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West Park + Kamm's Corners : Development News

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Closer look: two eco-friendly townhome projects bloom amid urban—and green—settings

Developer Andrew Brickman of Brickhaus Partners create luxury living spaces in Cleveland’s urban areas that are not only eco-friendly, but also provide a park-like setting. So, what better location than along the borders of the Cleveland Metroparks?

The Emerald Necklace is what drew him to his latest projects: 95 Lake at 9508 Lake Road in the Edgewater neighborhood and Riversouth, 18871 Lorain Road in Fairview Park, both of which offer spacious, luxury city living with spectacular views of the Metroparks, as well as easy access to transportation, shopping and nightlife. Riversouth sits on the border of the Rocky River Reservation and Big Met golf course, while 95 Lake overlooks Lake Erie and Edgewater Park.

“We try to be near parks, public transportation,” Brickman says of his projects. “We’re near all the Metroparks”
 
Furthermore, both developments provide the amenities of city living that is so popular in Cleveland right now—another priority for Brickman.
 
“I try to develop in the city and inner ring suburbs to stop urban sprawl,” he says. “Because urban sprawl contributes the most to duplication of services. You know, Cleveland’s not getting any bigger, it’s just spreading out. So I’m trying to bring people back to the city.”
 
In the Edgewater neighborhood, the first residents are scheduled to move into their new townhomes at the end of this month, says Brickman. Seven of the 10 townhomes are sold, he says, with a “lot of interest” in the remaining three units.
 
Brickhaus broke ground on the project last April, on the site of the former St. Thomas Lutheran Church. The 95 Lake townhomes were designed by architect Scott Dimit, principal of Dimit Architects, as were the 32 units at River South.
 
The three remaining three-story homes range from approximately 1,800 square feet for a two bedroom, two-and-a-half bath floor plan to a 2,168-square-foot, three bedroom, two-and-a-half bath home. Prices range from $499,000 to $649,000 and include 15-year tax abatements.
 
The townhomes come equipped with attached two-car garages, optional fireplaces and stainless steel, energy-efficient appliances in the kitchen. The furnace and hot water tank are also energy efficient.
 
Brickman notes that energy efficiency is a standard in all Brickhaus properties, adding that the company’s Eleven River project in Rocky River is the first geothermal multifamily development in Northeast Ohio.
 
“Energy efficiency is important to us because we’re trying to bring a lifestyle to people, and that involves being a good citizen of the earth,” says Brickman.
 
Each residence has its own private rooftop balcony, ranging from 250 to 350 square feet and offering great views of the lake and Edgewater, as well as of downtown Cleveland and the neighborhood’s tree canopy.
 
Many of the residents who have already purchased properties at 95 Lake are local, with one buyer returning to Cleveland from out of town, and others coming from Tremont, Ohio City and Battery Park, says Brickman.
 
“What they said was they loved the inner ring suburbs and they love this Edgewater area because it’s older,” says Brickman of the typical buyers. “It has character like those other neighborhoods, it’s a mature sort of neighborhood.”
 
The Edgewater area also offers a sense of security, says Brickman, while still being in the Cleveland city limits.
 
“They want to be close to everything in those neighborhoods, but this has a different feel to it because we have the single family housing,” Brickman explains. “You’ve got the park and you’ve got lot of owner-occupied houses. These are people who want to be in the city, because it’s still the city.”
 
Residents will be moving in to 95 Lake through the next few months, says Brickman, with the entire project scheduled for completion by summer.
 
All but 10 of the 32 townhomes at Riversouth have sold, Brickman says, and all of the site work and landscaping is completed. In addition to the views, he points to the development’s proximity to Kamm’s Corners—a 10 minute walk—and Fairview Hospital as well as access to the biking and hiking trails right outside the door.
 
“Riversouth is surrounded on three sides by Metroparks,” says Brickman, “so your views are right there.”
 
The townhomes offer a seven-year tax abatement and range from 1,148 to 2,808 square feet. Prices start at $269,000 and go up to $539,000.
 
Brickhaus calls Riversouth “Ecohomes,” in that the townhouses are smarthomes with everything from lighting to the sound system integrated through the owner’s smart phone. Of course, everything is energy efficient, has bamboo floors, private decks and balconies, and two-car insulated garages.
 
Outside, like all Brickhaus properties, the landscape is planted with native perennial plants that do not require irrigation. A dry basin storm water retention system keeps everything in check.
 
“We expect to win awards for the landscaping and the creativity in which it was handled,” says Brickman of the storm water retention system at Riversouth.
 
