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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

city tours aim to lure suburbanites, repopulate classic urban neighborhoods

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

 

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

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

 

elegant event center begins bookings amid wild surroundings

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

 

new flats home for efficiency consultants dazzles

Earlier this month, TPI Efficiency Consulting moved into newly renovated offices at 2020 Center Street in the Flats. The energy efficiency consultants previously occupied a 3,700-square-foot space at 1250 River Road above the space that once housed the storied Watermark restaurant, which closed more than 10 years ago.
 
With natural light pouring in from a glass atrium roof insert and vintage floor-to-ceiling windows framing stunning views of the surrounding historic neighborhood, TPI's new office is a dazzler.
 
"It's a fantastic bright place to work," says Lenny Carlsen, TPI's director of client services.
 
Ironically, the company was obliged to forego a cutting-edge energy efficiency plan during the build out.
 
"With historical buildings," says TPI president and founder Roger Zona, "LEED certification goes pretty much goes out the window."
 
Hence, Zona did as much as he could, outfitting the offices with LED lighting and a robust air circulation system. Depending on how comfortable the space is in the summer, he may opt to have 3M Industrial film installed on the atrium glass to fend off the blazing sun, but it's a pricey prospect. Thus far, TPI has invested $100,000 in the remodel, a figure that could double courtesy of the 3M window treatment.
 
While Zona acted as his own general contractor, he hired Harrington Electric to upgrade the lighting and wiring. HSB Architects and Engineers helped with the interior design.

"Renovations started in late October on the day we closed," he says.
 
Per Zona, the handsome brick structure was originally built as a metal forgery in the late 1800's. Most recently home to queue of defunct restaurants, the 13,000-square-foot space works beautifully as a two-story office with an airy floor plan and room for expansion, unlike the Old River Road location.
 
Buoyed by a municipal economic incentive grant of $45,000, Zona purchased the Center Street building for $416,500.
 
"They really held our hand walking through it and made it as seamless and painless as possible," he says of Councilman Joe Cimperman and Kevin Schmotzer of Cleveland Economic Development during the grant application process. "They really helped us get it approved very quickly." To be sure: TPI closed the deal less than 60 days after they found the property.
 
The grant will be forgiven if TPI hires three to seven employees over the next three years. To Zona, the prospect is not problematic.
 
"We're anticipating getting a lot bigger than that," says Zona, adding that he anticipates having more than 40 employees in the Cleveland office by then. The company currently employs about 22. Zona is also eyeing expansions into Pittsburgh, Chicago and Columbus over the next three to five years.
 
He credits TPI's growth to an old-school business creed: you have to give clients face time.
 
"There's a value in physically walking out and shaking hands and meeting the people you work with," says Zona. As he watches demand for energy consumption consultation rise, he's confident that he'll have to hire more people to continue providing the level of service his customers expect. "We're not going to have call center in another state."
 
Clients include entities such as the Ashtabula YMCA, the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown and Hattie Larlham. TPI advises them on how to efficiently consume an array of resources, from electricity to refuse services.
 
"This is my first place on the West Side—the west bank of the river," quips Zona, who lives in a townhome on West 10th. He estimates the walk between the new office and his front door at five to seven minutes.
 
Zona founded TPI in 2009 out of a West 9th Street apartment, where he also lived. He moved the company to the Warwick Communications Building, 2806 Payne Avenue, in 2011 and then to the Old River Road location in 2012.
 
While he laments the loss of the river view, Zona enjoys the "old world" feel of the Center Street neighborhood.
 
"I like the flats," he says. "I like the history of it."
 
TPI's new offices are populated by several large-scale sculptures by Artur Vasilevich, many of which are for sale. The one featured in the above slideshow has a secret: her mouth is actually the deck of a commercial pizza oven, which is also for sale.

 

developer forsakes chicago for the 216, snaps up vintage space in campus district

Twenty-year development veteran Chris Matan is buying into Cleveland in more ways than one.
 
