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Six Shooter Coffee coming to Waterloo

Peter Brown, proprietor of Six Shooter Coffee will move his bean-roasting operation from Miles Road in Cleveland to the corner of East 161st Street and Waterloo Road in the Collinwood neighborhood. Like so many proprietors of days gone by, he'll be living above the 900-square-foot shop, which will also house a storefront café.
"It's very old school and it's very efficient," says Brown, adding that the arrangement will allow him to focus solely on his fledgling venture. "I feel like that's the safest way to make the business work."
Scalish Construction is the contractor on the job and Cindy Wan is the architect. Northeast Shores Development Corporation is also assisting with the build out. The budget is confidential, although Brown did receive a grant, also confidential, from the Small Business Association.
Brown plans to have two hourly employees and a store manager, with tentative hours from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the week and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends. The café will have bar seating along the front windows facing Waterloo and a few tables, accommodating between 26 to 36 customers. Six Shooter will be open as early as September and, Brown vows, no later than October.
The shop will offer an array of coffee options including pour overs, lattes, cappuccinos and espressos, with classic drip coffee for those in a rush. But however his customers prefer it, Brown takes his brew seriously.
"If you can think about coffee like some people think about wine, where different regions provide different flavor profiles," he says, "that's the approach that we're taking to coffee and I roast it to accentuate where it comes from." He describes one of his current batches from Bali as having notes of dark chocolate, pear and wafer.
With joe that lofty, it will come as no surprise that flavored syrups will be limited to chocolate, vanilla and honey.
"Personally, I am a purist," says Brown, "but I recognize that people like what they like."
A small menu will include items baked strictly off site, as the kitchen area at Six Shooter will be dedicated to bean roasting. Poison Berry Bakery, a purveyor of vegan treats, will be one of the food suppliers, although Brown may add others.
Six Shooter Coffee is also available The Grocery in Ohio City and Brown has a tentative agreement with Whole Foods to offer his beans in their forthcoming Rocky River store.
So, what's the story behind the name?
"I'm a little bit of a history buff," says Brown. "LBJ had a ranch where he served coffee and he called it 'six shooter coffee.'" Also, Brown's friends have been known to call him Pistol Pete.
"So it's a little bit of a nod to history and a little bit of a play on my name."
Brown is putting out a call to local artists interested in displaying their work at Six Shooter to contact him at for a possible commission/sale arrangement. He is available at 614-361-2437 or sixshootercoffee@gmail.com.


Artcraft Building to be reborn as office space

The Artcraft Building, 2530-2570 Superior Avenue, which is beloved amongst the art set for its gritty appeal and inexpensive urban studio space, is about to undergo a major facelift. The building changed hands last year from the Roy Group to Global X as part of a larger real estate portfolio deal.
The renovations will include the installation of all new windows and a complete overhaul of the HVAC system, which is currently powered by steam heat.
"It must be the most energy inefficient building in northeast Ohio," says Global X's chief investment officer Timm Judson, "so we're going to change all that."
Other upgrades will include façade work (cleaning and tuck pointing), new exterior lighting, interior structural changes, restoration of the water tower, which is still used for the building's sprinkler system, a new security system, a yet-to-be-determined parking expansion and a refresh of all the common areas including the 26 bathrooms, which will be stripped down to the studs and completely redone.
"They are in desperate need," says Judson. "The tenants are pretty excited about that."
Whether or not they'll be around to enjoy the new bathrooms, however, is another matter.
"We're trying to keep a lid on rental increases," says Judson, "but there will be rental increases. We've spoken to the tenants about that. Some will stay; some will go." Judson was short on specifics, saying that the financial model is still in the planning stage, but he does see rents moving up in phases, "so everyone's not sticker shocked." Currently, approximately two-thirds of the 265,000-square-foot building is occupied.
One thing that will not change is the hand-operated elevators.
"That was one of the truly charming features of the building that the tenants seem to love," says Judson, adding that the elevator operators will continue "being a part of the fabric of the building."
Global X has budgeted $16 to $18 million for the project. "We'll be using federal historic tax credits, applying for state credits, and then we'll be using a mix of traditional and incentive based financing." Sandvick Architects are the historical advisors on the project with Vocon as the primary architect. The contractor is Marous Brothers. Judson hopes to begin work by early December. After that, milestone dates are tentative.
"We just don't know what our timeline looks like right now," says Judson, adding that some "fairly large space users" have expressed interest in the refurbished class B+ offices. "We can't make any promises on delivering space, but we're getting close."
Global X will be moving its own offices from 1303 Prospect Avenue into a 20,000-square-foot space in the Artcraft in the summer of 2016—depending on how things go with the Republican National Convention.
"We don't know how complicated that will be," says Judson. "So it may be that we wait until that event has passed."
With residential development the reigning king in metropolitan Cleveland, the Artcraft project begs the question, why office space?
"We've gone through a couple of different plans and iterations," says Judson, which included everything from gutting the building down to the columns to a residential build-out, but Global X eventually settled on offices.
"Our thinking was, with all of these office buildings being converted to residential, all those displaced tenants and businesses need some place to go and there's not a whole lot downtown in quality B+ space."
While the Artcraft project will be Global X's first foray into the once-derided and now booming section of Superior Avenue, it will not be it's last. The organization has amassed a number of properties in the Campus District, plans for which are still highly tentative.
"There are a couple of other buildings on (Superior) Avenue that we have our eye on," says Judson. "You don't want to get into an area after it's become really hot because then you're going to pay through the nose," he adds. "We just need to get our arms around what we're doing to do with these buildings. We're taking them one at a time."

