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High-speed karting comes to Brook Park

On Wednesday, Aug. 10 at 5 p.m., locals will be invited to step into the new BOSS PRO-Karting, a high-speed, indoor karting facility at 18301 Brookpark Road in Brook Park.

Featuring Sodi RTX electric karts, which are manufactured in Europe, drivers will speed around the 12 turns of the 1/5 mile track at speeds up to 50 miles per hour.
 
“We’re racers,” said Lee Boss, BOSS co-founder and three-time national karting champion in a statement. "Creating an authentic racing experience with the best racing karts available and a challenging, exciting track is paramount to us."
 
Capacity for the facility is 500 people, with up to a 12 races zipping along at one time. BOSS FastTrack, a free race app available for Apple and Android devices, allows racers to preregister for time slots and also offers live race tracking and statistics. Additional features include a messaging system, Facebook page integration and visuals depicting lap time history and statistics. In addition to indoor racing, the 40,000-square-foot facility is available for corporate events with conference rooms, catering and 3,000 square feet of event space that can accommodate up to 200 people.

“Compared to other sports and hobbies, the cost to participate in motorsports is extremely high,” added Brad Copley, BOSS co-owner and president. “Combining the speed and cornering g-forces that top many professional vehicles, a lap at BOSS PRO-Karting will be an exhilarating experience for racers and novices alike.”
 
Brook Park Mayor Thomas Coyne will kick off the Aug. 10 festivities with remarks at 6 p.m. followed by a flag drop for the first race, which will include mascots from the Browns, Cavs, Gladiators, Canton Charge and Lake Erie Monsters.
 
BOSS PRO-Karting will be open year round. There is a one-time annual membership fee of $6. Cost for one race is $22 with reduced pricing for subsequent races and other discounted packages. Racers must be at least 56" tall.

"We believe adrenaline trumps practicality, and that the edge of our comfort zone is where we learn the most," said BOSS management. "It’s not about taking things to the extreme with abandoned disregard, but pushing beyond the comfortable deliberately, often, and with purpose."
 

Two ioby campaigns make waiting for RTA a little more productive, enjoyable

Waiting for the bus is about to get a little more interactive. ioby (In Our Own Backyards), the New York-based organization that uses crowd-funding to turn grassroots neighborhood projects into realities, established Cleveland offices in March and organizers have wasted no time in getting behind worthwhile projects.
 
Two of its latest projects involve public art at RTA shelters and offering riders fitness suggestions while they wait for the bus. The projects are part of ioby’s Trick Out My Trip campaign to improve public transportation in cities nationwide. Cleveland was chosen for two out of 10 total projects across the country.
 
Art Stop
 
At East 22nd Street and Superior Avenue in the Superior Arts neighborhood within the Campus District, a group of artists and residents are working to make the area art-friendly and safer for riders waiting at the bus stop.
 
Art Stop will create a bus shelter to shield residents from the elements while also providing a canvas for public art by a rotating list of artists. Campus District officials hosted a barbeque to get input on what the diverse neighborhood needed and wanted.
 
“People were very excited about this because Superior Avenue has a lot of bus stops, but not a lot of shelters,” says Kaela Geschke, community coordinator for the Campus District. “There are so many artists that live in the neighborhood and this is way to highlight them.”
 
Geschke adds that, with three homeless shelters in the neighborhood, the stop will also provide some shelter from the notoriously windy corridor.
 
The group then turned to Cleveland Institute of Art adjunct professor Sai Sinbondit and his students to design the shelter’s elements. They were charged with keeping the shelter’s functionality while also creating a pleasing environment.
 
The group needs $10,335 to realize all of the features they want in the shelter. So far, they have raised $3,100. If they meet their goal, the bus stop will have Wi-Fi and solar lighting. The Wi-Fi will make it easier for riders to check bus schedules and for the homeless population to research services, Geschke says.
 
“We’re really working hard to create a connection between students, artists and the homeless,” says Geschke. “The artwork will build community and be a way for neighbors to get to know each other.”
 
Bus Stop Moves
 
Bus Stop Moves gets riders exercising while waiting for the bus.
 
The concept was first spearheaded last fall by Allison Lukacsy, an architect and a planner for the city of Euclid, as a pilot program through RTA’s adopt-a-shelter program with MetroHealth System.
 
The program began after a survey of Collinwood residents revealed that people wanted more opportunities to exercise. “Something jumped out at me [in the survey] that people could be healthier and wanted more opportunities to be active,” says Lukacsy.
 
The pilot program involved three bus shelters in Collinwood, in which translucent vinyl adhesive wraps over the shelter walls illustrate simple exercises and health tips. The exercises can be done while sitting or standing and in normal street clothes.
 
“That sort of 20 to 25-minute period between bus rides is the perfect amount of time, physicians will tell you, to get some exercise,” says Lukacsy, who designed and drew all the illustrations.
 
