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Parnell's Irish Pub expands alongside Euclid Avenue development

Ever since Parnell’s Irish Pub opened three years ago in Playhouse Square at 1415 Euclid Ave., it has been a hotspot for the working crowd, serving up perfect pours of Guinness Stout and a selection of 90 whiskeys and bourbons. The pub has been so popular that owner Declan Synnott decided it needed more room, so he bought the vacant restaurant space next door and began building an 800-square-foot addition in January, which is expected to open later this month.

“It turns out business is better than I thought it would be,” Synnott says. “What we really need now is just more space so people can be more comfortable.”

The original Parnell’s Pub opened in Cleveland Heights in 1995 after Synnott moved to the city from his native Dublin, Ireland. He opened his second location in Playhouse Square in March 2013 to take advantage of the area’s nightlife scene. The upcoming extension, Synnott suggests, takes influence from the recent development on Euclid Avenue.

The renovations, which were carried out by Turner Construction, were funded by Synnott and Playhouse Square. His wife, Liz, did the interior design, the majority of which features repurposed items. For example, the extension includes a 250-square-foot private room with an 18-foot-long U-shaped table made from old church pews. Light pendants fashioned from old bourbon-barrel wood and sconces made from the barrel’s aluminum wrap illuminate the space. They also rescued barn doors from an old downtown firefighter training facility, which they are using to section off the room.

Parnell’s is slated to host live bands and folk sessions in the new space by September.

Adding three new employees and space for about 45 additional patrons, Synnott is sure adding the new space was a no-brainer, especially because he estimates as many as 4,000 people on any given night descend on the district’s five block radius.

“It’s nice being shoulder-to-shoulder,” Synnott says, “but I want my patrons to be, first of all, comfortable, you know? That’s the atmosphere we’ve projected since we started [in Cleveland Heights] 19 years ago: a place to go after a hard day’s work.”

While Synnott planned for a St. Patrick’s Day finish, city permit delays – due to construction projects for the RNC – pushed completion to a late March opening, but Synnott, who’s awaiting his second child, isn’t too bothered by missing the St. Patrick’s Day goal.

“Would I like the space done? Yeah, of course,” he says. “But one day ain’t going to make us or break us.”

Vision Yoga goes underground with second location

Vision Yoga and Wellness opened its doors on West 25th Street in Ohio City in April 2011 – bringing to the neighborhood a source for yoga classes at all levels, workshops, massage therapy and acupuncture. The offerings have been so popular, the 800-square-foot single studio space was busting at the seams and owner Theresa Gorski couldn’t meet the needs of her growing clientele.

So in February, Gorski opened a second location, Vision Underground, in the basement of St. John’s Episcopal Church, 3600 Church Ave. The 2,300-square-foot space will allow Gorski to cater to a broader range of needs. She now offers chair yoga, yoga for children and community-based workshops and certification classes.
“I don’t call it an addition, I call it an expansion,” Gorski says of the new space. “When you have only one studio, you have to cater to your clients’ makeup and the majority of the population are able-bodied.”
The chair yoga will cater to those who cannot easily get up from or sit down on the floor, Gorski says. The new space also allows Gorski to focus on the wellness aspect of her practice.
“There’s a new wave of interest in focusing on wellness and prevention,” she explains, “where people want to take care of themselves.”
Gorski hired three additional yoga teachers to help with the 12 additional classes now on the weekly schedule, bringing the staff total for the two spaces to 15.
The church itself also has historic significance. Built in the 1800s, St. John’s is the oldest church in Cuyahoga County, Gorski says, and the Vision space was the last stop on the Underground Railroad. The place is also used for Cleveland Public Theatre’s annual Station Hope celebration of the site. Vision Underground will go on hiatus during Station Hope.
Vision Yoga hosted Vision Underground’s grand opening on Saturday, March 4 with donation yoga classes taught by Gorski, prizes, discounts on yoga packages and refreshments. Almost 100 people attended the open house and $1,000 was raised through a raffle and donations.

Holiday Inn Cleveland Clinic to offer affordable stays in University Circle

Construction of the 276-room Holiday Inn Cleveland Clinic, 8650 Euclid Ave. on the Clinic campus, is on schedule and officials say it will be ready to open its doors by mid-April, just in time for the Republican National Convention and summer activities in University Circle, says Craig Campbell, area director of district sales and marketing for the project's parent company, InterContinental Hotel Cleveland.