In keeping with its commitment to develop in Cleveland and stop urban sprawl, Brickman says there are a few more urban projects on the horizon for Brickhaus. It’s what he loves to do.
 
“It’s a lot easier to develop a cornfield out in Avon because you don’t have any neighbors to deal with than it is to develop in an existing neighborhood,” explains Brickman. “Because you have the neighbors to deal with, and they don’t want change, and the guy next door doesn’t want to be living next to construction.

"It’s probably the most difficult kind of development you can do but to me, it’s been pretty satisfying.”

$12 million makeover for West Side hotel

Cleveland’s newest hotel is designed to highlight all the city has to offer while also providing the amenities that appeal to the young business traveler.

The first Four Points Sheraton Cleveland Airport—the first of Marriott International’s Four Points brand in Cleveland—opened on the site of the former Holiday Inn Cleveland airport, 4181 West 150th St., last month. Marriott bought the building in January 2016.

“It was a $12 million-plus renovation,” says Sandra Keneven, director of sales and marketing for the hotel. “They gutted the building. There’s nothing old left,” she adds of the year-long renovation.
 
The Four Points concept is a more affordable version of a traditional Sheraton hotel, says Keneven, and is the result of a five-year rebranding initiative. “Our target audience is the younger generation,” she says, adding that the hotel’s 147 rooms offer a comfortable bed with its signature mattresses, complimentary bottled water and free internet.
 
Furthermore, guests can use their smart phones for mobile check-ins before arriving at the hotel, and then use their phones for keyless entry into their rooms.
 
In addition to a 24-hour fitness room, business center and heated pool, the Four Points serves up Great Lakes Brewing drafts in its Hub Bar and Grill. On Wednesdays from 5 to 7 p.m., the hotel offers its Best Brews reception with a Great Lakes beer tasting and free appetizers.

“The plan is to rotate different local brewers,” says Keneven, adding that the brewers will be invited to come and talk about their beers. She says they are also considering bringing live music into the bar.
 
The hotel has 6,500 square feet of meeting space, with two ballrooms, one of which is on the sixth floor and has windows on all sides. Keneven says they have built a good relationship with Destination Cleveland for upcoming conferences and events. Staff is also starting to book weddings.
 
Location is yet another amenity. Popular Cleveland destinations, such as like Kamms Corners, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and FirstEnergy Stadium, are a short distance from the hotel, which offers free round-the-clock shuttle service to and from the airport and any destination within two miles. In addition, the hotel is adjacent to I-71 and the Puritas West 150th Street RTA Rapid station.
 
Through March, Four Points is offering an introductory rate averaging $99 a night, says Keneven, and average rates during peak times will be about $159 a night.
 
The renovated hotel has already gotten local praise. “We have people stopping in off the street,” says Keneven. “It’s beautiful. It just looks beautiful.”

Family shelter opens as first of four Salvation Army capital projects

Just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday, the Salvation Army of Greater Cleveland officially opened its Zelma George Emergency Family Shelter, 1710 Prospect Ave. adjacent to its Harbor Light Complex, on Thursday, Nov. 17. The organization broke ground on the new facility in November 2015.

The new 30,000-square-foot facility replaces the previous shelter housed on two floors in Harbor Light, allowing the Salvation Army to provide better services to homeless families and victims of human trafficking.
 
When it opened earlier this month, Zelma George was already at capacity – housing 116 people, says Harbor Light executive director Beau Hill. The new facility has 35 family units, some of which are handicapped-accessible, and a three-bedroom apartment suite for up to six victims of human trafficking.
 
Hill says the opening went well. “There are still some quirks we need to work out, as with any new building," he says. “It has truly been an answer to the program.”
 
In addition to the living units, there is a flexible multipurpose room, a five-computer area, a common area for residents and staff and a cafeteria.
 
A walkway connects Zelma George and Harbor Light, with a newly-constructed playground in a courtyard. “It’s your typical school playground, with nothing too tall,” says Hill, adding that there’s a slide and a funnel ball structure targeted at elementary school ages.
 
In addition to family-specific programming offered at Zelma George, all of the residents will have access to the programming and services available at Harbor Light. Families can stay at Zelma George for up to 90 while they get back on their feet and find permanent housing.
 
The opening of the shelter marks the first of four construction, expansion and renovation projects being done as part of the Salvation Amy’s $35 million Strength for today, Bright Hope for Tomorrow capital campaign, which launched after a 2012 study showed the need for enhanced services for the more than 143,000 Cuyahoga County residents it serves each year.
 
