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$11m buckeye square building offers supportive housing for chronically homeless

Housing First, a coalition of more than 40 public and private organizations throughout Northeast Ohio, was formed in 2006 to end "long-term and chronic homelessness" in Cuyahoga County. With the recent completion of Buckeye Square, an $11.3 million building that offers 65 affordable, furnished studio apartments for low-income individuals and families, the group is closer to its goal of building 1,271 units of permanent supportive housing.

“Housing gives residents security and stability to combat other issues and get back on their feet," said Marc McDermott, Vice President and Ohio market leader for Enterprise Community Partners, Inc., the Housing First Initiative leader, in a release." All of the partners that made Buckeye Square possible are changing lives, and the model’s success in Cleveland proves that housing makes all the difference.”

The coalition has seen a 73 percent drop in chronic homelessness since the program began, which it cites as evidence that the strategy has been successful.

Buckeye Square, which officially opened this week, is located at Buckeye Road and E. 116th Street. The building offers shared laundry facilities, a community room with kitchen, a computer lab, resident parking, a 24-hour staffed front desk, outdoor space and on-site social services.

Supportive housing is aimed at helping the chronically homeless get back on their feet. Support services are provided to help them become more independent and reintegrate with their neighborhoods. Enterprise leads Housing First projects by assembling capital, working with local leaders and offering expertise. Cleveland Housing Network has acted as lead developer, while EDEN has served as co-developer and property manager. FrontLine Service helps provide supportive services to residents.

Buckeye Square was built using Low Income Housing Tax Credits as well as HOME funds and other grants. Enterprise furnished a predevelopment loan of $572,600.

Housing First also recently obtained a grant from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency to create a mobile health clinic that will serve all of its buildings.

urban community school opens new $16.6m middle school, increases enrollment

Urban Community School, an urban K-8 school founded in 1968, just celebrated the grand opening of a new, $6.3 million middle school. The new facility will allow UCS to serve an additional 150 students per year, bringing the total to 600.

UCS, which is considered a high-performing private school, has a mission of helping low-income students become high achievers. The school is an anchor on Lorain Avenue, which is experiencing a shot-in-the-arm of new business investment.

"Our long-term vision since 2000 has been serving more kids with a unified campus," said Sister Maureen Doyle, the head of the school, at the ribbon cutting ceremony. "Our goal is to inspire children and teachers to achieve."

UCS broke ground on its Lorain Avenue campus a decade ago. The project required tearing down a historic but dilapidated building that was donated to the school. The green-built facility opened in 2005, but the school still had a long waiting list. The new middle school caps off that decade-long expansion effort.

The middle school expansion was made possible by a lead gift of $5 million followed by a campaign that raised $16.6 million. UCS will complete the project this month.

The facility allows middle school students to have their own separate wing. It features large classrooms designed for collaborative learning and gathering spaces outside the classrooms for studying or group work. The curriculum has also been redesigned to focus more on project work and social development. Science, math and the principles behind STEAM are also a strong focus area.

At the ribbon cutting, Natalie Celeste, Vice Principal of the middle school, outlined how the building's design helps facilitate learning. "We researched what adolescents need to learn best. They're becoming community members in an abstract world. Adolescents need to be able to practice community."

In addition to the new classroom and learning spaces, the building also features a new, larger middle school cafeteria. A new program gives every middle school student access to a personal iPad at school. Finally, the campus features a new middle school playground, learning garden and outdoor classroom. Through a partnership with Refugee Response, students learn about urban farming.

mayor jackson's goodtime tour touts long-awaited action on waterfront development

