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New urban trail: 1.9 miles breaks ground in Tremont

The decades-long Ohio & Erie Canalway Towpath Trail extension project — an undertaking that connects 100 miles of paths from New Philadelphia to Cleveland’s lakefront — is one step closer to completion with the launch of the project’s stage three.

Stage three, which spans an urban stretch of 1.9 miles between the northern entrance to Steelyard Commons and Literary Avenue in Tremont, will not only serve as a greenspace buffer between the residential areas of Tremont and industrial areas of the valley below, but also offer paths and access to the rest of the Towpath Trail.
 
Additionally, the $18.5 million project will add 30 acres of park space.
 
“This section here is the one that will really be transformational,” says Canalway Partners executive director Tim Donovan. “This will heal the wounds of 100 years of industrial [damage].”
 
Canalway Partners and its athletic and environmental cleanup events like the Towpath Trilogy Race, Cycle Canalway and RiverSweep, in its 28th year, have been just some of the grassroots events used to raise awareness and funds for the Towpath Trail extension.

Further reading: Ten takeaways from the Stage Three announcement




Donovan recalls the RiverSweep effort between 2007 and 2010 as a “tire brigade” that was dedicated to cleaning up tires dumped along the proposed trail site. “The motto of RiverSweep is ‘Clean up today where tomorrow we’ll play,’” he says. “We cleaned up 2,000 tires off the hillside that now hosts the Towpath Trail. We’ve fulfilled our promise to those people who participated in RiverSweep.”
 
While stage three construction got underway in February, Canalway Partners, along with officials from Cuyahoga County and the city of Cleveland., will host a groundbreaking at Clark Field this Saturday morning, April 22, at 9 a.m.
 
The Stage Three portion of the trail will have four connection points: at Holmden Avenue; the W. 11th connector over I-490; Tremont Pointe Apartments; and Jefferson Road. There will be three scenic overlooks at Literary Avenue with views of the downtown skyline; CMHA property off of W. 7th Street that offers views of the steelyard and railyards; and the bridge at the top of W. 11th Street and Clark Avenue with “tremendous views of the industrial valley,” says Donovan.
 
A new driveway and parking lot will connect to Clark Field from Clark Avenue. The two current entrances to the park will be blocked off and serve as connector trails.

Additional information: Stage Three concept images
 


“Tremont is the true winner,” says Donovan. “We will have six connecting points, and we expect heavy use.”
 
Other plans include a new picnic area and interpretive wayside exhibits depicting the neighborhood’s industrial history along the lighted trails. The 1.9 miles also includes three wetlands and new bioswales.
 
Funding for the anticipated project came from more than 10 sources, but Canalway Partners is credited with being the main fundraiser and is also responsible for the strategic plan. The trail is owned by the city, while Cuyahoga County is managing the project and the Cleveland Metroparks oversees the day-to-day maintenance and security.
 
While this phase of the project is expected to take more than a year to complete. Donovan expects it to wrap up in fall of 2018. He says this phase marks a critical move forward in the completion of the Towpath Trail.
 
“There are still a few [people] around, doubting it will ever get done,” Donovan says. “But this is an element in time. It’s historic.”
 
The groundbreaking celebration beings at 9 a.m. on Saturday at Clark Field, located off of W. 7th Street. Volunteers are invited to bring their own shovels. Reservations aren’t necessary, but you can email Ken Schneider at Canalway Partners to let him know you plan to dig in.
 
Donovan says the fact that the groundbreaking occurs on Earth Day is an appropriate coincidence. He adds that he  is working with Earth Day Coalition officials to give some groundbreaking attendees discount coupons to EarthFest, which will also be this Saturday, starting at 10 a.m. at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds.

Further reading: 100 miles of the Towpath Trail — one step at a time and The Metroparks top 10 discoveries

Climb Cleveland: a trifecta of unique new offerings in Tremont

Chick Holtkamp first discovered rock climbing in 1972 while attending Colgate University in central New York. Once he started, he never stopped.
 
“Very few people were climbers back then,” Holtkamp recalls. “So many people are climbing right now.”
 
Holtkamp regularly enjoys outdoor climbing in picturesque locations around Utah and Yosemite National Park. Locally he's has been known to climb the Superior Viaduct, the Hope Memorial Bridge and the Main Avenue Bridge. Add it all up and Holtkamp has established a reputation for himself as an accomplished climber around the country.
 
Now Holtkamp has opted to get a foothold on the indoor climbing trend with the opening of Climb Cleveland a little more than a month ago in Tremont.
 
He has attempted to open two indoor climbing gyms in Cleveland in the past — at the former Fifth Church of Christ Scientist and at Zion United Church of Christ. Both projects fell through, but his third attempt rose to success. The facility is housed in 7,000 square feet of space in a three-story building he owns at 2190 Professor Ave. 

“I bought the building in 1982, well before anyone was interested in Tremont,” Holtkamp says. “I bought it because I wanted to live on the top floor. But the space is really good for Climb Cleveland and it’s a great location. I’m happy where I am now.”
 
