommodate Agora Foods, with a staggering 3,000 square feet of cooler space, 400 square feet of freezer space and shelving lined with 50-pound bags of grains, giant cans of olives and whole rounds of cheese from points across the globe.
 
"We have olives from seven different countries," notes Daniels.
 
The building required extensive work prior to the Agora move-in, including a complete electrical and plumbing overhaul. The project is privately funded save for a $3,900 Gordon Square Business Development Grant, although a Cleveland Storefront Renovation Program grant is pending.
 
Daniels lays out the vision for Astoria as "a little bit of Gallucci's, a little bit of West Point Market and our own little twist," adding that he and the rest of the team are in the perfect spot to see it come to fruition.
 
"We invested a lot in the Gordon Square area," says Daniels. "This is a part of us. We believe in Gordon Square. We believe in Cleveland."

New wetland to help improve Big Creek water quality

In an effort to improve one of Big Creek's influents, the city of Parma, Cleveland Metroparks, and Big Creek Connects have united to create the Fern Hill Storm Water Treatment Wetland, a one-acre natural habitat that will capture, slow and infiltrate flow from a 36-inch storm water outlet that eventually feeds Big Creek, which is the third largest tributary to to Cuyahoga River. Currently, the water drains over 50 acres of an adjacent residential neighborhood.
 
"The project is directing some storm water runoff from residences and redirecting that water into a newly created wetland," says Jennifer Grieser, the Cleveland Metropark's senior natural resource manager, urban watersheds. The new wetland, which will be in the Fern Hill picnic area in the Big Creek Reservation in Parma, will also improve water quality.
 
When storm water runs over residential area, it is exposed to lawn chemicals, road salt and a host of automotive residuals.  Diverting that water to the wetland will eliminate that exposure, slow its flow into Big Creek and create a natural habitat for flora and fauna.
 
"The wetland will have different depths," notes Grieser. "A small area will hold water, but in other areas the water will soak in. That gives space for a wide diversity of plants, everything from flowering perennials and sedges to native shrubs and decorative smaller trees like redbuds."
 
While Grieser expects to see a larger variety of birds and butterflies in the area courtesy of the new wetland, which she welcomes, she also has concerns about another prevalent wildlife that's often destructive: deer.
 
"We're going to try to protect some of the trees and shrubs with fencing," says Grieser, "But it will be hard to protect everything in there, so I'm sure the deer will enjoy some of that plant material."
 
Funded by a $149,000 grant from the Ohio EPA’s Surface Waters Improvement Fund and a $5,000 gift obtained by Big Creek Connects from General Motors, the city of Parma is the lead on the project, but the Metroparks is managing it. Work was originally slated for 2014.
 
"We bid it out last year," says Grieser. "We only received one bid: $399,999, so we couldn't proceed with it."
 
In order keep the project within budget, Grieser and her team worked with the Metropark's in-house site construction crew to do the excavation work.
 
"Were right in the middle of the project right now," reports Grieser. "Construction started in March with primarily the excavation of the Big Creek flood plain to create the wetland. Planting will start mid-May."
 
As is so often the case when dirt and pipes are excavated, the crew unearthed a surprise. The 36-inch storm sewer at the heart of the project was identified early on as having running water when it should not: during dry periods.  
 
"We worked with the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, which investigated that and discovered there was a leak in Cleveland's water supply. They will be addressing that," notes Grieser.
 
"The project has already had an impact toward better water quality before we even finished."

 

Architectural firm moves from old Republic Steel building to Flats

While Clevelanders are still celebrating the reopening of the Columbus Road Bridge, a century building is on the verge of rebirth just down the way. Fabo Enterprises Inc, which is currently leasing 2,200 square feet in the old Republic Steel Building, 3100 E. 45th Place, will soon be occupying new offices in an unusual space at 1736 Columbus Road.
 
