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clifton boulevard-style transit eyed for 25th street corridor

A study conducted by Cleveland Neighborhood Progress (CNP) and funded by the Cleveland Foundation and Enterprise Community Partners regarding the West 25th Street corridor (extending from the State Road intersection north to Detroit Avenue) has concluded that a dense residential neighborhood and reliable transit line go hand in hand.
 
The final report for the W. 25th Transit Oriented Development Strategy is due out at the end of this month, but Fresh Water got a preview from Wayne Mortensen, CNP's director of design and development.
 
"The study was designed to answer two sets of very critical interrelated questions. One being: what is the ultimate desired level of transit along corridor in terms of frequency, service and style?" says Mortensen, adding that the other focus was on the amount and type of area housing that would be required in order to support that transit and sustain it economically.
Wayne Mortensen 
"West 25th is perhaps the most critical north/south connection in the city of Cleveland," he says of the 3.8-mile stretch, "and definitely for the West Side."
 
The group conducted three public meetings using eight different working groups, each of which focused on a separate issue including, commerce, education, housing, the pedestrian experience, recreation, services, transit and workforce.
 
"One of the most poignant points of feedback came from workforce group," says Mortensen. The group cited a hypothetical single mother, who might rely on public transit for daily stops at a daycare facility, a workplace and a grocery store. "She is relying on transit to be on time and efficient six to eight times a day. That's not something a lot of people in Cleveland understand or empathize with."
 
To meet those needs, the study concludes that a transit system similar to the Cleveland State Line, which runs along Clifton Boulevard, would be the best fit. Mortensen cites the line's frequency, improved waiting environments and a dedicated bus lane during certain times of the day. The line is also branded.
 
"So everyone knows when they hop on exactly where they're headed. It's more friendly in terms of way-finding and getting around the city," says Mortensen. "That's the closest example to what we think we can achieve.
 
"I want to be clear: we don't think of this as the next Euclid Health Line," he adds. "This is not as invasive or as capital intensive as what we see on Euclid."
 
In order to support transit efficiency similar to the Clifton Boulevard experience and keep that mom on time, a certain level of population density is required, which leads to the housing portion of the study.
 
"Depending on which part of corridor we're in," says Mortensen, "every housing project should be at least eight to 12 units per acre in terms of concentration density and be of an urban quality."
 
But is density desirable? That's a subjective question. It is, however, natural for areas such as the 25th Street corridor.
 
"Urban neighborhoods are more predisposed to attracting residents that have proactively--or just through the logistics of their lives have--foregone private transit," says Mortensen. Since people opt out of public transit for different reasons, they breed diversity in the urban communities they populate while creating a customer base for the public transit suppliers.
 
Committing to residential density leads to perhaps the most challenging implication of the study.
 
"It's going to be really important that all the community development corporations and communities work together and nobody develops projects along the corridor or within a ¼ mile that create less dense residential neighborhoods."
 
It's a tall order, one that Mortensen estimates could take up to 10 years.
 
"What's most important is patience by the community right now."
 


cedar-taylor merchant group hits fundraising goal, plans for spring improvements

Having reached an important fundraising goal of $5,500 just last month, the Cedar-Taylor Development Association (CTDA) will see the fruits of its persistence come to fruition next spring.
 
The $5,500 figure is significant as it unlocks the second half of an $11,000 Cleveland Heights 2014 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). With $16,500 in its coffers, CTDA can begin prioritizing their streetscape plan, which was conducted by Michelle Bandy-Zalatoris and financed by a $5,250 CDBG issued by Cleveland Heights in 2013. Further sweetening the pot is an additional $10,000 CDBG from Cleveland Heights that will be available in July 2015.
 
Kevin Smith, CTDA president, estimates the total cost of realizing the plan will be $100,000. That's a lot of dough, but with $27,500 on the books, it's starting to look attainable.
 
