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landmark detroit shoreway building saved from wrecking ball by out-of-town investor

Captain Jeff Sanders has spent the past few decades training ship captains. He operates a training school in Seattle, where he lives full time. Yet the Cleveland native has always wanted a place to stay when he comes back to Cleveland, which he does frequently to visit his 95-year-old mother in a nursing home. 

Recently, Sanders completed renovations on a historic four-unit property that seemed destined for the wrecking ball until Detroit Shoreway Community Development Corporation (DSCDO) steered it into the hands of the right owner.

The Trenton sits at 7418 Franklin Boulevard (at the corner of W. 75th Street). The unique property features Italianate architectural details, a two-story front porch and an interior courtyard that lets additional light into the apartments.

Sanders, who converted the home into a three-unit, just received a community improvement award from DSCDO for his efforts. The project received special financing from the Cleveland Restoration Society's Heritage Home Program.

The renovation was a gut job. Sanders tore off the vinyl siding and restored the exterior with a handsome olive and red color scheme, redesigned the interior and installed all new mechanicals. The property includes many sustainable features.

Sanders combined two units into a townhouse-style apartment. "We blew out the dining room and created a cool interior staircase," he says. "We retained the old fireplaces."

One surprise was the floors. Initially, Sanders did not believe the old, three-inch pine floors were salvageable, but once sanded down, they refinished quite nicely.

Sanders plans to rent out two of the units -- including the 2,000-square-foot townhome for $1,400 per month -- while keeping one apartment for himself.

Source: Jeff Sanders
Writer: Lee Chilcote

landmark fifth church likely to be razed to make way for shoppes on clifton project

Fifth Church of Christ Scientist, built in 1927 at W. 117th and Clifton, has sat vacant for over two decades with little in the way of maintenance or repairs. In that time, it has suffered from major structural deterioration that would cost millions to fix.

Giant Eagle donated the property to the City of Cleveland in 2002, but it was in severe disrepair even then. The city has been unable to find any developers willing or able to repurpose it. The building is landlocked and has no available parking.

Although a neighborhood group has formed in the hopes of saving it, Anitz Brindza of Cudell Improvement Inc., which has tried for years to find a buyer or tenant for the historic site, says it is likely a fait accomplis that the building will come down.

"A lot of people that [organizer] Jeon Francis of Save Fifth Church has whipped into a frenzy are under the impression that the church is in a salvageable condition," says Brindza. "It is not. It is so deteriorated from neglect and abuse that a $10 million price tag would probably only scratch the surface. The dome is supported by steel infrastructure that really could come down at any time."

Francis disagrees. "Preserving the building truly could be a fantastic catalyst for the economic and social revitalization of this neighborhood. We want to work with the councilperson and the CDC to champion repurposing of this historic building."

The Save Fifth Church group has initiated a petition drive to collect signatures in support of the church's preservation, is pressuring Councilman Jay Westbrook to support saving the church, and is trying to help find a donor, buyer or developer.

The City of Cleveland has not formally stated its intention to pursue demolition of the building, and Westbrook did not return a call seeking comment for this story.

Brindza says that after years of delays, the Shoppes on Clifton project at W. 117th and Clifton adjacent to the church could move forward soon. The developer, The Carnegie Companies, is in active negotiations with a major anchor tenant.

Although the developer is not at liberty to name that prospective tenant, Brindza says that the neighborhood has always expressed a desire for a grocery store at this spot, and Carnegie has pursued major grocery tenants.

Any future development plans would be presented to the community before being submitted for city approvals. Brindza hopes for a pedestrian-friendly project.

"This is one of the most highly-coveted corners in Cleveland," Brindza says. "It has tremendous traffic counts. But the beauty of it is that it's a pedestrian area too. Whatever is designed needs to be an urban center to serve both pedestrians and commuters."

Major architectural elements of Fifth Church could be repurposed into the retail project or made into public art in other areas of the community.

Source: Anita Brindza, Jeon Francis
Writer: Lee Chilcote

club centrum brings weekend dance club to historic coventry village theatre

An entertainment industry veteran who watched the rise and fall of the Flats has opened a nightclub inside the historic Centrum Theatre in Coventry Village. He believes it can add to entertainment options in the community and help bring the venue back to life.

