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Roomy new home for zoo's tigers will bring visitors closer to animals

 "It completely changes how you look at an animal."
That's how Chris Kuhar, executive director for the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, describes the organization's approach to building new animal habitats, which will be wholly evidenced in the forthcoming Tiger Passage.
The zoo broke ground this month on the $4.1 million project, which will occupy a staggering 48,000 square feet, a number that includes the space designated for the cats as well as their adoring fans. The Cleveland Zoological Society has committed $2.5 million towards the project. Taxpayers in Cuyahoga County and Hinckley Township are footing the rest of the bill courtesy of a successful 2013 levy.
Visitors can expect a more immersive experience when Tiger Passage opens in summer of 2016, with the ability to view the animals in a more naturalistic way.
"We're switching the paradigm in how we design zoo exhibits," says Kuhar. "As opposed to the window shopping approach, where you walk up to a window and see an animal, we're trying to bring the guest through a larger space. The habitat will surround you with a complexity that you don't see in exhibits designed 30 or 40 years ago. The animal can be in a number of different places. You have to look for it and explore."
To that end, the new tiger habitat will include climbing poles, meadows, shallow streams, soaking pools and outdoor overnight access.
Panzica Construction Company of Mayfield Village is the general contractor on the job. Tiger Passage was designed by the Cleveland based firm Van Auken Akin Architects and WDM Architects out of Wichita, Kansas, which specializes in zoo design and endeavors to create sustainable, authentic environments that immerse and inspire zoo visitors.
"That combination of zoo expert and a local architect is really nice for us," says Kuhar.
The Zoo's two resident Amur tigers, Klechka, a 12-year-old he-cat, and Dasha, a 14-year-old she-cat, are vacationing in a protected veterinary center within the Zoo during the construction of their new home. In their absence, Kuhar suggests saying hello to the Zoo's lions in the African Savanna or the snow leopards in the Primate, Cat and Aquatics building. All of the Zoo's traditional animals such as the elephants, bears and wolves will be up-front-and-center as well.
"We have a very cute baby orangutan who's going to be visible all winter long in the Rain Forest," adds Kuhar.
As for Klechka and Dasha, who are ambassadors of an endangered species, Kuhar sees a bright future for them in Tiger Passage.
"I think it will be great for the cats—for exercise and stimulation, and I think it's going to be great for the visitors," says Kuhar.
"To see a cat perched up high or climbing on something up high? That's pretty cool."
For a preview of Tiger Passage, view this one-minute video of an animated rendering.

Salvation Army to break ground on $10m family shelter downtown

Earlier this month, the Salvation Army of Greater Cleveland announced a $35 million capital campaign in part to celebrate the organization's 150th anniversary.
Thus far, the Army has raised more than $24 million of its goal, which includes $10 million for the new Zelma George Emergency Family Shelter for homeless families and adult human trafficking victims. Groundbreaking is slated to begin by year's end at the site of the former Mad Hatter building downtown, which the organization purchased last year and demolished. The long-abandoned building was adjacent to the Army's existing Harbor Light facility at 1710 Prospect Avenue.
"There are several programs in that facility," says Major Lurlene-Kay M. Johnson,
divisional secretary for the Salvation Army of Greater Cleveland, referring to Harbor Light. "We have the family shelter. That is 110 beds. We also have homeless men there," she says, noting that the facility has a medically supervised detox program.
Harbor Light also houses 150 clients that are in a corrections program.
"They spend six months with us as kind of a halfway house," says Johnson. "In some cases, it's in lieu of them going to jail. If they've been incarcerated for many years they'll spend the last six months with us to allow them time to get a job and find a place to live."
That diversity of service is one of the main reasons the Army is building a new facility.
"We have mixed populations, so right now you have children and mothers coming through the same security system that everybody else has to go through," says Johnson, adding that the security portal is not very kid friendly.
Having the new shelter adjacent to Harbor Light has other advantages. The two buildings will be connected, allowing both to utilize the existing industrial kitchen, which serves 1,200 meals a day. The new shelter and Harbor Light will also share staffing. Both sharing measures constitute significant financial savings. Furthermore, the land on which the shelter will be built is already zoned for shelter use, a designation that is difficult to come by.
The Welty Building Company, headquartered in Akron, is the contractor on the project. Perspectus Architecture of Shaker Square designed the two-story, 29,000-square-foot facility, which will feature 35 individual family units and an apartment-style area for six adult human trafficking victims. Construction is scheduled for completion within 18 months.
Above and beyond those brick and mortar statistics, however, the new Zelma George Emergency Family Shelter offers something that is difficult to measure.
"When people come in, they are residents," says Johnson. "They stay with us—unless they leave on their own accord—until they have permanent housing. They don't have to come in each day, which gives them continuity. They have a place where they belong."
The new facility will include a green space and playground for the children who stay at the shelter. Services also include transportation to the school systems the kids came from to maintain consistency in that aspect of their lives.
"We're looking for stability," says Johnson, adding that the Army looks forward to having a shelter that is designed specifically for children and families. "We really want the family to do well and we really want their lives to be disrupted as little as possible."