"Our first source of funds came from going door to door to talk to business owners and suggesting a donation of $100 to be member," says Smith. "Some gave less. Some gave more." He also notes that a handful of residents and a generous anonymous donor helped to reach the $5,500, as did a Nov. 8 fundraiser wherein local vendors donated a portion of their sales to the effort.
 
The district covers Cedar Road between Hampstead and the end of the business district, and Taylor Road from Washington Boulevard to Sherwin Williams, 2193 South Taylor Road. While money from Cleveland Heights cannot be spent on the portion of the district that lies in University Heights (everything east of Taylor), the funds raised by CTDA can.
 
"University Heights is looking for funds as well," says Smith.
 
The group intends to "get their ducks in a row" over winter and prioritize spending, but Smith says they will likely start with items such as benches, planters, banner signage, trash receptacles and/or custom bike racks.
 
"We want there to be somewhat of a splash," he says, adding that they can't do everything at once. "If we wanted to, say, add ten benches total, maybe we do four benches this year."
 
Larger ticket items include adding a turn lane, angle parking and public art. Smith cites an example: instead of two simple white striped lines defining a crosswalk, "you make it into kind of an art piece. Maybe outside of Melt, the crosswalk is a painted knife and a painted fork." He adds that CTDA may reach out to Heights Arts.
 
"They're a great local Heights-based arts organization that we'd like to collaborate with."
 
Smith owns a 3,000-square foot building in the district that currently houses two tenants, Enroll America, 13437 Cedar Road, a nonprofit that helps people sign up for the Affordable Care Act and Critical Hit Games, 13433 Cedar Road. He and others founded the CTDA in 2012. The group of approximately 60 merchants, property owners and residents make up the 501(c)(3) nonprofit. There are six board members.
 
The group differs from Cleveland's many community development corporations and the special improvement districts in Cleveland Heights, which are all formal and complex public/private entities.
 
"We're much more grass roots," says Smith. "We're all volunteer. We have absolutely no overhead. We have no office. Everything we get goes directly into this programming/neighborhood."
 
But what is the impetus behind his fervent neighborhood advocacy?
 
"If we don't take the initiative ourselves, nobody's going to do it for us."

long-awaited makeover of mlk jr. drive and 'suicide circle' now open

The much-maligned traffic circle at East 105th and MLK Jr. Drive has been completely redeveloped and is now open to vehicle traffic. Fresh Water first reported on these planned improvements two and a half years ago.

"This traffic circle has one of the highest rates of vehicular accidents in the region -- they're mostly fender benders, because people are just confused by it," Chris Bongorno, Director of Planning with University Circle Incorporated (UCI), told us at the time. "The new configuration will definitely be more pedestrian and bike friendly, and will also help to connect people to Rockefeller Park and University Circle."

According to a press release from Cuyahoga County, which invested in the project along with the City of Cleveland, the $7.2 million infrastructure project "modified an existing roadway network at East 105th Street, MLK Boulevard, Mt. Sinai Drive, East Boulevard, and Jeptha Drive. An existing roundabout was eliminated and the remaining roadways geometrically realigned."
 
Mt. Sinai was moved south of its previous location, while Jeptha Drive was moved north. Meanwhile, East 105th Street was widened and now includes turning lanes. Finally, MLK Jr. Boulevard has been widened and realigned, and East Boulevard has been extended.

Additional improvements include new sidewalks, paths and the reconstruction of the Cancer Survivor Plaza. A new bio swale will have over 4,000 shrubs and perennials, apparently.
 
The project is pedestrian- and bike-friendly. A pedestrian boardwalk will serve to connect East 105th Street to MLK Jr. Blvd.

There are still a few items to be ticked off the completion list, including installation of the shrubs and perennials, permanent pavement markings and permanent traffic signals.

university circle transportation study: 'we have enough parking, but it needs to be easier to use'

While that quote comes from Chris Bongorno, transportation planning manager for University Circle Inc. (UCI), he is quick to point out that the complex parking situation in University Circle cannot be summed up in a single sentence. He also readily admits that the major thrust of the study's findings—that the existing 37,000 parking spaces in the University Circle area are sufficient in an aggregate sense—will likely raise some eyebrows.
 