The three other associated projects include the Cleveland Temple Corps Community Center in Collinwood, which is starting up its operation, says Hill, while the East Cleveland facility should open in January or February. The West Park Community Center expansion will be finished in March or April.
 
Thus far, the organization has raised $32.3 million toward its goal. “We have a little under $3 million to go,” says Hill, who notes the campaign is now in its third year but was only made public a year ago. “We were hoping to be done, but we’re going to keep pushing.”

Hatfield's settles into Kamm's Corners with more good grub at 'Pork N Bean'

For a little more than a year, Ken Hatfield has sold Clevelanders on his southern comfort food from his food truck, Hatfield’s Goode Grub, at Walnut Wednesdays and Food Truck Fridays. He also cruises corporate parks around town and offers catering.
 
Now Hatfield’s is about to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant and coffee shop: Hatfield’s Goode Grub: The Pork N Bean, at 16700 Lorain Ave. in Kamm’s Corners.
 
Hatfield had been preparing his food for the truck in a 700-square-foot commissary kitchen and is excited to move into the 3,000 square-foot restaurant. The new space has a six-door walk-in cooler, a kitchen hood, a stainless steel wash tub and an Ansul fire suppression system. 
 
“It’s a big jump,” Hatfield says of the expansion. The restaurant will serve Hatfield’s signature burgers and pulled pork sandwiches on picnic tables in the back, while customers will place their food and coffee drink orders in front in a café-style space with tables, chairs and a porch swing.
 
The walk in cooler will depict the same photo of the Hatfield family that adorns his truck. Ken is a descendant of the Hatfield family of the infamous Hatfield-McCoy feud fame. “It’s going to be a fun, inventive place to be,” Hatfield says. “We’re trying to get the food truck experience in a restaurant.”
 
Originally from North Carolina, Hatfield spent four years as a chef on an international hospital ship and studied under executive chefs at the House of Blues and Hard Rock Café. Aboard Goode Grub, he's become known for creations such as the All-In Burger – a burger with bacon, pulled pork, caramelized onion, dill sauce, barbeque sauce and cheddar cheese.
 
“It’s Southern comfort fusion food,” Hatfield says of his cooking style, adding that he plans to expand his menu. “I’ve taken my southern heritage and flair, added some internationalized style to it and came up with some stuff people really like.”
 
Hatfield's newlywed wife, Jessica Hatfield, will oversee the coffee shop segment of the Pork N Bean. The coffee bar will use siphon brewers and specialize in cold-brewed coffees. Customers can cold brew their own coffees, in which they will get a large mason jar, coffee and any flavors they want. The jars will be kept on shelving behind the counter.
 
Hatfield is building the interior himself using reclaimed barn wood. He's aiming for a family friendly atmosphere. “I think we’ll be a really good fit in the neighborhood,” he says.
 
Kamm’s Corners Development Corporation (KCDC) assisted Hatfield with city permits, securing signage through Cleveland’s Storefront Renovation Program, and helped negotiate a spot for the Goode Grub truck at the U-Haul Moving and Storage across the street.
 
“We saw the attraction of having Hatfield’s in the neighborhood,” says KCDC executive director Steve Lorenz. “Right away we tried to lend a hand.”
 
Fans can still catch Hatfield's food truck around town and for catering events. The Kamm’s Corners restaurant is scheduled to open on Monday, Oct. 31 with a “Hillbilly Halloween.” The truck will be parked out front and a hillbilly costume contest will run from 6 to 9 p.m.

High-speed karting comes to Brook Park

On Wednesday, Aug. 10 at 5 p.m., locals will be invited to step into the new BOSS PRO-Karting, a high-speed, indoor karting facility at 18301 Brookpark Road in Brook Park.

Featuring Sodi RTX electric karts, which are manufactured in Europe, drivers will speed around the 12 turns of the 1/5 mile track at speeds up to 50 miles per hour.
 
“We’re racers,” said Lee Boss, BOSS co-founder and three-time national karting champion in a statement. "Creating an authentic racing experience with the best racing karts available and a challenging, exciting track is paramount to us."
 
Capacity for the facility is 500 people, with up to a 12 races zipping along at one time. BOSS FastTrack, a free race app available for Apple and Android devices, allows racers to preregister for time slots and also offers live race tracking and statistics. Additional features include a messaging system, Facebook page integration and visuals depicting lap time history and statistics. In addition to indoor racing, the 40,000-square-foot facility is available for corporate events with conference rooms, catering and 3,000 square feet of event space that can accommodate up to 200 people.