Mike Mercer, who ran Club Coconuts and Howl at the Moon on the West Bank, among other properties, recently opened Club Centrum inside the theatre. The property is owned by TRK LLC, a development company based in Columbus. The owners have put $3.5 million into the property since they purchased it in 2007.

"Thursday is 18 and over college ID night, and that has been tremendously successful with Case, John Carroll and Notre Dame students," says Mercer, who opened the venue in mid-February. "We're making use of the 50 by 50 theatre screen and bringing that back to life. We put in a brand-new DJ booth and probably have $100,000 in light and sound -- it's pretty spectacular."

The video dance club is open Thursday to Saturday from 9 p.m. until 2 a.m. There is a large dance floor and raised areas for the exhibitionists. The screen offers an added element of fun (think dancing in front of a 50-foot Diana Ross).

"I'm happy to be coming home to an area like Coventry Village, where there's so much fun to be had," says Mercer, a Cleveland Heights native. "We saw this as a missing element that would help to take the area to another level."

The property previously housed a Johnny Malloy's that closed after several years. Fracas, a white-tablecloth restaurant, attempted to make a go of it but closed after six months.

Mercer claims that he will avoid the pitfalls that beset so many other clubs by maintaining a strict attitude towards security and a proactive stance with the Cleveland Heights police. "I meet with the chief's office every single week."

The developers have also brought back to life the Centrum Theatre marquee, investing $10,000 -- $5,000 in light bulbs alone -- in its restoration.

Source: Mike Mercer
Writer: Lee Chilcote

community development leader says city's population can be stabilized, all neighborhoods can succeed

During a recent address at the City Club of Cleveland, Joel Ratner of Neighborhood Progress Inc. touted recent success stories that the nonprofit has invested in, including a new home for The Intergenerational School underway at the Saint Luke's campus.

Ratner believes that even though Cleveland has been hard hit by the foreclosure crisis, the city can stabilize its population and begin to grow again through promoting thoughtful, equitable, synergistic development that helps everyone succeed.

"For a long time, there was a debate over whether it makes sense to invest in people or place," said Ratner. "However, we believe it should be people and place."

Ratner cited Pittsburgh as an example of a city whose population has been right-sized and has even begun to grow again in recent years.

As examples of why community development matters, Ratner presented statistics showing that neighborhoods where NPI invested heavily over the past decade not only fell less steeply in the recession, but are also coming back more quickly than others. He also believes that every Cleveland neighborhood can be successful.

Ratner touted the recently-announced Slavic Village Reclaim Project, which leverages private investment by Safeco Properties and Forest City to help rehab 2,000+ properties on 440 acres, as one example of innovative best practices.

He also cited NPI's partnership with the Key Bank Financial Education Center to help low-income residents build wealth through savings and investment programs. Through a possible merger with Cleveland Neighborhood Development Coalition and LiveCleveland, Ratner hopes to begin serving additional neighborhoods.

Source: Joel Ratner
Writer: Lee Chilcote

duohome boutique set to move from gordon square to cleveland heights

"I don't know exactly how long gentrification is supposed to take, but after five years I now clearly understand it's a much longer process than I thought it was. It's just not happening fast enough for us."

That's Tim Kempf, co-owner of the design and home furnishings boutique duoHome, on the recent decision to uproot his homegrown business from the ever-evolving Gordon Square Arts District to a new home at Fairmount and Taylor in Cleveland Heights.

Kempf and partner Scott Suscowicz were lured by the appeal of a "dedicated design district" alongside Paul Hamlin Interiors, Paysage and others in the quaint district known as The Shoppes of Fairmount. Less than stellar sales prompted a citywide search.

"The particular retail term is gravity," says Kempf. "Our district has marketed itself as an arts and entertainment district. The councilman and CDC have worked hard to attract new businesses. There just isn't enough retail gravity there yet."

Although Gordon Square has made amazing strides in the past five years, Kempf says the area needs more like-minded retailers to be viable for design businesses.

Asked if there are lessons to be learned, he elaborates, "I don't think you'd ever say to your wife, 'Hey honey, let's go get a drink and dinner, then look at home furnishings, then go to the ballet.' People don't buy a sofa every other week."

