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Glenville : Development News

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600 residential units coming to University Circle, more in the works

Midwest Development Partners, along with Coral Company and Panzica Construction, quietly broke ground in late December on Centric Apartments, formerly known as Intesa, at 11601 Mayfield Road, marking the beginning of a residential construction project that was delayed for almost three years.
 
“It’s a really good achievement,” says University Circle Inc. (UCI) president Chris Ronayne. “We are very excited about it.”
 
The seven-story Centric building, which sits on 2.2 acres and borders Little Italy and Uptown, will have 272 one- and two-bedroom apartments, averaging 750 square feet and running about $1,600 per month; 27,000 square feet of office, retail and commercial space on the ground floor; and a 360-space parking garage that will accommodate both residents and visitors to Uptown.
 
“I’m very excited about this project because it’s a connection between Little Italy, the Little Italy–University Circle Rapid Station and Uptown,” says Ronayne, adding that greenspace is part of the $70 million project investment. “It offers great walkable-friendly development.
 
But the Centric project is just one of many new apartment buildings going up in the neighborhood, bringing more than 600 new units to the University Circle area by late spring 2018, with even more projects in the works.
 
Also slated for completion by 2018 is the 20-story, 270-apartment One University Circle building being developed by First Interstate Properties and Petros Development on the former site of the Children’s Museum at E. 107th Street and Euclid Avenue.
 
“Together, 542 units will come online in 2018,” says Ronayne. He says the timing should coincide with “match week ”— the time in March when medical students find out where they will be placed for residencies. “We have 3,000 to 5,000 medical residents each year through University Hospitals, Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic,” says Ronayne. “It’s a mad rush [for housing]”
 
Meanwhile, this summer Berusch Development Partners plans to open its Euclid 116, 31 apartment suites at 11611 Euclid Ave, which will cater specifically to students. The one- to four-bedroom suites are let by the room. Rent covers internet and utilities.

Already complete is the Finch Group's phase one of the 177-unit Innova Apartments, 10001 Chester Ave. The parking garage, part of phase two, is scheduled to be completed this summer.
 
The massive mixed-use plans for Circle Square, formerly known as University Circle City Center (UC3), spearheaded by Midwest Development Partners, are still in the works, Ronayne says, with a groundbreaking date for the site at E. 105th Street and Chester Avenue still a bit in the future.
 
All of this new residential development stems from a plan created in 2007 by the University Circle Land Bank to build 1,000 new apartments and houses. “We’ve now reached that goal and we’re well on to the next 1,000,” says Ronayne.
 
Additionally, the Greater Circle Living Incentive Program encourages residents who work at non-profit agencies in the Greater University Circle to also live there. The program offers the first month of a rental lease, up to $1,400 for free, or up to $30,000 in a forgivable loan on a house if the resident stays for five years.
 
“We’ve accepted nearly 1,000 applications,” says Ronayne, noting that eligible neighborhoods include Glenville, Hough, Fairfax, Little Italy, Buckeye-Shaker and parts of western East Cleveland.
 
The program furthers UCI’s goal of creating a true live-work community. “We’ve been trying to achieve a walking-friendly, high density, populated neighborhood,” says Ronayne. “Today’s employees have a healthy appetite of walking to work with a community that has [amenities such as] restaurants, a grocery store, a library ...

"We’ve done that.”

Silent auction, mingling, 70's Soul Ball to support Glenville revitalization

For years, the Glenville neighborhood, just steps from the cultural attractions of University Circle, struggled with a reputation of being poor, rundown and just plain desolate.

When the Famicos Foundation took over as community development corporation for the neighborhood in January 2014, the organization set out to do what it does best: “Create an engaged, vibrant, diverse, healthy neighborhood; where residents decide to stay, invest, and help shape a neighborhood of choice.”
 
In leading Glenville’s revitalization, Famicos developed a My Glenville Master Plan in March 2015 to improve housing, spur economic development and create a place that engages its residents.
 
“We want a neighborhood we can call home,” explains Famicos executive director John Anoliefo. “There’s a perception [about Glenville] we want to debunk. The ultimate goal is the transformation of Glenville into a mixed income neighborhood of choice in Northeast Ohio.”
 
To begin implementing the master plan, Famicos is having a two-part fundraiser this Thursday, Oct. 27 at MOCA, 11400 Euclid Ave.

From 4 to 7 p.m. Famicos officials and neighborhood representatives will present “Growing Glenville” to go over plan implementation, hand out awards and encourage residents to get involved in the revitalization plan.
 
“We want as many people as possible to get our message,” says Anoliefo, “and the massage is: We need you - all hands on deck. When great people work together, great things happen.”
 
