| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter RSS Feed

Playhouse Square : Development News

55 Playhouse Square Articles | Page: | Show All

Dinner-for-two, prix fixe specials and competitions in 56 local eateries for weeklong event

The 10th annual Downtown Cleveland Restaurant Week will kick off this Friday, Feb. 17, in a 10-day competition between downtown restaurants for the title of Restaurant of the Year, as well as a chance for diners to shake off the winter blues and get out to enjoy discounts at some of Cleveland’s best and newest restaurants.

“The whole reason we produce Downtown Restaurant Week at this time of year is because February tends to be a slower month,” says Heather Holmes, marketing and public relations director of event host Downtown Cleveland Alliance (DCA). “It gives people the opportunity to get out to downtown and try something new.”
 
Fifty-six downtown restaurants will participate in Restaurant Week this year — with both the old favorites and some newcomers to the scene — and will offer prix fixe lunch and dinner menus for $15, $20 and $40.
 
“Some of the restaurants even use those prices for dinner-for-two specials,” says Holmes, adding that Rose’s Braai in the Arcade plans to offer a two-for-$15 lunch special. Many newcomers, like Parker’s Downtown in the Kimpton Schofield, Nuevo Cleveland, Raving Med and the Burnham — just to name a few of the 12 new restaurants that opened downtown last year — will also be participating.
 
Another newcomer, Chicago’s Chicken and Waffles, at 1144 Prospect Ave. in Playhouse Square, chose not to participate this year.
 
This year, local chefs and restaurateurs in six districts — Public Square/Tower City, Gateway, Playhouse Square, Campus District, Warehouse District and the Flats — will also compete in The Hungry Games: Battle of the Districts for the title of Best Dining District.
 
"It’s a fun thing for the chefs to get behind, and what’s better than a little friendly competition” says Holmes of the battle. “I thought it would be fun to see the Zach Bruell [places] bringing their game and competing against the Michael Symon places.”
 
The winning district earns bragging rights, says Holmes, as well as a mention in an upcoming issue of Cleveland Magazine.
 
Other categories during Restaurant Week are Judge's Choice, Best New Restaurant and Restaurant of the Year. Diners can view the participating restaurants and their menus, as well as vote for their favorites. For every vote cast, diners earn a chance to win free downtown dining for a year.
 
Last year, judges chose Johnny's Downtown as their favorite, while diners picked Elements Bistro and Cleveland Chop took home Restaurant of the Year. The Rusty Anchor at Music Box Supper Club claimed the award for “most mouthwatering,” says Holmes.
 
Additionally, DCA will host a kick-off party this Thursday, Feb. 16 from 5 to 8 p.m. in the Hyatt Regency Cleveland in the Arcade, 401 Euclid Ave. Attendees can sample selections from more than 30 participating restaurants, enjoy cocktails from the cash bar and shop the Arcade’s retailers.
 
“Sponsors will parachute gifts off the balconies,” promises Holmes, and a panel of celebrity judges will name the Judge’s Choice establishment.
 
Tickets are $25, with all proceeds going to DCA’s GeneroCity Cleveland, an organization dedicated to helping the city’s homeless population find permanent housing, get job training and other assistance. The Kick-off party is for people ages 21 and older.

Perkoski's 'These Walks of Life' is a study in frozen motion

Those who walk religiously know the activity can be highly personal. A walking person may be in a rush. They may be deeply engaged in thought or a complex audio experience. They may be giggling over a podcast. Perhaps they are misting up over a lover's last whisper. Maybe they're tired. Maybe their feet hurt. Maybe those feet are the only mode of transportation they have.
 
In a new solo show, "These Walks of Life," Fresh Water's managing photographer Bob Perkoski has captured the essence of walking and its nuances with a collection of more than 40 images on display at Negative Space Gallery, 3820 Superior Avenue. "Walks" will run through mid-February.
 
The practice started out casually, with Perkoski taking clandestine photos capturing images of people while he drove around town – to and from shoots, grocery runs, wherever. Eventually, it became an intentional cataloging.
 
"I consciously started doing it in 2012," says Perkoski. "I put my camera on a high shutter speed so I'd catch it fast without getting a blur." The entire collection numbers in the hundreds and also includes people waiting for the bus or just standing along the street. Yet another category includes photos of bicyclists.
 
"I have people sitting on the corner, laying in the street," says Perkoski of some of his other images that are outside the scope of "Walks."
 
