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welcome to willeyville: fine dining reinvented in heart of the flats

The Willeyville is named after John Willey, the first mayor of Cleveland, who reputedly demolished a portion of the first bridge to Ohio City to keep a steady stream of business pouring into the Flats. In those bygone days, the area actually was nicknamed "Willeyville" because of the mayor's practice of protecting it.

The new restaurant, which opened at W. 10th and Front streets in the Flats, is a bridge to the city's past and future. With elegant, creative fare served in a lovely setting, Willeyville reminds one why he or she came to the Flats in the first place. It aims to raise the bar on the city's food scene without breaking bank accounts along the way.

"The concept has always been old-school cocktails and everything from scratch," says Christopher DiLisi, a restaurant veteran who has worked at the Baricelli Inn and Flour and waited two years to open Willeyville with his wife, Kristi. "I don't want to be a special occasion place; I want to be a place you go all the time. It's just more fun. Fine dining's not dead -- this is fine dining. It's just changed."

Willeyville, which seats 86 inside and 32 on its corner patio, is a beautiful space with concrete floors, large windows and a lofty ceiling. Homey touches like wood tables crafted from reclaimed lumber by A Piece of Cleveland and comfy benches upholstered in faux leather add warmth. The walls are painted an attractive shade of orange and the open kitchen thrusts into the dining room like a theatrical stage.

A few menu standouts include the "duck mic muffin" (duck sausage and an over-easy egg in a homemade muffin); the adobo shrimp in house-made tortillas (made of whole grain corn soaked in lime); and the Ohio-raised, grass-fed hangar steak.

DiLisi already has been doing 110 covers per lunch, he reports -- and that's despite the challenging parking situation. Options currently include a dozen free spaces, a paid lot or the Aloft Hotel garage. DiLisi hopes to work out more options down the road.

He is confident about Flats East, which will celebrate the opening of Lago restaurant next week. "This will always be a restaurant-bar, not just a bar that serves food. The Flats used to be party central, but now the developers are focused on getting a great mix."

As for the name, he's second-guessing it. "In retrospect, after paying for the sign, I wish it didn't have so many letters," DiLisi quips. "Maybe it should have been 'W.'"

Source: Christopher DiLisi
Writer: Lee Chilcote

w. 76th street underpass opens next week, boasting striking new public art

For Gordon Square residents and Edgewater Park visitors, the long wait finally is over. The bike-ped underpass at W. 76th Street that connects the west side to Edgewater reopens next week -- albeit a few years late and millions over budget. Public officials plan to celebrate on Tuesday, July 2nd at 5 pm with a ribbon cutting at Battery Park Wine Bar.

Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) spokesperson Amanda Lee says the delays were caused by environmental issues that required a new retaining wall design. High water content in the soil forced them back to the drawing board. Essentially two connected tunnels, it goes under tracks and the Shoreway.

Not only is the underpass cleaner, better illuminated and more accessible, it also boasts a striking new work of public art, "Cold Front," designed by Cleveland artist Mark Reigelman. The piece plays off the natural history of the area, whose bluffs were carved out by glaciers -- known as pathmakers -- eons ago.

"This is what you see when you come out of the tunnel: Cleveland's best natural feature, Lake Erie, as well as the history of the lake and how it's been formed," says Riegelman, whose artwork at the entrance was built out of cast concrete by Great Lakes Construction.

The work, which consists of hexagonal shapes in shades of blue designed to mimic the water molecules in glaciers, was built so that it will be visible to all who pass. "From the neighborhood you see the crest of the glacier; trains can see a luminescent blue quality; and people can see it from their boats on the water."

LAND Studio coordinated the selection process for the public artwork, which was completed with funds from the State of Ohio, City and Cuyahoga Arts and Culture.

The underpass will better connect residents to Edgewater Park at a time when the Metroparks has just assumed management. Users report that the Metroparks already has made improvements, with staff picking up litter and combing the beach and long-awaited recycling bins set to be installed next week.

Source: Mark Reigelman
Writer: Lee Chilcote

nighttown opens two new patios in time for summer event season

The jazz institution Nighttown has opened two new patios -- one for people and the other for people accompanied by their four-legged friends -- at its home on Cedar Road in Cleveland Heights. They're not what you might expect: Unlike the traditional look of the restaurant's interior, the patios are very contemporary.