The multi-million dollar project broke ground in December 2014 and will offer guests a more affordable option on the Clinic campus.
“It’s a beautiful project, says Campbell of the hotel designed to have a metropolitan feel with a two-story atrium by Cleveland-based Kaczmar Architects with the assistance of Clinic architects. “It will be a tremendous asset to University Circle as a whole.”
The Holiday Inn marks the third hotel on the Clinic campus, complementing the InterContinental Hotel and Conference Center, a luxury hotel, and the InterContinental Suites for extended stay visitors.
The most affordable of the three, Holiday Inn will have a price point starting around $179 a night, while the InterContinental rates run between $234 for the suites and $289 for the hotel. The three hotels combined will have more than 730 rooms. Courtyard by Marriott and Doubletree Tudor Arms are also located in the neighborhood, although the three InterContinental hotels are the only ones actually on the Clinic’s campus.
The Holiday Inn will be a full-service hotel, complete with room service, fitness center, indoor pool, cocktail and espresso lounge, restaurant, business center and patio. The three hotels combined offer options for all types of visitors to Cleveland.
“The Holiday Inn is the third leg of the stool, providing the most economically priced option,” Campbell says. “It casts a wide net to meet the needs of just about everyone who comes to Cleveland.”
Campbell says the Clinic’s complimentary shuttle service will take guests to various destinations in University Circle, such as the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Cleveland Botanical Garden and Uptown, while guests of students and University residents will also benefit from the new hotel.
“It’s a benefit to the community as well as an additional hotel offering for residents of the area who have family members and other out of town guests,” he says. “It will benefit the tourism industry too. It will drive business to the area.”  
Campbell says the Holiday Inn is the second-largest hotel project, in terms of number of rooms, to be completed in the past two years in Cleveland. Once open, the hotel will employ more than than 100 people. Walsh Construction is keeping the project on schedule.
The hotel is listed as one of the RNC’s hotel packages, Campbell says, making the mid-April completion date timely, even though an exact opening date has not been announced. “It’s a win-win all the way around,” he says. “It helps the city in the short run and will attract larger pieces of business in the future.”

Joint health education campus facility under construction in Cleveland

The future of healthcare in Cleveland is now under construction, say proponents of an educational partnership meant to bring students from the disciplines of medicine, dental health and nursing together under one roof.

Foundation work on the $515 million Health Education Campus (HEC), a joint project from Case Western Reserve
University (CWRU) and the Cleveland Clinic, began late last year following an October groundbreaking. Steel construction is slated to start in April and run through October, while erection of a central atrium will begin by year's end, says Stephen Campbell, CWRU's vice president of campus planning and facilities management.

The 487,000-square-foot space going up south of Chester Avenue is on schedule for completion in April 2019, with the building welcoming its student population that July. Configuring the four-story facility with an atrium accounts for a major portion of the extended time table, Campbell says.

Classrooms, high-tech simulation labs and auditorium space will all be part of a finished building with an enrollment reaching over 1,800 students. A pair of Cleveland-based construction firms, Donley's and Turner Construction, are the builders on a project designed by London architect Foster + Partners.

Size matters for a facility its supporters believe can be a world-renowned epicenter of medical know-how. Located on East 93rd Street between Euclid and Chester Avenues, the education campus is intended to promote collaboration among students from the Clinic's Lerner College of Medicine and CWRU's school of medicine, dental medicine and its Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing.

The idea behind the interdisciplinary mash-up is to encourage cooperation in an evolving healthcare landscape, officials note.

"The practice of medicine is a team sport where education has taken place in silos," says Campbell. "This is a level-setting of the process, meaning health professionals will be better (collaborators) right out of the gate."

A dental clinic planned for the Hough neighborhood along Chester Avenue is part of the larger campus, Campbell says. The free-standing building will be three stories high, and include about 150,000 square feet of space. The dental clinic is scheduled to open alongside the main building, with both facilities set to host CWRU dental students.

On a larger scale, the partner institutions expect the venture to attract grad students, post-docs and other new residents to the University Circle area. Campbell can envision health campus students filling up Innova, a high-end mixed-use development adjacent to the Clinic's main campus and in close proximity to CWRU.

In a few years, these students may be working side-by-side in an environment designed to mold them into team players.

"The Clinic has always been progressive in improving healthcare delivery," says Campbell. "We expect them to do the same from the partnership side."

New downtown YMCA set to open at Galleria in March

The YMCA's 40,000 square feet of premium health and wellness space is finally set to open at its new home in the Galleria.

Current members are invited to the two-story Parker Hannifin Downtown YMCA  starting March 21, with a grand opening celebration slated for March 29, says marketing director Amanda Lloyd.

Amenities at the much-anticipated facility include over 70 pieces of cardio and strength equipment and a three-lane lap pool. Members can also enjoy group exercise studios, a spinning area, message therapy rooms, and a health clinic complete with an on-site physician.