As for those included in the show, he took them at points all across town, including Playhouse Square, Ohio City, Clark Fulton, Little Italy, Woodland Avenue and Slavic Village among others. There are also two shots from out of town, one taken in London and another in Chicago.
 
All of the images are evocative and ironic in the sense that they are frozen images depicting motion. To be sure, the static background in each photo lends scale and contrast to the moving subject. One of the most jarring aspects of the show is also one of the most subtle: the voyeuristic feel of the images cannot be ignored – the majority of the walkers had no idea they were being photographed.
 
"I try to catch people that aren't looking at me. I just want them to be natural," says Perkoski of his subjects.
 
"You're wondering what they're doing and where they're going and what they're thinking."
 
"These Walks of Life" is on view on the second floor of Asian Town Center, which is a fascinating mall worthy of a visit on its own. The gallery housing Perkoski's work is in an annex to Negative Space and open for visitors whenever the mall is open, which is seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Contact Negative Space for extended evening hours.

Downtown Days rolls on with a Doggy 'Yappy Hour,' art, music, yoga and fun

With more than 14,000 living in downtown Cleveland today, and more residential living on the way, the Downtown Cleveland Alliance (DCA) decided it was time to celebrate – celebrate both the residents already settled and attract those who are thinking about moving downtown.
 
So this week marks the first annual Downtown Days, a week of community-building events for downtown residents and people who just want to get an idea of what downtown living is like. The celebration began yesterday with a retail sidewalk parade. "Think New Orleans Mardi Gras parade meets flash mob meets fashion show,” said Heather Holmes, DCA director of marketing and public relations, of the opening event. And there's plenty more to come, with activities running through Sunday, Sept. 18.
 
“With the downtown residential community growing very fast, Downtown Days is kind of like the home days you see in suburban cities,” says Holmes. “We have over 30 different events and activities throughout the week, many of which take place on a regular basis on a normal day in downtown Cleveland.”
 
The action continues today - particularly for area canines, as six bars in the Warehouse District will host a dog-friendly Yappy Hour from 5 to 7 p.m. “Anyone who’s walked downtown lately will see almost as many dogs as people,” said Holmes. “The Velvet Dog’s rooftop will be the ‘wooftop’ and the Barley House will be the ‘Barkley House.’” The establishments along W. 6th Street will also have special appetizers for the four-legged friends. For instance, Johnny’s Downtown will be serving meatball sliders.
 
- For the artistic types, artist Mac Love will be creating another mural under the Main Avenue Bridge. Artists are invited to tag their own space in chalk with Chalk Stop on Main Avenue from 6 to 8 p.m.
 
- The Kimpton’s famous wine hour, open only to downtown residents, is already sold out.
 
- North Coast Namaste will host its weekly free lakefront yoga at North Coast Harbor from 6 to 7 p.m.
 
On Wednesday, North Coast Harbor will take center stage during North Coast Rockin’, beginning with Rock & Dock paddle boat racing. Chalk Stop moves to the skate park with artist Trisha Previte. The Great Lakes Science Center, which is usually closed in early September for its annual fall cleaning and maintenance, will have a variety of activities and experiments for families and children from 6 to 9 p.m.
 
- The Rock Hall will host Lower Dens during its Sonic Sessions from 8 to 10 p.m. Tickets are $5, which includes admission to the Power and Politics exhibit during the show.
 
- Regular events include Walnut Wednesday and a Take a Hike Tour of the Warehouse District. Hike over to Playhouse Square on Thursday and the Gateway District on Saturday for additional downtown tours. Regular Yoga on the Green at Public Square will take place from 6 to 7 p.m.
 
Thursday is all about Playhouse Square with a Wine Walk from 5 to 8 p.m. District bars, restaurants and retailers will offer food and drink specials. Those who register and sign up for Downtown Center Stage, Playhouse Square’s program for special offers and advance ticket sales will get a chance to win season tickets to the 2016-2017 Broadway Series.

- Chalk Stop rolls into Perk Plaza with artist Trisha Previte from 6 to 8 p.m.

 - Heinen’s will host a local craft beers and bratwurst from 5 to 7:30 p.m. The event is free but there is a $5 fee for the beer tasting. Take a photo under the store’s classic rotunda and tag it using #DowntownDaysatHeinens for a chance to win a $50 Heinen’s gift card.