Upscale Innova apartments are filling fast

On June 1, residents began moving into Innova at 10001 Chester Avenue. The ultra-luxury apartments are attracting a diverse array of tenants with 177 new units ranging from 512 to 1,120 square feet. Named after rock stars (the Daltrey, Mercury, Bowie and Vedder), rents for the studio, one- and two-bedroom units start at $995 and top out at $2,600. Thus far, 67 units are occupied; another 10 or so are reserved.
"We probably have another 15-20 applications out on top of that," says Lori Reynolds, regional property manager for the Finch Group, which owns and manages eight properties in Cleveland. The 705-square-foot one-bedroom units and studios are already gone.
"Those were sold out in March," says Reynolds, adding that about four two-bedroom apartments remain along with a number of 802-square-foot one-bedroom units.
Amenities in each unit include full size appliances, a wall hook up for a flat screen television and USB outlets in every room.
"You can basically plug and play in any room," Reynolds says. 
The building features a 2,300-square-foot fitness center and a recreation center of the same size. The rec space houses a full kitchen including cabinetry made by Rustbelt Reclamation. Fire pits and lounge seating dot the Sky Deck, which has two 80-inch televisions and a large grilling space. Access to everything is included in the rent. The recreation center, however, can be reserved for private parties for a fee.
Twenty-four hour concierge services include everything from dog walking to dry cleaning pick up. Grocery delivery from Presto Fresh is free for orders of $50 or more.
"If they place their order by 7 a.m.," says Reynolds, "they'll get it the same day. If not, it will be there early the next day."
Construction on the $42 million project started in early 2014 and is essentially complete. While free surface parking is available for residents now, future plans include a three-story 100-space garage, which will have a separate fee. In the rear of the building, a community garden awaits eager hands and locked bike storage is available as well.
Each apartment may be home to two pets. Dogs under 80 pounds and cats are allowed. Also in the rear of the building, a dog park is all but complete.
"We're adding a drinking fountain for the pups," says Reynolds.
The Finch Group prides itself in top shelf service. For Innova residents, that service includes extras such as complimentary wine and hors d'oeuvres from 5 to 7 p.m. on Fridays in the lobby. On Saturdays from 8 to 10 a.m., a light breakfast is served in the same space.
Tenants hail from Cleveland, Parma and Brunswick, as well as Saudi Arabia, England and Thailand. They are professionals, students and hospital employees.
"We do offer incentives to employees of Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals as well as Case Western Reserve University students," says Reynolds. However, she is mysterious about yet another group of future residents.
"We have 22,000 square feet of retail space on the first floor," says Reynolds. "We are in talks with a national drug store, a local restaurant, a small eatery and some office space." Reynolds would not disclose further details on the push for commercial tenants other than to say, "we're close with that."

Soda fountain expansion coming to b. a. Sweetie Candy Company

Still basking in the success of his company's move and expansion earlier this year from Brooklyn to Cleveland, Thomas Scheiman, president of b. a. Sweetie Candy Company, is looking forward to what he calls the most exciting project of his career: Sweeties Soda Shoppe, which is slated to open October 25.
"It will be our own recipes," says Scheiman of the future ice cream offerings. "There'll be a lot of testing going on in October."
With 5,100 square feet of space, the new soda fountain will be a far cry from the quaint storefront operations of yesteryear. Scheiman expects to add 16 people to his existing staff of 43 in order to man the new 150-seat establishment. Sweeties Soda Shop will be adjacent to the staggering 40,000-square-foot candy store and Golfland, a miniature golf course that is also part of the growing Sweetie campus at 6770 Brookpark Road.
The new space will feature a party room that will seat 50 and have a dividing wall to accommodate two concurrent parties of up to 25 attendees each. This will significantly expand the outdoor party accommodations available seasonally at Golfland. The business end of the soda shop will be an "open kitchen concept," with windows showcasing employees preparing toppings and mixing and freezing the ice cream.
"You'll be able to see everything," says Scheiman.
With the addition of the soda shop, he sees the Sweetie campus as a perfect family destination spot, with a host of fun options including a leisurely stroll through the candy store's 14 aisles, a round of miniature golf and then a stop at the soda shop for a sundae, cone or float.
"They can make a half a day out of this," says Scheiman.
Fogg is the general contractor on the job. Chroma Design is doing the interior design. Both firms are local, which is something Scheiman strives for. To that end, he notes the store's acrylic candy bins come from HP Manufacturing on Carnegie Avenue and the shelving racks are supplied by Ohio Wholesale.
The campus is approximately five acres. While the candy store was a new construction, the soda shop will occupy a building that was built in the early 1980's and originally housed a restaurant, then a video arcade and most recently a church. Scheiman purchased the property in January 2012. The golf course was also existing, but had been shuttered. Cost for the multi-faceted and privately funded project is confidential, but Scheiman describes it as "an incredible amount of money."
Scheiman bought the candy company in 1982 when it was called Bag of Sweets and employed just four people in a 1,200-square-foot space that offered no retail sales. This is the company's third major move and expansion since then.
"Foot traffic is up 45 percent," says Scheiman, adding that Sweeties is on track to see 400,000 people come through its doors this year, up from 260,000 last year at the previous location, 7480 Brookpark Road. He credits the 40-foot lollipop beckoning travelers on Interstate 480 and the colorful sign on Brookpark for at least some of the added business. BNext Awning & Graphics of Cleveland supplied both.
"This already is a destination," says Scheiman of Cleveland's largest candy store, noting that the sweetest part of the job isn't necessarily sampling the stock. "It's so rewarding to see families together doing something that is really cool."