The fitness shelters were so well-received that ioby has partnered with RTA to wrap 10 additional shelters with workout moves in the Central-Kinsman, Slavic Village and Detroit Shoreway neighborhoods.  So far, the group has raised about $500 of the $618 needed to fund the project.
 
The exercises vary at different shelters – some more intense and some more relaxed. For instance, in Collinwood a shelter that has a lot of high school students features more engaging exercises, like jumping jacks, while another shelter features strengthening and stretching exercises.
 
“Some people are willing to break out and dance in public,” says Lukacsy. “But more people are more comfortable doing the strengthening. You could totally drive by and not know someone is doing exercises.”
 
The shelters not only offer a unique way to squeeze in a workout, Lukacsy says it also helps spruce up the neighborhoods. “If you look around, these are older shelters,” she says. “This is a way to not only aesthically improve the look of the shelters, it’s also something to improve people’s health.
 
Both crowdfunding campaigns have until Friday, August 5 to reach their goals. ioby had partnered with New York-based TransitCenter on Trick Out My Trip. The foundation dedicated to improving urban mobility will match the money raised when the campaign ends.

RNC is just the beginning for larger conventions, tourism in CLE

The Cleveland 2016 Host Committee held a series of free events over this past weekend as one big thank you party for the volunteers and residents who made the RNC a success two weeks ago.

From the Cleveland Orchestra making its return to the newly-renovated Public Square on Friday night, fireworks and family-oriented activities to a party on Saturday afternoon and free admission all weekend to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the Indians’ three-game home series (sweep!) against Oakland, the committee wanted to celebrate the city and its residents’ efforts, says Destination Cleveland’s senior communication manager Jennifer Kramer.
 
“With an event of this magnitude, it’s all attributed to the people,” Kramer says of the volunteers, business people and residents who contributed to the RNC’s success. “And for the people who weren’t able to come down or stayed away, this was time to take pride in the city and see what we were able to do.”
 
More than 3,000 volunteers worked 8,400 shifts during the week of the RNC, as hotel and airport greeters and wayfinders at pedestrian-heavy intersections. They made guest feel welcome, pointed them in the right direction and even saw them off at the airport after the RNC.
 
But while the RNC is probably the largest convention Cleveland will ever host, officials are hoping that it is just the springboard the city needs to launch the convention and tourism industry.
 
"This is not the end," says Kramer. "It is the beginning of many, many more things to come.”
 
Kramer says tourism in the area has been on the rise – increasing four to five percent each year over the last five years – and those numbers are expected to continue upward. “The narrative is changing,” she says. “It’s interesting to see people’s perceptions change.”


 
In fact, feedback was all positive from the 750 guests who came through the Visitors Center, and staff fielded phone calls from potential future visitors who had seen Cleveland highlighted in the convention coverage. “It was great to hear other people say how great the city is,” says Kramer.
 
Convention business is expected to pick up after a successful RNC as well. “In 2013 we were just coming into the convention world,” says Kramer. “We’ve been able to make sure heads turn, not just from the business perspective but in the leisure perspective too.”
 
Todd Mesek, the Rock Hall’s vice president of marketing and communications also sees the RNC as just a launching point for the city’s convention and tourism business.
 
“People close to the RNC said it wasn’t about one week, it was about the long-term,” Mesek explains. “It was about getting people to feel it, experience the city.”
 
Mesek says high profile events like the RNC, as well as the 2016 Transplant Games, the Gay Games in 2014 and the National Senior Games in 2013, have all been opportunities to show off Cleveland’s assets.
 
“It’s about showing them what we have and they walk away [as Cleveland] ambassadors,” Mesek says.
 
The Rock Hall typically gets an average of 2,500 guests a day in July, says Mesek, adding that number jumped to an average of 4,000 people a day during the RNC.
 
Part of the increase was due to the free admission, sponsored by AT&T, to draw both visitors and locals to the museum.
 
“We wanted to make it easy for anyone in town for the RNC – media, delegates, protestors – and who didn’t have a lot of time but just wanted to explore it,” he says. “We wanted to make it easy for locals too, although not a lot of locals took advantage of it. But some did.”
 
July, says Mesek, was all about changing perceptions. “So many people outside of Cleveland either have an old perception or a neutral perception of the city,” he says. “We just have to get them here. We’re confident that after visiting the museum they’re walk away with a positive perception.”
 
Mesek adds that an increase in tourism to the area means more jobs. “It brings in out of town dollars,” he points out. “They sleep in our hotels, eat in our restaurants and visit our museums. And that creates jobs.” 

Some businesses boom, others see a drought during RNC

When Cleveland first learned it would be hosting the RNC, business owners throughout the region prepared for a hefty increase in customers last week.
 
Pizza Fire, which opened a year ago on Euclid, saw steady business and the line from the just-opened REBoL in Public Square had lines out the door as attendees waited patiently for a one of 90 seats in the air conditioned space.
 