Five years ago, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson talked about plans for Cleveland’s lakefront and riverfront. These days, he’s talking about putting those plans into action. As he recently stated, “The only good plan you have is one you’re doing. Everything else is just a good conversation.”
Jackson recently conducted a waterfront tour called “Back to the Future II” on the Goodtime III to highlight progress in lakefront and riverfront development. Jackson, along with Chief of Regional Development Ed Rybka and Cleveland Metroparks CEO Brian Zimmerman, narrated a plan that’s coming to life.
The Mayor introduced the tour by saying, “Cleveland is one of the few American cities with both a riverfront and a lakefront. The waterfront helped build the city and is a vital part of Cleveland’s future -- the important thing going forward is that we do it right.”
With that, Jackson highlighted his goals for the waterfront: conservation, economic development and recreation. Those goals are being achieved through projects such as a pedestrian bridge and redevelopment of North Coast Harbor as well as multi-purpose trails like the Lake Link Trail and Towpath Trail.
The tour kicked off with an overview of plans for North Coast Harbor. Rybka and Zimmerman touted the 200 market-rate apartments and 80,000 square feet of office space planned for Phase I. “Phases Two and Three will become a walkable, mixed-use maritime development, including housing, retail and a school site,” explained Rybka.
As the tour continued up the river, residents, media and public officials caught a great view of the new Flats East project, where Phase II currently is under construction, and the recently opened Music Box Supper Club on the west bank.
Zimmerman pointed out Rivergate Park, which offers riverfront dining at the newly opened Merwin’s Wharf. He also highlighted the new Crooked River Skate Park, which is employing “the best practices in skate park construction.”
Overall, the tour showcased how far Cleveland has come in the past five years. “We’re using the investments to rebuild the city, connecting people to the lakefront,” said Rybka. “We’re placing value on what created Cleveland in the first place. We’re positioning Cleveland as one of the great waterfront cities.”
Jackson said he’s pleased development is moving ahead along Cleveland’s shore. “A plan is a plan until you do something about it,” he said. “It’s timing. We’re in a position now where things are just lined up right.”

Photos Bob Perkoski

western reserve school of cooking extends reach from hudson to downtown cleveland

The Hudson-based Western Reserve School of Cooking (WRSOC) has been in existence for 42 years. It provides a variety of classes for professionals, amateurs and kids and features a small retail space stocked with kitchen gadgets. Now the institution is expanding to a storefront adjacent to Cleveland Culinary Launch and Kitchen (CCLK), a pay-as-you-go commercial kitchen and food business incubator that is located at 2800 Euclid. The cooking school will open by the end of the year.

"It's a complementary relationship, and we're excited for the classes to start," says Carolyn Priemer, one of the founders of CCLK. "Previously, we had food, but we didn't have a space for entertainment and events."

Priemer also has hired Carl St. John, co-owner of WRSOC, to manage the CCLK kitchen. The new WRSOC will sell a limited range of kitchen gadgets and offer products created by CCLK's food-based businesses, which include Saucisson butchery, Cleveland Kraut and Red Lotus Foods. CCLK entrepreneurs also will help teach classes, workshops and demonstrations at the new school. 

St. John and his wife and partner Catherine are opening the cooking school to tap into a new market in Cleveland and join the city's food scene. They will offer single classes geared towards amateur cooks and use the space for corporate team-building events and other functions. The storefront can fit at least 30 to 40 people for cooking classes, and more for a demonstration. St. John says the event space also will be available for rentals. 

WRSOC offers classes in bread making, cake decorating, sushi rolling and more. There are Friday night date night classes and weeklong classes for professionals (these will remain in Hudson). Many are taught by Catherine, an experienced chef, but there are guest instructors as well. St. John says he hopes to partner with PlayhouseSquare and other institutions to offer an evening of entertainment where participants cook their own meal and then see a show.

St. John says the classes have grown in popularity. WRSOC is far more affordable than a fully-accredited cooking school, yet offers professionals a chance to break into the industry without the coveted degree. Over the years, the school has seen many of its graduates go on to work in the restaurant industry.