Then, from 7 to 11 p.m. Famicos will host the Solid Gold 70s Soul Ball with DJ Knyce and a live band. “People will have fun,” Anoliefo says, adding that he hopes for a full house.
 
One of the main objectives of the Growing Glenville initiative is to get additional feedback from residents on what they want to see happen in the neighborhood. Anoliefo says they have spent the past year soliciting input from residents about what the neighborhood needs.
 
He concedes that while the neighborhood has gone through its hardships, it continues to be a stalwart home of lifelong residents. “Like most urban areas in the city, particularly in the Rust Belt, it needs a renaissance,” Anoliefo says. “But it’s still well-regarded. We have to retain the people who have weathered the storm,”
 
Anoliefo says the housing stock – many homes are boarded up, abandoned, or in disrepair – needs to be improved, but nonetheless includes classic architecture. “They are beautiful homes,” he says. “We still need to attract people who can take care of them because they are beautiful, but a bit large. The housing stock is second to none.”
 
Anoliefo also says they need to attract a good mix of people and this fundraiser is intended to do exactly that. “Solid Gold is kind of an intergenerational event that brings everyone together,” he explains. “We’ll have young professionals, long-time residents and first time residents. They can learn about Glenville, its assets and all Glenville has to offer.”
 
The event will also be an opportunity for Famicos staff to introduce themselves, the organization, and the master plan to the residents, Anoliefo says. “We need the people we are serving to tell us what they want,” he adds.
 
Famicos has already orchestrated some neighborhood activities to bring residents together. This past summer monthly Gather in Glenville block parties along E. 105th Street between Superior and Ashbury Avenues on Sunday afternoons offered food, music and a chance for residents to get to know one another.
 
“It’s a neighborhood of friendly people, a neighborhood where everyone’s welcome,” says Anoliefo. “There was a time when neighbors knew their neighbors, and this brings old and young together. People are beginning to talk to one another.”
 
The organization also began offering free legal services for those who need advice, as well as the summertime Gateway 105 Farmers’ Market. Another program targets neighborhood youth -- paying better than minimum wage for mowing lawns.
 
Growing Glenville and the Solid Gold 70s Soul Ball will have heavy appetizers and drinks, as well as a 50-50 raffle and a silent auction. Tickets are $150 for both events; $75 for young professionals; or $25 for just the Solid Gold Soul Ball. All proceeds will go toward implementation of the Glenville Master Plan.

CDCs: the quiet but powerful engines driving neighborhood revitalization

The economic recession that began in 2007 impacted nearly every United States city. Compounded by the burst of the housing bubble in 2008, many Cleveland neighborhoods took a hard hit.
 
“Every neighborhood was affected by the Great Recession pretty much everywhere,” says Joel Ratner, president and CEO of Cleveland Neighborhood Progress (CNP), an organization committed to neighborhood revitalization. “Every one of our neighborhoods suffered.”
 
Many Cleveland neighborhoods have successfully recovered, with thriving places like Ohio City, Tremont and Collinwood being ideal examples. There are pockets in the city, however, that continue to struggle. “Most are coming back,” Ratner says. “The question is: where have they come back to and where were they?”
 
Ratner cites the Hough and Mount Pleasant neighborhoods as two areas that have not quite climbed out of the housing crash. “There are several east side neighborhoods that continue to have vacancies and abandonments,” he says. “The Hough neighborhood continues to struggle and places like Mount Pleasant really have a lot of work to do to restore the real estate market.”
 
For those neighborhoods that are beginning to bounce back, Ratner says the key to success is an active community development corporation (CDC). “We believe that where there is a strong CDC, they are able to lift up the neighborhood,” he explains, naming Tremont, the Detroit Shoreway, Central and University Circle as areas with robust CDCs. “Where there are great CDCs we’re seeing community benefits.”
 
Slavic Village Recovery Project, for example, is a collaborative effort between the neighborhood’s CDC, CNP, Forest City Enterprises and RIK Enterprises that acquires and renovates vacant homes, then sells them at affordable rates. The idea is to stabilize the housing market in Slavic Village while also making it an attractive neighborhood for potential home buyers.
 
At the same time Northeast Shores Development in Collinwood and other agencies have spent the last decade creating a destination for arts and culture with efforts such as the Waterloo Arts District. “Waterloo and Collinwood have a lot of exciting things going on,” says Ratner. “People are starting to see market recovery.”
 
In Glenville, the Cleveland Cultural Gardens reflect the neighborhood’s rebirth. “They’re beginning to see a renaissance there,” says Ratner. “The housing stock is really a treasure.”
 