"The whole back of the building is basically a patio complex," says owner Brendan Ring. "We created two side-by-side patios, one enclosed with stone from Missouri, and kind of wrapped the whole back of the building in a modern metal material. They will remind you of being in SoHo or maybe some cool place in Tremont."

The enclosed, 1,400-square-foot patio for people has a heated, stamped concrete floor that's built to resemble wood planks, bioethanol fireplaces and a small bar. Sliding glass panels will ensure that it can be used year-round. The 900-square-foot dog-friendly patio is where the singles like to hang out, Ring says.

"Especially in Cleveland Heights, everyone has a dog. Young people have a martini or smoke there. 'I've got a dog, you got a dog, we've got something to talk about.'"

The impetus for the patios came last year when Ring looked at the books and realized that his existing outdoor space was booked every Friday and Saturday night for months on end. "I kind of went, 'Holy shit, we have no place to seat regular people on weekends.' We got an architect, designed it and got it up."

Ring says he also built the patios to stand out and compete within Cleveland's increasingly vibrant foodie scene -- and of course, having a killer patio helps. "Audiences have gotten bigger in this town, but there are more stages, too."

Source: Brendan Ring
Writer: Lee Chilcote

first-ever cleveland waldorf school set to open in cleveland heights

A determined group of Heights parents who have long sought a creative educational experience for their kids are opening Cleveland's first-ever Waldorf school. It is expected to open this fall in the former Coventry Elementary School in Cleveland Heights.

"This is a great thing for Cleveland Heights," says Amy Marquit-Renwald, a Shaker Heights resident who grew up in Cleveland Heights and helped to create the new Urban Oak School. "We're going to see families move here for the Waldorf school, and families stay because of this."

Urban Oak will initially offer preschool, kindergarten and a combined first and second grade class. After the first year, the school will offer additional grades.

"We had people lining up to support the school," says Marquit-Renwald of the process to seek approval from the city and the Cleveland Heights-University Heights school board. "People are dying to have Coventry be a school again."

The school will be private because Ohio's charter laws were deemed too difficult to navigate for an alternative, Waldorf-style school. It will seek accreditation as a Waldorf school, a rigorous process, over the course of its first seven years.

"The model is really about helping kids develop all aspects of themselves," says Marquit-Renwald of the 100-year-old Waldorf model, a contemporary of Montessori education. "It offers more free time to develop creativity, deeper foundational work -- including delayed introduction of purely academic work -- in the early years to better prepare for critical thinking and complex thought in later years, and use of personal interaction as the main vehicle for learning and fostering empathy, as opposed to interacting with technology."

Urban Oak School is hosting information sessions in the coming weeks for interested parents.

Source: Amy Marquit-Renwald
Writer: Lee Chilcote

edgehill repaved with bike lanes, sharrows to aid east side commuters

The gradually expanding network of bike-friendly streets in Cleveland and the surrounding suburbs just got a little wider with the addition of a bike lane and sharrows on Edgehill Road from Overlook Road down to Little Italy. The route, one of the most heavily-trafficked for east side bike commuters, was just freshly paved and restriped.

"This is part of the Circle-Heights Bicycle Plan," says Chris Bongorno, Director of Planning with University Circle Inc., which helped to shepherd the project through in collaboration with the City of Cleveland and the City of Cleveland Heights. "We did a study that showed that 25 percent of the University Circle workforce lives within a five mile bike commute. The idea is that there would be more people choosing to bike if we give them facilities that they're comfortable using."

The Circle-Heights Bicycle Plan was funded by the Northeast Ohio Coordinating Agency (NOACA), the regional body that is responsible for divvying up federal transportation funds and helping to establish regional planning priorities. The Edgehill Road project is actually the first aspect of the plan to be completed.

The project was carefully engineered to maximize safety and functionality for cars and bikes. In addition to the five-foot-wide bike lane, there is a four-foot "bike buffer" that adds greater separation between motorists and cyclists. The downhill lane on Edgehill has sharrows, signaling to drivers that bicyclists "share" the road. The reasoning is that bikes travel nearly as fast as cars down the hill (25 mph speed limit). The plan preserves on-street parking on one side of the street.

