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tremont athletic club opens in the newly-renovated fairmont creamery building

On Dec. 8, the much-anticipated Tremont Athletic Club, 2306 West 17th Street in the Fairmont Creamery building, opened with little fanfare.
"We simply walked to the front door at 5 a.m. and unlocked it," says managing member and majority owner Nick White. "That was the grand opening."
Considering the club already had 300 members courtesy of pre-opening sales drives (and now nearly 400), the move underscores White's approach to the business of running a fitness center.
"We're not interested in the slick marketing and the hype of getting people in the door," he says. "We're trying to be straight forward. So often the deals you see in this industry are anything but. You always end up paying on the back end whether it be in fees or parking tickets, somehow they get their pound of flesh."
Smith vows not to charge surprise fees and offers a simple membership plan: $60 per month with a one-year commitment. A one-month pass can be had for $75 and a day pass for $20, but White adds that special deals may be available for those interested in trying out the gym prior to securing a membership. Members can always bring a guest for free.
Amenities in the 14,000-square-foot facility include two full strength circuits, 35 cardio machines, a functional training area, a free weight room, a large class area, towel service, saunas and multi-use lockers that do not require a lock and are reset with every use.
Most classes are free with membership and include offerings such as Kettle Bell Happy Hour, Cardio Blast, Three Sisters Yoga and Butts & Guts. Hot yoga will be offered shortly.
"We're trying to get a nice varied collection of classes," says White.
Members can look forward to possible rooftop offerings such as sunrise yoga as well, although that space is not yet built out.
The club, construction for which took about a year, is the anchor tenant in the Fairmont Creamery building. The architect on the job was (ARC)form LLC. The building is also home to 30 apartments, all of which have been leased, and businesses such as Twist Creative and the soon-to-open Good to Go Café, which will no doubt be a favorite fueling spot for gym-goers.
"We'll have the best juice bar of any gym I've ever known," says White of Good to Go Café proprietor Anna Harouvis's natural and health-conscious concoctions.
Club hours are 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday. Saturday and Sunday hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The space is commercially cleaned after hours three times a week.
What's to love most about the Tremont Athletic Club? White enumerates: "It's an old creamery. It's an industrial space. It's got tons of natural light. It's got all brand new equipment and we keep it spotless." He also touts stunning views of the city for those who choose window gazing over the televisions aboard each treadmill. Mostly, however, White sees the venture as a much-needed service in the Tremont neighborhood.
"We really understand that this area has no fitness center," he says. "People here need a place to exercise."


gigi's goes after dark, expands opportunities for customers and giving back

Earlier this month, Gia Ilijasic and husband James Patsche, owners of Gigi's on Fairmount, 3477 Fairmount Boulevard, opened Gigi's After Dark adjacent to their clubby Taylor Fairmont eatery. The soft opening was Dec. 6, with the grand opening the following weekend.
"We didn't know what to expect and we were mobbed," says Patsche. "It was off the hook."
The expansion was in response to the overwhelming popularity of the 45-seat Gigi's, which opened in November 2013.
"If there was a line or a wait," says Patsche, "we'd maybe lose those customers. Now we have a wonderful cozy environment they can go to next door and have a cocktail before dinner while waiting for a table or to have a cocktail after dinner." When doing so, they'll have more options from which to choose, including apothecary style craft potables created by Eric Mattimore, previously of Katz Club Bar Car, who is helming the new bar.
If the opening is any indication, people seemed to grasp the concept.
"We kept the customers here longer and kept them happier."
The new 50-seat expansion includes an 11-seat bar, plush seating, 16-high top seats and a chef's table for up to 10, the only one for which Gigi's will accept reservations. The new 1,100-square-foot space will serve small plates only and will open at 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Closing time depends on the customers.
"We close when customers says we close," says Patsche, although 2 a.m. will be the witching hour.
Patsche, who was previously an investment banker before his rebirth as a restaurateur acted as general contractor on the revamp.
"We took a shell of a room and converted it to this night club lounge in just 27 days," he says, adding that acquiring the permit took as long as the renovation work. Mark Fremont Architects of Cleveland Heights did the design.
The expansion was born of need and opportunity. When home furniture boutique duoHOME went dark earlier this year, Ilijasic and Patsche knew it was time to act.
"The space became available," says Patsche. "We knew that we'd never have the opportunity to expand in this address unless we took the space now. We probably weren't really ready for it, but who is ever ready?"
When the snow melts, customers will enjoy another benefit of the expansion: twice the sidewalk patio space. Local charities, however, won't have to wait that long to reap the benefits of Gigi's increased receipts courtesy of the "Magnificent Mondays" program, which launced in July.
Each month, Gigi's selects a local cause to support by donating 10 percent of the Mondays' gross sales to it. December's beneficiary is Roots of American Music. Previous beneficiaries have included FutureHeights and the Effective Leadership Academy. Patsche says the practice makes a bigger and more focused impact than traditional donations.
"Instead of just giving a small nominal amount or $25 gift certificate," he says, "we can give a large check, maybe a $2,500 check for the entire month. It goes towards much better causes.
"It's been a great way for us to give back to the community."


