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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 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 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 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 swankiest 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.

 

group plan commission announces details, first major grant for new park

Internationally renowned landscape architect James Corner recently unveiled his plans for Cleveland’s Public Square at the City Club. The square’s four quadrants will be connected via swaths of green space and a pathway, closing Ontario and limiting Superior to buses. It will include a water feature that will allow visitors to dip their toes in the cooling waters, sloped seating embedded in a hillside for concerts or movies, a café and natural landscaping.
 
Now, thanks to an $8 million gift from the Cleveland Foundation, the long-planned changes are one step closer to reality. LAND Studio, a local nonprofit that helps to design vibrant public spaces, will receive grant funding to help implement the Group Plan Commission’s design. The award is part of a special series of grants the foundation is making to celebrate its centennial. The south plaza of the park will be named “Cleveland Foundation Centennial Plaza.”

"This is important because it's the Cleveland Foundation taking a leadership role and saying this transformation is critical for the city’s future," says Jeremy Paris, Executive Director of the Group Plan Commission. "It's a way for them to impact the city for this generation and generations to come, and a validation of the work we’re trying to do. In addition, the gift itself is catalytic for our funding goals."

Paris says the goal is still to break ground on the project this year, and to complete the Public Square redesign by 2016, in time for major events occurring that year.

In his City Club presentation, Corner outlined the importance of public space in an economy where cities are competing for tourism and residents: “Cities are reinvesting, in a bid to retain a competitive edge, in the public realm.” With the recently renovated mall atop the convention center, Cleveland now has an opportunity to create signature public spaces connected to the lake.  
 
Corner presented key aspects of the design. The northern half of the mall will feature a manmade hill with seating seamlessly cut into it. It will also include additional foliage and gardens, with trees positioned to avoid interrupting views yet also to keep the park visible from the surrounding streets. The new water feature will be a reflective pool, yet it will also have jets. As in many other cities, Cleveland will soon have a fountain where kids can play on hot summer days.
 
When the next Polar Vortex returns, this area can be transitioned into an ice skating rink so that Clevelanders can take advantage of winter activities on Public Square.
 
The cafe will be located on the south side of the park. The concept and operator have not yet been chosen, but it will likely be a fast-casual sandwich and coffee shop. The Sailors and Soldiers monument will be well preserved and improved as part of the project. New lighting will highlight the historic monument and the design will open up the space around it to provide uninterrupted views. 
 
In his talk, Corner called attention to the importance of simply populating parks, as well as offering creative, interactive programming. “People love to simply lounge, to be with other people and see others,” he explained.
 
Closing Ontario and limiting Superior to buses remains somewhat controversial, with some wanting not to close the streets and others wanting to close Superior entirely. Corner noted that Superior could be closed occasionally and lined with tents for farmers markets or festivals in the summer months. Design elements will help make crossing Superior a pedestrian-friendly experience. “Our traffic engineers are nationally renowned for traffic planning, and in their estimation, what we’re doing is a good thing in terms of how traffic works in Cleveland,” Corner stated.

Finally, Corner noted how public space can generate economic development in cities. James Corner Field Operations previously had worked on the High Line in New York City. This revolutionary park transformed an abandoned elevated rail line that was once seen as a blemish in the neighborhoods through which it ran. It was about to be torn down until a neighborhood group had the visionary idea to turn it into a park. The High Line is now the second most visited tourist attraction in New York City, attracting 4.5 million people in 2012. It has spurred $2 billion in economic development and 12,000 new jobs in neighborhoods flanking the park.
 
“These are significant investments that aren’t only beautifying, aren’t only socially enriching and enhancing, but also will boost the economy of the city if not the region," Corner stated.
 

blazing saddle cycle to open second location in little italy, across from new rising star coffee

Wondering why there are no bike shops between Ohio City and Cleveland Heights, despite the rise in bike commuting in and around University Circle? Well, soon there will be. Blazing Saddle Cycle, the edgy bike shop that opened a few years ago in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood, has inked a deal to open a second location in Little Italy. This newest outpost will be at the intersection of Murray Hill and Edgehill roads, across from the new Rising Star coffee. Both of these hotspots are set to open later this year.

Co-owner Travis Peebles, who founded the bike shop with fellow bike guru James Rychak, says the seed was planted in his head when Greenhouse Tavern chef Jonathon Sawyer stopped by the west side shop and complained about the lack of bike shops in University Circle. The next day, Peebles took a ride over there and discovered a "For Rent" sign during his first pass through the neighborhood. He knew instantly that the location was a winner.

"We knew two years ago that this neighborhood needed a bike shop, but at that time, we were just getting settled into the west side," says Peebles. "People would bring it up to us, and we'd often fantasize about it. Then, when Sawyer planted the seed, we said, 'Let’s go see what we can find.'"