Other bike infrastructure amenities in the area that will be completed in the next few years include an off-street trail along Cedar Glen Parkway from Cleveland Heights to University Circle. Cleveland is building its portion of the trail this year, and Cleveland Heights expects to complete its portion by 2014 or early 2015.

Coupled with the Lake-to-Lakes Trail and Euclid Avenue bike lanes, the infrastructure is slowly being added to connect the Heights to University Circle and beyond via bicycle. That's one reason why Cleveland was recently awarded a Bronze-level certification as a bike-friendly community from the American League of Bicyclists.

Source: Chris Bongorno, Richard Wong
Writer: Lee Chilcote

mariner's watch to anchor cleveland's new 'gold coast'

The developers behind a new 62-unit apartment building in Ohio City say they'll start demolition of existing buildings this week. Construction will begin later this summer, and moving trucks should start pulling up to the newly minted units by fall 2014.

"It's the right time to do something," says Brian Koch as to why he chose to pursue the long-stalled project on Detroit Avenue between W. 30th and 32nd streets, which originally was planned as condos before the recession. "With the explosive growth of Ohio City, there's increased demand for new apartments."

Koch is developing the project with his father, Charles "Bud" Koch, former Charter One Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. Construction financing will be provided by First Merit Bank, and the Kochs will invest more than $5 million in the project. The units, which will have balconies, patios and decks with lake views, will start at $900 for a one-bedroom and $1,100 for a two-bedroom, or $1.42 per square foot.

The design of the four-story building provides every unit with both outdoor space facing Lake Erie as well as a two-level glass atrium. Two side lots will offer views of the lake from Church Avenue (currently, residents there have nearly unimpeded views). Koch says that the development team designed it to be sensitive to the scale of the surrounding neighborhood while creating a structure that he describes as an anchor in Cleveland's version of the "Gold Coast."

Other features include top-floor units with extravagant private rooftop decks and large common area with a "community skylounge and gym," says Koch. "The fourth floor will have a wonderful vista for watching fireworks or air shows, laying out or using the home theatre or the demonstration kitchen."

Parking will be housed in a 62-space underground parking garage that will be located off of W. 32nd. There will be a smaller eight-space visitor's lot.

The apartments borrow some of the vernacular from the micro-unit trend of coastal cities while maintaining the luxury of space available in Cleveland. They are efficiently laid out but have traditional bedrooms, kitchens and living rooms.

"We hope this will be a springboard for the next generation [of development] in Cleveland," says Koch. "It's a nice area people will gravitate to for apartments."

Source: Brian Koch
Writer: Lee Chilcote

toledo-based pub 'bar 145' on track to open ohio city spot by early 2014

Bar 145, a popular gastropub with locations in Toledo, Kent and soon Columbus, will open its fourth location in the former Grind space on W. 25th Street south of Lorain in Ohio City. The tagline "burgers, bands and bourbon" sums up the pub's concept.

Owner Jeremy Fitzgerald has signed a letter of intent with owner MRN Ltd. and intends to execute a lease and start construction this summer. Bar 145, specializing in chef-driven, foodie fare accented by regular live music, could open sometime early next year.

"Ohio City is so into the food end, but there's not much on the entertainment end," says Fitzgerald. "We make everything from scratch and knew the food concept was perfect. We knew that this would add another dimension to Ohio City."

The 4,100-square-foot venue will feature a full stage with lighting and a professional sound system. The bands will be local as well as regional.

Bar 145 also will have a 2,000-square-foot rooftop patio facing the downtown skyline and another 1,000-square-foot patio on the main level along the side of the building.

Live bands will be featured Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, but Fitzgerald promises five days of entertainment that will include jazz nights and acoustic talent.

Bar 145's menu promises to be in keeping with the neighborhood's local food ethos. "We don't even have a freezer in the restaurant," Fitzgerald says. "All our sauces are from scratch and the mac and cheese and truffle fries are all made to order."

Source: Jeremy Fitzgerald
Writer: Lee Chilcote

guide to kulchur opens in gordon square to promote local, national zine scene

Rafeeq Washington and Lyz Bly opened Guide to Kulchur in the Gordon Square Arts District with a distinctly anachronistic mission: The store is an homage to print, from stapled zines to books.

