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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

Call for TLC: vintage Capitol Theatre

Eight years ago the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization (DSCDO) unveiled a newly-renovated Capitol Theatre. The 1921 theater, originally constructed as a silent movie house, went through years of neglect before ultimately closing its doors in 1985.

The huge renovation was complete in 2009, and took nearly 30 years to accomplish. Today, eight years after its grand reopening, the Capitol Theatre needs a bit of an update to keep it going strong for the next 30 years. So the DSCDO is hosting a fundraiser gala, Timeless, on Friday, April 21.
 
The historic theater was already on the DSCDO’s radar when the organization was founded in 1973, and the Capitol was one of the main drivers behind the economic development and success of the Gordon Square Arts District.
 
“When we were founded in the 70s we knew we could not let this place go,” says DSCDO managing director Jenny Spencer. ““Preserving the Capitol Theatre and the Arcade Building were essential for rebuilding Gordon Square.”
 
Today, the Capitol has all digital equipment on three screens and is operated 365 days a year by Cleveland Cinemas. The theater sees an average of 50,000 patrons a year and is a Gordon Square mainstay.
 
“We’re extremely committed to keep it open, as it’s an economic driver for the neighborhood,” says Spencer. “Even people who are window shopping or getting a bite to eat come by. This is very much a mission-driven thing, being an historic theater. It can attract new residents and keep the existing residential population.”
 
Spencer says the Capitol simply needs some upgrades to its equipment, as well as some plaster repair work. “It’s very, very old plaster and it just needs some more love,” she says, adding that previous years of exposure to the elements necessitates periodic maintenance to the plaster.
 
“The plaster was so compromised, it’s still recovering,” Spencer says. “We want to preserve what’s still there.”
 
Like all digital equipment today, the DSCDO also needs to upgrade the audio and visual technology to keep it up to date. “We’re not going to get rich operating a three-screen theater,” Spencer says. “We just want you to have a great theater experience where you’re just immersed in what’s on the screen — and that experience comes with great sound and visuals.”
 
The goal is to raise $70,000 through the Timeless event. Spencer says that amount will cover the digital upgrade and plaster stabilization and restoration, as well as create a repair reserve fund for future upkeep.
 
Friday’s Timeless event begins at 6 p.m. with a VIP reception, with free valet service beginning at 5:30 p.m. The VIP reception includes a silent auction preview and open bar. The main party runs from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. with cocktails, a large spread of appetizers, the silent auction and a live Hollywood revue performed by local cabaret lounge singer, Lounge Kitty. Desert will be provided by Sweet Moses Soda Fountain and Treat Shop and Gypsy Beans will serve coffee.
 
At 9 p.m. a whiskey sour nightcap will be served in preparation for a viewing of the timeless classic Casablanca. “We thought a bourbon type drink would be appropriate, because Humphrey Bogart drinks it in the movie,” says Spencer. “And, of course, there will be popcorn.”

Tickets start at $100 for general admission and $150 for VIP admission. $83 of the general admission ticket cost is tax deductible, as is $122 of the VIP ticket. Donations to the theater fund are also accepted. All donations will be kept in the Capitol’s fund at the Cleveland Foundation.
 
“This is such an iconic place for the community, and this is an opportunity for people to reconnect and get excited about the theater,” Spencer says, adding that she recalls hearing many fond memories from longtime residents. “The amount of love stories I’ve heard, you would not believe how many stories.”

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.
 

Program aims to capture history in Buckeye-Shaker, build community

Most of Cleveland’s neighborhoods were established in the late 1800s by a wave of Eastern Europeans coming to the region looking for manufacturing work. A predominantly-Slovenian population was drawn to labor opportunities in Collinwood, while Hungarians flocked to Buckeye-Shaker.
 
Over the years, those concentrations dispersed into the suburbs and today both neighborhoods are quite diverse. But that diversity can sometimes come with a loss of community connection, says Cindy Washabaugh, a poet and therapeutic arts practitioner.
 
So In 2015, Washabaugh had an idea for bringing Cleveland communities together through writing. She went to Collinwood and began Who We Are, Where We Live, a place-based community writing program.
 
“I really wanted to do a project with writing in a community where people would have a chance to connect with people they wouldn’t necessarily meet,” she says. “Everyone has memories of doing different things in the community. I thought, what if I could go in and do workshops with every facet of the community.”
 