"From what I can tell," says Fabo founder and president Brian G. Fabo, "it's actually six different buildings that have sort of morphed together over time." He estimates the oldest portion of the structure, which the company purchased in May 2014 for $237,500, dates back to the 1860's.
 
Work on the long-vacant structure started last September. After the harsh Northeast Ohio winter put the kibosh on construction, it recommenced in earnest in March. Veteran Construction is the contractor on the project.
 
So, what sort of surprises did those old walls hold?
 
Try a wall with zero structural integrity hiding beneath a thick blanket of vines. The brick had virtually disintegrated and the wall was being held up by concrete block in-fill that was in the old window openings.
 
"We actually ended up having to take that wall completely down," recalls Fabo. "Of course, that was not in the budget and it was not in the schedule." Snafus notwithstanding, Fabo expects to move into the space over Memorial Day weekend.
 
Total project cost is confidential, but funding includes a mortgage and tenant improvement loan. Historic tax credits, which are based on percentages of the project cost and will come in the form of reimbursement from the state and federal tax credits, were instrumental to the project's fruition. The city of Cleveland also extended a low-interest loan as part of the Vacant Properties Initiative.
 
The firm's design portfolio includes recognizable local spots such as Wileyville, 1051 West 10th Street, Irishtown Bend townhomes and Choolaah Indian BBQ on 27100 Chagrin Boulevard.
 
"That was such a fun project to work on," says Fabo of the Indian barbecue spot.
 
Founded in 1998 as a part time venture for Fabo, helming the firm became his full-time job in 2008. Since 2010, the company, which is licensed in 32 states, has seen 27 to 62 percent year-to-year growth. Hence, it was time for a move.
 
"I wanted to own my own building rather than rent," explains Fabo, enumerating his three property search criteria: being in Cleveland proper, great views of downtown and, "I wanted garage space."
 
Garage space?
 
That partly explains why the firm, which currently has 14 employees, will occupy 5,400-square-feet of the 30,000-square-foot building. While some of the unused space will be slated for professional expansion, the garage will house Fabo's unique car collection, which includes a 2005 Morgan Aero, a mid-90's Jaguar convertible and a 1979 Mini Cooper.
 
"I have a hard time driving that one," says the 6-foot 3-inch-Fabo of the vintage sub-compact.
 

New apartments leasing in historic Templin Bradley Lofts in Gordon Square

Renovations for the 1916 Templin Bradley Company building, 5700 Detroit Avenue, are nearing completion, with 30 new apartments that will be available for move-in as early as July 1.
 
"It's on the eastern edge of Gordon Square Arts District," says Greg Baron, housing director for the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization (DSCDO). "We really trying extend the district out further east and west, so this is our first major project in that section of the neighborhood."
 
All units are currently leasing. They include nine one- and 21 two-bedroom units, although four of the spaces are two-story live/work units, for which square footages range from 1,500 to 1,900. The other units go from 690- to 950-square-feet. Fifteen of the apartments are priced at market rate and 15 are designated affordable, which was a condition for part of the project's funding. Those leasing the affordable units must fall within a certain income level. Monthly rents go from $500 to $1,100.
 
The fruition of the Templin Bradley Lofts represents a trifecta win for the city by hitting three development goals: adaptive reuse, historic preservation and mixed-income housing. The $8 million project was financed by a complex array of sources, including federal and state historic tax credits, a low income housing tax credit through the Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA), a $600,000 loan from the City of Cleveland's Housing Trust Fund, a $500,000 OHFA Housing Development Assistance Program grant and a permanent mortgage.
 
"We're the developer and the owner," notes Baron of the DSCDO project.
 
DSCDO purchased the building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, in 2014 for $210,000. Long vacant, it previously housed a wire manufacturing company. Construction on the new lofts began in June 2014. Marous Brothers Construction was both the general contractor and architect on the project. Coral Management will manage the building.
 
The building features secure indoor parking, views of downtown and the lake, and a convenient Gordon Square location with access to Edgewater Park via the West 65th Street pedestrian.
 