“Compared to other sports and hobbies, the cost to participate in motorsports is extremely high,” added Brad Copley, BOSS co-owner and president. “Combining the speed and cornering g-forces that top many professional vehicles, a lap at BOSS PRO-Karting will be an exhilarating experience for racers and novices alike.”
 
Brook Park Mayor Thomas Coyne will kick off the Aug. 10 festivities with remarks at 6 p.m. followed by a flag drop for the first race, which will include mascots from the Browns, Cavs, Gladiators, Canton Charge and Lake Erie Monsters.
 
BOSS PRO-Karting will be open year round. There is a one-time annual membership fee of $6. Cost for one race is $22 with reduced pricing for subsequent races and other discounted packages. Racers must be at least 56" tall.

"We believe adrenaline trumps practicality, and that the edge of our comfort zone is where we learn the most," said BOSS management. "It’s not about taking things to the extreme with abandoned disregard, but pushing beyond the comfortable deliberately, often, and with purpose."
 

John Marshall students set to launch Lawyer's Cafe

Jessica Whitmer isn’t a big coffee fan. “I love caramel,” she declares. But as a barista manager and team leader at the Lawyer’s Café, the new student-run coffee shop housed in John Marshall School, 3952 West 140th St., the 15-year-old 10th grader knows how to make a perfect cup of joe, not to mention a selection of other drinks.

The café, which will be operated by 40 John Marshall School of Civic and Business Leadership students, is scheduled to officially open in April in a space formerly used as a concession stand area. The idea behind the project is to teach business and entrepreneurship skills.
 
“It’s really cool to see them be able to start a company,” says principal Sara Kidner, noting that the students worked on customer service, research and development and finance teams to get the café started.
 
The café also offers a sense of community around John Marshall, which was converted from a traditional high school to three separate, smaller specialty high schools in business, information technology and engineering last August.
 
After mulling over different business ideas, the students decided on a coffee shop. “One of the reasons they chose a coffee shop was they wanted it to be a community,” says Kidner. A student vote decided on the name. “They wanted to have the historic aspect of John Marshall stay alive.” Eventually, they plan to open the café on Saturday afternoons. “We definitely want to eventually have it open to the public,” says Kidner. “But we’re concentrating on phase one this year.”
 
The George Gund Foundation and the Cleveland Foundation awarded $100,000 to help launch the venture, $50,000 of which will go toward a planned credit union for students and staff.
 
Students underwent interviews to work in the Lawyer’s Café, and while they will not get paid, they will earn community service hours required for graduation. Profits will go to the school’s activities fund.
 
Whitmer, whose only other job has been babysitting, is looking forward to the work. “I thought it would be a good thing because it looks really good on a college application,” says Whitmer, who wants to be a math teacher. “It’s an opportunity to do something good for the school. You learn leadership skills, what to do in certain situations, and what to do when a machine breaks.”
 
The students trained on all aspects of running the business, with the help from the owners of Rising Star Coffee. “I think it’s an opportunity to work, an opportunity to apply life skills to running a small business, says Rising Star partner John Johnson. “It’s a learning experience.”
 
An espresso machine, grinder, coffee machine and a brewer were purchased through Rising Star as well.
 
Johnson taught the students skills in menu planning, finance, inventory control, equipment and other details. Pete Mitchell, co-owner of Mitchell’s Homemade Ice Cream, gave instruction on great customer service.
 
The menu includes regular coffee, Frappuccino-like frozen coffee drinks, smoothies in a variety of flavors and two signature drinks: the Hot Drizzle features vanilla coffee with a chocolate drizzle and whipped cream, while the Creamy Dream is a similar drink but with caramel instead of chocolate. Whitmer personally likes a caramel Frappuccino.
 
The official launch date for Lawyer’s Café will be on Wednesday, April 13th. Hours will be Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 7:30 to 8:45 a.m. and 2:30 to 4 p.m. through the last day of school.

Johnson is as excited about the imminent opening as the students. “Like any small business opening," he says, "you just get to a point where you say ‘oh, this is really happening.'"

Formula One style go-kart racing, event center, coming to Brook Park

For all the northeast Ohioans who fancy themselves a would-be Danica Patrick, Kyle Busch or (for the old-timers among us) A. J. Foyt, the opportunity to realize those alter egos will soon arise courtesy of Boss Pro-Karting, which is coming to 18301 Brookpark Road this summer.
 
"Boss Pro-Karting is an indoor professional go-kart track and event facility," says Boss co-founder Brad Copley. "We have an indoor Formula One style go-kart circuit. Additionally, we have meeting and gathering spaces that can accommodate up to 200 individuals."
 
