| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter RSS Feed

Shaker Heights : Development News

59 Shaker Heights Articles | Page: | Show All

New residential breaks ground in Shaker Heights, reflects changing times

While Shaker Heights is known for its rich history, excellent schools and beautiful homes, one 2.4-acre parcel of land along Van Aken Boulevard has remained vacant and undisturbed — until now.

In November 2016 Vintage Development Group broke ground on the plot of land at 3190 Van Aken, nestled between Onaway and Sutton Roads, as the future spot for the Townhomes of Van Aken.
 
“Shaker Heights is a beautiful area and we were well-aware of the beauty of the city’s homes,” says Vintage director of development Mike Marous. “What happens in built-up cities is there’s no land and you have to tear down [for new development], but here was this piece of land that for years was virgin soil that had never been built on.”
 
Working with Shaker officials, Vintage came up with a $10 million plan to build 33 upscale townhomes on the property, offering proximity to the RTA Rapid, University Circle, downtown and all that Shaker has to offer.

—Further reading: Placemaking puts Shaker residents in the mix of Van Aken District plans and The next must-live neighborhood: Moreland district.
 
“You can walk out the door, jump on the Rapid, get your groceries and be home in five minutes,” says Marous of the location, adding it offers the best of urban and suburban living. “It’s 15 minutes to downtown," he says, noting that picturesque Shaker Square is nearby and walkable.
 
Construction on phase one — the first six units in two buildings — is underway, while framing has begun on the remaining three buildings in phases two and three. Construction will continue has the townhomes are sold.

Keeping with Shaker’s strict standards was a challenge in the design, Marous says, but RDL Architects designed the two- and three-story townhomes to fit with the city’s existing feel. “It was quite a process working with Shaker because of the unique architecture,” he explains, noting the city's high quality standards. “But these give a modern, distinctive look that lends itself to the community, but also has an urban modern feel.”
 
Additionally, the townhomes will meet green energy standards. Phase one even has four solar powered units, where the rooftop solar panels feed the electrical systems. Shaker Heights secured the solar panels through Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council’s (NOPEC) Powering Our Communities program. Cleveland-based YellowLite is providing the panels.
 
Additional solar packages will be offered as an upgrade in the future, Marous says. All of the homes have 10-year tax abatements.
 
The two-bedroom, two-full bath and one- or two-half bath townhomes range from 1,800 to more than 2,100 square feet and have two-car attached garages. Prices start at $294,900 and go upward to more than $350,000.
 
The stone facades are highlighted by bay windows and other large energy efficient windows that bring in natural light. “All of the windows are very large and individually placed,” explains Marous. “They’re all trimmed to give it that distinctive look of the community." Each unit also has its own private walk-out patio.
 
The homes include wood plank laminate and ceramic tile floors throughout, as well as plush stain-resisting carpeting. The furnace and air conditioning operate at 90 percent efficiency. Optional gas-powered fireplaces are an available upgrade.
 
Several styles and finishes of cabinetry are offered in the kitchen, which is outfitted with granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, wood plank laminate floors and a large center island with seating.
 
Bathrooms feature quality cabinetry; ceramic tile flooring; granite countertops; under-mount, vitreous china sinks; polished chrome fixtures and ceramic tile showers with rain-shower heads. Vintage’s in-house interior designer, however, will work with buyers to customize all of their selections.
 
While Marous says he anticipates the whole project to take about three years, the process could be completed sooner. “It’s an ‘if you build it they will come’ process,” he says. “We definitely feel that when you’re building in a new area where there’s not been a lot of development we could build momentum."
 
The goal of the project is to build modern homes that fit in with Shaker’s existing architecture. “The whole objective here is to mix with the existing community, but give it a different feel,” Marous says, adding that Shaker city officials have been very supportive in the project, which represents subtle winds of change.

"The city owned the lot for a long time," notes Victoria Blank, Shaker's director of communications and marketing. "The Van Sweringens conceived Shaker Heights as a predominantly residential community and as such, it made sense to preserve and protect green space," she says, adding that, in keeping with the times, city officials have since reconsidered and now welcome denser housing options such as the Townhomes of Van Aken, especially along public transit lines. "This new focus coincides with redevelopment and growth of [the city's] commercial districts," says Blank.
 
Marous says passersby are curious about the activity behind the construction wall. They won't have to wait too long, however. The model suite is due open for showings by mid-May, and just about all parties are anticipating what's to come.
 
“We love this neighborhood, we love Shaker,” Marous says. “There’s so much potential here.”


The city of Shaker Heights is part of Fresh Water's underwriting support network.

Goldhorn Brewery to be Shaker's first brew pub in new Van Aken District

When phase one of the new Van Aken District in Shaker Heights opens in spring of 2018, Goldhorn Brewery will be one of the anchor tenants in the district’s Orman Building food hall.