The success of the Collinwood project resulted in a printed anthology that compiled the participants’ thoughts, memories and perceptions of their community. “The idea was to bring these folks together and really sharing their memories and what their hopes were for the community,” she explains. “It provided a sense of witness, a sense of understanding and trust in their neighbors.”
 
Today Washabaugh aims to extend the momentum through a partnership with Literary Cleveland, a non-profit organization committed to building a community of readers and writers in Northeast Ohio, to launch Buckeye-Shaker: Who We Are Where We Live.
 
The program will engage people who live and work in the neighborhood to learn about its history by writing and sharing stories about the community’s past, and understanding the experiences of their neighbors.
 
“Cleveland is filled with untold stories of our neighborhoods and the people who live there,” says Washabaugh.
 
While many of the Collinwood memories stemmed out of the Slovenian Workmen’s Home, Washabaugh expects similar memories to come out of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church on Buckeye, believed to be the first Hungarian catholic church built in the United States in the late 1800s.
 
The writing workshops will allow participants to write their stories down and share them — this time on a website anthology — in hopes of remembering Buckeye’s past and preserving its history for future generations.
 
The Ohio Humanities Council is sponsoring the Buckeye-Shaker project, and Washabaugh has recruited Mark Souther, history professor and director of the Center for Public History and Digital Humanities at Cleveland State University, and Michael Fleenor, director of preservation services at the Cleveland Restoration Society.
 
“The Ohio Humanities Council challenged us to bring in historians, so we found two,” says Washabaugh, who says Fleenor and Souther will talk about the architecture, how the neighborhood has been represented, how to research your own home’s history, even if you no longer live in the neighborhood, and what makes a neighbor.
 
“It’s really exciting stuff,” says Washabaugh. “It allows everyone to appreciate each other, at least for a little while.”
 
Washabaugh encourages participants to write, give oral histories or even contribute a sketch to the anthology. “Writing is a focus that lets you leave something behind or have something to share,” she explains.
 
Literary Cleveland will host the launch party on Saturday, Apr. 22 from 1 to 3 p.m. at Loganberry Books, 13015 Larchmere Blvd. Souther will speak at the event, which will also have program information and writing activities.
 
The community writing workshops will be held Saturday, Apr. 29 from 12 to 2 p.m. and Saturday, May 13 from 2 to 4 p.m., both at the Cleveland Public Library’s Rice Branch, 11535 Shaker Blvd. The last workshop will be held Wednesday, May 17 from 1 to 3 p.m. at East End Neighborhood House, 2749 Woodhill Road. Fleenor will speak at the first workshop.
 
The project will culminate with a reading and celebration on Saturday, July 8 from 1 to 3 p.m. at Loganberry Books.
 
The launch party and readings are free and open to the public, while the workshops are reserved only for people who live or work in the Buckeye-Shaker neighborhood.

'In the 216' to open along Lakewood-Cleveland border

When Jenny Goe opened In the 216 in the heart of the Coventry business district in January 2015, she had high hopes that her store would be a destination for shoppers to browse and buy the many wares made by Cleveland retailers.
 
She launched with about 30 artists represented in her roughly 1,000-square-foot shop just below street level. Two years later, Goe keeps the shop at 1854 Coventry open late, especially on the weekends, and keeps longer hours on Sundays to accommodate the high volume of customers meandering in during peak pedestrian times.
 
“We have to stay open late on Fridays and Saturdays here,” Goe says. “We’d be crazy not to.”
 
Today, Goe represents more than 100 artists in her funky shop, and has had to turn others away because she’s running out of room. But that predicament is about to change when Goe opens her second location on the Cleveland-Lakewood border on April 29 in the former Big Fun location at 11512 Clifton Blvd.
 
At 2,000 square feet, the space is twice the size of the Coventry store, which will allow Goe to offer a wider variety of goods — and there's also space for an artists’ exhibit/workshop.
 
Some will be solely featured at the new store, while others will exclusively be featured at Cleveland Heights location, Goe says, bringing the total to between 120 and 130 Northeast Ohio artisans represented at In the 216.
 
The wares Goe sells include everything from jewelry, some of which Goe herself crafts through her Etsy line, Jewelry by Jenny, T-shirts, ball caps, candles and home décor items.
 
Goe said her new neighbors, the owners of Flower Child first approached her about opening a pop-up store in the location during the 2015 holiday season, but she was still getting the Coventry location off the ground.
 