Bloom Bakery, a social enterprise venture to help low income and disadvantaged adults achieve self-sufficiency through employment run by Towards Employment, opened its Public Square location in March and decided to stay open 24/7 during the convention week.
 
“Staying open for a convention like this is a gamble, says Logan Fahey, Bloom co-founder and general manager. “But for us it was more about the visibility of our mission and employing people.” The bakery added an additional eight employees, hired from the Salvation Army Northeast Ohio, to its 15-person staff for the week.
 
The gamble paid off. “On Monday we had a steady flow of convention guests, and then Tuesday through Thursday it really picked-up and we had built a loyal convention customer base that sustained us through the week,” Fahey says. “Most of the customers were international media guests who utilized Bloom's chic cafe atmosphere and free Wi-Fi.” 
 
Fahey reports that media tended to stay in Bloom until 2 a.m., before catering to the bar crowds in the wee hours of the morning.
 
The seven temporary retail stores that set up shop in the Arcade for the RNC saw a steady stream of business as visitors popped in and out of the historic mall on Euclid. Actress and Cleveland native Monica Potter was on hand in her Monica Potter Home pop-up location for most of the week.
 
Store employee Stephanie Dietelbach said business was good last week, but they had yet to make a decision on whether the store would make the Arcade a permanent home. She said the decision would be made in early August.
 
While businesses around the city center saw a hefty draw of customers, anything outside of a two-block radius was a ghost town. Even area bars and restaurants that had booked private events during the convention reported that they saw a decrease in their regular clientele.
 
Hofbrauhaus in Playhouse Square, which brought in a “security dog” – Reagan, an eight-year-old Dachshund – to greet and protect biergrarten guests, was popular with the few guests who opted to patronize the near-empty restaurant.
 
Yet Hofbrauhaus spokesperson Andrea Mueller was upbeat about the week. “Business was slow,” she says. “A lot of the folks that would normally come down didn't. We did have some private parties, so those were our saving grace. But, it's the price we had to pay for such a great event to come into town.”
 
The bars along West 25th Street in Ohio City, many of which had secured the 4 a.m. provisional liquor license, sat open, waiting for business. While many of the bars along the strip had booked private parties for the RNC, Market Garden Brewery, among other establishments, saw a marked lack of traffic and begged folks to come out on its Facebook page, posting photos of an empty bar at 4 a.m.

"We've been very busy, but our business volume has been inverted," owner Sam McNulty said last week. "Instead of a lot of foot traffic and a few events, we've been tremendously busy with events and have seen very little of our local guests and regulars."
 
By the time RNC came to a close and the visitors cleared out of the city, business was back to normal and the regulars began flocking back to their usual haunts.

"I miss my regular customers," said the young woman manning the cash register at Jake's Pizza last Tuesday. "I can't wait for Monday."

Sneak peek: Saks Fifth Avenue pop-up shop at the Ritz-Carlton

Yesterday, staff of the Ritz-Carlton Cleveland treated Fresh Water Cleveland to a sneak peek of the most unique pop-up shop around.

Saks Fifth Avenue will operate a temporary boutique in the sixth floor hotel lobby at the Ritz-Carlton in Tower City from July 17 to 21. While the doors aren't open yet, Fresh Water can say with confidence that Republican National Convention visitors - or anyone dropping in - will be treated to the likes of Judith Leiber clutches, KYBOE! watches and Burberry bags for last-minute gift and accessory shopping. The mini short-time Saks will also offer select clothing and toiletry items.

Guests staying at hotel will receive a $50 savings certificate valid when making a $300 minimum purchase at the boutique. For after-hours fashion emergencies, special trips to the larger Saks Fifth Avenue store in Beachwood can also be arranged for hotel guests, along with overnight tailoring, measurements for which will be taken at The Ritz-Carlton.

The posh boutique will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Underfoot: polishing up for the RNC

While in high school in 1994 in Bay Village, Grant Alexander earned extra cash by starting a car detailing business out of his parents’ garage. He continued the gig through his college years and as business increased, Alexander knew he had found his niche.

GK’s Custom Polishing was officially established in 2001, offering car, motorcycle and watercraft detailing, transportation and storage. Then one day his father suggested Alexander get in to stonework polishing.
 
“Detailing in Cleveland is kind of an eight months of the year gig,” Alexander says. “I was looking for something to do in the winter.”
 
Alexander found that something in hard surface polishing – cleaning everything from natural stone and marble to tile and grout. In 2002 GK’s had a new division of the company.
 
Today, GK’s cares for the hard surfaces in most downtown Cleveland hotels, from the polishing and sealing of marble floors in lobbies to cleaning and polishing the tile and grout in bathrooms.
 
When the owners of the Drury Plaza Hotel began converting the old Cleveland Board of Education building into an upscale hotel, they called Alexander. “It was an old city building and they had marble floors everywhere,” he recalls of the job. “It was a three-month project with tons of marble. You don’t just go in and restore a commercial building overnight.”
 