Not only did he leave the Windy City -- his hometown -- to marry wife Ivana three and a half years ago, he closed just last month on a 25,000-square-foot building at 2104 Superior Avenue.
 
Matan sees nothing but possibilities in the long-vacant space.
 
"It's raw, open, undeveloped loft space," says Matan, "basically gutted out to the brick." The building features four floors with 12- to 14-foot ceilings and a basement. Only the first floor has lighting, although the entire building is outfitted with sprinklers.
 
Matan believes the building dates to the early 1900's. It previously housed a chrome plating company and other tenants. He paid $185,000 for the property, which is his first foray into commercial development.
 
Matan envisions residential space for the upper floors and a new food concept that would "bridge the gap between food trucks and traditional brick and mortar restaurants," on the first floor.
 
"I want to be able to give the food entrepreneur the opportunity to get into a food space for themselves at a relatively low cost entry," says Matan. "I don't think it is being done right now."
 
He stresses that the plans are highly tentative. "There are no commitments or anything like that. We're just putting feelers out there," he says. "We're not swinging a hammer tomorrow."
 
Matan joins a growing list of non-Clevelanders coming to the 216 and finding a city in renaissance instead of a crumbling industrial ruin.
 
"You're starting to see foreigners (for lack of a better word) come in and look at some of this real estate and start snapping it up," he says. "When you've got eyes coming from other cities, be it New York City or Chicago, it's a positive for the area."
 
His recollection of coming to Cleveland and discovering the grid of streets that make up the Campus District stands in contrast to that of many natives.
 
"When I first moved here, I'd drive around the area and it shocked me -- the product that was here, the warehouse buildings so close to downtown. Nothing was happening," he says. "I kind of saw the future in some of these buildings."
 
So did his neighbors at Lake Affect Studios and 2044 Euclid Avenue, which are all part of the collective rebirth of the burgeoning campus area and Cleveland at large.
 
"I've seen over the last three years what's going on in the Campus District, on the West Side, Downtown, the development that's happening," muses Matan.
 
"People in Cleveland should take notice: this is happening before their eyes."

clifton boulevard-style transit eyed for 25th street corridor

A study conducted by Cleveland Neighborhood Progress (CNP) and funded by the Cleveland Foundation and Enterprise Community Partners regarding the West 25th Street corridor (extending from the State Road intersection north to Detroit Avenue) has concluded that a dense residential neighborhood and reliable transit line go hand in hand.
 
The final report for the W. 25th Transit Oriented Development Strategy is due out at the end of this month, but Fresh Water got a preview from Wayne Mortensen, CNP's director of design and development.
 
"The study was designed to answer two sets of very critical interrelated questions. One being: what is the ultimate desired level of transit along corridor in terms of frequency, service and style?" says Mortensen, adding that the other focus was on the amount and type of area housing that would be required in order to support that transit and sustain it economically.
Wayne Mortensen 
"West 25th is perhaps the most critical north/south connection in the city of Cleveland," he says of the 3.8-mile stretch, "and definitely for the West Side."
 
The group conducted three public meetings using eight different working groups, each of which focused on a separate issue including, commerce, education, housing, the pedestrian experience, recreation, services, transit and workforce.
 
"One of the most poignant points of feedback came from workforce group," says Mortensen. The group cited a hypothetical single mother, who might rely on public transit for daily stops at a daycare facility, a workplace and a grocery store. "She is relying on transit to be on time and efficient six to eight times a day. That's not something a lot of people in Cleveland understand or empathize with."
 
To meet those needs, the study concludes that a transit system similar to the Cleveland State Line, which runs along Clifton Boulevard, would be the best fit. Mortensen cites the line's frequency, improved waiting environments and a dedicated bus lane during certain times of the day. The line is also branded.
 
"So everyone knows when they hop on exactly where they're headed. It's more friendly in terms of way-finding and getting around the city," says Mortensen. "That's the closest example to what we think we can achieve.
 
"I want to be clear: we don't think of this as the next Euclid Health Line," he adds. "This is not as invasive or as capital intensive as what we see on Euclid."
 