St. Clair Superior and the Campus District CDCs teamed up to host Night Market Cleveland, creating a popular new destination event that brought exposure to AsiaTown and Quarter Arts District and encouraged appreciation for the diverse cultures that characterize the area. The effort garnered a CNP’s 2016 Vibrant City award.
 
Stockyards, Clark Fulton, Brooklyn Centre Community Development Office also received a Vibrant City Award for its part in bringing La Placita to fruition. The Hispanic-themed open air market provides business development opportunities to entrepreneurs and easy access to local goods and fresh foods for residents in the surrounding Detroit Shoreway neighborhood.
 
Ratner notes other projects, such as Goldhorn Brewery on E. 55th Street in the St. Clair Superior neighborhood, the Innova apartments straddling University Circle and the Hough neighborhood, and quieter endeavors in the Central neighborhood such as the small but mighty Ka-La Healing Garden and Resource Center show signs of revitalization.
 
"There are a lot of promising efforts going on around our city,” says Ratner. “There’s a lot of great stuff going on.”
 
And people are noticing, he adds. While previous generations moved out of Cleveland in favor of the suburbs, the city’s booming residential construction today is evidence that the locals are coming back. “They’re beginning to see the joys of the city and what a treasure it is,” he says. “Now people are coming in to Cleveland, especially the boomerangers.”
 
Newcomers to Cleveland are attracted to city living as well. “Someone comes in and doesn’t know the city, or they’ve been away, they have a fresh eye and they are not encumbered by the previous notions of ourselves,” Ratner says. “One of our burdens is our too-negative view of ourselves. As more people come here, we have an updated view.”

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."
 

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."

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."

eastside greenway aims to connect 19 cities with unified network of trails

Last week, two crowds of people interested in the expansion of greenspace, connectivity and alternative transportation converged on Happy Dog at Euclid Tavern and the Beachwood Branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library (CCPL) on Wednesday and Thursday respectively. They came to discuss and learn about preliminary plans for the proposed Cuyahoga County Eastside Greenway project. About 80 attended the first event and 40 went to the second.
 
"It was great turnout, considering the weather," says Anna Swanberg, project manager for Land Studio, which is spearheading the effort and will hold additional meetings tonight from 7 to 9 p.m. at Waterloo Brew, 15335 Waterloo Road and tomorrow from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the University Heights Public Library, 13866 Cedar Road. Interested parties unable to attend a meeting can view the entire presentation online and offer input via an online survey.
 
The presentation outlines an ambitious vision for a new greenspace network that will ideally sprawl over the east side of Cuyahoga County, covering a diverse range of 18 communities such as the cities of Euclid and Pepper Pike and neighborhoods from Hough to Coventry.
 
"We do have such a diverse range of neighborhoods and socioeconomic groups and racial groups," says Swanberg. "It's just across the board. The great thing about this (project) is it would be ensuring access for everybody."
 
Meeting attendees were curious about what an Eastside Greenway would look like in reality.
 
"The answer to that question," admits Swanberg, "we don't have quite yet."
 
That said, the online presentation offers an array of maps and bullet points that give shape to the proposal. The project will target main thoroughfares such as the Euclid, Belvoir, Shaker and Gates Mills/SOM Center corridors. The centerpieces of the Greenway's infrastructure will be dedicated off-road multipurpose trails, the construction of which presents an array of challenges such as right-of-way constraints and property acquisition easements.
 
"It's very difficult to get an off-road trail built in a densely populated area," says Swanberg, "but that is the goal for those segments." She calls the Eastside Greenway a "career project," that will unfold over 10, 15 or twenty years.
 
A secondary network of connectors will augment dedicated trails, most likely by way of on-street dedicated, buffered or protected bike lanes or sharrows, which are shared lanes, marked by a stencil of a bike and arrows that indicate bikes may use the full lane.
 
A $118,000 Transportation for Livable Communities Initiative Grant from the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) is funding this initial planning phase of the project, along with $32,000 in matching funds raised by Land Studio and project partners.  
 
"We began with this last summer. Right now we're sort of at a midway point; our goal is to have a final report in July of this year," says Swanberg. "The great thing about a Livable Communities Grant is that it’s a federal grant. It's really designed to be the planning that sets you up to get federal implementation dollars down the road."
 
Intuitive goals of the Greenway include connecting pedestrians and bicyclists to employment and retail hubs, existing trails such as Morgana Run, the lakeshore and public services; but there is another lofty intent.
 