With the Republican National Convention next week, Alexander is busier than usual, making sure the downtown hotels sparkle and shine. While as much as 75 percent of his commercial work is from recurring contracts with places like Marriott, Westin and Renaissance, Alexander anticipated his clients would want some extra work both before and after the convention.
 
“We sent letters to all of our commercial contracts three to four months ago to start preparing for additional work,” Alexander says, adding that the more foot traffic the hotels get, the more the floors have to be care for. “The higher the traffic, the more we get called in.”
 
Alexander’s clients started calling for hard surface work almost immediately, and they will keep calling after the convention is over and visitors are long gone.
 
"It's good for the front end, since our contract clients called us months ago and needed a lot of additional work,” Alexander says. “It’s good on the back end because there’s so much traffic.”
 
In fact, the company’s 30 employees will be working through most of the year.  “Business is up 30 percent over the course of the year,” Alexander estimates.

Long-awaited Arcadian offers unique dining options in Gordon Square

Three years in the making, Arcadian Food and Drink opened two weeks ago on Tuesday, June 28. While owner Cory Hess bought the building in 2013, he took his time to create the 4,000-square-foot establishment of his dreams.
 
“Quickly, we noticed how poorly it was taken care of for so many years,” he says of the building at 6416 Detroit Ave. in Gordon Square, adding that the first thing he did was secure a demolition permit. “We wanted to do it right, and do it once.”
 
Hess bought the building after noticing it was for sale while having a beer at XYZ Tavern across the street. “I did a walk through and bought it,” he says.
 
Hess originally envisioned a beer and sandwich place with offices and an apartment on the second floor. But that quickly changed as the restaurant veteran, who spent time in places like Lola and Bar Symon, teamed up with his wife and Arcadian executive chef Rebecca Hess, who has a background with Spice Kitchen and Blue Point Grille, and general manager Dave Hridel, who has a background at Spice and Greenhouse Tavern.
 
The Arcadian menu features sustainable seafood, entrees such as fried chicken or Piedmontese filet mignon, gourmet pizzas and craft cocktails. There are plenty of vegetarian and gluten-free options as well.
 
Hess ensures that the fryers are kept gluten free, and two of the fryers are never used for meat or seafood. “We wanted to make sure we had all the options so you can meet a friend after work,” he explains. “We wanted to have things on the menu that are just good, but it was important to accommodate those things.”
 
The bar has 12 Ohio beers and eight wines on draft. Cocktails include the Shoreway Soda – fernet branca, Kahlua, honey and ginger soda – and the Theater Greeter –  saffron infused watershed gin, dolin dry, orange and spiced simple syrup.
 
The kitchen stays open until 2 a.m. with a full menu. “We’re trying to pick up a lot of the industry and late night crowds,” says Hess. There are also happy hour specials. He says he plans on experimenting with weekend brunch and weekly specials after the RNC.
 
Keeping to his mission to build it once and built it right, Hess worked with Robert Maschke Architects to create a modern look using bamboo, metal, concrete, Corian and glass. “Durability is key in the restaurant,” says Hess. “It’s physically appealing to look at, but structurally [solid] as well.” The building is so gorgeous and with so much attention to detail, it’s worth showing off.”
 
Hess credits Maschke’s talents with the restaurant’s transformation. “Robert didn’t leave a bad angle in the restaurant,” he says.
 
Maschke designed the Arcadian to cater to both the date night set and those who just want to stop in for a casual bite and a drink. The upstairs area is reservation-only, offering a raw bar menu and upscale entrees. Hess says “sexy” is the best word to describe the atmosphere upstairs.
 
“We really wanted to go after the Detroit neighborhood and theater goers,” says Hess of future upstairs patrons. “Especially given the number of theaters in the area.”
 
The lower level is more casual. “With the downstairs, we wanted to leave it open to the neighborhood,” Hess explains. “So it’s comfortable for walking in after work or in jeans and T-shirts."
 
Hess notes that the Arcadian fits the energy of the growing neighborhood, which is also home to superelectric pinball parlor and artists’ mecca 78th Street Studios. “It’s a nice, well-rounded area and we didn’t want to be just a special occasion restaurant,” he says. “We wanted to cater to everyone. There’s such a diverse demographic here.”
 
So far, the restaurant has been well received and worth the wait. “We put three years of our blood, sweat and tears into it,” says Hess. “We had a pretty good first week and I’m pleasantly surprised with the business.”
 
The Arcadian is open Tuesday through Saturday, 4 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. Happy hours run 4 to 6 p.m.

Politico to set up shop on top floor of the Huntington building

Politico, the non-partisan political magazine with a circulation of 33,000 and online resource for all things political reaching 21 million people each month, will set up offices on the top floor of the former Huntington Building, 925 Euclid Ave., for the Republican National Convention next week.

The organization will host live coverage of the convention activities, speakers and other events from Monday, July 18 through Thursday, July 21.
 