The climbing gym includes three levels, the basement and the first two floors in the corner of the building, all adjoined with a central staircase.
 
Climb Cleveland features a bouldering wall spanning 7,000 feet. The height does not go above 12 feet and there are no ropes involved in bouldering, says Holtkamp. The holds are color-coded to mark climbs in varying degrees of difficulty. Pads line the floor for a safe landing in case of a fall.
 
An interconnected endurance and traversing wall in the basement allows climbers to climb side-to-side routes, as opposed to up-and-down, for more than 200 feet and features authentic rock holds from around the country. Holtkamp explains this wall not only builds endurance, but allows climbers to get creative in their routes and to build their skills.
 
Clips, ropes and a stopwatch are provided on the endurance and traversing wall to practice lead climbing and speed.
 
Climb Cleveland also offers crack climbing — wherein the climber follows a specific crack in a rock. The skill requires specific techniques and is geared toward more experienced climbers — the facility even boasts a roof crack. Holtkam notes crack climbing takes a lot of practice to develop.

“Indoor climbing has become a realm of its own,” says Holtkamp. “Indoors is safer, but the movements are similar, so you can develop your skills.”
 
For those looking for a more mellow experience, Climb Cleveland also offers Ashtanga yoga in a 1,200-square-foot studio with trained instructors. The space is open for three-hour blocks in the mornings and evenings so practitioners can enjoy a flexible schedule.
 
“Ashtanga is another expanding practice, where it gives you ownership of your own practice,” explains Holtkamp. “Some classes are regular classes, but other aspects of Ashtanga let you show up when you’re ready.”
 
The facility also accomodates blues dancing. Classes are held on Wednesday evenings in the space shared by the yoga classes and build on mobility, confidence and partner communication.
 
“It’s another developing practice,” says Holtkamp. “People are used to salsa and swing dancing, but blues dancing is another form of partner dancing.”
 
Unlike salsa and swing, where the leader leads the dance, blues dancing involves both partners working together. “In blues dancing, the leader and follower are in constant communication about what to do next,” Holtkamp explains. “And so it evolves.”
 
Holtkamp stresses that all three practice areas at Climb Cleveland — bouldering, yoga and dancing — are really about building relationships.
 
“Community is a large part within all of these practices — you need other people’s help to succeed,” he says, adding that many people become friends while working out.  “In each of these areas I’ve provided space and support, but people bring their lifetime skills there. Climbing, especially in the environment we’ve created, is 90 percent social and 10 percent trying hard.”
 
While millennials are Climb Cleveland’s primary customers, Holtkamp says, people of every age can benefit. “It’s for all ages,” he says. “We have little kids here as young as four-years-old, and then we have people here climbing who are well into their 60s and 70s.”
 
And, Holtkamp adds, Tremont is the perfect place to work out and build on that sense of community. “It’s a great location,” he says. “People come here, climb, dance, do yoga, and then they go out to a local restaurant.”
 
Climb Cleveland offers day passes for $14, or memberships for $60 per month. Shoe rentals are $4.
 

Alhambra apartments blend history with modern amenities

After two years of renovations, New York developer Community, Preservation and Restoration (CPR) Properties has transformed an 1890s building at 3203 W. 14th St. in Tremont into some of the neighborhood’s newest, most modern apartments.

Designed with young professionals and empty-nesters in mind, the Alhambra offers one-bedroom units starting at 480 square feet for $695 a month, two-bedroom, 575-square-foot units for $850 a month, and a three-bedroom, 1,0500-square-foot unit for $1,350 a month.
 
“It’s very reasonable,” says Carolyn Bentley, a realtor with Howard Hanna’s Cleveland City office in Tremont, adding that some of the units have back deck areas.
 
Originally dubbed the Edison Building, CPR partners Noah Smith and Ted Haber bought the building in late 2014 with plans to update and upgrade the apartments and common areas.
 
The owners ultimately chose to stick with the building’s original name, the Alhambra, after an historic palace and fortress in Spain. Fourteen of the 35 units have been remodeled and will be available for occupancy on Wednesday, Feb. 1.
 
The building was fully occupied when CPR took ownership, so the company moved some tenants to 17 other units during the remodel. “When they bought the place, they did not displace any current residents,” explains Bentley.
 
When Smith and Haber took possession of the Alhambra, they realized there was quite a bit of repair work to be done. The apartments now have all new electrical systems and plumbing. The refinished walls are painted in neutral colors and are adorned with foot-high baseboard molding.
 
The owners were able to keep the original hardwood flooring and other features, Bentley says. “They did it with a lot of character,” she explains. “They kept some of the original woodwork and it’s an open feeling with tall ceilings. They did a really good job of keeping the character that was there.”
 
Bentley describes the kitchens and bathrooms as “clean, simple and modern,” with stainless appliances and tile. The result is a combination of modern decor with an historical feel. “It has the overall look and feel of the original building,” she says.
 
While the Alhambra may be an historic building, CPR has installed some 21st Century technology. The exterior locks to the building’s main entry are controlled by the residents’ smart phones. Visitors simply buzz tenants to let them know they are outside, and tenants grant access via their phones.
 