In other words, destination retailers like duoHome fare best when located next to complementary stores. "It's a whole lifestyle block," he says of Taylor-Fairmount.

The decision wasn't made lightly or easily. Kempf received recruitment calls from nearly every corner of the city once word was out. "We looked at all different neighborhoods in Cleveland, east and west. Even the 'burbs, God forbid."

Kempf has mixed feelings about leaving Detroit Shoreway because he loves the area. "It's sort of like when you're a child and have to go to a new school," he says. "Scott and I walk into Gypsy and they know what we want so they just make it."

Although Gordon Square is now losing duoHome, it is also celebrating the success of other soon-to-open, new retailers, including Yellowcake and Honeycomb Salon.

Nick Fedor, Economic Development Director for the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization, stated in an email, "DSCDO wishes duoHOME the best of luck at their new location and thanks them for their contributions to the Gordon Square Arts District over the past five plus years.  We are proud that Gordon Square served as an incubator to launch their business, and others as well."

He added, "We have a number of interested potential tenants for the space and look forward to making an announcement when a lease agreement has been reached."

duoHome will continue to emphasize well-priced home decor and home furnishings with an eye toward midcentury design. The duo behind duoHome also plan to ramp up interior design services, a growing part of their repertoire.

duoHome's new, 1,200 foot store at 3479 Fairmount Boulevard will open April 1st. "April Fool's Day," says Kempf with a laugh. "We hope that it's a good day for us."

Source: Tim Kempf
Writer: Lee Chilcote

near west partners kick off planning process to reimagine lorain avenue

This week, Ohio City Incorporated and Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization launched an unprecedented joint process to develop a streetscape plan for long-suffering Lorain Avenue.

The street, which runs through the heart of Cleveland's west side, was historically a bustling neighborhood retail corridor. Although it fell on hard times beginning in the 70s, it has recently drawn investment by entrepreneurs like Ian P.E. of Palookaville Chili and David Ellison of D.H. Ellison Architects.

The street's classic, character-filled architecture as well as investment by major players like St. Ignatius High School and Urban Community School have made it an attractive breeding ground for up-and-coming members of the creative class.

If this week's public meeting was any indication, neighborhood residents, businesses and stakeholders will have plenty of passionate opinions about the future of this main street. They won't hold back in sharing them, either.

A capacity crowd that showed up to the meeting at Urban Community School voiced concerns about on-street parking, bike lanes, retaining the mixed-use character of the street and ensuring that low-income residents are engaged.

Behnke Associates and Michael Baker Jr. Inc. have been hired to help develop a plan that will include "traffic analysis, utility and signage recommendations as well as cycling analysis, green infrastructure and complete streetscape treatments," according to a handout provided by OCI, DSCDO and the City of Cleveland.

Early signs indicate that the plan will be quite different from those developed for Detroit Avenue and West 25th Street. For one thing, Lorain Avenue is narrower than those streets, which will make it tougher to widen sidewalks and create dedicated bike lanes. Secondly, the street's tenants range from antique shops to manufacturing businesses, making it a distinct challenge to serve all of them.

Nonetheless, representatives of the city and both CDC's pledged to create an inclusive plan that could serve as a model for "complete and green streets" that incorporate all modes of transportation and minimize environmental impacts.

Want to voice your vision for Lorain? A survey will be available beginning March 11th on the OCI and DSCDO websites, and a workshop is scheduled for May 28th.

Source: OCI, DSCDO, City of Cleveland
Writer: Lee Chilcote

entrepreneur builds fish hatchery in tyler village, sells fresh catch to locals

Former high school biology teacher Mark Lyons quit his job to open a 5,000 square foot urban fish hatchery in Tyler Village in St. Clair Superior. Now the founder wants to teach the neighborhood -- indeed, the whole city -- how to fish, as well.

Cleveland Urban Aquaculture launched six months ago and is now selling 2,000 fish per month to Asian markets and restaurants. Market patrons can order tilapia from the tank where they're swimming and have them filleted by hand, knowing they're raised just blocks away. Now Lyons plans to expand to the West Side Market and start selling whole systems.

"Most fish come from outside the region, and Lake Erie has suffered from historic overfishing as well as contamination," says Lyons. "Most tilapia you buy at grocery stores or the West Side Market come from Ecuador, Vietnam, Thailand or China."

