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Former Cleveland Brown Jurevicius nurtures small business, aims to expand

Amid the ongoing controversies plaguing professional sports, talking with Cleveland native Joe Jurevicius reveals that not all pro players have pro-sized egos.
 
"I like to call myself a has-been," says the humble Jurevicius. "My plane landed in 2008."
 
While his professional career with teams such as the Browns, the New York Giants, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks did indeed come to an end in 2008, he was a few years away from an unlikely second act: that of a small business owner dealing in laundry.
 
Laundry?
 
"The thing that seems obvious is a steak house or bar," says Jurevicius. "I didn't want to lend a name. I didn't want to just say I was an owner of a business because my name was involved. I literally wanted to be involved in the business. I'm a guy who likes to work."
 
Hence in 2012, Jurevicius built his first Spins Laundromat at 6912 Lorain Avenue and subsequently opened other locations at 7989 Euclid Avenue and earlier this year at 14930 Saint Clair Avenue.
 
"One laundromat would literally drive you crazy," says Jurevicius. "You would think that if you doubled or tripled what you had, it would maybe become worse, but it's actually just the opposite," he adds, noting that shopping for supplies in bulk is easier than purchasing the smaller quantities only one location would need. 
 
Earlier this year Jurevicius also launched a full-service laundry pick up and delivery business, WashClub Cleveland. While he's signed a handful of commercial contracts, including one with Cleveland Hopkins Airport, he's targeting any and all customers and urges people to feel comfortable about someone else, well, dealing with their dirty laundry.
 
"These are the tee shirts, the underwear - the personal stuff that you wear on a day-in/day-out basis," says Jurevicius. He urges prospective customers to be as comfortable hiring someone to do their laundry as they are hiring someone to plow the drive or mow the lawn.
 
"I know that for a mother who works all week and has four kids, the last thing she wants to do on the weekend is attack the laundry," says Jurevicius, adding that the same goes for anyone who's short on time and long on tasks. "It's a convenience thing: one less stress for a family or individual."
 
Services include wash and fold, dry cleaning and tailoring. Customers sign into their account via the website or a mobile app and tap in their order.
 
"It's basically letting us pick up [your laundry] and taking care of it so the only thing you have to do is take it out of bag and put it back in the closet."
 
One cannot help but admire the former NFLer's down-to-earth work ethic. He'll take up the slack when duty calls no matter what the task, be it washing clothes, sweeping up, making deliveries or taking out the trash.
 
"If you're going to know a business you need to know everything that’s encompassed in that business," says Jurevicius. Being a hands-on boss also garners the respect of his 12 employees and eases communications about what's going well and what isn't.
 
Jurevicius isn't done yet. He's looking to purchase additional property in as little as a few weeks, although he's mum on details other than to say the parcels he's eyeing are on the "near east side and near west side." He's also toying with finding a warehouse space to house all WashClub activities.
 
"The goal is to ultimately double or triple the number of employees I have," says Jurevicius. He also hopes to turn one delivery van into a fleet of six or more and eventually "walk away from this business down the road someday and say, 'Man, I accomplished something.'"
 
Judging from what he's been through, it's hard to imagine Jurevicius won't achieve those goals. His NFL career ended after a devastating staph infection put him through numerous surgeries, which he does not recall with bitterness. Instead he regards his 11 years with the NFL with endearing self-deprecation. "I look at a helmet or a pair of shoulder pads now and I go: no way. My body aches just looking at them."
 
While he concedes that the infection was one of the hardest things he's ever gone through, he is quick to add that it pales in comparison to the 2003 loss of Michael, firstborn son to Jurevicius and wife Meagan, who succumbed to a rare condition at just two and a half months old. Ironically, Michael's short life played out amid the Buccaneer's successful 2003 championship season and Super Bowl victory, when Jurevicius was a receiver for the team.
 
"I tend to put things in perspective," says Jurevicius. "I lost my career to an infection, but I've always been able to keep that in check compared to what I went through with my son."
 
For now, he's happy to be involved in the ongoing Northcoast renaissance.
 
"We have a lot of things to be proud of in Cleveland," say Jurevicius. "We're like a sleeper trendy city. I'm just trying to be part of it."

Three outdoor Fitness Zones open on the east side

Last week, the Buckeye, Larchmere and Woodland Hills neighborhoods each got a new public amenity courtesy of a host of community partners and a tenacious group of residents that make healthy living priority number one.
 
