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fairfax update: 400 housing units in preliminary planning

Last year, the Fairfax neighborhood welcomed the opening of Griot Village, the area's first intergenerational housing project. In just a few short months, the project's success has mushroomed. To qualify for residency, a person 55 years of age or older must have custody of a minor. All 40 units are occupied and bustling with approximately 80 children. Most of the units are single-family households, many of which are headed by women, the oldest of which is 84.
"We did it because we kept getting more and more requests for this type of housing," says Denise VanLeer, assistant executive director of the Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation (FRDC). "It is a market niche that’s badly underserved and strained by circumstance. They need a lot of support."
So much so that there is a waiting list to get into Griot and queries from urban planners have come from Akron, New York and even as far as Japan to learn from the model.
On the heels of that success, the FRDC is unfolding its wings, so to speak, with an array of tentative projects.
The first is a large-scale mixed income community between East 101st and 105th Streets, which is currently inundated with vacancy.
"We don't know the exact number," says VanLeer, "but we're toying with 400-plus units."
Still in the "very preliminary planning stages," the FRDC team has been in communication with the Cleveland Land Bank and Cuyahoga Land Bank.
"We are in the process of land acquisition," says VanLeer.
While still off on the horizon, VanLeer believes the project will come to fruition as a dovetail to commercial development in the area.
Of the Cedar Road corridor, she says she hopes the Cleveland Clinic's Global Cardiovascular Innovation Center, 10000 Cedar Avenue, will act as a commercial development catalyst of sorts, but she words it in a much more charming way.
"We envision that project to have some babies or cousins."
Also of interest is the East 83rd Street corridor, which garnered a significant anchor in 2013 when Rumi's Market launched at 8225 Carnegie Avenue in 2013. The brightly lit Middle Eastern supermarket and café has been doing a brisk business. Per VanLeer, the PNC Fairfax Connection, a community resource center, is another entity that makes East 83rd "a major thoroughfare" and to further strengthen it, FRDC has trained it's sights on East 83rd and Cedar.
"We're working with a church and private investors to bring that corner back." Details are preliminary and confidential.
The last project harkens back to the days when Fairfax populated with grand Victorian homes. The East 89th Street Housing Project includes eight apartment buildings constructed to emulate the style of days gone by. While the FRDC has talked to developers and worked with the city architect on a vision, the project has unfortunately stalled.
"Right now the numbers don't work," says VanLeer.
VanLeer encourages any developer interested in learning more about the project to call Debra Wilson at 216.361.8400 for more information.
When asked why she believes the project will eventually come to fruition, VanLeer responds, "There's a market for it," she says, noting the project's proximity to the Cleveland Clinic. "This would be ideal for all nurses and people who work there, especially the residents who come for three years and then they're gone.
"They could actually walk to work."

ymca breaks ground on new galleria location

Earlier this month, the Cleveland YMCA broke ground on their highly anticipated new space in the Galleria. The Parker Hannifin Downtown Y is slated to open in February 2016.
"We had about 85 come to the ground breaking," says Rick Haase, vice president of marketing for the YMCA of Cleveland.
Haase notes the timing of the project, which coincides with a staggering boom in downtown residential growth. He cites the Downtown Cleveland Alliance's 2014 fourth quarter market update (p. 10), which estimates more than 25,000 people will be living downtown by 2022—up from 13,300 in 2014.
Considering that and the population of daily downtown commuters, the organization hopes to double the current membership of its 2200 Prospect Avenue location, which numbers nearly 3,250.
"Our current location at East 22nd and Prospect is, quite honestly, a little bit off beaten path," says Haase. Cleveland State University (CSU) owns that building, which was built in 1911 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Floors 2 through 8 are dedicated to CSU student housing, with the YMCA's fitness center on the first floor. The YMCA also has offices on the first and ninth floors. All of the YMCA's functions will eventually move to the Galleria.
The new two-story 40,000-square-foot YMCA will occupy what was formerly retail space in the gleaming mall. Amenities will include a three-lane lap pool, sauna and steam rooms, approximately 75 cardio and 25 weight training machines, a spinning studio, three group exercise studios (one of which will accommodate hot yoga) and two massage therapy rooms. Haase says presales are tentatively planned for this summer, six months in advance of the grand opening.
"There will be special rates for those join early," he says, adding that a presale office in the Galleria is a possibility. "There will very likely be a corporate rate as well." Packages for the area hotels are also on the horizon.
The total project budget is just over $12 million. Parker Hannifin is one of the private donors on the project. Werner Minshall, owner of the Galleria, donated the space, which translated into a $2.7 million gift. The organization expects to employee 39 full- and part-time workers at the new facility with an payroll of about $1.1 million over the first two years of operation.
The project is expected to create about 100 construction jobs and generate $7.9 million in tax revenue from new construction and labor costs. Moody Nolan is the architect and Infinity Construction Company is the general contractor.
Aside from the obvious attraction of a fitness club, the new YMCA will feature youth and senior programming as well as specialty programs targeted at preventing diabetes and helping adult cancer survivors transitioning out of treatment.
"There's a lot of impact that this project has," says Haase, "not only on the City of Cleveland but also in terms in helping to revitalize the downtown community."
Having just celebrated the YMCA's 160th year in Cleveland, Haase feels it's safe to say this is a long-term relationship.
"We're not going anywhere."