In order to support transit efficiency similar to the Clifton Boulevard experience and keep that mom on time, a certain level of population density is required, which leads to the housing portion of the study.
 
"Depending on which part of corridor we're in," says Mortensen, "every housing project should be at least eight to 12 units per acre in terms of concentration density and be of an urban quality."
 
But is density desirable? That's a subjective question. It is, however, natural for areas such as the 25th Street corridor.
 
"Urban neighborhoods are more predisposed to attracting residents that have proactively--or just through the logistics of their lives have--foregone private transit," says Mortensen. Since people opt out of public transit for different reasons, they breed diversity in the urban communities they populate while creating a customer base for the public transit suppliers.
 
Committing to residential density leads to perhaps the most challenging implication of the study.
 
"It's going to be really important that all the community development corporations and communities work together and nobody develops projects along the corridor or within a ¼ mile that create less dense residential neighborhoods."
 
It's a tall order, one that Mortensen estimates could take up to 10 years.
 
"What's most important is patience by the community right now."
 

new ohio city grocer offers organic, gourmet options from across the 216

Earlier this month, Rachel Kingsbury took a leap into the world of entrepreneurship and opened her quirky storefront shop, The Grocery, 3815 Lorain Avenue, riding on an indisputable impetus.
 
"Everyone eats," says Kingsbury as she prepares a pour-over cuppa for a customer.
 
True enough, but the waters run deeper than that. She elaborates: "If you go to Chicago or a European city or anywhere that's a little bigger than Cleveland, their neighborhoods are connected by having entertainment districts that meld into amenities for the people that live there: grocery stores, hardware shops, laundry services, things like that."
 
Ohio City is surely in that league, with it's bustling entertainment district along West 25th Street, but why take on established giants such as the West Side Market and Dave's?
 
"What makes me different is I will only carry organic produce," she says. "I feel it's important to take a stand and have good food readily available."
 
Here in the middle of a northeast Ohio winter, most of that produce comes from the Cleveland Produce Terminal, 3800 Orange Avenue, which carries certified USDA organic fruits and vegetables. Kingsbury will add locally grown items when they become available in the fairer months.
 
The inviting shop is also heavy on the gourmet goodies. Try beef jerky or smoked pork rillettes from Saucisson, an array of raviolis from Ohio City Pasta, or cheese from Ohio Farm Fresh Direct's grass-fed livestock. There's even Cleveland Kraut for old-school customers.
 
Kingsbury worked with the city of Cleveland to secure a low percentage Neighborhood Retail Assistance Program Loan in order to make the project a reality.
 
"Kevin Schmotzer of Cleveland Economic Development and his team really helped me through whole process." Specifics on the incentive are confidential.
 
She had another advocate, significant other Justin Carson, cofounder of Platform Beer Co., 4125 Lorain Avenue.
 
"(Justin) says the difference between an entrepreneur and someone with an idea is that the entrepreneur does it." Considering Condé Nast Traveler recently mentioned Platform's Anathema as a notable quaff in the country's #1 beer city (Cleveland), his simple advice is worth taking.
 
"You just have to do it," says Kingsbury.
 
The former employee of Town Hall, Johnny Mangos and Liquid Planet is indeed "doing it" as a steady flow of customers come into the approximately 600-square-foot space for sandwiches made with bread from the Stone Oven, sauces and oils from the Gust Gallucci Company, Randy's Pickles and vegan, gluten-free cookies, granolas, and treats handmade by her sister Liz Kingsbury, who also created the shop's sprawling tree mural.
 
The scene, however welcoming, is not necessarily what the fresh-faced businesswoman had planned.
 
"When I was little," she recalls, "I wanted to be a Supreme Court judge." That's a far cry from a Lorain Avenue grocer, but Kingsbury isn't disappointed.
 
"This is more fun."
 

unique vinyl record mastering engineer moves into 78th street studios

Considering only about 30 people across the nation do what Clint Holley does, Cleveland is very lucky to have him and his small business Well Made Music.
 