Pilates, acupuncture, hot yoga and biometric screenings will be among the programming available, notes Lloyd. The new YMCA is expected to house twice as many fitness devotees as its current location at East 22nd Street and Prospect Avenue, which holds nearly 3,250 members.

The Prospect location will close March 20, meaning members won't have a delay in service, Lloyd says. The old building, sold to a Texas-based company last year, will be maintained as private student housing.

All of the YMCA's functions will move to the Galleria, where the gym will take up a former retail space. The organization has raised $7 million for a project budgeted at $12 million, with $3 million coming from Parker Hannifin. YMCA will tap grant money and individual donations for the balance of the financial package. The project is also set to employ 40 full-time and part-time workers, including personal trainers, lifeguards and housekeepers.

Membership enrollment will cost $50 monthly for young professionals ages 18 to 29, $65 for adults and $105 for a household.

YMCA officials believe the gym can be an anchor for a downtown population projected by Downtown Cleveland Alliance to balloon to 18,000 within the next two years.

"There are some vacant storefronts (in the Galleria), but around us there's a good core of corporations and people living downtown," says Lloyd. "Moving to this space seemed like the perfect fit." 

Collaboration brings home sweet home to disabled Cleveland veteran

An ex-Marine has found a new home thanks to a pair of veteran-friendly groups and a Cleveland suburb willing to support disabled soldiers with affordable housing opportunities.

Elyria native Corp. Leo Robinson signed the final closing documents for his new house in South Euclid during a Feb. 18 ceremony at Cuyahoga Land Bank (CLB). The organization partnered with national nonprofit Purple Heart Homes and the city of South Euclid on the project.

Robinson, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan who sustained brain injuries and other ailments overseas, was set to move into his renovated home late last week, says Howard Goldberg, assistant secretary and chief real estate officer with Purple Heart Homes.

The 1,300-square-foot domicile, donated in 2012 by CLB, was rebuilt from the ground up, says Goldberg. Nearly 200 volunteers offered financial and material support for the approximately $70,000 undertaking.  

Plumbing, electrical, HVAC and insulation work was supplied gratis, while a local furniture company provided the home with a new bedroom set and other necessities. Members of the Notre Dame College football team, meanwhile, helped demolish the structure's interior prior to rebuild.

"This shows how a community can come together and make something great happen," says Goldberg.

Robinson will live in the house with his therapy dog, Kota. The finished structure has a new garage, laundry room, basement recreation space, and second-floor bath off the master bedroom. The former Marine will pay a mortgage equal to 50 percent of the home's appraised value.

Eligibility for the ownership program requires an honorable discharge and a service-connected disability, Goldberg notes. Robinson is the second veteran to receive a home in South Euclid through the venture. A third residence is planned for the inner-ring community, while two more projects are in talks for Old Brooklyn and Euclid, respectively.

"South Euclid's done a good job of sustaining their housing stock so the values go back up," says Goldberg. "The timing for us was excellent."

The collaboration also meets Purple Heart Homes' stated goal of improving veterans' lives one home at a time. The organization, launched by two disabled Iraq War vets, has found stable partners among the leadership and general population of South Euclid, Goldberg says.

"The one thing this shows is how people rally around their veterans," he says. "They're not only willing to help, but they want to make a veteran feel welcome in their community."

Further reading: East Cleveland duplex now permanent housing for veterans

New Big Boy induces delicious nostalgia trip among Clevelanders

Steve Facione was on the front lines of hunger-induced nostalgia last week when the new Mayfield Heights Big Boy opened its doors.

About 700 customers braved lake-effect snow on Feb. 9 to get a taste of the locally-loved restaurant chain's original double-decker burgers and milkshakes, reports Facione, vice president of franchise development at Big Boy Restaurants.

"Some people drove 45 minutes to get here," says Facione. "It was a great day."

A region-wide hankering for comfort food helped bring the iconic franchise back to the market, Facione notes. Over the last few years, the company rep has received numerous emails from Clevelanders asking when the brand would get an East Side location. Previously, Valley View and Brookpark had the only restaurants in the area.

"We had guests coming from Mentor to Valley View," says Facione. "That stirred our curiosity."

The new Big Boy's Burgers and Shakes is located in a storefront across from Eastgate Shopping Center that previously held Menchies Frozen Yogurt. Gone are the car hops from the drive-in Big Boys of the 1950s through the 1970s. Nor does the new location have the grinning, overall-clad mascot common to many restaurants in the chain. However, the  Americana menu is still very much in place, replete with tasty burgers slathered in special white sauce and an ice cream cake soon to be named - as it once was - the Sweetie Pie 

Janet Rice has fond memories of Big Boy's good food and good times. The Chagrin Falls resident spent her teenage years in the mid-60s hanging out at the restaurant with friends, or having a burger and shake following a movie date.