Perhaps most unique, however, will be the unique installations around the building's green space.
 
"On front lawn, they're going to replicate the original test garden for Templin Bradley Seed Company," says Baron. "We're going to have a historic marker out front as well as a piece of public art."
 
"Garden Mirrors" is a 22-foot-high stainless steel pole with sculpturally repurposed security mirrors that face down, not unlike flower petals. The artist and fabricator is Steve O'Hearn. The installation will allow passers-by to enjoy the garden, which is a living nod to the building's rich history, from the street.
 
"The idea is to bring the beauty of the front lawn garden onto Detroit Avenue and the Gordon Square Arts District," says Baron.
 
On June 25 from 4 to 7 p.m., the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization will host a ribbon cutting and open house at the new Templin Bradley Lofts. Until then, persons interested in lease information may call the Coral Management Company's Gordon Square office at 216.635.0130.
 

Heights High to undergo $95 million makeover

Heights High School, which services more than 1,600 students from Cleveland Heights, University Heights and a sliver of South Euclid, is on the verge of a massive $95 million renovation. A 2009 review by the Ohio Schools Facility Commission precipitated the move.
 
"They came in and did a complete inventory of our facilities and it came back that, yes, they're very old and outdated," says Angee Shaker, director of communications and community engagement for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District. "It's long overdue that we tackle this and update our facilities."
 
Voters passed a $134 million bond issue in November 2013, which is funding the work at the high school and future renovations on two of the district's three middle schools. Wiley Middle School will be taken offline, but will service high school students until the renovations at the intersection of Cedar and Lee are complete. The Wiley campus will then be used for middle school students as their facilities are renovated.
 
"It's gong to be very nice," says Shaker of the interim facilities at Wiley. "It's not going to be: let's throw you in here for a couple of years. The modular classrooms are actually way nicer than the classrooms at the high school."
 
Most of the existing high school will be demolished. The original historic 1926 portion will remain intact, but will be renovated. The first floor of the new 362,500-square-foot structure will house public spaces including the library, cafeteria, and auditorium along with administrative offices and the instrumental music department. Large, modern classrooms will occupy the second and third floors, while the lower level will house large two gymnasiums and a new pool, to which the community at large will have access.
 
The school district decided on the new school's amenities and design based on inputs from more than 20 groups populated with community members, staff and students. Groups focused on aspects such as sustainability, history, arts, and education.
 
"We engaged as many as possible to get input," says Shaker. "We can't have it all," she adds of their myriad proposals, "but we wanted to get the best ideas."
 
While the new athletic field and surrounding ¼ mile running track, to which the public has access, are complete, construction will start in earnest in June after students leave for summer break. Ozanne-Hammond-Gilbane-Regency is the general contractor for the project and the lead architect is Gary Balog of bshm architects. The new building is slated to open to students in fall of 2017.
 
Until then, there is ongoing community oversight on the project by way of the Facilities Accountability Committee, which meets monthly for project updates. Obviously, the Cleveland University Heights Board of Education keeps abreast of the project as well. Just last week, the architectural team presented renderings to the BOE depicting what the corner of Cedar and Lee will look like in a little more than two years.
 
"It just took everyone's breath away," says Shaker. "It's going to be so beautiful."
 
There will be a Heights High Farewell and Groundbreaking Ceremony on May 12 at 6 p.m. at the high school, 13263 Cedar Road. This free public event will feature music, refreshments, and presentations. More details are available here.
 

New Third District Police Station welcomes community with public art

 
The Cleveland Police Department will be bringing their new $17.5 million Third District Police Station, 4501 Chester Avenue, online within a matter of weeks, but the nuanced impetus behind the design is not as obvious as the structure itself.
 
"Of course it's a police station, but it's also intended to be a community space," says Land Studio's managing director Gregory Peckham, adding that the property includes areas accessible to the public for meetings and gatherings. "They really want it to be a place that's open and welcoming to the neighborhood—not just a place where bad things happen, but a real resource for the community."
 