"The cooking school [in Hudson] is going great, but space is our biggest issue," says St. John. "We're turning down private events and corporate team-building events because we can only host 12 to 14 people. In our new space, we'll be able to have 30-40 people, and more for demos." 

twist creative to relocate, expand in new fairmont creamery offices

Twist Creative, a small design firm that was founded in Ohio City 15 years ago, is expanding into a larger, custom-designed space at the Fairmont Creamery in Tremont. In part, the move was prompted by the need to consolidate its space, which is spread out over four floors in a building at West 28th and Lorain. Yet the firm also wanted room to grow, as revenues have doubled in recent years and there are plans to hire additional staff.

"We definitely wanted to stay downtown or in the surrounding neighborhoods," says founder and design director Connie Ozan. "We have employees and clients on both sides of town. There's a lot of energy here that contributes to our culture."

Ozan and her team landed at the Fairmont Creamery thanks to the opportunity to custom build space and be part of a larger project. "We're at the beginning of the revitalization of this area, a new phase of Tremont development," says Ozan.

Twist's new offices will be located on one floor, and the space is designed to be more open and collaborative. The interior will have new mechanicals and finishes as well as improved technology features. The design blends old and new, with high ceilings, cement flooring and traditional architectural features like columns.

The Creamery's new rooftop garden and deck will be an added bonus. Ozan and her coworkers are looking forward to relaxing with views of downtown Cleveland, and also entertaining clients there. The presence of the Tremont Athletic Club also is a plus as Twist encourages a healthy work-life balance.

The entire Fairmont Creamery project is slated to be complete by November. Twist Creative anticipates moving into its new offices sometime in October.

container store: small box cleveland announces first tenants

Small Box Cleveland, an effort to lure more retailers downtown by converting used shipping containers into small storefronts, will open its first shop on Sunday, September 14th. The Cleveland Browns have signed on to the project, with the team opening a merchandise store just in time for football season. In a few weeks, two additional independent stores, the Banyan Tree and the Wandering Wardrobe, also will open new ventures inside refurbished containers.

"This is an exciting time for the city with the growth of downtown, and it's important for us to be part of that," says Brent Stehlik, Executive Vice President and Chief Revenue Officer for the Browns. "We see this as an opportunity for us to reach fans with a different approach. It's a way to reach new audiences."

Small Box is a project of the Historic Warehouse District Development Corporation (HWDDC). The new stores will be located on a parking lot at West 6th and St. Clair owned by Weston Inc., a development company that donated nine parking spaces for the project. Small Box is intended to be a creative solution to the retail conundrum in downtown Cleveland -- that is, residents, visitors and office workers say they want more retail options, yet many retailers are not ready to take the plunge until there's proven demand. On top of that, many downtown spaces are larger or more expensive than retailers want.

Tom Starinsky, Associate Director of HWDDC, says that he developed the small box idea after learning about a similar project in Brooklyn. He saw it as a way to seed the viability of new downtown retail, and also to test how feasible it would be to redevelop surface parking lots for new mixed-used development. After a successful crowdfunding campaign -- more than 100 individuals donated a total of $20,000 to the project -- and additional fundraising, Small Box was ready to go.

Each container store costs $20,000 to build. Cleveland Container StructuresWolf Maison Architects and 44 Steel designed and fabricated the structures. Tenants are being charged modest rents that help cover HWDDC's costs to run the project. HWDDC also plans to create a small park at the corner of West 6th and St. Clair using recycled materials to build out the space. The concrete will be painted green to imitate grass, benches will be made from pallets upholstered with AstroTurf, and fencing will be made from pieces of shipping containers. It will have a "front lawn feel" with an urban vibe, says Starinsky.

The 8’ x 20’ shipping containers front the sidewalk. The contractor cut holes in the fronts of them and installed custom-built storefront window systems. The interiors will have electricity to power lighting, heat and air conditioning. The spaces are insulated with OSB board but have no plumbing. Tenants have the ability to paint their own boxes and add creative signage.

Starinsky says the aim was to attract established independent tenants that would add to the downtown area without poaching from other retail districts. He couldn't be happier. "The tenant mix is pretty perfect," he says. "We have a national business, an established small business and an entrepreneurial business."