"In grade school, my parents would get Big Boy for lunch," says Rice. "It was such a treat."

Rice took a delicious nostalgia trip to the Mayfield Heights location last weekend with her husband, Joe. The couple picked up a pair of double-deckers, an experience almost exactly as Rice remembered from her girlhood.

"My thing was always the sauce," she says. "I never had sauce like that, and it was spot-on."

Facione expects many more burger orders for a restaurant set to stay open seven days a week. The bustling location hired 40 employees, including greeters, shift managers and line cooks. Those workers could be the foundation for other stores once they go online. Willoughby, Avon, Solon and Strongsville are among possible future sites, says the franchise VP.

"Acknowledgement should go to our guests who remember the brand," says Facione. "We have to make sure to live up to that good reputation."

Rice, for one, is planning a return journey with her granddaughter this weekend. "I want to see if she thinks (the restaurant) is as great as I remember at her age," she says.

Hemlock Trail set to make all the right connections

A multi-purpose trail planned for the City of Independence will serve as a connecting point with the Towpath Trail while also catalyzing the region economically, planners say.

Construction of Hemlock Trail is scheduled for the first quarter of 2017 following a $500,000 grant the project received from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Clean Ohio Trails fund. The money will cover a portion of the venture while Independence officials make plans to raise the remaining $1.1 million, says city engineer Donald Ramm.

Partner group West Creek Conservancy, which helped with the grant effort, has been approaching trail advocates for single donations. Meanwhile, the city will call on local foundations to garner additional dollars, says Ramm.

Urgency is the watchword moving forward, as the ODNR grant must be used within 18 months of signing. Engineering for the $3.4 million path began last year and should be completed by the end of 2016. Construction bidding will commence early next year, with work starting in spring 2017. If all goes as planned, the trail will open to the public in 2018.

When complete, the 1.7-mile Hemlock Trail will begin at the intersection of Brecksville Road and Selig Drive, ending  at the Towpath Trail connection on Canal Road in Valley View.  That linkage is significant for a population base that currently has no easy means of accessing the iconic 85-mile track, Ramm says.

"We're excited about it," he says. "Hemlock Trail will be a major link for our residents to get from the center of town to Towpath Trail."

The 10-foot-wide path, designed to cross through private, industrial and national park properties, will have room for both bikers and joggers. Four or five bridges will be built along the trail's snake-like course, along with space for up to 15 parking spots.

Giving Independence residents a new place to walk, run and bike can have a positive impact on local economic development as well, believe supporters. Officials view Hemlock Trail as one piece of an amenities package that can attract people from outside the region and bolster a downtown redevelopment plan now in the preliminary planning stage.

"As a community asset, the path is going to be significant to the city," says Ramm. 

GCP takes long view with project recommendation funding list

As Cleveland prepares for the Republican National Convention (RNC), area business leaders have tabbed a series of high-impact projects they believe can maintain the energy kicked off by the much-ballyhooed summer event.

The Greater Cleveland Partnership (GCP) is recommending 11 projects for financing in the 2016-17 state capital bill, to be crafted by legislators later this year. Economic development that contributes to Cleveland's ongoing renaissance is the theme of this year's project list.

"We have the RNC, but how do we continue this momentum for another generation?" poses Marty McGann, GCP's senior vice president of government advocacy.

This year's capital bill could include up to $100 million for community projects which by law must involve real estate or capital investment and have some connection to state government. GCP's suggested improvements total nearly $50 million, with funding set for infrastructure, healthcare, museums and more.

GCP has asked state legislators to set aside $8.5 million for the Lakefront Pedestrian Bridge, a $33 million venture designed to link downtown to the lake. Though the bridge project had $5 million allocated from the 2015-16 capital bill, $3.5 million of that money was diverted to the  Public Square makeover. Due to inflated costs, GCP is focused on securing an extra $5 million in this year's request, McGann notes.

"The lens we look through is what will have a maximum impact on the community," he says. "The bridge will make it more efficient for people to get around down there."

Stabilizing landslide issues in Irishtown Bend via $4 million for new bulkheads is another example of GCP and project sponsor Port of Cleveland examining the long-term view. A crumbling hillside can lead to shipping problems along the Cuyahoga River, potentially impacting the regional economy all the way to the nearby West 25th Street corridor.

"It's important to a thriving region trying to expand," McGann says.