Cosmic Bobbins to pop up in Tremont, offer real-world training to Tri-C student

Later this week, the fun and funky Shaker Square staple, Cosmic Bobbins, will return to its roots -- at least temporarily -- with a seasonal pop-up shop at 2406 Professor Avenue in Tremont.

"We started in this space in 2011," says Cosmic Bobbins founder Sharie Renee. "It was our first pop-up, our first front-of-house experience."

The pop-up will have a soft opening on Oct. 1st with a grand opening on Oct. 9th to coincide with the Tremont Art Walk, and will be in business through late December.

Renee calls it a "miniature little outpost" of the Shaker venue; which has been in business three years and represents approximately 50 different local entrepreneurs, fair trade vendors and boutique products. She sees the Tremont opportunity as a great holiday connection for the store's loyal west side customers. It will also achieve another of Cosmic Bobbins' goals: making a social impact. The Tremont shop will be run by Monié Lewis, a sophmore from Cuyahoga Community College who is studying entrepreneurship and nonprofit work.

"We're actually going to be using that space as training opportunity for her to kind of run her own store, so to speak," says Renee, "and get that experience and feel for it."

Lewis's relationship with Cosmic Bobbins started two years ago when she attended the shop's summer youth workforce program, in which kids learn to sew and get an insider's view of entrepreneurship and operating a retail location. Lewis has also worked for Cosmic Bobbins over the holidays.

"She'll be able to get her feet a little bit deeper into what we do," says Renee of Lewis's upcoming stint in the west side store.

The effort was coordinated by the Tremont West Development Corporation, which is offering the temporary Professor Avenue space to Cosmic Bobbins at a reduced rent.

The pop-up will offer custom embroidery and the apparel of GV Art and Design, among other merchandise. It will also feature Tremont artists Jill Lackey LeMieux, Jeff McNaught of Cyclophilic Limited, and Steve Stanaszek of Urbal Guru.

For October, hours will be Wednesday through Friday from 5 to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 1 to 8 p.m. Details on expanded hours for November and December are forthcoming.

"We're going to feel out the flow down there," says Renee of the future scheduling. She's also looking forward to a return to her old stomping grounds and being among old friends such as Paul Duda, who has been her mentor for some two decades.

"We're just really excited to be back there," she adds, "and to rekindle friendships and relationships."

Artisans raise funds, clear space for Larchmere Fire Works

A long vacant storefront at 12621 Larchmere Boulevard will soon be warming up courtesy of furnaces, forges and kilns if two ambitious artisans have their way.
Glass artist Tina Haldiman and blacksmith Cassidy Anderson are hard at work clearing debris from the 3,500-square-foot-structure, essentially taking the space down to bare bones by stripping paneling, ceiling tiles, carpeting and whatever else they find.
"We're trying to recycle as much as we can," says Haldiman. "There's an awesome place in Wickliffe that recycles carpet padding. Who knew?"
The duo has been scouting the neighborhood for two years, working with Greg Staursky of Shaker Square Area Development Corporation (SHAD) and building owner/developer Montlack Realty. While the lease hasn't been inked yet, Haldiman and Anderson have their LLC in place for Larchmere Fire Works, of which they will be co-owners.
"This particular building has been in red tape for years and years and years," says Haldiman. "It's a really great building. It just needs a little love." And a bit of cash in order to transform it into a studio. To that end, she and Anderson have started a Kickstarter campaign, which will run for a few more weeks.

The studio will feature glassblowing and blacksmithing, with an array of classes and workshops for everyone, including kids as young as five. One-on-one instructional sessions will also be available. One of the first things Haldiman and Anderson aim to get open to the public is a gallery for displaying and selling art.
"We're going to start with the gallery immediately," says Haldiman. "If we're still trying to get our hot shop going, we'll at least have the gallery open."
While the space is in full demolition mode, the couple has procured two glass blowing furnaces from the Toledo Museum of Ar. Although they need some work, Anderson and Haldiman are aiming for a soft opening in as little as two months.

"We need to be open and really getting traffic," says Haldiman. "This building has been empty for so long. All of a sudden, people are noticing movement and they're excited about that because this neighborhood is starting to revitalize."