Mayor reveals Oatey's best kept secret during groundbreaking ceremony

Last Thursday beneath threatening skies, Oatey hosted a groundbreaking ceremony at the Emerald Corporate Park off Grayton Road near Interstate 480 in Cleveland.
The 99-year-old company, which offers more than 6,000 plumbing products, paid $1.35 million for 7.6 acres at the site, on which it intends to build a two-story 43,500-square-foot building that will house its headquarters. Construction is slated for completion next year. Donley's is the contractor on the project, while Vocon is the architectural firm on the LEED certified design. Oatey will keep its three other Cleveland area locations open, two of which are on West 160th Street. The other is on Industrial Parkway.
During last week's groundbreaking event, Martin J. Sweeney, representing the 14th District in the Ohio House of Representatives, touted the company's commitment to the city and environmental responsibility.
"They were green before anybody else was green," said Sweeney of Oatey, noting how the company transformed a retention basin adjacent to its warehouse into a natural preserve that's a haven for migrating birds. "They should be commended on many different levels."
Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish mused over the company's success, which he attributed to "a product line right out of professional wresting," adding that products such as Haymaker TMSizzle TMMegaloc TM, "and my personal favorite, the Sludgehammer TM" are bound to be successful.
While Budish's comments drew laughs, Mayor Frank Jackson drew attention to a facet of the Oatey operation that has little to do with its formidable Iron Grip TM products or Knock-Out TM test caps, but says a great deal about the company as a member of the community.
"When I visited the company," said Jackson, "I ran across a group of developmentally disabled employees who were the happiest employees I ever saw. They were happy because the Oatey company had given them an opportunity."
That program, which Oatey runs in collaboration with the United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) Association of Cleveland, has been in place for more than two decades. It currently employs approximately 20, with 12 doing light manufacturing and between eight and 10 in the distribution facility. They work six hours a day, every day.
"They actually help us out a lot," said vice president of operations Kevin Ellman, adding that the company recently invested $20,000 to upgrade the group's work area with ergonometric chairs and tables. "They do a lot of light assembly and they're very valuable to our workforce."
Oatey currently employs approximately 385, with plans to add up to 80 more jobs over the next four years, thereby increasing payroll by $3.8 million annually. Those new jobs and the projected overall investment in the new build garnered an incentive package from the city that includes a 70 percent tax abatement and a Job Creation Incentive Grant. Oatey has committed to stay in Cleveland for at least 10 years.
As for the UCP program, Ellman said talk is underway to expand it into the new headquarters with some office workers. Until then, he notes how the group offers a subtler benefit that reaffirms Mayor Jackson's comments.
"Whenever I'm in a bad mood or I'm not having a good day," said Ellman, "I go right down to that work cell and I talk to them. They're always positive. They just uplift me."

Cafe Miami reopens in Old Brooklyn with new menu, owner

Café Miami, 4517 State Road, which Yelpers have deemed a "best kept secret" and neighborhood "gem," is back in business with a new owner after having been closed since January. The path that brought Mariela Paz to Cleveland, however, was anything but linear in both a professional and geographic sense.
Less than two years ago, Paz was the head graphic designer for a silkscreening company in Miami. Prior to immigrating to the United States in 2001, she was a marketing manager for a bank, television channel and real estate development firm in Honduras.
"I have a bachelor's degree in media and advertising," notes Paz.
But in fall of 2013, she was looking for a change and decided to come to Cleveland, which her sister and mother call home.
"Why not?" recalls Paz of her response when her family urged her to move. The change seemed uncomplicated. "I just had my dog and two love birds." She had also been to Cleveland several times over the years and was enamored of the area, particularly Café Miami's Old Brooklyn environs. "I love this neighborhood," says the uterine cancer survivor, adding that the staff and services at Metro are top notch.
Opportunities for the graphic designer, however, were slim to zero, so she took a job in home health care to get by.
"I'm not afraid to work," says Paz. "As long as it's work, I'm proud of that."
But she couldn't make ends meet, and by February, she was ready to throw in the towel and move back to Miami. Then she had a conversation with the previous owner of Café Miami, Larry Fields.
"I believe everything happens for a reason," says Paz, and when she realized that proprietorship was within her grasp, "I started crying. Café Miami--that's the place that I want."
So she struck a deal with Fields, got her vendor's license, designed a new logo and opened the doors in April. Thus far, business has been brisk with a diverse customer base, although Paz hopes to launch an advertising campaign soon.
Hours are Tuesday through Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with extended hours on Friday evenings. Paz has added a coffee station and other equipment and has brightened the charming and eclectic space, which seats 35 to 40, with flowers and pieces of her art. She's also updated the menu.
"The Tropi Chop is one of my favorites," she says. The dish features yellow rice, choice of grilled chicken or pork, black beans, pico de gallo and curry sauce. Other items include a go-to breakfast selection, empanadas, baked sweet plantains and a Cubano sandwich.
"I've cooked since I was a little girl," says Paz. "Cooking is art. Cooking is passion. Everything I do, I do with passion."
Paz plans to add more commercial equipment and is working on a permit to import Honduran coffee. Currently she relies on traveling family members to bring her the signature Cafe Don Maury, with which she brews a heavenly Cuban Latte so rich and creamy, it blows the crown off of that Starbucks mermaid. She also wants to add small tables with umbrellas out front. But mostly, she aims to make Café Miami her signature spot, and become a stalwart member of the Old Brooklyn community.
"I'm so happy," says Paz. "I think I will stay here in Cleveland for a long time. I like this place. I love this place."