The new 36,000-square-foot facility will feature a 1/5-mile indoor racing track that will expand to 1/4-mile in the fairer months when overhead doors open to an outdoor extension. The 18-turn track was inspired by classic Ohio racing venues such as Mid-Ohio, Nelson Ledges and the seasonal track at Burke Lakefront Airport, which was home to the Grand Prix of Cleveland from 1982 to 2007 when the likes of Al Unser, Emerson Fittipaldi and Paul Tracy flew beneath the checkered flag. The races at Burke fueled a generation of memories.
 
"We want to tap into that exact feeling," says Copley. "We can deliver that again to Cleveland."
 
Memories notwithstanding, these are not your dad's go-karts. The Sodi RTX European F1 Race Karts go for a cool $20,000 each and while they can achieve speeds of 75 miles per hour, Copley notes that the karts will be governed at 50 mph.

The all-electric emission-free karts will be staged and charged in the two-lane pit area. The battery-powered aspect of the karts also allows management to "have complete control to improve the racing experience and keep it safe," says Copley. Boss Pro-Karting's fleet will include 26 Sodi karts.
 
Boss will have four event spaces with square footages of 2,400, 800, 600 and 400. The largest of will accommodate sit-down parties of up to 200. While catering options are still tentative, Copley says Boss will be flexible with clients when it comes to dining service. There will be a full liquor service with a zero tolerance policy.
 
"You are no longer able to race if have a drink," says Copley.
 
While Copley expects to attract corporate and private clients to the event center for everything from bachelor parties to company team-building events, local teens and adults looking to unleash their inner Andretti will be welcome to enjoy the facility seven days a week.
 
"We'll schedule and book times for private groups," says Copley, adding that casual concessions such as pizza, pretzels and hotdogs will be available and racing will start at $20 a go, with lower pricing for the subsequent races. Future programs include leagues and training sessions and summer camps wherein kids can learn about driving, competing and racing.
 
"Who knows?" poses Copley of prospective attendees. "They could be the next Jeff Gordon."
 
The project is the brainchild of Copley, who wore a business suit for much of his professional life, and his cousin Lee Boss, who wore a racing suit.
 
"Lee was a three-time World Karting Association Champion," says Copley of his cousin. "He won the National Karting Circuit in 2004, 2005 and 2006. He also raced SCCA cars at Mid-Ohio, and Sprint cars in Sandusky, Attica and Eldora," he adds, noting that those three tracks are all in Ohio. "He has a long racing background."
 
Copley's racing experience is more subdued.
 
"I'm a mechanical engineer who grew up making race car parts," says the former vice president and 25-year veteran of MTD Products.
 
Newmark Grubb Knight Frank (NGKF) orchestrated the deal by uniting the Boss team, the commercial real estate firm Weston Inc. and the City of Brook Park to bring the unique $4.2 million project to fruition.
 
The city came to the table with a $50,000 demolition grant and a 15-year tax abatement that will apply to the improvements on the three-acre lot (namely, the building). While Weston owns the building and the land, the Boss team will operate the facility and owns the business and all the associated equipment. Janotta & Herner is the architect and general contractor on the project.
 
The project was unique, notes NGKF's senior marketing coordinator Matt Orgovan, on account of the build-to-suit aspect.
 
"There's not a lot of those going on right now," says Orgovan.
 
"You design the building around the need," notes NGKF's director Jeff Kennedy, explaining that existing buildings had columns and layouts that simply could not accommodate the challenges of a racing track. Hence a customized "build-to-suit" design was in order.
 
Formerly occupied by a vacant rental car facility and V-Ash Machine Co., demolition on the site is complete and foundation work has begun. Boss Pro-Karting is expected to open this summer ahead of the RNC, a realization that was long in coming.
 
"My first experience with this was in Budapest in 2002," says Copley. "That's what inspired me. When I saw that track in Hungary, I just fell in love. I thought: man, we need one of these in Cleveland." Since then, he's visited tracks around the globe.
 
"It's just taken me since 2002 for the market and the opportunity to be right to actually build one."
 

State allocates $6.1 million to Cuyahoga County for residential demolition

As part of the state's effort to eliminate blight, the Ohio Housing Finance Agency announced last November that it would distribute $13 million in funding for the demolition of distressed residential properties. This was the fourth such round of the Neighborhood Initiative Program (NIP), which has received $79 million in funding from the U. S. Department of Treasury's Hardest Hit Fund.
 
Cuyahoga County received $6,075,000 of the $13 million.
 