Lyons, who bought a used aquaculture system a year ago and was raising fish in his backyard in Maple Heights, knew there was a better way. With winter coming, he had to find an indoor location for 10,000-15,000 African tilapia -- and fast.

"The folks at Tyler Village were really willing to work with me on my timeline," he says. "Most brokers wouldn't take my call when they found out I only wanted 5,000-8,000 square feet. Some were concerned about the volume of water."

Yet with the rise of the local foods movement and few purveyors of locally-raised fish in Cleveland, Lyons knew that the time was right to launch his new business.

Cleveland Urban Aquaculture has five PVC-coated steel tanks inside of its Tyler Village warehouse. Each of them are 20 feet long by seven feet wide and four feet deep. Lyons also has a filtration system and several pools for moving water around. He breeds his fish in a 24-hour hatchery in his basement.

The aquaculture system, which Lyons was fortunate to purchase second-hand, cost him about $50,000. That's roughly half of the cost of a new one, he boasts.

It takes about eight months to grow tilapia until they are 1.5 pounds, a marketable size. Lyons will soon ramp up his capacity and begin selling 5,000 fish per month.

Future plans include adding an aquaponics system (growing veggies using LED lights and the nutrients from water filled with fish, believe it or not) and training others to raise fish. His goal is to create a stronger market for locally-raised fish.

"You can buy them at the Asian markets for $4.99 a pound," says Lyons. "They pull them out, dispatch them, gut them, clean them and scale them -- whatever you want them to do. They're fresher, they taste better and you can see the fish."

Source: Mark Lyons
Writer: Lee Chilcote

green-street projects could further cement west side's reputation as bike-friendly

As the number of cyclists and pedestrians on the near west side grows and car traffic remains relatively flat, urban planners are giving several streets a "road diet" to make them friendlier for bikers and walkers while still accessible to drivers.

The result will be some of the city's first model green streets.

"We're starting to create all this connectivity," says Ward 15 Councilman Matt Zone, who has helped push green initiatives through city hall, including the "complete and green streets" legislation that passed last year. "The city is realizing they have to accept and build out and incorporate all modes of transportation."

So what does a "road diet" look like? The recently-completed plan for W. 65th Street between Denison Avenue and the lakefront shows curb bumpouts with additional landscaping, striped sharrows for road riders, and a 10-foot-wide multimodal path for peds and cyclists who prefer not to ride in the street.

If the pretty pictures become a reality -- a process that will take several years and require an application to the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency for millions in federal dollars -- it could result in a "healthier" street that better connects the investments happening in near west side neighborhoods.

"This is the main north-south thoroughfare between West Boulevard and W. 25th," says Zone. "We can build off the momentum we've created here. You'll eventually be able to bike from Edgewater Beach to the zoo via W. 65th."

Among the assets in the area, Zone cited the Gordon Square Arts District, the new Max Hayes High School scheduled to break ground this year, the EcoVillage, major employers and eight schools. The W. 65th project will cost about $6 million.

Most importantly, Zone says, streetscape projects like the W. 65th Street re-do make roads safer for kids who walk to school and families without access to a car.

Other green-street projects on the near west side include bike lanes on Detroit Avenue (which will be striped this spring), the planned Train Avenue corridor greenway, the creation of bike lanes on W. 41st and 44th streets in Ohio City (to be completed this year), a new streetscape for Denison Avenue (a few years away) and a planning process for Lorain Avenue (launching this month).

The West 65th Street corridor study was completed by Environmental Design Group, which has offices in both Cleveland and Akron.

Source: Matt Zone
Writer: Lee Chilcote

ohio city developer launches several new projects, including long-stalled jay hotel

The Ohio City developer who successfully turned around the long-struggling block of buildings on W. 25th Street north of Bridge Avenue is turning his attention to two big new real estate projects.

Tom Gillespie, who also owns Gillespie Environmental Technologies, is starting work this month on turning the gutted former Jay Hotel into market-rate apartments. He also recently purchased the shuttered building at 2030 W. 25th Street south of Lorain Avenue that once housed Club Argos.