About 15 residents make up the Healthy Eating and Active Living (HEAL) Initiative of the greater Buckeye neighborhood, which worked for two years to get Fitness Zones at East End Neighborhood House, 2749 Woodhill Road, Fairhill Partners, 122 Fairhill Road, and the at the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority's Woodhill Community Center, 2491 Baldwin Road.
 
"It's really a labor of love," says Erica Chambers, HEAL coordinator for MetroHealth Medical Center. "It took a while to get it here."
 
Each fitness area features highly durable and rugged resistance training and cardiovascular equipment such as elliptical machines, leg and chest presses and recumbent bicycles, all of which is outdoors and specifically designed to handle the elements. The three installations are also adjacent to kids' play areas, so moms, dads and caregivers can get in a workout while their wards play.
 
Chambers recalls the project's inception. The Buckeye HEAL walking group was out scouting new routes when they came upon an outdoor gym installation in a suburban park and instantly became interested: How can we get this sort of stuff into our neighborhood?
 
With that challenge before them, the group reached out to the Trust for Public Land (TPL).
 
"From there, everything was kind of a go," says Chambers, adding that the HEAL group can take pride in the accomplishment. "They can say, 'You know what? People live here and they do care.' They actually got together. They organized. They learned a lot about this legislative process and how to work with the city and build partnerships and what an investment can look like when you bring the right people to the table to listen to the community."
 
TPL eventually coordinated the three Fitness Zone projects. Funding partners include the Saint Luke’s, Reinberger and CareSource Foundations, and the MetroHealth System. Saint Luke's granted $250,000 toward the approximately $300,000 project.
 
While Cleveland's weather is not exactly the same as that of sunny Muscle Beach in California, area fitness enthusiasts will no doubt enjoy pumping iron amid the elements.
 
"It's a wonderful opportunity for residents who often do not have access to top quality equipment to be engaged in physical activity," says Chambers.
 
While the new installations will bring immediate benefits to area residents, they may have broader implications across Ohio.
 
"We've done these across the country," says Kim Kimlin, TPL's Ohio program director. "These three sites were our pilot for Ohio."
 
TPL will eventually commission a research agency to conduct a usage evaluation of the Buckeye installations, which will determine the future of TPL's Fitness Zone program in Ohio
 
"W are particularly interested in underserved communities," says Kimlin, "where people don't have access to free exercise equipment. One of the great advantages of (a Fitness Zone) is you can get same workout you would get at an indoor gym, but it's free and its accessible to public."
 

New CLEpets shop bodes well for downtown residential market

On November 2nd, a new shop is slated to open in the 5th Street Arcades, 530 Euclid Avenue. While the space CLEpets will occupy is just 250 square feet, the subtle implication of the venture is much bigger: A burgeoning downtown residential population means more furry friends. Those four-footers are creating a market of their own.

CLEpet owner and founder Kurt Henschel's muses on the impetus of the project: "I do a lot of work downtown and I'm driving around one day and I’m thinking about all the people living here and it just kind of dawns on me: look at all these people down here walking their dogs," recalls Henschel, who is also a freelance videographer. "This is really starting to look like a real city again. You never used to see this for umpteen years - if ever."
 
Then came his next thought: "Where will these people shop for little things for dogs or cats?" And the idea for a CLEpets storefront was born.

The shop will offer a variety of very high quality dog and cat food that is made in Ohio. Available for purchase by the pound, the pet chow is free of wheat, corn, soy, additives and animal by-products. Comparing it to high end brands such as Fromms and Orijen, Henschel touts his product as extremely fresh as well.
 
"The products are manufactured every 30 days, so they're not sitting in a warehouse for months on end," he says, inviting prospective buyers to inspect the ingredient lists on his webpage. Try lamb meal and rice dog food, kitten food or no grain dog food among others.

Locally handmade cat and dog treats will also be available. The all natural offerings from Artzy Fartzy Inspirations will include Sassy's Succulent Salmon Jerky, Natural Chicken Sticks, Mini Mutt Sliders and the best-selling Roxy's Rockin' Peanut Butter Biscuits.
 
"She actually hand cranks peas into the pea flour they use in products," says Henschel of Artzy's gluten free snacks.
 