"This program started in summer of 2014," says Cuyahoga Land Bank's chief operating officer Bill Whitney of the NIP. "Before this $6 million, we received $14 million and have spent approximately $13 million of that." In doing so, he adds, the organization has demolished about 1,050 properties with the funds, 850 of which were done in 2015.
 
"This last award of $6 million brings the total to $20 million since 2014," says Whitney of the NIP funding. "We expect now be able to continue the program and probably demolish an additional 480 to 500 properties."
 
Of the 12 Ohio counties receiving these most recently announced allocations, Cuyahoga was awarded the lion's share, with Lucas County's $2.3 million allocation coming in second. The 10 other counties received $500,000 each.
 
Coming in "first" in a funding round such as this is sobering indeed, but not unexpected considering the state of northeast Ohio's residential vacancy rate.
 
A comprehensive property survey conducted last year by Western Reserve Land Conservancy, in collaboration with the City of Cleveland, counted 3,809 vacant residential properties graded D (deteriorated) or F (unsafe or hazardous). When combined with the 1,437 residential properties condemned by the city, the total is 5,246 structures that may be candidates for demolition. While that figure is daunting, it is also 32 percent lower than the city's 2013 estimate of 7,771 vacant and distressed properties.
 
The Cuyahoga Land Bank acquires foreclosed properties from HUD and Fannie May as well as tax foreclosures. Demolitions are restricted to vacant and abandoned blighted properties the organization owns. It does not demolish properties that have more than four units, those that might have historical significance or any property that is connected to other residences such as row homes.
 
Referencing a graphic that categorizes Cleveland neighborhoods and a host of eastside inner ring suburbs as either undergoing "revitalization" or nearing a "tipping point," Whitney explains that the revitalization sections are experiencing the most severe effects of the foreclosure crisis. They are also in predominately African American neighborhoods.
 
"In general, the foreclosure crisis here – and maybe in other places – was extremely racist," says Whitney.
 
If a property is salvageable, the land bank works with community development corporations and humanitarian organizations to rehabilitate it and put it to constructive use.
 
"We try to save any property we can," says Whitney. The organization prioritizes at-risk populations such as refugees, veterans and the disabled. Partner organizations include the Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry and a host of area CDC's. Whitney tags Slavic Village Development, Northeast Shores Development Corporation, the Famicos Foundation and the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization. In such cases, properties will transfer for as little as one dollar.
 
"Everybody needs housing," says Whitney.
 
"To keep things in perspective," he continues, "in our six years of operation, we've acquired about 5,000 properties. We've demolished about 3,500 and have been able to save about 1,000." Of that number, approximately one third go to humanitarian causes with the balance going to market. Prospective buyers are thoroughly screened and the land bank holds the title until they have brought the property up to municipal code.
 
To get an idea of the task at hand, Fresh Water invites readers to scroll through the properties owned by Cuyahoga Land Bank.
 
"There's still an awful lot of stuff to do," says Whitney, "but it's gradually getting better."
 

St. Martin de Porres, Salvation Army to benefit from $20m in New Market Tax Credits

The proposed new St. Martin de Porres High School in the St. Clair neighborhood and the Salvation Army's $35 million capital campaign for greater Cleveland will each receive $10 million in Federal New Market Tax Credits, which are part of a $50 million award the Cleveland Development Advisors (CDA) are shepherding on behalf of the city. The award was announced in June.
 
"At any given time we might have a dozen projects on the list that are close to or getting ripe for investment," says CDA president Yvette Ittu. "Once we get allocation we start moving very quickly to try to move those projects to fruition."
 
The Salvation Army campaign includes a new family shelter downtown, new community centers in Collinwood and East Cleveland and the renovation of a community center in West Park. The new 65,000-square-foot St. Martin de Porres High School will be at the intersection of Norwood Road and St. Clair Avenue.
 
As for the remaining $30 million in tax credits to be allocated, Ittu said plans have not been formalized, but hinted that the awards will go to a handful of high profile projects that are ready to move. Per the United States Treasury, the group has up to three years to allocate the tax credits, but CDA does not act leisurely when placing allocations.
 
"Our awards are generally out the door in less than 12 months," says Ittu.
 
In the program, entities such as CDA court private investment for local projects, particularly in low-income areas. Investors are rewarded with federal tax credits.
 
"The tax credit is not applied to the actual project," explains Ittu. "What we're doing is providing a tax credit to an investor who is bringing the capital to the table. It could be a bank or corporation that has the need for a tax credit. Maybe they are willing to invest X amount of dollars into a project in return for the tax credit." Funds must be spent on a project before the investor can reap the tax credits, which may be taken over a seven-year period.
 
