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Handcrafted sour beer, mead, eats and board games coming to Lakewood

When the BottleHouse Brewing Company opened on Lee Road in Cleveland Heights in 2012, owner Brian Benchek brought a slightly different approach to the craft brewery – no mainstream beers or televisions, but plenty of picnic tables and board games to create an atmosphere the whole family could enjoy.

The idea was a success and Benchek is on the verge of opening a second location. The BottleHouse Brewery and Mead Hall will occupy the space that formerly housed Old Sullivan’s Irish Pub at 13368 Madison Ave. in Lakewood.
 
Everything is complete and management is ready to open the doors pending approval of their federally issued brewing license. Jared Plotts, general manager of the Lakewood location and trivia host on Monday nights at the Cleveland Heights location, says the license should come through any day.  
 
“We’re well past the 120 days, which is the normal time it takes,” he says. “We’re at 150 days. Once that email comes, we’re open. It just gives us an opportunity to tweak things.”
 
While the team had been floating the idea of a second location, it was fate that brought it to life.
 
“Brian had been toying with the idea of how we could get more people interested in our beer,” says Plotts. “We were discussing a second location, but we planned on opening in a year or two and we thought we’d build it out ourselves.”
 
Then, Plotts says Benchek was tooling around town in November and happened to see the former Sullivan’s location was up for rent and in a blink, the second BottleHouse location was determined.
 
“Every day since the end of November we’ve been working hard to get everything up to code,” says Plotts of the 5,000-square-foot space. The team ripped out the saloon-themed décor from the last tenant only to reveal an Irish cherry wood bar and other imported Irish wood. New embellishments include rustic chandeliers, barrels lining the room and highlights on the stone work arches.
 
“The majority of the work was cosmetic,” says Plotts. “It’s more like a 17th century castle.”
 
Picnic tables will encourage a community feel, and the customary board games will be available.

"Valhalla," a private party room, features a 22-foot-long table. Plotts says he plans to host monthly craft brewing workshops here, including one specifically targeting women. He also plans to host monthly fundraising events for local charities.

A game room in front has reclaimed wood floors salvaged from a vintage Irish barn, glass sculptures made by Benchek and old school arcade games.
 
While the Lee Road BottleHouse will continue to be the brewing headquarters for the operation, the Lakewood location will focus on sour beers, which rely on wild yeast for fermentation, and barrel aging. The two locations employ about 10 people.

Twenty-four taps will offer a rotating selection of BottleHouse-brewed clean beers, sour beers and meads. The sour beers take between six months and three years of barrel aging, so that selection won’t be available until late this year. There will also be a variety of cocktails made with the beers and meads.
 
Menu items include crackers made with the spent grains from making the beer and BBQ sauce and beer cheese made from BottleHouse brews, as well as soups and salads. Offerings will change seasonally, Plotts says. And as always, patrons are welcome to bring their own food into the bar.
 
Plotts says the overall atmosphere and attitude in Lakewood will be similar to the Cleveland Heights location. “Lakewood has such a rich history,” he says. “We wanted to give the community someplace they could be proud of and a place they can go with a lot of energy and the idea of community.”

Bloom Bakery opens on Public Square

Sour dough bread, sticky buns and English sausage rolls are just a sampling of the items available at the highly anticipated Bloom Artisan Bakery and Café, which opened earlier this week at 200 Public Square. In addition to the bakery items, Bloom also offers a selection of sandwiches, soups and salads. Try homemade hummus with red capsicum peppers, house-roasted garlic and olive oil on your choice of bread alongside a cup of French onion soup and a beet salad. Top it off with a chocolate pecan brownie, spice cookie or slice of Madeira pound cake.
 
There is, however, much more to this story than just a mouth-watering menu.
 
Made possible by a collaboration between local organizations including the Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI), the Business of Good Foundation, the Cleveland Foundation and Towards Employment, Bloom Bakery is dedicated to employing low-income and disadvantaged adults from the Greater Cleveland area.
 
"Bloom Bakery's partnership with ECDI is bound by a shared passion for benefiting local Cleveland communities," said Logan Fahey, general manager of Bloom Bakery in a statement. "Their support for our social enterprise has been instrumental in our efforts to give those with barriers to employment a second chance.”
 