Other projects on GCP's list include:

• A four-story health-education campus south of Chester Avenue for medical students from Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic. The institutions are asking for $10 million for construction of the facility.

• $1 million for a pedestrian bridge providing easier access to Wendy Park from Ohio City and the west bank of the Flats.

• $5 million for the second phase of Cleveland Museum of Natural History reconstruction, an effort that includes new lobby space, courtyard, research labs and expanded exhibit space.

Lakewood fish shelf coming along swimmingly, officials say

A "fish shelf"  designed to stabilize about 300 feet of riverfront on the Lakewood bank of the Rocky River is on track for completion this fall.

Last June, the City of Lakewood received a $123,000 grant from the Ohio EPA for streambank restoration and construction of the shelf, which will be comprised of former sound barrier walls or other repurposed concrete construction materials, notes city engineer Mark Papke.

The fish shelf will be built near the Rocky River Reservation of the Cleveland Metroparks, close to the Lakewood Animal Shelter off Metropark Drive. Bidding will begin in April while construction on the approximately $204,000 venture is scheduled for June. Lakewood will pay $82,000 toward the project cost.

The portion of the riverbank slated for restoration is unstable and eroding rapidly, says Papke. "The trees there have fallen into the river," he says. "There's no vegetation at all now."

While the fish shelf won't replace the 15 feet of land lost to erosion over the last several years, it will protect the bank from further damage, Papke says. In addition, the shelf will prevent the influx of phosphorous-laden sediment into the river. Phosphorous, a primary plant nutrient, is known to play a role in creating potentially damaging algae.

Meanwhile, new trees and shrubs will serve the dual purpose of beautifying and further firming up the space. Gaps in the rubble can provide a habitat for additional greenery as well as animal life.

If planners have their way, the fish shelf will also be site a for sport fishing. The water around the proposed shelf is already known for steelhead trout.

"We met a couple of fishermen last week to show them the plans," says Papke. "They appreciate the chance to have better access to the river."

Partner organization Cleveland Metroparks will conduct a survey prior to and following construction to determine if the enterprise can attract even more fish to the area, Papke says.

City officials estimate the fish shelf to be ready by October. Papke is confident the project will be both an environmental and civic boon for the region.

"It's giving us an opportunity to stabilize the bank and provide a nice place for fishing," he says. 

New bike lanes to amp up Slavic Village connectivity

Road work is a common enough sight in Cleveland, but a large-scale re-paving project on Warner Road in Slavic Village can also be part of an overarching effort to make the neighborhood a safe, attractive and welcoming place to live, maintain those on the ground.

Work on the Warner Road Rehabilitation Project began early last week. Approximately one mile of the residential street will be re-surfaced and re-striped. Other improvements include ADA-compliant ramps and new pavement markings. Construction cost for the nearly year-long project is slated at $2.4 million.  

In the short term, one lane of traffic southbound will be maintained between Grand Division and Broadway Avenues. Northbound traffic will be detoured east along Grand Division Avenue then north along Turney Road.

It's when the project is finished in December 2016 that things get exciting, says Chris Alvarado, executive director of Slavic Village Development, a nonprofit community development corporation serving the North and South Broadway neighborhoods. Six-foot-wide bike lanes will replace diagonal parking spots on both sides of the street, stretching from the entrance of the Mill Creek Falls reservation to Grand Division Avenue on the border of Garfield Heights.

The new bike lanes will create a safe pedestrian passageway, as existing parking spaces are often used as though traffic areas by drivers, says Alvarado. Additionally, installation of much-needed biking options is taking place as strategic efforts, like Mill Creek Trail, aim to connect Cleveland via bike and walking paths.

To that end, Slavic Village is currently working with the City of Cleveland on linking its forthcoming bike lanes to the end of the Morgana Run Trail, a two-mile bicycling and walking path extending from E. 49th Street to Jones Road near Broadway Avenue.

Eventually, the Warner Road bike trail can be a single link in a five-mile biking and pedestrian access chain that runs all the way downtown, notes Alvarado. It can also serve as an amenity that helps draw new residents to the community.

"We pride ourselves on being an active neighborhood where walking, biking and exercise is part of who we are," Alvarado says.

Ultimately, the refurbished road can be part of a brighter future for a community trying to rebound, adds the development group official.

"It's a way to bring in new neighbors and make [Slavic Village] attractive for the people who live here," says Alvarado.

CMHA breaks ground on more than 100 residential units in Campus District

Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) broke ground Jan. 29 on  the Cedar-Central Development  a large-scale, mixed-use housing project that supporters believe will weave seamlessly into the fabric of its downtown neighborhood.