The Jay Hotel, which was slated to be turned into condos by developer Gordon Priemer before the recession took him out of the game, will benefit from state and federal historic tax credits, funding from the City of Cleveland's vacant properties initiative, and a loan from nonprofit lender Village Capital Corporation. Gillespie says it will house eight apartments and 6,000 square feet of commercial space.

"I want to see it done by the end of 2014," he says. "We bought the mortgage three or four years ago, and it went through foreclosure. It took a long time. The weather started to affect the building, so we also had to do some stabilization."

Suffice it to say that the building will be in tip-top shape by the time renters move in sometime next year. The total leveraged investment will be about $2.6 million.

Gillespie also recently finished renovating the old Near West Woodworks building on W. 25th and Jay into three commercial spaces. The once-blockaded front of the building has been opened up with welcoming storefront windows. Elegansia moved there last year, and a high-end salon will move in later this year.

The bullish developer says he plans to restore 2030 W. 25th using Cleveland's Storefront Renovation Program. He's trying to attract another high-quality food retailer -- possibly a donut shop -- or "anyone who's a good fit." Gillespie promises "something that's market-driven" and fits in with the street's redevelopment.

The developments will fill some of the few remaining empty spaces on the West 25th checkerboard, which now has an occupancy rate of nearly 100 percent.

Source: Tom Gillespie
Writer: Lee Chilcote

gordon square residential developer taps into less-is-more movement

When we last checked in with real estate developer Howard Grandon, he was kicking off renovations of a 9,000-square-foot Detroit Shoreway building into four apartments and five retail spaces. The structure, which had housed an illicit nightclub called "Cheerios," sat vacant for seven-plus years before he bought it.

That was then, this is now. Although it's taken him longer than he anticipated, two and a half years later the results are plain. Grandon's building offers some of the most creatively-designed small apartments in Cleveland, a trend that's catching on in major cities.

"Because we were working with green, repurposed materials, we had to fabricate everything. It was more expensive than we anticipated," he says. "That happens in real estate."

It was worth the wait. Grandon himself moved into the building, occupying one of the light-filled apartments overlooking the Gordon Square streetscape. His suite includes a clever nook for his bed, spacious walk-in closet, huge kitchen with a countertop built for entertaining, and exposed spiral ductwork that hugs the ceiling. He has a bathroom straight out of Dwell magazine, including a European-style toilet with hidden plumbing and a glass-walled shower with subway tile.

The apartments, which are all similarly designed, rent for about $850 per month. The rates are about 25 percent cheaper than downtown, and two of the four are occupied. Grandon has completed a third, and the fourth will be ready this year.

Grandon's project also features many green, sustainable features. The wood floors in the units are built from an old parquet floor reclaimed from a gym. Come spring, he'll create unique planters out of old chemistry lab sinks he bought on Lorain Ave.

Grandon says that he's tapping into a small-is-beautiful movement that's popular in our post-recession world. "People are interested in having less possessions and living more efficiently," he says, pointing to huge kitchen counters that make dining room tables redundant and murphy beds that drop from the walls.

Perhaps the most radical feature of Grandon's units is that there are no walls except for the closets and bathrooms. It makes 800 square feet feel entirely liveable.

Grandon's next step is to begin renovating the storefronts. To do that, however, he needs to find willing entrepreneurs who are also bankable. Stay tuned for the next installment in our series covering this creative entrepreneur's endeavors.

Source: Howard Grandon
Writer: Lee Chilcote

new west park club paddyrock presents live music in concert setting

Two Cleveland families with deep Irish roots have teamed up to open an Irish bar and concert venue in Kamm's Corners. They say that Paddyrock Superpub will live up to its name, offering a range of live music, live sporting events on big-screen TVs and a full menu.

"What we're doing is original for a neighborhood bar on the west side, because there are no other concert-type venues like this one," says Sheila Sheehan, who opened Paddyrock with her husband Jimmy and West Park native Danny Riley and his family. "We love Irish music. We're excited to showcase the music."

But it won't just be Irish music, says Sheehan, who describes the style of bands as "just fun." They include country, lounge, and, soon, polka. Paddyrock is a large venue with two levels, including a sizeable bar area and a stage for live music.

Other amenities include a 15-foot high-definition superscreen for games, and an upper level with pool tables, dart boards and a balcony overlooking the stage.