The brewery, which opened its first location on E. 55th Street last June, will be Shaker’s first brew pub. The partnership between developer RMS Investment Corp and Goldhorn came about after the realization that both entities strive to revitalize historically vibrant areas, says Goldhorn owner Rick Semersky.
 
“They loved the story of what we did with the [St. Clair Superior] neighborhood and they’re doing the same thing in building the new downtown Shaker,” says Sermersky. “There are a lot of similarities between the projects.”
 
RMS director of leasing Jason Fenton agrees that Goldhorn will be a good fit for the district.

“The Van Aken District is excited to have Goldhorn as a partner and feel their addition within the Orman Building will help anchor the project,” he says. “Rick and his team are a fantastic compliment to the other offerings," adds Fenton, noting that the developer is striving to include the best local offerings in the highly anticipated Shaker project.
 
Goldhorn will occupy 2,200 square feet in a corner space of 20,000-square-foot Orman Building, complete with an outdoor patio and seating that overlooks the food hall. “It’s smaller than the space on 55th, but it’s great exposure,” says Semersky.
 
The Van Aken District will be an open container area, he adds, so patrons can grab a beer while they shop. “They can get food from the other vendors and then come in and sit at our bar, or they can grab a beer from us and go out into the hall,” he explains.
 
The bar will probably have a 12-tap system, with eight to 10 beers on draft at any given time. “It seems to work well for us,” Semersky says of the choices. “It’s not too little, but not overwhelming.”
 
While Goldhorn will offer some of its established signature brews, brewer Joel Wagner says he is already testing different recipes to create beers just for Van Aken. ”I’m playing around with different grains and hops recipes,” he says. “I can do one-off batches, and we have a good variety so people can come in, no matter what their beer style is, and taste everything to hit that style.”
 
Semersky says they plan to move into the new space within eight months and begin preparations. “We will hit the ground running,” he says. “The way we look at Van Aken is it’s an opportunity to be part of the neighborhood’s redevelopment and be a neighborhood brew pub in Shaker Heights.”

The city of Shaker Heights is part of Fresh Water's underwriting support network.

County grant paves the way for Lee Road facelift

In an effort to spruce up Lee Road between Scottsdale Road and Chagrin Boulevard and make it a more attractive business district, the Shaker Heights Economic Development Department helped four property owners in the neighborhood update their exterior facades, thanks to a grant from Cuyahoga County.
 
For us, it’s all about making slow, incremental changes,” says Shaker economic development specialist Katharyne Starinsky. “We’re trying to do this in a progressive fashion so it lasts.”
 
The city applied for a grant through the Cuyahoga County Competitive Storefront Renovation program in November 2015, and was awarded $50,000 for full façade improvements on three buildings and new signage on a fourth.
 
The 2016 project marked the first time Shaker Heights had applied for the County grant, and was among four approved cities.
 
The store renovations are a new addition to Shaker’s business incentives portfolio, designed to help small businesses thrive.
 
Shaker tapped six businesses in its application. Last April, three were ultimately chosen for the grant money: Discount Cleaners at 3601 Lee Road State Farm Insurance at 3605 Lee Road, and a vacant 1,600-square-foot office building at 3581 Lee Road.
 
“There are a number of different businesses involved in doing upgrades to their properties,” explains Starinsky. “We have a relationship with all of the business owners so we knew what businesses might be interested.”
 
The city was able to include a fourth property, Protem Homecare at 3558 Lee Road, with new signage for its recently-renovated building.
 
The business owners were required to pay for 50 percent of the renovation costs, up to $16,000, while the city matched the other 50 percent with the grant money.
 
"These are small, locally owned businesses and this is a lot of money for them,” says Starinsky. “Out of the three properties, only one used the full $16,000. Because of that, we were also able to do the signage for Protem.”
 
Shaker hired a design specialist to work with the business owners on cost estimates and envisioning their needs. “They came up with the design together,” says Starinsky of the cooperative work.
 
The businesses then evaluated contractor bids on the work. “The toughest part was going through the contractors’ bids,” recalls Starinsky. “It was very time consuming, but we wanted them to choose someone they felt connected with.”
 
Ultimately, Starinsky says two of the contractors chosen for two projects were minority owned enterprises.
 
The projects are mostly complete. State Farm renovated the existing façade details, including installing exterior lighting, signage and replacing the door and windows. Discount Cleaners replaced windows and installed a new sign and canopy and is completing finishing touches this week.
 
The owner of the office building, which once housed credit union, tuck-pointed the front steps, installed new awnings and windows and other façade work. “This was a leap of faith for him, because he [the owner] doesn’t have a tenant yet, it he wants to rent it out,” explains Starinsky. “It’s caddy-corner to [co-working and office hub] The Dealership, so it’s a really great location for someone who doesn’t need a big space all the time.”  
 
Shaker’s Lee Road district is capped off with a sculpture, Cloud Monoliths, by local public artist Steve Manka – part of the city’s 2015 Lee-Lomond intersection project.
 