“Politico is excited to have our Politico Hub in the historic Huntington building in downtown Cleveland,” says Luiza Savage, editorial director of events. “This is the perfect space to bring our readers and convention goers live programming with the most influential people in politics as well as networking events, watch parties and nightly lounges.” 
 
Led by Politico reporters and editors, around-the-clock Hub programming will include daily Playbook newsmaker interviews, a live convening of the Politico Caucus and policy luncheons as well as performances and other social events to take in the news of the day and watch streaming speeches from the convention floor.

“The Hub will serve as a ‘home base’ for influential convention goers who are looking to work, network, attend our live programming, and watch the convention," says Politico media contact Christyn Lansing. “It’s a place where convention goers can learn more about the most important issues of the day but also relax and have fun.”
 
Lansing says the 925 Euclid building’s proximity to Quicken Loans Arena and sights of the city made the location a prime choice for them.

“We found the Huntington building to be the perfect fit because it's a beautiful, historic building, but also in close proximity to the official venue of the RNC, the Quicken Loans Arena, and will be convenient for Politico readers and convention goers to stop by,” she says, adding that the stunning views from the venue were another draw.
 
Lansing says she expects attendance at Politico events next week to be in the hundreds. The 21st floor, which housed the Mid-Day Club in the 1920s, can accommodate 500 people.
 
The nightly lounge, which will feature cocktails, conversation and live viewing of convention speeches, is free but reservations are required. Other programming requires registration as well.
 
Avi Greenbaum of Florida-based Hudson Holdings bought the 1.4 million-square-foot Huntington building a year ago for $22 million with extensive renovation plans. Terry Coyne, vice chairman of Newark Grubb Knight Frank (NGKF), who handled the sale, says complete renovation plans have been postponed until the beginning of 2017 because of the convention.  
 
Coyne says there was a lot of interest in other areas of the building for the convention, and a total of three organizations have rented space. Management is eagerly expecting everyone’s arrival. “Other than making sure that the fire sprinklers work, nothing was needed,” Coyne says of 925 Euclid’s condition. “The building is in good shape.”
 
Coyne says revised plans for the 1.4-million-square-foot building now include 300,000 square feet of office space, a Hilton Curio hotel, 500 apartments and retail offerings.

Seven retailers to set up shop in Arcade storefronts before RNC

The Cleveland 2016 Host Committee and the Downtown Cleveland Alliance (DCA), along with Skyline Investments announced today the arrival of seven local retailers to the historic Cleveland Arcade at 401 Euclid Ave., that will set up temporary storefronts during the Republican National Convention.
 
Officials hope that the stores will become permanent Arcade tenants after the convention activity is over, says Michael Deemer, executive vice president of business development for DCA.
 
“It’s very exciting because we’ll have the Arcade more active in retail as any time in recent memory,” he says. “Our hope is because of the strong residential population growth, workforce traffic and visitors during the convention, we’ll be able to persuade [the retailers] to make the Arcade their permanent home.”
 
Retailers setting up temporary storefronts include J3 Clothing Company from Moreland Hills, Cleveland in a Box, CLEan scented soaps, 216 Gallery, the Hidden Closet from Chagrin Falls, the Powder Room from Woodmere and Monica Potter Home from Garrettsville. They'll be offering up everything from Mrs. Potters Bear Oil to gift boxes full up with CLE sports fan merch.
 
Deemer says the convention serves as a timely vehicle for attracting these local retailers to the downtown area. “It’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity to have not just 50,000 visitors to Cleveland, but the eyes of the national media will see what downtown has to offer,” he says. “But they [retailers] also see the same numbers we do, with 41,000 residents and an aggregate household income of $884 million in the downtown trade area. It’s a tremendous opportunity.”
 
Additionally, Rising Star Coffee, Daydreams & Tea and Pizza 216 recently opened permanent locations in the Arcade and two others –  Rose’s Braai and Boney Fingers BBQ – are about to open their doors.
 
“All together, there are 16 retailers in the Arcade,” says Deemer. “We’re approaching capacity, with one vacancy on the upper level and a handful of vacancies on the lower level.”
 
Valarie McCall, Cleveland’s chief of government and international affairs, president and CEO of the Cleveland 2016 Host Committee David Gilbert, president and CEO of DCA Joe Marinucci, vice president of asset management for Skyline Investments Mark Goldberg, and Monica Potter of Monica Potter Home were on hand to make today’s announcement.
 
After the event, the new tenants then opened their doors to visitors to the Arcade.

Hundreds volunteer, build new Fairfax Playspace

When the first intergenerational housing development in Ohio was built in 2014, Griot Village’s 40 units became a safe place in the Fairfax neighborhood for adults aged 55 and older to raise the minor children of whom they had custody.
 
Griot Village has been a success. However, there was one thing missing from the complex: A place for play.
 