Bob Rose, Stephen Yusko and Stephen Manka designed the steel and glass sconces, which were manufactured by Rose Iron Works. Signature Sign constructed the illuminated archway, which was the creative product of Laura Cooperman.
 
"The large gateway feature is really about reflecting the character of the neighborhood in the building itself," says Peckham, noting the references to area churches and architecture in Cooperman's design. "It's really meant to communicate that this is a place for community."
 
"Laura is a fantastic young individual. I was fascinated by her approach to design and representing the community," says Rose of his fellow contributing artist. "This was her first venture away from paper."
 
The design for the sconces was driven by comments fielded by the officers and staff members who will be relocating from the current Third District facility at 10700 Chester Avenue. They expressed a desire for something that would honor the pride, history and culture of their profession, hence the iconic globe design.
 
"The challenge of that was: how do you get a vintage feel with a new modern building?" recalls Peckham. "I think (the Rose team) did a great job of striking a balance."
 
Peckham notes the new station's environs are not highly walkable. Hence, the three points of illumination "create a sort of lantern that I think will be a welcoming presence and humanize the building a little bit."
 
One thing the sconces won't do is stain the building.
 
"They're all carefully ground and polished hollow steel construction," says Rose, "except where they touch the wall. That's stainless because we don't want rust to drip on the wall."
 
For Rose, however, the project also allowed him to symbolically connect with the Third District and the man who helms it, Commander Patrick Stephens. Rose respects Stephens for his commitment to the neighborhood and attention to issues such as scrapping, but he also helped out on an issue that was very close to home.
 
Rose was having trouble with neighborhood kids breaking his shop windows during business hours. He knew which kids were doing the deeds, and that they attended nearby Case Elementary.
 
"Rather than penalize the kids and haul them off to Juvenile Court and all that junk, I thought I'd go talk to them," recalls Rose. "Pat Stephens took the time to meet me and meet with the kids."
 
After that meeting, the vandalism stopped, which Rose credits in no small part to Stephens and his effort in a the matter, which considering the ongoing headlines, is something that could use a little publicity.
 
"The whole concept of the building is to change the perception that police are enemies," says Rose. "The whole concept in the design of the building was to be welcoming and friendly."
 
"There's a lot of not-so-positive views of the police in Cleveland," adds Peckham. "These guys are doing good work and this facility is part of presenting that."
 
The designs were chosen by the Cleveland Public Art Committee from a pool of six different artists who were invited (and subsequently paid a fee) to develop public art concepts for the new station. Such is the matter of course as the City sets aside 1.5 percent of dollars associated with every new capital project for the inclusion of public art. In partnership with the City, Land Studio manages the public art portion of each project by finding potential artists and design concepts, and overseeing construction and implementation.
 
"I think it's really important that the city of Cleveland be recognized," says Peckham, "because they're investing a lot of money in artist and artwork and these projects."


"A Way Home," Stephen Yusko's latest exhibition, will be showing at the William Busta Gallery, 2731 Prospect Avenue, May 1st  – 30th, with an opening reception on Friday, May 1st from 5 to 9 p.m.
 

Craft coffee, mead, beer and unique vehicle coming to Duck Island

Duck Island, the story of which is hard to nail down, is an unusual neighborhood. At once, it's home to the tony Velvet Tango Room, wherein stepping out for a cocktail is elevated to an event worthy of Gatsby, and the Duck Island Club, which invites customers to "duck in and duck out" for specials such as $3 "mystery beers."
 
A host of diverse beverage options is about to fill in the middle ground when Forest City Brewery, 2135 Columbus Road, comes online in as little as four months.
 
"This was a saloon that was built in 1865 by immigrants from the Alsace region of France," says brewery proprietor Jay Demagall from the Freeman Avenue Entrance of the 10,000-square-foot space. "There was a huge beer garden with an actual bowling alley at the very end of it."
 