The planned 15-acre residential initiative includes an apartment building and townhomes. Construction has already begun on the first two phases, which will utilize approximately eight acres of the site, says Jeffrey Patterson, CMHA chief executive officer.

Phase one is a four-story, 61-unit structure with room on the ground floor for a community area and potential commercial space. Each unit will contain one bedroom, a full bathroom and kitchen. The project's second phase consists of 50 townhome units with multiple bedrooms, depending on unit type.

Future stages representing the project's remaining seven acres could include additional residential units, while green space will be dispersed throughout the redevelopment site.

The mixed-use apartment and townhome space, costing a total of about $33 million, will be built near the corner of East 30th Street and Community College Avenue. The units will rent at both market and subsidized rates.

With this area already active thanks to two nearby colleges and a recently introduced neighborhood clinic, the CMHA project can help link these elements together, Patterson says. "This type of housing is different than what had been there in the past," he says. "It's going to add a new dynamic."

The housing initiative replaces the Cedar Extension Estates, demolished in 2012 to make way for the forthcoming project. Displaced residents will get first dibs on the new apartments at the normal subsidized rate.

These folks will be returning to a project that can help transform the area through streetfront retail and other perks, its backers maintain. Restaurants and shopping options are among the possibilities for the mixed-use apartment complex.

Meanwhile, contracting work and other skilled labor positions related to the year-long construction are currently available, says Donovan Duncan, CMHA's director of asset management. The housing group participated in a building and certification program with Cuyahoga Community College, which taught painting and other valuable skills to laborers who can take those talents to employers beyond the Cedar-Central development.

"These are future job skills we're teaching," Duncan says.

Ultimately, the housing project represents a coming together of community stakeholders, notes Patterson.  Tri-C, Cleveland State University and St. Vincent Charity Medical Center have committed to Employer Assisted Housing, which will offer first-month stipends for staff and students to rent at the property.

A wholesale neighborhood effort will be a boon for the first two phases of the enterprise, slated for completion during the first quarter of 2017, Patterson says.

"Housing is going to be a key component of our community's development," he says.

Formula One style go-kart racing, event center, coming to Brook Park

For all the northeast Ohioans who fancy themselves a would-be Danica Patrick, Kyle Busch or (for the old-timers among us) A. J. Foyt, the opportunity to realize those alter egos will soon arise courtesy of Boss Pro-Karting, which is coming to 18301 Brookpark Road this summer.
"Boss Pro-Karting is an indoor professional go-kart track and event facility," says Boss co-founder Brad Copley. "We have an indoor Formula One style go-kart circuit. Additionally, we have meeting and gathering spaces that can accommodate up to 200 individuals."
The new 36,000-square-foot facility will feature a 1/5-mile indoor racing track that will expand to 1/4-mile in the fairer months when overhead doors open to an outdoor extension. The 18-turn track was inspired by classic Ohio racing venues such as Mid-Ohio, Nelson Ledges and the seasonal track at Burke Lakefront Airport, which was home to the Grand Prix of Cleveland from 1982 to 2007 when the likes of Al Unser, Emerson Fittipaldi and Paul Tracy flew beneath the checkered flag. The races at Burke fueled a generation of memories.
"We want to tap into that exact feeling," says Copley. "We can deliver that again to Cleveland."
Memories notwithstanding, these are not your dad's go-karts. The Sodi RTX European F1 Race Karts go for a cool $20,000 each and while they can achieve speeds of 75 miles per hour, Copley notes that the karts will be governed at 50 mph.

