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Re-emergence: nostalgic Higbee's space is set to let

In the 1950s, 60s and 70s, downtown Cleveland’s department stores competed to be known as the utmost authority on women’s fashion trends — holding regular luncheon fashion shows in their auditoriums to exhibit their collections and attract shoppers.

Dixie Lee Davis, who served as fashion director during that period for Halle’s department store, and later May Company and Cleveland Saks Fifth Avenue, remembers the era well. “My whole career has been in in retail,” she says, adding that the department stores were all on friendly terms with each other back then.
 
While the fashion shows, not to mention many of the major department stores, are a concept of the past, the spaces of these magnificent shopping meccas still exist, and many have been converted to offices and residential units.


 
The 192-foot-tall, 13-story 1931 Higbee Building at 100 Public Square is one such historical edifice. Today it is home to Jack Casino on the lower floors and offices such as Quicken Loans on the fourth and fifth floors.
 
The latter received much acclaim for its move to the space and subsequent remodel back in 2016 when the company brought in Detroit-based design firm dPOP to embrace the historical architecture and design elements of the former department store, while also creating a modern work environment.
 
Now, Terry Coyne, vice chairman for commercial real estate for Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, is hoping the right tenant will follow suit with the 10th floor of the Higbee Building.
 
More than 50,000 square feet on the entire 10th floor — except for the former Silver Grille, which is leased by the Ritz-Carlton hotel — in what used to be used for Higbee’s regular fashion shows, is currently available.
 
Long-time locals may remember the impressive space from the three-decade-span when Higbee’s would regularly hold fashion shows — complete with luncheons — to tout its newest collections.


 
“When you went down to Higbee’s in the 1950s, you went up to the 10th floor,” explains Coyne. “This is where they had runway shows, and there’s a rotunda that goes all the way up to the 11th floor. Women would wear their white gloves.”
 
Davis says the auditoriums that housed the shows — several times a year for back-to-school, bridal, seasonal and trunk shows — were the best way for shoppers to view the latest fashion trends.
 
“The fashion shows were very popular and well-attended events,” she recalls. “It could be a social event, but people wanted to know what the latest in fashion was. There was lots of fashion activity going on at the time and we were bringing the latest in fashion to Cleveland. All the top designers on both sides of the ocean were represented here.”
 
The raw space — 52,848 square feet — is wide open and in great shape, Coyne says. “They really kept the integrity of the building,” he says of the building owner, an affiliate of JACK Entertainment. “The ceilings are 14 feet, all the way up to 35 feet in the rotunda area.”
 
The windows overlook the newly renovated Public Square. “It is a great view on the heartbeat of the city,” adds Coyne.


 
Davis remembers the old Higbee auditorium well. “It’s a beautiful, large auditorium,” she says. “It had a beautiful stage and wonderful lighting with a runway out to the audience.”
 
The space, which is going for $18.50 per square foot, is not for just any kind of tenant, notes Coyne. Instead, he says he hopes the new tenant, perhaps a technology company, will embrace the space in much the same manor that Quicken Loans did, but also perhaps with a nod to the time when ladies in white gloves enjoyed catered luncheons before taking in a fashion show.
 
“We’d like a tenant to embrace what Quicken Loans has done,” he says. “It’s really neat that they’ve embraced the era.”


 
Some of the vintage décor, signage and Higbee’s paraphernalia Coyne may offer to tenants are tucked away in storage on an unused floor of the building.
 
“The perfect tenant is one who can utilize the high ceilings in the interesting potential layout for the space,” says Coyne. “This is not going to be space from the 1990s. It is open, high ceilings, with interesting opportunities for design.”
 
Interested tenants can contact Coyne or the primary leasing agent and NGKF managing director David Hollister or Kristy Hull

Call for TLC: vintage Capitol Theatre

Eight years ago the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization (DSCDO) unveiled a newly-renovated Capitol Theatre. The 1921 theater, originally constructed as a silent movie house, went through years of neglect before ultimately closing its doors in 1985.

The huge renovation was complete in 2009, and took nearly 30 years to accomplish. Today, eight years after its grand reopening, the Capitol Theatre needs a bit of an update to keep it going strong for the next 30 years. So the DSCDO is hosting a fundraiser gala, Timeless, on Friday, April 21.
 
The historic theater was already on the DSCDO’s radar when the organization was founded in 1973, and the Capitol was one of the main drivers behind the economic development and success of the Gordon Square Arts District.
 
“When we were founded in the 70s we knew we could not let this place go,” says DSCDO managing director Jenny Spencer. ““Preserving the Capitol Theatre and the Arcade Building were essential for rebuilding Gordon Square.”
 
Today, the Capitol has all digital equipment on three screens and is operated 365 days a year by Cleveland Cinemas. The theater sees an average of 50,000 patrons a year and is a Gordon Square mainstay.
 
“We’re extremely committed to keep it open, as it’s an economic driver for the neighborhood,” says Spencer. “Even people who are window shopping or getting a bite to eat come by. This is very much a mission-driven thing, being an historic theater. It can attract new residents and keep the existing residential population.”
 
Spencer says the Capitol simply needs some upgrades to its equipment, as well as some plaster repair work. “It’s very, very old plaster and it just needs some more love,” she says, adding that previous years of exposure to the elements necessitates periodic maintenance to the plaster.
 
“The plaster was so compromised, it’s still recovering,” Spencer says. “We want to preserve what’s still there.”
 
Like all digital equipment today, the DSCDO also needs to upgrade the audio and visual technology to keep it up to date. “We’re not going to get rich operating a three-screen theater,” Spencer says. “We just want you to have a great theater experience where you’re just immersed in what’s on the screen — and that experience comes with great sound and visuals.”
 
The goal is to raise $70,000 through the Timeless event. Spencer says that amount will cover the digital upgrade and plaster stabilization and restoration, as well as create a repair reserve fund for future upkeep.
 
Friday’s Timeless event begins at 6 p.m. with a VIP reception, with free valet service beginning at 5:30 p.m. The VIP reception includes a silent auction preview and open bar. The main party runs from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. with cocktails, a large spread of appetizers, the silent auction and a live Hollywood revue performed by local cabaret lounge singer, Lounge Kitty. Desert will be provided by Sweet Moses Soda Fountain and Treat Shop and Gypsy Beans will serve coffee.
 
At 9 p.m. a whiskey sour nightcap will be served in preparation for a viewing of the timeless classic Casablanca. “We thought a bourbon type drink would be appropriate, because Humphrey Bogart drinks it in the movie,” says Spencer. “And, of course, there will be popcorn.”