Overall, the renovation projects totaled $113,699, which includes the storefront grant, $48,427 in private investments, $18,550 by the city for the design specialist and architectural fees, and $4,500 in grants from Shaker Heights Development Corporation made possible through Citizens Bank.
 
The city is so satisfied with the work done in 2016 that officials applied for a similar county grant for 2017.
 
“It’s a real nail biter,” Starinsky says of the recent application, “because we’d like to try it again. We’re supporting our [new] businesses and those who have been here a while too.”

Shaker has a number of available commercial properties for lease.

The City of Shaker Heights is part of Fresh Water's underwriting support network.

Wrecking ball kicks off celebration, clears way for new downtown Shaker

After years of planning and infrastructure improvements, all that remains of the Van Aken Center will come down this weekend to make way for the new Van Aken District.

On Saturday, Nov. 12, the city, RMS Investment Corporation, representatives of Cuyahoga County, ODOT and the merchants in the new district will host the New Starts Now Demolition Celebration.
 
“We will look back a little and then look forward,” says Shaker Heights economic development director Tania Menesse. “Van Aken Center basically looks like it did in the 50s when it was built. It took a long time to get to this point, and then it happens really quickly.”
 
The whole redevelopment was first initiated with the city’s strategic investment plan in 2000 and is on schedule to be completed by June 2018.
 
The celebration begins with a wrecking ball taking the first swing at the shopping center on the north side of Van Aken. When the demolition is complete, the only remaining structure at Van Aken Center will be the former Fresh Market, which will become the food hall in the new Van Aken District.
 
The rest of the space will be reborn as 100,000 square feet of retail on the first floor, 60,000 square feet of office space on the second floor and 100 apartments. The current parking lot at Van Aken Center will be a public park. A 325-car parking garage will be erected to supplement a 70-car lot and street parking.
 
Additionally, much attention has been trained on the public transportation hubs in the area as well as creating a cycling and pedestrian friendly infrastructure.
 
After the wrecking ball takes its swing, the New Starts Now party continues with a celebration and welcome from tenants of Shaker Plaza on the south side of Van Aken and in the Shops of Chagrin on Chagrin Boulevard.
 
“This is an event to thank the community for their patience and let them know the best is really yet to come,” says Menesse.
 
The event includes shopping, food and drink from vendors such as Pearl Asian Kitchen, J. Pistone, Rising Star Coffee, Mitchell’s Homemade Ice Cream, Nina Lau'rens Cakepops, and Restore Cold Pressed Juice. Goldhorn Brewery will provide adult beverages and music will be provided by By Light We Loom. Proceeds from the sale of Goldhorn Brewery beer will benefit the local non-profit organization, Christ Episcopal Church.
 
Many of the previous tenants of Van Aken Center, including Pearl, Donato’s Pizza, Subway, MoroPhoto and Frames Unlimited, have already moved over to Van Aken Plaza, while established tenants like QDoba, Walgreens and Juma Gallery continue to operate during the construction.
 
“We encourage the community and all of Cleveland to come see this,” says Menesse, adding that construction will not interfere with access to the existing businesses. “We want to make sure the larger community knows all of these are open for business.”
 
Many future tenants will host pop-up shops, including Tremont-based clothing retailer Evie Lou, which will open its first east side location at Van Aken District. Other newcomers to the district include men’s clothing stores Whiskey Grade and Brigade, Mark Anthony Salon and Day Spa and New Balance.
 
Families are invited to explore the new and pop-up stores via the “Be an Original” treasure hunt, which takes seekers on a quest for prizes through District stores. “People can go into every store to get something fun,” explains Menesse. “It’s a fun way to get people to explore the businesses in Shaker Plaza.”
 
The will be other family friendly activities, such as Face Painting by Suzanne, sponsored by Le Chaperon Rouge childcare, which will be opening a Shaker location in September 2017.
 
Cleveland Heights public artist Debbie Presser is organizing a community art project at the event. Attendees are invited to come draw, decorate and paint on a 16-foot long canvas. The work will ultimately be incorporated into a permanent public art piece in the Van Aken District.
 
In the meantime, Andrea Wedren, marketing and event coordinator with Boom, says the public work will be displayed along the construction site fencing. “People can just come and doodle and create, then we will take what is created and use it in the construction site,” she says. “It will be included in the [permanent] piece and be inspiration for the permanent piece.”
 
The demolition ceremony begins at 12 p.m. For best viewing of the wrecking ball’s impact, gather in the former Starbucks site at the corner of Chagrin Boulevard and Warrensville Center Road. The festivities then move inside at 12:30 p.m. - next to Pearl Asian Kitchen at 20156 Van Aken Blvd - and continue until 5 p.m.
 
Juma Gallery, 20100 Chagrin Blvd., will host an after party from 6 to 8 p.m. with wine, beer, small plates and music by Jim Carr.
 
The event is free and open to the public. Parking is available at Shaker Plaza or in the lot on Farnsleigh Road.
 
