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Barrio to round out the Cedar Fairmount offerings by spring

When Sean Fairbairn and Tom Leneghan open their fourth Barrio location in Cleveland Heights in early spring, the restaurant known for its tacos, guacamole and margaritas will be a perfect fit with the Cedar Fairmount District’s vibrant nightlife scene.

“Our big thing is that we don’t want to compete with anyone. We want to complete that neighborhood,” says Barrio director of operations Jake Hawley. “We feel we will bring more people into the area. It’s just going to help everyone.”
 
Additionally, Hawley says the area is rife with Barrio’s target audience. “That neighborhood, there’s so much going on over there,” he says. “That little corner has so much going on. There are a couple of colleges in close proximity, and the kids love our food. We’re open until 2 a.m. every day, so we look for spots that can sustain the late-night crowd.”
 
The new location is the restaurant’s first foray into the east side, says Hawley, and the former Mad Greek space at 2466 Fairmount meets their needs. “We’ve wanted to expand to the east side,” he says. “That place was just perfect.”
 
The Mad Greek had been in business since 1976 when it closed permanently last September.
 
But it’s taking some work to get the 3,800 square feet up to Barrio standards. The team took over the lease six months ago and has been working ever since on an overhaul. “It was in pretty rough shape, shockingly bad,” says Hawley. “We were planning on doing some demolition, but it ended up being a complete gut job.”
 
Leneghan serves as the general contractor for all of the Barrio locations and is overseeing the Cleveland Heights project from start to finish.
 
The first task was to remove some walls. Originally, the entry lobby and bar were quite cramped. “We really opened up the space,” says Hawley. “We blew out the kitchen and created an octagonal bar in the middle of the space.”
 
The bar and open kitchen allow for better traffic flow and speedier service, says Hawley, adding that the kitchen is right by the bar, allowing for easy access for floor staff – not to mention room for the kitchen staff to work.
 
“Our model is to have a kitchen that looks out,” explains Hawley. “Bar backs and food runners don’t have to go in the kitchen at all. It’s hectic enough as it is.”
 
The main dining room and bar area combined will seat up to 150 people. Additionally, 16 additional tables will provide seating for up to 60 people on the back patio, where Hawley says an outdoor bar is planned.
 
Like the other Barrio locations in Tremont, Lakewood and Downtown, the décor will have a Day of the Dead theme, painted by Cleveland artist Michael “Mac” McNamara. While Hawley doesn’t yet know the story depicted in the new location’s mural, he promises it will be fantastic.
 
“We don’t get the story until the artist in finished,” Hawley admits. “But Mac is a very talented welder and painter.” Hawley does know that one of the painted skeletons resembles the image of LeBron James’ famous chalk cloud clap.
 
While Hawley says the mural is almost finished and the walk-in coolers arrived two weeks ago, there are just a few more finishing touches that need to be done before Barrio opens in the spring.
 
“You walk in and it looks like we could open soon,” says Hawley. “We really moved on this project and we’ve had a full crew working every day, five days a week. There’s a lot going on.”
 
Barrio will be open daily from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Thursday; and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday through Sunday. The Cleveland Heights location will employ 50 to 60 people.

Bottlehouse, Rising Star team up to offer day-and-night libations

It’s been nearly a year since Bottlehouse Brewery and Meadery's Brian Benchek opened his Lakewood location in the old Sullivan’s Pub at 13368 Madison Ave. as the hub for the company's sour beer production.
 
Now Benchek is partnering with Rising Star Coffee Roasters to open a pop-up pour over and aeropress bar, as well as sell beans, merchandise and pastries from Fire Food and Drink, in Bottlehouse during the daytime hours, beginning on Monday, Dec. 19. As it is, the bar sits empty during the day until Bottlehouse opens at 4 p.m.

The partnership came about after Benchek bought the 5,000-square-foot space he is currently renting, along with a 2,000-square-foot storefront next door.
 
“Bottlehouse has been in this location for a little while and [Benchek] had the opportunity to purchase the property,” explains Rising Star general manager Robert Stockham. “It’s a typical Lakewood storefront and it was really crying out for a business. They were looking for a business that would be complementary to them.”
 
After Stockham and Benchek got together, they found that Bottlehouse and Rising Star were a perfect match. In fact, Bottlehouse brews its flagship coffee stout using Rising Star coffee beans.
 
Rising Star will take over the new space in March or April 2017. In the meantime, the company will operate out of Bottlehouse.
 
“We came out to talk to them and we realized we really have the same philosophy toward business,” says Stockham. “They specialize in hand-crafted brews and meads, we specialize in hand-crafted coffees. We realized this was a good pairing and renting the space next door made sense.”
 
The pop-up store will help Rising Start get a head start on establishing themselves in the neighborhood. “We can start building a presence now,” Stockham says, adding that the company has a number of wholesalers on the west side of Lakewood but no retail locations in the city.
 
Rising Star currently has three retail locations – in Hingetown, the Arcade and Little Italy – in addition to its roastery at 3617 Walton Ave.
 
“We will come in during the day and get people excited about the space,” says Stockham of the pop up shop. “Then they can come back at night to get beer and mead.”
 