When the new owners of the Clifton Corners building approached her last fall, Goe was ready to expand. “There’s a lot of really good plans for the street,” says Goe of the ongoing work on Clifton Boulevard between W. 116th and W. 117th Streets. “So I decided it was worth the leap.”
 
Goe wooed the building owners, Cleveland natives who now live in California, with her business sense and products. “I explained it’s all locally sourced products and I sent them home with some Bertman mustard,” she recalls. “The owners came in, saw what we can do and offered to fix it up for us at their expense.”
 
Goe is pleased with the remodel of the space. “They built us a dressing room, which we don’t really have [on Coventry],” she says. “Everything’s going to be brand spanking new.” She adds that she will have two display windows. Goe did choose, however, to keep the graffiti-painted, comic hero ceiling installed during the Big Fun days. “It adds a lot of character.”
 
Goe is particularly excited about the exhibit space. Her first exhibitor will be Jack Koch of Jackson Koch Photography, while knitting workshops by Maria Laniro of Mamina Knits, as well as calligraphy and screen printing workshops, are already planned.
 
Goe, who plans to split her time between both locations, says she’s not sure what the permanent hours will be at the new store, but for now she'll be open for business 11 a.m. until 7 p.m., every day but Tuesdays.

“It will be a learning experience,” she says, noting that the traffic on Clifton is more from cars than pedestrians. “People come in and ask about it and they get so excited about the new store.”

Campus District welcomes new residents with 110 market rate and affordable apartments

In area historically known for its challenging economic conditions, the Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) earlier this month celebrated the completion of Phases 1 and 2 of the Cedar Transformation Plan with new market rate and affordable apartments and townhouses on 15 acres.

Sankofa Village replaces the Cedar Estates housing site. CMHA CEO Jeffery K. Patterson says the new units offer a modern, improved alternative to the 1950s row houses and traditional style of public housing that previously occupied the site.
 
Patterson also says Sankofa Village is an asset to the other improvements going on in the southern part of the Campus District, including the ongoing transformation at Cuyahoga Community College's Metro Campus and other improvements at St. Vincent Medical Center/Sisters of Charity Health System.
 
“The neighborhood is really changing,” says Patterson. “There are great amenities that are there to enhance the quality of life in that community.”
 
The first phase of the project at 2390 E. 30th Street broke ground in November 2015 and consists of four stories of 60 one-bedroom apartments averaging 705 square feet. The $12.3 million building has a lounge, community room, fitness center and laundry facilities. It was ready for occupancy earlier this month.
 
Phase two on East 28th Street broke ground in January 2016, and while the final touches will be completed on the $10.2 million phase in April, tenants began taking occupancy last December. Fifty one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom townhomes are spread throughout five buildings and range from 651 to 1,741 square feet.
 
Every unit comes equipped with dishwashers, washers and dryers, Energy Star rated stovetops and refrigerators. Rents start at $650.
 
The complex includes two parking lots and two playgrounds. The units meet Enterprise Green Community Standards and LEED Neighborhood Development guidelines. The open layouts, vaulted ceilings and large windows allow for plenty of natural light.
 
Patterson reports the townhomes are almost at full occupancy and the apartments are all leased. He says there is already a waiting list for all of the units. “It’s progressing very well,” he says, adding that one of the buildings has been named after longtime Progressive Action Council member Lillian Davis. The announcement was made during a grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony on March 10.

“We thought it would be an honor to recognize her and show our appreciation,” Patterson says of Davis. “She was shocked. She didn’t see it coming and we didn’t tell her ahead of time.”

Sankofa Village was designed by City Architecture. Developers Pittsburgh-based Ralph A. Falbo Inc. and Philadelphia-based Pennrose Properties manage the CMHA-owned and sponsored properties. As a partner, CMHA acts as the lender and provider for the Section 8 units, operating subsidies through HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program.
 
Patterson reports that another 100 to 150 units are planned on the site once additional funds are raised.
 

Challenge along the North Coast: maintaining momentum of 2016

Few people in northeast Ohio would argue that 2016 was Cleveland’s moment in the sun.

The city successfully hosted the Republican National Convention without a hitch. The Cavs became world champions and more than a million people celebrated the victory downtown. The Indians went to the World Series and fought a valiant fight, and the Monsters brought home the American Hockey League Calder Cup.
 
“2016 was an incredible year on so many fronts,” says Michael Deemer, executive vice president of business development for the Downtown Cleveland Alliance (DCA). “Not just to see the city on the national stage for the first time with the RNC, but to see that day in October with game one of the World Series and the Cavs season opening game.”
 