"I'm the guy who takes your audio and transfers it to a record for the first time," says the vinyl mastering engineer. "I make an acetate or a lacquer."
 
He heretofore operated out of his home, but will be moving into 78th Street Studios next month. He's been sprucing up the 1,200-square-foot space since July, along with digital mastering engineer Adam Boose of Cauliflower Audio. While the two will share the space and often collaborate on projects, their businesses are separate entities.
 
Vinyl is an odd business. While sales are soaring (some eight million vinyl records were sold last year, up nearly 50 percent from 2013 according to the Wall Street Journal), the machinery used in their production is as rare as the people who know how to operate it. This is doubly true for Holley as he owns two mastering lathes.
 
"I got in before the vinyl craze started and got really lucky with my first machine. I paid around $28,000 for it five years ago. Now they're $50,000 to $60,000," says Holley. "Nobody knows how many are still in existence. It's very difficult to get into this business now."
 
The lathes Holley uses were produced between the 1950's and 1980's. There were only about 500 made and their use is mandatory in the vinyl record making process. Holley's models were manufactured by the legendary Georg Neumann company in Germany and he uses them to machine the first record, which becomes a template of sorts.
 
"I make the first one," says Holley. "Every one after that is an exact copy of what I make. The pieces that I make become the stampers."
 
When he's finished with them, Holley's stampers go to a studio such as Gotta Groove Records and are used in special presses, rare in their own right, to stamp record after record.
 
The boom in vinyl was one impetus for Holley's move to 78th Street, but it wasn't the only one.
 
"It's kind of a solitary job. You work by yourself," and when you work from home you end up spending a great deal of time there. "You start to feel a little crazy after a while," says Holley. "I thought it would be good to get around some creative people."
 
He also sees his operation as part of a loftier goal for Cleveland, the creation of a music production infrastructure, which goes far beyond good musicians and hip concert venues.
 
"In cities like Nashville or New York or Los Angeles, they have an infrastructure to get people to produce music. They have studios and production facilities. Cleveland is starting to build that infrastructure," he says, tagging his business, Gotta Groove and area studios.
 
"We're looking for a way to bring all these people together and put us on the map."

new york developer bets on both sides of the 216: east and west

Two New York based developers have taken note of the renaissance illuminating the 216 and have decided to get in on the action on both the east and west sides of town.
 
Community, Preservation & Restoration (CPR) Properties has purchased apartment buildings at 13450 Cedar Road in Cleveland Heights and 3199 West 14th Street in Tremont. CPR partners Noah Smith and Ted Haber are naming the buildings Canterbury House and The Edison respectively.
 
"We're not in Cleveland by accident," says Smith, who has been in development for 25 years. "We're only in markets that we feel are exploding."
 
CPR purchased Canterbury House for $475,000 in 2013 and subsequently sunk $300,000 into renovations. The 20,000-square-foot building houses studio apartments and one-bedrooms with approximate square footages ranging between 400 and 650, and rents from $575 to $675. Currently, the building is at 50 percent capacity with eight units available to lease, which Smith believes will be filled by spring or early summer. He hopes to attract mostly eclectic "characters," which he defines as working people who are interesting.
 
"You build a certain type of mouse trap," says Smith, "you get a certain type of mouse."
 
At first blush, the intent sounds subjective, but on a deepere level it speaks to community development and nurturing an investment. Smith explains: "Our work over the years has showed us that when you renovate a building and bring in good people you increase the desirability of the neighborhood. In turn, they make your property more desirable and the value of the building goes up."
 
Canterbury House also has two vacant retail spots, both of which are approximately 800-square-feet. Smith hopes to attract start up businesses to fill the spaces by offering them at "a very low price." To that end, he's been in contact with Cleveland Heights Economic Development Department.
 
Renovations for The Edison on the other side of town have not yet begun, but are slated to commence as early as next month or March. CPR paid $400,000 for the 28,000-square-foot building, which houses 35 units and is at 50 percent capacity.
 