Rising Star’s opening in its permanent Lakewood location will depend on how long it takes for Benchek to close on the two properties and how much work has to be done on the adjacent storefront. “The space is in good shape so it won’t take a lot of work,” assures Stockham.
 
In addition to the Lakewood location, Stockham says they hope to open a retail outlet in their roastery next year to cater to Cleveland’s tourism industry.
 
Bottlehouse’s Lakewood location hours are 4 p.m. to midnight, Monday through Thursday; 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Fridays; and 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Sundays. The original Bottlehouse is located on Lee Road in Cleveland Heights. The Rising Star pop up will be open from 6 a.m. to either 4 p.m. or 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday, opening at 8 a.m. on Sundays.

Update: Heights High renovations on track, clock tower unveiling imminent

Halfway through the renovations at Cleveland Heights High School, the $95 million project is on budget and on schedule to open in time for the 2017-2018 school year.
 
“It’s going to be beautiful when it’s done,” says Cleveland Heights-University Heights School District project liaison Brad Callender. “There’s been a real effort by the district to preserve the architectural elements of the building.”
 
The high school was built in 1926 to accommodate a growing student population and was designed in the style of a Tudor castle, with a clock tower, high column and a large center entrance, according to Cleveland Historical.
 
The building underwent several changes over the last 90 years, but failed to keep up with modern-day technology and amenities. “It had multiple additions, multiple renovations until the 1970s – at least six major additions – and that doesn’t count all the small stuff,” says Callender.
 
So in a plan that came about after 10 years of planning, plenty of community input and the 2013 passage of a $134 million bond, the district began a major overhaul in June 2015.
 
“Construction began the day after the students moved out,” recalls Callender. “We’re on a tight deadline to get everything done by move-in by the start of school in 2017.”
 
The high school students are currently housed in the district’s Wiley Middle School, both in the building and in modular classrooms on the campus. About 1,500 students will attend the new high school when it reopens.
 
With less than a year until completion, officials, teachers and students are already getting excited. “Anticipation is starting to build even now,” Callender says. “This year’s juniors are already seeing themselves as the first graduating class from the new building, and the teachers are very excited about having technologically advanced classrooms.”
 
By “technologically advanced,” Callender is referring to classrooms outfitted with the latest in multi-media equipment such as interactive smart boards. “Classroom technology has evolved in the last 10 years and students are comfortable with multi-media,” Callender explains. “They will be able to take field trips without ever leaving the classroom. Kids can walk up to the smart board and manipulate things themselves.”
 
With the additions over the years, Callender likens the old high school layout to a sort of labyrinth. Originally designed in a U-shape, various additions had closed off the center courtyard and divided up the approximately 450,000-square-foot building. Although the new building preserves much of the original structure, it will be only 360,000 square feet.
 
“It’s a significant decrease, but a lot of the old space was cut up and like walking through a maze,” Callender explains. “This is going to be a building that is significantly more efficient than the old one.”
 
The clock tower – the building’s centerpiece and towering more than 90 feet over the city – has been rebuilt from top to bottom, Callender says, and  the original patina copper topper has been replaced with a new copper top. “The decision was made by the community to make it copper again,” he says. “We will let it patina naturally.”
 
The clock itself, which hasn’t worked for years, has been replaced. “It didn’t work because it was technologically outdated,” explains Callender. “The new one is an exact likeness to 1925-1926 pictures and the exact details are duplicated.”
 
Callender adds that the view from the clock tower is “amazing,” which is accessible in order to service the clock in earlier times. The new clock won’t require such maintenance.
 
The scaffolding that surrounds the rebuilt tower is due to come off in the next two weeks. “It will be a great day when they peel off the scaffolding on the clock tower,” he says. “We will all breathe a collective sigh of relief.”
 
The main entrance of the school, which was covered by a science addition built in the 1960s, is now visible, returning the building to its original castle-like grandeur from Cedar Road.

A hybrid geothermal system, solar-ready roof and energy-efficient windows will earn Heights High LEED Silver certification, going from the bottom 10 percent for energy efficiency among peer buildings in the region to the top five percent.
 
Among the many community workgroups involved in the project, 12 Heights High students are exploring career paths in architecture and architecture design while participating in the renovation. “The construction manager has involved the students from the very beginning,” Callender says.
 
The renovation design was done by Youngstown-based BSHM Architects and Gilbane Building Company is the construction manager.
 
When it is completed next August, Callender is confident the school will once again be a focal point in Cleveland Heights. “We’re preserving the architecture with modern amenities,” he says. “It says strong things about this community. You see all of these homes and the school fits right in in the middle of the neighborhood. It’s going to look a lot like it did in 1926.”
 
Additionally, Callender sees the new high school as a symbol of Cleveland Heights pride. “It’s going to be the centerpiece of the community and I truly think the building reflects the values and dedication of the community to education,” he says. “And the students (they won’t say it) will truly appreciate it.”

New business set to bloom in Ohio City

Sisters Brianna Jones and Brooke Witt believe in signs. So when they realized three months ago that each one had been thinking about starting a business, they took it as a sign they should open a flower shop in Ohio City.