"There’s so much potential over here, I'm almost a little bit nervous," he says, adding that the duo has taken on a third partner to keep up with their double-digit growth. "I'm not sure I can wrap my head around how busy we could possibly be when however many thousands of students come back in August. The corner of Edgehill and Murray Hill is the busiest bike intersection in the city."

Despite his trepidations about being able to handle the business that might walk through the door when Blazing Saddle opens on August 1, Peebles is psyched about the space. It's 700 square feet and has "as much character" as the west side shop, he says, which in its former life was a 100-year-old hardware store with beat-up wood floors and a vintage facade. The owners are doing the build-out themselves, using many finishes and furnishings salvaged from the former Theresa's restaurant across the street, which is where Rising Star will open.

"The neighborhood is great," Peebles says. "People are so, so positive about us moving into the area. We can't work for 15 minutes without someone coming by."

The new location (2190 Murray Hill Rd.) will carry the same types of bikes as the original, but the owners might add some new lines as well. They'll continue to do "custom restorations of quality used bikes," bringing sturdy classics from the ‘70s back to life. And repairs will remain a staple, too. "We want to make sure we cater to everybody."

Recently, the neighborhood has seen investment in bike infrastructure, including new bike lanes on Edgehill Road. Peebles and Rychak are banking on the growth of the cycling community in University Circle, Cleveland Heights and points beyond.

Although Peebles acknowledges the need for outside help to manage his company's growth, the partners have built their entire business pretty much on their own with no bank loans. "The fewer institutions we can involve, the better," he quips.
 

entrepreneur rides cycling obsession all the way to his very own lakewood bike shop

Growing up in Akron, Ryan Sheldon landed his first job in a bike shop after applying for one approximately 20 times and hanging around the shop like a groupie. At the time, he was 17 years old and working as a bagger in the grocery store next door. Eventually, the owners hired him, seeing a spark of passion that was worth nurturing. He worked there for 15 years.

Now, the 33-year-old bike lover has struck out on his own with Beat Cycles, which recently opened in a long-vacant storefront in Lakewood (15608 Detroit Avenue). Sheldon renovated the place himself from the studs up over the course of five and half grueling months -- opening just in time for good cycling weather.

"I saw the opportunity to bring a really cool shop with a unique vibe to Lakewood," says Sheldon, who says he has a particular passion for working with all levels of cyclists and getting new folks interested in cycling. "My approach is really open; I'm passionate about what I do, and I love getting kids on bikes."

Sheldon says that Lakewood, a dense city of 52,000 residents, is a great place for biking. He says there's room for another bike shop even though there are at least four (Spin, Century Cycles, Blazing Saddles and Joy Machines) within a few miles.

Sheldon may be new to the whole entrepreneurship gig, but he's pretty much always been into bikes. "It’s that first sense of freedom you get," he says. "As a kid, you can get away from your parents on a bike... and they can’t quite catch you."

Sheldon was bit by the entrepreneurship bug after rising to the level of regional manager at his previous job. He saw opening his own store as "the ultimate level of creativity." First, he had to identify the right spot and pull together financing. He had savings but not enough, and no bank wanted to touch the deal. They wanted him to be able to show some profit before they'd loan him money.

Then he contacted the Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI), a nonprofit community-oriented lender that was eager to help him get started. After a lot of ups and downs, the loan finally closed and he was on his way.

Beat Cycles features warm, refinished hardwood floors and walls wrapped in reclaimed wood. The colors are bright and eye-catching. Sheldon and his coworkers removed a drop ceiling and replaced electric and other mechanicals. "It's fun to walk in the store and really see your vision in finished form," he says.

He couldn't be more excited about being an entrepreneur. "From a young age, I thought it would be cool to have a job that you loved. I carried that mentality and mindset up to ripe old age of 33. It doesn’t feel like work if you enjoy it."

entrepreneur to open women's clothing boutique on lorain avenue this summer

Ohio City is chock full of restaurants, breweries and culinary delights, yet one thing it lacks is shopping. Room Service, Salty Not Sweet and others have added some much welcome spice to the mix, but where's a girl to go for shoes?
 
Have no fear: Thanks to the addition of Blackbird Fly, a women's clothing boutique set to open this summer at W. 28th and Lorain, consider the problem solved.

"We'll be a true Cleveland clothing boutique," says Angelina Rodriguez Pata, a Detroit Shoreway native who finally has realized her dream of opening a store. "We're bringing in some really well made national brands, and we're also in talks with local artisans. The whole mantra we're going for is, 'As American-made as we can do it.' We're aiming for at least 75 percent American-made and locally made."

Pata is a metalsmithing artist who has stayed home with her four kids for the past few years. Now that they're older, she wanted to get back into the workforce. "I was never going to be happy doing anything unless it was creative. I said, 'I can do this, I have great taste in shoes and clothing, and they're dying for it over there.'"

Her goal was to create an approachable boutique where both locals and visitors could shop. She plans to carry items that will appeal to women in their 20s through 50s, and her price points won't be sky-high. "It won't be $350 for a pair of shoes," she says. "I'd say our price points will be $60 to $150 on average."