DCA estimates the RNC had a $200 million economic impact on the city, while the NBA finals playoff games contributed $36 million and the World Series brought $24 million. The new Huntington Convention Center also held its own, hosting 440,660 guest last year.
 
Of course the opening of the new $50 million Public Square brought a new reason to come downtown for the many events or just to relax in a new urban green space and people watch.
 
But 2016's memorable events were not the only sign of progress for downtown Cleveland last year. This month, the DCA released its 2016 Annual Report, indicating many people are choosing downtown to live, work, play and visit.
 


“The decision was made 10 years ago to form the DCA that set us on the course we’re on,” says Deemer. “We’ve worked with businesses, the RTA, to create innovative transportation and provided historic tax credits — all of those things working in tandem over the last 10 years created this environment.”
 
According to the report, downtown’s residential population is more than 14,000 — a 77 percent increase since 2000. Residential occupancy remained at 95 percent for the sixth consecutive year in the 6,198 market rate apartments and 880 condominiums.
 
More than 2,000 apartments were added downtown over the past six years, according to the report, with another 1,000 expected to come online in 2017 and more than 3,000 planned by the end of 2019. Deemer says he expects to downtown population to surge to 16,000 by the end of this year.
 
“2017 is shaping up to be a big year,” Deemer says of the residential growth.
 
Furthermore, Class A office space is at a 17 percent vacancy rate, with that number expected to dip below 10 percent in the next couple of years on account of new business and vacant office buildings being converted into apartments, says Deemer.
 
With the growing population comes new business to serve those residents. More than 30 new retailers opened for business in 2016 — 18 new restaurants and bars and 15 stores.  “We’re seeing a lot more resident-oriented businesses come in downtown, like Monica Potter Home, J3 Clothing and Cleveland Clinic Express Care,” says Deemer. “We continue to have a terrific restaurant and food scene.”
 
The residential population growth goes hand-in-hand with a highly qualified workforce living downtown, says Deemer, providing employers with a young, well-educated and diverse talent pool to draw from. Drilling down the numbers, downtown Cleveland ranks fifth nationally in the percentage of 25- to 44-year-olds in the labor force; seventh in the number of immigrants with four year degrees; and tenth in the number of candidates with advanced degrees.
 
Today, 95,000 people work downtown, with 70 employers leasing 1,213,141 square feet of office space and 6,932 jobs created or retained in 2016.
 
Furthermore, with Cleveland’s great healthcare presence, Cuyahoga County ranks fifth nationally in health services employment. Pair that with the number of quality secondary education institutions, and Cleveland becomes a lucrative place for employers to recruit talent.
 
“I think what I’m most excited about is the job growth because that’s what make everything else sustainable,” says Deemer. “As we lose the older, less skilled workers, they’re being replaced by younger, highly skilled and educated workers. Momentum begets momentum and as millennials find it an attractive place, more will follow. Cleveland is becoming the kind of place that already has great talent. Downtown in particular is becoming a place for young, skilled workers who want to live here and walk to work.”
 
RTA contributed to Cleveland’s transformation by working with the DCA on a accessible transportation. “We’re created an infrastructure of transportation options, complete with things like the free trolley to business and entertainment centers and hotels,” says Deegan.
 
Three new hotels — the Kimpton Schofield, the Hilton Cleveland Downtown and the Drury Plaza Hotel — contributed almost 1,000 new rooms for visitors to the city, further encouraging tourism.


 
Deemer cites the extension of Federal and Ohio Historic Tax Credits programs as critical to continued growth. “These have been an important tool to attract businesses to invest in downtown Cleveland,” he says, adding that the credits also help grow the residential market and get rid of unoccupied office space.
 
Transportation is another key factory in attracting millennials, says Deemer, who tend to forego car ownership and rely more on public transportation and walking.
 
“We have to make sure we’re offering a full variety of transportation options to millennials and generations beyond that,” he says. “We have to make sure we stay ahead of the curve on transportation. And we still need to grow our residential population. Office space has to be filled and we have to connect the neighborhoods with downtown.”

It all boils down to sustaining momentum.

“Most importantly, we cannot become complacent,” says Deemer. “We’ve had boom and bust cycles in the past. We must recognize the work we are doing, but keep working with partners.”