Tickets start at $100 for general admission and $150 for VIP admission. $83 of the general admission ticket cost is tax deductible, as is $122 of the VIP ticket. Donations to the theater fund are also accepted. All donations will be kept in the Capitol’s fund at the Cleveland Foundation.
 
“This is such an iconic place for the community, and this is an opportunity for people to reconnect and get excited about the theater,” Spencer says, adding that she recalls hearing many fond memories from longtime residents. “The amount of love stories I’ve heard, you would not believe how many stories.”

New hope for historic Scofield Mansion restoration

The 1898 dilapidated mansion of renowned Cleveland architect Levi Scofield is about to get a makeover and a new chance to become a crown jewel of the Buckeye Woodhill neighborhood, thanks to the valiant efforts of the Cleveland Restoration Society (CRS), Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, the Cuyahoga County Land Bank and a team of volunteers.

Scofield’s vacant historic home, tucked away at 2438 Mapleside Road, has fallen into disrepair over the past two decades.

“It’s in a forgotten corner of this neighborhood, in an area you wouldn’t normally go to,” says CRS president Kathleen Crowther. “It’s like a haunted house. But if it’s restored and sold, it could be a showcase for the city and could really turn this neighborhood around.”
 
That optimism is why the CRS formed a blue ribbon task force last year with the hope of saving and restoring the home. “This is a last-ditch effort on this property,” Crowther says, noting the structure has been flagged for potential demolition. “It’s completely open to the elements, kids can get in there. It’s horrible. It’s now or never.”
 
Despite the repairs needed because of vandals and exposure, Crowther says the house is structurally sound. “The stone is Berea sandstone, the wood is hard as steel,” she says, adding that the original slate roof is still intact. “The wood that was used back then was hard, dense lumber. The building was very well-built.”
 
Saving the mansion is now looking like a possibility, as the property could be signed over to the Land Bank as earlier as the end of this week, says Justin Fleming, director of real estate for Neighborhood Progress.
 
The move was made possible through a legal deal in which the current owner agreed to donate the property to the Land Bank in exchange for the court waiving $55,000 on back property taxes. In turn, the Land Bank has agreed to hold the property for two years while Neighborhood Progress and the task force try to save the house.

“We’ve been working on it in earnest since last spring and not it’s really all hands on deck,” says Fleming of the effort. “This gives us time to clean it out, stabilize it and secure the house and really set the stage for what could happen.”
 
When Scofield, who is best known in Cleveland for the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Public Square and the Schofield Building, now the Kimpton Schofield on E. 9th, was looking to move to the country in the late 1890s, he bought six acres of land on a bluff overlooking the Fairmount Reservoir and built the 6,000-square-foot, three-story Victorian home.
 
“It was designed in a very picturesque setting to overlook the city,” says Crowther. “He built it in a bucolic area to have magnificent views of the city.”
 
After Scofield’s death in 1917, his family remained in the house until 1925. Over the years the house served as a chapel, a convent, and finally a nursing home until 1990. Sometime in the 1960s, a second building was erected on the land as an extension of the nursing home.
 
Both buildings stood vacant and went into disrepair since 1990. In 2011 a buyer, Rosalin Lyons, bought the property for $1,400 at a foreclosure auction, thinking she was just buying the 60s building. But the sale included the mansion, according to Fleming.
 
“I can understand the thought process on the building because it has really good bones,” he says. “But Lyons was in way over her head and nothing ever happened to either property.”
 
Crowther says the owner had plans to transform the property into a rehab center, but nothing every came of it and Lyons ended up in housing court. “She had dreams of doing something good for the community there but that dream needed money,” Crowther says. “She was between a rock and a hard place.”
 
Now members of the task force are making preparations for stabilization work on the house as soon as they get the word the transfer is complete. “The clean-out, the stabilization and securing of the house really sets the stage for what could happen,” proclaims Fleming. “Let’s save the asset.”
 
Three companies have already committed their time, labor and services to stabilize the house, says Crowther, who calls the process “mothballing,” which means preserving the property for future renovations.
 
Joe DiGeronimo, vice president of Independence-based remediation company Precision Environmental, has pledged to clean up both the mansion and a 1960s building built on the property. The DiGeronimo family has roots in the neighborhood, says Crowther, and has an interest in revitalizing the community.
 
“They have been heroes in this endeavor,” says Crowther of Precision Environmental.
 
Steve Coon, owner of Coon Restoration and Sealants in Louisville, Ohio, sits on the CRS board of trustees and has committed to roof and wall stabilization as well as masonry work. Cleveland-based SecureView will measure all of the doors and windows and fit them with the company’s patented clearboarding—clear, unbreakable material. The help is a relief for proponents of the renovation.

“In the beginning we were knocking out heads because we didn’t know what to do—there were so many pieces, all moving at the same time,” says Crowther of the project. “But inch by inch, we got somewhere.”
 
Crowther says CRS continues to raise money for the project. Once the building is stabilized, CRS and Neighborhood Progress will figure out the next steps in saving the house, marketing it and selling it. Both Crowther and Fleming say there is no concrete plan yet for the final outcome of the project, but they say they are pleased with the initial progress.
 
“I think it illustrates what can happen with lots of partners willing to come in and do something,” Crowther says.
 
John Hopkins, executive director of the Buckeye Shaker Square Development Corporation and task force member, says he sees restoring the Scofield Mansion as beneficial for the neighborhood in three ways.
 
“It would bring stability for the neighborhood,” says Hopkins. “It would not just stabilize the building, but stabilize the neighborhood. Second is the economic impact in that it would increase the value of some of the homes around it [the mansion]. Third, there will be a sense of pride in this great building we saved.”
 
Fleming says Neighborhood Progress must next bring in an architect to draft new floor plans for the home, as the originals are lost. “That will help us talk to a tenant,” he explains.
 
Eager to move forward, organizers on the task force are encouraged by the pending transfer.

“They are trying to save it as an anchor and a monument,” Fleming says. “The neighborhood deserves it. The house deserves it.”

Trending Downtown: loft office space

Residential development in downtown Cleveland is going gangbusters, attracting the working millennial crowd and empty nesters alike. And much of the action is playing out in the city’s historic buildings.
 
The growth has interesting side effects. According to Newmark Grubb Knight Frank’s fourth quarter Cleveland Office Market report, the conversions of vintage office and industrial buildings in the Central Business District (CBD) to apartments has effectively dropped the office vacancy rate in the fourth quarter of 2016 to 24 percent for class B office space and 22.4 percent for class C. Overall combined vacancy in the CBD is 19.9 percent.
 
However, Terry Coyne, vice chairman of commercial real estate for Newmark points out the vacancy is even lower when Newmark’s office space Zombie Report is factored in. The report does not include vacant space that is currently being renovated and off the market. Omitting these offices brings the vacancy rate down to 18.2 percent for class B and 15.4 percent for class C space.
 