The pins are long gone and much of the beer garden is enclosed in the timber-frame structure, but a few ideas are growing just the same despite the rough preliminary construction status of the building.

Forest City Brewery proper will occupy approximately 3,000-square-feet of the building. Master brewer Corey Miller, formerly of Indigo Imp, will oversee one-  and 10-barrel systems. Duck Rabbit Coffee and Western Reserve Meadery, both of which have signed on for two separate 1,000-square-foot spaces, will join the brewery.

"He gets beans from all over the world, directly from the farmers and the foragers," says Demagall of Duck Rabbit proprietor Cal Verga, "And it's all small batch. When he makes it, that's it." Currently, Verga's unique roasts are only available locally at the Root Café.

Helming the meadery are Douglas Shaw and Jason Andro. The duo took a bronze medal for their 2013 fruit mead, which consisted of blueberry, fig, and locally sourced honey in the 2014 Wine Maker International Wine Competition. They've been home-brewing mead for about eight years.

The third tenant will not be part of what Demagall aptly describes as a "craft beverage guild," but Carol Stanek is welcome all the same.

"There's no motor on board," says Stanek, standing before the unusual craft that powers her small business, Cleveland Cycle Tours. "It's all by pedal. It's truly a cycle."

Powered by 10 humans, the mega-cycle transports up to 15 and is available for brew tours and other events.

"We felt it would be wonderful to be able to start and stop in a location our customers could use," says Stanek of her fellow Forest City Brewery businesses. "Also, this is very centrally located. We run pub-crawls in Ohio City and Tremont. From this location I can easily go either way."

While Demagall has successfully completed a $24,000 Kickstarter campaign, he's working with business partners Matt Mapus and Patrick McGinty to secure the rest of the funds needed to complete the build-out. Vestor is running a $250,000 debt equity campaign and they're also exploring traditional avenues.

"We're speaking to a bank and an investment group right now," says Demagall. "Both are very positive." As soon as funds are in place, which he estimates will be in less than two months, "I have things lined up and ready to go," he notes, adding that contractors are set to begin work any time. Demagall forecasts the actual build-out will take two to three months, during which time, he expects federal and state liquor permitting to clear.

The move is a complete turn around for Demagall, who spent 14 years as a labor negotiator for public school employees.

"I got tired of the politics," he says. Instead he's anticipating being part of an unusual new union of his brewery, the two other beverage craftsmen, and a human-powered cycle bus.

"It's more than just a brewery. It's about all of us together."

Scranton neighborhood to be listed on National Register of Historic Places

An area of town heretofore dwarfed by the venerable Ohio City and Tremont neighborhoods is on the verge of getting a brand of its own.
 
Last month, the historic preservation consulting firm Naylor Wellman, LLC, presented a 120-page nomination to the Ohio Historic Site Preservation Advisory Board (OHSPAB) for the Scranton South Side Historic District to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was handily approved. OHSPAB will further prepare the document, and then recommend the listing to the National Park Service, which makes the final designation on behalf of the Secretary of the Interior.
 
"We feel very confident," says Diana Wellman of achieving the final listing, adding she expects the remainder of the process to take 60 to 90 days.
 
The Scranton South Historic District is essentially both sides of Scranton Road from Parafine Avenue to the north and to Valentine Avenue to the south and the grid of residential streets east of Scranton between Holmden Avenue and Valentine, bordered to the east by Interstate 71. The district includes a total of 453 commercial, institutional and residential buildings.
 
"This really gives this area of town an identity as a community," says Wendy Naylor. "They're now thinking of themselves as the Scranton South Side Historic District."
 
"Everybody kind of knows where Scranton is," adds Wellman. "Sitting between Ohio City and Tremont, (the district) does not have the presence with a name. This really gives the district an opportunity to be seen in the community, and to turn the light back onto it after being shadowed by Ohio City and Tremont."
 
In addition to establishing a sense of place, the listing will make income-producing buildings within the newly designated district eligible for state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits.
 