The shared laundry area in the basement is also smart phone-equipped, allowing users to pay for their loads and receive alerts when a washer or dryer is free or when their loads are done.
 
While the apartments themselves are finished in neutral colors, the foyer and entryway, including the large front door, are full of color, Bentley says, and the developers took great care to preserve the original interior staircase’s intricate woodwork. “The developers had a lot of fun with color and the high-end workmanship,” Bentley says, noting the red entry door and green tinted glass tile.
 
Situated on a hill, the Alhambra offers spectacular views of downtown, the Steelyards and Tremont itself. Furthermore, the accessibility appeals to both baby boomers and young professionals, says Bentley.

“Tremont is an amazing place to be living right now. It’s a walkable neighborhood. You have Steelyard Commons with places like Target, then in the opposite direction you have [independent businesses] like A Cookie and a Cupcake. And you’re a short Uber ride into downtown.”
 
Bentley held an open house last Thursday, Jan. 5, and reports that the Alhambra has already gained a lot of interest.

ciCLEvia to roll along West 25th this Saturday

This Saturday, Aug. 13, from 3 to 7 p.m., the new summer program, ciCLEvia, will roll out along West 25th Street. This will be the first of three such events and will feature music, games, food trucks, and free demonstrations of activities including yoga, Zumba, and boxing. While residents are encouraged to glide in on bikes, skates, foot or their wheelchairs, one mode of transportation won't be welcome.
 
Cars.
 
That's right. City officials will close West 25th Street to vehicular traffic from Wade Avenue to MetroHealth Drive – which is nearly a mile – for this family-friendly, age-friendly, and health-focused event. This first ciCLEvia will also coincide with this Saturday's La Placita, an open-air Hispanic market and celebration at the intersection of W. 25th Street and Clark Avenue.
 
Inspired by open street events in Latin America, known as ciclovías, ciCLEvia is a neighborhood-based program that is accessible to residents of all ages and abilities. Organizers hope to attract residents from the adjacent Clark-Fulton, Ohio City, and Tremont neighborhoods, as well as those who just want to spend an afternoon in the city without the usual traffic noise and exhaust.
 
“Open street events like ciCLEvia give people an opportunity to move, play, socialize, and celebrate their communities, while encouraging them to experience streets as a shared public space that serves diverse users,” said event organizer Calley Mersmann in a statement.
 
ciCLEvia will return on Sept. 10 and Oct. 8. The September date will also coincide with La Placita. Street closure and event times will remain the same for the subsequent events.

The series is a signature event of Cleveland’s Year of Sustainable Transportation.
 
ciCLEvia was planned by partners Bike Cleveland, the MetroHealth System, the Cleveland Department of Public Health, the Healthy Cleveland Initiative, Age-Friendly Cleveland, Sustainable Cleveland 2019, and Ward 14. Other partners include the YMCA, Mt. Sinai Health Care Foundation, the Saint Luke's Foundation, Spindrift and Neighborhood Family Practice. For more information contact Calley Mersmann at 216-512-0253 or email info@ciclevia.com.
 

Cleveland Public Library plans to reopen historic South Branch

After closing the doors in 2013 to the Cleveland Public Library (CPL) South Branch building at 3096 Scranton Road in Tremont, the library announced last week that it will reopen the historic 1911 Carnegie building.

“It’s been a process for us,” says Tim Diamond, CPL’s chief knowledge officer. “We’ve been working on this for a while.”
 
The library’s board of trustees decided to close the facility three years ago after determining there were critical repairs needed. “The building was older and some of the major systems had not been updated,” explains Diamond. “An assessment of the building determined there were a lot of serious issues. We were going to repair them when the heating system began to fail.”
 
While a temporary location was set up in a storefront on Clark Avenue, the CPL board hired Kent State University’s Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative (CUDC) to engage the community for feedback on what should be done and what services were needed at the branch.
 
“We were not making a decision without finding out what the community wanted,” says Diamond. “There were a variety of voices that were heard.”
 
Residents liked the location and the building’s rich history, says Diamond, explaining that the structure was designed by library architecture firm Whitfield and King and was the eighth branch built with funds from Andrew Carnegie.
 
“It was designed in a very flexible way, with shelving on perimeter walls,” Diamond says of the 8,350 square feet of usable space. “It’s like walking into the study of an old house with bookcases built in. When you look at it, in addition to being a beautiful building, there are all these possibilities for the space.”
 
Nationally-recognized library planning and design firm Holzheimer, Bolek & Meehan (HBM) in Cleveland has been hired for the $3.3 million project. Construction is scheduled to begin in May 2017, with a tentative completion date of March 2018.
 
CPL historians discovered an interesting fact about the South Branch in their research. Diamond notes that one section of the library always appeared somewhat odd.
 
“The rear of it facing Clark Avenue looks unfinished, in a sense, and we never knew why,” he says. “We went in our records and found [the building] was never finished. They intended for there to be an entrance off of Clark to a small auditorium, but they ran out of money.”
 