- North Union Farmers Market will hold its weekly market at Public Square from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
 
The weekend is jam-packed with events, including Public Square’s first Downtown Oktoberfest, SPARX City Hop and the Indians play the Detroit Tigers Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
 
"All of our partners kind of tried to outdo one another, and it all just came together,” Holmes says of the week’s events. “It really will build a sense of community among the residents.”
 
In addition to the 14,000 currently living downtown, another 1,000 units are under construction and scheduled to be available by the end of 2017 with another 2,300 units coming by the end of 2018, according to Holmes.
 
“We should have 18,000 residents by the end of 2018,” she adds, explaining that DCA calculates its numbers based on 1.5 people per unit. “If we’re ever going to get a big box retailer downtown, we have to hit 20,000. Everyone has those nostalgic memories of retail shopping downtown.”

Some businesses boom, others see a drought during RNC

When Cleveland first learned it would be hosting the RNC, business owners throughout the region prepared for a hefty increase in customers last week.
 
Pizza Fire, which opened a year ago on Euclid, saw steady business and the line from the just-opened REBoL in Public Square had lines out the door as attendees waited patiently for a one of 90 seats in the air conditioned space.
 
Bloom Bakery, a social enterprise venture to help low income and disadvantaged adults achieve self-sufficiency through employment run by Towards Employment, opened its Public Square location in March and decided to stay open 24/7 during the convention week.
 
“Staying open for a convention like this is a gamble, says Logan Fahey, Bloom co-founder and general manager. “But for us it was more about the visibility of our mission and employing people.” The bakery added an additional eight employees, hired from the Salvation Army Northeast Ohio, to its 15-person staff for the week.
 
The gamble paid off. “On Monday we had a steady flow of convention guests, and then Tuesday through Thursday it really picked-up and we had built a loyal convention customer base that sustained us through the week,” Fahey says. “Most of the customers were international media guests who utilized Bloom's chic cafe atmosphere and free Wi-Fi.” 
 
Fahey reports that media tended to stay in Bloom until 2 a.m., before catering to the bar crowds in the wee hours of the morning.
 
The seven temporary retail stores that set up shop in the Arcade for the RNC saw a steady stream of business as visitors popped in and out of the historic mall on Euclid. Actress and Cleveland native Monica Potter was on hand in her Monica Potter Home pop-up location for most of the week.
 
Store employee Stephanie Dietelbach said business was good last week, but they had yet to make a decision on whether the store would make the Arcade a permanent home. She said the decision would be made in early August.
 
While businesses around the city center saw a hefty draw of customers, anything outside of a two-block radius was a ghost town. Even area bars and restaurants that had booked private events during the convention reported that they saw a decrease in their regular clientele.
 
Hofbrauhaus in Playhouse Square, which brought in a “security dog” – Reagan, an eight-year-old Dachshund – to greet and protect biergrarten guests, was popular with the few guests who opted to patronize the near-empty restaurant.
 
Yet Hofbrauhaus spokesperson Andrea Mueller was upbeat about the week. “Business was slow,” she says. “A lot of the folks that would normally come down didn't. We did have some private parties, so those were our saving grace. But, it's the price we had to pay for such a great event to come into town.”
 
The bars along West 25th Street in Ohio City, many of which had secured the 4 a.m. provisional liquor license, sat open, waiting for business. While many of the bars along the strip had booked private parties for the RNC, Market Garden Brewery, among other establishments, saw a marked lack of traffic and begged folks to come out on its Facebook page, posting photos of an empty bar at 4 a.m.

"We've been very busy, but our business volume has been inverted," owner Sam McNulty said last week. "Instead of a lot of foot traffic and a few events, we've been tremendously busy with events and have seen very little of our local guests and regulars."
 
By the time RNC came to a close and the visitors cleared out of the city, business was back to normal and the regulars began flocking back to their usual haunts.

"I miss my regular customers," said the young woman manning the cash register at Jake's Pizza last Tuesday. "I can't wait for Monday."

Local venues brim with bookings for RNC

Some 50,000 people are expected to descend on Cleveland for the Republican National Convention this summer, including 2,470 delegates, 2,302 alternate delegates and 15,000 members of the media. As the July 18-21 dates draw near, many of Cleveland’s popular entertainment and arts sites are seeing a great deal of interest in, and reservations for, private events.
 