o-wow: former wmms program director set to launch internet radio station

After two years of jumping through financial hoops, the brains behind WMMS's heyday years will be launching oWOW, Cleveland's first live and local internet radio station, this Friday, but you can help yourself to a sneak peak.
"We're on the air right now, testing," says John Gorman, oWOW Media LLC's chief content officer and former program director at WMMS, from the outfit's temporary studio space in the 78th Street Studios.
As if on cue, a purring voice interrupts the interview.
"Hey everybody, I'm Ravenna Miceli. Got a B-side of a Stone's tune for you, "Jump On Top Of Me Baby" going back about 15 years, but it sounds brand new here on oWOW."
And as Jagger and co. pour from the studio speakers, that unmistakable feel from radio's past is reanimated: Ravenna Miceli picked this song just for me.
Miceli will join three other oWOW personalities: Steve Pappas, Susie Frazier and Charlotte DiFranco, all of whom have traditional radio experience. The staff has been trotting between a makeshift office (affectionately nicknamed "the trolley") and the temporary studio while their permanent 1,600-square-foot digs undergo construction. Scheduled for completion in mid to late spring, the space will include a studio and a production area with large interior windows so 78th Street visitors can look in on the action, be it a celebrity interview, a live performance or just the everyday studio buzz.
"What used to get people interested in radio was that it was exciting," says oWOW director of sales and marketing Jim Marchyshyn. "You looked in. You saw the DJ and you thought: this is cool. We are in show business. That's been forgotten."
"Studios are all empty," adds Gorman of today's traditional radio venues. "They don't have an air staff. Most of them are disembodied voices coming from another city. We're real live people. We're based in Cleveland. We can do all the things that radio can no longer do."
That means attracting listeners as well as advertisers. To wit, House of LaRose and Budweiser will be sponsoring oWOW's launch this weekend. As for programming, Friday Night Live will run Fridays from 5 p.m. to midnight and exclusively feature live concert audio. Daily programming will aim to give people back that live mix-tape feel, one the oWOW team thinks listeners will respond to in a world where bots make calculated music recommendations based on mysterious algorithms.
Look to hear Cleveland performers such as Kristine Jackson, Bob Gatewood and the Speedbumps. Lesser-known acts from across the country will also find airtime on oWOW, adds Gorman, citing Lucero and Charlie Faye.
"She's the new Joni Mitchell," says Gorman of the little-known singer songwriter out of Austen, Texas. "She's on a small independent label so she can't promote and market." Hence, play on oWOW could make a difference in her career while delighting Cleveland listeners, despite the geographic divide.
oWOW's target area will cover Northeast Ohio at large, from Erie to Columbiana County. As a perfect side note, David Helton, who created WMMS's legendary buzzard, also designed oWOW's logo.
While details on the complex deals are confidential, oWOW was funded by a host of private investors, a local bank and a loan and grant from the City of Cleveland.
"We had the odds so far against us at one point that it looked like it would never happen," says Gorman. "It made us fight even harder. We refused to give up." He adds that the founding partners also have a significant financial investment in the effort.
"We have serious skin in the game," says Gorman. "This has to be successful."