New residential breaks ground in Shaker Heights, reflects changing times

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

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

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

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

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


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

High-end townhomes and detached houses coming to Detroit Shoreway

The Gordon Square Arts District has glittered in the spotlight these days with the airing of LeBron James’ Cleveland Hustles on CNBC. Now locals who previously overlooked the quirky-yet-classic neighborhood are also discovering all it has to offer.

The many amenities of the neighborhood are one reason why developer Bo Knez, of Knez Homes decided to build Breakwater Bluffs, 24 single-family detached houses and townhomes located at W. 58th Street and Breakwater Boulevard..
 
“The location is just amazing,” says Knez. “With beach access and Gordon Square nearby, it’s amazing.”
 
Knez plans to break ground on the $10 million project by late April.
 
The two- and three-bedroom homes are just a short walk from Gordon Square and offer sweeping views of Lake Erie and downtown as well as easy access to hiking trails and a path to Edgewater Beach. All units have either a bonus room or den.
 
“We just saw the expansion of the Detroit Shoreway and the growth as both a commercial and residential opportunity,” Knez says of the neighborhood.
 
The homes, designed by RSA Architects, range from about 1,900 square feet to more than 2,300. They start at $300,000 and go upward to the mid- $500,000 range. All of the homes are Energy Star rated, have low homeowner association fees and offer 15 year tax abatement. Knez offers a “fee simple” purchase plan, which he says makes the down payment much more affordable.
 
The kitchens feature stainless steel, energy efficient appliances and granite countertops, while the master bath has double sinks and a walk-in tile shower. “Energy efficiency is off that chart,” says Knez. “And the customer is able to select the finishes.”
 
The open floor plans, 10-foot ceiling and large windows allow the natural light to pour in, while wood plank floors add to the modern feel. “We wanted a community-oriented feel in the design,” says Knez. “We’re using livability and entertainment as the main focus of the design.”
 
Five of the units have attached side porches, while the townhomes have access to a rooftop deck and an optional dog run. All units have attached two-car garages, as well as ample guest parking. Additionally, the townhomes include an option for an elevator.
 
Once Knez breaks ground, the first phase of the five traditional homes is scheduled for completion by late summer or early fall, and the remaining 19 townhomes are scheduled to be complete by the end of the year.
 
“Once we get started, we will have a six month delivery time,” Knez promises, adding pre-sale interest has been strong.

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

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

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

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

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

Wizard World lands in Cleveland with Rocky Horror, costumes and stranger things

Thousands of pop culture fans will descend upon the Cleveland Convention Center next week to attend the notorious Wizard World Comic Con’s 15-stop tour.

Running Friday, March 17 through Sunday, March 19, this year marks the third consecutive year that Wizard World has come to Cleveland. Each year, fans attend the weekend-long event to show off their costumes, meet celebrities, tour more than 100 vendors and exhibitors and attend workshops centered around topics such as cosplay, zombies, the Simpsons and super heroes.
 
“Everyone wants to be themselves,” says Wizard World PR manager Jerry Milani of the characters attendees become. “Wizard World is the place to come out and be themselves.”
 
Highlights of this year’s Wizard World include guest appearances by Anthony Mackie of Avengers, Captain America; Jennifer Carpenter from the cast of Showtime’s Critically-acclaimed serial murder series Dexter; Millie Bobby Brown of the Netflix original series Stranger Things; and Loren Lester and Kevin Conroy of Batman: The Animated Series. Locals will enjoy saying hello to Ted Sikora, creator of Apama – The Undiscovered Animal and Cleveland's resident superhero.
 
KISS fans will appreciate a guest appearance by the band’s front man Gene Simmons, who will be on hand for photographs and autographs before performing at the Agora on Saturday, March 18. “It’s an opportunity to meet him and also hear him on the concert side,” says Milani.
 
The concert will be followed by a Wizard World After Party, also at the Agora.
 
Saturday night screenings of cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a popular addition to the lineup from last year. This year, Rock Horror star Barry Bostwick will be in Cleveland and local shadow cast group Simply His Servants will be acting out the movie in tandem with the screening.
 
"It's a new, kind of different format for us,” says Milani of the screening and shadow cast.
 
Perennial favorite Nichelle Nichols of Star Trek fame will be in Cleveland all weekend. “She’s science fiction royalty,” proclaims Milani of the 84-year-old actress. “She’s really something else. She’s just a must-meet for so many people.”
 