About 70 establishments have registered as preferred venues in the RNC official venue guide. Fresh Water talked to event planners at just a handful of locations around the city about their RNC private event bookings. And while organizers won’t divulge all the details, excitement is definitely building.
 
The Breen Center
 
One event that officials can talk about is the announcement that Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Trevor Noah will be taping from July 19 through 22 at the Breen Center for the Performing Arts at St. Ignatius High School.
 
“They approached us some time ago looking for a venue,” says St. Ignatius director of communications Lisa Metro. “It’s a beautiful venue. It’s the most comfortable place to see a show.”
 
While the Breen Center parking lot will be reserved for the show’s trucks, the St. Ignatius student parking lot will be reserved for audience members. Metro says the center seats more than 300 people and has wheelchair access.
 
Other than the parking accommodations, Metro says the other details are being left up to The Daily Show staff. “The proceeds [from the rental] will be reinvested in the St. Ignatius education fund,” she adds.
 
Tickets for all four days of taping have already sold out.
 
W. 25th Street
 
Nearby on W. 25th Street, Nathan Carr, events coordinator for Market Garden Brewery, Bar Cento, Nano Brew, Bier Market and Speakeasy, has booked events at all the bars, mostly for state delegates, he says.
 
“Our arrangement is a little unique because we are multiple locations in one city block,” Carr says of the restaurant group. “One state requested beers from their home state. [The groups] want a lot of the same stuff, but we’re tweaking it a little to make it unique for everyone.”
 
Carr says that, beginning in July, they are making menu changes to give conventioneers a true taste of Cleveland. “We’re creating really neat new things to give them a unique Midwest/Cleveland experience,” he says. “They’re coming from all over the country and maybe haven’t had the Midwest farm-to-table experience.”
 
One parameter Carr says they must follow for the delegate events is that no forks, knives or spoons can be used. “They aren’t able to use utensils on the premises,” he says. “It’s an opportunity to create mouth-sized kinds of food, snackable finger food kinds of items.”
 
For instance, Carr says they are partnering with Mitchell’s Ice Cream to give guests a scoop of ice cream as they board their transportation back to their hotels, but they had to order little wooden paddle spoons for eating the ice cream.
 
Carr says he has booked groups ranging from 80 people to a complete buyout of one location for an event for 700. They are still in the process of booking additional groups. However, Carr urges the locals to come out to W. 25th as well.
 
“With all the hype," he says, "it’s really important for Clevelanders to come out and see how this week-long event really benefits the city and really highlights the city.”
 
The restaurant group is also working on a special brew for the convention: the GOP Pilsner,  “as a shout out for the reason everyone’s here that week,” says Carr.
 
University Circle
 
University Circle’s cultural attractions are also garnering interest from conventioneers. The Cleveland History Center of the Western Reserve Historical Society has already booked two events and has had “a number of showings,” says center director Angie Lowrie, adding that they are hosting a delegate luncheon for about 100 people that will include a self-guided tour and an evening event for about 250.
 
Lowrie says the center will host a cocktail party paired with a tour of nearby Lakeview Cemetery. “There will be a big focus on Rockefeller and his roots in Cleveland,” she says. “Weather-permitting, we will hold the cocktail hour in the outdoor garden and we will have a Rockefeller impersonator.”
 
The center will also have a Rockefeller exhibit open during the convention week.
 
The History Center is also partnering with other WRHS facilities, such as the Crawford Auto Aviation Museum for a dinner and tour and the Euclid Beach Park Grand Carousel for a fun diversion.
 
Elsewhere on East Boulevard, the Cleveland Botanical Garden has booked three events ranging from 120 to 400 people and has had “multiple groups come out for site tours,” says rental facility associate Bridget Hays.
 
Hays adds that the Botanical Garden can host up to 500 people on the Katherine Philipp Geis Terrace for a cocktail reception, or smaller events in its meeting rooms or gardens.
 
“It’s a great neighborhood," says Hays. "It’s a fun side of Cleveland over here. This is a chance to show off to the delegates such great culture in the city and leverage our collection to raise visibility.”

Playhouse Square
 
In Playhouse Square, Hofbrauhaus has made a few group bookings and is anticipating more. “We’ve received event inquiries and we’re getting everything secure,” says marketing and sales manager Andrea Mueller.
 