ilthy makes a local move, looks to national stage

Coming off a successful stint in Gordon Square, the edgy Cleveland-based clothing and accessory shop iLTHY has moved to a new location at 15613 Detroit Road in Lakewood.
Founded in 2009 by artist Glen Infante, the popular brand is stretching out, so to speak. The previous shop at 6602 Detroit was 800-square-feet, just a fraction of the roomy 3,600-square-feet in the new space.
"Last year, we were handling online orders, manufacturing, and customer service at our warehouse in North Royalton while retail, management, and design was handled in our Gordon Square space," says iLTHY co-owner Kumar Arora, who joined the operation in 2011. "We were constantly having to shuffle between two locations to get things done. Now we're able to bridge two distinct parts of our business."
Renovations on the new location started in July and included new flooring, plumbing and electrical work. Features include an expansive showroom and large storefront windows to attract the high foot traffic generated courtesy of neighboring hotspots such as Jammy Buggars, Lakewood Public Library's main branch and the Merry Arts Pub and Grille. The shop held its grand opening in October.
"Being right on Detroit in Lakewood provides opportunities for us," says Arora. "We felt that a move to Lakewood better aligned with our long term goals," which include elevating the brand to the national stage.
 Machine Gun Kelly and LeBron
The shop's street-smart offerings include items such as the Cyclops Snapback hat, which features an unusual interpretation of a usual local suspect, ladies' swimwear, a host of accessories and prints that blend funk, doughnuts and fine art. High profile fans of iLTHY merch include LeBron James, Joe Haden and Machine Gun Kelly.
That celebrity exposure has contributed to the brand's unprecedented growth, which Arora estimates at 30 percent annually. Other factors he cites include ongoing product development, the buzzing local sports scene and Cleveland's overall renaissance.
"It doesn't look like it's stopping any time soon," says an optimistic Arora of iLTHY's success.  
The former Case Weatherhead School of Management student's business acumen does not stop at the threshold of iLTHY (an acronym gleaned from I Love The Hype). He is also the founder of the innovative Rogue Eyewear. Moreover, his website enumerates his litany of eclectic ventures, which range from entertainment management to nanochemicals.
Arora's energetic entrepreneurial style is a perfect fit for iLTHY as well as Northeast Ohio.
"I like to think that all of us can create change or make something to make a name for Cleveland. Cleveland was known for certain things in the past but what's to say we can't be known for fashion or streetwear? Who says that we can't do it? Who says that we don't have the resources?"

"That's kind of my belief."

cake royale opens new storefront and commercial kitchen in old brooklyn

Yesterday, notable Cleveland baker Michel Kahwagi of Cake Royale, his partner/wife Denise and their staff (which includes their sons Elijah and Nick), hosted the grand opening of their new retail spot and commercial kitchen at 4276 Pearl Road in Old Brooklyn. The company's kitchen was previously located at 3800 Pearl Road.
"We needed to move," says Denise. "We needed to expand. We had outgrown our other space. It was very small, only 1000-square-feet." They also had fielded requests from retail customers at their West Side Market booth D-7, where they've been for 10 years.
"On off-market days, customers wanted a place where they could pick up," says Denise.
The addition of two new impressive clients, the Metropolitan at the 9 and the Cleveland Indians, cemented the upgrade. Other long-standing clients include Joe's Deli in Rocky River, the Mayfield Country Club and the Canterbury Country Club, among others.
Construction has been underway for more than a year. The new building is 4,000-square feet, 2,000 of which are dedicated to kitchen space. The retail area occupies 400-square-feet and is adorned by murals created by Ohio City artist Danilo Zammattio. They have yet to renovate the basement area.
Denise estimates the building was vacant for between five and eight years before they purchased it. Previous incarnations included a coffee shop and a pizza joint. The Kahwagi's financed the $140,000 renovation themselves.
The couple's story started back in the 1980's. They met in Texas where Michel, who originally immigrated to America from Lebanon in 1973, was a maître 'd in an Irving restaurant. He made Denise a mango cake that he had first tasted years ago while working with his brother in Kuwait.
"I said, 'Wow. This is fabulous. You need to be selling these.'" It must have been some cake. Not only did she marry him, she followed him to Cleveland in 1989 to support his fledgling wholesale pastry business, which has flourished over the past 26 years. Michel has taken the title of "best pastry chef" twice at the Art Therapy Studio’s Creative Confections Dessert Competition, in 1999 and 2000. Not bad for a self-taught artisan.
Denise reveals the simple secret of the business: "We still do everything the old fashioned way. We do it from scratch, which you don't see very often anymore. (Michel) roasts his own nuts. We still juice all the lemons. When he makes truffles, he rolls them by hand. You can tell we don't take short cuts."
As for the decision to keep the business based in Old Brooklyn, the Kahwagis' reasons are home-baked and close to the heart.
"We live in Old Brooklyn and have always lived in Old Brooklyn. We want to give back to the community we live in and pay taxes in," says Denise. "We're just a very small business out there trying to do our fair share contributing to the economy."