Small Box is hosting special events this fall and during the holiday season, and additional retailers will be invited to special outdoor markets. The shops will be open five days a week initially, and weekends-only during the holidays. Leases run through March 2015, at which point tenants will have the option to renew. Starinsky wants to grow the project and add more container stores to the mix.

If the site gets developed by Weston or another investor, the shipping containers can be relocated to another site to seed the next wave of downtown development.

Small Box is making it possible for the two smaller retailers to try out new shops downtown. Christie Murdoch of the Banyan Tree says she's thrilled to be opening Banyan Box, a small gift, art and apparel store that will function as a cozier, more selective version of her Tremont location, which has been successful for the past 13 years. "This is such a cool concept, and I'm excited to be part of a surge of retail to go into downtown Cleveland," she says. "There are plenty of great restaurants downtown, but retail is just something that completes a town."

Additional support for the Small Box project was provided by Weston Inc., Downtown Cleveland Alliance, Sherwin Williams, Sign-Lite, Enterprise Community Partners, Ohio Savings Bank and Cleveland Neighborhood Progress.

navy pr pop-up vintage clothing shop to open in gordon square

Fashion industry veteran Mary Peffer road-tripped across the U.S. to source vintage clothing for her new pop-up shop in the Gordon Square Arts District. The Cleveland native, who is a consultant in Los Angeles, sifted through estate sales in Boise, Idaho; rooted around at thrift stores in Portland, Oregon; and hunted in stores in North Carolina and Texas, to name a few. Now, Peffer's unique shop is set to open next week.

The NAVY PRoject, which is named after Peffer's communications consulting firm specializing in art, architecture, design, fashion and hospitality, will offer vintage, unisex, ready-to-wear clothing. Examples include vintage Levis, letterman jackets, vintage jackets, CPO jackets ("Chief Petty Officer") and deadstock army t-shirts. Peffer, who has worked for companies like Nanette Lepore and Saint Laurent, says that she was inspired by trends she saw on the runway. As a Cleveland native and lover of the city, she wanted to bring her ideas home.

"There's a lot of excitement about these fashion trends, but I think it's nonsense when I hear that everyone can't have access to it," says Peffer, whose store will open Friday, September 5th and remain open through October. "I thought, why not go to the source and give it to people for a different price?"

Peffer, who owns NAVY PR with her sister-in-law Melinda Peffer, says she's looking forward to being in Cleveland and spending time with family and friends. Her brother, Stephen Peffer, runs the Hausfrau record store in Gordon Square.

Peffer says the NAVY PRoject will launch a series of pop-up shops in emerging markets across the U.S. No details have been announced about future locations. Regarding her fashion road show, Peffer quips, "I thought, 'Well, if everyone just laughs in my face, I'll just keep everything and have this killer wardrobe.'"

The NAVY PRoject will be located at 6602 Detroit Avenue and will have regular hours from Wednesday through Sunday. Peffer says it will be a great place to hang out, with curated racks that are easy to browse and art from Brooklyn-based artist Savannah King of Third Eye and Cleveland illustrator Deanna First. The clothing will also be affordable, with everything priced under $100. 

new owners transform winchester music hall into the bevy with live music and food

The Winchester Music Hall, a classic Lakewood venue that closed late last year after a decades-long run, will soon enjoy a new lease on life as The Bevy in Birdtown, a restaurant and music venue set to open next month.

New owners Patty Lim and Beth Scebbi of New Century Builders have completely refreshed the space. The bar area has new flooring, a new ceiling, fresh paint and custom-designed lighting crafted from old wine bottles. There are eight draft beer lines, and a new kitchen will allow for a full-service menu that is scheduled to start sometime in October.

"We felt that Madison Avenue is really going to be taking over," says Lim. "Detroit Avenue is at its peak, and this is the next phase of development in Lakewood."