Somewhat improbably, the new store flourishes next to an independent record store and the three-screen independent Capitol Theater. But don't call it a throwback. The couple intends to not only sell hard-to-find books and older zines, but also to serve as a center for independent bookmaking culture.

"We want to be a place for things that are happening right now," says Washington. "We'll collect zines and let young scholars know before they get into the archives."

A zine is a self-published work of original or appropriated text and images. Usually reproduced by a photocopier and stapled together, they have a circulation under 1,000. Some zines even rose to national prominence in the 1990s. Although the Internet has changed zine culture, Washington says that it's still going strong.

"We view the bookstore as a way to provide texts we don't always see," he says. "People are throwing out zines because of the Internet, but it's not true that no one reads them anymore. One of our main thrusts is to have them all together."

In addition to everything from Foucalt to trashy mystery novels, Guide to Kulchur will offer a zine archive and co-op for makers. Beginning July 1st, anyone can schedule a time to use the desktop letterpress, copier or mimeograph.

"They can make them here, get them printed, bring them back and put them in the archive," Washington says, who collects zines as far back as 1981.

Washington and Bly saw the storefront while driving one day and knew it had to be theirs. "It was a no-brainer. We knew this was it -- right next to the theater."

Source: Rafeeq Washington
Writer: Lee Chilcote

next city leaders ask if cle, other cities can diversify beyond the 'cupcake economy'

Young urbanist leaders who were in Cleveland this week for Next City's annual Vanguard conference were asked a provocative question about this city's future. With new development activity happening in neighborhoods across a city that still is devastatingly poor, how can we do a better job of ensuring that these projects will benefit our poorest residents?

"I'm a little concerned that as we build projects, we're creating a city for yuppies and a city for everyone else," commented Ari Maron of MRN Ltd. in a presentation to 40 leaders from across the U.S. and Canada engaged in fields such as urban planning, entrepreneurship and sustainability. "How many cupcake and yogurt shops can a city sustain?"

Heads nodded and attendees laughed as Maron admitted the challenge was as much to himself as others, since MRN owns three of the city's most prominent new developments, E. Fourth Street in downtown Cleveland, Uptown in University Circle and property along W. 25th in Ohio City.

Several attendees noted that they were surprised by how few of the city's larger developments have translated into prosperity for surrounding neighborhoods. Sitting in the newly-built Museum of Contemporary Art at University Circle, leaders asked how that area's success could benefit its low-income neighbors.

Maron cited the Greater University Circle Initiative and local hiring and procuring efforts by University Hospitals and others. MRN has committed to hiring local residents for its projects, and the company now employs 285 city residents.

"When people from the neighborhood work here, they take ownership of the project because it's their neighborhood," he said, citing DoubleTree Hotel as one example of a University Circle project that employees many local residents.

An attendee from Chicago noted that Cleveland appears to be behind in adding bike-friendly infrastructure. He cited the recent addition of separated bicycle lanes to Surmac Avenue in Chicago as a game-changing project for his city. "Cleveland needs to do one really good pilot project," said the attendee.

Next City is a national nonprofit media organization that organizes the Vanguard conference to highlight best urban practices and develop young urban leaders. Updates from the conference are being posted on Next City's daily blog.

Source: Next City, Ari Maron
Writer: Lee Chilcote

200-plus apartments set to hit downtown market with reserve square renovation

The latest wave of downtown apartments is hitting the market this summer as the K&D Group, currently the largest developer of downtown housing, gradually converts the former Embassy Suites at Reserve Square into new market-rate apartments.

K&D is releasing units floor by floor, with the first set having come online in May. The renovations include granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. There will eventually be 218 suites released; 120 of these will be corporate housing and 98 will be market-rate apartments. The corporate suites include furnishings, high-speed Internet, cable with HBO and light housekeeping with the rent.

K&D is calling the new apartments Reserve Square West (Reserve Square has over 900 units). Lease rates for market-rate apartments range from $785 to $1,800 per month; corporate housing rates range from $1,350 to $2,350.

"There are panoramic views from the building," says Cheri Ashcraft of K&D, who notes that one upper floor suite is called "The Laker" because of its lake views. "My phone is ringing off the hook; the first corporate housing units were pre-leased. People are coming into town for projects or they're being transferred here."