Eleven such buildings are omitted in the Zombie Report because they are being converted to apartments or are functionally obsolete, Coyne says, including the Tower at Erie View, the Halle Building, the former Cleveland Athletic Club and the Standard Building, among others.
 
Part of the reason the office vacancies are declining is attributable to unoccupied office buildings being converted to apartments, says Coyne. And while he admits that the downtown living trend is encouraging for Cleveland, he says landlords and developers should also be thinking about converting downtown office space.
 
A new generation of offices
 
A new generation of workers are living and working downtown with educated millennials drawn to the city’s core. They are enamored by Cleveland’s history and its historic buildings, says Coyne. As residential living grows, he notes, so must attractive office space.
 
“It is not just millennials who like to live near their offices,” explains Coyne, adding that at one time residences and businesses were more centered in Cleveland suburbs. “People historically like to live near their offices. The difference is the offices are now moving downtown where the people live.”
 
The next generation of workers are driven to employers with what Coyne calls “cool loft office space,” which is often characterized by historic buildings with high ceilings, exposed brick and wood floors reminiscent of the structure’s original purpose.
 
“I believe there is great demand for loft office space and I think the numbers show it,” says Coyne, suggesting that as downtown buildings are converted to apartments, conversion into loft offices should not be forgotten.
 
“The overall health of the market is being driven by conversions,” explains Coyne, adding that the apartment conversions have stabilized. “The annual net absorption of office space in 2016," he also notes, "was approximately 254,000 square feet. However, the absorption for cool office space is currently keeping pace with supply.”
 
Leading the way
 
The successful developers downtown have noticed this change and are following suit with their developments. Coyne cites Tyler Village, 3615 Superior Ave., as one perfect example.  
 
Graystone Properties spotted this trend when they decided to convert the former Tyler Elevator building at East 36th Street and Superior Avenue, which they had owned since the 1970s, into loft office space,” says Coyne. “Without the use of tax credits, Graystone repurposed this million-square-foot-plus property into a neighborhood of retail, office and warehouse.
 
“The development is performing so well they are now able to charge for indoor parking in an area of town where parking is free and abundant,” he adds.
 
Coyne also cites the 1903 Caxton Building, 812 Huron Road, as another success story. “The leader in this trend—the Caxton Building—has seen an increase in rents over the past year for both parking and office that other landlords can only dream about,” he says. Quantifiably, the Caxton has seen a 90 percent occupancy rate over the past 10 years, according to commercial real estate broker Gardiner and Associates.
 
Meanwhile, Quicken Loans’ Cleveland offices garnered acclaim for its 2016 move into 81,000 square feet of space on the fourth and fifth floors of the Higbee Building at 100 Public Square. The company preserved much of the original architectural elements and historic nature of the building. Coyne says there is still 90,000 square feet of raw space available in the iconic 1931 art-deco building.

A fourth example is the renovation of the old Sammy’s Building in the Flats. With its views of the river and a rooftop deck, the owners are getting some of the highest rents in the city, Coyne notes.

While he estimates the overall vacancy rate of trendy office space in the CBD to be around 12.6 percent—or 2.9 million square feet—Coyne suggests landlords consider renovating their older buildings for loft-style offices, which drives drown vacancy rates and drives up rental rates.
 
Embracing change
 
Coyne asserts that the days of cubicles, dropped ceilings and wall-to-wall carpeting are gone. “It’s a changing style of office,” says Coyne of the trend towards loft office space. Millennials, he notes, want more of a “SoHo look” in their workspaces. “The market changes and those people want a different style of office.”
 
It’s fairly easy to achieve this look and create a whole new office space, says Coyne, although some buildings are more conducive to it than others. “You can’t convert the KeyBank Tower into a loft building,” he says, “but you can expose the duct work and mimic an older, industrial type building.”
 
Coyne cites  the 1921 925 Building, formerly the Union Trust Building and later the Huntington Building, as being prime for redevelopment into loft space. He adds Hudson Holdings would be wise to consider loft offices in its redevelopment of the 925 Building.

“Overall, these changes in our market present opportunities for both tenants and landlords,” says Coyne. “And understanding these trends helps both sides make better decisions.”

$12 million makeover for West Side hotel

Cleveland’s newest hotel is designed to highlight all the city has to offer while also providing the amenities that appeal to the young business traveler.

The first Four Points Sheraton Cleveland Airport—the first of Marriott International’s Four Points brand in Cleveland—opened on the site of the former Holiday Inn Cleveland airport, 4181 West 150th St., last month. Marriott bought the building in January 2016.

“It was a $12 million-plus renovation,” says Sandra Keneven, director of sales and marketing for the hotel. “They gutted the building. There’s nothing old left,” she adds of the year-long renovation.
 
The Four Points concept is a more affordable version of a traditional Sheraton hotel, says Keneven, and is the result of a five-year rebranding initiative. “Our target audience is the younger generation,” she says, adding that the hotel’s 147 rooms offer a comfortable bed with its signature mattresses, complimentary bottled water and free internet.
 
Furthermore, guests can use their smart phones for mobile check-ins before arriving at the hotel, and then use their phones for keyless entry into their rooms.
 
In addition to a 24-hour fitness room, business center and heated pool, the Four Points serves up Great Lakes Brewing drafts in its Hub Bar and Grill. On Wednesdays from 5 to 7 p.m., the hotel offers its Best Brews reception with a Great Lakes beer tasting and free appetizers.

“The plan is to rotate different local brewers,” says Keneven, adding that the brewers will be invited to come and talk about their beers. She says they are also considering bringing live music into the bar.
 
The hotel has 6,500 square feet of meeting space, with two ballrooms, one of which is on the sixth floor and has windows on all sides. Keneven says they have built a good relationship with Destination Cleveland for upcoming conferences and events. Staff is also starting to book weddings.
 
Location is yet another amenity. Popular Cleveland destinations, such as like Kamms Corners, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and FirstEnergy Stadium, are a short distance from the hotel, which offers free round-the-clock shuttle service to and from the airport and any destination within two miles. In addition, the hotel is adjacent to I-71 and the Puritas West 150th Street RTA Rapid station.
 
Through March, Four Points is offering an introductory rate averaging $99 a night, says Keneven, and average rates during peak times will be about $159 a night.
 
The renovated hotel has already gotten local praise. “We have people stopping in off the street,” says Keneven. “It’s beautiful. It just looks beautiful.”

County grant paves the way for Lee Road facelift

In an effort to spruce up Lee Road between Scottsdale Road and Chagrin Boulevard and make it a more attractive business district, the Shaker Heights Economic Development Department helped four property owners in the neighborhood update their exterior facades, thanks to a grant from Cuyahoga County.
 