"That will instigate a lot of reaction because that's not the perception or reality to some people," he says.
 
Although the findings of the District Parking Study, which is part of the larger Moving Greater University Circle Transportation and Mobility Study are still in the draft stage and not yet publicly available, Bongorno gave Fresh Water a fascinating insight into this otherwise utilitarian topic and the study's results.
 
"Where there are (parking) constraints is during peak times," he says, adding that identifying different parking supply and demand markets is critical. Rather than building more expensive parking garages that do not command sufficient revenue to cover the associated debt, says Bongorno, the informed option is to "find more creative ways to coordinate management and use of existing facilities."
 
He cites the Veteran's Administration Medical Center's two large garages, which are near peak use during the day, but no so at other times. "In the evenings, they make those garages available to the public," he says, which is convenient for attendees of events such as Wade Oval Wednesdays.
 
That's easy enough to understand. Who hasn't looked on with frustration at a No parking. Violators will be towed sign in front of a desolate office building parking lot on a Sunday? Hence, with 15 different organizations in the University Circle area giving 15 different messages about how to park and get around, there is significant room for coordinated efforts.
 
"This is not something that would be easily achieved," concedes Bongorno, adding that parking lot owners have reasons why they want to manage their own facilities, but that it can be done. He cites the recent transformation of Uptown, where surface lots were replaced with dense and dynamic mixed-use development. Getting UCI, University Hospitals and Case Western Reserve University to commit to shared-use of their area garages was instrumental in obtaining zoning variances for the new projects, which eliminated parking spaces and incurred more users.
 
"That's worked there," says Bongorno. However challenges persist, particularly with communication. People can't always find those spaces, which is often a problem with transportation management and will be addressed at large as the project proceeds.
 
A $100,000 Transportation for Livable Communities Initiative Planning Grant from the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency is funding the study, along with matching contributions from private philanthropic partners. Phase two, the Transportation and Mobility Study, began in September and is scheduled for completion in early 2015. Work on the final phase of the study, the Transportation Management Implementation Plan, will begin in spring 2015. Nelson\Nygaard, which specializes in developing transportation communities, is the lead consultant on the project.
 
"They're really experienced in multi-modal transportation planning around the world," says Bongorno, noting that they've done work in Pittsburgh, Boston, Philadelphia and Detroit.
 
Evoking the image of enormous parking lots surrounding malls or big box stores that are often half empty, Bongorno asserts, "We can't build for the day after Thanksgiving. That's not the type of district that we want. We want a district that is very efficiently using its existing assets while maintaining and promoting a walkable and very vibrant 24/7 district."
 
Another goal of the project is, ironically, invisible results.
 
"We don't want people who go to MOCA or the museums or Piccadilly to say anything about their experience driving there or parking. That's not part of their memorable experience. We want it to be about what they saw, who they ran into, and how that ice cream tasted.

"We want transportation to be out of the conversation unless they're saying how easy it was."




newly-unveiled flats plan prioritizes projects, sets stage for additional development

The 2014 Flats Forward Framework Plan, which will be unveiled today at a public meeting at the Music Box Supper Club on the West Bank, offers a roadmap for the area's future. Some of the key priorities identified in the plan include preserving the area's history as an industrial corridor, further developing recreation and riverfront access opportunities, investing in infrastructure and wayfinding signage, and designating land uses to clear the way for additional development.

"The Flats are a critical part of Cleveland's history and demonstrate immense opportunity for future growth," the report states, citing the $4.5 billion in new development that has occurred downtown since 2010, 95 percent apartment occupancy rates, and the growth of Ohio City, Tremont and Gordon Square as reasons for optimism.