Between 100 and 150 exhibitors will sell unique and hard-to-find items, says Milani, while replicas of famous cars from movies and television shows will also be displayed. Popular vehicles include the Batmobile, the Sanford and Son salvage truck and the Ghost Busters Ecto-1.
 
Guest from the comic strip and cartoon world include Simpsons illustrator Phil Ortiz, who is known to draw Wizard World attendees as Simpsons characters; Muppet Babies creator Guy Gilchrist; and Ren and Stimpy illustrator Bob Camp.
 
Saturday night is capped off with a costume contest, judged by professional cosplayers.
 
"There's a little bit of everything," says Milani. "We have everything in the world that's pop culture at our shows."
 
Wizard World Comic Con Cleveland runs Friday from 5 to 10 p.m.; Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets start at $35 for general admission, while three-day passes are $75. VIP packages and tickets to specific events cost more. Admission to Rocky Horror is $15.

'Immigrant Narratives' to be part of Cleveland Humanities Festival

On Saturday, March 18th and Sunday, March 19th at 7 p.m. in the Cleveland State University student center ballroom, 2121 Euclid Ave., SC 319, the local nonprofit Literary Cleveland will present Crossing Borders: Immigrant Narratives. This event is free and open to the public and includes a reception after each show, but registration is encouraged.
 
Cosponsored by Case Western Reserve's Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities and CSU’s College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, the two 90-minute presentations will feature staged readings of short essays, fiction and poems performed by a set of professional actors assembled by director Marc Moritz. The stories depict the emotional journey of crossing borders, both literal and metaphorical, and what it means to be both an immigrant and an American.
 
In “Crutches,” Jill Sell writes about her Czech ancestors’ uncertain passage through Ellis Island. “Food and Family,” a piece by Hathaway Brown student Crystal Zhao, describes a second-generation Chinese immigrant bonding with her mother over stories of childhood rebellion. The poem “Genesis” by Daniel Gray-Kontar addresses the journey of African-Americans from the south to cities such as Cleveland during the Great Migration.
 
Stories focusing on more recent immigration experiences include “Struggling to Survive,” in which Syrian immigrant Bayan Aljbawi writes about leaving her troubled homeland for the United States, an experience she describes as “escaping from one suffering to another: new culture, new country and different language.” In “American Promise,” award-winning novelist and Case professor Thrity Umrigar – who immigrated from India more than 30 years ago – confronts the current political climate and asks if the United States “will be a country that is as small and narrow as its fears” or “as large and glorious as its dreams, as splendid as the hopes of millions of its citizens, immigrant and native born … ?”

"Immigrant Narratives" is part of the second annual Cleveland Humanities Festival (CHF), which runs from March 15 through mid-May.
 
Per event literature: "The theme for 2017 is 'Immigration.' The CHF will utilize the resources of Cleveland’s leading intellectual institutions to explore the challenges and opportunities caused by the movement of people. Exile, immigration, deportation, migration — in the history of every nation, demographic shifts have been a part of the fabric of civic and cultural life. Nowhere is this more true than in the life of our own country. The forced deportations of the Middle Passage, the wholesale immigration of eastern Europeans in the nineteenth century, the recent relocation of refugees from Middle Eastern conflict, are only a few of the movements that have left their mark on American communities. The CHF will explore from a humanistic perspective the impact of immigration across time and within our own time through a series of coordinated events, including lecture, exhibits, theatrical performances, academic symposia, tours, and films."
 
This year's festival includes more than three dozen eclectic and provocative programs such as An Irish-Appalachian Journey (musical performance), a film screening and discussion of From Refugee to Neighbor, a field trip to Cleveland's ethnic markets and Immigrants in Ohio, a discussion about how newcomers enhance communities. That short list is a scant sampling of the extensive offerings, a full list of which is available here.

Some activities require ticket purchase and registration. Event venues are at points across the region.
 

New Chagrin Falls Heinen's: "Urban in a suburban setting"

When brothers Jeff and Tom Heinen open their 23rd Heinen’s grocery store — 19 of which in Northeast Ohio and four in Chicago — in pedestrian-friendly Chagrin Falls next week, residents are sure to be pleased with not only the quality food offered by the Warrensville Heights-based chain, but also in its convenience.

“I think the number-one thing, is we’re very pleased to have a quality store like Heinen’s come to town and make an investment,” says Chagrin Falls Village mayor Bill Tomko. “With sidewalks everywhere in Chagrin Falls, to have a grocery store where you can walk to is a real plus.”
 