Work on the privately financed project began over the summer. While still tentative, hours will be 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Henschel will run the shop with one part-time employee and help from his wife and son. He'll also offer free delivery to anyone living in the downtown area. The delivery vehicle?
 
"My shoe leather and my legs," he responds, indicating he'll be hoofing it.
 
Not surprisingly, Henschel is a pet lover.
 
"I 'm kind of a dog nut," he says. "If I could have 100 dogs and have the room and the time for them, I probably would."
 
Henschel looks forward to the possible addition of events in the future. Until then, he invites customers to bring in Fido or Fluffy to shop and say hello. He's also excited to be part of Cleveland's ongoing renaissance.
 
"I'm so turned on about the new vibe in Cleveland," he says. "Just to be a small piece of that whole process, it's very exciting for me."

Gordon Square set to explode with new pop-ups, pinball, poutine and more

A host of highly anticipated eateries and pop-up ventures is set to take the funky Gordon Square neighborhood to the next level and beyond.
 
"Within two months we are poised to have nearly every vacant space on Detroit from West 54th to 73rd full of activity, which is really exciting," says Chad Jones, director of marketing for the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization (DSCDO).
 
On the verge of opening are three pop-ups that are coming to the corridor courtesy of a contest held earlier this year. Fortunately, the judges were unable to pick just one winner from the 27 applicants.
 
"We had so many qualified and talented people for the pop-up competition and we had some extra open spaces," says Jones, referring to DSCDO's Gordon Square real estate portfolio. "We were able to name basically three winners."
 
Trunk took the top prize of $1,000 cash and free rent for the holiday season at 6515 Detroit in a 750-square-foot shop.
 
"They're a high-end reseller of men's clothing," says Jones. "It's higher-end clothing without higher-end prices."
 
Two other vendors will receive business training and free rent for their holiday pop-up ventures. Heavy Metal Flea Market will purvey all things, well, heavy metal in a 1,400-square-foot space at 5403 Detroit and Midnight Movie Retail will offer up cool movie art, posters and memorabilia in the former 330-square-foot Guide to Kulchur location at 1386 West 65th Street.
 
"It's a cornucopia of pop-ups - it's a cornupopia," quips Jones.

Those imminently forthcoming pop-ups will join Collective Upcycle, 6602 Detroit. The 800-square-foot space opened earlier this month and will feature the work of 21 local makers through the holiday season.
 
Staff at DSCDO hopes some of the temporary retail spots become more permanent.
 
"The hope is they will enter into a lease agreement with us long term and commit to the neighborhood," says Adam Rosen, economic development director for DSCDO. "We want to set them up for success."
 
The pop-ups will be joined shortly by an array of white-hot new eateries including Arcadian Food & Drink, 6414 Detroit, and Astoria, 5417 Detroit, both of which are still under construction; and Banter, the forthcoming house of sausage, poutine and beer that is to open imminently at 7320 Detroit.
 
For those wondering when superelectric will finally open its doors at 6500 Detroit, the pinball emporium has hosted private events, but is still waiting on a final occupancy permit after some last minute changes. Across the street at Councilman Matt Zone's former offices, 6501 Detroit, something nutty is brewing, although everyone's mum on the topic except for the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, which will be asking voters next Tuesday:
 
Shall the sale of beer, wine and mixed beverages and spirituous liquor be permitted by Brewnuts, LLC, an applicant for a D-5j liquor permit, who is engaged in the business of establishing a Donut Bar with craft beer at 6501 Detroit Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44102 in this precinct?
 
Fresh Water invites readers to draw their own conclusions.
 
As it unfolds, Gordon Square visitors looking for shopping, noshing and then some can join any number of celebrations planned for the holidays, starting with Dia de Muertos/Day of the Dead this Saturday, Oct. 31 (free). Go for the art installations and music, stay for the parade. On Nov. 5, DSCDO will hold its 13th annual benefit, Shoreway on Stage, at the Near West Theatre (ticket prices vary) and on Nov. 7, SouperBowl CLE will benefit the West Side Catholic Center via a $25 dollar ticket that buys attendees a host of soups to taste and judge. Lastly on Dec. 12, the free Holidays in Gordon Square will feature carriage rides, the Cleveland Craft Bazaar at 78th Street Studios and more than 20 vendors inside the Gordon Square Arcade for a winter farmers market.
 
"We really see this as a neighborhood that’s on the brink of amazing things in terms of residential, retail and commercial," says Rosen of the impending Gordon Square proliferation.
 