The two met at the Glass Bubble Project, where Haldiman worked for seven years and where Anderson connected with his father, whom he previously had never met. Both look back fondly at their time at the quirky Bridge Avenue studio.

"I definitely enjoyed my time there," says Haldiman. "I would not have gotten this far if it hadn't been for Mike (Kaplan) and the guys at the Bubble." The mother of five adds that now that her kids are older, it's time to have her own creative space a little closer to home. Both she and Cassidy live in Cleveland Heights.

Anderson first became interested in blacksmithing when he visited Hale Farm as a kid. He's been studying the craft for about two years under the tutelage of Art Wolfe and is entering the journeyman phase of his career.

"I was working at the Bubble, where I met Tina," says Anderson. The two hit it off creatively and romantically. "It ended up snowballing and now here we are."

Neighborhood-inspired art meets graffiti at Spang Mountain

Northeast Ohio is home to an embarrassment of riches when it comes to unique enduring structures, the stories of which come alive when people rally around them. The latest entry is Spang Mountain: a sprawling 100,000-square-foot structure occupying an entire block in Ohio City.
"It was built by my great-great-grandfather in 1887," says building owner John McGovern. "It's about 35 percent occupied." Spang Mountain spans between West 30th Street and West 26th Place from Barber Avenue to Barber Court. It originally housed a bakery before reverting to rental space. McGovern's father managed it from the 1960s to 2013, when it came under John's stewardship.
The assertion of where do we start? regarding Spang Mountain's empty space aptly applies. McGovern has selected a couple of efforts that combine usage, the arts and a healthy dose of respect for the site's urban neighborhood and its denizens.
Last Saturday, McGovern invited artists to celebrate the building in a community-centered graffiti project, wherein they festooned eight industrial garage doors with fantastical images. McGovern funded the effort via an In Our Back Yard (IOBY) crowd-funding site, with which he raised nearly $500 to provide food, beverages and painting supplies. The artists, including Justin Cownden, Chris Cook, Dayz Whun, Fade Resistant, Jorge Cervantez, the Tall Boyz and Righteous Mothers (visiting from Columbus), donated their time.
With garage doors as canvases, McGovern offered up neighborhood-inspired themes that he developed in tandem with the Barber/Vega/Queen Block Club. The artists were asked to graphically translate the concepts of gardens, helping hands, roots/intergenerational households/lifelong residents, diversity, chickens, bicycles and skateboards.
"Everything we do is in tandem with neighborhood," says McGovern. "I try to go to as many block club meetings as I can."
The artists included a love-struck robot on wheels, a giant blue feline, an eggplant, a screaming hand, carrots, a couple of chickens with serious 'tude and a shout-out to "216 – Cleveland – Ohio."
McGovern describes the Graffiti Garages project as a small art festival and intends to plan other larger events that will involve area kids.
"I think that we definitely want to treat the building as a large canvas when and where we can."
As for the interior of Spang Mountain, McGovern has enlisted TOI Studio to draw up plans for the first phase of the property's transformation. He intends to create artist/maker studios in 5,400 square feet of space on the ground floor of the western section of the structure with the second floor housing digital artists. Being green is priority number one.
"We really want the building to be a showcase for ecological design in terms of retrofitting an older industrial commercial building. What can you do in renovating the building that not only makes it a good place for people to be, but something that returns gifts to the environment?" he poses.
"The first thing we'll address is all the rainwater that hits the building as an impervious surface. How do we channel it into something beautiful and then percolate it back into the ground? That's something we've been looking at for a while." Heating the building with geothermal wells is another eco-friendly option he might pursue. Being bicycle friendly is also a primary consideration.
McGovern's 15 years in middle school education fuels a loftier goal as well: for the future makers inside Spang Mountain to inspire area youths, particularly those not intent on a college track.
"To see someone blowing glass or doing some craftsman-style welding and say, 'Hey, that could be a career for me!'" imagines McGovern, "to have this as an entry point for vocational education, that would be a dream come true for me."

Detroit Shoreway pop-up competition features cash, training, free rent

Professional training, $1000 for sundry startup costs and free rent for three months in a 760-square-foot storefront in the heart of Gordon Square round out the loot the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization (DSCDO) is offering up as part of a Gordon Square pop-up competition. Ward 15 Councilman Matt Zone is funding the effort.