Mueller says some groups have rented the entire Hofbrauhaus space, which seats 1,600 and includes the bier hall, bier garden and the Hermit Club, while others have booked just one specific space for an evening.
 
While Mueller says she’s heard that a groups tend to wait until the last minute to book their events, the Hofbrauhaus staff is already in planning mode. “We have customized menus with each of the groups,” Mueller says. “We’ve been working very closely with our executive chefs. “We want to put our best foot forward.”
 
Mueller says they have also gotten calls from other venues in the area who want to partner with Hofbrauhaus. “It’s impressive how we come together to hold each other up,” she says. “I’ve never experienced such outreach and symbiotic support. We’re very excited to have this opportunity to show Clevelanders and guests alike what we have to offer.”

Ohio Theatre returns to its 1921 splendor with renovations nearly complete

The restoration of Playhouse Square’s Ohio Theatre lobby is almost complete, with the space returned to its original grandeur. The May completion will mark the final project on the Playhouse Square theater renovations list.
 
Last Saturday, Tom Einhouse, Playhouse Square’s vice president of facilities and capital, led members of the Cleveland Restoration Society on a tour of the lobby, which has been shielded from public view by drywall during the restorations. He detailed the painstaking research and physical work that went into re-creating the 1921 Thomas Lamb design. Restoration began in June 2015.
 
“This is the transformation of the Ohio Theatre,” Einhouse told the group. “We’re just putting the finishing touches on it.”
 
Einhouse explained that the theater lobbies were often updated every 10 years in the early days, sometimes covering the original design. Then the Ohio Theatre was damaged by a fire in 1964. A 1980s attempt at remodeling on a limited budget left the theater with painted drywall, dropped ceilings and linoleum floors.


 
“The happiest time of my life was getting rid of those,” Einhouse told the group. The $5.5 million project was funded with a $3 million grant from the George Gund Foundation and $2 million from Playhouse Square’s $100 million Advancing the Legacy campaign for capital improvements, endowment growth, neighborhood transformation, education programming and new productions.

Saturday’s tour began in the State Theatre lobby and auditorium, where Einhouse pointed out the restored ceiling – painted in 14 different colors and used 6,000 sheets of metal leaf – plastering and new chandeliers. Twenty-five painters, 20 of them locals from Dependable Painting, stood on $140,000 worth of scaffolding to get the job done.
 
Einhouse also talked about the conversion to LED lighting, which provides better illumination, requires less maintenance and costs less.
 
The tour then moved on to the Ohio Theatre lobby. Before entering the Ohio Theatre lobby space, which is still surrounded by drywall, Einhouse made the group raise their right hands and swear they would not look up until he gave the word.
 
When he did, the group collectively inhaled at the ornate 150-foot long, hand painted ceiling. Jeff Greene, owner of EverGreene Architectural Arts in New York, worked with Cleveland architect firm Westlake Reed Leskosky and Einhouse to painstakingly research and recreate the original paint colors, plaster ornamentals, columns and other décor to accurately replicate the original design. Turner Construction and the Coniglio Company were the contractors on the job. The project took six months to complete.



The acrylic paint and glazes were all hand applied and wiped. Two of the painters on the EverGreene team, Mike and Jaime Carpenter of Hudson, were particularly pleased to be involved. While they normally travel the country for restoration projects, Einhouse said they were pleased to be working closer to home.
 
Research included delving into the Thomas Lamb archives at Columbia University’s Avery Library. “We were able to find the original drawings,” boasted Einhouse. Other reference photos came from Architectural Digest. Elements of the original ornamental plaster were found in a cove of the theater lobby and photos helped them match the look. Nearly, 8,500 hours of plaster sculpting went into the project. The sprinklers and air returns are cleverly hidden in the plaster ornamental elements of the ceiling.
 
“We were able to recreate it pretty accurately,” says Einhouse. “Everything was created by hand. We used modern building techniques to recreate something very authentic.”
 
Walls will be adorned with three 30-foot by 10-foot murals, recreated from the originals that were inspired by 17th Century French painter Nicolas Poussin. Six EverGreene artists worked on the canvas murals, which will be shipped from New York and installed in April.


 
Two fireplaces, four-foot high marble and mahogany accents will adorn the walls, in addition to display cases and columns. Historic chandeliers, although not the originals, will be restored, cleaned and rewired. The original carpeting is being recreated by Brintons in England.
 