"We want to create something that really inspires people to hang out in the neighborhood," adds Jones. "It's going to be a great winter."

St. Martin de Porres, Salvation Army to benefit from $20m in New Market Tax Credits

The proposed new St. Martin de Porres High School in the St. Clair neighborhood and the Salvation Army's $35 million capital campaign for greater Cleveland will each receive $10 million in Federal New Market Tax Credits, which are part of a $50 million award the Cleveland Development Advisors (CDA) are shepherding on behalf of the city. The award was announced in June.
 
"At any given time we might have a dozen projects on the list that are close to or getting ripe for investment," says CDA president Yvette Ittu. "Once we get allocation we start moving very quickly to try to move those projects to fruition."
 
The Salvation Army campaign includes a new family shelter downtown, new community centers in Collinwood and East Cleveland and the renovation of a community center in West Park. The new 65,000-square-foot St. Martin de Porres High School will be at the intersection of Norwood Road and St. Clair Avenue.
 
As for the remaining $30 million in tax credits to be allocated, Ittu said plans have not been formalized, but hinted that the awards will go to a handful of high profile projects that are ready to move. Per the United States Treasury, the group has up to three years to allocate the tax credits, but CDA does not act leisurely when placing allocations.
 
"Our awards are generally out the door in less than 12 months," says Ittu.
 
In the program, entities such as CDA court private investment for local projects, particularly in low-income areas. Investors are rewarded with federal tax credits.
 
"The tax credit is not applied to the actual project," explains Ittu. "What we're doing is providing a tax credit to an investor who is bringing the capital to the table. It could be a bank or corporation that has the need for a tax credit. Maybe they are willing to invest X amount of dollars into a project in return for the tax credit." Funds must be spent on a project before the investor can reap the tax credits, which may be taken over a seven-year period.
 
The nature of the program makes for strange bedfellows: Goldman Sachs, for instance, was a satellite investor in the Fairmont Creamery project courtesy of New Market Tax Credits.
 
CDA, which Ittu describes as a real estate financing organization affiliated with the Greater Cleveland Partnership, selects candidates based on recommendations from its Community Advisory Committee. The group focuses on areas of severe economic distress with unemployment rates more than 1.5 times the national average, poverty rates of 30 percent or more, or median incomes at or below 60 percent of the area median. Considerations also include timing of the project, its readiness for financing, its sustainability and its economic impact.
 
"A lot of what we do is looking to try to invest in projects that will stimulate additional development and also create jobs," says Ittu.
 
Specific goals include affordable housing, healthy food accessibility, public transit access and repurposing vacant structures. The group's success can be measured in their results. Including this year's $50 million award, the CDA has received $155 million in New Market Tax Credits since the program's inception in 2003. They have helped finance more than 30 projects including The 9, the Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry's Richard Sering Center, the Residences at 1717 and renovations at Saint Luke's Pointe.

Downtown Hilton tops off while management looks to RNC and beyond

Last month, local dignitaries as well as representatives from Hilton Worldwide and Turner Construction celebrated the completion of the framework of the top floor of the 32-floor hotel rising at 100 Lakeside Avenue with a "Topping Out" ceremony. The tradition reportedly dates back 1,000 years and is intended to appease resident deities (Fresh Water will defer to the New York Times for a detailed accounting of the tradition). Attendees signed a construction beam, which was then embellished with an American Flag and a small tree before being hoisted into place.
 
Construction traditions notwithstanding, per Hilton Cleveland Downtown's general manager Teri Agosta, the hotel is slated to open in June 2016.
 
"The bottom line is we are on time and we will be ready for the Republican National Convention (RNC)," she says of the July 2016 event. She credits the punctuality on the decision last year to enclose the first six floors of the building to shield the area from the weather and keep construction going.
 
"That allowed us to really ... get ahead of it," says Agosta, adding that crews focused on the enclosed area when weather shut down work on the higher floors. "There were days when the wind was so cold you couldn't pour concrete. You couldn't run the crane."
 
The lower six floors make up the "Podium," which houses a glass-enclosed indoor pool, full service restaurant, lobby, fitness center, lounge, and 46,000 square feet of meeting space, which ranges from the spacious 21,000-square-foot Superior Ballroom to a cozy boardroom space of 520 square feet.
 