"It’s a real opportunity to shape the future of urban retail in Gordon Square," says Adam Rosen, economic development director for DSCDO, noting that the district has added 85 new businesses since 2006, "and it's going to keep going." He tags the imminent openings of superelectric, Banter, Astoria and the Arcadian as evidence of such.
Currently Esperanza's unique clothing and home goods store is operating in the space, which Rosen describes as "retail ready" with shelving, lighting and bathroom facilities. The previous tenant was Retropolitan.
In addition to forthcoming neighbors, venues such as the Capitol Theater, which garners some 60,000 visitors a year, the new Near West and Cleveland Public Theaters, Luxe, Happy Dog and the ever-popular Sweet Moses ice cream confectionary attract their share of feet on the street.
"You've got all that traffic," says Rosen, noting the inherent value for prospective pop up shop proprietors. "It's an opportunity for someone to slide right into a highly active district and get new customers to expand their reach and hopefully to establish their brand to fit into Gordon Square."
Thus far, DSCDO has received approximately a dozen entries for businesses looking to expand their retail footprint for clothing, food and art. Rosen expects that number to double by the September 28th application deadline. While he looks forward to a new retail offering for the 2015 holiday season, the goal of the competition goes beyond that.
"The ultimate goal is to keep that business in the neighborhood. That’s why we're doing this training with ECDI (Economic and Community Development Institute)."
The successful candidate will be obliged to take that organization's Small Enterprise Education Development (SEED) training series, which focuses on business concept, organization, customer relations, and helping entrepreneurs develop their venture through an action-oriented process. One runner-up will be offered the SEED training as well.
"We provide all those tools so you can be a sustainable business in a neighborhood that lasts. That's really the goal—to have someone that lasts." And if that business eventually moves elsewhere, Rosen says there will be no sour grapes.
"Even if they don’t stay in Gordon Square," he says, "we view it as something that will give Cleveland as a whole better business plans and better business models."
In order to select the winning candidate, DSCDO's economic development committee will review the applications and select one much in the way they evaluate a prospective lessee, with the organization's master plan and strategic vision for the neighborhood as criteria.
"It’s a very similar process, albeit this application and what we ask of businesses for a pop up is much less than what we'd ask of a business for a potential long term lease agreement."
The DSCDO owns more than 50,000 square feet of property within the district. Regarding the management of those assets, Rosen sees a community development landlord as being slightly different than a standard landowner when working with potential tenants.
"We work with tenants to help them be the best they can be in fitting in with the existing flow and atmosphere of Gordon Square and Detroit Shoreway," he says. "We kind of go the extra mile. We really have the best interest of the neighborhood in mind."
Information regarding the competition, including guidelines, the application and questionnaire are available here. The successful candidate will be announced on October 9th.

Tony Sias prepares to take the helm at Karamu

Last Friday, Tony Sias stepped down from his position as director of arts education for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) in order to become the chief executive officer of the storied Karamu House, which marks it's 100th year in 2015.
Fresh Water sat down with this charismatic Clevelander to get the low down on where he's been, where's he's going and how he intends to measure up to one the area's most beloved and historic cultural venues.
What's your priority list when you step into Karamu?
The first thing is really building a relationship with the staff, to hear what their dreams are and get a better understanding of what people do. The other piece is communicating to community that the doors are open and there's a place for you -- the community -- to come to Karamu, to understand programming, to have an influence on what we do and how we do it.

That’s to say whoever comes through the door, that we celebrate who they are and use their culture, their ethnicity as a positive; and that we learn and build off of that.

This also goes so far beyond race and ethnicity. It's around the economic differences, or those who may have special needs. How do we reengage the millennials? How do we celebrate all of these people? How do we integrate them into the larger Karamu family?

It's really about community.

How do you make that happen on the ground?

I would love to see a more robust education program that is skill based and sequential in its instruction so that we can develop young talent over the years, so that Karamu is truly a performing arts training ground—visual and performing arts.
I also see us providing a culturally responsive pedagogical approach to instruction so that we are a place where anyone -- children, families -- can come to get formal training in the arts. This isn't only about young people; this is about lifelong learners.