Wellman explains, "The buildings in the district right now—being within the district—this does not change the review process when they decide to make a physical change on the building."
 
"That was a very important distinction to the neighborhoods that were involved in this," adds Naylor.
 
Tremont West Development Corporation enlisted Naylor and Wellman to handle the administration of the Scranton listing project. The duo, which joined up as a firm in 2013, has listed more than 34 individual sites and districts on the National Register of Historic Places. Their respective and combined efforts have garnered $53.6 million in federal historic tax credits. More specifically, their efforts helped to land $3.1 million in state historic tax credits for the Fairmont Creamery project. They also recently completed the nomination document for the Woodland-Larchmere Commercial Historic District, which will be on OHSPAB's June agenda.
 
Points of architectural interest in the new historic district include the Cleveland Public Library's South Branch at the northwest corner of Scranton and Clark (temporarily closed, also known at the Carnegie Library) and the Emerson Casket Mansion, 2438 Scranton, which was built as a residence in 1852, subsequently changed hands and was augmented in the early 1900's with a one story brick addition that served as a casket showroom. Wellman and Naylor also suggest a stroll through the residential streets in the district's southeast corner, which feature an eclectic assortment of vintage and century structures.

Commercial landmarks within the Scranton South Historic district include the Tremont Taphouse and now the Fairmont Creamery project, among others.

"There's a good amount of love and care in these homes," says Wellman of the renovated units, adding while tax credit projects are interesting, they're also about financial incentive. "But the people who do painstaking renovations on their home? That' s more of a personal quest."
 
Regarding those homeowners, she continues, "What happened in the Scranton Historic District is kind of like a fever. Once one person starts doing it, another person starts doing it. Those people are kind of like the catalysts that drive the National Register of Historic Places."

Greater Cleveland RTA eyes four sites for lamb/goat grazing

With the help of the grassroots organization Urban Shepherds, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) is in preliminary planning for replacing gas guzzling lawn mowers with lambs and goats at a handful of sites. Representatives from both organizations met last week to discuss the possibilities.

"We have four sites that we've looked at on our properties," says GCRTA's budget management analyst Kari Solomon, tagging a bus-training course in West Park, a former test track (no longer in service) in Kingsbury Loop, a vacant lot at East 55th Street and Euclid Avenue and an area behind the currently-offline Harvard Bus Garage.

"We'll be looking to do West Park some time this summer," says Solomon. "We have about one and a half or two acres there." The remainder of the program will take a little longer to implement.
 
"We'd like to have it in place by 2016, but it depends on the budget," notes Solomon, adding that she foresees mostly lambs doing the heavy lifting, except at one site. "At Kingsbury Loop, we'd probably use goats first to clear it out and then bring in lambs in 2017 or 2018."
 
"Goats are great for clearing vegetation," adds executive director of Urban Shepherds Laura DeYoung.
 
So how many small ruminants does it take to groom a public transit property?
 
"We have some estimates," says Solomon. "We're probably going to look at three lambs per acre or about four or five goats per acre."
 
While Greater Cleveland hasn't transformed into a patchwork quilt of grazing pastures just yet, DeYoung is quick to note that we're gaining on it.

"I want to see sheep everywhere," she says. To that end, Urban Shepherds coordinates training events and provides avenues of information for interested organizations such as GCRTA and residents alike.

"A lot of people have this romantic ideal of raising sheep and goats," says DeYoung. "We're trying to make sure they do it the right way. That's why we're doing this program: so we can give people the information they need and do it themselves."

DeYoung is also head shepherdess at Spicy Lamb Farm, where she tends some 100 ewes, with the help of three sheep dogs (all border collies). She has not, however, quit her day job as an environmental planner at the Northeast Ohio Four County Regional Planning and Development Organization (NEFCO).

"I still work to support my farming habit," says DeYoung.

Other urban grazing projects for which Urban Shepherds has advocated include a site adjacent to the Quay 55 Building and the future North Coast Sheep Farm, plans for which are still tentative.