st. ignatius teams up with st. vincent to brighten up a slice of lorain avenue

A vacant building is getting a major facelift and some new tenants thanks to a collaborative effort between St. Ignatius High School and St. Vincent Charity Medical Center.
"This is a building we purchased a year and a half or two years ago," says Richard Klingshirn, vice president and chief financial officer for St. Ignatius, of the property at 2905 Lorain Avenue. "We didn't really have any plans at that point in time."
The school purchased the building, the previous incarnation of which Klingshirn describes as "multi-purpose commercial," mostly because of it's proximity to the St. Ignatius campus. During a subsequent discussion between Fr. William Murphy, the school's president, and St. Vincent's president and CEO, Dr. David Perse, the idea to put the 3,600-square-foot space to use as a doctor's office was launched. The two entities eventually agreed to a five-year lease.
Klingshirn notes that convenience was a factor, with St. Vincent's main campus at 2351 East 22nd Street being just over two miles from the new building, which is also on RTA's popular 22 route.
"For patients," says Klingshirn, "it's much better public transportation service with the number 22 and other buses right there."
Four doctors will be moving into the space: Dr. Joy Marshall, family practice; Dr. Jeremy Perse, podiatry; Dr. George Friedhoff, sports medicine; and Dr. Muhammad Zahra, cardiology. The doctors are expected to start seeing patients in the new location on Jan. 6, with a community open house to follow. A date for the open house has not been set; however, St. Vincent's Wendy Hoke, vice president of marketing and communications, expects it to be sometime in January.
"St. Vincent's and St. Ignatius are basically splitting the cost of renovating the building," says Klingshirn. " I won't give specifics," he adds, "but the total cost of project is in excess of one million dollars." Westlake Reed Leskosky is the architectural team on the project.
The building required a complete renovation, including all new electrical and plumbing. "The four walls and the roof were there," says Klingshirn, "everything else was redone."
But the best part, says Klingshirn, is the improvement to this tiny slice of Lorain Avenue. He describes the structure as previously looking like a "building you would build out of Legos—a very blocky looking building."
The addition of expansive windows and a smart façade have changed that.
"(The architects) took a really basic building and turned it into something very attractive," says Klingshirn. "Compared to what it was, it really spruces up Lorain Avenue nicely. It just dresses up that little 80- to 100-feet of frontage."

five perfect no-hassle gifts for cleveland expats

The clock is ticking faster and faster. You missed Cyber Monday and you're out of gift ideas for that homesick Clevelander who is so far away for the holidays.
Have no fear; Fresh Water is here.
We've put together a quick list of shippable 216 classics that will delight any Cleveland expat, whether they're across the state or across the country. The best part of this roundup is that someone else will deal with the boxes, tape and wrapping. You don't even have to wait in line at the Post Office.
1. The best beef jerky you will ever order in your jammies
Michael Symon described J & J Czuchraj's beef jerky as "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" on the Food Network's show of the same name. He buys a chunk every time he's at the West Side Market from one of their two stands, J & J Meats or Czuchraj's Meats (yes, they are both the same vendor). But you don't need to schlep over to 25th Street to ship an order of this oh-so-Cleveland delicacy to the meat lover on your list. Shop online and select from seven types of jerky, from beef to bison with a couple of chicken and turkey stops in between. If jerky's too quirky, other options include homemade smokies, smoked kielbasa and sausage.
2. The Guardians of Traffic
Yes, you can send a homesick Clevelander the Guardians of Traffic. No, the process will not involve defacing public property and an 18-wheeler. Just click on over to zJayne's shop and select one of her mini drawstring bags (use them to stow jewelry or as the perfect 216 accessory), or a reusable dryer sachets (filled with irresistibly fragrant organic lavender). Both are adorned with everyone's favorite stone men, which are holding bicycles instead of vintage vehicles (!). All items are made from 100 percent recycled tee shirts proprietor Jane Pierce purchases from area thrift stores (don't worry, they're thoroughly laundered).
3. A delicious dichotomy
Mix one part caramel popcorn with one part cheddar cheese popcorn and watch nonstop hand-to-mouth action until the tin is empty. Everyone craves Dichotomy Corn, this popular salty/sweet mix from Campbell's Sweet Factory. Order a box of bagged corn or a tin. Give your order some variety. Available flavors range from Beer Cheddar to Vanilla Butternut.
That you're supporting a homegrown Cleveland business makes it that much sweeter ... or saltier ... or both.
4. Earl Scheib, The Ghoul and Gold Circle
If you have an old school Clevelander on your list, Home Shirts has the world's most perfect gift. Yes, really. Where else can you buy a Zayre or Richfield Coliseum tee shirt or a hoodie festooned with the Lawson's logo? The oodles of options range from quirky to classic. Try a TV Guide ad for John Lanigan's Prize Movie or a simple Halle's logo. The recipient will think it's 1985 (or even earlier—remember the Barons?) all over again.
5. A nice Bordeaux
We're not talking about the kind of Bordeaux that has fruity notes and comes with recommended pairings. Who can figure any of that out anyway? We're talking about the gorgeous confection from a Cleveland institution—Malley's. Their Bordeaux candies are crunchy buttery chunks of English toffee and almonds covered in chocolate and then rolled in chopped almonds. It's no wonder these are designated as a "Founder's Favorite."
Anyone who harbors soft memories of Malley's will melt over a gift of Bordeaux. Order by the box or in a solid copper Moscow Mule mug. If toffee's not your giftee's top choice, hop on over to Sweet Moses—not the Gordon Square mainstay, but their online shop—and order a miniature solid chocolate Cleveland icon: the Terminal Tower in milk, dark or white.
It may not last, but you can call that a sweet little piece of Cleveland.