We'd like to be able to contribute to being a premier place where, if films or commercials are being shot, that we have the talent to be a "first stop." That would be important to me.
How does that fit into your at-large vision of Karamu?
Being an administrator that has a strong arts background will really help bolster moving this agenda forward in terms of three very distinctive buckets while aligning all of them. When I say three buckets, there is the theater, the day care center and the educational program. How do these things become aligned and sequential in all of the services?
That's exciting to me: to be able to say, how do we not only create an alignment, but how do we solidify and crystallize the brand, the mission, the vision, and the core values?
It's a whole bunch of great ingredients. How do we sequence this recipe? How do we put it together at the right time to make it what we want it to be?
It's building on the success of past and re-envisioning what this should be for the next 100 years.
Are you a bit melancholy that you're leaving the school district just as the dazzling new Cleveland School of the Arts building is finally open?
After 15 years, it's been fantastic run at the school district. To have watched students come into various programs, to see the power of the arts with them and to see them move on and graduate; I feel like the completion of that building was a completion for me.
When I got to the school district, there was all this conversation over whether this building was going to happen or not going to happen. And to be so Intimately involved in design process, to have worked with community stakeholders making that happen, it's a dream come true.
And it's a great end to a chapter—or to a book—or to a chapter. I don't know if it's a book or a chapter (laughs).
What has driven this big change?
I have told people I left a very secure job with a great pension and great benefits, but it's so important take a risk and look at the potential of how my life can change and how Karamu's life as an institution can change. It was important for me to say, 'Hey, you have a passion for this. You only live once. You love this institution. Why not go and invest all that you have in it to make it a better place?'
I'm passionate about Karamu. It's a national treasure.

Unique staff at Ranger Cafe prepares for October opening

On October 27th, the Ranger Café will open its doors to the public. The 50-seat venue will offer a smart selection of salads, sandwiches and entrees. The hours, however, are a bit limited; the eatery is only open three hours a week: on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from noon to 1:30 p.m.
Why such tight time slots? The Ranger Café is housed inside Lakewood High School (LHS), 14100 Franklin Boulevard, and is run completely by students.
"The juniors are here from 8 to 11 a.m. They really help prepare and setup the restaurant," says culinary arts instructor Devan Corti. The seniors take the reins from noon to 2:15 pm. "They also prep and help setup, but then they are the ones who are here during hours of operation. They are cooking, serving, hosting, dishwashing.  Any real positions out there in an actual restaurant, that's what they're doing here."
"It's a self-contained little business," adds culinary arts instructor Rob McGorray.
The 6,000-square-foot café is housed in what was once LHS's East Cafeteria. The space includes a demonstration classroom, dining room and a gleaming kitchen loaded with professional equipment including six ovens, three industrial ranges, two convection ovens, a freezer, walk-in cooler and a smoker for processing turkey and homemade pastrami.
"We've been brining it, curing it and smoking it," says Corti. The savory meat then gets piled onto sandwiches with cheese, pickled onions, and various other toppings. The menu also includes soup of the day, quiche of the day, a smoked cheddar burger, fish 'n chips and filet mignon among other offerings. The group is still working out the dessert menu.
The program is under the aegis of the West Shore Career-Technical District, which offers a host of vocational programs and caters to students from Lakewood, Rocky River, Bay Village and Westlake. Currently, the culinary arts program serves 20 juniors and 11 seniors, all of whom are hard at work preparing for next month's opening.
In addition to running the café, students perform any number of food labs that center on skills such as cooking techniques, making homemade stocks as well as some standards.
"They always love making pizza," says Corti. Other favorites include soup lab and ice cream lab. Homemade breads (focaccia, Asiago, sandwich buns) are also house specialties.
Students can eat food they prepare and take home lab leftovers. As for the café, which is marking its sixth year in the former cafeteria space, customers include regular janes and joes, teachers, staff members and community groups. During school hours, however, the café cannot sell food to students on account of regulations surrounding public school lunch programs.
Culinary arts students also complete a formal food safety curriculum, and learn about aspects of the industry the laymen takes for granted such as the proper labeling for items in the "Grab and Go" cooler. As in any kitchen, unpredictability always looms. When it strikes, McGorray teaches kids to tackle it with an "adapt and overcome" methodology.
"How do you restart the fryer or lift the heavy thing without hurting your back? How do you fix a vinaigrette?" poses McGorray. "What do you do if the chef forgot to order the chicken? What if there's a power outage? What do we do?" He recalls when a snow day wiped out 30 reservations. The solution? A staff lunch for the teachers the next day.
"We’ve had it all," adds Corti of life's little surprises. 
In addition to instruction, hands-on learning and running the café, students round out their experience with culinary competitions, bake sales and field trips to serve families at the Ronald McDonald House. But the real the icing in this kitchen isn't on the cake.
"We're not just teaching you how to sauté," says Corti. "We're teaching life skills. We're teaching you how to function in the real world and how to make money at it."
"It's thinking on your feet—problem solving," adds McGorray. "That will get you farther than just a degree."
The public is welcome at Ranger Café, although reservations are strongly recommended. Call 216-529-4165 and select "1."