Photos Bob Perkoski

study shows slavic village emerging as model community

"We've turned the corner here in Slavic Village."
However simple that assertion from Chris Alvarado, executive director of Slavic Village Development (SVD), may be, longtime locals might eye it with some amount of skepticism. But the impact of a number of innovative programs is starting to turn the tide in this pocket of the city and a study published last month evidences that.
Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC) compiled the study, which was more than a year in the making. And the results of Documenting the Slavic Village Recovery Project are enough to hearten the grouchiest Cleveland naysayer.
The Slavic Village Recovery Project (SVRP) project is a collaborative program that targets homes for renovation, typically with a $40,000 investment, and puts them on the market in hopes of selling them to buyers with traditional funding: long-term mortgages.
SVRP is a partnership between Forest City Enterprises, RIK Enterprises, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress and SVD. Forest City and RIK contributed $225,000 each to the project and SVD and CNP both kicked in $25,000. The organization sold its first home in December 2013 and sold 20 homes in 2014.
"Each of these homes sell," says Alvarado. "They aren’t staying on the market terribly long. We have a waiting list of buyers." The goal is to have between 40 and 50 homes on the market this year. Eight are currently being renovated and should be ready to sell in a couple of months.
Alvarado cites this quote from the study: "The sale price of the initial homes reached the target amount of approximately $60,000, received an appraisal value above the sale price, and sold quickly."
"That's really important: being able to have the appraisal at or above the sale price," says Alvarado. "It means we're able to work with folks and get conventional mortgages. It's a big win." It's also a massive shift for the area, in which home prices fell so low after the 2007 foreclosure crisis that most transactions were between family members out of obligation or after a bank foreclosure.
"Folks are buying homes because they want to move into neighborhood."
Alvarado also notes this takeaway from the study: "Based on research and experience with markets throughout the state, it is GOPC's estimation that many aspects of this project could be adapted to other neighborhoods in other cities."
So what is the secret behind the successful project that has transformed the beleaguered Slavic Village into a model for urban renewal? Alvarado cites three components a community must have to replicate SVRP: a strong community development corporation with a staff seasoned in property acquisition and stabilization; stalwart housing stock in an area that has enduring occupancy and does not suffer severe displacement; and patient project partners that see the long-term benefit of the project.
The success of SVRP dovetails with the Trailside Homes project, which features new construction, to give buyers more options. But increasing the number of attractive homes is only one part of the equation. To that end, SVD's efforts to enforce codes and selectively demolish have put an impressive dent in the number of open/vacant/vandalized properties.
"Ten months ago," says Alvarado, "we had 172 (such properties). We're down to 64 throughout these five square miles."
Those undesirable properties can scare traditional buyers away from nearby nicer homes. As their numbers dwindle, families, young couples and retirees are coming back to the historic neighborhood from the suburbs or outside the region.
"It tells us people are excited about what's happening in Slavic Village."

homegrown chef to open lee road eatery

Clevelanders will be soon be faced with a difficult choice. Will it be the OMG Philly sammie (made with chicken and shrimp), the Hibachi Burger (topped with yum yum mayo and sautéed shrimp) or a Cleveland Polish Boy?
Those tempting items along with a host of other delectables will soon be available at Black Box Fix, the latest effort from Cleveland chef Eric Rogers.
Rogers, who left a lucrative career in healthcare finance in 2011 to cook professionally full time, will be opening the new venture in the space formerly occupied by Sweetie Fry at 2307 Lee Road.
The nearly 1,500-square-foot space (300 of which houses the kitchen) will feature seating for 19 or 20, counter service and cuisine Rogers describes as fast gourmet.
"We do out-of-the box cuisine. Everything's fresh and we try to use local," says Rogers. "All of our breads are made locally. This concept will focus on gourmet sandwiches that we've done at Nevaeh and several other things that we'll add to the roster."
Patrons of the popular Nevaeh, Rogers' South Euclid eatery that closed last November, will be able to get their fix at Black Box Fix, including Nevaeh favorites such as the Creole Soul Roll, which is stuffed with Andouille Sausage, collard greens and smoked turkey.
Ending up on Lee Road wasn't exactly what Rogers had planned.
"I wasn't looking for this location," says Rogers. "It just kind of fell in my lap though a friend of mine. It had what my first location couldn't give me, which was diversity." The foot traffic and eclectic surrounding communities sealed the deal for the self-taught chef.
In anticipation of a mid-March opening for Black Box Fix, which will serve lunch and dinner, Rogers is frantically refurbishing the cozy new space, largely by himself.
"I do have another handy man and my father's been helping out a lot," says Rogers. "Having been through this before, I know kind of what to expect."
Judging from his more than 22,500 followers on Instagram and Facebook, he can also expect to garner his share of business. Roger's will be offering promotions and direct ordering via those venues, to which he credits much of his success. He plans to employ 10 to 15 people at Black Box Fix, some of whom may also work for the catering side of the business, which Rogers hopes to expand after he opens the new eatery. Other Black Box Fix franchises are another future possibility.
Until then, Rogers will be enjoying a bit of celebrity. The Cleveland native taped an episode of Guy Fieri's Guy's Grocery Games last November that's scheduled to air in April. While mums the word on the outcome of the program, Rogers' energy is palpable.
"I have a high passion for what I'm doing."


$9m foundry project adds to transformation of flats into recreation hub

A unique property along the Cuyahoga River, featuring 80,000 square feet of space across 12 buildings, is set to be transformed into a youth and collegiate boathouse, fitness center and public park. The $9 million project, called The Foundry after its historic use, is located on Columbus Road across from Rivergate Park and will offer 500 feet of riverfront dock space for young rowers.

The Foundry is being developed by MCPc Family Charities, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, as well as by Mike and Gina Trebilcock. MCPc, Inc. is a technology integrator and consultancy located in downtown Cleveland. The Trebilcocks have three children, all of whom were rowers, and the nonprofit has long supported rowing in Cleveland.