For us, it’s all about making slow, incremental changes,” says Shaker economic development specialist Katharyne Starinsky. “We’re trying to do this in a progressive fashion so it lasts.”
 
The city applied for a grant through the Cuyahoga County Competitive Storefront Renovation program in November 2015, and was awarded $50,000 for full façade improvements on three buildings and new signage on a fourth.
 
The 2016 project marked the first time Shaker Heights had applied for the County grant, and was among four approved cities.
 
The store renovations are a new addition to Shaker’s business incentives portfolio, designed to help small businesses thrive.
 
Shaker tapped six businesses in its application. Last April, three were ultimately chosen for the grant money: Discount Cleaners at 3601 Lee Road State Farm Insurance at 3605 Lee Road, and a vacant 1,600-square-foot office building at 3581 Lee Road.
 
“There are a number of different businesses involved in doing upgrades to their properties,” explains Starinsky. “We have a relationship with all of the business owners so we knew what businesses might be interested.”
 
The city was able to include a fourth property, Protem Homecare at 3558 Lee Road, with new signage for its recently-renovated building.
 
The business owners were required to pay for 50 percent of the renovation costs, up to $16,000, while the city matched the other 50 percent with the grant money.
 
"These are small, locally owned businesses and this is a lot of money for them,” says Starinsky. “Out of the three properties, only one used the full $16,000. Because of that, we were also able to do the signage for Protem.”
 
Shaker hired a design specialist to work with the business owners on cost estimates and envisioning their needs. “They came up with the design together,” says Starinsky of the cooperative work.
 
The businesses then evaluated contractor bids on the work. “The toughest part was going through the contractors’ bids,” recalls Starinsky. “It was very time consuming, but we wanted them to choose someone they felt connected with.”
 
Ultimately, Starinsky says two of the contractors chosen for two projects were minority owned enterprises.
 
The projects are mostly complete. State Farm renovated the existing façade details, including installing exterior lighting, signage and replacing the door and windows. Discount Cleaners replaced windows and installed a new sign and canopy and is completing finishing touches this week.
 
The owner of the office building, which once housed credit union, tuck-pointed the front steps, installed new awnings and windows and other façade work. “This was a leap of faith for him, because he [the owner] doesn’t have a tenant yet, it he wants to rent it out,” explains Starinsky. “It’s caddy-corner to [co-working and office hub] The Dealership, so it’s a really great location for someone who doesn’t need a big space all the time.”  
 
Shaker’s Lee Road district is capped off with a sculpture, Cloud Monoliths, by local public artist Steve Manka – part of the city’s 2015 Lee-Lomond intersection project.
 
Overall, the renovation projects totaled $113,699, which includes the storefront grant, $48,427 in private investments, $18,550 by the city for the design specialist and architectural fees, and $4,500 in grants from Shaker Heights Development Corporation made possible through Citizens Bank.
 
The city is so satisfied with the work done in 2016 that officials applied for a similar county grant for 2017.
 
“It’s a real nail biter,” Starinsky says of the recent application, “because we’d like to try it again. We’re supporting our [new] businesses and those who have been here a while too.”

Shaker has a number of available commercial properties for lease.

The City of Shaker Heights is part of Fresh Water's underwriting support network.

Alhambra apartments blend history with modern amenities

After two years of renovations, New York developer Community, Preservation and Restoration (CPR) Properties has transformed an 1890s building at 3203 W. 14th St. in Tremont into some of the neighborhood’s newest, most modern apartments.

Designed with young professionals and empty-nesters in mind, the Alhambra offers one-bedroom units starting at 480 square feet for $695 a month, two-bedroom, 575-square-foot units for $850 a month, and a three-bedroom, 1,0500-square-foot unit for $1,350 a month.
 
“It’s very reasonable,” says Carolyn Bentley, a realtor with Howard Hanna’s Cleveland City office in Tremont, adding that some of the units have back deck areas.
 
Originally dubbed the Edison Building, CPR partners Noah Smith and Ted Haber bought the building in late 2014 with plans to update and upgrade the apartments and common areas.
 
The owners ultimately chose to stick with the building’s original name, the Alhambra, after an historic palace and fortress in Spain. Fourteen of the 35 units have been remodeled and will be available for occupancy on Wednesday, Feb. 1.
 
The building was fully occupied when CPR took ownership, so the company moved some tenants to 17 other units during the remodel. “When they bought the place, they did not displace any current residents,” explains Bentley.
 
When Smith and Haber took possession of the Alhambra, they realized there was quite a bit of repair work to be done. The apartments now have all new electrical systems and plumbing. The refinished walls are painted in neutral colors and are adorned with foot-high baseboard molding.
 
The owners were able to keep the original hardwood flooring and other features, Bentley says. “They did it with a lot of character,” she explains. “They kept some of the original woodwork and it’s an open feeling with tall ceilings. They did a really good job of keeping the character that was there.”
 
Bentley describes the kitchens and bathrooms as “clean, simple and modern,” with stainless appliances and tile. The result is a combination of modern decor with an historical feel. “It has the overall look and feel of the original building,” she says.
 
While the Alhambra may be an historic building, CPR has installed some 21st Century technology. The exterior locks to the building’s main entry are controlled by the residents’ smart phones. Visitors simply buzz tenants to let them know they are outside, and tenants grant access via their phones.
 
The shared laundry area in the basement is also smart phone-equipped, allowing users to pay for their loads and receive alerts when a washer or dryer is free or when their loads are done.
 
While the apartments themselves are finished in neutral colors, the foyer and entryway, including the large front door, are full of color, Bentley says, and the developers took great care to preserve the original interior staircase’s intricate woodwork. “The developers had a lot of fun with color and the high-end workmanship,” Bentley says, noting the red entry door and green tinted glass tile.
 
Situated on a hill, the Alhambra offers spectacular views of downtown, the Steelyards and Tremont itself. Furthermore, the accessibility appeals to both baby boomers and young professionals, says Bentley.

“Tremont is an amazing place to be living right now. It’s a walkable neighborhood. You have Steelyard Commons with places like Target, then in the opposite direction you have [independent businesses] like A Cookie and a Cupcake. And you’re a short Uber ride into downtown.”
 
Bentley held an open house last Thursday, Jan. 5, and reports that the Alhambra has already gained a lot of interest.

Former Sammy's building emerges as a renovated gem in the Flats

With its outstanding views of downtown Cleveland and the Cuyahoga River, Sammy’s in the Flats maintained a presence at 1400 W. 10th St. as the signature place in Cleveland for weddings, celebrations and other special events for more than three decades. Then in 2013, the iconic event hall closed it's doors.
 