Metro Home rekindles heyday of downtown shopping

The street level view on the corner of East 9th and Walnut Avenue has bloomed in a way few might have predicted not so long ago. In 2009, the former East Ohio Building at 1717 East 9th Street was vacant. Now, 223 apartments populate the 21 floors and a gorgeous new home furniture and décor retail venture, Metro Home, occupies the space where Clevelanders used to go to pay their utility bills.
"I'd flip the lights on and there would be seven or eight different people just peering in the windows," recalls store manager Robb Ernsberger of the store's soft opening in late July. "We let them in when there wasn't price tags on this stuff just to let people get acclimated to us."
No wonder that. Metro offers up retail eye candy the likes of which downtown hasn't seen since the heyday of the department store era, when window dressing was an art form and the Home departments at May's or Halle's or Higbee's housed divans and love seats worthy of the stately mansions in Ambler Heights or on Edgewater Drive.
Metro clinched the lease deal earlier this year. The City of Cleveland did minor build-out work in order to accommodate the spacious 4,500-square-foot store. Now the space is teeming with color and forward thinking pieces designed with the new downtown apartment dweller in mind, although Ernsberger reports that plenty of suburbanites and business owners peruse the merchandise as well.
The eclectic stock includes seating options such as the funky Flirt Sofa ($2,199) and EQ3 Tub Chair ($699) as well as quirky kitchen items. Try Stonewall’s Maple Bacon Onion Jam (about $8), or THAT! heated butter spreader (about $20), which uses the heat of your hand to ease the pesky task of making chilled butter submit to a slice of toast.
"It basically makes spreading butter ridiculously easy," says Ernsberger. "The thing can cut an ice cube in half."
Alternative cutting devices notwithstanding, Ernsberger notes that the new venture bodes well for downtown, much in the way Heinen's Grocery Store and the forthcoming Geiger's clothing and sporting goods shop are changing the area's landscape in both a literal and symbolic sense.
"It goes to show that another type of retail location can come down here and have an impact," says Ernsberger of Metro's new location, adding that downtown retail success is no longer just for the restaurant entrepreneur.
Metro owner Michael Rogoff started in the business in 1971 selling waterbeds in Cleveland Heights. While stores have opened and closed over the years, he's been selling homewares continually since then with at least one or two stores open at any given time. Currently, he's got the downtown Metro and one at 7835 Mentor Avenue in Mentor, which opened about three years ago. Rogoff also operates Sleep Source, a furniture and mattress warehouse at 5100 Pearl Road in Cleveland.
As for the latest venture, Ernsberger concedes that during the first month, the floor saw more lookers than buyers, but that's changing.
"We are definitely trending upwards," he says. "We are definitely starting to heat up."

Edwins begins expansion into Buckeye with its Second Chance Life Skills Center

Brandon Chrostowski, the founder and CEO of Edwins Leadership and Restaurant Institute at Shaker Square, is moving ahead with his vision of revitalizing the nearby Buckeye neighborhood and providing housing for his restaurant workers.

Construction began in late July on the Edwins Second Chance Life Skills Center – three buildings on 20,000 square feet of property located at South Moreland Boulevard and Buckeye Road. The campus includes a 22-bed dorm, an eight bedroom alumni house, fitness center, library and basketball court, as well as a test kitchen. Edwins students will also have the opportunity to take life skills classes.
Edwins students will live in the dorms, rent-free, but $100 a month will be taken out of their paychecks. When they graduate, that money will be given back to them for a deposit on their own apartments. Graduates of the program who can’t find housing can live in the alumni house for $150 a month.
The point of the campus is to give Edwins students, who get a second chance at a productive life after being incarcerated through learning the art of working at a French restaurant, a free or affordable place to stay while they get back on their feet.

Edwins Restaurant has graduated 89 students since opening in November 2013 and has a current class of 30. Additionally, Chrostowski teaches classes at Grafton Correctional Institution, where 37 students have graduated.

Chrostowski has lived in some shabby neighborhoods around the globe while working in the finest restaurants. “The way to bridge that is teaching,” he says. “If you can teach those skills, you can work your way out of anything. I’ve hit bottom twice in my life and I got back through good, hard work. Every human being, regardless of the past, has a right to a future.”

Even though construction on the buildings will not be done until November, some of the Edwins students are already living on the property. “Five guys are living there right now, as construction is going on, because they don’t currently have a home,” says Chrostowski. “We have gotten a warm reception there.”

Chrostowski held a fundraiser in February for the $1.6 million project and raised $152,000 on top of two anonymous donations totaling $1 million. Additionally, a slew of community business leaders donated their time and services to Chrostowski to make the idea a reality. Jones Day helped the center to gain nonprofit status, structured the purchase agreements and guided the diligence for the three real estate deals.