County records show that Dially's Investment Group LLC purchased the building for $150,000 in July from previous owner James Mileti. The building needed to be updated, and the new owners are not only renovating the space, but also adding some new touches that will likely make the Bevy a popular destination spot.

Lim and Sceibbi have cleaned up the historic sandstone and brick exterior, and they're adding a prominent sign featuring The Bevy's logo (a martini glass with birds flying around it -- how cool is that?). They're also adding a large sidewalk patio to take advantage of the building's deep sidewalk. Next year, they plan to transform a lovely brick nook alongside the building into a second patio area.

The Bevy will feature a full lineup of entertainment scheduled to start later this year. Lim plans to hire not only bands playing rock, blues, jazz and other styles, but also comedians. She's not worried about competition from The Music Box, Vosh, Mahall's 20 Lanes or other nearby venues, saying "the more the merrier."

The music hall, which is located in a former bowling alley, will become a bit cozier thanks to the addition of a private party room and offices in the rear. The party room will be nicknamed The Winchester, and the owners plan to keep the historic logo that's painted on the wall. The new hall will feature a section with hardwood floors for dancing, upgraded seating, high-top tables and a standing area.

Lim, who got her start as manager with Cleveland PM restaurant in Valleyview, is glad to be back in the restaurant and bar business. She sees great opportunity in Lakewood, and points to the businesses that are moving to Lakewood and the renovated Madison Avenue streetscape as signs of the area's revival.

residences at 1717 offer high-rise apartment living in the heart of cleveland

Downtown Cleveland's residential population has reached 12,500 people, and apartment occupancy rates consistently hover in the 95-98 percent range. As a real estate broker once told me, "That's not really a vacancy rate, that's more like a turnover rate." Most buildings have waiting lists, and new properties continue to come online each year. Still, downtown doesn't have many high-rise apartment or condo buildings like you'd find in New York or Chicago, where you can perch above it all and look down at the vibrant, busy city swarming below.

Yet that's changing with the addition of The 9, which Fresh Water profiled last month, and the Residences at 1717, which we recently had a chance to tour. These units are under construction, with floors 2 through 5 now occupied and a new floor being unveiled every couple of weeks. Although the first residents have barely moved into the building, it's already 65 percent leased. The entire project, which features 223 units on 21 floors, is expected to be complete by March 2015.

There are two commercial spaces on the first floor of the property, which, by the way, is the former East Ohio Gas building at East 9th and Superior. One of these spaces will be occupied by Al's Deli, which is relocating from the Galleria. The other space is not yet officially leased, but K&D, the developer behind the project, is purportedly in talks with various potential tenants.

The Residences at 1717 features a handsome marble lobby built for the previous owner. The sales office is located in the Gas Light Theatre, a neat space with terrazzo floors where East Ohio Gas used to teach workers how to light pilots. The building was gutted from floor to ceiling, with the exception of key historic elements. The exterior wasn't altered, since the developers obtained historic tax credits. Large windows on all sides, the positioning of the building on a corner, and the small floor plate have made for an excellent residential conversion.

The real show is reserved for the spaces themselves. The elegant floor plans and high-quality amenities illustrate how far downtown living has evolved. The 1- and 2-bedroom suites feature granite countertops, ceramic tile floors, hardwood cabinets, walk-in closets, washer-dryer sets, stainless steel appliances, LED lighting and energy-efficient windows. One bedrooms start under $1,000, two bedrooms at about $1,700. The units are priced at about $1.25 per square foot, which is consistent with other downtown apartments but less than what the owners hope to get at The 9.

The Residences at 1717 boast a surprising amount of square footage and expansive windows with premium views. Our tour guide was not able to take us above the fifth floor, yet we caught glimpses of northern views to the lake, western views towards the heart of Public Square, southern views towards Euclid Avenue and eastern views towards Cleveland State University. The two-bedrooms are positioned on the corners of the building with windows on both sides. The one-bedrooms also get plenty of natural light and offer views.