So should northeast Ohioans be worried about the fate of the opulent structure once the GOP's elephants lumber out of town? After all, Cuyahoga County taxpayers are funding the $272 million project via a complex finance package.
 
The unusual public/private relationship is outlined in a formal 15-year agreement that was approved by the Cuyahoga County Council in April 2014. Per the agreement, the county will pay Hilton to manage the hotel on an increasing scale of $639,000 to $1,231,000 per year, and expects in return revenues of $8 million per year for the first three years (additional payments, conditions and incentives apply).
 
Agosta says Hilton is up to the challenge.
 
"We literally have a group checking in the day after the RNC and then another group coming in after that," says Agosta, adding that there is "strong interest" for the rest of 2016.
 
"When we were afforded the opportunity through the county to manage this project, we were excited about it," she says. "We knew it was going to be a market leader and a real game changer here in Cleveland."
 
Regarding its business ideology, Hilton has a stake in the project as well.
 
"It's important for Hilton to have distribution in major cities," says Agosta. "We consider Cleveland to be a major growing city and we wanted to have a strong presence here."
 
Of the buzz going on at the intersection of East 9th Street and Euclid, with the ongoing construction of the Kimpton Hotel and 300 rooms slated for the 925, Agosta says she welcomes the competition.
 
"We need the bandwidth for us to bring in these larger conventions, which we're capable of," she says. "We need more rooms. We welcome those hotels."
 
Thirty-seven of the Hilton's 600 units will be suites, four of which will be Rockefeller suites and the most luxurious in the hotel. They'll feature dining, sitting and sleeping areas amid 2,000 square feet. Additional themed suites are in the works.

Agosta estimates nightly rates for suites will range from $1,500 to $2,500 and $225 to $425 for standard rooms, adding that seasonal pricing will apply.
 
While Cleveland and her good citizens have fielded their fair share of derision, when asked about the most notable characteristic of the new Hilton, Agosta responds with comments that push that negativity even further into the past.
 
"No matter where you are in the building, you're going to have a great view. You'll see beautiful architecture from every angle of the hotel," she says, adding that Lake Erie figures prominently into the panorama.
 
"There are really just some magnificent views."

Saint Luke's Foundation funds rapid station upgrades, community programs

Earlier this month, the Saint Luke's Foundation announced nearly $1 million in grants that will directly impact the Buckeye, Mt. Pleasant and Woodland Hills neighborhoods. Founded in 1997, the Foundation has focused mostly on the health and wellness of community members. Three years ago, however, Saint Luke's expanded its mission to include the fostering of strong neighborhoods and resilient families.

"The health of any species is tied to its environment," says Nelson Beckford, Saint Luke's senior program officer for a strong neighborhood. He adds that neighborhoods are our most immediate and impactful environments. "What can we do to make to make our neighborhoods more walkable, more livable, and to create a sense of place?"

The Foundation has always endeavored to focus on the original footprint that Saint Luke's Hospital serviced. Hence the recent Strong Neighborhoods grants will include $300,000 for the enhancement of the East 116th Street Rapid station, which Beckford emphasizes as a vital component of the neighborhood that provides a means for people to get to work and school and to find employment.

"Public transportation is 'small d' democratic," says Beckford. "Folks in this community deserve a good station, a station that's more accessible, that’s bright." Since the East 116th Street station is adjacent to Saint Luke's Pointe, 11327 Shaker Boulevard, he also sees it as an important portal to the resources in that facility, which houses schools, senior living, a Boys' and Girls' Club, a library and the Foundation itself.

The station is slated for a major $6.3 million rebuild starting next year. The Foundation decided to complement that effort with the grant funds, which will support the design and implementation of public art and functional enhancements. Beckford envisions the East 116th Street station going through a transformation similar to that of the Little Italy-University Station, the rebuild of which was unveiled this summer.
 
"This plan is to enhance the station, make it more connected to the neighborhood, and also to create a better experience for riders," says Beckford. "We believe they deserve it and the neighborhood deserves a high-quality rapid station."
 
Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, Inc. (CNP), which is also located on the Saint Luke's Pointe campus, will be shepherding the Foundation's portion of the project.
 
"I can't say enough about their power and what they can do and their vision for greater Cleveland specifically," says Beckford of CNP and its staff.
 
Another $110,000 in grant funds will support the launch of ioby in the Buckeye neighborhood. The "in our back yard" movement fosters placemaking and public art as well as the enhancement of public spaces, transit, food access, public health and schools -- all from within.
 