"The idea behind the Urban Shepherd program is to create something more productive than grass clippings," says DeYoung, adding that saving money on mowing is another obvious benefit. In addition, Mother Nature's mowers of choice aren't picky about where they work, and DeYoung sees potential grazing sites wherever there's green space.

"There's a lot of vacant land and a lot of fields," she says of Cleveland's urban landscape. "Even if the ultimate goal is brick and mortar or housing, grazing is a good interim use."

The least quantifiable benefit of grazing over mowing is perhaps the best.

"It's fun and it creates a sense of place."

Urban Shepherds, in partnership with Spicy Lamb Farm, will host an Urban Shepherds training class on Saturday, May 16 at the farm. Topics will include information on grazing, animal care and fencing. Cost is $35. Lunch is included.

Click here for list of other events at the Spicy Lamb Farm.

National restaurant mogul on why he chose the 216

Robert Thompson knows a thing or two about restaurants. Since 1997, he's overseen the opening of a baker's dozen at points across the nation. His efforts have garnered no less than four awards over the years.

Thompson's latest incarnation is president and CEO of Seasoned Development, which has four Punch Bowl Socials (Denver, Portland, Austin and Detroit), and three more planned for 2015, including one in Cleveland.
 
"Clevelanders should be aware that they're on the national radar," says the low-key mogul. "In the last nine months, other developers started reaching out to us. That's a good sign for you guys."
 
They were out of luck. Thompson had already signed on for space in the Flats at East Bank project, which was a decision he didn't make lightly.
 
Due diligence is mostly a by-the-numbers business, but sometimes you have to listen to your instincts. Still unsure on the Cleveland gamble, Thompson made a final research trip to Cleveland—and visited every entertainment district in town. 
 
"Every single entertainment district I went to in town was happening," says Thompson. "To me, that said: Cleveland is back. It's vibrant. There's commercial success happening everywhere." And the answer to his internal question: would a new entertainment district be busy? bloomed: "Why wouldn't it be? Everywhere else is busy."
 
Hence, Thompson's fifth Punch Bowl Social will be occupying 27,000 square feet in the Flats East Bank project. The club will feature a main floor, balcony and 4,000-square-foot rooftop deck. The old-school gaming, craft cocktail and gastro-diner will count Zack Bruell's Alley Cat, Coastal Taco, Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill, The Big Bang, Beerhead, Flip Side and three concept restaurants from Chef Steve Schimoler among its neighbors.
 
"We love it," says Thompson of his competition. "We love gravity. Mass equals gravity and gravity equals attraction. We don't like pioneering. We like having friends near us that have their own special offerings and help create a district. We don't want to ask Clevelanders to come down here just to come to Punch Bowl."
 
But if they're hankering for the vodka concoction "You must bring us … A shrubbery" (an ode to Monty Python), or a Malted Maple Royal milkshake (featuring Crown Royal Maple), they'll have to swing through Punch Bowl. No worries, though. There should be plenty of room and folks to scare up those potent potables: the club will have a capacity of nearly 1,000 and 175 employees working the space.
 
"It takes a lot of bodies to cover 27,000-square-feet," notes Thompson. The grand opening is scheduled for August 8th with a soft opening in mid-July.
 
The eight-story building will also house 241 apartments, which are currently leasing with a scheduled July 1st occupancy. Units include one-, two- and three-bedroom floor plans ranging from 720- to 1,700-square-feet, with rents from $1,565 to $3,920.
 
"We look for up-and-coming markets," says Thompson of the diverse venture. "We're not in the business of fighting with sharp elbows with everybody in New York City or Los Angeles. We look for emerging markets or, in this case, reemerging markets. So Cleveland was on the radar in that sense."
 
But as any old-time Clevelander can attest, the Flats is a singular place, full up with history and a not-so-immaculate reputation, none of which is lost on Thompson.
 
"That's something special that resonates for us: being part of the resurrection of an historic entertainment district like this."
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