Diamond says they found a document in the library board’s minutes noting that “when more money becomes available we’ll finish this later.”
 
With the renovations, that section of the library will now include that entrance, with ADA accessibility, and a small addition. “It got the architects really excited because they said, ‘it’s our chance to finish the building.’”
 
The CPL also owns a 50-foot wide parcel of land behind the building, which Diamond says they will determine a use for – either a complete build out, greenspace or a combination of both.
 
The renovation of the South Branch is part of CPL’s Community Vision Plan, in which all library branches will be evaluated for the services each offers to their respective communities by 2019.
 
To continue the community involvement in the South Branch’s future, the CPL will host an interactive design session on Wednesday, June 29 at 7 p.m. at Pilgrim Congregational Church, 2592 West 14th St. in Tremont.

Apartments coming to historic Wagner Awning building in Tremont

Since 1895, the Wagner Awning building at 2658 Scranton Road in Tremont was a sewing factory. For more than 120 years, workers at Wagner Awning, later renamed Ohio Awning, made everything from tents and sails to awnings.

“If you ever are in a submarine and begin to sink, you likely will be in a flotation device sewn at 2658 Scranton Road,” says Naomi Sabel, Sustainable Community Associates (SCA) co-owner.
 
So when Ohio Awning announced it was relocating to Slavic Village last year, Sabel and her SCA partners Josh Rosen and Ben Ezinga were quick to buy the historic building for development into apartments.
 
The developers of the Fairmont Creamery on the Ohio City-Tremont border are attracted to old Cleveland factories, with the mission of repurposing them into apartments. After working with Tremont West Development Corporation on the Fairmont Creamery, the trio was eager to start another project in the neighborhood.
 
“We fell in love with the building,” says Rosen. “It has operated as a sewing factory of some sort since it was first constructed. There are incredible beams and columns - and maple floors from 1895 are hard to duplicate in a new construction project.”
 
The sale was completed last spring and work on converting the Wagner Awning Building into 59 one-bedroom apartments began in January by designer Larissa Burlij with Dimit Architects. General Contractor Welty Construction is overseeing more than 100 workers on the site each day to ensure the renovations are completed by November 1.
 
Of the 88,000 total square feet, the 59 apartments will all be complete one-bedroom units, ranging from 650 to 1,250 square feet. “We don’t believe in micro apartments,” says Rosen. Monthly rents will range between $900 and $1,500.
 
Each unit will feature the refinished original maple hardwood floors and high ceilings. The 420 new large windows will provide bountiful natural light. A section of the third floor of the L-shaped building that was destroyed by a tornado in the 1950s is also being repaired.
 
A 14,000-square-foot area in the basement of the building, which also has ample natural light, will be converted into office space. About 90 outdoor parking spaces in a gated lot will be available to residential and office tenants. The exterior will be painted a light grey.
 
A raised 2,000-square-foot elevated deck in the courtyard will serve as a socializing area for residents and office users and a buffer to adjacent Scranton Elementary School. The building itself is close to many Tremont attractions such as the Tremont Tap House and Tremont Athletic Club.
 
SCA also owns two 1.5-acre lots across the street, which Sabel says they are considering for future projects. “We need to do our due diligence and talk to folks about the right fit,” she says. “But the opportunity to do a significant four corner development really excites us.”
 
The $14 million project was eligible for $4 million in tax credit equity through federal and state historic tax credits. The tax credit investors are Enhanced Capital and Nationwide Insurance, while Village Capital Corporation provided a mezzanine loan.
 
“Both [Fairmont Creamer and Wagner Awning] required a challenging capital stack and many partners in both the public and private sector in order for the visions to become fully realized,” says Sabel.
 
Rosen is thrilled to be adding another residential repurposing of underutilized factory space to Tremont.
 
“Tremont is a pretty rich tapestry of folks who have been here for generations, newcomers to Cleveland, young families moving back into the city and people who have been working in the grassroots for 20-plus years to improve the quality of life in Tremont,” he says. “The neighborhood is really welcoming and civically motivated and we have a strong CDC in Tremont West that is always willing to help.”

There is already a waiting list for apartments at Wagner Awning, but SCA will begin conducting tours today for prospective tenants and community members. Contact SCA to schedule a tour.

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.”

Loren Naji to live in spherical home during tour

Sculptor Loren Naji has long been disturbed by the number of homeless people in the country. “It seems absurd that humane governments would allow homelessness to exist,” he says. “Our society should not have homeless people and we should not have all these empty houses.”

So, a year ago he set out to create an eight-foot diameter sphere to make a statement about the United States’ indifference to the homeless population and apathy toward unused homes.
 
“Our urban landscape is riddled with vacant homes, abandoned and boarded shut, while the homeless sleep on sidewalks in front of these empty houses slated for demolition and landfills.
 
The sphere is entitled Emoh – the word “home” spelled backwards – and is made entirely with materials Naji has salvaged from demolished homes, including trash, furniture and debris taken from curbs in Tremont and Ohio City.
 