To that end, last week, 249 volunteers from Morgan Stanley, Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation (FRDC), Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA), KaBOOM!, and community members from area construction companies, universities and churches joined forces to build a playground at Griot Village.
 
“It was awesome,” says Denise VanLeer, executive director of FRDC. “We always wanted to add a play space and garden area.”
 
The volunteers spent time ahead of the build cutting wood and getting everything ready, says VanLeer. Representatives from Whiting-Turner, Lake Erie Electric, Donley’s Construction and Ozanne Construction prepped the lot by removing tree stumps and old fencing and grading and leveling the lot.
 
The volunteers gathered early Wednesday morning to begin construction on "Playspace," a structure that was designed by the kids in Griot Village.
 
“We had a design day in May,” explains VanLeer. “They drew pictures of what they wanted to see there. Of course, they wanted a lot of stuff we couldn’t put in, but they were so excited.”
 
In addition to the brightly-colored equipment in purple, yellow and lime green, the group also installed picnic tables, planters, soccer goals and a rolling, oversized Connect Four game. The Greater Cleveland Food Bank donated vegetable plants for the garden.
 
The whole project, which is wheelchair accessible, was constructed on four housing lots that were specifically reserved for a play area. “We just knew we wanted to transform these lots,” says VanLeer.
 
The Cleveland Clinic, the Food Bank and FRDC made sure everyone was fed during the process.
 
While the structure had to sit for three days to let the concrete base set, the kids were able to get a preview throughout the planning, prep work and construction. “They were so excited, they could peek in through the fence,” says VanLeer.  
 
The crew was so enthusiastic about the work they were doing that they finished the playground an hour early. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held a few minutes before 2 p.m.
 
“It was such an awesome experience,” says VanLeer. “We got there in the morning and you have this vacant lot and you’re done by 1:30.

Morgan Stanley was the national sponsor for the project, while the Cleveland Clinic was the local supporter.

More to love at the Fairmount with new indoor patio, event room

Since taking over ownership of The Fairmount in 2011, Jake Orosz has quietly established the martini bar and restaurant as a friendly little place at the top of Cedar Hill, 2448 Fairmount Blvd., that offers up an eclectic range of drinks and light bites, from the Rhubarb Ginger Fizz alongside the Smoked Brisket Wonton Bowl to a no-frills Heineken enjoyed with a small plate of pretzel bites.

Last weekend, Orosz added to the Fairmount’s draw, celebrating the opening of a 40-seat 1,000-square-foot private event room with a wedding reception and an adjacent 800-square-foot “indoor patio” in the community atrium of the building.
 
Orosz began thinking about doing something with the space three months ago, he says, after neighboring Luna Bakery and Cafe relocated its cake decorating operations. “It's nice to finally be done with all the construction so I can focus on other aspects of the business,” he says.
 
Orosz hosted 85 people at the reception in the new event room, the indoor patio and a section in the main room.
 
“I like to call it ‘modularity,’” he says of the divided areas. “If there were no wall separating the area it would just be a wide open space. Modularity lets you do whatever you want – it lets you customize the space for whatever you want to do.”
 
The indoor patio features two-story ceilings, hanging plants and fountains on a slate gray floor. “I’d like to add a water wall,” Orosz says. “And it has big double doors that open to the street.”
 
Orosz adds that the indoor patio will also serve a double function when the outdoor patio behind the restaurant gets full. “When the patio gets packed outside, we can open the indoor patio,” he explains. “In the winter we can use it for regular service and I won’t have to lay off staff.”
 
Like the main bar and the patio in back, the private room has its own full bar with two beer taps. While the two satellite bars don’t have quite the full cocktail menus – servers must run inside to fetch one of the Fairmount’s single malt scotch offerings or certain varieties of wine – the three bars provide more space for customers to place their drink orders.
 
Patrons will be able to order the Fairmount’s signature cocktails, such as a coffee martini made with house-infused coffee vodka, a John Daley made with house-infused black tea vodka or a Moscow mule made with house-brewed ginger beer.
 
“We're constantly changing our cocktail menu, as well as our beer and wine list,” Orosz says.
 
Orosz also plans to host ticketed events such as wine tastings in the private room, which is equipped with audio visual capabilities and a separate stereo system.
 
Thanks to renovations to the kitchen last year, customers in any area of the Fairmount can order off an expanded food menu including chicken and waffle sliders, pizza and the Fairmount patty melt. And whether it's served on a plate or in a glass, offerings are often seasoned with herbs from the restaurant's indoor and patio gardens. Food and drink specials can be had during the weeknight happy hours from 4 to 7 p.m.

“I’m excited to be able to do special events and tastings,” says Orosz. “We’re getting all the kinks ironed out and I think it will be good.”

$2m incentive fund to lure business to Health-Tech Corridor

Since 2011 the Health-Tech Corridor (HTC), the three-mile stretch in Midtown between downtown and University Circle, has been quietly building a hub for health, high-tech and research companies.
 