"It combines digital organization and crowdfunding with straight-up grassroots organizing," says Beckford, adding that ioby approaches situations with the mindset that the community is the expert and that its members have the solutions to the challenges they face. "Often times, the best solution is the local solution."
 
The initial grant will fund research during which ioby representatives will "connect with local leaders, conduct one-on-ones and assess the landscape," says Beckford.
 
The Foundation also granted $167,000 to the Food Trust to determine strategies on how to increase access to affordable healthy foods across the greater Cleveland area; $150,000 to The Centers for Families and Children for operational support; $70,000 to the Murtis Taylor Human Services System to upgrade its communication infrastructure equipment; $60,000 to the adult education organization Seeds of Literacy to support the expansion of its facility in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood; and $65,000 to support a collaboration between Towards Employment Inc. and Beech Brook that aims to pair career pathway training with parenthood education and support for persons in the greater Cleveland area.
 
"We're very bullish about this neighborhood," says Beckford. "Part of our work is to remind people that there's a lot of really good work happening. Part of our role at the Foundation is to help support that and bring that to scale.
 
"So many people have an emotional connection to this place. We think it’s a special place."

High-end and ultra-green: the new face of Duck Island

Nestled between Scranton and Columbus Roads from the Cuyahoga River to Willey Avenue sits Duck Island, the name of which has been attributed to a hidden place in the middle of the city where ne'er-do-wells could "duck in" in order to evade attention. Origin notwithstanding, most Clevelander's will agree that Duck Island does not have the name recognition of neighboring Ohio City and Tremont.
 
That's about to change, but not with publicly funded projects. This story is about the private development of high-end ultra-green homes ranging from $300,000 to $400,000 (and up), all in humble Duck Island.
 
"We have 60 projects lined up," says Matt Berges of Berges Home Performance. They are mostly single-family houses and are rolling out on both sides of Abbey Avenue. Some are in the seed stage, with the ink still drying on purchase agreements. Others are nearing move-in dates as burly workers erect and renovate single-family homes amid the West 17th, 18th and 19th Street vicinity.
 
Berges' sixty parcels represent five years of acquisition.
 
"We got busy and persisted with any vacant, abandoned, foreclosed, landlord-owned properties," says Berges, adding that he did not pursue owner occupied homes. "The goal was to get landlords that didn't care so much out and fill the neighborhood with owners that do care."
 
The move came with no small amount of risk. Staunch resistance to development in the area drove a host of other developers to give up. Berges, however, had another reason to persevere. He lives smack dab in the middle of Duck Island with wife Colleen and the couple's three children.
 
"Initially I was just focused on my street, trying to make it so my kids could walk to the park," says Berges, who lives on West 18th Street. His commitment is also evidenced by the home he's building next to his own for his mother- and father-in-law. He and his family have been in Duck Island for six years.
 
"It's fun now to actually see a couple of houses going up," says Berges. "We'll be breaking ground on three or four more on 19th this year."
 
All of his projects are custom and extremely green. Sizes vary by project, but a home he is constructing on West 19th is 3,100 square feet (not including the basement) and has a connected 1,000-square-foot apartment.
 
Berges portfolio also includes the prominent Butler Nissan home in Ambler Heights. That project provided so much exposure, the houses he's building now are all pre-sold to customers who sought him out.
 
"I was looking for those sorts of customers," he says of the Ambler Heights home admirers. "Now they're looking for me because they've heard of what I'm doing."
 
Berges's homes include features such as superior air tightness, energy recovery ventilation systems that pre-treat incoming ventilation air, attention to southern exposure and rigid foam insulation on the outside of walls in addition to the interior insulation.
 
"It's basically like putting a winter jacket over the entire shell," says Berges.
 
The whole package adds up to nearly zero -- zero energy load, that is, which means a structure produces almost as much energy as it consumes.
 
Berges' largest project will unfurl at the corner of West 19th Street and Abbey Avenue, where he's clearing 1.7 acres of land that previously housed what he calls "hard to manage" and troubled rental properties that were beleaguered by crime and vandalism.
 
"We worked to clear these properties out," says Berges. "They weren't worth saving."
 
Plans for the centrally-located plot, however, are in the works. He's floating single-family homes, mixed-use, townhouses and apartments.
 