Of the evocative names, says Smith, "Part of what we do is brand buildings to create a unified image. It helps to create a sense of place." In keeping with that concept, CPR's vision for The Edison is sure to attract a certain demographic.
 
"We're going to refashion the apartments in sort of a steampunk style," says Smith.
 
Both projects are a perfect fit for CPR.
 
"We're always looking for good deals in parts of town where we can take things that are outliers and make them really nice so we can attract good people. Slowly by degrees, that's how places get better," says Smith. "You won't find a single building in our portfolio that isn't a beautiful historic building. Part of our passion is preserving things for generations to come."
 
Above all, however, he credits people for recreating places.
 
"Those tenants that come in are the greatest asset to any neighborhood revival," says Smith. "They become an ambassador, to the area and the businesses."
 

habitat for humanity set to open second restore in north randall

Fortified with grants of $25,000 and $75,000, respectively from the Gund and Cleveland Foundations, Habitat for Humanity will be opening the area's second ReStore location this spring at 4601 Northfield Road.
 
Similar to the existing ReStore at 2110 West 110th Street, the North Randall location will sell a mix of new and used furniture, appliances, housewares and construction materials. The new location is adjacent to a number of discount retail outlets as well as a Salvation Army thrift store, but ReStore director Matt Haren feels confident that the venture will add a new dimension to the existing competition.
 
"I think we're bringing in that uniqueness of furniture and building materials and household wares," he says.
 
The new 22,000-square-foot space requires some updates. The work is being financed by the grant money and will include flooring repair, new restrooms, a delivery door and a new employee/volunteer lunchroom to accommodate the planned staff of five and diverse volunteer pool. ReStore attracts volunteers through organizations that cater to the disabled, low-income and disadvantaged such as Bridges Rehabilitation Services, Towards Employment and LEAP.

The new site, which formerly housed a Unique Thrift outlet, will feature a 16,000-square-foot showroom and the same policies, product mix and layout as the successful West Side store, which turns around its inventory in a brisk 90 days.
 
"We're going to try and mimic the same philosophy and culture we have here and transport it over to the east side," says Haren. One of the reasons the formula works is that it's a win-win-win, for customers, workers and even the folks supplying all the merchandise.

"The donor population sees us as being able to move stuff into the community in both a recycling aspect and repurposing aspect," says Haran, "but also in taking those proceeds and applying them to our mission of putting families into homes."
 
The grand opening is tentatively scheduled for April 2. Haren hopes the day marks a new partnership between Habitat for Humanity and the North Randall community, as well as that entire southeast quadrant of the county.

"From our perspective," he says, "it's a community center. The community will shape what we're going to be all about."

indian street food, international sports bar coming to campus district

If the student can't get to Mumbai, Mumbai shall come to the student … and teacher, and regular Cleveland joe and anyone else who's interested in a plate of vada pav or pani puri.
 
Those dishes, along with an entire menu of classic Indian street food will be available at the new eatery Bombay Chaat, 2044 Euclid Avenue, as early as March 1st. Entrepreneurs Hetal Patel and her husband Nehal are putting forth the venture. 
 
"They wanted to do something interesting and unique," says building owner Richard Bole. "This is the first dedicated Indian street food concept in Cleveland."
 
Bole is leasing the entire first floor of his building, 8,000-square-feet, to the Patels. Half of the space is under construction, including the kitchen, restrooms and seating for 60. The space will also feature a mural by local artist Erin Mazza. Work on the other half of the project, an international sports bar, is slated for later this year.
 
Plans for the bar include a limited late night menu and showings of international sporting events such as Premiere League games and cricket matches from countries afar (think India versus Pakistan) in an effort to attract international students.
 
"That's kind of the niche they're looking for," says Bole. The couple also manages a convenience store at 1900 Euclid Avenue Lofts and some Subway franchises.
 
Tentative future plans include bringing an actual street food stall from India and nestling it right on Euclid Avenue, from whence hungry passers-by will purchase exotic paper-wrapped snack foods.
 