In addition to the lobby, a $900,000 restroom project included capping the sewage pipes and expanding the women’s restroom by 40 percent. The entire restoration will be completed by May 15, ahead of the Restoring the Legacy benefit gala.
 
There were no snags along the way, said Einhouse. “We were able to peel back everything and get back to the original room,” he says. “And we kept the theater open the whole time.” While at times parts of the project were exposed, theatergoers only got “sneak peaks now and then” of the work going on in the Ohio.

“This could last 50 years,” said Einhouse of the restoration.

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.”

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."

PRE4CLE issues grants for four new classrooms

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

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

Exclusive first look: the Creswell

A new boutique apartment building with a quirky history, the Creswell, 1220 Huron Road, is set to open with 80 luxury one- and two-bedroom apartments in Playhouse Square.

Move in dates will commence in September on the first six floors. Units on floor seven will be available in October. Floors eight through 11 are scheduled to start coming online in November, with all the apartments slated for completion by year's end. Thus far, 54 have been released to the market, and they are going fast.
 
"We have 44 hard reservations out of 80 units," says Jon Mavrakis, managing director of CITIROC Real Estate Company, who is representing the project partners, the Slyman Group and the Dalad Group.
 
Units will range from 773- to 1,162-square feet with rents from $1,275 to $1,920, although rents for the 11th floor two-bedrooms will top $2,000. North-facing apartments on the second floor will feature historic leaded windows.
 
Construction started in January. Vocon is the architect on the project, which was awarded a $3.55 million state historic tax credit in 2013, and Dalad Construction is the contractor. The total cost is expected to be about $16 million.
 
The 1920 Creswell was originally constructed as a garage for roadsters your great-great granddad zipped around in. Per the Aug. 15, 1920 Cleveland Plain Dealer (PD): "The south side of Huron Road at E. 12th Street is being improved with an eleven-story fireproof concrete structure with brick and terra cotta trimming that will house 800 cars." The Creswell was also built to last, with a footing of concrete piles that extended down 50 feet on account of quicksand (per the PD on Nov. 7, 1920).
 
"The subfloors are all about two-foot-thick concrete," says Mavrakis of the building's solid construction. "It's very quiet."
 
Hence, residents of the Creswell will not need to worry much about hearing the goings-on of their upstairs neighbors, which may include the four-footed variety. Two pets up to thirty pounds each will be allowed per apartment.
 
While the building has endured these 95 years, the garage went out of business in 1923, after which the structure was quickly reborn as the Carnegie Hall Building and was home to a host of businesses in the entertainment industry and local legends such as the Cleveland Recording Company and Wyse Advertising. The style back then? Just plain cool.
 
The new Creswell will have plenty of cool of its own, with a 1,000-square-foot fitness center and a rooftop deck that is scheduled to open in spring of 2016. Parking will be available at the Halle Garage for an additional charge. The first floor will have a 4,000-square-foot restaurant, a tenant for which has yet to be placed.

"We're engaging some local operators," says Mavrakis. "We have a lot of interested people"

He adds that one of the best parts of bringing these unique and modern apartments to a vintage building in Playhouse Square is the storied surroundings.
 
"We feel this is the best neighborhood in the city."

Every Cleveland property to be photographed and rated

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

Small scale projects can be a big deal for downtown, says neighborhood group

In recent years, cities have utilized the concept of "tactical urbanism" to enhance downtown neighborhoods with short-term, community-based projects like pop-up parks and street art campaigns.

Cleveland planners have engaged the metro in its own urban improvement endeavors including SmallBox, an initiative that changed refurbished 8 foot by 20 foot shipping containers into startup small businesses. Livable city advocate Mike Lydon will discuss both local and national urbanism trends during a June 11 luncheon sponsored by Historic Gateway Neighborhood Corporation, Historic Warehouse District Development Corporation and PlayhouseSquare District Development Corporation.

Lydon is an internationally recognized urban planner as well as a partner in the Street Plans Collaborative, a group aiming to reverse suburban sprawl through walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods. Lydon's talk is opportune for a downtown aiming to jumpstart ambitious change via low-cost, potentially high-impact techniques, says Tom Starinsky, associate director of  both the Warehouse District and Gateway neighborhood organizations.

"Cleveland has a very strong community-led urban design community," Starinsky says. "(Lydon) is bringing these innovative ideas here so the city can stay in step with what's happening in the world."