"This whole effort is to create a true downtown for the community,” says Menesse. “I really think this is going to be a great addition to the neighborhood.”

The City of Shaker Heights is part of Fresh Water's underwriting support network.

Holzheimer Interiors carries on its century-old design tradition in new Larchmere home

Jackie Holzheimer fondly remembers spending afternoons at her family’s business at 10901 Carnegie Ave. as a fourteen-year-old, playing hide-and-go-seek, conducting treasure hunts and exploring the goods and fabrics of Holzheimer Interiors.
 
“I would go there on Saturdays and play designer,” she recalls. “It felt like a second home to me.”
 
Holzheimer Interiors was founded in 1902 by John Holzheimer as a store that specialized in interior and exterior residential painting. When his son, Frank, took over he added wall coverings to the company’s specialties. Frank’s sons in turn added furniture and custom cabinetry, upholstery and window treatments.
 
Holzheimer's aunt was a bookkeeper for the store. Her mother, Kathryn was a designer for the company and, although retired, still participates in operations and maintains her client connections.
 
As the fifth generation of Holzheimers to run the store, Jackie has transformed Holzheimer Interiors into a full-service design firm featuring the same quality and standards that established the company 114 years ago.
 
Long gone from its Carnegie Avenue home for 60-plus years, Holzheimer Interiors has always called Northeast Ohio home. In January Holzheimer opened the shop at 12733 Larchmere Blvd. in Shaker Heights in a 1920 store front that was once operated by the sisters of Shaker’s first mayor, William Van Aken.
 
"This, to me, is a nod to our history,” Holzheimer says of the new storefront, which, like the original Holzheimer store, has big windows that display changing vignettes of living areas.
 
Holzheimer moved into the 2,500-square-foot space the first of this year, taking some time to remodel it before she opened the doors to the public, who are invited by appointment only. A coat of paint and new lighting freshened the shop's look. Holzheimer is also having a replica of the store’s original sign at the Carnegie location made for the new Larchmere shop.
 
While updating the space, Holzheimer also discovered a pleasant surprise: the original maple hardwood floors. “When I pulled it up, I said ‘oh my god, we have to refinish this,’” she recalls.
 
Holzheimer installed four islands with white countertops as work areas. “There were certain things I knew I wanted to do with the floor plan, where things would be located,” she says. The large front windows and 10-foot ceilings provide plenty of natural light, while the off-white walls create a neutral palette for customers to evaluate different patterns and colors.
 
The open space allows Holzheimer and her designers to present different floor plans based on their clients’ room layouts – always presenting three distinctive options to each client. “There are thousands and thousands of options out there, so our philosophy is: have it be unique,” she explains. To that end, the store represents 3,000 manufacturers.
 
Holzheimer says she can work with any budget. “Our pricing is very competitive, or often cheaper, than the big box stores,” she boasts. “Everybody deserves good design,” she says. “You can have quality furniture that will last you for 25 years.” She travels all over to work with her clients, the vast majority of whom are referred by other clients. The firm does not advertise.
 
The lower level is reserved for an inventory of lamps, artwork and accessories to complete a room. “It gives an option,” explains Holzheimer. “That finishing touch of a room that bring it all together.”
 
While Holzheimer was previously based in Novelty, she says she chose Shaker Heights because of its history and retail neighbors that complement her business.
 
“Larchmere is a very fitting environment,” she says, adding that other area stores sell antiques, collectibles and Oriental rugs. “We’re a natural fit with our neighbors and all of us help one another.”

History and location notwithstanding, maintaining the Holzheimer Interiors reputation is the biggest priority for her. “To me, the history of the company is very important, the quality of the products and quality of service is very important,” she says.  

“Being fifth generation, I don’t know many people who have that legacy. I want to keep the name strong and keep that name alive.”

Hundreds of residential units slated for Pinecrest

Last week, Fresh Water Cleveland took a closer look at two unique entertainment tenants committed to Fairmount Property's forthcoming $230 million Pinecrest mixed-use development project located at I-271 and Harvard Road in Orange Village. This week, we pull the camera back for an update on the project at large.
 
In addition to a burgeoning list of retail and entertainment offerings, Pinecrest is set to include 90 loft-style apartments, all of which will be situated above the more than 400,000 square feet of street-level retail.
 
"We are in the process of finalizing the layout for the residential apartment units," says Fairmount founder and principal Randy Ruttenberg. "They've been designed with high style and great amenities and they range from one to three bedrooms."
 
The vintage notion of having living space above storefronts, says Ruttenberg, is one of the things that will set Pinecrest apart.
 
"This project is not a lifestyle center by any means," he says. "It will not simply be a row of the same national type tenants that you see in many other projects in Cleveland or throughout the country. It will have a meaningful pedestrian scale and act more like street-front retail than anything else."
 
Those rental units are slated for availability in summer of 2017, with much more to come. In addition to the 90 rental units, 30 of Pinecrest's total 80 acres will be populated with traditional residential real estate properties.
 