The report divides the core of the Flats into six different areas -- the Old River Channel, East Bank, West Bank, Columbus Peninsula, Scranton Peninsula and Irishtown Bend. Some of the challenges identified in the report include confusing entryways into the Flats and the lack of wayfinding signage, the underused riverfront, crumbling infrastructure and poor public transit access.

So what's the future look like? The Flats Forward plan shows a network of green spaces (Whiskey Island, Canal Basin Park, Scranton Flats, Rivergate Park)  connected by trails (Lake Link Trail, proposed River Walk Trail, Towpath Trail). It calls for a maintenance plan to improve the condition of streets and sidewalks and make the area more bike- and pedestrian-friendly. It calls for wayfinding signage, better waterfront access, and improved public transit links.

The plan also develops a roadway typology, suggesting that certain streets should be designated for primarily industrial uses.This could reduce the conflicts that currently exist between industrial concerns and other users in the Flats.

Other immediate next steps including identifying and applying for funding for planning efforts, hiring a marketing and branding firm, and determining market demand and potential land uses through a detailed economic study.

Although this plan represents a long-term vision, new economic activity is already being generated in the Flats. The shipping channel is very active, Rivergate Park is a recreation hub, the Columbus Peninsula is seeing redevelopment and both the East and West Banks are adding new businesses. This report suggests that this activity will increase -- and provides a roadmap to help guide it along.
 

mayor jackson's goodtime tour touts long-awaited action on waterfront development

Five years ago, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson talked about plans for Cleveland’s lakefront and riverfront. These days, he’s talking about putting those plans into action. As he recently stated, “The only good plan you have is one you’re doing. Everything else is just a good conversation.”
 
Jackson recently conducted a waterfront tour called “Back to the Future II” on the Goodtime III to highlight progress in lakefront and riverfront development. Jackson, along with Chief of Regional Development Ed Rybka and Cleveland Metroparks CEO Brian Zimmerman, narrated a plan that’s coming to life.
 
The Mayor introduced the tour by saying, “Cleveland is one of the few American cities with both a riverfront and a lakefront. The waterfront helped build the city and is a vital part of Cleveland’s future -- the important thing going forward is that we do it right.”
 
With that, Jackson highlighted his goals for the waterfront: conservation, economic development and recreation. Those goals are being achieved through projects such as a pedestrian bridge and redevelopment of North Coast Harbor as well as multi-purpose trails like the Lake Link Trail and Towpath Trail.
 
The tour kicked off with an overview of plans for North Coast Harbor. Rybka and Zimmerman touted the 200 market-rate apartments and 80,000 square feet of office space planned for Phase I. “Phases Two and Three will become a walkable, mixed-use maritime development, including housing, retail and a school site,” explained Rybka.
 
As the tour continued up the river, residents, media and public officials caught a great view of the new Flats East project, where Phase II currently is under construction, and the recently opened Music Box Supper Club on the west bank.
 
Zimmerman pointed out Rivergate Park, which offers riverfront dining at the newly opened Merwin’s Wharf. He also highlighted the new Crooked River Skate Park, which is employing “the best practices in skate park construction.”
 
Overall, the tour showcased how far Cleveland has come in the past five years. “We’re using the investments to rebuild the city, connecting people to the lakefront,” said Rybka. “We’re placing value on what created Cleveland in the first place. We’re positioning Cleveland as one of the great waterfront cities.”
 
Jackson said he’s pleased development is moving ahead along Cleveland’s shore. “A plan is a plan until you do something about it,” he said. “It’s timing. We’re in a position now where things are just lined up right.”

Photos Bob Perkoski

new owners transform winchester music hall into the bevy with live music and food

The Winchester Music Hall, a classic Lakewood venue that closed late last year after a decades-long run, will soon enjoy a new lease on life as The Bevy in Birdtown, a restaurant and music venue set to open next month.

New owners Patty Lim and Beth Scebbi of New Century Builders have completely refreshed the space. The bar area has new flooring, a new ceiling, fresh paint and custom-designed lighting crafted from old wine bottles. There are eight draft beer lines, and a new kitchen will allow for a full-service menu that is scheduled to start sometime in October.