Today more than 160 such endeavors in biomed, technology and other industries are operating in the HTC, creating an entrepreneurial hub touting amenities such as a 100 gigabits-per-second fiber optic internet pipe – the first of its kind in the country – and access to nearby universities and medical centers.
 
Now HTC officials have partnered with JumpStart to build a $2 million fund to foster even more activity. “We’re really excited to use the fund as a carrot to attract businesses to the corridor,” says HTC director Jeff Epstein, adding that 90 percent of the 500,000 square feet of renovated office and lab space is already filled.
 
But there is plenty of room for any company looking to relocate on the HTC’s 1,600 acres. “We’ve got space for whoever wants to come,” Epstein says. “Early stage companies can get anchored here.” He also notes that Geis Companies’ developments in the area, the Beauty Shoppe co-working space and the new University Hospitals campus add to the corridor’s draw.
 
The HTC and JumpStart raised $1 million for the fund through grants from the Cleveland Foundation, the City of Cleveland and private investments, which was then matched with another $1 million by the Ohio Third Frontier.
 
Companies seeking investment from the fund must have a unique or breakthrough idea, have at least a $1 billion addressable market and exit potential. They must also demonstrate excellence in their fields.
 
Epstein says a fund awareness campaign started last month, while officials at the HTC and JumpStart have been brainstorming attraction campaigns for the past nine months. “We launched social media campaigns in high-cost markets and targeted alumni from local universities,” he explains. “We going for the low-hanging fruit first.”
 
Epstein says more than 20 companies have already expressed an interest in applying for funding. Companies that do apply must go through a full vetting process with JumpStart.
 
“We don’t just give the money away,” explains Epstein. “But companies who don’t get an investment with us will hopefully be turned on to opportunities in Cleveland. The best problem we could have is too many companies interested.”

Cleveland Public Library plans to reopen historic South Branch

After closing the doors in 2013 to the Cleveland Public Library (CPL) South Branch building at 3096 Scranton Road in Tremont, the library announced last week that it will reopen the historic 1911 Carnegie building.

“It’s been a process for us,” says Tim Diamond, CPL’s chief knowledge officer. “We’ve been working on this for a while.”
 
The library’s board of trustees decided to close the facility three years ago after determining there were critical repairs needed. “The building was older and some of the major systems had not been updated,” explains Diamond. “An assessment of the building determined there were a lot of serious issues. We were going to repair them when the heating system began to fail.”
 
While a temporary location was set up in a storefront on Clark Avenue, the CPL board hired Kent State University’s Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative (CUDC) to engage the community for feedback on what should be done and what services were needed at the branch.
 
“We were not making a decision without finding out what the community wanted,” says Diamond. “There were a variety of voices that were heard.”
 
Residents liked the location and the building’s rich history, says Diamond, explaining that the structure was designed by library architecture firm Whitfield and King and was the eighth branch built with funds from Andrew Carnegie.
 
“It was designed in a very flexible way, with shelving on perimeter walls,” Diamond says of the 8,350 square feet of usable space. “It’s like walking into the study of an old house with bookcases built in. When you look at it, in addition to being a beautiful building, there are all these possibilities for the space.”
 
Nationally-recognized library planning and design firm Holzheimer, Bolek & Meehan (HBM) in Cleveland has been hired for the $3.3 million project. Construction is scheduled to begin in May 2017, with a tentative completion date of March 2018.
 
CPL historians discovered an interesting fact about the South Branch in their research. Diamond notes that one section of the library always appeared somewhat odd.
 
“The rear of it facing Clark Avenue looks unfinished, in a sense, and we never knew why,” he says. “We went in our records and found [the building] was never finished. They intended for there to be an entrance off of Clark to a small auditorium, but they ran out of money.”
 
Diamond says they found a document in the library board’s minutes noting that “when more money becomes available we’ll finish this later.”
 
With the renovations, that section of the library will now include that entrance, with ADA accessibility, and a small addition. “It got the architects really excited because they said, ‘it’s our chance to finish the building.’”
 
The CPL also owns a 50-foot wide parcel of land behind the building, which Diamond says they will determine a use for – either a complete build out, greenspace or a combination of both.
 
The renovation of the South Branch is part of CPL’s Community Vision Plan, in which all library branches will be evaluated for the services each offers to their respective communities by 2019.
 
To continue the community involvement in the South Branch’s future, the CPL will host an interactive design session on Wednesday, June 29 at 7 p.m. at Pilgrim Congregational Church, 2592 West 14th St. in Tremont.

Village Market embraces Slavic Village

After only its second week, the Village Market in Slavic Village, hosted by Slavic Village Development (SVD) is already popular as a source for freshly-grown local produce, hand-made goods and a place to mingle with neighbors.

The market, which opened on June 13, is held each Monday from 4 to 7 p.m. through August 29 in Sonny Day Development’s outdoor space at 5106 Fleet Ave. It is the new and improved version of the former Broadway Famers’ Market, which closed in 2014 after struggling to attract vendors and shoppers.
 