Mountain bike pump track coming to South Euclid

As early as the end of this month, kids and adults alike will be zooming around a series of dirt rollers and berms known within the mountain bike set as a "pump track." It will be the first public outdoor facility of its kind in northeast Ohio.
"There's just no where in the whole area west of I-271 and south of I-90 where kids can go out and ride their bikes," says Austin Woolley, co-founder of the driving organization behind the project, East Side Cycles (ESC), and a third year medical student at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU). Bexley Park, 4149 Temple Road, in South Euclid will be the site of the track.
"Pump tracks are great because they're a safe course for kids to ride," says Woolley, adding that tykes as young as three or four love the tracks, which are not designed for pedaling, but for managing momentum with your whole body by pumping the bike. "It's safe because the rollers are a foot to foot and a half tall," he adds. "It's very gradual."
ESC has thus far raised $3,000 towards the project's estimated $5,700 cost ($5,000 for construction and $700 for signage) via a donation drive sponsored by the group's fiscal sponsor One South Euclid and a Crowdrise campaign.
Woolley and ESC co-founder Brady Tucker, who is a second year medical student at CWRU, wanted to follow the school's tradition of serving the community in healthy and inventive ways. They started talking about the project in February and enlisted the expertise of South Euclid housing inspector Dan Subwick, who was instrumental in bringing a community garden to fruition. Early talks with Mayor Georgine Welo, other city officials and community members went well.
"Everything we've heard--and we’ve heard a lot--has been extremely positive," says Woolley.
The track will be 55 by 85 square feet. Nature's Landscape and Design is the contractor on the job, which is a tricky one, notes Woolley.
"You have to put the whole thing on a grade so that water runs off and doesn't pool up between rollers," he says. "If you do it wrong, it gets destroyed quickly."
Physics plays a large part as well.
"When you start construction, you have to get on your bike and make sure everything flows right and make adjustments." To that end, staffers from Ray's Mountain Bike Park have committed to help out with test riding during the build out. 
The track will be free and open to the public during park hours. Woolley sees the amenity as not only a fun place for mountain bikers of all skill levels, but also as a host site for bike clinics and a mecca for cycling groups and clubs.
"Once the track is built, it will be a nice place where cycling organizations can meet up and hold events and feel like they have more of a place in the community."


Local realty firm wins national recognition as 2015 Green Lease Leader

NEO Realty Group, LLC, does not tout itself as one of the area's largest or most influential real estate firms.
"We're a local company," says Brant Smith, a managing broker for NEO. "We're in secondary markets," he adds, tagging Lakewood, Akron, Willoughby and Mentor. "We're in small- to medium-sized buildings." Most of the rental spaces the firm manages are 1,000 to 5,000 square feet.
Operating on a smaller scale, however, hasn't stopped NEO from applying comprehensive energy savings strategies that garnered the attention of the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT) and the U.S. Department of Energy's Better Buildings Alliance, which designated NEO as a 2015 Green Lease Leader at the Better Buildings Summit in Washington, D. C., earlier this year.
Green lease?
"A green lease is an energy aligned lease that tries to bring together different concepts and ideas related to sustainability and energy efficiency," explains Smith,
Components include paying close attention during build outs and upgrades by using low VOC paints (think lower odor), window films, reflective roofing, flooring approved by the Forest Stewardship Council, LED and fluorescent lighting systems that adjust when natural light is abundant, low flow commodes and faucets and perhaps most importantly, highly efficient heating and cooling systems monitored by digital systems that adjust heating and cooling when spaces are unused.
"You start combining those things and they really do add up," says Smith, noting that NEO often tracks energy savings of 30 to 40 percent.
Those numbers aren't pulled from the air. NEO has partnered with New Ecologix LLC, which performs energy audits and analyses on the firm's spaces. They use the resulting figures to construct clauses in leases that outline energy saving commitments from both the tenant and the landlord. Industry insiders refer to the practice as overcoming split-incentives.
An explanation per the IMT:

"Traditional leases separate costs in a way that discourages landlord and tenant collaboration, while creating what is known as the 'split-incentive' problem: landlords have no incentive to improve the energy efficiency of their building, while tenants bear the brunt of wasteful and poorly performing building systems (AC, heating, etc.).

With a modern, green lease, both landlord and tenant have incentives to invest in long-term, energy-efficient solutions. These sorts of investments are what you would see in today’s modern, green trophy office buildings."