Downtown apartment occupancy rates continue to hover around 96 percent. Ashcraft says the new Reserve Square West units appeal to a discerning buyer who wants the amenities of new construction in a rental product. "It's like moving into a brand new house," she says. "You are the first one to be in that suite."

Source: Cheri Ashcraft
Writer: Lee Chilcote

hough entrepreneur set to break ground on first-ever biocellar

Mansfield Frazier, the entrepreneurial mastermind behind the improbable Chateau Hough vineyard at E. 66th and Hough, says he will break ground on the world's first biocellar this year. He's raised more than half of the $100,000 needed to complete the experimental, innovative project.

"This is about growing crops in the wintertime," says Frazier. The biocellar, which has been described as a passive solar greenhouse, will consist of a glass structure built on top of the basement of a demolished  home. "We plan to grow mushrooms because they're $12 a pound, an acre yield higher than anything else. This is about renewing neighborhoods, reusing buildings and creating wealth in the inner city."

"The biocellar is based on two concepts," Frazier explains of the glass-topped structure developed by permaculture designer Jean Loria. "One is a root cellar, which has been around thousands of years, and the other is a greenhouse. It's basically taking a greenhouse structure and putting it on top of a root cellar."

Frazier says that he hopes to break ground in July so that the biocellar will be completed by fall. The two- to three-month build-out will be handled by Don Lasker of ALL Construction, and Frazier will also employ a lot of neighborhood residents and guys from a local halfway house. The biocellar was designed by Arkinetics.

Funding sources include local councilpeople, stormwater management funding from the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District and a local angel investor.

"We're budgeting $100,000 for the first one, but hopefully the cost will go down once we know what we're doing," says Frazier. "We know the science is there."

Source: Mansfield Frazier
Writer: Lee Chilcote

positively cleveland will train hospitality staff, locals to roll out red carpet for visitors

With downtown Cleveland seeing more than $2 billion in travel-related development, we must step up and make sure visitors are provided with the best possible service. We want them to spread the word when they get home about how great Cleveland is.

That was the message from David Gilbert, CEO of Positively Cleveland, at the organization's recent annual meeting. Based on recent research, the organization has determined that the city has "a communication gap" rather than "a product gap."

"We have the product -- amenities that most cities would be jealous of," said Gilbert. "We don't have enough people experiencing it."

To close that gap, Gilbert unveiled an aggressive plan to train hospitality workers as well as locals in how to better market the city and welcome and direct visitors. Positively Cleveland will also focus on legibility and wayfinding signage, online information, streetscape improvements, visitor hospitality, altering local perceptions and better destination branding and communications.

"We've done a great job of building big buildings, but we need more than that," Gilbert said. "It's 'what was the walk like?,' not just the Rock Hall experience."

Source: David Gilbert
Writer: Lee Chilcote

urban upcycle wins $375k grant to establish first-ever creative reuse center in st. clair superior

The St. Clair Superior neighborhood has seen some success in the past year with its efforts to fill empty storefronts. Several new businesses, including a bakery, are either planned or already have opened their doors on St. Clair Avenue in the East 60s.

Now the nonprofit will build off that success with a $375,000 grant from ArtPlace America, a collaboration of national foundations, banks and agencies dedicated to furthering creative placemaking efforts. The grant will allow the group to infuse an arts-based strategy into its efforts to attract more entrepreneurs and small businesses to the commercial district.

"This is a methodology for neighborhood revitalization," says Nicole McGee of Plenty Underfoot, an arts-based business that repurposes discarded materials into artwork, jewelry and home decor and a partner in the project. "The goal is to create more of an economy around upcycling. We will open a creative reuse center, offer classes for residents, and have retail opportunities for small businesses."

Michael Fleming, Executive Director of St. Clair Superior, says the Urban Upcycle project dovetails perfectly with existing retail recruitment efforts. Grant funds will help create artist studios and galleries, establish fellowships for upcycling artists, open the reuse center, create a Community Design Lab, rehab artist live/work houses, and establish a first-of-its-kind online marketplace for upcycled products.