The building's tinted windows offer privacy and shading while affording residents great views. Storm windows installed from the inside have created a quiet, cozy building. The entire place is certified LEED silver, which residents will appreciate because it makes the building not only greener, but more comfortable and affordable. K&D is offering a guaranteed rate increase of two percent per year for the first three years as long as you renew your lease within the expiration date.

There's little space wasted in this thoughtfully designed building. Leasing agents say the units could be leased by the end of the year, and you get the sense it's not just hype. There's a shortage of move-in ready apartments downtown -- with many of the suites coming online, residents have to wait until they're finished.

The Residences at 1717 is a $65 million project. It won federal and state tax credits for historic preservation and also is using federal New Markets Tax Credits. These credits are layered on top of construction financing from Huntington Bank, equity from the developer and funding from the city and county. K&D recently purchased the Leader building and is looking to its next project.

restored league park set to reopen following $6m renovation

League Park, the historic Hough ballfield where baseball legend Babe Ruth hit his 500th home run over the outfield wall in 1929, is set to reopen this weekend following a complete renovation. The reopening, in the works for years, will not only house the Baseball Heritage Museum, but also a replica of the original ticketing facility, a community room and a huge, new ballfield. It mimics the original down to the fact that home plate is set in the same spot as when Babe Ruth stood there.

Councilman T. J. Dow hopes that the project will spark reinvestment in the Hough neighborhood. "We love the fact that we have a recreational park in the community, but it will also serve as an economic development piece," he says. "Many of the new homeowners moved here with the expectation that League Park would be rebuilt. We believe that it will serve as an anchor."

Dow also believes that the park will serve as a tourist attraction, drawing baseball and history lovers from Greater Cleveland and beyond. The park has a special significance for the African-American community, since many black teams played here and the Buckeyes won the Negro World Series at League Park in 1920.

The restored League Park will also serve as home field for many Cleveland Municipal School District teams, a special privilege since the park is quite large and has brand-new astroturf. Outside organizations can rent the field for a fee, and the money earned will go back into maintaining the park. The ticketing office and museum will be open for regular hours during the week and on weekends.

"We have Hough residents who are starting up baseball clubs," says Dow, touting ways in which enhanced recreational opportunities will help the neighborhood. "They could play on the League Park field during the championship games."

Although there is no active community development corporation in Hough and redevelopment plans stalled out in the recession, that could change. Dow is currently in the process of kicking off a neighborhood planning process, and envisions new housing built on tracts of vacant land around League Park.

League Park is located at East 66th Street and Lexington Avenue. A grand opening party is set for Saturday, August 23rd at 1 p.m., and will feature the unveiling of the Fannie M. Lewis sculpture, an appearance by the Cleveland Blues vintage baseball team, a Home Run Derby and other activities.

rta introduces ohio city connector, making it easier to travel between downtown and ohio city

More than 200 buses run between downtown Cleveland and Ohio City every day. At the same time, both areas have become increasingly popular places to work, live, shop, eat and play. So why not better market, brand and highlight the connections that exist between the two neighborhoods as part of a larger effort to encourage more people to use transit when traveling in and around downtown?

That's exactly what RTA has done with the introduction of the new Ohio City Connector, a branding, signage and marketing program that highlights how easy it is to get back and forth between Ohio City and downtown. With rebranded bus stops located at the corner of West 25th Street and Lorain Avenue and West 3rd Street and Superior Avenue, representatives say that the program will facilitate connections between the two neighborhoods and encourage new riders to hop on the bus.

"Connecting neighborhoods is the critical part," says Steve Bitto, Executive Director of Marketing and Communications with RTA. "We're also recognizing the opportunity that transit has with an emerging market like the Millennials. There are a lot of people who live downtown and in Ohio City that fall into that category. It's not all about getting into the car and driving. If it works, they’re going to take it."