The all-electric emission-free karts will be staged and charged in the two-lane pit area. The battery-powered aspect of the karts also allows management to "have complete control to improve the racing experience and keep it safe," says Copley. Boss Pro-Karting's fleet will include 26 Sodi karts.
Boss will have four event spaces with square footages of 2,400, 800, 600 and 400. The largest of will accommodate sit-down parties of up to 200. While catering options are still tentative, Copley says Boss will be flexible with clients when it comes to dining service. There will be a full liquor service with a zero tolerance policy.
"You are no longer able to race if have a drink," says Copley.
While Copley expects to attract corporate and private clients to the event center for everything from bachelor parties to company team-building events, local teens and adults looking to unleash their inner Andretti will be welcome to enjoy the facility seven days a week.
"We'll schedule and book times for private groups," says Copley, adding that casual concessions such as pizza, pretzels and hotdogs will be available and racing will start at $20 a go, with lower pricing for the subsequent races. Future programs include leagues and training sessions and summer camps wherein kids can learn about driving, competing and racing.
"Who knows?" poses Copley of prospective attendees. "They could be the next Jeff Gordon."
The project is the brainchild of Copley, who wore a business suit for much of his professional life, and his cousin Lee Boss, who wore a racing suit.
"Lee was a three-time World Karting Association Champion," says Copley of his cousin. "He won the National Karting Circuit in 2004, 2005 and 2006. He also raced SCCA cars at Mid-Ohio, and Sprint cars in Sandusky, Attica and Eldora," he adds, noting that those three tracks are all in Ohio. "He has a long racing background."
Copley's racing experience is more subdued.
"I'm a mechanical engineer who grew up making race car parts," says the former vice president and 25-year veteran of MTD Products.
Newmark Grubb Knight Frank (NGKF) orchestrated the deal by uniting the Boss team, the commercial real estate firm Weston Inc. and the City of Brook Park to bring the unique $4.2 million project to fruition.
The city came to the table with a $50,000 demolition grant and a 15-year tax abatement that will apply to the improvements on the three-acre lot (namely, the building). While Weston owns the building and the land, the Boss team will operate the facility and owns the business and all the associated equipment. Janotta & Herner is the architect and general contractor on the project.
The project was unique, notes NGKF's senior marketing coordinator Matt Orgovan, on account of the build-to-suit aspect.
"There's not a lot of those going on right now," says Orgovan.
"You design the building around the need," notes NGKF's director Jeff Kennedy, explaining that existing buildings had columns and layouts that simply could not accommodate the challenges of a racing track. Hence a customized "build-to-suit" design was in order.
Formerly occupied by a vacant rental car facility and V-Ash Machine Co., demolition on the site is complete and foundation work has begun. Boss Pro-Karting is expected to open this summer ahead of the RNC, a realization that was long in coming.
"My first experience with this was in Budapest in 2002," says Copley. "That's what inspired me. When I saw that track in Hungary, I just fell in love. I thought: man, we need one of these in Cleveland." Since then, he's visited tracks around the globe.
"It's just taken me since 2002 for the market and the opportunity to be right to actually build one."

Latest MOCA exhibits reimagine the body, devastate viewers

Last Friday, the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (MOCA) debuted its latest exhibitions, which somehow manage to stay connected from gallery to gallery while demolishing viewers as they navigate through it all.
The fourth floor galleries house Stranger, which includes the work of nine artists from around the globe. The immersive experience includes the portraits of Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, which beg the question: am I considering them or are they laughing at me? Next, a slinky figure with a drape of blond hair removes an undergarment courtesy of Valérie Blass's Je suis une image, at least until the sculpture reveals its secret. Blass's sculptures are amid the work of Sascha Braunig, which evokes figures pushing out of the canvas, misshapen heads and brains (in the literal sense).
"I want you to sort of feel like a creepy crawly sense of your own skin when you look at those," says Braunig of her works.
Then there is Simon Dybbroe Møller's Untitled (How does it feel), an eight-minute video that outgoing MOCA associate curator and publications manager, Rose Bouthillier, describes thusly: "You'll see a variety of images: this model, fruit, flowers, landscapes," she says. "The narrative through it all is about what the body desires and how the world is designed in relation to our bodies' needs and wants. It's sort of surreal and poetic.
"And then at the end, this main figure is revealed to be cut off below the shoulders so it just becomes this sort of eerie floating bust," Bouthillier continues. "The camera goes underneath and you see the meat and the structure inside.
"You start to question the reality of the images."
That theme carries through to Hyperlinks or it didn't happen, a 20-minute video from Cécile B. Evans featuring Phil, a computer generated graphic that bears an uncanny resemblance to Phillip Seymour Hoffman, thereby evoking the controversy surrounding his death about digitally recreating the actor in order to complete "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay."
Bouthillier describes the work in the context of our digital advancements and "all these ways the body is changing and might actually become unnecessary."
That you can watch Hyperlinks while sprawled upon a thick carpet before the screen twists the experience further by evoking flannel pajamas and bowls of Captain Crunch consumed in front of the TV. Innocence lost, indeed.
On the second floor, the harrowing 12-minute abduct from Xavier Cha utterly captivates the viewer. The work features seven actors in a Spartan setting as they display an array of emotions.
"They're almost overtaken by these spirits and these ghosts of different emotions," says Bouthillier of the commissioned work. "You'll see rage and terror battling on the face with glee."
"It was very exhausting for the actors," notes Cha, who shot the footage in one day at Marlboro Chelsea in New York. "They had to go on this psycho trip that I was really surprised by too," she says, adding that even the rehearsals did not prepare them for the intensity of the shoot, which comes through the finished product with piercing accuracy.
"At the end of it," says Bouthillier of the film, "I just feel totally exhausted and hysterical and confused."
All of the exhibitions are tethered together by Stair A, in which an audio installment constantly plays. That sounds innocuous enough, but the experience is anything but. Stair A is a disorienting bright yellow affair that winds and turns with wiles befitting Lewis Carroll.