Plans for the property include a new public park and multipurpose trail that will connect with Rivergate Park; offices, study rooms and other areas for young people and coaches; at least two "rowing tanks" where rowers can practice in water during the off-season; a large boathouse where boats can be stored and repaired; and possibly a second-level observation areas where parents can watch young people row. The new owners say that Phase I will be open by September.

The property is a stunning slice of riverfront beauty, offering views of downtown, Irishtown Bend, the Columbus Road bridge and the Lorain Carnegie bridge.

"We want local rowers to see there's a future for rowing here," said Matt Previts, Higher Education Vertical Manager at MCPc, during a recent tour of the sprawling property. Previts is an avid rower who coached at St. Ignatius for a decade. He is also director of rowing with the Cleveland Youth Rowing Association, the group that helps students whose schools do not have affiliated programs -- like Cleveland Municipal School District -- gain access to the sport.

CYRA and various school-based programs will be the property's main occupants and users. Currently, these groups share space with the Cleveland Rowing Foundation, which is crammed into the boathouse at Rivergate Park. The move will create a separate space that youth and collegiate rowing programs will be able to grow into, while freeing up valuable space at the current boathouse.

Previts stated that MCPc Charities plans to donate the majority of the funding necessary to renovate the complex, which is partially occupied. The property has been owned by Pipeline Development for 50 years, and a for-profit entity owned by the Trebilcocks just purchased it for $3 million. During an initial five-year period, that for-profit entity will hold the property. After that period, the Trebilcocks intend to donate it to a nonprofit that would manage it as a youth rowing center.

The complex of brick buildings includes high ceilings and two ton cranes that were once used to move heavy equipment around. The buildings will soon prove to be perfect spaces for young rowers who see the working , industrial Cuyahoga River as a vibrant recreational playground. "You can't make this stuff anymore," said Previts of the old brick walls and barn doors, which will be preserved. "The renovation will honor the heritage that is here. It just feels industrial and cool."

Kirk Lang, Executive Director of the Cleveland Rowing Foundation, released a statement in the wake of the Foundry announcement: "The announcement of plans for a second boathouse indicate that the sport is indeed on the rise here. The Trebilcock family’s investment is also, as our partners at Cleveland Metroparks have noted, another vote of confidence in the future of the Cuyahoga River as a regional destination for recreation. We will collaborate with all users on rules to ensure continued safety on the river. This announcement will not affect our plans to push forward with improvements to the current CRF boathouse that will enable us to better serve the adult, collegiate and scholastic programs that have and will continue to flourish there."

Land stated in a followup email that some youth and collegiate rowing programs will continue to operate out of the CRF boathouse.

The Foundry project will also displace a few tenants, perhaps most notably the Cleveland Museum of Art's Community Arts Program. This is the spot where CMA's Community Arts Director Robin Van Lear and her cohorts store and create puppets and props for Parade the Circle. Previts stressed that the transition will be gradual so that existing tenants can find a place to land.

Previts believes the building's new use will not cause a conflict with existing property owners, despite everpresent concerns in the Flats -- and particularly around Rivergate Park -- about parking and traffic. Plans for the buildings will accommodate enough parking spaces for visitors, he stated. A few of the non-historic buildings will be knocked down to create additional parking spaces, and many of the youth coaches drive their rowers in buses down to the river.

sustainability takes center stage in neo, tackles biz bottom lines

Sustainability is gaining traction throughout the region, in public policy and everyday applications -- particularly in the world of business both big and small.
Just last week, the Cuyahoga County Executive's office announced that former Ohio House of Representative member Michael Foley will helm the newly created Department of Sustainability, which according to a statement will "(promote) economic development to support businesses that provide environmentally sustainable products and services; (educate) the public about environmentally sustainable practices; and (collaborate) with businesses, non-profit organizations and government agencies to develop programs incorporating environmentally sustainable methods into accepted practice."
Area businesses, however, are already incorporating policies to that end, which was evidenced last month during a roundtable discussion on how business is reacting to climate change. Cleveland State University's Center for Sustainable Business Practices hosted the event, which included the City of Cleveland, the small business Kalman & Pabst (K&P) and corporate giant Parker Hannifin.
Mike Wasserman 
"I think we felt like we were in very good company," says K&P co-owner Mike Wasserman, who spoke at the roundtable, noting that his 12-employee business in MidTown was a nice contrast to Parker Hannifin, which employs some 57,500 people in 50 countries. "They have a different perspective."
The centerpiece of K&P's sustainability practices is a 137-panel rooftop solar array, which generates between 25 and 30 percent of of the studio’s electricity. That savings, coupled with $17,000 in solar renewable energy credits the company has garnered courtesy of the array, which was installed in 2010, have resulted in a three and a half-year payback for the installation.
Per Wasserman, future green plans for the 18,000 square-foot commercial photography studio, with its three working kitchens, include the installation of a system that collects and reuses the property's rainwater run-off and expanding usage of LED lighting. Currently, fluorescent and LED bulbs make up more than 75 percent of K&P's lighting.
Wasserman is also interested in smart technology, which monitors employees' behavior and controls energy systems accordingly.
"I'm really interested in the technology side of things," he says, stipulating that any green improvements have to "make sense for the bottom line as well."
During the roundtable, Parker Hannifin's Dennis Wolcott, resource conservation and energy programs manager, cited the company's collective "resource conservation" as resulting in an overall savings of $160 million since 2004.
Matthew Gray of Cleveland's Office of Sustainability stated at the forum that the Midwest region emits 20 percent more greenhouse gasses per capita than the national average. Hence, efforts from huge corporations like Parker Hannifin and small local outfits such as K&P are equally important and impactful.
"Were always looking to do something—and it might be a little thing," says Wasserman, "but those little things compound and build into big things."