amasa stone house to be reborn as stonebrook montessori

Built in 1930, the Amasa Stone House, 975 East Boulevard, was a "home for aged women" with a history dating back to 1877. Ironically, this place designed for people near the end of life is transforming into a place for little people just starting out in life, the Stonebrook Montessori Charter School.
Renovations on the 40,000-square-foot structure in the historic East Boulevard neighborhood began in summer 2014 after Montessori Development Partnerships (MDP) purchased the building. MDP president Debbie Guren hopes to welcome as many as 20 three- and four-year-olds to the school this winter for a pilot program.
"We have interest from over 30 families," says Guren.
The school will formally open in fall of 2015 with slots for 100 three- to seven-year-olds, and then add a grade per year to eventually cater to 300 kids up to age 15 by 2020. Guren estimates the facility will have 30 to 40 employees by then.
The three-phase construction schedule reflects the enrollment plan. The Krueger Group is proceeding with the work and has completed what project manager Daniel Krueger, calls "disassembly," a process by which they peel back what exists to expose the "bones" of a facility.
"It was kind of like a hotel," says Krueger, noting the long halls with individual rooms and private baths. There were even suites outfitted with small kitchens. "We gutted the interior to the walls." The crew kept architectural points of interest such as fireplaces intact.
"It's built like a tank," adds Guren, noting that Samuel Mather oversaw the original construction on the structure and named it after his father-in-law, Amasa Stone. "It's so well built and so well designed—just as the Mathers would build something. To have that history is amazing."
Phase one, currently underway, focuses on the main floor. The upper level will be completed in phase two; and phase three will unfold on the lower level. The first part of phase one, a kitchen and a community room, will be complete this winter for the pilot program. The entire project is slated for completion in 2016, although progress depends on funding.
Thus far, MDP has raised more than $3 million of their $6.23 million goal, which has facilitated the purchase of the building, renovation, furnishings and operational funding for the first five years.
"We're almost halfway to our goal in less than a year," says an optimistic Guren.
While charter certification from the state and municipal entities is pending, the Buckeye Community Hope Foundation formally agreed to act as the school's sponsor, a mandatory and important step in the process. Enrollment will be open first to Cleveland residents, then inner-ring suburbs, then other Ohio residents.
"We're pretty sure we'll be able to fill up," says Guren.
Long-time senior living advocates McGregor last operated the facility, which went dark in 2002. McGregor eventually gifted it to the Northeast Neighborhood Development Corporation, with loans for maintenance and expenses. The property transferred to the Famicos Foundation when NNDC closed. MDP purchased the structure for $550,000, a substantial reduction on the property's valuation of $1 million. McGregor forgave interest on the outstanding loans to enable Famicos to sell at the reduced price.
The Krueger Group has worked on several projects at area Montessori schools such as Russing (Rocky River), Hudson, Cleveland and the high school at University Circle.
"We enjoy these projects and we enjoy just how tangible they are," says Krueger, adding that he and three of his siblings are former Russing Montessori students.
There are more than 4,000 Montessori schools in North America, notes Guren, while only 10 percent of them are public.
"It's very important to me that we bring this to Cleveland and offer a free option for a complete Montessori program that's the top of the line."