“We each kind of had a very similar idea very separate from each other, unknowingly at the time,” recalls Jones. “All the signs pointed to ‘yes.’ We both believe in signs and everything fell into place.”
 
Floral design just made sense. Witt is an avid gardener, and graphic designer who owns the Etsy shop Near and Dear Designs. Jones, a former sergeant in the U.S. Army, attended art school and the Floral Design Institute.
 
“Since we both love to design, love pretty things, and love bringing joy to people, flowers seemed like the obvious choice,” says Jones.
 
So Jones and Witt started Lush & Lovely Floristry, a company specializing in hand-tied flower arrangements. The plan was to do it all from their homes – Jones’ in Cleveland Heights and Witt’s in Broadview Heights – when another sign appeared.
 
The two discovered a former gym for rent at 3408 Bridge Ave. in Ohio City. “When we started out, we weren’t planning on having a storefront,” Jones says. “But we were both looking on Craigslist and found it. We peeked in the windows and we were like, ‘oh my goodness.’ We came to look at it and it was amazing.”
 
Lush & Lovely will open Saturday, Oct. 1, in its new home. The duo is funding the business with their own savings. Witt says the airy 850-square-foot space allows for a “working studio” where they can make their arrangements. The floristry will also conduct flower arranging classes, floral design workshops and private events for things such as bridal showers, singles parties and mother-daughter outings.
 
“There will be flowers everywhere,” says Witt. “We want to make flower arranging trendy, fun and exciting.”
 
All of Lush & Lovely’s blooms will be seasonal American grown flowers. Witt and Jones will also use Ohio flower farms whenever possible. “There has been a 70 percent decrease in American flower farms,” explains Witt. “Eighty percent of flowers are shipped in from South America today.”
 
The sisters plan to buy from farms in Medina and Chardon when stock is available. “Everything is grown and cut from the field within a day or two,” says Jones.
 
Customers can buy arrangements and bouquets at the store, or Witt and Jones plan on having daily delivery to the greater Cleveland area, weekly delivery throughout Cuyahoga County and overnight shipping anywhere in the United States.
 
Jones and Witt have already formed partnerships with their Ohio City neighbors and plan on co-hosting events with other neighborhood businesses. “They’re very excited to include us,” Jones says of their neighboring retailers. “It’s very community oriented here.”
 
Lush & Lovely will host an open house on Saturday, Oct. 1, from 4 to 9 p.m.to introduce themselves to the community.

With latest expansion, Appletree Books enters new chapter as indie book seller

Two years after its grand re-opening on Cedar Road in Cleveland Heights, Appletree Books will be wrapping up its second facelift. With a five-month long expansion slated for completion by October 14th, the bookstore will be nearly doubling its size, all in an effort by owners Lute and Lynn Quintrell to open its doors for more artists, authors and local non-profits.  
 
And of course to stock more books. 
 
Contrary to what some might believe, indie bookstores are not plummeting in scope. In actuality, they’re thriving. Scouring over 2,000 U.S. indies, the American Booksellers Association reported last year that sellers have seen a 27 percent growth since 2009. This year, sales are up 6.1 percent since January. The organization credits the increase to consumers’ penchant for localism. A fact that culminated this April with ABA’s Independent Bookstore Day, for which Appletree and other Cleveland sellers happily joined hands to promote in what Lute dubbed a “coopertition.” 
 
And the Quintrells can back up claims of an indie renaissance. 
 
Compared with their fall 2015 sales, Appletree boasts higher profits this September, especially at the start of holiday book-buying season. It was this January’s availability of the space next door—a former tanning salon—that inched the optimistic Quintrells to go ahead with expansion. With financial support from their landlord, who owns most of the Cedar-Fairmount property, the Quintrells chipped in around $10,000 to supply the additional space with shelving and furniture (most from garage or estate sales), along with a reading podium, a fresh coat of paint for a Children’s area and a fortifying steel beam, “so the second floor won’t collapse.” 
 
Besides enabling more browsing room, Lute said that a larger store is appealing for publishers and authors interested in hosting readings or signings at Appletree, which is a bit too cozy for larger events. A bigger space, he said, could mean bigger names. 
 
“Right now it’s awfully crowded when we get a good number of people,” Lute said, recalling when they hosted same-sex marriage activist James Obergefell in August after the release of Love Wins. “We had nearly 200 people at the Trinity Church downtown, as a result. I mean, we could have never hosted that at the store.” 
 
Even with the aim of attracting more regulars, the couple is understandably nervous about the investment, considering the uncertainty of the market alongside increased rent and renovation costs. June’s opening of Amazon@Akron, the Seattle megalith’s in-person store at the University of Akron and slipping sales at Barnes & Noble, are a potential omen things could falter. For now, however, Lute’s hopeful. 
 
“People say that if you expand and offer something attractive and inviting, then they’ll respond,” Lute said. “I suppose I’ll say it: ‘If you build it, they will come.’” 
 

Community-minded Artful lands in Coventry neighborhood

After a year-and-a-half search, the founders of Artful have finally found a home in the former Coventry School building at 2843 Washington Blvd. in Cleveland Heights.