"We felt that Madison Avenue is really going to be taking over," says Lim. "Detroit Avenue is at its peak, and this is the next phase of development in Lakewood."

County records show that Dially's Investment Group LLC purchased the building for $150,000 in July from previous owner James Mileti. The building needed to be updated, and the new owners are not only renovating the space, but also adding some new touches that will likely make the Bevy a popular destination spot.

Lim and Sceibbi have cleaned up the historic sandstone and brick exterior, and they're adding a prominent sign featuring The Bevy's logo (a martini glass with birds flying around it -- how cool is that?). They're also adding a large sidewalk patio to take advantage of the building's deep sidewalk. Next year, they plan to transform a lovely brick nook alongside the building into a second patio area.

The Bevy will feature a full lineup of entertainment scheduled to start later this year. Lim plans to hire not only bands playing rock, blues, jazz and other styles, but also comedians. She's not worried about competition from The Music Box, Vosh, Mahall's 20 Lanes or other nearby venues, saying "the more the merrier."

The music hall, which is located in a former bowling alley, will become a bit cozier thanks to the addition of a private party room and offices in the rear. The party room will be nicknamed The Winchester, and the owners plan to keep the historic logo that's painted on the wall. The new hall will feature a section with hardwood floors for dancing, upgraded seating, high-top tables and a standing area.

Lim, who got her start as manager with Cleveland PM restaurant in Valleyview, is glad to be back in the restaurant and bar business. She sees great opportunity in Lakewood, and points to the businesses that are moving to Lakewood and the renovated Madison Avenue streetscape as signs of the area's revival.

rta introduces ohio city connector, making it easier to travel between downtown and ohio city

More than 200 buses run between downtown Cleveland and Ohio City every day. At the same time, both areas have become increasingly popular places to work, live, shop, eat and play. So why not better market, brand and highlight the connections that exist between the two neighborhoods as part of a larger effort to encourage more people to use transit when traveling in and around downtown?

That's exactly what RTA has done with the introduction of the new Ohio City Connector, a branding, signage and marketing program that highlights how easy it is to get back and forth between Ohio City and downtown. With rebranded bus stops located at the corner of West 25th Street and Lorain Avenue and West 3rd Street and Superior Avenue, representatives say that the program will facilitate connections between the two neighborhoods and encourage new riders to hop on the bus.

"Connecting neighborhoods is the critical part," says Steve Bitto, Executive Director of Marketing and Communications with RTA. "We're also recognizing the opportunity that transit has with an emerging market like the Millennials. There are a lot of people who live downtown and in Ohio City that fall into that category. It's not all about getting into the car and driving. If it works, they’re going to take it."

Bitto says the service is akin to the popular trolley service that already exists downtown. The trolley service is free, yet RTA does not have funding to expand it. You have to pay bus fare to ride the Ohio City Connector, but officials tout the service as easy and convenient, a way to get from door to door in a few minutes.

Given the parking crunch that now exists in Ohio City and downtown, this service will no doubt prove popular, as drivers grow weary of fighting for a spot.

lakewood again enjoying fresh wave of new business development

Fresh Water has been on top of the dramatic new business development currently taking place in Lakewood, covering it herehere and here. The west side 'burb has seen an explosion of new shops, pubs and eateries in recent years, thanks in large part to a pedestrian-friendly Detroit Avenue streetscape that was completed in 2012. Now the city is poised for another wave of growth, with several new businesses set to open this year.

In a recent chat with Planning Director Dru Siley, we learned about Cleveland Vegan, which is set to open a storefront catering operation in the next 45 days (13611 Detroit), with a planned eatery to follow; Brown Sugar Thai, which will open its fourth location in a 2,600-square-foot space in the Bailey Building at Detroit and Warren; Birdtown Restaurant and Brewing, a project from restaurateur Tom Leneghan, will open next year in the old St. Gregory's Church on Madison; The Bevy, a new restaurant and music venue that will open in the old Winchester Music Hall; and The Stache, a hip new speakeasy set to open in the former Johnny Malloys/Gepettos space (17103 Detroit Ave.).