"The density this could handle is not what a lot of the neighbors would want," says Berges. "Politically, you have to have the neighborhood's support to do anything."
 
With urban planners pushing for denser populations and neighbors lobbying against it, what's a developer to do?
 
"There's a balance to be met," says Berges, adding of the large plot at Abbey and West 19th, "It'll be something a little bit more modest than what really should be done with this block."
 
To help achieve that balance with all of his efforts in Duck Island, Berges formed the Duck Island Development Collaborative. Members include his own Berges Home Performance, Tremont West Development Corporation, Maker, Sam McNulty, Knez Homes, Environmental Health Watch, Forest City Brewery and Howard Hanna.  
 
Berges estimates there are between 300 and 600 units slated for Duck Island clustered in projects of various sizes and in various stages. Other developers and property owners include Blossom Homes, Brickhaus Partners and the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority.
 
Even so, the resistance to development persists. Berges has faced protestations ranging from heated words to the unacceptable.
 
"I've had some pretty serious threats," he says, adding that amid the opposition, owner/occupants have approached him about possible future sales.

In the meantime, he's rolling with the punches in order to realize the definitive vision he has for Duck Island.
 
"When in the history of a Cleveland neighborhood do you have a chance to do redevelopment at this level?" he poses, noting his passion for energy efficient homes. "We could make this the most efficient neighborhood in the country."
 
To that lofty goal, add Duck Island's central and well-connected location, spectacular views of the city, a new span of the Lake Link Trail and diamonds such as the Velvet Tango Room. All of a sudden, tiny Duck Island inflates with possibility.
 
"We're perfectly situated for an amazing explosion," says Berges.

Authentic Neapolitan pizza coming soon to Waterloo for all citizens

To anyone still lamenting the shuttering of Vytauras Sasnauskas's Americano in Bratenahl and the end of his weekly pizza café, a new day will soon dawn for handcrafted pizza here on the North Coast. Sasnauskas has partnered with Paulius Nasvytis of the legendary Velvet Tango Room and food writer Claudia Young to deliver unto us Citizen Pie, 15710 Waterloo Road, which is scheduled to open later this month.
 
The star of the menu will of course be Sasnauskas's Neapolitan pie, which will be baked in an Italian Stefano Ferrara oven.
 
"It is a beautiful thing," says Young of the imported wood-fired oven. "It's like a living breathing animal." And its use requires a certain finesse. To wit, the slow curing process of bringing the oven up to its 900 degree Fahrenheit operating temperature started last week.
 
"This is the pizza of Naples," says Young. "For us, it's the only kind of pizza we want to eat, the only kind of pizza we want to do."
 
The rest of the menu is still tentative, but will include calzones, specials, beer, wine, Tartufo (an Italian ice cream desert) and ricotta cheesecake, the recipe for which Young has been laboring over for months.
 
While hours for Citizen Pie have not yet been set, Young says the shop will be open for lunch and dinner. The space seats 22 amid a window counter, community table and pizza bar. Including the kitchen, it's just a scant 875 square feet.
 
"The place is freaking tiny," says Young, adding the Citizen Pie will employ three, including chef Sasnauskas. Scalish Construction is the contractor on the project.
 
The components of the new pizzeria have been a long time in the making. Young and Nasvytis, a couple, have been friends with Sasnauskas and his wife for years. Both Nasvytis and Sasnauskas are Lithuanian. Lastly, Nasvytis grew up in Collinwood.
 
"We love that neighborhood," says Young. "We have put in that beautiful oven, which is definitely making a commitment in Waterloo."
 
The project was kindled in earnest earlier this year when Young had a conversation with area restaurateur Alan Glazen, who suggested the venture.
 
"I looked at Paulius and said, 'Do you want to open up a pizza shop with Vytauras in Waterloo?'" recalls Young, "And he said, 'Sure. Why not?' and we just did."
 
So began the fire, fueled by a passion for exceptional food.
 
"What we're bringing is a vey high-end product. We care insanely about every ingredient," says Young, "We take it so seriously, but in the same breath: it's pizza. Pizza is flour, water, salt, a tiny bit of starter or yeast (we use starter), sauce, mozzarella and toppings."

"We're not topping pizzas with anything so high-end that it's inaccessible to people in the neighborhood. It's pizza for the people," she says, noting that Citizen Pie's iconic logo evokes solidarity. To that end, Young has filled the interior with images of people she considers to be revolutionary. Try: Gandhi, Hitchcock, Jesus, the Beatles, Picasso and Steve Jobs.
 