Last Thursday, Oct. 27, the building came to life once again during the grand opening of Settler’s Point, a 34,000-square-foot loft-like office complex on the Flats East Bank.
 
Developer Joel Scheer bought the Sammy’s property, built in the late 1800s and early 1900s, out of receivership in December 2014 with an eye on restoring it and an admitted fascination with both the property and the area.
 
“That building - I’ve always been looking at that building ever since I was a little kid,” Scheer says. “It’s where Moses Cleaveland landed, it has fabulous views, and it has tremendous potential. It was kind of like a high profile place at the time for parties. People got married there.”
 
After buying the complex, Scheer spent much of 2015 working on a renovation plan with Dimit Architects and Vocon interior design architects before Welty Building Company began work on the project as the general contractor around Thanksgiving last year.
 
The renovation has transformed and modernized the space. “It doesn’t really look the same,” says Scheer, adding that the building had undergone many rounds of construction over the years. “There were layers and layers of previous renovations. We uncovered windows behind walls, floors upon floors. One floor was actually a roof.”
 
Scheer invested in new HVAC, electric and plumbing for the century-old building, and installed in new energy-efficient, yet historic, windows and a new roof. He left the exposed brick walls and wood beams. “We basically took it down to its shell,” he says of the renovations.
 
Decks and patios make up 5,529 square feet of Settler’s Point, each with views of the city and the river. The gem of the building, however is the 1,325-square-foot penthouse, available to all tenants. “Three sides are all glass with amazing views of the city,” says Scheer. The penthouse features meeting and event space, a kitchen and bathrooms.
 
Off of the penthouse is an 815-square-foot deck made of ipe, a Brazilian maple hardwood known for its beauty and durability.
 
Welty Building and Environments for Business are already tenants of Settler’s Point. “There’s room for more,” quips Scheer. There’s about 15,000 square feet still available for leasing.
 
About 75 people attended the grand opening last week, including representatives from the Cleveland’s economic development department, members of the architecture team, real estate brokers and other partners. The Gatherings Kitchen in Lakewood and other local food vendors provided catering for the event.
 
Scheer says those who have fond memories of special occasions at the former Sammy’s are impressed with the renovations. “People are excited to come in and look since I bought the building.”

West 25th Street Lofts merge historic architecture with contemporary design

A group of buildings built in the late 1800s on Church Avenue between W. 25th and W. 28th Streets in Ohio City were once the hallmark of a manufacturing town – housing everything from the original Baehr Brewing Company and Odd Fellows Masonic Hall to a machine shop and a tin and sheet metal shop, among other business and residential dwellings. 

Exhibit Builders last owned and operated the buildings fronting W. 25th Street. More recently, the heavy industrial buildings housed the Phoenix Ice Machine Company, Lester Engineering Company, then a charter school and the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority.
 
Today development partners Rick Foran of Foran Group and Chris Smythe of Smythe Property Advisors are converting the structures into contemporary apartment lofts with a nod to their unique history. “You know you’re in historic buildings, but with modern amenities,” says Smythe.
 
The project has been nine years in the making. Smythe and Foran bought their first property in the group from CMHA back in 2008 with a bank loan. Then the real estate market tanked.


 
“For several years afterwards, it was virtually impossible to get any financing to move the project forward,” recalls Foran. “Eventually, we turned to Love Funding to put together a HUD 221(d) (4) FHA loan guarantee designed for market-rate based apartments.”
 
Smythe and Foran also received $8 million in historic state and federal tax credits for the $24 million project, $18 million of which comprises hard construction costs being done by Project and Construction Services and its subcontractors.
 
The pair have almost completed 83 market rate loft apartments in what is now West 25th Street Lofts. The structure features one-, two-, and three-bedroom lofts, as well as 18 townhouse-style units and a couple of studio apartments.
 
The lofts are 72 percent leased – the first 22 tenants came in September, a second group of 25 will move in sometime in November and another group in mid-December. There are 9,600 square feet of commercial space on the first floor, for which Foran and Smythe have verbal agreements with a restaurant and an office tenant.
 
Smythe says each loft’s floor plan is different, ranging from 618 square feet for a studio, about 800 square feet for a one-bedroom to more than 2,000 square feet for a two-story townhouse loft.
 
Foran and Smythe hired City Architecture to create the look. The units have bamboo hardwood floors, energy efficient stainless steel appliances, including washers and dryers in each unit, granite counter tops, high ceilings and oversized windows. Foran boasts that the original large windows have been replicated with energy-efficient versions.


 
Twelve of the units have the remaining overhead crane track, which was used by Lester Engineering. “Lester Engineering made huge stamping machines that were used around the world by manufacturers such as the auto industry,” explains Foran. “The overhead cranes would move massive heavy material back and forth through the assembly plant.”
 
The brick stable that used to house the horses that pulled the Baehr Brewery wagons to deliver beer to area taverns at the turn of the 20th Century now makes up the West 25th Street Lofts’ entry lobby and fitness room.
 
Foran and Smythe transformed a 45-foot tall heavy industrial space into a large atrium with wall-to-wall skylights and catwalks leading to apartment entries.  Smythe explains that the open atrium allows natural light to pour into the apartment units.

“They have a post-industrial look,” says Smythe. “Yet they also have a contemporary feel with an historic lineage.”
 
One of the most unique apartments centers around the brewery’s old powerhouse. The 1,800 square-foot, two-story, three-bedroom, three-bath apartment encompasses part of the 140-foot smokestack that soars three stories.

 
In the building that was once the home of the Jacob and Magdalena Baehr and their eight children, layers of 140-year-old wallpaper line the walls as Foran and Smythe complete renovations. Pocket doors separate rooms, two of which have coal-burning fireplaces. The home will soon be two separate town homes.
 
"Some of this stuff was built 140 years ago," says Foran. "With such attention to detail, quality and use of materials, it wouldn’t be fair to not treat them with quality labor. Hopefully we can become stewards of the building as we pass through time.”
 
Common space includes a rooftop lounge, paved with recycled tires and offering spectacular views of downtown. Six loft units have direct access to the deck area, while there is also an entrance accessible to all tenants.
 
The west end of the building abuts the planned Irishtown Bend redevelopment, leading to easy access to Wendy Park and the Towpath Trail. Foran and Smythe have been working with Ohio City’s sewer district on a storm water retention plan for greenspace, growing areas and plantings.
 
The building’s perimeter will be converted to six-foot sidewalks next to eight-foot tree lawns.
 
Foran saw the history and features of these buildings as a development opportunity he couldn’t pass up.
 