"To the north of the theatre, we'll have a seamlessly integrated neighborhood that will feature approximately 250 for-sale residential units including condominiums, townhomes and brownstones geared primarily to young professionals and empty nesters," says Ruttenberg, adding that he expects the first stage of this portion of the sweeping project also to be complete in summer of 2017.
 
Announcements about the host of associated retail and entertainment tenants have been fast and furious. Thus far, dining and entertainment options include Restore Cold Pressed juice emporium, Red, the Steakhouse, Firebirds Wood Fired Grill, Old Town Pour House, Silverspot Cinemas and bowling/bocce/bistro spot Pinstripes. Retail selections will include Whole Foods Market, outdoor outfitters REI and clothing retailer Vernacular.
 
"All of them are drawn to the district for its architecture and for its collection of daytime traffic drivers," says Ruttenberg, "but given the restaurants we've been fortunate to have attracted – and Silverspot and Pinstripes, the evening traffic will be just as robust."
 
Also atop all that retail will be 150,000 square feet of class A office space and a 150-room hotel.
 
"We've started to have meaningful discussions with both smaller groups as well as larger companies, some of whom are considering Pinecrest for their headquarter locations," says Ruttenberg. "This office building will be unique within this market in that it will be the only suburban office that will have both attached covered parking and a hotel."
 
Ruttenberg describes his vision of how Pinecrest will transform an underutilized parcel in an otherwise densely developed area.
 
"Pinecrest was always planned to be an urban-style infill mixed-use district," he says. "The architecture, merchandising, streetscape and programming all speak to this. Each design and leasing decision has been – and will continue to be – thoughtfully made such that the totality of both will result in an engaging and dynamic district where millennials and college students will seamlessly integrate with the region's old and new money, all of which will be drawn to Pinecrest's first-to-market national and unique regional tenants, targeted events, restaurants and nightlife."

Sophisticated fun to top the menu at Pinecrest with bocce, bowling, movies alongside fine dining

Two unusual entertainment venues will be part of Fairmount Property's forthcoming $230 million Pinecrest mixed-use development project located at I-271 and Harvard Road in Orange Village when it opens in 2017.
 
Silverspot Cinemas will bring movie going to a new level with luxurious leather seats and an upscale restaurant. Pinstripes will feature bocce, bowling and an Italian/American themed restaurant and bar.
 
While plans are still on the drawing board, Randi Emerman, head of marketing for Silverspot, says the approximately 46,000-square-foot venue will tentatively feature 10 screens. All theaters will have oversized seating, including ottomans for those in the first row. Exact seating has yet to be determined, but Silverspot's three other locations in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and Naples and Coconut Creek, Florida, have between 80 and 160 seats for each screen. The staff at the new Silverspot will number about 120.
 
For those who prefer to stick with candy, cola and popcorn, those traditional movie concessions and others will be available. But film buffs seeking a more refined plate and cup can step into the on-site (and separate) restaurant that will feature cocktails and chef inspired cuisine.
 
"All of our chefs are hired locally," says Emerman.
 
While moviegoers are not obligated to dine on site and vice versa, the end goal is to bring sophistication to the tried and true dinner-and-a-movie outing.
 
"Once you walk into our doors, we're going to make that movie experience great and well rounded, whether you're going to the movies or having a cocktail or snack," says Emerman. "We're here because we love movies," she adds.
 
The impetus for Pinstripes wasn't a movie, but something much more nostalgic for northeast Ohioans.
 
"The original inspiration for Pinstripes was bowling as a six year old at Pepper Lanes," says the company's owner and founder Dale Schwartz, who is also a native of Beachwood and Hawken School alum. "It isn't there anymore," he adds of Pepper Lanes. The Eton shopping center now occupies its former site on Chagrin Boulevard.
 
While that bowling alley may be gone, the memories it kindled have grown into a thriving business. Pinstripes boast seven locations from Kansas to Illinois, with as many as 10 new locations pending, including the one at Pinecrest, which is already inked.
 
While plans are still tentative, the new facility will feature a 30,000-square-foot two-story interior with about 16 lanes of bowling and eight bocce courts. A large all-weather patio outfitted with fire pits will accommodate outdoor dining and some of the bocce. Pinstripe at Pinecrest will have more than 100 employees.
 
The venue will accommodate up to 300 for banquets and 1,000 for parties. Events will likely include weddings, bah mitzvahs, high school reunions, birthday parties and any number of corporate events. The facility will have a divisible banquet space and private party rooms. The bowling lanes and bocce courts will also accommodate smaller parties.
 
"We plan on hosting close to 2,000 events a year at this Pinecrest location - if not more," says Schwartz.  
 
The full service bar will feature local craft beers amid an array of other potent potables. Kitchen offerings will include Italian American classics, all of which are made from scratch on site.
 