These are just a few of the new businesses flocking to Lakewood, which has seen impressive business growth along its Detroit and Madison commercial corridors.

"Part of what we've noticed is that Lakewood is a great place to open a first business, such as Beat Cycles, but it's also a good place for a business to do a second location," says Siley. "We're seeing that as a bit of a trend. Business owners are doing some intentional planning, and they're looking at Lakewood."

Although Lakewood is chock-full of independents, plenty of chains are getting in on the action, too. Another new addition to Lakewood is Bob Evan's, which opened up a surprisingly contemporary-looking eatery in downtown Lakewood. "It's the busiest 4:30 dinner spot in the entire world right now," jokes Siley.

new cycling fest to attract 1000s to shores of lake erie

When the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission began looking at creating a new event a few years ago, cycling soon rose to the top of the list. Leaders knew that a premiere cycling event in Northeast Ohio would prove popular well beyond Cleveland, attracting visitors from other cities. Then they refined the idea into a weekend of races, offering multiple rides from which to choose, coupled with a lifestyle festival at Edgewater Park. They had a winner.

The result is NEOCycle, "an urban cycling festival consisting of competitive races and unique rides, connected by live entertainment and an interactive, action-filled festival at Edgewater Park on the shores of Lake Erie," according to the website. The event takes place September 26th-28th, and organizers say it could attract 1,000 people from other cities and generate $250,000 in economic impact.

NEOCycle will feature five rides: Night Ride, which will leave from Edgewater Park and offer views of the sunset and downtown skyline; Forest City Fundo, an untimed, mass ride with lengths ranging from 10 to 62 miles and benefitting Bike Cleveland; Cyclocross, a race through Edgewater Park with natural and manmade obstacles; Criterium, a lapped race through University Circle and surrounding neighborhoods; and a velodrome race in Slavic Village.

Whether you're a competitive cyclist or not, the unique new event holds many charms. The Fundo and Night Rides are geared to both casual and serious riders. Spectators will enjoy heading over to Edgewater Park to watch the races, drink beer, hang out by the beach and listen to music.

Speaking of music, organizers recently announced that Cloud Nothings and Jessica Lea Mayfield would headline the event. Other bands include Ohio Sky, Captain Kidd, Cities & Coast, Ottawa, Muamin Collective & Neil Chastain Trio, Silent Lions, Village Bicycle, JP & the Chatfield Boys and the Luckey Ones.

"The idea is, 'How do you take 1 plus 1 plus 1 and equal a whole lot more than three?'" says David Gilbert, President of the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission. "How do you take grassroots events and put them in one large festival? You’re going to get an experience here that you're just not going to get at any other event."

sneak peek of the 9, cleveland's 'game-changing' downtown development

When it comes to The 9 in downtown Cleveland, there's no shortage of hyperboles. The $250-million project, which has transformed Marcel Breuer's long-neglected modernist tower into a 156-room high-end hotel and 194 luxury apartments, is being touted as a "game changer," the city's "first truly mixed-used building," a "best-in-class" property and the first-ever "truly luxury" residential building.

Of course, developers are known more for their sales pitches than their subtlety. So Fresh Water toured the ambitious project to get a sneak peek of the building, which will is set to debut in September, to find out what all the hype is about.

The historic rotunda

The Cleveland Trust rotunda has been completely restored and is awaiting construction of a new Heinen's grocery store, which is set to open in 2015. (Following our tour, one insider quipped that Cleveland hasn't gotten enough urbanist street cred for opening a grocery store without attached parking. "When it opens, we will," counseled another.) Our Metropolitan tour guide informed us that conservative estimates place the value of the Tiffany-style stained-glass dome at a cool $20 million. The guy who designed the murals, Frances David Millet, surprised his wife with a trip on the Titanic shortly after completing them. They didn't survive, apparently, but Millet's glorious murals continue to shine.