Smith believes that NEO's efforts to quantify green practice and adopt green policy by way of their leases is what set the firm apart and helped to garner the 2015 Green Lease Leader designation.
"They were intrigued and impressed by what we were doing here in a secondary market in the Midwest with small- to medium-sized businesses," says Smith.
For an example, Smith points to the firm's centerpiece holding, the historic 1923 Detroit Warren Building in Lakewood. How does he view the challenge of transforming a nearly 100-year-old building into a green property?
"It's a huge opportunity," says Smith. And one NEO has taken hearty advantage of: the firm has reduced common area utility usage by 41 percent courtesy of upgrades to the lighting and HVAC systems and elevators.
Smith and the NEO team, however, view their green aspirations on a broader scale.
"Having good community relations and maintaining our buildings so we add to the vitality and livability of the cities we're in, that's the people side of it, the social side of it. It's a fundamental core part of our business," says Smith, adding that NEO aims to nurture the "triple bottom line" of people, planet and profit.
"We don’t view ourselves as landlords. We view ourselves as stakeholders in the community."


National firm keeps it local, settles in above Platform Brewery

Last month, Payscape Cleveland finally moved into a proper space.
"We were homeless for about a year and two months," laments local Payscape district manager Jerry Hammer. That mournful status, however, was not the result of bad financial decisions and rampant spending habits.
Hammer, who founded Payscape's Cleveland office five years ago, and his staff occupied a 1,300-square-foot office space at 27629 Chagrin Boulevard for about three and a half years. As the operation expanded, Hammer sought out a bigger space and thought he'd found it in Ohio City. But alas, after working on a deal for seven months, moving into the space adjacent to Phoenix Coffee on Bridge Avenue just wasn't meant to be.
"Some issues happened that were out of our control," says Hammer. Hence for 14 months, Payscape, which offers payment technology solutions to small- and mid-sized businesses, relied on the benevolence of fellow area businesses.
"Phoenix Coffee was our friend," says Hammer, also tagging Skylight Financial Group, which offered up their space for Payscape's Monday morning meetings.
When the space above Platform Beer Co. became available, Hammer snapped it up. The firm moved into the 2,000-square-foot space last month and just in time. Hammer expects to double his sales staff of seven by year's end and is also in the process of hiring between eight and 11 additional staff members to populate the technology/development side of the business under newly hired chief technology officer Douglas Hardman, formerly of SparkBase, the Cleveland based gift and loyalty card software platform company. All of this means even more expansion within the second floor offices at 4125 Lorain Avenue.
"Within six months," says Hammer, "we're looking to take over the entire floor, which is about 4,100 square feet."
Payscape is headquartered in Atlanta with 13 other offices nationwide. That larger presence, however, does not diminish Hammer's passion for keeping his operation keenly focused on being local.
"Everyone that I've hired is based here or grew up here," says Hammer of his staff. Furthermore, while under the Payscape banner, his operation is independently owned, designated in the industry as an ISO (independent sales organization).
Hammer's northeast Ohio ties also go back for generations. Before launching the Payscape venture in Cleveland, he worked for his family's wine distribution company, Hammer Wine Company, where he interacted closely with the local hospitality industry. Hence, it's no surprise that Platform Beer Co. is not only a neighbor, but a client as well. That partnership has its benefits.
"We can take clients downstairs and do a networking event," says Hammer. "It's a good vibe and a cool place to be." He also touts the location's proximity to Downtown and the West Side. And while he's all about local, Hammer has cast his eyes south with plans to open offices in Columbus and Cincinnati that would be formal Payscape operations, but would be under the wing of the Cleveland office, which he describes as the Payscape "headquarters for Ohio."
"We are here to help small- to medium-sized businesses save money and help them get their money faster," says Hammer, adding that despite Payscape's national profile, his operation maintains a smaller local feel.  
"For how big our company is, locally, we are small," says Hammer. "We are competing against the big guys outside of Ohio." Making face-to-face relationships with his clients a priority is one of the ways he edges out the larger operations.
"How we treat our clients here locally is important to us."