“Edwins is a brilliant and unique concept to change the face of re-entry in the United States, and it's consistent with our commitment to doing the right thing," says Chris Kelly, partner-in-charge of Jones Day's Cleveland office. "We take tremendous pride in the civic-minded efforts of our people. The lawyers in our office here were -- and remain -- overjoyed at the prospect of helping Brandon with his bold ambitions. We are extraordinarily proud to be part of his endeavor." 

Other companies include Lightning Demolition, which has done everything at cost, and RDS Construction, which provided its services at below market costs and helped with the planning. “RDS Construction has been guiding and attending meeting after meeting throughout the process,” Chrostowski says.

St. Luke’s Foundation has contributed financially each year toward Chrostowski’s mission. Bialosky and Partners Architects also provided design services.

The Second Chance Center is just a small part of Chrostowski’s vision for the Buckeye neighborhood. He has been working with a team of partners on the area’s revitalization, including housing projects, bringing retail to Buckeye and revitalizing the old Moreland Theater.

“Buckeye’s got the energy, it’s got soul,” he says. “I believe if we rally up the right people for the right projects, we can get ourselves a revitalized street and go from there.”

Robusto & Briar offers quality cigars in an eco-friendly shop

Patrick Siegel has lived all over the country, the last 10 years in Minneapolis honing his trade as a tobacconist – hand-blending pipe tobacco.

Although he is originally from Chicago, when Siegel visited Lakewood on a recent visit to his fiance’s home town of Rocky River, he knew it was the place to open his own shop.

“It just seemed to click,” he recalls. “I love Lakewood, it’s just fun. I love the fact that it’s a walking community.”

So in May, Siegel opened Robusto & Briar, what he describes as the “perfect cigar shop and lounge,” The shop sells premium cigars, house blends of pipe tobacco and accessories in a refurbished 3,000 square-foot storefront at 1388 Riverside Drive.
Before Siegel could open for business, however, he had to rehab the former software company space all the way down to the floor. “We had to cut the whole place down to the studs and re-do it,” he says. “It was a hazard to the public.”
Siegel rebuilt the space using locally-sourced reclaimed and recycled wood, including the floors; barn doors made of alder; and an 1880 back bar made of wormy chestnut that he scored from one of the oldest cigar distributors in Ohio.
Rather than use smoke eaters, which cause air pollution while clearing the room of tobacco smoke, Siegel opted for an environmentally-friendly air-to-air heat exchanger to clear the smoke inside.
The walls are adorned with pipe and cigar art “We have the obligatory picture of Winston Churchill, French impressionists and plenty of guys smoking cigars,” Siegel says. Two lounges feature high definition televisions and customers can relax in plenty of leather chairs and couches while enjoying their purchases. Siegel is in the midst of building some private meeting spaces in the lounge.  
The biggest feature is a 360 square-foot walk in humidor made of Spanish cedar – one of the largest humidors in the state.  “It’s the elephant in the room,” Siegel jokes. “We built the whole thing around it.”
Siegel has found backing for his shop from some unlikely people. “Even the non-cigar smokers have been supportive,” he says. “They say, ‘oh, I’m going to go find my friend who does smoke cigars.’ The decision to be here in this town was good.”
Right now Siegel has one employee and his fiancé, Nicole, helps out at Robusto & Briar.

Luxury high rise in University Circle set to break ground in January

Construction is slated to begin in January on a 20-floor luxury apartment building at Euclid Avenue and Stokes Boulevard in University Circle. The new high rise would add another high-end residential option in this booming, popular community.

One University Circle, at 10730 Euclid Ave., should be ready for occupancy by January 2018. The 280-unit building will include 268 units averaging about 1,000 square feet, 12 additional penthouses, a four-story parking garage, outdoor grilling area, fitness room and yoga studio. The building also will have a café and market, business center and residents’ lounge.

Dimit Architects designed the building, which includes a window wall and terracotta panel system for the exterior of the building. All of the units will have floor-to-ceiling glass, and some of them will have balconies or patios.

University Circle Inc. president Chris Ronayne, who likens the project to similar apartment projects in New York’s Central Park and Chicago’s Millennium Park, envisions a diverse group of tenants, from academics and millennials to empty nesters. “You’re going to see a pretty diverse cross-section of people in One University Circle,” he predicts. “People who appreciate the amenities.” The building will offer easy access to the RTA HealthLine.

Ronayne adds that the rising demand for city living in Cleveland will contribute to One University Circle’s appeal.

It’s all about density when it comes to revitalizing any neighborhood, he comments. The residential component is just one factor. Retailers and public transportation are the other components that contribute to a thriving city.

“When you’re looking at 280 units on 1.3 acres, you’re looking at the density of a major city,” he explains. “You need that kind of density to create foot traffic, retailers, for public transportation. We want a complete neighborhood where in a 20-minute walk you can find everything you need. The Circle has become a complete neighborhood.”