Although the project is just getting off the ground, McGee already has identified a space for the creative reuse center just west of Empress Taytu restaurant. She envisions a "creative thrift shop," where crafters can shop bins full of discarded wine corks, vinyl flooring samples and other trash-to-treasure. "We're taking materials that others haven’t assigned value to, looking at them and deciding what could be done differently," says McGee. "Then we're transforming them into something bigger and better. We want to do that whole process on a neighborhood level."

Other projects will include affordable incubator space for retail pioneers and a storefront for Collective Upcycle, the artists' collective that McGee founded with artist Lauren Krueger. McGee is working closely with Stephanie Sheldon, a fellow maker and entrepreneur who is managing the new monthly Cleveland Flea event.

Sheldon plans to renovate the historic "coppertop" building at 6202 St. Clair Ave. with the help of St. Clair Superior's Retail Ready program. She intends to create what she is calling the "Indie Foundry creative clubhouse" -- an incubator and coworking space wrapped into one. Creative small businesses will be able to set up shop here and get help on things like marketing, branding, web design and more.

The intention of the Urban Upcycle initiative is not only to help attract new businesses, but also to lift up the residents of this low-income community.

"We'll be revitalizing the downtown strip of this neighborhood in ways that create new learning and skills in residents," says McGee. "We’ll be inviting them in."

Source: Nicole McGee, Michael Fleming
Writer: Lee Chilcote

third federal breaks ground on trailside at morgana run project

Banks typically lend money to projects; developing them typically is left to homebuilders. Yet Third Federal, which started in a Slavic Village storefront 75 years ago, has taken the unusual step of assembling land and breaking ground on a huge community here.

Construction is underway at Trailside at Morgana Run, a 95-home development that will feature affordably-priced homes within a completely new urban subdivision with access to green space and a rail-trail. The project is located at Aetna and E. 71st Street next to the bank headquarters.

"Slavic Village really is the phoenix rising up in the city," says Jennifer Rosa, Public Relations Manager with Third Federal. "It's not that we couldn't find a developer; it's that the project is so important to us, we want to hold it to our standards and control it. We wanted to provide additional funding to keep Slavic Village going."

The project has taken over a decade to get to this point. Third Federal acquired land from individual owners and cleaned it up using Clean Ohio funds and other sources. The bank formed a public-private partnership with the City of Cleveland, Slavic Village Development and Zaremba Homes and designed the project. Then the recession came along and walloped any plans to break ground until now.

Homes at Trailside at Morgana Run will be priced from $126,000-$132,000 and feature two to three bedrooms and a single-floor master suite option. With down payment assistance, monthly payments fall well below rental rates for similar units.

Rosa says the timing couldn't be better. "We're seeing more jobs being created, more people living in the city. This is a place where people can afford a home."

The first 10 homes are under construction and nearly to the point of being framed. A model home will be available to walk through in July. Although none of the homes are sold yet, Rosa says that buyer interest has been strong.

The urban pioneers who live here will be greeted by a "prairie-like feel," Rosa says. "There will be lots of green space with native Ohio plants and grasses."

Source: Jennifer Rosa
Writer: Lee Chilcote

community composting facility could become reality thanks to sustainability grant

San Francisco and Austin offer residential curbside composting, but such forward-thinking green ideas have yet to become a reality in Cleveland. A recently-awarded grant from Enterprise Community Partners, however, will help the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization think through how to develop a community composting facility for restaurants in the Cleveland EcoVillage.

Although citywide composting may not be in the cards right now, the pilot project could demonstrate ways to scale up composting in a range of city neighborhoods.

A similar $40,000 grant was also awarded to Burton Bell Carr Inc. to develop a safer streetscape plan for the Kinsman EcoDistrict. Forty percent of area residents do not have a car, and a recent multi-car accident here injured five people. BBC will develop a plan to improve the ability to safely bike and walk on Kinsman.

"Cleveland was the only city in the nation that got two projects funded through this program, which is pretty exciting," says Michelle Mulcahy with Enterprise Community Partners. "These projects are neighborhood-scale sustainability approaches that support the area's ongoing community development work."

Once the plans are finalized, these projects also could become national test cases for how to green cities, furthering Cleveland's reputation as a leader in this area.

Enterprise also recently issued a Request for Proposals to provide funding for a neighborhood-based climate action plan that would become part of a citywide plan.

Source: Michelle Mulcahy, Mark McDermott
Writer: Lee Chilcote
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