Sheehan, who has owned two other West Park bars and lived in the neighborhood for over two decades before recently moving to North Ridgeville, says there's no interesting story behind the location. "They offered it to me and I said yes," she says of the former Stir Niteclub space.

Yet she lights up when talking about the Wolf Tones, an Irish band that is stopping by on Sunday night as part of their American tour. "They're legendary," says Sheehan excitedly. "We've been getting great crowds for the music."

Sheehan is also excited about the direction West Park is taking. "When I first moved here forever ago, the community businesses were good but they were closing up," she says. "Recently, it's become more of an entertainment district."

"This is one of the last communities where families really know each other," she continues. "It's all non-corporate businesses, actual mom-and-pops. There are deep community roots here, and we all stick together and help each other out."

If you stop by, there's a good chance you'll bump into a member of the Riley or Sheehan family -- many of them work here. It's a West Park tradition, after all.

Paddyrock Superpub is located at 16700 Lorain Avenue.

Source: Sheila Sheehan
Writer: Lee Chilcote

fairmont creamery developers aim to bridge gap between tremont and ohio city

The trio of Oberlin developers written up in the New York Times for the perseverance and creativity behind their successful East College Street project have selected the long-vacant Fairmont Creamery in Tremont as the site of their next real estate deal.

Sustainable Community Associates
, which marries for-profit development with a community development philosophy, aims to bridge the gap between Tremont and Ohio City by filling it with an interesting, sustainably-built apartment, retail and office project.

"People want to live here, to be close to downtown and the West Side Market," says Josh Rosen, a principal of SCA with Naomi Sabel and Ben Ezinga. "There's an opportunity because of the work other groups have done to get to this point."

"Tremont and Ohio City are thriving neighborhoods, and the creamery sits at the intersection," adds Sabel. "This is the logical flow for the two neighborhoods to meet."

The developers hope to use a combination of equity, conventional financing, state and federal historic tax credits, New Markets Tax Credits and other incentives to redevelop the 1930s brick building into dozens of new apartments. They're also hoping to add office space for entrepreneurs, a full-size gym and rooftop deck. The building, perched on the edge of the industrial Flats, has downtown views.

SCA currently has a two-year option on the 100,000-square-foot property at 1720 Willey Avenue. It is empty but for a nickel-plating business operated in the basement by 75-year-old owner Donald Dickson, who is eager to sell.

The developers aim to start construction by November and finish by late 2014. They hope to lease units as they renovate the building, meaning that the first tenants could move into the property as soon as next year if all goes well.

Although some might view the property as isolated and disconnected from the bustling heart of Tremont and Ohio City, these developers have a different vision. They see a well-kept, underutilized neighborhood that could be so much more.

"When we developed the East College Street project, they said people wouldn't walk that far," says Rosen, whose fully-leased project in downtown Oberlin includes a coffee shop, ice cream shop and other retailers. "Yet once you add bike paths and other amenities, people get an expanded sense of where to go."

This is perhaps the most ambitious aspect of SCA's $13 million project -- beyond the long-vacant building. The developers understand the need to not simply redevelop a building, but leverage that investment for the neighborhood.

"If you can successfully put together financing, what you end up seeing is a project that not only changes the built environment but also the local economy," says Rosen. "We want to use the project to help entrepreneurs open businesses."

"Cleveland doesn't just need more development, but the right kind of development," Rosen adds. "We hope to be able to bring that about."

Source: Ben Ezinga, Josh Rosen, Naomi Sabel
Writer: Lee Chilcote

design firm relocates offices from burbs to st. clair superior's tyler village

Rene Polin founded his design consulting firm, Balance Inc., in Chagrin Falls. Yet as he grew, he felt cut off from creative opportunities in Cleveland. In October, he moved his eight-person, nine-year-old firm to 5,500 square feet of open, custom-built office space in the Tyler Village complex in St. Clair Superior.

"Tyler was the most interesting space we found," he says. "It had great character, an incredibly open floor plan and high ceilings. There was the opportunity to build the space exactly our way as well as to build a physical workshop for prototyping."

"Our offices in Chagrin Falls were a little formal, and we're really pretty informal," he adds. "This space is great because it allows us to run around a little more freely."

Polin has also enjoyed the opportunity to get to know his neighbors at Tyler Village, a place he describes as having the amenities of an industrial park, but "so much cooler." It's also a perk that food trucks regularly show up at chow time.