The nature of the program makes for strange bedfellows: Goldman Sachs, for instance, was a satellite investor in the Fairmont Creamery project courtesy of New Market Tax Credits.
 
CDA, which Ittu describes as a real estate financing organization affiliated with the Greater Cleveland Partnership, selects candidates based on recommendations from its Community Advisory Committee. The group focuses on areas of severe economic distress with unemployment rates more than 1.5 times the national average, poverty rates of 30 percent or more, or median incomes at or below 60 percent of the area median. Considerations also include timing of the project, its readiness for financing, its sustainability and its economic impact.
 
"A lot of what we do is looking to try to invest in projects that will stimulate additional development and also create jobs," says Ittu.
 
Specific goals include affordable housing, healthy food accessibility, public transit access and repurposing vacant structures. The group's success can be measured in their results. Including this year's $50 million award, the CDA has received $155 million in New Market Tax Credits since the program's inception in 2003. They have helped finance more than 30 projects including The 9, the Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry's Richard Sering Center, the Residences at 1717 and renovations at Saint Luke's Pointe.

PRE4CLE issues grants for four new classrooms

PRE4CLE, an extension of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District that aims to expand high-quality preschool options across the city, has awarded three grants totaling $120,000 to start four new classrooms, each of which will house 20 preschoolers.
 
The Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland will open two of the new classrooms at the Oakwood Child Development Center, 9250 Miles Park Avenue. Another will be the first preschool classroom at The Citizens Academy, 10118 Hampden Avenue, which is operated by The Centers for Families and Children. The fourth will be at the Buckeye-Shaker Fundamentals Academy, 12500 Buckeye Road, under the umbrella of the Fundamentals Early Childhood Development Academy.
 
"The grants cover things like furniture, small tables, chairs and shelves," says Katie Kelly, PRE4CLE director, adding interactive toys, enrichment activities, books, puzzles and blocks to the list. "It's all the basic -- but very critical -- parts of a high-quality early childhood classroom."
 
The grants, which total $30,000 per classroom, will not cover any new construction, but the funds may be used to cover minor facility upgrades to make the spaces safe, healthy and inviting. In addition, the funding will cover staffing, but only for a short time.
 
"They have to hire the staff and have them on board before the state will give them their license," says Kelley of the chicken-or-egg dilemma. "That is a upfront cost; so the funds from the grants will also cover very short term staff costs that are related to that startup effort."
 
The areas impacted by the grants (Glenville, Buckeye-Shaker Square and Union-Miles) all have a demand for those preschool slots and are near the top of their supply capacity.
 
"Part of our effort is to strategically expand high quality programs in neighborhoods that are in the highest need," says Kelly. "These neighborhoods that were chosen have a variety of needs. We wanted to make sure that we continue to build access."
 
The Buckeye Road classroom is slated to open this November, with the CEOGC classrooms in Union-Miles opening by year's end. Citizens Academy in Glenville expects to have its preschool classroom ready for an early 2016 opening date. All of the grantees have space that's available and ready to be used for programs.

"These early childhood programs that are community based (and not within the public school district) operate on tight margins," says Kelley. "So something like opening up a new classroom can be cost prohibitive. We don't want that upfront cost to be a barrier and often it is."
 
While the grants do not fund tuition, which is usually covered by the families, childcare subsidies and federal and state funding, Kelly is glad to be creating high-quality learning spaces for the area's preschoolers.
 
"The grants are only for classrooms, but we think it’s a great start," she says. "This is really our first brick and mortar venture into making sure that those neighborhoods have what they need," she adds. "This will serve 80 children, which we're really happy about."

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 TM, Sizzle TM, Megaloc 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."
 

It's raining barrels in the Bellaire-Puritas neighborhood

Whether or not it's raining, Rachel Napolitano, marketing coordinator and engagement specialist at the Bellaire-Puritas Development Corporation (BPDC), fields requests for rain barrels.
 
"Even on the coldest winter day, someone will call about a rain barrel," she says. "We get phone calls all year round—and every day it rains."
 
While those requests won't reserve a barrel, Napolitano makes sure people inquiring about the program get information and an application as soon as the city announces it, which has been every spring for the last seven years. She estimates that they’ve distributed 156 barrels in the Bellaire-Puritas neighborhood since the program's inception.
 
"It's kind of gone viral the old-fashioned way—a grass roots sort of viral," says Napolitano. People will see the barrel in their neighbor's yard. First they get curious and ask about it; and then they get jealous. That's when they call the BPDC.
 