Artful was founded in February last year by friends and local artists Shannon Morris and Brady Dindia to create an affordable space for local artists to come together and create, collaborate and sell their works. They’ve spent their first year introducing the concept of Artful to the community, assessing needs and looking for a space.
 
Now they are moving into the second phase of establishing Artful as the east side community for artists.
 
Morris, executive director of Artful, points outs that the Heights area, including Shaker Heights, Cleveland Heights and University Heights, has the largest population of artists in the greater Cleveland area, yet very little studio and work space.
 
The preferred location was always Cleveland Heights, but organizers scoured the city for the perfect home for Artful. They found the, 5,376-square-foot space on the second floor of the 60,000-square-foot former school through the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District, which owns the building.
 
“They were very helpful and accommodating,” says Morris of the school district. “We went to go look at it and we were just like, ‘duh.’ Then we brought in our architect [John Williams of Process Creative Studios] and he said, ‘this is a no-brainer guys.’”
 
Artful will share the second floor with Ensemble Theatre. Morris says the abundant, large windows and swooping tall ceilings make a perfect creative environment. “There’s a lot of natural light and peaks throughout,” she says. “It feels so open and accessible.”
 
Currently the space is wide open, with enough room for at least 17 studios, a classroom, gallery and a programming area. Artful is pre-leasing studio space so tenants can configure them as they choose. Morris says a 10x10-foot studio will rent for $150 a month, which utilities and Wi-Fi.
 
"It's so exciting, but so scary at the same time,” Morris confesses.
 
Programming will be a critical component of Artful’s mission, especially after achieving 501(c)3 non-profit status last September. For instance, Artful has been working with a financial advisor, who will conduct classes on how to navigate financials and set up a business as an artist. The organization will also work with area gallery owners to determine what they're looking for in local artists.
 
“It’s about combining ideas with businesses and the community and working together,” explains Morris. “If the artist community is healthy, the whole community is healthy.”
 
Over the last year, Artful staff has kindled relationships with the neighborhood businesses along Coventry, especially Big Fun, the Grog Shop and B Side Liquor Lounge and Arcade, as well as Ensemble Theatre.
 
“It’s good to get young, fresh-minded things happening,” Morris says. “Community and arts working together make it fun.”
 
Artist Stephen Manka, who is known for his various public art around Cleveland, is working on a public art piece for Artful’s new home.
 
Artful is currently running a fundraising campaign to raise $75,000. An anonymous donor has agreed to match $25,000 of the funds raised. If they meet their goal, Artful can operate successfully for the next year.
 
Morris is particularly excited about a Chandler & Price letterpress the group has acquired. It was hand-forged by the Cleveland company in 1899. “It’s museum quality; it’s the real deal,” she says of the vintage press, adding that they plan to use the antique. She’ll be traveling down to Roanoke, Virginia to pick it up soon. “I think it’s so cool to bring it home to Cleveland.”

More to love at the Fairmount with new indoor patio, event room

Since taking over ownership of The Fairmount in 2011, Jake Orosz has quietly established the martini bar and restaurant as a friendly little place at the top of Cedar Hill, 2448 Fairmount Blvd., that offers up an eclectic range of drinks and light bites, from the Rhubarb Ginger Fizz alongside the Smoked Brisket Wonton Bowl to a no-frills Heineken enjoyed with a small plate of pretzel bites.

Last weekend, Orosz added to the Fairmount’s draw, celebrating the opening of a 40-seat 1,000-square-foot private event room with a wedding reception and an adjacent 800-square-foot “indoor patio” in the community atrium of the building.
 
Orosz began thinking about doing something with the space three months ago, he says, after neighboring Luna Bakery and Cafe relocated its cake decorating operations. “It's nice to finally be done with all the construction so I can focus on other aspects of the business,” he says.
 
Orosz hosted 85 people at the reception in the new event room, the indoor patio and a section in the main room.
 
“I like to call it ‘modularity,’” he says of the divided areas. “If there were no wall separating the area it would just be a wide open space. Modularity lets you do whatever you want – it lets you customize the space for whatever you want to do.”
 
The indoor patio features two-story ceilings, hanging plants and fountains on a slate gray floor. “I’d like to add a water wall,” Orosz says. “And it has big double doors that open to the street.”
 
Orosz adds that the indoor patio will also serve a double function when the outdoor patio behind the restaurant gets full. “When the patio gets packed outside, we can open the indoor patio,” he explains. “In the winter we can use it for regular service and I won’t have to lay off staff.”
 
Like the main bar and the patio in back, the private room has its own full bar with two beer taps. While the two satellite bars don’t have quite the full cocktail menus – servers must run inside to fetch one of the Fairmount’s single malt scotch offerings or certain varieties of wine – the three bars provide more space for customers to place their drink orders.
 
Patrons will be able to order the Fairmount’s signature cocktails, such as a coffee martini made with house-infused coffee vodka, a John Daley made with house-infused black tea vodka or a Moscow mule made with house-brewed ginger beer.
 