“On the garbage day I drive around looking for things people throw away,” the 1998 Cleveland Institute of Art graduate explains. “The panels of the sphere are made of plywood, which I bought, but everything else is found materials.”
 
Beginning this fall Naji will live in Emoh and begin a nine-city tour, hoping to raise awareness of homelessness.  
 
“This signifies that as so-called humane, intelligent human beings we really do things in a backwards way when it comes to priorities,” explains Naji of Emoh’s meaning. “How is it possible that such intelligence allows its own kind to sleep in the streets without shelter while there are so many vacant structures boarded up, rotting and on their way to the landfills, polluting our home, the Earth?"
 
Naji will compete in ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in September for the chance to win a $200,000 juried prize or a $200,000 prize based on public vote. Other planned stops on the tour include Detroit, Columbus, Indianapolis, Chicago, Ann Arbor, Pittsburgh, New York and Boston. Locally, Naji will also be making a stop at SPACES.  
 
Naji will haul the 1,000-pound sculpture on a trailer to each city on his tour. He points out that Emoh also represents the Earth itself – with the panels forming graphic representations of streets and countryside.
 
While living in Emoh, Naji will have a bed, a camping toilet, a mailbox and a laptop computer. He will get electricity to the sphere with an extension cord, plugged into his hosts’ outlets. Small windows will allow visitors a glimpse into his life inside Emoh.
 
Emoh, is not Naji’s first foray into spherical art. While he studied painting at CIA, he developed an interest in painting on 3D surfaces. “My art seems to have somehow manipulated into making spheres,” he says. Naji went on to study graphic design in post-graduate work on Kent State University.
 
His 3,000-pound work They Have Landed, an eight-foot in diameter time capsule to be opened in 2050, is stationed at the Ohio City RTA station across from the West Side Market, while Global Beat is an interactive, spherical drum set made from repurposed pots, pans and miscellaneous items.
 

Tidal Cool moves into Tremont incubator space

Since 2012, Andrea Howell has channeling her love for sewing clothes into a career with Tidal Cool – selling her colorful and funky designs at popular events such as Cleveland Bazaar, Cleveland Night Market and the Tremont Farmers Market.

Beginning next month, however, Howell will sell her designs at her new 370-square-foot storefront at 2406 Professor Ave. in Tremont.

As winner of the fourth Tremont Storefront Incubator program, sponsored by Tremont West Development Corporation  and the Hispanic Business Center, Howell will explore the pros and cons of running Tidal Cool as a brick-and-mortar shop for the next 10 months.
 
“The bulk of my sales are regional,” Howell explains. “This is something less nomadic that I’m used to. This is exactly what I’m looking for because launching a new business is difficult and there are so many things you don’t think of.”
 
Howell will receive three months of free rent, followed by seven months of below-market-rate rent in the Professor Avenue location that once served as the organization’s meeting room. Tremont West decided to use the space for retail five years ago, says Tremont West assistant director Michelle Davis, to promote area small businesses.
 
“We used to use our storefront for board meetings and community meetings,” she says. “We decided it would be more contributing to our businesses because Tremont has been quite a place where women come to do their shopping.”
 
Previous tenants and incubator winners include pop-up shops for Cosmic Bobbins and Yellow Cake Shop, Tremont Tails, the Beck Center and Brewnuts.
 
While some of these businesses have moved on to other ventures, Brewnuts is opening a permanent location on Detroit Avenue. While Davis says they wanted to see Brewnuts stay in Tremont, the Detroit Shoreway location suited the company’s needs.
 
“We’re happy that they had this experience,” Davis says of Brewnuts. “We just couldn’t find them space that worked for them.”
 
In addition to the storefront, Howell will meet monthly with Jason Estremera, director of business services for the Hispanic Business Center, to go over financials and budgeting. “It’s nice to have someone in your corner,” says Howell of the business advice.
 
Howell applied to be the next incubator tenant back in January and got word in April that she had won the space. “I had my eye out specifically in the Tremont area because the demographics are my brand,” she says.
 
Howell says she has painted and installed new light fixtures. “I’m making it look like my brand,” she says.  
 
While Howell will have a soft opening on Wednesday, her official grand opening is scheduled for Friday, May 13 during Walkabout Tremont, from 6 to 9 p.m. She will present her spring and summer collection, Cuba Libre, which features African and other imported prints.

ODOT conducts George Voinovich Bridge construction tours

Twice a month through September, the Ohio Department of Transportation is conducting free hard hat tours of the George Voinovich Bridge construction area. Tours are rain or shine, although if the weather becomes overly inclement, the event will be cancelled.

Tours are conducted by Trumball-Great Lakes-Ruhlin (TGR), a joint venture between Trumbull Corporation, Great Lakes Construction Company and the Ruhlin Company, which was the successful bidder on the $273 million project that included demolition of the existing 1959 Innerbelt Bridge and the construction of a new, five lane, eastbound structure. The project is slated for completion this fall.