A series of grocery stores have occupied the new Heinen’s space since the Chagrin Falls Shopping Plaza opened in the 1980s, says Tomko, including two original grocers — Mazzulo’s and Fazio’s — and then finally, Russo’s Giant Eagle. Woolworth’s and CVS also occupied a portion of the original space.
 
CVS still remains, and Heinen’s will take over the 26,000 square feet at 20 Shopping Center Plaza that Giant Eagle left in 2014. The store will officially open on Wednesday, March 1 at 10 a.m with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
 
Tomko says the space didn’t quite fit the “big box” approach of Giant Eagle. “It didn’t fit the Giant Eagle format,” says Tonka. “It didn’t really receive the management attention and time it deserved.”
 
Tom Heinen agrees that the store needed work when they took the space over. “We gutted it,” he says of the renovations. “We made it a Heinen’s.”
 
With stores in Pepper Pike and Bainbridge, Tom Heinen says the Heinen's chain has carved a unique place in the far eastern suburbs. “The neighborhood demographic first the way we do business,” he says. “It’s just a good overall fit.”
 
Since 2014, Tomko says residents have been begging for a new grocery store to come into the plaza. “During the vacancy, the biggest complaint we received was ‘why don’t you put in a grocery store,’” he says. “Heinen’s stepped up.”
 
In almost as much time, while the Heinen’s downtown celebrated its grand opening in February 2015, the brothers were already in talks with the plaza owners about leasing space.
 
Tom Heinen calls the new store a bit unique, with narrower aisles and higher shelves than other grocery stores. “It’s kind of urban in a suburban setting,’ he says. “It’s a beautiful store.”
 
In addition to quality food and produce selection, Tomko says Chagrin Falls residents will enjoy Heinen’s emphasis on its ready-made chef-prepared foods and its close proximity. “On those days when you’re tired, you can walk up to the grocery store and get dinner and go home,” he explains. “Or when you’re grilling in the summer and you realize you forgot the ketchup, it’s a huge convenience.”
 
The food offerings fits with the lifestyle brand Heinen’s has created through its culinary team. “We’re always trying to create innovative, health foods,” Tom Heinen says of their offerings.
 
With 48 wines by the glass and 12 beers on tap, customers can also enjoy food and drink while they shop or try one of a series of food and wine classes, pairing seminars and other unique events.
 
Tom Heinen says two large garage doors will open up to curbside dining. “It’s going to be a fun gathering place,” he says, adding that Chagrin Falls has emerged as a popular destination for happy hours, small plates and casual dining. “We think this will be a nice addition to the Chagrin Falls array.”
 
Of course, the new Heinen’s will also offer its standard services, including an in-store butcher with source-verified meats, fresh seafood, quality seasonal and locally-grown produce, an assortment of organic products and a gourmet cheese department.
 
Regular store hours will be 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.

PizzaFire spreads across Ohio and beyond

In August 2015, Fresh Water reported on the opening of PizzaFire on Public Square in downtown Cleveland. It was the second such location for the fledgling company. The first was established in Akron the previous October.

Since then, the fast-casual pizza franchise has spread like wildfire.

There are no less than 10 PizzaFires in Northeast Ohio, including eateries in Parma, Woodmere, Rocky River, Strongsville, Fairlawn and Kent. Columbus is home to two PizzaFires, with another in Toledo and one in Kettering, Ohio. There's even a Texas location, which brings the total to 15.

Back in 2015, Ryan Rao, the company's franchise development executive, told Fresh Water that the company had seven more locations in the works with its sights set far beyond that.

"We want to build out the Midwest with 100 units in six years," said Rao in 2015.

Considering they've realized 13 in just 17 months and have 23 new sites in the works listed on their Coming Soon page, with locations slated to bloom from Los Angeles to Long Island and Tampa — the company is well on track to meet that goal.

Fans of Romeo's Pizza won't be surprised to learn that the man behind that long-standing area favorite, Sean Brauser, is also PizzaFire's CEO.

"He really is a pizza genius," said Rao of Brauser. "He's very well recognized for his pizza creativity," he added, citing a host of awards and accolades that Brauser has garnered for his pies and a 2005 appearance on the Food Network's $10,000 Pizza Challenge.