The vaults

Residents, hotel guests and invited friends soon will be able to party in the basement vaults where Andrew Carnegie and other famous Clevelanders stowed their fortunes. There are four vaults in the lower level, each with the same impossibly large, circular steel-and-glass doors. Back in the day, if one got broken into, there was a special mechanism that sealed off the other three from intruders. Now you can get access to all of them -- if you're lucky enough to score an invitation. Imagine sitting in a plush armchair and sipping a Manhattan with friends in the safe deposit box rooms that once secured the treasures of famous industrialists. Never mind the two-drink minimum; our guide explains that guests who don't spend at least $50 on their first visit will not be welcome back.
(Side note: The safe deposit boxes themselves apparently are being repurposed into an artsy chandelier. It's nice to see the building's original treasures getting second lives!)

The restaurants 

Although the restaurants still are under construction, from the looks of things, they're going to be very nice. First, there's a lot of natural beauty to work with -- the marble-lined interior of the original bank lobby has soaring ceilings that draw the eye upwards. This space soon will be home to Adega, the main restaurant, which will have a 2,000-square-foot patio. The other spaces will be similarly impressive; for example, the 350-seat Mint Ballroom in the lower level boasts stunning recessed chandeliers.
 
The 9 will add five new establishments to the downtown scene. Beyond the Vault and Adega, there's The Ledger, a smaller, second-floor bar; Azure, the rooftop restaurant and nightclub (finally, Cleveland's scores a new one); and the Alex Theater, a 70-seater that will open for special screenings, comedy shows and the like.

The Hotel

We didn't get a tour of the hotel rooms, but we were told that they're quite spacious -- in some cases, twice as large as typical suites. Rates are not cheap for downtown, hovering in the mid-$200s per night according to a web search (spokespeople won't officially comment on pricing yet). Hotel guests will have access to the same amenities as apartment dwellers, including 24/7 concierge services. Already, there are five weddings booked for November, and the place hasn't even opened yet.

The apartments

Apartment marketing often is where hyperbole goes overboard, and The 9 is no exception. Promotional materials promise "spa-inspired bathing facilities," "full custom-designed kitchens" and an environment where "the line between everyday living and escape becomes blurred." (We're ready to move in right now, thanks.) These units, which are commanding high prices of $1.75 to $2 per square foot, already are 80 percent leased, according to sales staff. The adjacent 1010 Euclid building, which is less high-end, is reportedly 60 percent leased.  

In addition to the high-end kitchens and baths, suites have granite countertops, bathrooms with double sinks, dimmable lighting, zebra wood cabinetry, 100-inch electric fireplaces, 55-inch flatscreen TVs, wet bars, Thermador appliances with gas stoves, Bosch washer-dryers, walk-in closets and cork floors.

So what are prices like? Apartments in the two adjacent buildings, ranging from 500 to 3,000 square feet, start at about $1,000 and climb to about $6,000 per month. Cha-ching. Top units are called Sky Suites and enjoy panoramic views of downtown from all sides. At this point we're simply hoping to make friends with residents in the building.

Other fun facts

Did you know that The 9 also will be home to the city's first indoor dog park? Yes, you heard that right. Apparently there's special technology for flushing. We didn't ask for specifics.

There are 2,500 people presently working in three shifts on this project. It's one of the most complex real estate transactions in the city's history, with 140 documents recorded sequentially in the County Recorder's office.

By now, it should be apparent why this project is so impressive. For residents, it literally will be akin to living in a hotel, because, well, they actually are in a hotel. Hotel guests, on the other hand, will have access to the city's finest amenities courtesy of the residences.

Given that The 9 will soon be "the place to see and be seen," we expect to catch a sighting of LeBron (or at least his cavalcade) on a Saturday night here sometime soon.

 
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