“I personally always was drawn to historic properties, especially those with great bones like the gothic windows and heavily detailed façade,” explains Foran of the endeavor. “Additionally, new attractions such as the Bier Markt and Market Garden Brewery were leading the turnaround of the W. 25th Street corridor.”
 
Foran’s observations prompted him to develop an area of Ohio City that has been deemed economically distressed, but Foran sees it as full of potential. “Having watched how redevelopment tends to spread, I had confidence that such stabilization would expand on the main arteries,” he explains. “There was such a huge need for housing in the area for those young people who wanted to make their urban districts bustle like other great cities, so the demand was strong.” 
 
Now Foran and Smythe are confident their vision will be well received. "It brings it back toward the neighborhood feel,” Smythe says “Stand on the roof and look around, and it’s a neighborhood. Foran adds, “In 2005 there was a renewal where people wanted to move back. That gives us confidence that it’s going to be a success.”

Hatfield's settles into Kamm's Corners with more good grub at 'Pork N Bean'

For a little more than a year, Ken Hatfield has sold Clevelanders on his southern comfort food from his food truck, Hatfield’s Goode Grub, at Walnut Wednesdays and Food Truck Fridays. He also cruises corporate parks around town and offers catering.
 
Now Hatfield’s is about to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant and coffee shop: Hatfield’s Goode Grub: The Pork N Bean, at 16700 Lorain Ave. in Kamm’s Corners.
 
Hatfield had been preparing his food for the truck in a 700-square-foot commissary kitchen and is excited to move into the 3,000 square-foot restaurant. The new space has a six-door walk-in cooler, a kitchen hood, a stainless steel wash tub and an Ansul fire suppression system. 
 
“It’s a big jump,” Hatfield says of the expansion. The restaurant will serve Hatfield’s signature burgers and pulled pork sandwiches on picnic tables in the back, while customers will place their food and coffee drink orders in front in a café-style space with tables, chairs and a porch swing.
 
The walk in cooler will depict the same photo of the Hatfield family that adorns his truck. Ken is a descendant of the Hatfield family of the infamous Hatfield-McCoy feud fame. “It’s going to be a fun, inventive place to be,” Hatfield says. “We’re trying to get the food truck experience in a restaurant.”
 
Originally from North Carolina, Hatfield spent four years as a chef on an international hospital ship and studied under executive chefs at the House of Blues and Hard Rock Café. Aboard Goode Grub, he's become known for creations such as the All-In Burger – a burger with bacon, pulled pork, caramelized onion, dill sauce, barbeque sauce and cheddar cheese.
 
“It’s Southern comfort fusion food,” Hatfield says of his cooking style, adding that he plans to expand his menu. “I’ve taken my southern heritage and flair, added some internationalized style to it and came up with some stuff people really like.”
 
Hatfield's newlywed wife, Jessica Hatfield, will oversee the coffee shop segment of the Pork N Bean. The coffee bar will use siphon brewers and specialize in cold-brewed coffees. Customers can cold brew their own coffees, in which they will get a large mason jar, coffee and any flavors they want. The jars will be kept on shelving behind the counter.
 
Hatfield is building the interior himself using reclaimed barn wood. He's aiming for a family friendly atmosphere. “I think we’ll be a really good fit in the neighborhood,” he says.
 
Kamm’s Corners Development Corporation (KCDC) assisted Hatfield with city permits, securing signage through Cleveland’s Storefront Renovation Program, and helped negotiate a spot for the Goode Grub truck at the U-Haul Moving and Storage across the street.
 
“We saw the attraction of having Hatfield’s in the neighborhood,” says KCDC executive director Steve Lorenz. “Right away we tried to lend a hand.”
 
Fans can still catch Hatfield's food truck around town and for catering events. The Kamm’s Corners restaurant is scheduled to open on Monday, Oct. 31 with a “Hillbilly Halloween.” The truck will be parked out front and a hillbilly costume contest will run from 6 to 9 p.m.

Some saucy brew - and pizza - coming to Hingetown

After a myriad of minor delays, construction on Saucy Brew Works is scheduled to begin tomorrow in the old Steelman Building at 2885 Detroit Ave. in Hingetown.

Owner Brent Zimmerman returns today from Obing, Germany, where he spent last week touring brewing equipment manufacturer BrauKon and inspecting his new brewing system.

“It’s very efficient, very technologically savvy,” says Zimmerman of his new system. “It’s the cutting edge of savviness. It’s a Ferrari, it’s very well-crafted.” He adds that the system is energy-efficient and saves water.
 
Zimmerman bought the Steelman Building earlier this year with the plan of renovating it and developing 11,000 square feet on the ground floor and a 1,200-square-foot mezzanine into Saucy Brew Works – a brewery and a pizza kitchen. One other tenant occupies 2,200 square feet of the 14,000-square-foot building.
 
Zimmerman and director of brewing operations Eric Anderson plan to keep the industrial feel of the former warehouse and factory for water treatment facility parts while giving the space an updated look. In fact, Zimmerman says they will incorporate many of the cranes that remain in the space into the design.
 
“Our taps will come out of one of the cranes and cranes will hold up the televisions,” he explains. “We’re keeping the building true to itself, but we’re cleaning it up and making it usable.”


 
Cleveland architectural firm Vocon created the design, while Sandusky-based Zimmerman Remodeling and Construction will manage the build. Hans Noble Design will create a custom interior using steel fabrication and reclaimed materials.
 
“Han Noble will create all that stuff from scratch right here in our own hometown,” says Zimmerman.
 
On the exterior, all the currently blacked out, frosted glass windows on the building will be replaced with clear glass, then painted to mimic the old look, creating an all-glass front to the building. “It will look and feel similar, except with nice windows,” Zimmerman explains. “And there will be an open air patio on the corner.”
 
While the BrauKon system can brew up to 30,000 barrels in a year, Zimmerman says the plan is to brew about 3,000 barrels in the 15 tanks for his first year. While he won’t reveal the exact names or types of beer Saucy will offer, he'll have up to 14 beers on tap.
 
“Eric has made more than 60 types of beers and that doesn’t even come close to what we plan to do,” he says. “Obviously, we’ll have an IPA and a Kolsh. Ten to 12 taps will always be ours, and we will probably have six [varieties] always on tap. Then we will have two to four guest taps.”
 
The pizza kitchen will serve up New Haven style pizza – a popular saucy, thin crust style of pizza hailing from Connecticut. “There’s lots of sauce up to the very edge of the crust,” explains Zimmerman, noting the eatery’s saucy name. “You pick your toppings, which will be as fresh as you can get for the season.”
 
Customers will build and order their pizzas at the counter, and will be notified when their orders are ready. There will also  be an exterior walk-up pizza window for pedestrians to order a slice to go.
 