Among other projects, the Cleveland organization has transformed parking spaces adjacent to the small-box stores into a pocket park. The park, decorated with shipping pallets converted into funky furniture, will host mini-concerts and other events, and is designed to be enjoyed by residents, office workers and visitors alike.

The Gateway District group, meanwhile, has plans for a parklet and bike corral on Euclid Avenue that will repurpose parking spaces in front of several businesses and create a semi-enclosed respite for pedestrians. In addition, the group is planning to build sidewalk parks throughout the neighborhood in areas where the pavement is especially wide, using a variety of seating types where people can sit and eat lunch. 

Urban planner Lydon, who has promoted similar efforts throughout the world, believes tactical urbanism projects can scale up without losing their connection to the neighborhoods that spawned them. This connection is a vital condition for any enduring successes locally, says Starinsky, particularly if new projects can empower a generation of engaged citizens, urban designers and policymakers.

"People involved with the city know more than anyone what will make it livable," he says. "There are infinite ways to make Cleveland better long-term."

Flashstarts move aims to create centralized innovation hub on Public Square

The Flashstarts business accelerator and venture fund recently moved from Playhouse Square to a much larger location in Terminal Tower for two basic reasons, says cofounder Charles Stack.

The first reason was to make it easier for startup companies to find stable office space. The second was to condense newbie entrepreneurial efforts into StartMart, a single, highly energetic nucleus where water cooler moments can foster new ideas and economic growth.

This concept of "engineered serendipity"  began May 16th when Flashstarts, which provides coaching, funds and other resources to new companies that participate in a 12-week program, left for its new 30,000-square-foot headquarters on Public Square, a space six times larger than its previous office.

"I've been doing this for 30 years, and I've never been more optimistic about startups having the opportunity to turn this region into a powerhouse," says Stack, who began planning StartMart with fellow Flashstarts founder Jennifer Neundorfer last spring. "This move is a small step in that direction."

Flashstarts itself will be the hub's first official tenant in the lead-up to a public launch in September. Over the summer, the accelerator will engage the community for feedback on StartMart's design and begin identifying and communicating with potential members. Though the group's focus is on use of software and technology, Stack expects a diverse range of occupants to fill the space.

"It's wide open to anyone who wants to join," he says.

Participants will work in a flexible space where privacy is an option even as collaboration is encouraged. Ultimately, StartMart will stand as a focal point for large-scale innovation.

"We want this to be a global center for startups," says Stack. "Cleveland can be a great home base (for small businesses), and we need to play up that strength."

Odeon Concert Club to reopen in May after nine year hiatus

Before it closed its doors in 2006, the Odeon Concert Club was a famous Flats entertainment venue that once hosted such eclectic acts as Nine Inch Nails, Björk and the Ramones. This spring, the sound of rock music will be shaking the walls of the East Bank club once more.

The Odeon is scheduled for a grand reopening on May 1st, in the same 1,100-capacity spot it held in the old Flats. Cleveland-based heavy metal group Mushroomhead will headline the event, kicking off what owner Mike Tricarichi believes can be a new era for the much loved rock landing place. 

"I don't know if people are going to expect a nostalgia trip or whatever," says Tricarichi. "This is going to be a destination compatible with what's forecast to be on the street with the (Flats East Bank) project." 

The Odeon's interior is getting revamped for its new iteration, Tricarichi notes. Though the room's basic design will remain unchanged, a new sound and lighting system will be installed. In addition, inside walls will be painted and the club's infamously grotty bathrooms will get an overhaul.

"Everything's going to be fresh," says Tricarichi. "We're trying to make people more comfortable."

Tricarichi, president of Las Vegas-based real estate company Telecom Acquisition Corp., owns both the Odeon and Roc Bar, a 250-capacity club located nearby on Old River Road. He bought the Odeon building in 2007, one year after it shut its doors. The decision to reopen Odeon came in light of early success Tricarichi has had booking acts at Roc Bar, which itself reopened in December. 

"We opened Roc expecting it to bring people down here, and it did," Tricarichi says.

Along with Mushroomhead, the Odeon has set a date for a Puddle of Mudd show and is working on bringing in horror punk act the Misfits for an appearance. Tricarichi, who spends part of his time in Las Vegas booking hotel shows, also expects to host comic acts at the refurbished Cleveland club.

"I've produced Andrew Dice Clay shows in Vegas, and he wants to play here," he says.