Before being hired by Bloom, potential employees go through a Towards Employment’s career readiness course. They also learn baking skills from the best. Internationally-renowned artisan baking specialist Maurice Chaplais, who is based in the United Kingdom, is here training the first group of bakers and the head baker. After he returns to England in April, Saidah Farrell, head baker, will be in charge of training. The aim is to give employees access to meaningful work, achievement, and self-sufficiency through the art of exceptional handcrafted baking.
 
“We wanted to create a business that is scalable,” Fahey told Fresh Water last year. “The hope is that once they graduate from the bakery they will move on to jobs with higher wages and use the skills they’ve learned.”
 
The second Bloom location at 1938 Euclid Ave. in the Campus District is the operation's production kitchen. Bloom previously used the Cleveland Culinary Launch and Kitchen, an incubation kitchen and accelerator, also funded through ECDI.

The Economic and Community Development Institute is part of Fresh Water's underwriting network.
 

Local chocolatier rebuilds facility destroyed by fire

Debbie Stagan will never forget Thanksgiving 2014. It was the day that fire destroyed the 342,000-square-foot Fannie May/Harry London warehouse in Maple Heights. “I was in shock,” the wholesale supervisor recalls, “left wondering if you had a job.”

Last Wednesday, March 9, Stagan and the other 45 permanent warehouse employees returned to the rebuilt warehouse for the grand opening after spending nearly 16 months working out of a temporary warehouse in Twinsburg and the chocolate manufacturer’s North Canton headquarters.
 
It was an emotional day for Kevin Coen last week as he welcomed the employees back. All of the permanent employees were able to keep their jobs throughout the rebuilding process. “I see the spirit of the team here,” says Coen, president of Fannie May/Harold London. “They’re coming back home.”
 
Ten million pounds of chocolate is made in North Canton each year and the Maple Heights warehouse ships it all in four million packages to the company’s 85 retail locations in six states and Canada as well as to online customers.
 
When Coen got news of the fire, he was first relieved that no one was there at the time and no one was hurt. He then went into "team mode,” following the long-standing Fannie May motto of "Fannie May Strong," and ensured operations could continue. ”It’s about spirit and how we go about doing things,” he says of the motto. “When you’re faced with that, you deal with that.”
 
By Monday morning, the employees were being bussed to the North Canton facility. “We didn’t miss a day of work,” Coen boasts. “The [Canton employees] applauded as they walked in. There was such a sense of comaraderie.”
 
Two weeks later, the temporary Twinsburg warehouse was found, to which any of the employees were shuttled each day from Maple Heights until last week. After the fire, Coen made sure all existing orders were fulfilled and the 75 seasonal employees were paid through December.
 
“Everyone knew what to do and they just did it,” Coen recalls. “Everyone stayed, anything we had to do as a company we did it. [Warehouse manager] Brandon Baas was literally sleeping in his office. He and [director of warehousing and distribution] Ron Orcutt took charge.”
 
The rebuilt 276,000 square foot Maple Heights facility has better LED lighting and a new, relocated 32,000 square foot freezer. “It’s much brighter,” Coen says of the lighting system. “It feels much more open. As you go through the facility, everything has been redone.” The only evidence of the fire is a pile of dirt, marking the location of the old freezer.
 
Coen says there was no question the company would rebuild in Maple Heights. “For the employees, this is where they’re from,” he explains. “This is what makes it so special. This is a homecoming. They give 100 percent every day. And the city’s been great.”
 
Mayor Annette M. Blackwell, fire chief Vito Kayaliunas, fire captain Dan Sypen, police chief John Popielarczyk, police captain Todd Hansen and members of city council welcomed the company and the employees back at the grand opening celebration.
 
After a tour, guests were treated to a lunch. The employees were also given lunch and goodie bags full of treats from parent company 1800Flowers.com.

Even though Stagan lives in Canton, she is says she is happy to be back in Maple Heights. “It’s great to be back,” she says. “Everybody is under one roof.”

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.
Theresa Gorski - Vision Underground 
“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.
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