PizzaFire credits its success to its build-your-own pizza model, with six sauce options, including the "Authentic Neapolitan Pizza Sauce," which is concocted from hand-crushed tomatoes, sea salt, extra virgin olive oil and Italian herbs and spices. Five different cheeses and 40 fresh toppings round out the selection. Dough is made fresh daily and then let to rest for  24 to 48 hours to allow the flavor to mature.

After customers watch their pizza get built, the pies are baked in a domed brick oven that reaches 800 degrees and can turn out a pizza in less than three minutes.

"You throw that pizza in there," says Brauser of his ovens in a company video, "that dough immediately starts to cook."

He continues, "I really want [our customers] to get an authentic Italian pizza experience and then be able to customize it exactly the way they want it."

Hungry? Of course the Public Square location is open for business at 236 Euclid Ave., and PizzaFire also has deals in the works for University Circle, Mayfield and Broadview Heights.

April opening slated for first of 306 units at Gordon Square's Edison

Since 2015, residents in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood have been eying the transformation of 10 acres of land between W. 58th and W. 65th Streets — from the demolition of 300,000 square feet of vacant factories, to the land remediation to, finally, the phoenix that has risen: The Edison at Gordon Square at 6060 Father Caruso Drive.
 
Officials with developer NRP Group say the project is moving ahead at full steam and they are pre-leasing the luxury apartments and townhouses, with the first tenants moving in on April 21. NRP broke ground in the fall of 2015.

The first building is almost complete, with a second building due for completion in May and a third in July.
 
“We’re actually a bit ahead of schedule,” says NRP senior marketing manager Nancy Arnold. “The whole community should be delivered to us by the end of September. Leasing has been going extremely well. We’re about 26 percent pre-leased. Hopefully we’ll keep the momentum going.”
 
The complex consists of multiple buildings that house 306 units, including 180 one-bedroom apartments, 102 two-bedroom apartments, six mezzanine unites and 18 townhomes. All units include either garage or surface parking. One-bedroom apartments start at $980 a month and one and two bedroom units go up to $1,770, while townhome rents range from $2,575 up to $3,975 for a three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath townhouse.
 
“I don’t think we’ve had too many people who have an issue with the price,” says Arnold. “Once they see everything they’re getting, they see value in the price.”
 
Each unit comes complete with stainless steel appliances, vinyl plank flooring, granite or quartz countertops and wood cabinets in either a dark stain or painted a blue-grey.
 
Other amenities include a heated, resort-style pool with fountains and cabanas. “It will feel like you’re in a five-star resort, not in Cleveland,” Arnold says.
 
The courtyard around the pool has fire pits, grills, a ping pong table and two outdoor televisions. In the fitness room, residents can take virtual Pilates, yoga or spinning classes with an on-demand video fitness system.
 
There is also a state-of-the-art fitness center, dry cleaning service, package concierge and a conference room equipped with Wi-Fi and a laptop.
 
“The fourth floor is open to rent for a minor fee,” says Arnold. “There’s a balcony with views of the lake and the downtown skyline, a fireplace and a kitchenette with a dining room table for up to 10. For those people who want to have a higher-end dinner party, that’s where they want to go.”
 
There is also a first floor event room with a kitchenette for smaller, less formal gatherings.
 
The advantages of living at the Edison extend beyond the complex itself. A bike trail connects the grounds to Edgewater Beach. The activities in and around Gordon Square are just a short walk away, not to mention the location’s proximity to Ohio City and Tremont.
 
“Truly, what we are doing is going to complete the community,” says Edison community manager Brittney Perez, adding that the Edison is geared toward young professionals and those attracted to an urban lifestyle. “People who use Edgewater, who walk up to the shops, are the people gravitating toward the [Gordon Square] community.”
 
The Edison should add to the growing allure of the neighborhood. “People are just starting to realize Gordon Square, and everything they’re doing to build up its name” says Arnold.
 
“We’re not trying to be an apartment community that takes over the neighborhood,” Arnold promises. “We don’t want to be the neighborhood, we want to be a part of the neighborhood.” She says they’ve already introduced themselves to other members of the Gordon Square community.
 
“We’ve been working with the merchants,” Arnold says. "We’re really working hard to build those relationships.”
 
Models are now open for tours. A two-bedroom model was designed by Cleveland designer Susie Frazier and a one-bedroom model designed by Akron-based David Hawkins. “We wanted to do a model that really represented the neighborhood and Cleveland,” says Arnold.
 
Edison management opened the leasing trailer on the grounds this week, and both Arnold and Perez invite potential tenants to stop by or contact them for more information or a tour.
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