"We make our own pasta, pizza dough and all of our own sauces," says Schwartz, adding that his kitchens take the concept of homemade down to the smallest detail. "We make our own marshmallows."
 
A number of events will include regular Sunday brunches, live jazz on Saturday nights and Tot Time play dates during weekdays.
 
Schwartz says his team was attracted to the Pinecrest project on account of easy accessibility via Interstate 271, Cleveland's vibrant business community, a good selection of area hotels and local people who appreciate sophisticated fun.
 
"Cleveland has wonderful communities," he says.
 
That Pinecrest is signing other topnotch tenants also fits into Schwartz's grand scheme.
 
"We really like locations where there's a very attractive and quality mix of other entertainment, retail and restaurants," says Schwartz, praising the recently announced inclusions of Silverspot, Whole Foods Market, Red, the Steakhouse and REI within the Pinecrest project.
 
"Those are all either unique or some of the best-in-class in their respective categories," he adds, "which is what we like to be amongst."

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."
 

Model home of yesteryear on track for rebirth in Shaker Heights

Built in 1922 for the then-princely sum of $30,000, the stately home at 2834 Courtland Blvd. in Shaker Heights is long on history – including its celebrated inception as the future of Cleveland residential living and, more recently, a dark period when it was abandoned, neglected and slated for the wrecking ball.

But now with the careful ministrations of the Cleveland Restoration Society (CRS), this fascinating home is set to return to its former grandeur.
 
The home was built as one of four swanky demonstration units put forth by the Van Sweringen brothers, an iconic Cleveland real estate development team that was heavily involved in the development of Shaker Heights. Famed architects Howell and Thomas designed the quartet of homes, all of which are located at the intersection of Shaker and Courtland Boulevards near what was the terminus of the Shaker Rapid at that time.
 
"These demonstration homes represented what you could expect in Shaker Heights," says Michael Fleenor, director of preservation services for CRS, noting that the homes were marketing tools similar to the model homes we see today heralding a new residential development. The original architectural drawings for 2834 Courtland, as well as a 1933 addition (also designed by Thomas and Howell), are available via the Cleveland Public Library.
 
The 4,738-square-foot home, for which CRS is asking $379,000, features a two-story great room with a vaulted ceiling, seven bedrooms and four full and two partial baths. It also has an attic, basement and in-ground pool, which is rumored to be the first in Shaker Heights. Enduring design elements of the English Tudor include half timbering, projecting gables, fireplaces, leaded glass with some stained glass embellishments and a slate roof, one wing of which required significant work by CRS.
 
"We had that wing done in slate and copper," says Fleenor, noting it had previously been covered in asphalt, which was an interim measure the city took after a roofing contractor walked off the job in 2009, leaving that entire wing open and exposed to the elements.
 
Other work included extensive drying as all the gutters had been salvaged by the previous owner. Also, a billiard room had to be completely demolished on account of moisture damage.
 
"We took out mold in another section," says Fleenor.
 
The home at 2834 Courtland had eight owners, the last of which abandoned it. The property rapidly became a tangled legal nest of mortgages, unhappy bankers and liens. For over a year, CRS worked to straighten out the mess while simultaneously getting the neglected structure stabilized and grounds cleaned up.
 
Although the structure is sound and in generally good condition, the current status is very rough as evidenced by a lengthy repair list compiled by the city. Fleenor notes, however, that many items on that list will likely be moot when the new owner guts spaces such as the kitchen or bathrooms.
 
Challenges notwithstanding, Fleenor says that several parties are interested in the home and that CRS is optimistic about forthcoming offers and an eventual sale. Interest was evident last month, when the group held two open houses that garnered more than 200 visitors. They included the serious, the curious and the nostalgic.
 
"Several former owners came through," says Fleenor. They recalled everything from teenage years spent in the house to fond memories of a grandmother. Conversations understandably included recollections on how different spaces therein were previously employed, which is par for the course for the restoration group. After all, every notable and historic structure has as many stories as the people it's housed.
 
"So much of what we have… " says Fleenor referencing the group's portfolio, "the properties have different stories related to different people's lives."

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."

Gluten-free Cafe Avalaun coming to Richmond Road

As early as next month, Brian Doyle will be opening the Avalaun Café, 4640 Richmond Road, suite 200, which will set itself apart for many reasons, including being gluten-free. Doyle is the chef at the Beachland Ballroom and owner and chef for Sowfood, a caterer and CSA-style purveyor of prepared foods specializing in gluten-free options.
 
While Doyle, alongside pastry chef Maggie Downey, have been running Sowfood in the 1,900-square-foot space since March, Doyle didn't finalize details on Avalaun until just last month.
 
"It's been in the planning stages for about a year," says Doyle of the project, which he is financing privately and with a microloan from the Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI).
 
Avalaun will feature an array of Downey's gluten-free baked items, salads, soups and sweet and savory crepes.
 