red-hot rental market ignites conversion of garfield building into downtown apartments

A deal more than a year in the making has finally come to a close, and as a result, another of Downtown's grand spaces is about to undergo a stunning transformation. The historic Garfield Building, 1965 East 6th Street, is slated to become apartments.
The West Coast-based Westcore Properties, which purchased the building for $8 million in 2008, has sold the 11-story, 160,000-square-foot structure to the Millennia Companies for $6 million. Westcore, however, did not lose money.
"On the surface, you could say we paid $8 million and sold it for $6 million, so we lost $2 million," summarizes Don Ankeny, president and CEO of Westcore Properties. "But along the way, we probably got 15 percent unlevered return on our capital. We enjoyed six years of very attractive cash flow."
Originally built in 1893, the refurbished building will be renamed the Corning Place. Preliminary plans call for 125 one- and two-bedroom apartments ranging from 540- to 1,325-square-feet with estimated rents from $1.70 to $1.90 per square foot.
The first floor, which includes the breathtaking column-lined lobby, houses between 35,000- and 40,000-square feet of retail opportunity, none of which has been locked into tenants.
Permits for the $40 million project, which received a $5 million historic tax credit, are pending and should be in hand within 30 to 60 days, well ahead of a construction start date in June. Units are expected to be ready for rental 18 to 24 months after that. Sandvick Architects are the designers on the job and the general contractor is American Preservation Builders. Both firms are based in Cleveland.
Westcore's sole tenant for the building was PNC, whose lease expired in December. The Garfield Building was the real estate acquisitions firm's only Cleveland holding.
"We had a good experience in Cleveland," says Ankeny, "and with the right opportunity we would come back."

"climb zion" gym, unique community center, coming to historic tremont church

Imagine vertically climbing past a 130-year-old stained glass window through a working bell tower, settling into the Downward Facing Dog pose in a vintage auditorium, or scaling a bouldering wall in a holy sanctuary.
Sound like heaven? Try Tremont.

The notion is soon to become a reality when local entrepreneurs Niki Zmij and Chick Holtkamp bring their love of climbing to the north coast by way of a unique project.
"We both have strong ties to Cleveland," says Holtkamp, a seasoned climber and real estate investor whose family has been handcrafting pipe organs here for more than 150 years. "There's always an opportunity to move somewhere else. We want to bring some of what we learned out there back here."

"Out there" refers to more than 50 climbing gyms in 12 states the couple toured in order to shape their vision of "Climb Zion," the transformation of the Zion United Church of Christ, 2716 West 14th Street, into a 40,000-square-foot community center that will feature climbing, yoga, community activities, a café, lounge areas and even a sauna. While the facility will cater to advanced climbers, the larger intent is to be all-inclusive.
Niki Zmij and Chick Holtkamp 
"We want to build a place that has stuff to challenge the really hard core climbers," says Zmij, "but also has stuff that's achievable and fun for someone who walks in off the street." To that end, it's not hard to imagine a chaperoning parent or uncle sipping coffee, watching climbers scale the array of walls and thinking: looks fun … I could do that ...
The result when they take the plunge?
"People surprise themselves and blow expectations out of the water," says Zmij.
Plans include building a large addition in the rear of the property that will house the main climbing gym and connect to the existing buildings, which include the church proper and a schoolhouse. The area between those buildings would become an atrium that will echo the Ames Family Atrium at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
"We were really inspired by what they did," says Zmij, noting how the CMA atrium turned beautiful exterior walls into beautiful interior walls. "All of these stained glass windows will be inside the atrium between these two gothic style buildings.
It's like being in a European village."