“We're constantly changing our cocktail menu, as well as our beer and wine list,” Orosz says.
 
Orosz also plans to host ticketed events such as wine tastings in the private room, which is equipped with audio visual capabilities and a separate stereo system.
 
Thanks to renovations to the kitchen last year, customers in any area of the Fairmount can order off an expanded food menu including chicken and waffle sliders, pizza and the Fairmount patty melt. And whether it's served on a plate or in a glass, offerings are often seasoned with herbs from the restaurant's indoor and patio gardens. Food and drink specials can be had during the weeknight happy hours from 4 to 7 p.m.

“I’m excited to be able to do special events and tastings,” says Orosz. “We’re getting all the kinks ironed out and I think it will be good.”

$3.5 million in improvements commence on Lee Road

After a few delays, the Lee Road Streetscape Improvements plan is underway in Cleveland Heights. Last Monday, May 9, the city and the Cedar-Lee Special Improvement District (SID) began a six-month project that will include street resurfacing, new sidewalks and new traffic lights on Lee Road between Corydon and Superior Roads.

"I think it's great," says Adam Fleisher, co-owner of the Wine Spot. “As a merchant, I’m really excited about it. Lee Road is a great destination place, but it needs updates.”
 
The $3.5 million project is part of a master plan that was created in 2008, just before the economy soured. The plan was taken up again in 2011 with a preliminary engineering analysis, which led to an application for public funding.
 
The city received $1.5 million from Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) and $1.6 million from Cuyahoga County, as well as $20,000 from RTA for the bus stop on the corner of Lee and Cedar Roads and $45,000 from the Ohio EPA to fund the project.
 
The Cedar-Lee SID is responsible for funding the landscaping, planters and other street furnishings. The SID funds come from merchants in the district who contribute to it.
 
After the only bid that came in 2012 was too high, the city hired CT Consultants to revise and execute the plan. S.E.T. Inc. is doing the actual construction.
 
Running north to south from Cain Park on Lee and Superior Roads to the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library just past Corydon Road, Cedar-Lee is the longest commercial district in Cleveland Heights, says SID president and owner of Zagara’s Marketplace John Zagara.
 
Lee Road has been reduced to one lane in each direction without turning lanes, and is lined with orange pylons as construction began yesterday on the west side of Lee from Superior to Coleridge.
 
On-street parking has been eliminated during construction, but Zagara says there are plenty of parking alternatives.
 
“Lee Road was designed originally [for patrons] to come up the side streets and enter through the side entrances and the back,” Zagara explains, adding that there is plenty of parking available in the lots and garage off of Silsby, Meadowbrook and Cedar.
 
The valet parking service that is available on weekends will move to side streets and the parking lots.
 
Current traffic light poles and will be replaced with poles painted hunter green or black, says Zagara, “to create a differential of the district.”
 
When the street is torn up, new electrical systems will be installed to put in LED pedestrian lighting on the sidewalks. “We placed a priority on better lighting throughout the district,” says Zagara, adding that the street becomes very dark late at night when bar patrons are leaving and other stores are closed. “We wanted to get the lighting for safety.”
 
ADA compliant drop off locations, handicap spaces and crosswalks will be added to the road once it is resurfaced.
 
The large rectangular planters along the street will be removed and replaced with other landscaping to make the sidewalks more pedestrian friendly. “Our current curb appeal is impacted by a hodge podge of street furnishings,” explains Kelley Robinson, director of the Cedar Lee SID. “We will be purchasing new planters that will complement the new street furnishings and help create a more inviting atmosphere.”
 
While the sidewalks will not necessarily be larger when portions are replaced, Robinson says the removal of the current planters will make it easier to for pedestrians to navigate.
 
Fleisher is impressed with the plan. "More sidewalks mean more seating space,” he says, referring to Wine Spot’s front patio.
 
Zagara calls some of the improvements, such as the painted light poles and landscaping, “niceties” that help the district keep up with surrounding shopping districts. We’re competing against places like Legacy Village,” he says.
 
No major improvements have been made to the district since 1983, says Robinson.
 
The six-month project should be done by October or November, Zagara says. Robinson is having maps made to show patrons the streetscape plans, which merchants can display in their shops.
 
Fleisher plans to display one at the Wine Spot. “Time will pass quickly,” he says. “It will be ready by the holidays. The people who come to Lee Road will appreciate it when it’s done.”

$4 million expansion coming to University Heights Library

In 2010, the University Heights branch of Heights Libraries began talking to community members about what improvements they wanted to see in the now 64-year-old library at 13866 Cedar Road.

After some talk and initial planning, library officials conducted surveys at various locales including the library, neighboring Whole Foods and John Carroll University.
 
“Participation wasn’t heavy, but there was repetition of key points, so we knew we were on the right track," says Heights Libraries director Nancy Levin, noting that lack of a rear entrance by the parking area was a familiar complaint. "People wanted to see us solve the back door problem, and we knew the building needed updates and repairs.”

The main entrance will be moved to the rear of the building, with new glass panels to be installed in the front. A side entrance with a ramp on Fenwick Road will also be added. 
 