Ten takeaways from the latest Towpath Trail announcement

Last Friday at Scranton Flats, a host of local dignitaries touted a $700,000 Clean Ohio Fund grant that will enable the construction of Stage 3 of the Towpath Trail through Cleveland.
The Towpath Trail project has been ongoing for decades, but as it moves forward through dense urban terrain, it becomes more and more complex and difficult to understand. Hence, we offer up the following bullet points to help clarify the status of this growing urban treasure.
1. There are four stages to the Towpath Trail project in Cleveland, which are not coming online in a numerical or geographically linear progression.
2. The work announced Friday will include 1.9 miles of new trail from the northern end of the complete Stage 2/Steelyard Commons trail loop at Quigley Road to the intersection of University and Literary Roads in Tremont. Scheduled completion date: 2017.
3. The $700,000 Clean Ohio grant is part of a complex $43 million finance package for all four stages that includes various federal and state funds as well as $27.5 million in support from the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA).
4. Although not associated with any of the stages, Scranton Flats is another completed section of Cleveland's Towpath Trail. The recently opened Cleveland Foundation Centennial Trail (formerly the Lake Link Trail) is not officially part of the Towpath Trail, although it does connect to it at Scranton Flats*.
5. Stage 1 will eventually connect the Harvard Road trailhead (just west of Alcoa) to the Steelyard Commons loop in 2019. Until then, you have to travel via Harvard and Jennings Avenues to link the two trails.
6. To get from the Steelyard Commons loop to Scranton Flats, you're back on grade via Quigley, West 14th Street and Kenilworth Avenue (or you could cut over via Clark Avenue) to Scranton Road. This route will be replaced by Stage 3 (2017) and Stage 4  (2018).
7. Here is the simplest map showing those on-road connections and complete and planned trails/stages.
8. When you enter the Harvard Road trailhead, you are at the northern terminus of some 85 miles of completed shared use trail that goes straight through to New Philadelphia, Ohio.
9. The finished trail network is aptly described by Richard Kerber, chief planning and design officer at Cleveland Metroparks, as a pedestrian "interstate or freeway—the highest class of off-road trail."
10. What trail users will not likely notice as the miles unfurl before them is the Herculean effort that brought this remarkable amenity to fruition and the staggering collaborations between all the cities and counties (Cuyahoga, Summit, Stark, Tuscarawas) the trail traverses, an array of local and county park systems, the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD), Canalway Partners, corporations, private residents, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP), the Ohio & Erie Canalway, the state of Ohio and a host of organizations that while too numerous to list, were all key pieces in the larger puzzle.
Lastly, a suggested activity while you wait for these few remaining urban trail connections to be complete. The following nearly two-mile stroll will take your breath away. Every view is worthy of a camera and then some. This simple loop will also connect you with your city: where it's been, where it is and where it's going. So queue up Google maps if you haven’t already, and follow along.
Get your person down to Scranton Flats and get on that trail that hugs the river. Head south, up the incline. Go right at the fork in the trail and over the two pedestrian bridges (you're on the *Lake Link Trail, by the way). When you reach the trail's end at the intersection of Franklin Avenue and Columbus Road, turn right and walk over the Columbus Road Bridge. Continue north on Columbus to Center Street and take a right. Go on up the hill and take a right to head over the Carter Road Bridge. Then go left toward the defunct Eagle Street Bridge and take a moment to consider that massive iconic structure.
You ought to be at the northern tip of Scranton Flats, which is where you started.
So go on: take a hike. Cleveland's waiting for you.


Old-school face time stars at West 25th Street gaming cafe

Although Shiva Risner has had a lease in hand for Tabletop Board Game Café, 1810 West 25th Street, since last August, the much-anticipated opening of the old-school-meets-hip venue wasn't until last Friday, when all the snafus were finally behind her.
"The roughest moment was when we were ready to get construction started," says Risner, "and we found out we didn't have the right zoning."
Nail biting ensued, but after compromising with the zoning board over parking and having the appropriate hearings, Shiva and partners Michael and Brady Risner (who is also her husband) were able to get the zoning changed from a retail to restaurant designation.
The newly renovated 2,000-square-foot space seats 68. The build out, which started in late January, included installation of ADA compliant bathrooms, a small prep kitchen and a bar. Shiva and her co-owners did as much work as possible, including building the bar, painting, and installing trim among other tasks. Casey Graor of CNG Construction LLC, however, did the heavy work.
"He's the only contractor I ever met who is always on time and always picks up his phone," says Risner. "That was very refreshing for us."
While privately financed, the project garnered $9,500 in Kickstarter support. Risner also got two storefront grants, one from the city of Cleveland and another from Ohio City Inc. Each were $3,000 for a total of $6,000. Signature Sign Co. constructed the signs for Tabletop, which will initially have two full-time and 10 part-time employees.
Hours are from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Admission is free before 3 p.m. on weekdays and $5 after 3 p.m. on weekdays and on weekends.
Upwards of a thousand games, from Kingdom Builder (one of Risner's favorites) to Connect Four, are ready for play. There's no check out policy or limit on gaming; patrons are invited to pluck a game from the shelves and have at it. In between moves, Tabletop staff will be offering up nibbles such as the Avocado Bravado Sandwich and Buff Chick Dip.
"It's our house made Buffalo chicken cheese dip," says Risner. "It's comfort food: indulgent and delicious." She recommends washing it down with a Left Hand Milk Stout or a Fine Dog 60 Minute IPA, although she advises, "We are going to be changing beers a lot."
Risner, a 2014 Bad Girl Ventures graduate, describes herself as someone who's "bounced from one thing to another," with stints studying biology and law. She even took the bar exam.
"I kept finding all these things were not for me," she says. "I did want to do something of my own, and have ownership."
Then at her bachelorette party in Toronto, she found it. The group of 12 ladies went to Snakes & Lattes Café, which Risner describes as "the most successful board game café in North America." She watched on as everyone in her party started to, well, have a blast.
"The girls were different in age, different in interests. A lot of them didn't know one another," she says, but pretty soon, "Everyone was laughing. It set the pace for the rest of the weekend."
Hence, with a little nudge from her then-fiancé Brady, the idea for Tabletop was born.
"At first, it started with us just talking about it, but it's turned into a reality."
Now that it has, Risner hopes to cater to the local board game community, but she has loftier goals as well.
"We want to bring board games to the general public, maybe to people who wouldn't consider themselves avid board gamers. Board games are about social interaction," she says noting that old school face time is on the decline as our reliance on technology and social media grows.
"People don't realize what they've been missing," she says, hoping plenty of them will drop into her new Ohio City storefront and give gaming a shot.
"They really will have a great time."