As Tricarichi owns the building, he views re-opening the Odeon as a worthy, low-risk experiment that can be a key component of a revitalized Flats entertainment scene.

"It's a stepping stone," he says. "We can be a piece of what's happening down there."

reimagining cle tour highlights benefits of citywide grant program

Cleveland Neighborhood Progress recently offered a tour of its Reimagining Cleveland projects to showcase its successes and solicit ideas for the future of the program, which funds projects that reutilize vacant land for gardens, orchards, parks and yard expansions. CNP is currently completing an evaluation of Reimagining Cleveland, which has awarded three rounds of funding in five years.

Leaders say that these small-scale greening projects are critical to Cleveland's future because they fight blight, grow local food and even create jobs.

"We saw that there was a proliferation of vacant land and knew that we needed to have a response, to look at it as an asset rather than a liability," said Linda Warren, Senior Vice President of Placemaking with CNP, guiding a Lolly the Trolley bus. "Now the city is seen as a model for others around the country."

To date, Reimagining Cleveland has fostered 144 projects on 248 parcels of land. Warren admits that this is a drop in the bucket compared to Cleveland's vacant land problem -- there are more than 12,000 parcels in the city land bank, and an estimated 29,000 vacant parcels citywide. But she adds that already the program has made a significant impact in beautifying neighborhoods, increasing access to fresh, wholesome food, creating passive green space and stimulating local food startups.

For example, market gardeners in the program are banding together to launch a website to market their produce to restaurants. This is just one example of concepts that are being brought to scale thanks to Reimagining.

"This is about seeding -- pun intended -- entrepreneurs and concepts for what they can do with vacant land around them," said Warren. "It's also about seeding our own thinking. We want to figure out what's replicable and what's not."

Here are some of the highlights featured on the Reimagining Cleveland tour.

Watterson-Lake Learning Garden. Special education teacher and Detroit Shoreway resident Michelle deBock helped create a school garden on W. 75th Street. Prior to receiving funding from Reimagining Cleveland, there was a vacant lot here, and before that, an empty house that was the target of arsonists. The narrow lot culminates in an arbor and picnic area that feels like a natural oasis.

League Park Garden. Community gardens may be small, but they can have a big impact. Veronica Walton, an urban farmer in Glenville, created League Park Garden and named it to honor her father, who loved baseball. Her market garden uses harvested rainwater and contains hoop houses that allow farmers to grow crops 10 months a year. Walton sells produce at farmers markets in University Circle.

Chateau Hough. Easily the most colorful project funded by Reimagining Cleveland is Hough resident Mansfield Frazier's vineyard, which is now yielding its first grapes. The ex-con-turned-social-entrepreneur recently bottled his first vintage of wine, which he says is not only good, he can't make enough.

Frazier said that he was able to produce 1,000 bottles from his first vintage. He can't sell them yet, because the State of Ohio has not yet issued a liquor license. He claimed that demand is so high he could sell that amount five times over.

"When I applied to Reimagining Cleveland, I asked for the largest amount of money, and they said, 'What do you know about wine?'" Frazier said. "I told them I was an expert at taking the cork out of the bottle. That's all I know. But the vineyard is turning out great, and I've got the wine to prove it."

Frazier detailed the process he underwent to ensure success, including planting cold-hardy varietals and ensuring that the soil drained properly. The wine is made using a 60/40 blend -- 60 percent of the grapes are from his vineyard, 40 percent are from California. "People ask me, 'Why'd you do grapes?'" he said. "Because if I'd done bell papers, all you fine people wouldn't be standing here."

The entrepreneur says that he's employed 26 people so far, mostly young men who live in Hough and have been incarcerated or in trouble with the law. He's helped many of them find jobs. His next project, the world's first biocellar, is now under construction atop the foundation of an old house. Frazier expects to begin planting shitake mushrooms this fall, when the new League Park opens.

What's next. Warren said that the success of Reimagining projects has often hinged on having an individual champion or group of champions. Yet how do leaders sustain these greening projects over a long period of time? In the most recent round of funding, the focus turned towards side yard expansions, because this is a simple, impactful way of reclaiming green space. Warren said that to continue the program, CNP must identify new funding sources, and that the focus will turn to making sure projects are sustainable and leveraging them for impact.
 
55 Playhouse Square Articles | Page: | Show All
Signup for Email Alerts