In addition to obvious work such as updating the HVAC and electrical system, making the building energy efficient, fixing roof leaks and installing ADA-compliant bathrooms, the survey led to plans for a fully functional elevator, an easily-accessible back door and children's and teen areas.
 
The $4 million project will add 5,282 square feet to the existing building, which will bring the total space to 10,500 square feet. The cost of the project has already been worked into Heights Library's budget.
 
The lower level will include a dedicated area for kids with a story room, teen space, meeting rooms and ADA compliant bathrooms. The new children’s area and elevators will make a family trip to the library much easier, says Levin. “It’s obvious when you have a stroller and go downstairs for story time, or go down with a toddler who is potty training,” she notes of the current situation.
 
The upper level will have large meeting rooms, independent study rooms and bathrooms. The book collection will be split up, with children’s books going to the children’s area and adult books going to an adult section upstairs.
 
The new HVAC system is in dire need of replacement. “Now we have many systems that have been added, with multiple air conditioning and multiple heating [systems],” says Levin. “It will certainly save us in the cost of operating with a modern, efficient system that turns up during the day and down at night.”
 
The library has purchased three houses on Fenwick Road, which were sold willingly by the owners for $140,000 each. They will be demolished to make way for the addition. A new parking lot will provide 10 additional parking spaces, which will increase from 37 to 47.

Levin also hopes to add a patio off of the new addition. “We’re creating something beautiful for the community and it will become an asset,” she says. “It won’t be a park, but it will be really nice.”
 
This summer, a citizens' landscape committee will discuss ideas for trees and a garden sculpture at the bus stop in front of the library. “There will be a neighborhood component,” Levin says.
 
CBLH Design is the architect working on the project, while Regency Construction Services in Lakewood is managing construction. Plans will be finalized this summer with construction slated to begin in September. September 2017 is the estimated completion date.
 
Library officials a trying to find a temporary home during the renovation, but so far have had little luck. Levin says they want to stay close to their permanent location, to be accessible to library staff and patrons, many of whom rely on the bus to get to the library.
 
Levin says temporary space at Cedar Center may not be feasible because of long lease requirements and vacant space at University Square is in receivership.
 
“We have heard from a number of city officials with good suggestions but they haven't worked out yet because of location,” Levin explains. “We really need to stay in the Cedar-Warrensville area if at all possible. The alternative is to close the branch and store the materials but continue all of the programs in other locations.” 

Handcrafted sour beer, mead, eats and board games coming to Lakewood

When the BottleHouse Brewing Company opened on Lee Road in Cleveland Heights in 2012, owner Brian Benchek brought a slightly different approach to the craft brewery – no mainstream beers or televisions, but plenty of picnic tables and board games to create an atmosphere the whole family could enjoy.

The idea was a success and Benchek is on the verge of opening a second location. The BottleHouse Brewery and Mead Hall will occupy the space that formerly housed Old Sullivan’s Irish Pub at 13368 Madison Ave. in Lakewood.
 
Everything is complete and management is ready to open the doors pending approval of their federally issued brewing license. Jared Plotts, general manager of the Lakewood location and trivia host on Monday nights at the Cleveland Heights location, says the license should come through any day.  
 
“We’re well past the 120 days, which is the normal time it takes,” he says. “We’re at 150 days. Once that email comes, we’re open. It just gives us an opportunity to tweak things.”
 
While the team had been floating the idea of a second location, it was fate that brought it to life.
 
“Brian had been toying with the idea of how we could get more people interested in our beer,” says Plotts. “We were discussing a second location, but we planned on opening in a year or two and we thought we’d build it out ourselves.”
 
Then, Plotts says Benchek was tooling around town in November and happened to see the former Sullivan’s location was up for rent and in a blink, the second BottleHouse location was determined.
 
“Every day since the end of November we’ve been working hard to get everything up to code,” says Plotts of the 5,000-square-foot space. The team ripped out the saloon-themed décor from the last tenant only to reveal an Irish cherry wood bar and other imported Irish wood. New embellishments include rustic chandeliers, barrels lining the room and highlights on the stone work arches.
 
“The majority of the work was cosmetic,” says Plotts. “It’s more like a 17th century castle.”
 
Picnic tables will encourage a community feel, and the customary board games will be available.

"Valhalla," a private party room, features a 22-foot-long table. Plotts says he plans to host monthly craft brewing workshops here, including one specifically targeting women. He also plans to host monthly fundraising events for local charities.

A game room in front has reclaimed wood floors salvaged from a vintage Irish barn, glass sculptures made by Benchek and old school arcade games.
 
While the Lee Road BottleHouse will continue to be the brewing headquarters for the operation, the Lakewood location will focus on sour beers, which rely on wild yeast for fermentation, and barrel aging. The two locations employ about 10 people.

Twenty-four taps will offer a rotating selection of BottleHouse-brewed clean beers, sour beers and meads. The sour beers take between six months and three years of barrel aging, so that selection won’t be available until late this year. There will also be a variety of cocktails made with the beers and meads.
 