In 2015, market manager Tiffany Andreoli began developing the concept with a focus on three things: making fresh produce easily available to residents, educating people on the importance of healthy eating and giving local businesses a place to sell their wares and grow their businesses.
 
“When they [SVD] approached me, I loved the idea because my husband and I live in this neighborhood,” Andreoli says. “I wanted to have vendors from the neighborhood and wanted to get attendance higher [than the Broadway Market].”
 
So far, she has succeeded. More than 150 people came out on opening day. And while attendance dropped a bit this past Monday, Andreoli attributes the Cavs’ NBA Finals victory the night before to a light turnout. “We still did some really good sales,” she says. “A few of our vendors sold out.”
 
A total of 18 vendors have signed up for the Village Market, although Andreoli says she expects an average of 14 vendors each week. “Half of the vendors are from the neighborhood,” she boasts. “We feel it’s very successful.”
 
The market participates in the EBT and Cleveland – Cuyahoga County Food Coalition Food Perks programs. Andreoli says she hopes the programs will encourage residents to come to the Village Market.
 
“This is a low-income neighborhood and it’s important to make it welcoming,” she says. “Many residents didn’t feel as welcome at higher-income neighborhood markets.”
 
In addition to locally-grown produce, the Village Market is also deeming itself a “makers market,” featuring local craftspeople. “The Slavic Village neighborhood has historically been a maker community of butchers, bakers and candlestick makers,” Andreoli explains. “Fleet Avenue is all mom and pop businesses.”
 
Vendors include Melissa Khoury and Penny Barend of Saucisson, which is in the midst of moving their butcher shop to the neighborhood, clothing designer Tourmaline Designs and Blue Lake Botanicals. Christy’s Custom Cakes owner Christy Barley sells her confections while her sons sell snow cones.
 
Produce vendors include the Boys and Girls Club of Cleveland Farm, Community Greenhouse Partners and the Cleveland Botanical Garden’s Green Corps.
 
The market has a variety of events planned throughout the summer. Next week’s market will have a cooking demonstration and MetroHealth will have a booth for health screenings and information. Monday, July 11, will be ArcelorMittal Day, which will feature live music and other entertainment.
 
MetroHealth and ArcelorMittal, along with Citizens Bank, helped fund the Village Market.
 
After the market closes for the season in August, Andreoli says the market plans to host small business training classes through the winter months.
 
The Village Market is still accepting vendor applications for select dates.

"Power in Politics" to open at History Center ahead of the RNC

With the Republican National Convention coming to Cleveland next month, the Cleveland History Center at the Western Reserve Historical Society is launching its Power and Politics on July 14, just in time for Clevelanders to understand the region’s role in politics over the years.

The exhibit will feature everything from historic campaign buttons to the fashions worn to inaugural balls over the years – all with an eye on capitalizing on the RNC’s presence in Cleveland.
 
“We knew the convention was going to mean a significant increase in visibility for the city,” says Angie Lowrie, Cleveland History Center director. "Rather than going through the challenging process of getting downtown, we thought we’d make a nationally significant collection available to everyone.”
 
The exhibit will display a selection of political campaign buttons that date all the way back to the first presidential campaign to present day. “It is the largest collection of political campaign buttons in the nation,” says Lowrie.
 
Also included in the collection is a 1936 republican presidential candidate Alf Landon, who lost his campaign to incumbent Franklin D. Roosevelt.
 
The exhibit will also focus on local themes such as statesman John Hay’s time as private secretary to Abraham Lincoln and Ohio senator Marcus Hanna’s role as William McKinley’s political manager and classmate of John D. Rockefeller.
 
“We’re looking at it nationally and on a local scale,” says Lowrie of the exhibit. “Our collection goes back to the beginning of the first election.”
 
The Chisholm Halle Costume Wing of the center will house the Political Fashion Statements exhibit, showcasing different fashions throughout history, from a dress made from the James A. Garfield parade bunting fabric to a World War II propaganda to one printed with defense stamps and yet another that abolitionist Elizabeth Blake of Medina wore to President Lincoln’s inauguration in 1861.
 
Six videos aim to support the oft-repeated mantra, “the road to the White House runs through Ohio,” by explaining the birth of the GOP, how the party figured so prominently in the abolitionist movement, women’s vote, and the birth of the modern campaign. “Learn how the Party of Lincoln led the nation out of the Civil War era to a time of prosperity,” says Lowrie of one of the videos.
 
The exhibit kicks off with the Historical Society’s History on Tap: Cocktails and Campaigns event on Thursday, July 14, at 5 p.m. Tickets are $7 in advance, $10 at the door, or $5 for Western Reserve Historical Society members and students.  
 
Power and Politics will run through January 2017. The center’s hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $9 for seniors, $5 for children ages 3-12; children age 2 and under are admitted for free.
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