Bitto says the service is akin to the popular trolley service that already exists downtown. The trolley service is free, yet RTA does not have funding to expand it. You have to pay bus fare to ride the Ohio City Connector, but officials tout the service as easy and convenient, a way to get from door to door in a few minutes.

Given the parking crunch that now exists in Ohio City and downtown, this service will no doubt prove popular, as drivers grow weary of fighting for a spot.

cwru's new university center to unveil six new eateries in coming weeks

Case Western Reserve University has opened the new Tinkham Veale University Center just in time for the start of the school year. In the coming weeks, six new eateries will be unveiled. The addition of mouthwatering new venues like Melt University, the latest from Matt Fish of Melt Bar & Grilled fame; Naan, an Indian venue by James Beard Award nominee Chef Raghavan Iyer; and Cool Beanz, which will serve Zingerman's Coffee out of Ann Arbor, are enough to make us want to go back to school.

Fortunately, we won't have to. All of the venues are open to the public, and the soon-to-be-named restaurant (a student contest will determine its name) will serve a prix fixe menu when the orchestra plays in town. Cleveland Botanical Garden Executive Chef Tony Smoody will serve as chef of the restaurant.

Additional eateries include 8Twenty6, where customers can build their own salad from an eight-foot counter stocked with 20 seasonal ingredients and six housemade dressings, and Pinzas, which serves personal pizzas, pasta bowls and Italian sandwiches served on pagnotelle rolls. Melt University will serve items off the Melt Bar & Grilled menu as well as "exclusive CWRU-themed sandwiches only available at Melt U, the Case Western BBQ and The Spartan Burger," according to a press release from Bon Appetit Management, the food service company.

"This is an opportunity to showcase the beauty of regional Indian cooking," said Iyer during a recent visit to the university center. "What you typically see in the U.S. is just a sliver of Indian cooking, and what I bring is multi-regional cooking."

CWRU has a large population of foreign-born students, so the ethnic diversity of these options will no doubt prove popular. The university has not only transformed its physical environment in recent years, adding student amenities that create a more vibrant campus, but has also seen a dramatic increase in enrollment.

Previously, there was no full-service restaurant on the CWRU campus, and dining options were a bit limited. These six new eateries add to the increasing vibrancy that can be found on campus and throughout University Circle.

downtown cleveland alliance launches crowdfunding campaign for new flats dog park

An economic development professor at the Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University once told our class that he knew downtown Cleveland was coming back when he saw the occasional pile of dog waste on the sidewalk. Yes, owners should pick up after their pooches, but the mere presence of pets downtown is a good indicator that the neighborhood is walkable and safe.

But now, downtown Cleveland is really going to the dogs. The neighborhood has become so vibrant and liveable in the past few years that there are now more people and pets than ever. With more than 12,500 residents, apartment occupancy rates at 98 percent and more than 1,000 registered dogs, the area is in need of a dog park.

That's why Downtown Cleveland Alliance is launching a crowdfunding campaign to create a new dog park at Settlers Landing in the Flats. The campaign aims to raise $10,000, which DCA will match dollar for dollar. The park is slated to open this fall.

According to a release from DCA, the park will be located in an "open area adjacent to the RTA rapid station on the eastern bank of the Cuyahoga River. Equipped with pea gravel, fencing, a gated entrance, and benches for their human friends, dogs will have the ability to socialize and play right in the city they call home."

The crowdfunding campaign, which runs for four weeks on the Cleveland-based Tackk site, will offer rewards such as retractable leashes and t-shirts. It will be open for four weeks. Sponsors at the $500 level will be recognized with plaques along the fence of the dog park. Various contests throughout the campaign will be announced on DCA's Facebook page, so look out for some cool prizes.

popular cleveland heights barbershop and spa to expand into adjacent property

Alex Quintana grew up in Cleveland Heights, went to Heights High, and claims to have gone to college at the Tavern Company on Lee Road. (He was a bartender at that popular watering hole for five years.) Now, the Heights resident, who opened Quintana's Barber and Dream Spa with his wife Dawn 11 years ago, is expanding his footprint in the Cedar-Taylor area.