Menu items include crackers made with the spent grains from making the beer and BBQ sauce and beer cheese made from BottleHouse brews, as well as soups and salads. Offerings will change seasonally, Plotts says. And as always, patrons are welcome to bring their own food into the bar.
 
Plotts says the overall atmosphere and attitude in Lakewood will be similar to the Cleveland Heights location. “Lakewood has such a rich history,” he says. “We wanted to give the community someplace they could be proud of and a place they can go with a lot of energy and the idea of community.”

Parnell's Irish Pub expands alongside Euclid Avenue development

Ever since Parnell’s Irish Pub opened three years ago in Playhouse Square at 1415 Euclid Ave., it has been a hotspot for the working crowd, serving up perfect pours of Guinness Stout and a selection of 90 whiskeys and bourbons. The pub has been so popular that owner Declan Synnott decided it needed more room, so he bought the vacant restaurant space next door and began building an 800-square-foot addition in January, which is expected to open later this month.

“It turns out business is better than I thought it would be,” Synnott says. “What we really need now is just more space so people can be more comfortable.”

The original Parnell’s Pub opened in Cleveland Heights in 1995 after Synnott moved to the city from his native Dublin, Ireland. He opened his second location in Playhouse Square in March 2013 to take advantage of the area’s nightlife scene. The upcoming extension, Synnott suggests, takes influence from the recent development on Euclid Avenue.

The renovations, which were carried out by Turner Construction, were funded by Synnott and Playhouse Square. His wife, Liz, did the interior design, the majority of which features repurposed items. For example, the extension includes a 250-square-foot private room with an 18-foot-long U-shaped table made from old church pews. Light pendants fashioned from old bourbon-barrel wood and sconces made from the barrel’s aluminum wrap illuminate the space. They also rescued barn doors from an old downtown firefighter training facility, which they are using to section off the room.

Parnell’s is slated to host live bands and folk sessions in the new space by September.

Adding three new employees and space for about 45 additional patrons, Synnott is sure adding the new space was a no-brainer, especially because he estimates as many as 4,000 people on any given night descend on the district’s five block radius.

“It’s nice being shoulder-to-shoulder,” Synnott says, “but I want my patrons to be, first of all, comfortable, you know? That’s the atmosphere we’ve projected since we started [in Cleveland Heights] 19 years ago: a place to go after a hard day’s work.”

While Synnott planned for a St. Patrick’s Day finish, city permit delays – due to construction projects for the RNC – pushed completion to a late March opening, but Synnott, who’s awaiting his second child, isn’t too bothered by missing the St. Patrick’s Day goal.

“Would I like the space done? Yeah, of course,” he says. “But one day ain’t going to make us or break us.”

Collaboration brings home sweet home to disabled Cleveland veteran

An ex-Marine has found a new home thanks to a pair of veteran-friendly groups and a Cleveland suburb willing to support disabled soldiers with affordable housing opportunities.

Elyria native Corp. Leo Robinson signed the final closing documents for his new house in South Euclid during a Feb. 18 ceremony at Cuyahoga Land Bank (CLB). The organization partnered with national nonprofit Purple Heart Homes and the city of South Euclid on the project.

Robinson, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan who sustained brain injuries and other ailments overseas, was set to move into his renovated home late last week, says Howard Goldberg, assistant secretary and chief real estate officer with Purple Heart Homes.

The 1,300-square-foot domicile, donated in 2012 by CLB, was rebuilt from the ground up, says Goldberg. Nearly 200 volunteers offered financial and material support for the approximately $70,000 undertaking.  

Plumbing, electrical, HVAC and insulation work was supplied gratis, while a local furniture company provided the home with a new bedroom set and other necessities. Members of the Notre Dame College football team, meanwhile, helped demolish the structure's interior prior to rebuild.

"This shows how a community can come together and make something great happen," says Goldberg.

Robinson will live in the house with his therapy dog, Kota. The finished structure has a new garage, laundry room, basement recreation space, and second-floor bath off the master bedroom. The former Marine will pay a mortgage equal to 50 percent of the home's appraised value.

Eligibility for the ownership program requires an honorable discharge and a service-connected disability, Goldberg notes. Robinson is the second veteran to receive a home in South Euclid through the venture. A third residence is planned for the inner-ring community, while two more projects are in talks for Old Brooklyn and Euclid, respectively.

"South Euclid's done a good job of sustaining their housing stock so the values go back up," says Goldberg. "The timing for us was excellent."

The collaboration also meets Purple Heart Homes' stated goal of improving veterans' lives one home at a time. The organization, launched by two disabled Iraq War vets, has found stable partners among the leadership and general population of South Euclid, Goldberg says.

"The one thing this shows is how people rally around their veterans," he says. "They're not only willing to help, but they want to make a veteran feel welcome in their community."

Further reading: East Cleveland duplex now permanent housing for veterans

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."
 

Up to 250 new sharing bikes coming to the 216 ahead of the RNC

Bike Cleveland has teamed up with the Cuyahoga County Department of Sustainability to secure 250 bikes for a bike sharing program in time for the Republican National Convention next July. The move is part of a larger countywide initiative.
 