New studios, listeners and partners for oWOW

During last week's Third Friday event at 78th Street Studios, oWOW, a professional Internet radio station launched earlier this year, held an open house for guests to tour their newly completed studio space. The operation was formerly housed in makeshift offices.
The paint was still drying, but oWOW founder John Gorman, the legendary machine behind WMMS's glory years, seemed pleased with the results.
"We wanted an area at least wide enough to ride a horse in," he quipped of the 1,600-square-foot space.
Work began shortly after oWOW launched in February. Steve Kibler was the general contractor. Mark Yager of Y Design, in collaboration with building owner Dan Bush, designed the space.
"They came up with this funky but chic design. They wanted it to be very cool, but they wanted it to reflect the building as well," said Jim Marchyshyn, director of sales and marketing, "We're really happy with it. Hopefully we'll grow into more space."
"If we have to, we'll go through the wall," added Gorman. Although no one was reaching for a sledgehammer just yet, the station is steadily growing.
"Each week we pick up more listeners," said Gorman," and the listeners stay. The biggest growth is between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Those people are listening at work, which is what we'd hoped to do. The majority of our audience is in Cleveland, Akron and Canton." The station, which runs live programming 12 hours a day, has eight full-time and four part-time employees.
"We have a lot of dedicated people that have put a lot of sweat equity in this," said Marchyshyn.
In addition to expanding its audience, oWOW has adopted a couple of mascots and partnered with other area arts and culture events such as the popular summer mainstay event Wade Oval Wednesdays. They've also welcomed Steve Bossin as director of business development. He's been tasked with maximizing advertising.
"He's got a lot of experience in Cleveland radio," said Marchyshyn.
The past months haven't been completely smooth. Early on, the staff realized its operating system, described by Marchyshyn as the "brain that controlled everything," wasn't as sophisticated as it needed to be. "It didn't work. We realized that very quickly," he said of the previous system, which he declined to name. The replacement, however, is an RCS system.
Hence, when Steve Pappas queues up the Led Zeppelin/James Brown mash-up "Whole Lotta Sex Machine," Springsteen's "Born to Run" and Murray Saul's notorious call to "get down" every Friday at 5 p.m., it all goes off without a hitch. 
"That signals to our audience," said Pappas, "it is officially the weekend."


Inviting transformation begins on East 22nd Street corridor

Last Friday, work began on the $4.3 million East 22nd Street improvement project. The effort will revitalize the nearly one-mile corridor between Orange and Euclid Avenues with new pavement; curb, drainage and sidewalk work; median improvements and new traffic signals. Upgrades will also include new streetscaping elements such as signage, benches, brick pavers, bike racks, trash receptacles, trees and shrubs.
The project is a collaboration between the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), the city of Cleveland and the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA). Road work is slated for completion this fall, with streetscaping amenities to be complete in the spring of 2016.
"East 22nd Street really will become our north/south 'Main Street,'" says Bobbi Reichtell, executive director at Campus District, Inc., noting how the project will improve the connection between Saint Vincent Charity Medical CenterCleveland State University, and Cuyahoga Community College.
"There are a lot of students that go between CSU and Tri-C. They take classes at both," she says. "It is literally a 12-minute walk. It's not a pleasant walk right now. It's barren and institutional. No one walks or bikes it."
Reichtell is confident that will change when bike lanes, greenery, neighborhood signs and public art created by local artist Augustus Turner are all in place.
"It's just going to be a much more pleasant experience for biking and walking," she says. "We expect to have many more walkers and bikers between CSU and Tri-C."
As usual, before Clevelanders see improvements they'll have to endure some orange barrels. East 22nd Street will be reduced to one lane of traffic in each direction between Orange and Carnegie Avenues. Between Carnegie and Euclid Avenues, which is already one-way northbound, traffic will be reduced to one lane. Motorists are advised to be aware of signal modifications during construction as well.
Ironically, this does not necessarily come as bad news to many within the Campus District, including Reichtell, who expresses as much with words rarely heard in Northeast Ohio. "We are so excited to see orange barrels," she says. "Even though it will bring short term pain, this is a long time in coming. We're finally getting what we've been asking for."