One aspect of the project that separates it from the handful of other renovated church/climbing gyms across the country is that the parishioners of Zion United Church of Christ will still convene in the main sanctuary on Sundays, just like they have since 1885 when the church was dedicated (the congregation is older still, dating back to 1867).
Once numbering in the thousands, there are now less than 20 church members.
"As you can imagine," says Zmij, "the upkeep of these buildings has become difficult." But the prospect of the climbing gym has put some pep in parishioners' steps. "I think they're excited about more people coming to this place," she says, adding that the exposure may translate to more members. "How cool would it be to stay after your Sunday church service and climb for a couple of hours?"
Zion United Church of Christ 
The couple expects to close on the purchase of the property, details of which are confidential, this summer. They are also negotiating with the Ohio Department of Transportation regarding an adjacent vacant property, which would facilitate parking for 80 to 90 vehicles.
Access will be public, with membership plans for the committed and day passes for the curious.
As for total renovation costs, "It depends on how you do it," says Holtkamp. "If we phase it in, then our renovation budget is in the order of $2.5 million. If we do it all at once, it's more like $4 million." Optimistic scheduling includes a late summer/early fall 2015 groundbreaking and early 2016 opening.
"We think it's definitely possible," says Zmij. "It would be great to be open for the Republican National Convention."
Traditional financing, private investors and (hopefully) an historic preservation tax credit, for which the couple will apply next month, will fund the project.
"We're committed to making this happen whether it's with the tax credits or without," says Zmij. "We have some dollars locked in."

While both are part of the hardcore climbing scene, Holtkamp recalls when the sport was mainly practiced outdoors by men in their twenties.

"Indoor climbing has grown up. We know how to do things really well now," he says of the niche industry that produces climbing wall equipment. "It's a good time to start doing this."

The demographic has changed as well, with about a 50/50 split between men and women and an age range that has expanded on both ends.
"Four-year-olds climb and 90-year-olds climb," says Holtkamp. "The gym will be built to accommodate all of these people."

small box cle announces newest tenant, blue edge, a gift and beauty products boutique

Small Box, the innovative shipping container retail cluster in the Warehouse District, has announced its newest tenant: Blue Edge, a collaboration between Edge Hair Studio and Blue Envelope that will offer "eco-conscious and high-end gift and beauty products."

Edge Hair Studio and Blue Envelope are both located in downtown Willoughby. According to the release, "Edge Hair Studio is a full-service, eco-conscious hair and nail salon ... Edge is the only studio on the east side of Cleveland to carry the full line of exclusive Davines products. These products, handmade by a dedicated, passionate family in Parma, Italy, have a cult-following for the luxury they provide in a beauty routine. Every item is handwrapped by an in-house artist."
Blue Envelope is a three-year-old stationery studio. The firm specializes in customized stationery and sells "exclusive and some locally-designed stationery and gift brands" at their current location.

Both tenants have been active in growing the downtown Willoughby business scene. The release notes, "Historic Warehouse District Development Corp. welcomes with excitement Blue Edge as this group of creative and community-minded business owners make their first foray into Downtown Cleveland."

big gig grants to bring lightning speed internet to west 25th, other neo hotspots

While news of the 100-gigabit pipeline servicing the Health-Tech Corridor was widely reported, the area's fiber optic network at large continues to grow byte by byte, however quietly.
Thus far, OneCommunity, the nonprofit on a mission to realize a sprawling fiber optic network across Northeast Ohio, and it's for-profit counterpart Everstream, have installed 2,500 miles of fiber optic cable throughout 24 counties across the region. With the announcement of four Big Gig Challenge grants last month, the organization is reaching out even further than that, to both commercial and non-profit entities.
The four inaugural Big Gig Challenge grantees include the West 25th Street corridor, the village of Glenwillow, Lorain County Community College (LCCC) and the City of South Euclid. OneCommunity will be matching funds in the amount of 25 percent for each respective fiber optic network installation or expansion.
The West 25th Street project will bring lightning speed data delivery to customers choosing to tap into the new network along a four-mile stretch servicing Ohio City, Tremont, Clark-Fulton, Brooklyn Centre and Old Brooklyn. South Euclid's project will focus on the South Green Road corridor. The Village of Glenwillow and LCCC will expand their existing fiber optic networks.
"A business might need water, electric and gas," says OneCommunity's chief operating officer and Everstream president Brett Lindsey. "Fiber is that fourth thing they care more about than anything else because business demands it in such a significant way. Someone will move or look at one site over another based on its proximity to a fiber network."
Specific plans for the projects, all of which Lindsey estimates to be in the $200,000 range, are underway and should be finalized within 60 days. Subsequent construction should take three to four months. The bulk of the projects will be aboveground installations with some underground work slated for Glenwillow.
"By having this ubiquitous network across the region," says Lindsey; "it really is a business attraction tool for everyone. I think that's kind of been the goal from the beginning."
OneCommunity has earmarked $2 million for Big Gig Grants. Lindsey hopes the four inaugural projects, which were selected from an initial pool of about 12, will ignite creativity for future grant applicants.
"Hopefully when we roll out our next Big Gig Challenge," he says, "we'll get 20 people filling out letters of intent and we'll give 10 awards if that's possible."
Considering information travels approximately one thousand times faster through a fiber optic network than through coaxial cable or a DSL phone line, those grants offer endless possibilities.
"It's almost limitless when you consider what people can do once they have fiber," says Lindsey. "There's really no end in sight."