"Over five years we need 700 bikes in 70 stations," explains Mike Foley, executive director of Cuyahoga County's Department of Sustainability.
 
In order to get started on that tall order, last month the team identified CycleHop-SoBi as the preferred vendor for the new bike share system. Negotiations are ongoing, although Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) awarded the county $357,000 in federal funding to bring the plan to fruition. With 20 percent in matching funds, the group has $446,000 available to purchase the bikes.
 
"The federal government requires us to own these things at least for their usable life," explains Foley, "which is deemed five years." The program in its entirety will cost more, he adds, and will depend on a private-public partnership that relies on business and other private sponsors adopting stations and systems. Downtown will be the initial focus area for the first wave of bike stations.
 
The CycleHop-SoBi brand is a collaboration of two entities.
 
"CycleHop operates the system,"explains Foley. "SoBi manufactures the bikes," which he describes as sturdy and equipped with GPS systems. "Heaven forbid a bike is stolen or not returned," he says, "they'll be able to find it. It also helps figure out routes. They call it a smart bike. We were impressed with technology."
 
The bikes can also be locked anywhere.
 
"You don't have to go to a SoBi bike station," says Foley. "You can lock it up at regular bike stop and go get your coffee."
 
The versatility doesn't stop there. Although still tentative, Foley sees the program having flexible membership options, with yearly, monthly and weekly fee structures available, as well as an hourly rental system for one-time users.
 
As the program expands to reach that 700 number, Foley sees it reaching across the county.
 
"There are suburban communities that I know are interested in this. Cleveland Heights is chomping at the bit to be part of it," he says, adding that Lakewood has also expressed interest.
 
"We want this to be larger than just the city of Cleveland."

East Cleveland duplex now permanent housing for veterans

While social media bloomed with kind words for veterans last week, a project that truly gives back to those who have sacrificed so much was quietly taking shape in a duplex in East Cleveland.
 
Previously vacant, the house is now home to three veterans who were experiencing homelessness and utilizing the Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry (LMM) Men's Shelter, 2100 Lakeside Ave.

This is the pilot project for the Veterans' Affordable Housing Initiative, a collaboration between the Cuyahoga Land Bank (CLB) and LLM. While another non-veteran shelter client is also living in the duplex, it has six bedrooms. Hence LMM is in the process of placing two more vets.
 
"We really try to have the application and criteria as open as they can be," says Michael Sering, LMM's vice president of housing and shelter. "We didn't want to create barriers for someone's housing. There are enough barriers in the community." Prospective applicants must be able to live independently, get along with roommates and pay 30 percent of their income towards monthly rent, but no less than $325. All utilities are included.
 
"We have to break even on it financially," says Sering of the minimum rent payment. "There is no government subsidy or anything."
 
The open slots will be filled by eligible veterans that are from the 2100 Shelter population or via a referral from the Cuyahoga County Veterans Service Commission (VSC), but if there is a vacancy and another appropriate applicant waiting, he will be offered residence.

The housing is permanent, which Sering notes as the most impactful point of the initiative.

"Everyone wants people in permanent housing - not in a shelter. Ultimately that’s the goal," he says. "They pay rent and live here indefinitely. We imagine some people might move on," he adds, citing an increase in income or other housing opportunities presenting themselves. And if not, "this is definitely permanent housing."
 
Located within walking distance of a grocery, pharmacy and two bus lines, the duplex features two separate residences, approximately 1,300 square feet each. Each side has its own front and back doors, kitchen, living and dining rooms, basement and three bedrooms.
 
The land bank identified the property and prepared it for title transfer to the LMM as a donation. The paperwork was completed in September; and the men, who are in their 50s and 60s, moved in just a few weeks ago.
 
So far things are going along well.
 
"Two of the guys had already known each other and were referred together," says Sering. "They're good friends. They're glad to be moving in together. They're a support network for each other; they had that built in. The other two guys are off to a good start."
 
While LMM will be sending along a staffer once a month to check in and make sure the men's needs are met and that they have access to services, that's about it.
 
"This is not a rigorous case load," says Sering, adding that counseling and monitoring will not be required. "These are people that just need affordable housing."
 
As for the house, LMM spent $40,000 refurbishing the interior. King's Sons 820, an organization that helps young people adopt trade skills, did the work. 
 
"The house was in decent shape," says Sering. "It's brick and has a fairly new roof and windows, so most of work was on the interior. They painted everything and sanded the wood floors, which came out beautifully. They pretty much gutted the kitchen," he adds.
 
Sering hopes that the East Cleveland house will prove to be a successful pilot for the initiative and an example for many more to come.
 
"The land bank has thousands of houses that they want to see go to a good use," says Sering. "We have lots of homeless people and homeless vets that need housing.
 
"If this works as we think it should, the sky's the limit on doing it over and over again."
 
LMM is accepting household donations for this venture, including linens for six new mattress sets (four queen and two twin) and pillows that were donated by Mattress Firm. Cleaning and paper supplies are also appreciated. Any duplicate items will be shared with other veterans moving out of the shelter. Contact Kelly Camlin, associate director of LMM's Men’s Shelter, at 216-649-7718 ext. 480 for more information.
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