inside the bizarre cleveland bazaar and 10 years of peddling indie arts

While organizer Shannon Okey is expecting upwards of 7,000 shoppers to roam through Cleveland Bazaar's 10th annual holiday show on Dec. 13th and 14th, the event actually started more than a decade ago and quite a few miles away.
"I was living in Boston," recalls Okey of the early aughts. "The show started there. One of the originators used to do filthy embroidered things.*" Another participant was make-up artist Punk Rock Mary Kay. "It was hilarious," says Okey, who returned to her hometown of Cleveland in 2004 and decided to host a similar event for the 216.
She found a space, the 1300 Gallery (now 78th Street Studios). The first holiday show in 2004 had 15 vendors and approximately 1,000 attendees.
"It went well," says Okey. "We got pretty good traffic considering there wasn't social media to promote on."
Since then Cleveland Bazaar (formerly Bazaar Bizarre) has become a year-round mainstay, with pop-up shops at places across the city. They have included Shaker Quality Auto Body (a working garage), Market Square Park (across from the West Side Market) and the Dittrick Medical History Museum.
"People saw that we'd bring traffic wherever we were," says Okey of Cleveland Bazaar's rise in popularity. "Now we've got stuff going practically every month of the year." This month is particularly busy, with two shows at the 5th Street Arcades, one last weekend for Winterfest and another this weekend—the Manly Mart.
The big holiday show at 78th Street Studios will be on Saturday, Dec. 13 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 14 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. While the show is free, early bird tickets are available for $20 for entry at 9 a.m. on Saturday.
This year's show will be Cleveland Bazaar's largest with 140 vendors. Many come from Northeast Ohio, but vendors have traveled from Chicago, Cincinnati, Louisville and even Los Angeles to peddle their wares in past shows. This year, the unusual offerings range from durable handmade bags made in the Screw Factory to pottery from Buffalo, New York, to screen printed posters made by a duo that collaborates between Cleveland, Ohio and Brooklyn, New York. And while many vendors knock on Okey's door, not all make it into the juried show.
"If I see one more thing that came from Pat Catan's with a 216 stamped on it," laments Okey, "I'm gonna … " Not to fear, Okey's made sure her 2014 vendor roster is first-rate. "On top of it, you get the building residents, which will be open too."
Cleveland Bazaar is only half of Okey's professional life. She's also a one-woman show with her niche business, Knit Grrl Studio, which she operates out of a Screw Factory studio space she shares with artist Arabella Proffer.
"Books are the primary business right now, but we're expanding that," says Okey of her LLC, which she founded in 2009 after penning 12 knitting books for other publishers. Knit Grrl also runs a digital magazine with more than 1,500 paid subscribers and sells knitting patterns that it promotes along with its books via a mailing list of 13,000. The company grosses $250,000 annually.
Clearly Okey has dived into the maker movement and made it work -- literally. That ethic is also the glimmering drive behind Cleveland Bazaar's indie mentality.
"A lot of us come from families where you made stuff. There's almost a heritage factor: grandma embroidered, grandpa made things out of wood. It seems to me sort of a Rust Belt thing: You're thrifty. You're saving things up. You're not just going to the mall and buying 18 pieces of jewelry at Claire's.
"The (Cleveland Bazaar holiday) show started before there was an Etsy, before there was a Facebook, before any of those things were around. It wasn't that sort of monkey-see/monkey-do stuff you see now. It wasn't informed by what Martha Stewart told you was cool."
*For those smoldering with curiosity over what "filthy embroidered things" entails, visit Greg Der Ananian's flickr pages—at your own risk.

cedar-taylor merchant group hits fundraising goal, plans for spring improvements

Having reached an important fundraising goal of $5,500 just last month, the Cedar-Taylor Development Association (CTDA) will see the fruits of its persistence come to fruition next spring.
The $5,500 figure is significant as it unlocks the second half of an $11,000 Cleveland Heights 2014 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). With $16,500 in its coffers, CTDA can begin prioritizing their streetscape plan, which was conducted by Michelle Bandy-Zalatoris and financed by a $5,250 CDBG issued by Cleveland Heights in 2013. Further sweetening the pot is an additional $10,000 CDBG from Cleveland Heights that will be available in July 2015.
Kevin Smith, CTDA president, estimates the total cost of realizing the plan will be $100,000. That's a lot of dough, but with $27,500 on the books, it's starting to look attainable.
"Our first source of funds came from going door to door to talk to business owners and suggesting a donation of $100 to be member," says Smith. "Some gave less. Some gave more." He also notes that a handful of residents and a generous anonymous donor helped to reach the $5,500, as did a Nov. 8 fundraiser wherein local vendors donated a portion of their sales to the effort.
The district covers Cedar Road between Hampstead and the end of the business district, and Taylor Road from Washington Boulevard to Sherwin Williams, 2193 South Taylor Road. While money from Cleveland Heights cannot be spent on the portion of the district that lies in University Heights (everything east of Taylor), the funds raised by CTDA can.
"University Heights is looking for funds as well," says Smith.
The group intends to "get their ducks in a row" over winter and prioritize spending, but Smith says they will likely start with items such as benches, planters, banner signage, trash receptacles and/or custom bike racks.
"We want there to be somewhat of a splash," he says, adding that they can't do everything at once. "If we wanted to, say, add ten benches total, maybe we do four benches this year."
Larger ticket items include adding a turn lane, angle parking and public art. Smith cites an example: instead of two simple white striped lines defining a crosswalk, "you make it into kind of an art piece. Maybe outside of Melt, the crosswalk is a painted knife and a painted fork." He adds that CTDA may reach out to Heights Arts.
"They're a great local Heights-based arts organization that we'd like to collaborate with."
Smith owns a 3,000-square foot building in the district that currently houses two tenants, Enroll America, 13437 Cedar Road, a nonprofit that helps people sign up for the Affordable Care Act and Critical Hit Games, 13433 Cedar Road. He and others founded the CTDA in 2012. The group of approximately 60 merchants, property owners and residents make up the 501(c)(3) nonprofit. There are six board members.
The group differs from Cleveland's many community development corporations and the special improvement districts in Cleveland Heights, which are all formal and complex public/private entities.
"We're much more grass roots," says Smith. "We're all volunteer. We have absolutely no overhead. We have no office. Everything we get goes directly into this programming/neighborhood."
But what is the impetus behind his fervent neighborhood advocacy?
"If we don't take the initiative ourselves, nobody's going to do it for us."