city tours aim to lure suburbanites, repopulate classic urban neighborhoods

Riding high on the success of the 2014 program, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress (CNP) will kick off the 2015 City Life Tours in less than two weeks with six scheduled tours starting on Monday, Feb. 16 at 1 p.m. Other dates include Thursday, March 19 at 1 p.m. and a quartet of 10 a.m. Saturday slots: Feb. 28, March 21 and April 11 and 25.
Jeff Kipp, director of neighborhood marketing for CNP, is tour master both on and off the bus. In chatting with him, it's clear he's not simply aiming to entertain riders, but connect them to the city in a more profound—and permanent—way.
"We're looking at 50 years of sprawl," says Kipp of Cuyahoga County at large. "There's a lot of people that fully disengaged from our urban neighborhoods over the past few decades. We're looking to reel them back in and reintroduce them to the city that they call home." And maybe even get them to move back into Cleveland proper. After all, sixty percent of the more than 300 City Life Tour attendees in 2014 said they live in Cleveland, even though they hailed from the suburbs.
"Our ultimate goal in all of this," says Kipp, "is to repopulate Cleveland's urban neighborhoods." To that end, nine percent of his 2014 riders said they intended to do just that. In an interesting side note, 25 percent of the 2014 attendees were young professionals and 25 percent were empty nesters. Hence the call of the city harkens to all ages.
The 14-mile tour loop begins and ends in Ohio City and includes Downtown, Uptown and Midtown among other neighborhoods. The group also disembarks to explore a residential unit, which may be a townhome, traditional home or apartment. Offerings change with the tours and have included stops at Park Lane Villa in University Circle and the Painters Loft Condominiums in Detroit Shoreway.
"We're showing them things that they're reading about in the news: a resurgence that’s happening in Cleveland," says Kipp. "It's one thing to read about it or hear about it second or third hand. Its another thing to sit on a bus for two and a half hours and see it nonstop—the houses being renovated and the new construction."
All of the upcoming tours kick off at Paul Dunbar School, 2200 West 28th Street, save for the March 19 event, which will depart from the lot behind the West Side Market. While this batch of tours will roll out on a private limo/bus, in the fairer months, riders will embark on Lolly the Trolley for the adventure. The $12 price tag includes a tee shirt.
Future plans may include tours that spend more time in focus areas such as University Circle, the near West Side, Fairfax or Shaker Square/Larchmere.
"People will have almost a menu of tours to choose from," forecasts Kipp. "If we can condense our area, we can show more."
Kipp is not just selling historic housing stock, diverse neighborhoods and a connection to the area's urban roots; he's offering a lifestyle.
Of Cleveland's great museums and institutions he says, "Of course they're here, but they could be in your backyard if you live in the city. A lot of our audience is coming from a demographic for which coming Downtown is a big part of their day," he says, noting that it's an event that requires planning and travel time.  "Whereas when you live in the city, all of these assets and all of these gems are in your back yard."
Hence, a glittering venue such as the Art Museum's Ames Family Atrium transforms from an occasional destination to an everyday pleasure.
"You can just pop in and brown bag lunch it," says Kipp. "That's a lot better than an office park cafeteria."