"A lot of thought and consideration has gone into the whole vibe and the whole feeling," says Young—and a whole lot of mutual respect.
 
"Vytauras is like a food savant," she says. "I would never have done anything like this unless I thought we could do it at highest level imaginable and that's what we got when we partnered with Vytauras.
 
"He has no ego. It's not about any of that," says Young. "He's just all about the food."

Millions in upgrades planned for historic Euclid WWII bomber plant, former GM Fisher Auto Body

Last week, HGR Industrial Surplus invited the community to celebrate the christening of its sprawling 12-acre building as the Nickel Plate Station. The company also unveiled a display showcasing the fascinating history of the property and kicked off a $10 to $12 million campaign to improve the facility.
 
HGR, purveyors of used and surplus equipment, purchased the property last year in a collaborative effort with the city and the Cuyahoga Land Bank (CLB) after it had been orphaned by its owner.
 
"One day the landlord just got up and left," recalls Euclid Mayor Bill Cervenik.
 
HGR, a tenant since 1998, wanted to stay in the 20001 Euclid Avenue building. Per CLB director of acquisitions, dispositions and development, Cheryl Stephens, the property was in foreclosure and had more than $1 million in outstanding back taxes and some other liens. 
 
"It would have taken more than a year for this company to get access to this property," says Stephens. "What we did on behalf of the city of Euclid was cut through the time, energy and money of having to pay back taxes. We wiped the slate clean. We cleaned up the title issues and sold the property to HGR."
 
That was in 2014. HGR, which employs 120, has since upgraded the fire system and driveway. While future plans are still unfurling, they will include renovations to the façade, lighting and parking lot. The company also intends to improve and lease two large spaces, 160,000 and 50,000 square feet respectively.
 
Within the next few weeks, HGR will also install a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) resource center in its customer lounge. The display will feature literature from area colleges and technical programs, books, magazines and periodicals. The effort is a partnership between HGR, the Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network (MAGNET) and Ingenuity Cleveland.
 
"They're helping to put the 'A' in STEAM," says Matt Williams, HGR's chief marketing officer, regarding Ingenuity's involvement. "You hear a lot about STEM, but the arts are so important."
 
With its massive stock of vintage machinery and a factory structure essentially unchanged since its 1943 opening, Williams also sees HGR as a place where middle and high school students can deconstruct manufacturing historically and literally.
 
"If you think about it, our facility is really an archeological site. All the different facets of manufacturing are represented when you look at the equipment," says Williams. "We want to be able to take young people through and give them a glimpse of what manufacturing is," he adds, citing the components of design, engineering, building, installation, operation and maintenance.
 
Most Clevelanders associate the giant Euclid Avenue structure with GM's Euclid Fisher Body Plant. Among other things, bodies for iconic cars such as the El Camino, Toronado, Riviera and Cadillac Eldorado were manufactured here from 1948 to 1993, but the site's history goes back to the late 1800s. What was once farmland became the subject of a long and contentious legal battle over zoning that ended up before the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS).
 
On November 22, 1926, the SCOTUS ruled on Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co., in favor of the Village. The landmark case made headlines across the country as a definitive decision that enabled fledgling zoning laws. In 1942, however, Uncle Sam had a different vision for the 65-acre plot and usurped control of the site, announcing plans for a $20 million war plant despite protestations from residents and village officials.
 
Cleveland Pneumatic Aerol leased the plant, manufacturing landing gear and rocket shells for about two years until Victory over Japan Day marked the end of the War on September 2, 1945.
 
20001 Euclid Avenue essentially lay fallow until General Motors purchased it in 1947.
 
The new name is a nod to the Nickel Plate Road (also known as the New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad). Built in 1881, the rail sliced through the Village of Euclid just to the north of the property. The building still connects to the famous rail line via a short spur that ends in an interior loading bay -- just as it did on the day this former WWII bomber plant opened more than seven decades ago. 
 
"Everything we do is about recycling, upcycling and reclaiming," says Williams. "We're reclaiming a building that would otherwise might have been knocked down and turned into a parking lot."
 
HGR stands for Hit the Ground Running and was inspired by Van Halen's 1981 rock anthem, "Unchained."

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."
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