long-awaited makeover of mlk jr. drive and 'suicide circle' now open

The much-maligned traffic circle at East 105th and MLK Jr. Drive has been completely redeveloped and is now open to vehicle traffic. Fresh Water first reported on these planned improvements two and a half years ago.

"This traffic circle has one of the highest rates of vehicular accidents in the region -- they're mostly fender benders, because people are just confused by it," Chris Bongorno, Director of Planning with University Circle Incorporated (UCI), told us at the time. "The new configuration will definitely be more pedestrian and bike friendly, and will also help to connect people to Rockefeller Park and University Circle."

According to a press release from Cuyahoga County, which invested in the project along with the City of Cleveland, the $7.2 million infrastructure project "modified an existing roadway network at East 105th Street, MLK Boulevard, Mt. Sinai Drive, East Boulevard, and Jeptha Drive. An existing roundabout was eliminated and the remaining roadways geometrically realigned."
Mt. Sinai was moved south of its previous location, while Jeptha Drive was moved north. Meanwhile, East 105th Street was widened and now includes turning lanes. Finally, MLK Jr. Boulevard has been widened and realigned, and East Boulevard has been extended.

Additional improvements include new sidewalks, paths and the reconstruction of the Cancer Survivor Plaza. A new bio swale will have over 4,000 shrubs and perennials, apparently.
The project is pedestrian- and bike-friendly. A pedestrian boardwalk will serve to connect East 105th Street to MLK Jr. Blvd.

There are still a few items to be ticked off the completion list, including installation of the shrubs and perennials, permanent pavement markings and permanent traffic signals.

old brooklyn community cafe to be developed at cleveland library branch

Despite being home to over 30,000 residents, Old Brooklyn lacks a vibrant main street full of local businesses. And while its neighbors in Tremont and Ohio City enjoy a surfeit of options when it comes to cool cafes, including Rising Star and Civilization, Old Brooklyn residents unfortunately can't say the same.

That's going to change soon thanks to a bold new project that's been initiated by the Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation in partnership with Cleveland Public Library. Their plan to build a new community cafe in the South Brooklyn branch of CPL was recenty awarded $30,000 from Cleveland Neighborhood Progress (CNP) as part of its Neighborhood Solutions awards.

The plan for the new community cafe dovetails with existing plans to leverage and redevelop the historic streetscape along Pearl Road in the heart of Old Brooklyn. The half-mile stretch of Pearl is close to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and other amenities, and there are also about 1,500 employees in the immediate area.

"This café will reimagine a community asset that has been a keystone for 35 years," Old Brooklyn CDC stated in its proposal to CNP. "Now the asset can be repurposed as a 21st century gathering space to anchor economic development and connect to the community through opportunities for programming and engagement. The café will be built not only as a public-partnership with the library but also as a physical part of the structure, creating opportunities for both entities to support the other through programming and shared customers."

Essentially, Old Brooklyn CDC and CPL plan to renovate a portion of the library and create a new storefront where there's currently a blank wall. This new, glass-fronted storefront will be attached to the library. It will have a separate entrance, seating area and a patio, but will also be accessible from inside the branch. Visitors will be able to grab a cup of coffee and browse the collection.

Old Brooklyn expects to select a private operator through an RFP process. The branch is located at State and Pearl Roads, a high-traffic location in the city. It will join Drink Bar and Grill and Cake Royale as new, expanding businesses within the area, and leaders expect the new cafe to create about five full-time jobs.

The CDC still must raise additional funds to turn this innovative idea into a reality. The $30,000 grant award represents only about 25 percent of the total costs to "white box" the library space, so that it can be offered to a private operator.