While the ordering is self-serve, Zimmerman says he plans on offering a unique and lucrative employment package to his staff. Employees will receive above-average wages as well as stock options, education reimbursement and health benefits.
 
“We’re trying to create a certain culture with less turnover,” he says. “We want to create some stability through six or seven things you don’t see in this business.”

Saucy Brew Works will also team with Breakthrough Schools to raise money for quality education for all children in Cleveland. Zimmerman plans to hold a naming contest with the Breakthrough staff for one of his brews. The winning named beer will always be on tap and $1 from each sale will go to Breakthrough.
 
“Education is very fundamental to the success of Cleveland,” says Zimmerman. “We want to educate people who otherwise [might not] have that opportunity – educate people and get them to return to Cleveland.”
 
Additionally, Zimmerman plans to partner with a yet-to-be-determined non-profit water and sewer treatment company to promote Lake Erie’s resource and water conservation.
 
“The Great Lakes and water are very important to us,” he says. “We are heavily focused on the environment because brewing takes a lot of energy and water is so important to beer. The water in Cleveland is fantastic and we’re very lucky to have that sort of resource. We want to be good neighbors.”
 
Saucy Brew Works is scheduled to open in early 2017.

Update: Heights High renovations on track, clock tower unveiling imminent

Halfway through the renovations at Cleveland Heights High School, the $95 million project is on budget and on schedule to open in time for the 2017-2018 school year.
 
“It’s going to be beautiful when it’s done,” says Cleveland Heights-University Heights School District project liaison Brad Callender. “There’s been a real effort by the district to preserve the architectural elements of the building.”
 
The high school was built in 1926 to accommodate a growing student population and was designed in the style of a Tudor castle, with a clock tower, high column and a large center entrance, according to Cleveland Historical.
 
The building underwent several changes over the last 90 years, but failed to keep up with modern-day technology and amenities. “It had multiple additions, multiple renovations until the 1970s – at least six major additions – and that doesn’t count all the small stuff,” says Callender.
 
So in a plan that came about after 10 years of planning, plenty of community input and the 2013 passage of a $134 million bond, the district began a major overhaul in June 2015.
 
“Construction began the day after the students moved out,” recalls Callender. “We’re on a tight deadline to get everything done by move-in by the start of school in 2017.”
 
The high school students are currently housed in the district’s Wiley Middle School, both in the building and in modular classrooms on the campus. About 1,500 students will attend the new high school when it reopens.
 
With less than a year until completion, officials, teachers and students are already getting excited. “Anticipation is starting to build even now,” Callender says. “This year’s juniors are already seeing themselves as the first graduating class from the new building, and the teachers are very excited about having technologically advanced classrooms.”
 
By “technologically advanced,” Callender is referring to classrooms outfitted with the latest in multi-media equipment such as interactive smart boards. “Classroom technology has evolved in the last 10 years and students are comfortable with multi-media,” Callender explains. “They will be able to take field trips without ever leaving the classroom. Kids can walk up to the smart board and manipulate things themselves.”
 
With the additions over the years, Callender likens the old high school layout to a sort of labyrinth. Originally designed in a U-shape, various additions had closed off the center courtyard and divided up the approximately 450,000-square-foot building. Although the new building preserves much of the original structure, it will be only 360,000 square feet.
 
“It’s a significant decrease, but a lot of the old space was cut up and like walking through a maze,” Callender explains. “This is going to be a building that is significantly more efficient than the old one.”
 
The clock tower – the building’s centerpiece and towering more than 90 feet over the city – has been rebuilt from top to bottom, Callender says, and  the original patina copper topper has been replaced with a new copper top. “The decision was made by the community to make it copper again,” he says. “We will let it patina naturally.”
 
The clock itself, which hasn’t worked for years, has been replaced. “It didn’t work because it was technologically outdated,” explains Callender. “The new one is an exact likeness to 1925-1926 pictures and the exact details are duplicated.”
 
Callender adds that the view from the clock tower is “amazing,” which is accessible in order to service the clock in earlier times. The new clock won’t require such maintenance.
 
The scaffolding that surrounds the rebuilt tower is due to come off in the next two weeks. “It will be a great day when they peel off the scaffolding on the clock tower,” he says. “We will all breathe a collective sigh of relief.”
 
The main entrance of the school, which was covered by a science addition built in the 1960s, is now visible, returning the building to its original castle-like grandeur from Cedar Road.

A hybrid geothermal system, solar-ready roof and energy-efficient windows will earn Heights High LEED Silver certification, going from the bottom 10 percent for energy efficiency among peer buildings in the region to the top five percent.
 
Among the many community workgroups involved in the project, 12 Heights High students are exploring career paths in architecture and architecture design while participating in the renovation. “The construction manager has involved the students from the very beginning,” Callender says.
 
The renovation design was done by Youngstown-based BSHM Architects and Gilbane Building Company is the construction manager.
 
When it is completed next August, Callender is confident the school will once again be a focal point in Cleveland Heights. “We’re preserving the architecture with modern amenities,” he says. “It says strong things about this community. You see all of these homes and the school fits right in in the middle of the neighborhood. It’s going to look a lot like it did in 1926.”
 
Additionally, Callender sees the new high school as a symbol of Cleveland Heights pride. “It’s going to be the centerpiece of the community and I truly think the building reflects the values and dedication of the community to education,” he says. “And the students (they won’t say it) will truly appreciate it.”

New Perkins Wildlife Center is a fitting home for native rescue animals, joy for visitors

The Cleveland Museum of Natural History’s (CMNH) Ralph Perkins II Wildlife Center and Woods Garden, presented by KeyBank is a refuge for the region’s native animals and plant life, as well as the many visitors who are expected to come through.
 
Construction began on the center in June 2015, after KeyBank made a $2 million sponsorship donation to the project. The center opened on Labor Day weekend. It replaces the old Perkins Wildlife Center, which was located on the west side the museum's campus. The new two-acre center overlooks Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
 
“It’s an interpretive landscape,” says Harvey Webster, CMNH director of wildlife resources. “We want to bring people together with plants and animals that are native now to the region or were once native. What we’re trying to do is create a dynamic, immersive educational experience.”
 
The center has a meandering, elevated walk way – portions of which are made from repurposed black locust wood salvaged from the trees on the site that were damaged by lightning or dying. It winds throughout the interactive center, past everything from songbirds, sand cranes and owls to fox, bobcats, raccoons and coyotes. Even the otters, Lucy and Linus, splash and play among turtles, fish and frogs in a tank with a 50-foot acrylic wall that allows visitors to watch them under water.