"The Tyler folks are genuinely interested in bringing forward-thinking companies into the space," he says. "They reach out to companies that are bringing something new. There's a certain vibe and energy you can’t find a lot of other places."

Balance Inc. is one of those forward-thinking companies. Polin, an East Cleveland native, majored in Industrial Design at the Cleveland Institute of Art. Balance works on products like Dirt Devil vacuum cleaners and Ninja kitchen gear.

When the work gets boring -- which we imagine rarely happens -- employees can now find inspiration simply in staring out the window. "We have a straight shot to the north, so we get some pretty incredible sky views. It's a pretty good vista."

Source: Rene Polin
Writer: Lee Chilcote

thai elephant adds to growing foodie scene in kamm's corners

Within the past five years, the Kamm's Corners commercial district at Lorain Avenue and Rocky River Drive has transformed itself. This once-faded stretch of Irish bars and half-empty storefronts has become a diverse foodie destination, where you can as easily order a gourmet burrito as a pint o' Guinness.

The presence of restaurants like the recently opened Thai Elephant have created a buzzed-about cuisine scene that's a far cry from the West Park of recent memory.

"It's really an exciting time to be a part of the Kamm's Corners commercial area," says Cindy Janis, Commercial Development Manager with Kamm's Corners Development Corporation. "I get calls quite frequently from businesses looking for new space in the area."

Thai Elephant, which opened in January, is the latest addition. Sirima Krabnoic, the Thailand native who also owns Thai Chili restaurant in Avon Lake, renovated a long-empty former Chinese restaurant at 16610 Lorain into a comfortable, colorful eatery with beautiful hand-woven Thai tapestries on the walls.

"We wanted to expand our business, and we thought that Kamm's Corners was not a bad area for a second location," says Krabnoic. "It's authentic Thai food."

Thai Elephant is open for lunch and dinner seven days per week. Most dishes range from $6 to $13, and the menu has an extensive list of traditional dishes.

Soon, the restaurant will be installing a striking new sign -- hint: It has an elephant in it -- with the help of the City of Cleveland's Storefront Renovation Program.

"They're a wonderful new addition to the neighborhood," adds Janis.

Among other new or recent openings on Lorain, Janis cites the Jasmine Bakery, Olive and Grape, Kamm's Closet and Cafe Falafel (slated to open in two weeks).

Source: Cindy Janis
Writer: Lee Chilcote

blitz barbeque adds late-night eats to expanding scene on waterloo

While spending his weekends crafting sauces and perfecting slow-smoked pulled pork, Bill Madansky used to joke around with his friends about quitting his day job to open a barbeque restaurant.

Five years after looking at an empty storefront on Waterloo Road, he's finally done it. Madansky has leased a space from Northeast Shores Development Corporation, which renovated a dilapidated building across from the Beachland Ballroom and Tavern, and recently opened Blitz Barbeque.

Madansky's journey from grocery store employee to chef and small business owner was complicated by the recession (banks weren't lending to restaurants; or at least not his) as well as the renovation of the building, which was a gut job.

"I was tired of working for people, so I decided to go out on my own and give it a shot," says Medansky of his decision to lauch Blitz. Of the restaurant, he adds, "Everything is made from high-quality ingredients. I go the extra mile."

Extra mile indeed. Madansky preps all of his meats at least a full day in advance, giving his pork and other meats a chance to really soak up the sauces and spices. "There's a lot of prep," he says. "Mine stands out above everyone else's."

Although Madansky jokes that he must be the most patient man in Cleveland, he's also among the hardest-working. Blitz is open from 11 a.m. until 1 a.m. seven days a week in order to serve concertgoers and other late-night revelers on Waterloo.

Blitz is mostly a takeout joint but has a counter, stools and a side bar with a flat screen and four chairs. Prices range from $6 Polish Boys to $13 half slab rib dinners and a $16 dinner for two that includes "two pieces of everything."

Madansky, who has been buying restaurant equipment for years, is happy to finally be open. As for the name, it's got a rock and roll connection: Madansky's brother John was 'Johnny Blitz' of the well-known punk band The Dead Boys.

Source: Bill Medansky
Writer: Lee Chilcote
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