Additionally, the following three programs or projects were chosen as Neighborhood Solutions Awards grantees, according to a release:
  • "Union-Miles Development Corporation will receive $35,000 to expand U-Mag, a program that supports entrepreneurship development specifically for the landscaping market through training, job referrals, networking opportunities and community volunteerism. 
  • Northeast Shores Development Corporation will receive $30,000 for the Collinwood Renter Equity Program which combines the rehab of low demand rental buildings into facilities that offer low-income artists both living and work space.  In addition, a component to build equity for the artist tenants is integrated into the program.  
  • St. Clair Superior Development Corporation will receive $30,000 for Hatch St Clair that will 'grow' new businesses for the neighborhood by providing a pool of funds and support available exclusively to home- based start-ups and existing businesses located in the SCSDC service area."
CNP stated that it expects these projects to be up and running within 12 months.

sneak peak of the new corner alley at uptown

Fun and high style collide at the Corner Alley's second location at 11409 Euclid Avenue in Uptown, from the giant colorful lattice of bowling balls suspended above the main bar to the mural giving a visual depiction of Northeast Ohio's population that hangs on the opposite wall. But the strikes, spares and gutter balls aren't ready to roll just yet.
Slated for a December 3rd grand opening and a soft opening on November 29th, the site is still thrumming with the buzz of drills and footfalls of workers as they rush to finish the nearly 23,000 square feet of this stunning new entertainment venue, which seats up to 500 and will employ approximately 100. Construction started in spring 2013. MRN Hospitality Group, which owns the business, has invested $5.5 million to see it come to fruition.
Designed by Dimit Architects, the first floor clocks in at approximately 12,000 square feet with 11 lanes. The second floor has six lanes, which Corner Alley sales and marketing director Mary Lessick classifies as "boutique." Downstairs bowling is $50 per hour for up to six bowlers. The boutique lanes go for $60 per hour. In either case, shoe rental is included. Both levels feature a bar as well as numerous seating and dining areas, all of which are available for private parties.
Rental opportunities for personal or professional gatherings abound in nooks such as the Catwalk Lounge ($150 an hour) and the Mezzano ($75 an hour). Four boutique lanes and adjacent seating – AKA  the Uptown Lounge -- runs $300 an hour. The entire facility can be had for $1,500 an hour. Staff can accommodate most groups. Food and beverages are not included in hourly pricing.
For tighter budgets, a "Friends and Family Fun Pack" is available for limited hours and includes two hours of bowling, two pizzas, sodas and shoe rental for up to six people. Lessick hopes to add other promotional events such as College I.D. Night in the future.
Until then, affordable drinks include happy hour pricing ($2 for PBR Tall Boys, $5 mini-margaritas), but lead bartender Jason Rutushin also promises delights such as house sangria, vodka infused in-house in oak barrels full up with peppers, olives and pickles for a custom Corner Alley Bloody Mary, and a host of handcrafted cocktails.
"Everything is made from scratch," adds culinary director Todd DiCillo of the kitchen's offerings. "Everything is slow roasted and hand pulled." He sources his ingredients locally whenever possible, and then whips them into dishes such as baked polenta points with roasted peppers and sausages (app, $10) and braised osso bucco ragout with rigatoni and pork shank (entrée, $17). Pizzas and sandwiches go for $10 to $12. The menu also features salads, sides, deserts and kids' plates.
Other amenities will include air hockey, a pool table, modern and vintage video games (Pac-Man, Asteroids), tabletop shuffleboard, a pinball machine and 37 televisions. Picnic table seating and two outdoor fire pits round out the spacious Euclid Avenue patio, where guests are welcome to people watch while sipping wine or a bourbon and berries cocktail. Valet parking is available, but Lessick also recommends the nearby Ford Garage or the Uptown North Station Pay Station Lot, which is directly behind the venue.
MRN Ltd., owned by the Maron family, is the developer and lead contractor on the entire mixed-use complex at the corner of Euclid Avenue and Ford Drive, which houses the likes of Cleveland Yoga, Constantino's Market and Cleveland Institute of Art students, although the dorms above will be shielded from the din of Corner Alley with soundproof building materials.
The area has undergone significant transformation over the years.
"This was called 'Hessler beach' right here," recalls MRN Hospitality Group's food, beverage and events director, Christine Connell, "with all the old hippies laying around without their tops on. The Tudor Arms was Job Corps, and it was really in bad shape." Connell moved from Manhattan to University Circle in 1992 and has worked with MRN since 1997.
Alternative dress codes of yesteryear notwithstanding, Chef DiCillo sums up the energy of the place.
"We just want people to be able to have a nice wine, have a nice entrée, and then look up and see a group of kids bowling. I think that's really fun."