eastside greenway aims to connect 19 cities with unified network of trails

Last week, two crowds of people interested in the exansion of greenspace, connectivity and alternative transportation converged on Happy Dog at Euclid Tavern and the Beachwood Branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library (CCPL) on Wednesday and Thursday respectively. They came to discuss and learn about preliminary plans for the proposed Cuyahoga County Eastside Greenway project. About 80 attended the first event and 40 went to the second.
"It was great turnout, considering the weather," says Anna Swanberg, project manager for Land Studio, which is spearheading the effort and will hold additional meetings tonight from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Waterloo Brew, 15335 Waterloo Road and tomorrow from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the University Heights Branch of the CCPL, 13866 Cedar Road. Interested parties unable to attend a meeting can view the entire presentation online and offer input via an online survey.
The presentation outlines an ambitious vision for a new greenspace network that will ideally sprawl over the east side of Cuyahoga County, covering a diverse range of 18 communities such as the cities of Euclid and Pepper Pike and neighborhoods from Hough to Coventry.
"We do have such a diverse range of neighborhoods and socioeconomic groups and racial groups," says Swanberg. "It's just across the board. The great thing about this (project) is it would be ensuring access for everybody."
Meeting attendees were curious about what an Eastside Greenway would look like in reality.
"The answer to that question," admits Swanberg, "we don't have quite yet."
That said, the online presentation offers an array of maps and bullet points that give shape to the proposal. The project will target main thoroughfares such as the Euclid, Belvoir, Shaker and Gates Mills/SOM Center corridors. The centerpieces of the Greenway's infrastructure will be dedicated off-road multipurpose trails, the construction of which presents an array of challenges such as right-of-way constraints and property acquisition easements.
"It's very difficult to get an off-road trail built in a densely populated area," says Swanberg, "but that is the goal for those segments." She calls the Eastside Greenway a "career project," that will unfold over 10, 15 or twenty years.
A secondary network of connectors will augment dedicated trails, most likely by way of on-street dedicated, buffered or protected bike lanes or sharrows, which are shared lanes, marked by a stencil of a bike and arrows that indicate bikes may use the full lane.
An $118,000 Transportation for Livable Communities Initiative Grant from the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) is funding this initial planning phase of the project, along with $32,000 in matching funds raised by Land Studio and project partners.  
"We began with this last summer. Right now we're sort of at a midway point; our goal is to have final report in July of this year," says Swanberg. "The great thing about a Livable Communities Grant is that it’s a federal grant. It's really designed to be the planning that sets you up to get federal implementation dollars down the road."
Intuitive goals of the Greenway include connecting pedestrians and bicyclists to employment and retail hubs, existing trails such as Morgana Run, the lakeshore and public services; but there is another lofty intent.
"We're looking at what this greenway means for health outcomes," adds Swanberg. "We're partnering with the county Board of Health on a health impact assessment, which is a relatively new planning tool that takes a research-based approach to looking at planning decisions."
The aim is to mitigate accidents, crime and fear of crime while promoting safety, physical activity and social cohesion between and within communities.
If you have a cohesive community in which people look out for one another, those areas tend to have less crime, says Swanberg, adding that one way to achieve cohesion is through equality.
But what does a greenway have to do with equality?
"The goal is to put everybody on the east side within a five or ten minute walk to one of these trails," says Swanberg, adding that the project enables transportation choices and access to amenities for everyone.
"Access is equality."


elegant event center begins bookings amid wild surroundings

Last August, the Cleveland Metroparks broke ground on Stillwater Place, a 10,000-square-foot event venue at the Zoo that will seat up to 300 guests for full-service dining and up to 800 for mingling groups. The year-round facility will feature a bridal dressing room, an outdoor patio that will accommodate up to 100 and heated/air-conditioned transportation to a designated parking area. Stillwater Place is situated on Waterfowl Lake directly across from the Circle of Wildlife Carousel.
Despite being in the Zoo, event attendees will certainly not feel as though they are on the set of an Indiana Jones movie.
"That's one of the unique elements of this particular building," says Sanaa Julien, Cleveland Metropark's chief marketing officer. "We really wanted to make sure it was modern and didn't have a particular look or feel that pigeonholed you into a specific genre or theme. It really is very clean, open to interpretation and creating any kind of event."
Longtime catering partner Aramark is funding $1 million of the $2.3 million project. The Cleveland Zoological Society is chipping in $300,000; with the Metroparks picking up the rest of the tab. Architects on the project include Brandstetter Carroll Inc. and Peninsula Architects. Regency Construction Services is the main contractor.
Work is ongoing, reports Julien, with the interior scheduled to be finished by mid-March and the exterior complete by the middle of April.
"We're waiting for the grasses to green and the different ornamentals to grow so that when we open in June, it's the most beautiful experience our guests could have."
To rent the entire facility for four hours is $4,000. However, that price may go up or down depending on the complexity of food service, the number of guests and the length of the event. Stillwater Place can also house more than one event at a time as the main reception room can be divided and the patio can serve as a stand-alone venue.
"Not only can we accommodate afternoons or evenings, there are days when we can accommodate multiple functions," says Julien. "We can handle a brunch and a dinner on the same day." Thus far, the Metroparks has booked about 10 events for the new venue.
The impetus for the project was to make the Zoo available for events during normal operating hours. Currently, venues such as the Rainforest or Primate, Cat and Aquatics Building are only available after hours. With an hour for site preparation, that makes for a late start during the fairer months.
"Who wants to have a wedding reception starting at 8 p.m. on a Saturday night?" poses Julien. With the opening of Stillwater place, area brides and grooms won't have to bow to such a restriction. Instead, they'll enjoy top-notch customer service.
"Depending on what the organization or individuals are looking for, we work with them to tailor a very custom experience based on who their guests are, what their needs are, and what they're looking to accomplish."
That attention to detail applies to décor as well as specialized menus and access to other parts of the zoo, which may look a bit different when viewed through Stillwater Place's expansive windows.
"I think it's a new way of looking at the Zoo whether you're an animal lover or not," says Julien. "It really feels like a destination event or wedding when you have it at the Zoo."

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