It is never a simple route from point A to point B, but something always to be negotiated. Make no mistake: this stairway controls you, particularly as Marina Rosenfeld's Teenage Lontano thrums all around. The haunting sound is actually a sampling of the fragmented commentary, laughter, objections, asides, and vocal styling of groups of teenagers who previously performed more formal versions of the work.
Stair A eventually deposits visitors into the Gund Commons on the ground floor, where they are confronted with nearly six minutes of animated video that, at first blush, might once again recall those Saturday morning cartoon sessions, but the images in Oliver Laric's Untitled quickly turn nightmarish. Human limbs droop down and transform into sprawling roots, man melds with machine and breasts become vicious chewing mouths.
"It's this frenetic sense of morphing," says Bouthillier.
Laric's Untitled is in the public part of the museum along with the gift shop. Anyone is welcome to view it for free during MOCA's regular hours. The rest of the exhibitions are part of a paid admission and worth every penny of $9.50 and then some, although those on a budget are welcome to visit MOCA on the first Saturday of each month when admission is free.
"These are my last shows," said Bouthillier; who is joining the forthcoming Remai Modern in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, as curator (exhibitions). "So I'm very happy to introduce all of you to them," she said during a media tour.
And while she was addressing a handful of journalists, the statement no doubt applies to northeast Ohioans near and far, as this swan song is a truly a crowning jewel and not to be missed.

Summer opening eyed for Cleveland Coffee in Ecovillage

The plot of land between West 58th and 57th Streets on the north side of Lorain Avenue is one of those spaces Clevelanders pass again and again while their brow knits and they mumble to themselves … huh.

On it sits just one old building from days gone by, shuttered since who knows when. It is the only structure on that block, which is bordered to the north by West Aspen Court. For years, it has looked curious and perhaps lonely, but courtesy of a local entrepreneur that quirky old building in Detroit Shoreway's Ecovillage at 5718 Lorain Ave. is undergoing a transformation.
"We've decided to house our first Cleveland Coffee retail environment there," says Brendan Walton, who founded Cleveland Coffee in 2003. He currently roasts at a midtown location and serves his brew at the downtown café and bar, A. J. Rocco's at 816 Huron Road.
While Walton has owned the Lorain Avenue building for six years, he only began working on it recently. The first floor café area is approximately 850 square feet. Future plans for the second floor, which is zoned residential, are pending.
"Our focus is definitely on the first floor," says Walton, who is acting as his own general contractor. Leslie DiNovi of Mark Fremont Architects is doing the design for the privately funded project. While Walton has not yet submitted an application, he hopes to take advantage of the city's Storefront Renovation Program.
"I have to go through the process," he says, adding that he's working with staff at the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization to apply for the popular program.
While interior work is ongoing, thus far Walton has replaced all the windows save for the large front window and has installed Dutch lap siding, which is often fashioned from vinyl, but Walton opted for wood.
"We tried to match what was there," he says.
While specifics are still yet to be determined, Walton is planning to be open seven days a week and have a limited selection of edibles that will complement his high end coffee, which he'll prepare via popular methods such as pour-over and Aero and French press.
"A. J. Rocco's doesn't really lend itself to that," says Walton of those slower per-cup methods.
He hopes to be serving up his joe – including the new and popular Cavs/Aussie inspired blend – at the new Lorain location by the beginning of summer. Until then, home brewers can purchase Cleveland Coffee at some 40 retail locations across northeast Ohio.
While Walton is a bit of a pioneer on this stretch of Lorain, which has more than its share of vacancies, he is quick to tout neighboring successes such as the venerable Lorain Antique District, the gravity of which is loosely centered amid the West 70's, and the burgeoning easterly part of Lorain in Ohio City, into which ventures such as Canopy, The Grocery, and Platform Beer Company are breathing new life. He has stalwart faith that he can pull that energy inward to West 58th Street.
"I've always loved Lorain," says Walton, adding that his new coffee spot may inspire others to invest in the area around West 58th Street. "I think this is an important intersection for Detroit Shoreway," he says. And while many of the area storefronts are vacant, they have a certain vintage charm, one that could reemerge with what Walton calls an "old-school Coventry feel," referencing the storied east side neighborhood.
"We're Clevelanders," he says. "We like urban renewal and we would love to be a part of a renaissance in this area. We are very optimistic it's going to happen."
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