78th street studios welcomes four tenants on new ramp level, anticipates arrival of artneo

Third Friday at 78th Street Studios is always a unique event, but this month's installment will include the grand opening of the new 20,000-square-foot "ramp level."
Four galleries have already moved into the new space and will be ready to dazzle attendees this Friday. In spaces that range from 1000 to 1500 square feet, the new tenants include The Nine 5 Gallery, an industrial art space; the Byzantine, which features eclectic home goods; Northcoast Promotions, an artisan craft market; and the second location for Hartshorn Studios, which has been at its Tremont storefront, 2334 Professor Avenue, since 2007.
"We absolutely love Tremont," says Hartshorn artist and gallery manager Lila Kole, "but we also wanted to be in a place where we have close access to lots of other peoples' ideas and artwork and kind of be working together in a hive."
"We want to sort of connect these growing areas," adds gallery owner and principal artist Rob Hartshorn of Cleveland's expanding art scene.
Dan Bush purchased the 170,000-square-foot complex on 78th in 2001. With the four new tenants, the studios now boast nearly 50 businesses. The newly opened ramp level features two suites, with an event venue and plenty of room for additional studios.
"We've got a ton of demand," says Bush of the space, which opened up when longtime tenant Grossman Inc. vacated in February of this year. "We hope to have at least another 15 businesses in the building by the end of 2015."
ARTneo, formerly the Cleveland Artist Foundation, will be occupying 2,500 square feet on the ramp level in early 2015 and will be programming an adjacent 5,000-square-foot gallery part of the year, while the rest of the building will direct shows and content for the balance. ARTneo is moving from their long-standing home at the Beck Center for the Arts.
"They've outgrown us; we've outgrown them," says Bush, who is also an ARTneo board member. "It's all a very good serendipity."
The ramp level grand opening will go one hour beyond the usual 5 – 9 p.m. Third Friday time slot, with festivities extending to 10 p.m. and including strolling accordion player Ralph Szubski, guitarist Victor Samalot, the ever-fabulous Lounge Kitty and a yet-to-be-announced neighborhood pub selling nibbles.
The Nov. 21 happening will also feature the opening reception for A Great Joy: The Women's Art Club of Cleveland 1912-2006. ARTneo and Dr. Lawrence Waldman are co-curating the show, which will be held in Suite 215, the site's pop-up shop on the second floor through Jan 17.

university circle transportation study: 'we have enough parking, but it needs to be easier to use'

While that quote comes from Chris Bongorno, transportation planning manager for University Circle Inc. (UCI), he is quick to point out that the complex parking situation in University Circle cannot be summed up in a single sentence. He also readily admits that the major thrust of the study's findings—that the existing 37,000 parking spaces in the University Circle area are sufficient in an aggregate sense—will likely raise some eyebrows.
"That will instigate a lot of reaction because that's not the perception or reality to some people," he says.
Although the findings of the District Parking Study, which is part of the larger Moving Greater University Circle Transportation and Mobility Study are still in the draft stage and not yet publicly available, Bongorno gave Fresh Water a fascinating insight into this otherwise utilitarian topic and the study's results.
"Where there are (parking) constraints is during peak times," he says, adding that identifying different parking supply and demand markets is critical. Rather than building more expensive parking garages that do not command sufficient revenue to cover the associated debt, says Bongorno, the informed option is to "find more creative ways to coordinate management and use of existing facilities."
He cites the Veteran's Administration Medical Center's two large garages, which are near peak use during the day, but no so at other times. "In the evenings, they make those garages available to the public," he says, which is convenient for attendees of events such as Wade Oval Wednesdays.
That's easy enough to understand. Who hasn't looked on with frustration at a No parking. Violators will be towed sign in front of a desolate office building parking lot on a Sunday? Hence, with 15 different organizations in the University Circle area giving 15 different messages about how to park and get around, there is significant room for coordinated efforts.
"This is not something that would be easily achieved," concedes Bongorno, adding that parking lot owners have reasons why they want to manage their own facilities, but that it can be done. He cites the recent transformation of Uptown, where surface lots were replaced with dense and dynamic mixed-use development. Getting UCI, University Hospitals and Case Western Reserve University to commit to shared-use of their area garages was instrumental in obtaining zoning variances for the new projects, which eliminated parking spaces and incurred more users.
"That's worked there," says Bongorno. However challenges persist, particularly with communication. People can't always find those spaces, which is often a problem with transportation management and will be addressed at large as the project proceeds.
A $100,000 Transportation for Livable Communities Initiative Planning Grant from the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency is funding the study, along with matching contributions from private philanthropic partners. Phase two, the Transportation and Mobility Study, began in September and is scheduled for completion in early 2015. Work on the final phase of the study, the Transportation Management Implementation Plan, will begin in spring 2015. Nelson\Nygaard, which specializes in developing transportation communities, is the lead consultant on the project.
"They're really experienced in multi-modal transportation planning around the world," says Bongorno, noting that they've done work in Pittsburgh, Boston, Philadelphia and Detroit.
Evoking the image of enormous parking lots surrounding malls or big box stores that are often half empty, Bongorno asserts, "We can't build for the day after Thanksgiving. That's not the type of district that we want. We want a district that is very efficiently using its existing assets while maintaining and promoting a walkable and very vibrant 24/7 district."
Another goal of the project is, ironically, invisible results.
"We don't want people who go to MOCA or the museums or Piccadilly to say anything about their experience driving there or parking. That's not part of their memorable experience. We want it to be about what they saw, who they ran into, and how that ice cream tasted.

"We want transportation to be out of the conversation unless they're saying how easy it was."
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