A portion of the land at 10730 Euclid Ave. currently houses the Children’s Museum, which will be moving to the Stager-Beckwith mansion in Midtown.
First Interstate Properties and Petros Development are partnering with University Circle Inc. on the project. Panzica Construction will be the general contractor.

Guide To Kulchur set to expand to larger digs in Gordon Square

Next week, Guide to Kulchur (GTK), the quirky bookstore and self-described "incubator for emerging and marginalized voices," will move from its tiny storefront at 1386 West 65th Street to roomier digs at 5900 Detroit Avenue.

"It's part of our 20 job initiative," says GTK founder RA Washington. "We're adding 20 jobs over the course of 18 months. We're going to target the youth first and set aside jobs for kids with juvenile records." He plans to start by hiring six people, with some future slots slated for recently released prison inmates.

The new 1,800-square foot space will feature more of what Gordon Square loves about GTK and then some, with a large stock of new books, a performance space, outside seating and even a coffee spot that will offer snacks made off site. And there's more to come.

"In the next 18 months, we'll take over the second floor and that will be an artist in residence space," says Washington, adding that the additional 1,800 square feet will also house a community/meeting area.

GTK's old home on 65th Street will transform into a regional warehouse for the Cleveland Books 2 Prisoners operation, which furnishes books to prisoners in Ohio, although Washington notes, "we get letters all the way from Texas, Indiana, Pennsylvania." He also supplies books to the homeless and invites community organizations and social justice advocates to take books free of charge for distribution from the warehouse. Regular janes and joes are free to peruse the stacks as well.

"People can also buy books at a pay-what-you-want rate," says Washington.

Amid all this development, Washington has recently launched GTK Press, which he also plans to expand at the new location in the 500-square-foot garage with more advanced equipment for printing and binding. Once established, he aims to bring in more youth employees to learn about publishing and the associated skills, from on-screen design to binding.

He estimates the total cost of the endeavor at $23,000. Although he is still $7,000 short of his goal, an Indiegogo campaign helped raise nearly $7,000. GTK's pitch performance at last month's Startup Scaleup event garnered an additional $5,000. Washington has also worked with Kent State to get funding via the Common Wealth Revolving Loan Fund, which helps sole proprietorships such as GTK to transform into cooperatives.

"The final step of the expansion is to transform Guide to Kulchur from a sole prop. to a worker owned co-op," says Washington.

The grand opening of the new space is slated for September 4th.

Former landfill to become restored green space in Old Brooklyn

Twenty-eight acres in the heart of Old Brooklyn is slated to become yet another hard-earned link in the city's growing chain of urban green spaces.
Courtesy of a $561,000 Clean Ohio Conservation Fund grant, the Western Reserve Land Conservancy (WRLC) will acquire the former Henninger Landfill and other adjacent properties stretching along more than 1,000 linear feet of Lower Big Creek in an area immediately east of West 25th Street. The landfill was closed more than 40 years ago.

In addition to the Clean Ohio grant, WRLC also obtained a federal 2014 Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition grant in the amount of $15,000 to hire a riparian restoration expert to assess the property and develop a comprehensive restoration plan. The grantor describes this as "a critical riparian buffer corridor."

That future restoration will include erosion control; water quality improvements; reintroduction of native trees, wildflowers and grasses; and invasive plant removal. While plans for how the public will access the area are still underway, by its geographic positioning, it will become a growing part of the green corridor that includes the Metroparks Zoo, Brookside Reservation and the Towpath Trail. Officials hope it becomes a key link between those amenities.
Jim Rokakis, director of the Land Conservancy’s Thriving Communities Institute, said that he's confident the space will have trails to serve area residents and employees. He added that there is much work to be done before employees from the Metro Health Campus can reach for their Skechers at lunch.
"We've got a lot of clean up to do," he said.
In a less obvious benefit, the project will support the general health of the Lake Erie watershed and will help expunge an unfortunate designation.
Lower Big Creek is a major tributary to the Cuyahoga River, which despite the improvements made since it infamously caught fire in 1969, is still listed as one of the Great Lakes Areas of Concern. The 46 miles designated reach from Lake Erie to Stark County and includes all tributaries. Per the AOC organization, those waters have experienced environmental degradation, fail to meet the objectives of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between the United States and Canada, and are impaired in their ability to support aquatic life or beneficial uses.
"To de-list the Cuyahoga River as an AOC, identifying and protecting natural areas to address the loss of fish and wildlife habitat within its watershed is an essential step," said a statement from the WRLC. "In a developed urban area, this project does just that."

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."
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