Attendees walk the entire construction site and hear insider details about things such as the steel I-beams that support the concrete pilings, or the "HP18 x 204's," wherein the H indicates the shape, the 18 refers to an 18" measurement on the piling and the 204 indicates 204 pounds-per-foot.

"These piles come in at 90 feet long," said Karen Lenehan, public information consultant for TGLR, during a tour last week. "They're the largest piles manufactured in United States." She adds that the pilings are required to be driven down to bedrock some 200 feet below ground. They must be hammered twenty times with industrial driving equipment in order to move just one inch.

"How do you know when you reach bedrock?" mused Lenehan. "When you hit it twenty times and it doesn't move."

Lenehan also offered comprehensive details on the giant 28- by 28- by 10-foot concrete footers; the prominent concrete columns, which are hollow and include inspection doors; the steel knuckles, tension ties, deltas, bridge bearings and deck girders; and the permanent catwalks that web the area under the deck of the bridge, among other components.

Lenehan also told the tale of how the entire project was nearly held hostage by a pair of mating Peregrine falcons that threatened to delay the demolition of the old bridge. Fortunately, the babies learned to fly ahead of a critical date and vacated the nest.

"We got the okay," recalled Lenehan of getting the thumbs-up from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources when the junior falcons took flight. "We could go ahead with our big explosive demolition on July 12, 2014."

Other softer details of note include a forthcoming fish habitat that will be similar to one that was constructed for the westbound bridge. The protected area is essentially fenced off from the rest of the river by a slotted barrier and is planted with vegetation the fish can eat.

"Fish can swim out of the way of the freighters," said Lenehan. "They can rest; they can feed, and then they can swim back out."

Also included in the project is a protected area for humans - for walking, biking and running. The contract includes extending the southern terminus of the all-purpose trail along Scranton Flats to a point adjacent to Sokolowski's Inn, as well as a new green space for Tremont.

"We get sustainability points for that," said Lenehan, noting that those points are part of a formal sustainability component of the contract.

Lastly at the conclusion of the tour, attendees are given packages of commemorative mints that are shaped like tiny cars.

Registration for the free tours, which fill up quickly, is required and does not start until the beginning of each respective month. Details available here.
 

Tremont General Store: fresh offerings, old-school style

With much anticipation, Tremont General Store opened its doors last Friday, Apr. 1 at 2418 Professor Ave. Owner Kevin Kubovcik’s believes it will fill a void in the quirky neighborhood.
 
“The area needs a store where people can get milk and bread and eggs,” explains Kubovcik. “A place for hanging baskets for their front porch or bloody Mary mix for Saturday afternoons.”
 
The 2,000 square-foot general store will stock all of these items – with a local spin. Kubovcik will carry everything from farm fresh eggs, milk from Hartzler Family Dairy in Wooster and cheese from Lake Erie Creamery in the nearby Clark-Fulton neighborhood, to bread from On the Rise in Cleveland Heights.
 
Even that bloody Mary and other cocktail mixes will be on hand from Pope’s Kitchen, run by Clark Pope out of the Cleveland Culinary Launch and Kitchen (CCLK) as well as a variety of CCLK products like Randy’s Pickles, and Cleveland Kraut.
 
Area beverage brewers and roasters such as Inca Tea, Rising Star Coffee, Old City Soda and Six Shooter Coffee will fill also the shelves.
 
“Local foods are what I’m really going to concentrate on,” Kubovcik says. “I want to be a hub for local artisan foods.”
 
The store will also carry locally-sourced meats, plants and flowers. “I’m going to specialize in organic and heirloom,” says Kubovcik of the plants. “I’m trying to get back to quality heirloom.” He will also carry specialized, grain-free cat and dog food.
 
The plants will be in the site's 40- by 150-foot outdoor garden center, which will open when Kubovcik receives a fencing permit. It will stock hand tools, rakes, shovels and pruners.

“Everything you need so you don’t have to go to Home Depot,” Kubovcik says. “Even the tools are locally sourced.” He plans to educate his customers on why his products are better.
 
The store's interior is festooned with re-purposed vintage ceiling tins. Many of the goods will sit on shelving salvaged from the shuttered Ridge Road Elementary School in Parma.
 
The concept for Tremont General Store came after Kubovcik went through a career change in 2010 when he left his corporate job to first grow lavender on an urban farm in Old Brooklyn and then serve as manager of the Detroit Shoreway’s Grace Brothers Urban Farm in 2012 until earlier this year.  
 
Kubovcik says the departure from Grace Bothers was amicable. “They love capitalism,” he says. “We’re on good terms. There’s enough for everyone and people aren’t driving to Tremont from West 65th Street to buy [their groceries]. In Tremont, it’s even more so – it’s a walking community.”
 
He bought the Professor Avenue space with the help of investor Alan Glazen of Glazen Urban, LLC. “It’s making a dream come true for me,” he says, adding that Tremont West Development Corporation also helped the project come to fruition.
 
Tremont General Store is open seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays. Kubovcik has already hired one part-time employee and plans to hire a full-time employee to help in the garden center later this spring. He says he hopes the part-time employee will transition into a full time position as the store takes off.