"Anything you can put in a sandwich, you can put in a crepe," says Doyle. Menu specifics, however, haven't been nailed down yet--except for the coffee. Crooked River Coffee Company will be providing top shelf beans for an area that's badly in need of a good cup of joe.
 
"We're going to be filling a void," says Doyle, noting that coffee options between Beachwood and Miles Road on Richmond Road are essentially nonexistent save for fast food chains. Initially, Avalaun will be open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday, although Doyle hopes to expand those hours at a later date. He plans on hiring six employees, for which he is currently soliciting applicants.
 
The space is the former site of Café Beníce. Since it previously housed an eatery, construction is minimal and Doyle is doing much of it himself with the help of some friends. Painting, decorating and minor construction are ongoing.
 
The space features a large window between the dining area and the bakery, so patrons can watch the action in the kitchen. Avalaun will seat 20. Bridget Ginley, artist and host of the Sunday evening Erie Effusion on WRUW, constructed the tables for the café from reclaimed pallets. Carole Werder is creating a unique art installation with a poignant impetus.
 
"Avalaun was my mother's name," says Doyle. "She passed away when I was eight."
 
To that end, Werder's piece will be a painting of a tree with three-dimensional elements. Doyle describes the work as, in part, characterizing his mother's soul.
 
"She was an artist and a poet."
 
And she surely would be smiling upon her son's latest venture: a gluten-free eatery with a sharp eye on healthy local food in a stylish venue that's run by a sustainably minded staff.
 
"It's not going to be this stark shopping center vibe," says Doyle. "It's going to be very unique and eclectic. It's going to have a lot of character and personality."
 

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."

Cleveland Neighborhood Progress announces finalists for Vibrant City Awards

On April 28, 2015, Cleveland’s community development industry will gather at the Victory Center, 7012 Euclid Avenue, to recognize the accomplishments of its colleagues and organizations with seven awards during the first annual Vibrant City Awards luncheon.
 
Event host Cleveland Neighborhood Progress (CNP) will present the inaugural Morton L. Mandel Leadership in Community Development Award along with six other awards recognizing an array of community development efforts.
 
"This is a wonderful opportunity for our organization to convene the community development industry alongside city stakeholders and recognize successful neighborhood revitalization efforts," says Joel Ratner, president and CEO of CNP. "The Vibrant City Awards lunch continues a tradition of celebrating our collective accomplishments and enlisting new city advocates and champions."
 
"This is a celebration of the city—a celebration of the neighborhoods—and all are welcome," adds CNP's director of neighborhood marketing Jeff Kipp. "Obviously, community development stakeholders will be there, but this is part of our efforts to build up the core base of ambassadors and advocates and champions of city living. So anyone who has any role in that, from a resident to a store owner to a corporate executive, we want them to feel welcome to attend."
 
Response to the event has been brisk.
 
"We are very pleased that over 400 people have registered so far," says Kipp, adding that the capacity of the venue is 500.
 
While the recipient of the Morton L. Mandel award, which recognizes an individual who has had a profound impact in the community development field, will be announced at the ceremony, here is a synopsis of the six other community development awards and the associated finalists.
 
The three finalists for the Neighborhood Branding and Marketing Award include the Downtown Cleveland Alliance for its “You and Downtown” video, the Historic Gateway Neighborhood Corporation for the Take a Hike Tour offering and Tremont West Development Corporation for its Gay Games 9 Neighborhood Marketing campaign.
 
Finalists for the Community Collaboration Award include Kamm’s Corners Development Corporation and Bellaire Puritas Development Corporation for their efforts on the One West Park Visioning Study; the Ohio City, Inc., Tremont West Development Corporation and Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization; for their collaboration on the Near West Recreation effort; the Campus District Inc. for its Banner Up! project; and the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization/Gordon Square Arts District for its innovative collaboration with Cleveland Public Theatre and Near West Theatre and an associated capital campaign.
 
The Burten Bell Carr Development for the Market Café and Community Kitchen, the Historic Warehouse District Development Corporation for its Small Box Retail campaign, the Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation for its Intergenerational Housing initiative and Slavic Village Development for its Slavic Village Recovery project are all finalists for the Community Development Corporation Catalytic Project/Program Award. 
 
Those vying for the Corporate Partner Award include Fairview Hospital for its sustained commitment to the West Park neighborhood, Heinen’s Grocery Store for its successful efforts to realize a full service grocery Downtown at The 9 and Third Federal Savings for its continued partnership and investment in Slavic Village.
 
For his work in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood, Mike DeCesare of Case Development is a finalist for the Developer Award, as are Keith Sutton and Dave Territo of Sutton Builders for their efforts to revitalize Tremont, Mark Jablonski of CenterMark Development for his work at Lakeview Road and Superior Avenue and Sustainable Communities Associates partners Ben Ezinga, Josh Rosen and Naomi Sabel for completing the Fairmont Creamery development.
 