"I think it could be very popular and I think it has a lot of appeal to the younger demographic on campus," says Bole. "Everything they're doing is trying to authenticate what you would see in India."
 
Bole purchased the 66,000-square-foot building in 2007.
 
"When I bought it," he says, "it was a 70 percent vacant, Class C office building."
 
He went to work converting much of the space into apartments. The 22 units range from 720- to 2,000-square feet with monthly rents from $800 to $1,950. Plans for five more units are in the works, with construction slated to begin once the restaurant is complete. The existing units are fully leased, with 80 on the waiting list.
 
The building also houses 8,000-square feet of office space. Tenants include Donley's Construction and Dorcherty Talent and Modeling.  
 
Most of the work on the project, which Bole characterizes as "long and difficult," was completed last year. Doty & Miller were the general architects; however, Mahler & Associates were the architects for the restaurant. Investment details for the project are confidential.
 
Bole muses on the meteoric rise of Downtown's residential scene. "As recently as 2003," he notes, "the population on our block was pretty much zero and now it's got to be three or four hundred."
 
The impetus for Bole's development effort was born during a stint living in New York City. "I thought we had the same architectural bones as some of those neighborhoods and the potential to do something similar," he says.
 
"I'm kind of a crazy dreamer like anyone else in this business."

near west theatre set to debut its new $7.3m home in gordon square arts district

At an upcoming open house on February 28th, Near West Theatre is set to debut its long-awaited new home in the Gordon Square Arts District. The $7.3 million, green-built, state-of-the-art theatre is the kind of space the nonprofit has long been dreaming of, and this year will be its chance to shine.

Before the winter break, Fresh Water took a tour of this bold new space with NWT staff. The impressive building is set back slightly from the street, yet it's large enough that you can't miss it. A plaza that will be constructed in front of the building should offer a gathering place for theatre-goers, visitors and community members alike, with planters, bioswales, a mural and a large, artistic sign.

"The entrance will get across that Near West Theatre is the 'magic factory of transformation,'" says Josh Padgett, Technical Director with NWT. "We transform people."

Within the facility, the expansive lower level offers 3-4 separate spaces that can be customized to the theatre's needs. The space will provide a rehearsal studio and changing rooms (NWT's productions are often quite large and can include 60-65 people), and it will be rentable to outside groups. In the future, the group hopes to build out a small cafe that can serve concessions during shows.

The entire building is ADA-accessible, with both an elevator and ramp access, details that were sorely lacking from its past performance space at St. Pat's.

Yet it's the main level of the theatre that truly conveys that NWT has hit the big time. The soaring ceilings offer a full theatrical production facility with fly space. For the first time, the theatre company has wings that can be used during its shows. The theatre itself is at once intimate and capacious, with its 275-seat capacity offering opportunities for proscenium, thrust or in-the-round seating. If that's not enough, there's also a small balcony that may offer the best views.

All of the seats are completely removable and flexible. "It used to take us four days to set up the seats, and now it will take us four hours," quips Padgett, who adds that NWT has purchased state-of-the-art theatrical equipment for its new home. Expect a level of technical proficiency that hasn't been done before.

A few more cool facts that we gleaned during the tour: For the first time, cast members will have their own restrooms (in the past, they had to traipse, costumes and all we imagine, into the same bathrooms as the audience). The large I-beam behind the stage bears the signatures and well wishes of people who attended a recent Gordon Square Arts District festival, and it will remain exposed and visible. The beam was also signed by cast members and theatre supporters.  Padgett and others refer to it as the "we beam," reflecting NWT's community spirit.

Part of the beauty of this facility is that NWT owns it free and clear, having raised the funds during the GSAD capital campaign. Also, because the structure was built using ultra-sustainable techniques borrowed from European passive house design, it will be a very affordable building to operate, limiting capital outlay.

In addition to the February 28th open house, NWT is holding a "blowout party" on March 14th. The group's annual benefit will be held on March 21st, while the upcoming production of "Shrek the Musical" will open on April 24th and run for four weekends. Later in the summer, NWT will produce the musical "Hair."
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