The barrels for the 2015 season arrived last week. Before they had all 30 unloaded, 21 were already spoken for.
 
"People in the neighborhood are passionate about a lot of things. We have nice yards here. People have really robust and humungous gardens," says Napolitano, adding that some nurture flowers; others opt for vegetables and, of course, some plant both.
 
Furthermore, other residents understand that stopping water from entering storm sewers is always a good thing, particularly amid the Chevy branch of the Big Creek, which runs through the Bellaire–Puritas neighborhood. It has a history of overflowing into the street and storm sewers and causing flooding.
 
"Even if they're not going to garden, they value keeping water in that barrel during a storm event instead of having it discharge into the street and perhaps contribute to a flooding problem," says Napolitano. "They like saving money on water bills as well."
 
Residents use the non-chlorinated rainwater to water gardens and lawns, but Napolitano has another suggestion for its use.
 
"Your hair turns out the shiniest if you wash it in rain water," she says.
 
The City of Cleveland employs local youths to assemble and install the rain barrels. The BPDC makes it even easier, sending out their own handypersons to install Oatey Mystic downspout diverters, which are manufactured right in the neighborhood at 4700 West 160th Street. The entire program is cost-free for residents.

Napolitano most enjoys meeting the residents, seeing their gardens and hearing their garden stories. The pro-rain barrel set includes immigrants, long-time residents and people from other parts of the country.
 
"The interest cuts across a lot of demographics," says Napolitano. "It's a great way to get to know residents, especially the people who really care about conservation."
 
Aside: The Oatey Mystic diverter was born in 2009, when the city approached Oatey about developing, designing and manufacturing a rainwater diverter specifically for its rain barrel program. The diverters became so popular; Oatey now sells them throughout the United States and Canada.

Every Cleveland property to be photographed and rated

In a collaborative project between the City of Cleveland and the Thriving Communities Institute (TCI), which is a program of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy (WRLC), more than 150,000 properties within the city (virtually every single one save for those dedicated to things such as roads, railways and utilities), will be visually assessed by September by a team of 16 people who are canvassing the city in teams of two. They started earlier this month.
 
"Their goal is to get 150 records a day," says Paul Boehnlein, associate director of applied geographic information systems for WRLC. That translates to 2,400 a day for the entire team. "They're doing really well. They're right up at that pace."
 
"They're almost done with all of Collinwood," adds Jim Rokakis, vice president of WRLC and director of TPI. "They're moving into Glenville."
 
Team members are equipped with mobile devices that have an array of information on each property, including the address, owner, whether or not there is mail service and utility service, tax delinquency status, etc.
 
"All the public data is there," says Rokakis.
 
They then make an assessment on whether or not the property is occupied or vacant and assess the general condition via a list of questions: Is there a structure? Is it boarded? Are there broken windows or doors? Is the siding damaged? Are there dilapidated vehicles in the yard? What is the condition of the porch and garage? Is the structure open or secure?
 
"The last step for them is to take a photograph," says Boehnlein.
 
"It will be the first survey of every property in the city attached to a photo and a rating system," adds Rokakis.
 
Data collectors are logging an estimated four to six miles a day, all on sidewalks or public right of ways. They were selected from a pool of more than 60 applicants and strive to keep their partner, who is usually working the opposite side of the street, within sight at all times.
 
"Safety is a really important consideration for this project," says Boehnlein.
 
Now for a bit of gloomy foreshadowing.
 
Last year, TPI was involved in the same sort of survey for the city of Akron that included more than 95,000 parcels. About 700 of them were categorized as being in need of demolition. That's less than one percent. When the organization conducted this sort of survey for the Saint Luke's Foundation on 13,000 properties in Cleveland's Mount Pleasant area (near Buckeye Road), "Eleven-hundred of them need to come down," says Rokakis. That's nearly 10 percent, which is a very troubling number and one that illustrates why the survey is so important.
 
"We need to know," says Rokakis, adding that estimates of the number of structures in Cleveland that require demolition go as low as 8,000, which would cost about $80 million.
 
"But what if it's actually 14,000 or 15,000?" poses Rokakis. "Well, do the math."
 
Boehnlein sees the project, which is supported in part by the Cleveland Foundation, as having another gentler impact. In addition to collecting valuable data for the WRLC and its partner organizations, he notes that those who own a vacant or abandoned property are struggling with a really difficult situation.
 
"If our work can help alleviate that situation," he says, "I'm pretty happy about that."
 

First residents jump into Solarize Cleveland

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

Greater Cleveland RTA eyes four sites for lamb/goat grazing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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