Quintana has purchased a building at 2190 South Taylor Road, immediately next door to the Colonial home where his business is located. They are now renovating the former beauty salon from top to bottom, inside and out. When the project is complete, the facade will be handsomely refreshed with new awnings, the interior will feature contemporary, brushed aluminum finishes and the entire place will be handicap-accessible.

"Nothing had been done to the interior since about 1984," says Quintana. "It had an interior like Mrs. Roper's beauty salon. We're making it more spa-like and modern."

Quintana's is unique, he says, because of the relationship between the two businesses, which are distinct yet complementary. The first-floor barbershop offers a "third place" for men outside of work and home, a kind of communal, comfortable man cave. The spa, which currently is housed on the upper floors, is a place where women can get massages, facials, manicures, pedicures and more. The renovation project will allow the spa to take over the former beauty salon, while the barbershop will gradually expand into the rest of the house.

Quintana says the Cedar-Taylor commercial district is becoming more vibrant. Not only are there fewer vacant storefronts than there were a few years ago, but the newly formed Cedar-Taylor Merchants Association is working on creating a new streetscape plan with public art and also forming a Special Improvement District.

All in all, Quintana is glad to be working in the Heights. "Cleveland Heights is a very unique community," he says. "Residents here are very passionate about where they choose to live. It's a pleasure to service this community."

long-planned mason's creamery approaching its ohio city debut

For the past 60 years or so, the squat cinderblock building at W. 44th and Bridge has been home to an ice cream shop. Many locals will remember it as Dari Delite, the homey soft-serve joint that was here for years. Most recently, the space housed Ohio City Ice Cream.

By the end of this month, the building will welcome its newest tenant in the form of Mason's Creamery, a small batch ice cream shop that will both continue this lengthy tradition and radically update it. The building was boarded up like a veritable fortress for decades, with just two small walk-up windows in the façade of the building. Entrepreneurs Helen Qin and Jesse Mason have uncovered the painted plywood and restored the expansive windows on the front and side of the building.

Known for crafting eclectic flavors like grapefruit sorbet, fig balsamic and strawberry pink peppercorn (they also serve chocolate and vanilla), Qin and Mason have taken an equally unconventional approach to the building, cladding the exterior in dark-stained wood siding, uncovering and polishing the concrete floors, building a brand-new zinc countertop and adding vibrant splashes of color.

Perhaps the best feature of Mason's Creamery will be a sort of hidden "ice cream garden" on the side of the building. The new owners discovered they owned a 60-foot lot west of the building. They plan to clean it up, landscape it and use it for outdoor seating, impromptu picnics and twice-a-month movie nights.

"It's a sea of asphalt right now," says Mason. "This place really needs greening."

The couple also is adding a large patio area bordered by planters and a "living wall" on the side of the building, where herbs like lavender and mint will be grown. There's no drive-through, of course, but there will be a new walk-up window on the east wall. "That way, people with dogs don't have to go inside," Qin says.

Renovating the building has been a challenge, admit the young owners, who are doing much of the work themselves. Mason found himself cutting the front door off of its hinges, because it hadn't been opened in about 40 years and was rusted shut. The interior was crammed with ice cream equipment, much of which has been cleaned up and will be reused.

In addition to the countertop and tables, the shop area will feature a chalkboard wall and French cleats on the walls where art can be hung. Qin's favorite part is the AstroTurf -- added at the last minute to cover up a mistake in the wood paneling -- a creative solution that she says kids will enjoy touching and playing with.

Qin and Mason are transplants from L.A. who fell in love with Cleveland after moving here and decided to start a business. Ice cream has been a great conversation starter. "When we moved here, we didn't know anyone," says Qin, who is originally from Houston. "It's been nice to get to know our customers personally. This has been a great way of getting to know the community."
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