Finalists for the Urban Realtor Award include co-owners Keith Brown and Dave Sharkey of Progressive Urban Real Estate for their continued committed to Cleveland neighborhoods and Mark Lastition of the Howard Hanna Ohio City branch for his willingness to partner with developers on new construction and community events.
 
The Vibrant City Awards Lunch is open to the public. Tickets can be purchased via this link. For questions and comments, contact Jeff Kipp at 216.453.1453, or via email.

West Creek Conservancy battles unsustainable development, nurtures our water

Between the ominous headlines detailing the California drought and the algae bloom that shut off Toledo's water last August, virtually every northeast Ohioan has wondered about our own water source. Sure, Lake Erie is plentiful, but is it clean and well managed?
 
The West Creek Conservancy (WCC) is a little-known organization that perhaps ironically, measures its progress in tiny steps backwards with the goal of reclaiming and restoring our water ecosystem.
 
"We took 100 years to develop over them, fill them, move them and trench them," says WCC's executive director Derek Schafer of our waterways. "It's going to take a while to reclaim them. And be a bit more expensive."
 
Founded 15 years ago with the intent of establishing an 80-acre greenspace around the West Creek in Parma, WCC handily achieved that goal and has since been expanding the project, which now covers some 350 acres. In 2006, the Metroparks took over the West Creek Reservation, but WCC continues the expansion with the aim of connecting it to the towpath at two locations, in Valley View and in Cuyahoga Heights.
 
Looking at a map of the burgeoning greenspace, the project may seem unevenly developed, but each intricate parcel is realized when time, planning and funds free it up to become a link in the thoughtful West Creek Stream Restoration and Greenway plan.
 
"We piece it all together," says Schafer, "parcel by parcel, acre by acre: back yards, side yards, right of ways, consolidations … "
 
The latest achievement consists of 10 acres that had been unsustainably developed years ago. Just east of the intersection of East Schaaf and Granger Roads in Independence, what is now a free flowing section of West Creek and its confluence with the Cuyahoga River, which holds up to 100 million gallons of water during flood conditions, formerly housed four acres of parking lot, a giant warehouse, a bank and tavern.
 
"This is such a cool point on the Cuyahoga," says Schafer of the unique riparian feature. "This was a landscape-changing project. We removed 84,000 yards of fill to provide the stream access to flood plane and wetlands. We put in 12,000 plants."
 
Partners on the project, which started in 2007 and has just wrapped up, included the City of Independence and the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District. While the space is not currently connected to any other green space, plans to eventually link it to the Towpath in neighboring Cuyahoga Heights and to the West Creek Reservation are in the works.
 
Meanwhile, the WCC has set its sites on a project further south that is inching closer and closer to a Towpath connection.
 
The Hemlock Creek Trail will eventually link Normandy High School in Parma all the way to the Towpath in Valley View. It's also a bit-by-bit long-range project, but later this year, WCC hopes to break ground on the section between the Towpath and Route 21 in Independence. The organization has raised $2 million of the $2.5 million price tag. Schafer estimates the work will take 18 months.
 
"This is a daunting trail plan," says Schafer of the Hemlock project, "but we're so close to making it happen. We've got about 80 percent of it bought up."
 
Future parts of the trail will include a section along Interstate 77 and an on-road section on Hillside Road. Other links are already in place.
 
While the WCC's primary focus is on the expansion of the West Creek Reservation, the organization has gained a reputation as a can-do behind-the-scenes entity that gets results when it comes to complex urban land acquisition and usage rights. To that end, the WCC has also acted as a landholder for projects years in the making and Schafer has lent his expertise to an array of area organizations.
 
For instance, LAND Studio enlisted Schafer several years ago to acquire a tricky acre surrounding industrial railroad for the Lake Link Trail, as well as aerial rights for an associated pedestrian bridge that's slated for installation at the press time of this article.
 
"Trail plans are great, but you have to have the acquisition, the restoration, the connection and the management," says Schafer. "You have to have awesome community partners," of which WCC has had too many to list, but they include area municipalities, the Metroparks, the NEORSD and a host of state and federal entities as well as private donors.
 
Other diverse projects on which WCC has partnered include the Kinsman Farm, which is an innovative urban agricultural endeavor, the historic Henninger House Restoration and the Treadway Creek Trail project, which connected Old Brooklyn to Cuyahoga Hts.
 
Tagging the West Creek along with the Rocky River, Mill Creek, Big Creek, Tinker's Creek and others, Schafer says, "We're impacting all these tributaries. Suburban and urban waterways all drain to the Cuyahoga and the Cuyahoga drains to Lake Erie." In the end, Mother Nature's original design is the best for this delicate ecosystem, despite our well-meaning (and often disastrous) efforts to alter it.
 
"Flooding is natural," notes Schafer. "We've made it unnatural. We've put our developments in the way of the waterways. We've really got to look at removing unsustainable development and letting our streams and rivers breathe."
 
"They need to breathe."
59 Shaker Heights Articles | Page: | Show All
Signup for Email Alerts