Two Lakewood transformations: from nuisance properties to market value homes

A stunning 1898 Victorian Gothic home at 1436 Grace Avenue along with a 1906 home at 1446 Mars Avenue have left a dubious past behind and are ready for their close-ups.
Back in the 1930s, both homes had been converted from single-family homes to boarding houses with multiple bedrooms. In recent years, they had become overcrowded and the subject of numerous police, fire and EMS calls.
"They were really pulling down both streets and devaluing properties," says Ian Andrews executive director of LakewoodAlive, adding that one person owned both parcels. In 2012, the city purchased them for a total of $200,000.
While city officials first considered demolition, they instead opted to enlist the nonprofit community development organization LakewoodAlive to investigate saving the structures. LakewoodAlive then turned to the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization.
"They have a track record and experience doing this exact kind of work," says Andrews, "where you take an abandoned property and rehab and renovate it and turn it into a beautiful market rate home." LakewoodAlive stayed on as the local development entity, overseeing and marketing the project.
"We were able to create a really great public/private partnership between the two nonprofits and the City of Lakewood," says Andrews of the collaboration that initially came together in May of 2013.
To kick off the marketing campaign, they brought on Jeff Marks, who works on historic home renovations, to tour the property and come up with some initial floor plans to give prospective buyers an idea of each property's potential.
"How do you take these beautiful homes that have been chopped up and return them to their prior splendor?" recalls Andrews. "With all the doors and walls, it was hard to visualize."
So with some potential floor plans and renderings, they listed the homes thusly, $1 for the Grace Avenue property and $25,000 for Mars Avenue home. Interested parties had to have a minimum of $150,000 for renovations, a plan, and a proven track record. There were also deed restrictions on the homes: they could not be demolished or become rentals.
"We had a lot of control," says Andrews.
They held the first open houses in December 2013. More than 200 people toured each home, both of which closed in early 2014. James and Lilli Valli purchased the Grace Avenue property. The Mars property changed hands in summer of 2014, but ended up under the wing of Relief Properties.
The Grace and Mars properties, 3,744 and 2,641 square feet respectively, are now market rate, single-family four-bedroom homes. The Vallis have uncovered beautiful architectural arches and hidden pocket doors during renovations and are slated to move in next month. Andrews describes the Mars home, for which Relief Properties found a buyer almost immediately after the project's 2015 completion, as having a "cool, historic mod mix." That family is already settled in. Each of the renovations cost more than $200,000.
"It's really a great outcome," says Andrews, adding that he sees value in the projects reaching far beyond the front door thresholds.
"It's so important that we invest in our older housing stock. It's critical to the success of our neighborhoods. We can't just have teardowns and vacant lots. You end up getting the missing tooth. You lose the density. It pulls down property values and the character of the neighborhood," he says, adding that stable residents bring in tax revenue and invaluable vitality.
Andrews cites one more reason for inner ring suburbs and the City of Cleveland to invest and focus on improving existing housing stock. "Because it is beautiful."


925 set to send East 9th and Euclid into the stratosphere

Yesterday during a private press function on location, Avi Greenbaum, a partner of the Florida-based Hudson Holdings, announced the company's plans for the staggering 1.4 million-square-foot 925 Building (formerly the Huntington Building). It all started on a romantic note.
"The moment we walked into this building, we fell in love," said Greenbaum.
Now Hudson intends to open this magnificent space to Cleveland and the world, with the breathtaking 61,000-square-foot lobby as the centerpiece.
"We want to activate this lobby so everyone in downtown Cleveland wants to use it: for meetings, for a drink, to come and relax, to stay," said Greenbaum of a space that's been closed to the public for years. "We're looking forward to making this building as lively as it once was."
In order to do so, Hudson intends to pour $280 million into the 925. Initial plans include 550 hotel-style apartments, 400,000 square feet of office space, a 300-room flagged high-end hotel, 200,000 square feet of banquet/retail/conference space as well as a host of dining, lounge and club options in the building's unique areas, from the fascinating vaults to the airy penthouse ballroom and rooftop. Parts of the building will hopefully be available to host events for the 2016 Republican National Convention. The full build out is tentatively slated for completion in 2018.
"We're going long and big on Cleveland," said Greenbaum.
As of yesterday, Hudson Holdings had owned the building for one week and a day. In an unmistakable underscore of the company's commitment to the project and the city, after the tours and photo ops and questions came to an end, Greenbaum hosted a full-service gourmet meal in that grand lobby. It unfolded at a single table that seated some 45 guests, complete with candles, flowers and linens.
First, roaming wait staff served mini crab cakes and gazpacho shots while attendees sipped flutes of Mumm Napa Brut Prestige champagne. Driftwood Catering then offered up plates worthy of the three-story limestone pillars and marble walls and floors: greens and mandarin oranges dressed with blue cheese and toasted almonds, duck confit in a black berry reduction, seared sea scallops and corn risotto. They topped it off with politely wrapped cake lollipops. A full service bar and cheeseboard (think ripe strawberries, St. André triple cream brie) was available throughout the event.
Cleveland's newest cocktail also made its debut. "The Huntington" is a concoction of Grey Goose Vodka, Patron Tequila, fresh lime and simple syrup.
Such an auspicious display surely bodes well for the intersection of East 9th Street and Euclid Avenue, but if Greenbaum's grace as a host does not persuade, there is the less tasteful discussion of money. Case in point: The seller of 925 Euclid Avenue, Optima Ventures, purchased it in 2010 for $18.5 million. The building was at about 50 percent occupancy.
Hudson purchased the building, which down to about eight percent occupancy, for $22 million, "which kind of speaks to the change that's going on in Cleveland," said Optima's representative Terry Coyne, vice Chairman of Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, adding that right now in Cleveland, mixed-use development is king and traditional tenants are not necessarily what a buyer is looking for.
"If you bought the building fully occupied," he said, "you'd probably have to pay people to leave."
Prices on vacant buildings going up, the historic Schofield Building transforming into a boutique Kimpton Hotel, oodles of capital pouring in from out of state, an urban resort at the once-derided Breuer building, a vacant bank building reborn as a divine grocery store: It's all a far cry indeed from these musings that ran in the New York Times on June 17, 2007:
"Marcel Breuer, one of the fathers of modern architecture, built only one skyscraper, the 29-story Cleveland Trust Tower, which today stands abandoned on a forlorn block downtown."
That "forlorn block" is part of an intersection that's slated to become one of the city's greatest comeback stories, in no small part due to the sheer audacity of the associated projects. With this most recent announcement and the driving force behind it, the borders of the city won't be able to contain the success of East 9th Street and Euclid Avenue. Greenbaum's banking on that very assertion with his wallet and his heart.
"We think this is really going to help raise Cleveland's profile nationally," he said of his latest love. "It was possibly the most grand building we've ever walked into."
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