"We're looking at what this greenway means for health outcomes," adds Swanberg. "We're partnering with the county Board of Health on a health impact assessment, which is a relatively new planning tool that takes a research-based approach to looking at planning decisions."
 
The aim is to mitigate accidents, crime and fear of crime while promoting safety, physical activity and social cohesion between and within communities.
 
If you have a cohesive community in which people look out for one another, those areas tend to have less crime, says Swanberg, adding that one way to achieve cohesion is through equality.
 
But what does a greenway have to do with equality?
 
"The goal is to put everybody on the east side within a five or ten minute walk to one of these trails," says Swanberg, adding that the project enables transportation choices and access to amenities for everyone.
 
"Access is equality."

amasa stone house to be reborn as stonebrook montessori

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

metroparks plans $14m of improvements to lakefront parks, including edgewater beach house

The Cleveland Metroparks is rapidly approaching its 100 year anniversary in 2017, and the park system is currently working on improvements aimed at honoring the founders' vision and propelling the parks into the next century.

This week, the Metroparks unveiled $14 million of planned improvements to the lakefront parks. They include a two-level beach house at Edgewater Park, a boardwalk that would extend over the water at Whiskey island, a rebuilt pier at Euclid Beach, a pedestrian bridge crossing Euclid Creek and connecting Euclid Beach to Wildwood, and upgraded facilities at the East 55th Marina.

"The Metroparks has made major changes at the lakefront parks in the past 18 months," stated a video about the lakefront plan, reminding participants of the enhancements implemented since the Metroparkstook over management of the parks from the State of Ohio. "Imagine what it can look like in 20 years."


In a brief presentation at a community meeting held Tuesday at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, Metroparks officials stated that the agency's priorities are to foster clean, safe parks, connect people with the waterfront and strengthen the surrounding communities. They also stressed that the plans unveiled this week are the result of nearly two years of meetings with residents and stakeholders.

Chief Planning and Design Officer Sean McDermott went into some detail about the proposed Edgewater Park beach house, which will transform what is now a small, benign concessions area and uninspired, bunker-like pavilion into a community hub that will no doubt draw residents and tourists alike.

"We envision this to be a hub of activity in lower Edgewater," McDermott stated at the meeting. "It's an iconic, exciting structure that's still in the early stages of design. This will be a $4 million investment, and we'll only have one opportunity to do this. We really want to make it shine as the centerpiece of the park."

The proposed beach house will have two levels. The second level will consist of a gathering area where visitors can enjoy a picnic lunch, meet friends or just take in the great views. The 9,200 square foot facility will have an expanded concessions area and retail store on the first level. A bridge will connect the second level directly with the entrance to the West 76th Street bike-ped tunnel.

Some of these projects, like the beach house and roundabout at Lower Edgewater, are slated to be completed within the next few years. Others are longer-term improvements and have no clear timeline at this point.

However, Metroparks officials stated that the $14m to be spent stems from funds provided by the state when management of the parks was transferred. Officials did not provide a list of which improvements are already slated to be completed as part of the $14m.

Want to weigh in on planned improvements? Visit the Metroparks' website or attend one of the community meetings planned for this week. Park officials stated that renderings will be available on their website by Thursday.

Here's a list of some of the improvements unveiled at Tuesday's meeting.

Lower Edgewater

- A new roundabout will be built to alleviate traffic problems
- Arrival plaza with play features, fire/water features, outdoor dining area
- Improved trail system throughout the park
- Expanded, improved parking area with loop drives and dropoff areas
- Improved concession area with deck/stage
- Expanded/enhanced fishing pier
- Terraced seating along the waterfront
- Seatwalls and columns at the beach
- Barriers to help keep the sand off of the bike-pedestrian path
- New lakefront bikeway that traverses the entire park and Whiskey Island

Upper Edgewater

- Grand staircase leading to water with upper/lower terraces and trail connections
- New shelter and themed play area
- Upgraded restrooms
- Improved access to Perkins Beach
- Great lawn for large groups, pick up sports and picnicking
- New gazebo near Wagner statue
- Improved trails throughout, including to Perkins Beach
- New scenic overlook with downtown vista
- Reorganized parking layout with reduced pavement
- Rebuilt/improved piers at Perkins Beach

Whiskey Island

- Improved restrooms and concession building
- Boardwalk trail link along waterfront
- Grassy play area to be dubbed "The Arena"
- Connections to water taxi to be housed near Main Ave. bridge
- Overlook Plaza where pedestrian bridge ends
- Improved access to beach areas
- Picnic area and event space

We'll continue to follow and report on planned improvements to the lakefront park system. Next up, we'll delve into what's in store for the east side parks.
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