Judging from last Friday's opening, which attracted 48 walk-in customers, 27 of whom purchased goods, the take off has already begun.

“It was awesome,” says Kubovcik. “Many people have no idea of the concept of a general store.”

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."
 

February opening eyed for duck-rabbit coffee in Duck Island

Calvin Verga, founder of duck-rabbit coffee, has very specific standards when it comes to pouring a proper cuppa, starting with where the beans are grown.
 
"We roast in such a way to highlight all the different characteristics," says Verga, adding that a good cup of coffee is defined by its origin. He tags berry, currant and grape notes in coffee from Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi; citrus and floral flavors from Ethiopian beans and rustic earthy notes in those from Sumatra. Unlike the more common dark roasted beans, a delicate light roast brings out those nuanced flavors.
 
"When you roast light in order to highlight those origin-specific characteristics, you need a phenomenal coffee. Any sorts of defects in the coffee will show in clean cup. It's imperative that our coffee is of the highest standard," says Verga.
 
He launched duck-rabbit in 2014 as a bean-roasting venture and sold his product wholesale. Verga's coffee was heretofore available only at a handful of locations such as Root Café in Lakewood.

As early as February 1st however, Verga will be offering his high-end brew at an emerging storefront at 2135 Columbus Road in Duck Island. The coffee house will be part of the Forest City Brewery project, which is also slated to include a meadery and brewery and is currently home to the quirky Cleveland Cycle Tours operation, with its two 15-seat bikes.
 
duck-rabbit will occupy an 800-square-foot space and will employ about five, with both part- and full-time positions. Verga tentatively plans to have about a dozen seats. Hours will be 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Not surprisingly, the menu will be Spartan in order to showcase Verga's painstakingly chosen and roasted beans, with the star being pour-overs. He'll also sell roasted beans and some brewing equipment. A deep respect for coffee, where it comes from and how it's processed comes free with every purchase.
 
"We'd like people to really get into coffee in a close personal way and be able to replicate/brew great coffee at home," says Verga, adding that he hopes to host workshops in the future.
 
Verga will offer some espresso drinks, including macchiatos, cappuccinos and lattes. As for sugary flavored syrups and cups topped with clouds of whipped cream, they will not be found at duck-rabbit.
 
"The main focus is the coffee going into the drinks," says Verga, who also concedes, "mocha is one thing I could see possibly on the menu at some time." He does, however, plan to offer a very limited selection of small bites such as French macaroons or madeleines, which he will source off-site. 
 
"No details on that yet," says Verga.
 
While construction hums along, Verga has taken delivery on a high-end La Marzocco espresso machine and is roasting beans in a unique vintage German Probat machine, which he chose as carefully as the beans he puts in it.
 
"When you're roasting on this," says Verga as he displays the Probat, "there are no computer programs. It's full sensory engagement by the roaster." Hence, success requires experience and a honed sensitivity regarding the sight and smell of the beans, all of which is married with timing and temperature.
 
Verga, a Lakewood native, was in the San Francisco Bay area when he became engaged in the world of high-end coffee while immersed in academics. He eventually opted for joe over the lecture hall and after he "cut his teeth" in the coffee business on the west coast and established a network, he returned to Cleveland to launch duck-rabbit.
 
"It felt like a great time to come back to Cleveland," says Verga. "That sentiment has really been reinforced since I came back. There is a good energy in Cleveland these days."
 
Since Freshwater reported on the Forest City Brewery project last April, partners Matt Mapus, Jay Demagall and Cory Miller have realized their funding package, which now includes a Vacant Properties Initiative grant from the City of Cleveland. Mapus reports that the rental space for Western Reserve Meadery will be ready by February 1st and that Forest City Brewery will be offering up beer by this Saint Patrick's Day.
 

Cleveland Confidential: the mysteries of Willey Avenue

Willey Avenue is one of those odd, storied streets deep in the belly of Tremont. Walk this hilly winding road that connects Columbus and Scranton Roads and you’ll encounter any number of urban mysteries: Buildings that may or may not be occupied, railroad tracks leading nowhere obvious and wildflowers you’ll see few other places in the city.
 
But first things first: How the heck do you pronounce “Willey?” Is it a long ‘i,’ as in Wile E. Coyote? Or a short ‘i,’ as in Free Willy?
 
That depends on who you ask.
 
“When I was little, I always heard ‘Willy,’” says George Cantor, chief city planner for the City of Cleveland. “There was a show on TV called ‘Captain Penny,’ and he’d have dogs up for adoption from the Animal Protective League. He’d always say the APL’s address and pronounce it ‘Willy.’” The organization is still located on Willey.
 
Thomas Stickney, president of the Scranton Averell Corp., a real estate leasing company with long-time land holdings on the street, also says "Willy."
 
“It’s a double ‘l,’ right? So that’s ‘Willy.’”
 
The more recent trend, though, is to pronounce the name with a long ‘i.’ That’s how Josh Rosen, developer of the mixed-use Fairmont Creamery, says it. So do Dave Walker, whose family owns the old Byrne Sign building, and Sharon Harvey, the APL’s president and CEO.
 