 
“It’s a zoo of native wildlife and native plants in the museum,” says Webster. “It’s a dramatic landing, two-and-a-half stories high". The elevated walkway snakes west, bordering the property, soaring over MLK Boulevard and the Doan Brook Watershed. ”It’s an interesting topography to be appreciated,” he adds.
 
There are 48 species totaling more than 100 individual animals living in Perkins. Trees include beech, maple and oaks. The center will also receive American chestnut saplings, a species that has been almost demolished in this region, from the American Chestnut Foundation. The shrub swamps and wetland garden areas feature plant species native to Ohio as well.
 
There are 11 species of mammals, including bobcats, foxes, coyotes, river otters, porcupines and groundhogs. There are 24 species of birds, including songbirds, eagles, falcons, owls and other birds of prey; five species of reptiles; five species of amphibians; and five species of frogs.
 
While the species each have their own unique habitats for visitors to observe, the humans can also serve as observation subjects for many of the animals. The Bobcats, coyotes, red and grey foxes, porcupines and raccoons all have their own elevated runs along the path – over the visitors’ heads, so they can watch the people passing and indulge their own curiosity.
 
Along the path are “parallel play areas,” where visitors can mimic activities the animals do. For instance, visitors are challenged to “hop like a bobcat,” where a 10-foot span is marked on the path to indicate the distance a bobcat can go in just one leap. In another area, visitors are encourage to “perch like a crow” on posts of varying heights.
 
“You can emulate the animal and hopefully the animal will emulate you,” says Webster. “It’s another way to create a relationship between you and the animals.”
 
Songbirds fly through the tree canopy in an aviary, while a bald eagle named Orion and a golden eagle named Midas perch next to each other for comparison. Midas flew into high tension wires while in the wild and is blind in one eye.
 
In fact, all of the animals in the Perkins Wildlife Center come from either rescue or rehabilitation centers. Niles and Daphne, a pair of sandhill cranes, were found picking bugs out of radiator grills at a highway truck stop. "The sandhill cranes are a conservation success story,” says Webster.
 
Three of the coyotes – Tex, Red and Ember – came to Perkins after their mother was hit by a car on a Texas highway. A son of a veterinarian stopped and delivered the pups on the side of the road. A fourth coyote, Charcoal, lives separately. She was saved from a wildfire.
 
Both of the great horned owls, Tamarack and Mama have permanent eye injuries. Tamarack was hit by a car and Mama was affected by West Nile Virus in 2002, leaving her with an inability to judge distances correctly.


 
Linus the otter was caught in a Louisiana trap seven years ago. Both Linus and Lucy are estimated to be about 18 years old, with a life expectancy of 25.
 
Many of the animals have preschool play toys, such as picnic tables and slides, donated by Streetsboro-based toy manufacturer Step 2. The big plastic toys help provide enrichment activities to the animals. Some species have blankets and clothing in their living areas that carry other animals’ scents, which also stimulates them.


 
The Perkins Wildlife Center is part of phase one of the museum’s Centennial transformation project, which will be completed for its 100-year anniversary in 2020. The multiyear project is designed to create powerful and engaging experiences that will capitalize on the resources of the museum.
 
The entire exhibit was designed by New York-based Thinc Design, while Osborn Engineering, AECOM, general contractor Panzica/Gilbane and Project Management Consultants also worked on the project.
 
Approximately 135 people worked on the construction team. Eight museum employees tend to the center on a daily basis.
 
Tickets to the Perkins Wildlife Center are free with museum admission.

Lakewood's first historic tax credit to benefit classic 1915 building

Frank Scalish, owner of Scalish Construction, is attempting to revive Northeast Ohio’s history brick by brick. His latest project is an historic 5,000-square-foot building at 12301 Madison Ave. in Lakewood’s Birdtown neighborhood.
 
Thanks to a $82,402 Ohio Historic Preservation tax credit, Scalish is renovating six apartments and the street-level store front of the 1915 structure constructed by Michael and Veronika Turza, who lived there until they died. Their children sold the building in the 1950s.
 
The classic retail downstairs/residential upstairs building had no name, so Scalish dubbed it The Veronika, after Mrs. Turza. He came to own it after the previous owner queried him about renovating the windows. “I got the impression he was just fixing it up to sell it,” Scalish recalls. So he decided to purchase the building and renovate it himself. “We’re only the third owners.”
 
Scalish is working with the Architecture Office to preserve the historic nature of the building while also updating the interior.
 
The former home of the Corner Pub, which was actually two storefronts combined into one 1,250-square-foot space, previously housed a hardware store and a candy store. Scalish is currently talking to two potential retail tenants including a coffee chain and restaurateur.
 
Scalish has already successfully uncovered the original wood storefront of the Veronika’s exterior. “What we’ve found intact we’ve refinished and restored to like the day it was built,” he boasts. “And most of the masonry is intact.” He is also restoring the building’s original glaze brick exterior while large glass doors are on order.
 
Inside, Scalish removed four ceiling layers to reveal portions of the original tin ceiling. “We should have enough to do at least one side,” he says, adding that one of the previous owners tore out the ceiling to make way for HVAC.
 
Scalish is refurbishing the original bar and the maple hardwood floors throughout the building. “It was a unique find hiding in plain sight,” he says. “We’re trying to preserve the original woodwork as much as possible.”
 
The one-bedroom apartments upstairs are being renovated in stages, with phase one nearly complete, says Scalish. The apartments will have updated LED lighting, quartz counter tops, clean white walls and vintage tile accents. The restored original storm windows provide plenty of light throughout the space.
 
Walls were torn down to open the kitchens to the living rooms, while also creating better natural light and ventilation. “It’s an open layout,” Scalish says of the plans. “The whole floor plan is more modernized. They’re pretty much new from top to bottom”
 
The first phase is almost complete and Scalish says he plans to start leasing the apartments at market rate within six weeks. The entire project is on schedule to be completed by the end of the year.
 
The Veronika is not Scalish Construction’s first restoration endeavor. Scalish is building a reputation for restoring local homes and businesses in Northeast Ohio, including his offices in the old Cleveland Trust building on Madison Avenue in Lakewood.
 
“Old buildings have history, and with that history comes a certain level of soul,” says Scalish. “Most of these old structures were built by true craftsman, by hand, with care and compassion and without the use of modern day tools. They are certainly hard to replicate even in this day and age. This is evident in all of the little details that are present on these historic buildings.”
 
Scalish freely shares his passion for his work.
 
“It’s a pleasure to be surrounded by a team of true modern day craftspeople who have the ability and share the passion to return these structures to their original glory,” he says. “I love the idea that these buildings have withstood the test of time and lasted a century. My passion is driven by the legacy that we are leaving behind for the generations to come.”

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.”
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