Most of the long-‘i’ advocates admit, though, that they prefer that pronunciation mostly because it sounds less, well, silly than "Willy."
 
The street is named after Cleveland’s first mayor, John W. Willey, in office from 1836 to 1838. That provides little guidance, though, because Willey died long before anyone’s living memory or the invention of recording equipment.
 
The debate over how to pronounce ‘i’ before a double ‘l’ in proper names is fierce enough to have inspired a lengthy discussion on the Linguistic Data Consortium at the University of Pennsylvania's Language Log which cites the Willey conundrum.
 
A less academic mystery, meanwhile, can be found at the street’s lowest point, where a small cropping of blue tanks - fronted by an acre or two of muddy swamp - offer periodic, metallic belches.
 
Turns out they’re a lot less insidious than they look and sound. They belong to Werner G. Smith Inc., the last active industry on Willey. Present here since about 1950, the company uses the tanks to process vegetable and fish oils into industrial lubricants and ingredients for paints and consumer products.
 
The company produces cetyl palmitate, for example, one of the key ingredients in Vicks VapoRub. It’s made from palm oil that’s certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, according to plant manager Jennifer Bugbee.
 
The “belches” are the sound of steam traps letting off pressure, but they don’t contain any gases, she says.
 
The swampy area used to hold even more tanks, most of them containing the nation’s last remaining legally imported whale oil. The U.S. banned its import under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. The tanks that held the oil were drained by the 1980s, and the company deconstructed them.
 
“People sometimes say, ‘Let’s plant trees and grass,’” she says. “I’d love that. The problem is, then people would think they could throw whatever trash they wanted down there because no one would see it.”
 
Bugbee has worked at the company for 22 years and keeps a tongue-in-cheek Facebook page full of photos documenting the plant’s present and past, along with a few cat memes.
 
She says she loves seeing the way the up-and-coming street is evolving into a place where industry and residents coexist.
 
“I watched the Creamery being rehabbed and I thought, ‘oh, cool!’” she recalls. “Having more people down here is only going to improve the neighborhood and make it safer.”
 
As for the million-dollar question?
 
“I usually say it with the long ‘i’ and then correct myself,” she says.
 
And the mystery persists.
 

Urban section of Towpath Trail inches closer to completion with funding for pedestrian bridge

As the ever-popular Towpath Trail continues to wind its way north from Harvard Avenue to Lake Erie, no matter how small each benchmark is, it represents a victory in the expansive $43 million project, which is unfurling amid four complex stages.
 
Last month, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) delivered yet another win when it awarded the Cuyahoga County Department of Public Works a $432,222 Clean Ohio Trails grant for a small but important component of the project: A prefabricated 150-foot bridge that will cross traverse West 7th Street in Tremont. The funds are part of $6.1 million in grants awarded to 19 projects around the state through the Clean Ohio Trails Fund, which improves outdoor recreation opportunities and aims to protect and connect Ohio's natural and urban spaces.
 
Currently dubbed the "Tremont Pointe Bridge," the new West 7th Street bridge is part of the $17.5 million Stage 3 portion of the trail. Aesthetically speaking, the prefabricated bridge will be similar to any number of pedestrian bridges in and around area parks, including two adjacent to the Scranton Flats and one traversing Euclid Creek in the Metroparks' Euclid Creek Reservation.
 
Further reading: Ten Takeaways from the ongoing Towpath Trail development.
 
Tim Donovan, executive director of Canalway Partners describes the route of Stage 3: "The trail will connect with the trail that's already established at Steelyard and will make its way north to Literary Avenue in Tremont." Of scheduling he adds, "We're under final design and engineering right now." Michael Baker International is the lead architect on the project.
 
Donovan expects to have the entire 1.9-mile Stage 3 portion of the project (including the new bridge) out to bid late this year or by January 2016. Ground breaking will begin next July 1, when federal funding associated with the project is officially released. He is reluctant to give an estimated completion date other than to say construction and planting may take more than a year.
 
"It will become more apparent once the project gets underway," he says.
 
After the completion of Stage 3, says Donovan, "we have about seven-tenths of a mile from Steelyard to lower Harvard and we probably have another mile or so from Literary to Canal Basin Park." Those sections represent Stage 1 and Stage 4 of the project, respectively. The Stage 2 section of the trail adjacent to Steelyard Commons is already complete.
 
Further reading: Canal Basin Park: 20 acres of urban green space in the heart of the Flats.
 
"It’s a very very complex process that we're involved with building this trail through that industrial valley," says Donovan of the six urban miles of trail, noting that challenges arise with property acquisition, environmental cleanup and funding. "The money part is a as complex as the design part, which is as complex as the acquisition piece and everything else."
 
Donovan emphasizes the collective patience, support and efforts of the four main partner organizations, which include Canalway Partners, Cuyahoga County, the city of Cleveland and the Cleveland Metroparks.
 
"Everything we do is a team approach," says Donovan.

"Those efforts are bearing fruit. Thankfully, it's all coming together."
 
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