The charming storefront, which last housed Councilman Cimperman's campaign office, likely will go through the city's Storefront Renovation Program. That will mean a spruced-up exterior and new signage. The interior currently is divided into two spaces, but will be opened up into a single 1,100-square-foot shop. Pata plans to add tables and chairs to the front so visitors can hang out.

The name comes from Pata's favorite Beatles song, of course. "My mom was a hippie and my dad was a greaser," she says. "They were both very musical and in bands growing up. We always had music playing in our house, particularly the Beatles. I just love that song because it's about struggle, and that's life."

How did Pata land the prime retail space? She admits to stalking the landlord after he failed to return her calls. The last message she left is worth repeating, she notes.

"This is Angelina, I know you know who I am because I’ve called you like 15 times. Here’s the deal, I’m really interested in your space, but for goodness sake, if it's not available tell me and I’ll stop hunting you down ... Call me back!"

Soon enough, her phone rang and it was the landlord. Turns out, he'd simply been preoccupied with a homebuilding project. She signed the lease soon thereafter.

Pata, who plans to open by mid-August and have hours from Tuesday to Sunday, will carry prominent lines such as Blank NYC, Agave and Seychelles. She's excited to be in the middle of everything, steps from the West Side Market.

"I will promise one thing, it won't be a snobby, uncomfortable, boutique," she says. "You'll walk in and feel like you’ve grown up with me and known me forever."
 

west side community house to become cleveland's first bike-friendly apartment building

Damon Taseff, a principal with Allegro Realty who along with partners is undertaking the renovation of the historic West Side Community House in Ohio City into market-rate apartments, recently showed Fresh Water around. He also announced details of what he says will be "Cleveland's first bicycle-friendly apartment building."

The building is being redeveloped into 19 apartments, 4,000 square feet of office space and a Phoenix Coffee shop. It will feature not only a communal bike rack but also individual bike racks in each suite built from salvaged lumber. There will be a bike lounge in the basement where tools and other resources will be available, and membership with the nonprofit Bike Cleveland will be part of the amenity package that comes with signing a lease.

Bike Cleveland also is coming on board to coordinate at least one community cycling event at the building each year. The building will feature a bike-share program managed by Phoenix (there will be bikes in the basement that residents and visitors can borrow). Finally, Taseff is in talks with Joy Machines Bike Shop and the Ohio City Bike Co-op about bringing them in as partners, as well.

All in all, Taseff says he wants to set a standard for Cleveland and beyond when it comes to creating bike-friendly apartment buildings. "This is ground zero in the neighborhood -- you're dead center in the middle of everything," he says of the property at 3000 Bridge Avenue. "If you look at the national landscape, this is an emerging trend. When people talk about bike-friendly buildings, it's usually just a place to park your bike, but we really wanted to take it to the next level."

According to the City of Cleveland's recently announced plan, Bridge Avenue will be redeveloped as a bike route, making the area even more bike-friendly.

The building's parking lot does not have enough spaces for every resident to park a car, so Taseff is hoping the bike-friendly nature of the building will encourage some tenants to go car-free.

Taseff says it's very possible to live without a car in Cleveland, and he wants his project to help facilitate that lifestyle. "I did not have a car when I lived in Chicago," he says. "Let's design neighborhoods around people, not cars."

Other highlights include the custom finishes that are being incorporated into each suite, including hexagonal tile in the bathrooms and butcher block and steel kitchen islands courtesy of Rust Belt Welding and Soulcraft Woodshop.

The West Side Community House building is lined with windows on every side (all of which are relatively new and can be opened), affording views of the surrounding neighborhood, downtown and the West Side Market.

Plans already are in the works for a roof deck, but nothing has been finalized yet. Phoenix will open in August, the offices in September and the apartments in October. Pre-leasing for the apartments will begin soon, though prices have yet to be announced.

encouraging bike-friendly workplaces key to attracting more bike commuters

Austin McGuan, an attorney with Squire Sanders, first learned about the City of Cleveland's bike parking ordinance a few years ago. A regular bike commuter, McGuan began inquiring about his own landlord's bike parking facility and learned that it was not in compliance. So he worked with his firm, the landlord and the building management to reach a good solution.

Today, thanks to the efforts of McGuan and other members of the Squire Sanders bike committee, the firm has safe, covered bike parking at the front of the garage, offers employees memberships in the Bike Rack downtown, and sponsors regular bike commuting and recreational events. The firm recently received a silver-level bicycle friendly business designation -- the only company or organization in Northeast Ohio to receive this coveted award, and the fourth in Ohio.

"Before, we had a rim-bender bike rack that was tucked into a dark corner, always in a puddle," says McGuane. "If you want to encourage people to ride a bike to work, you have to provide them with a good and safe place to park their bike. That’s what we’ve done working with building management here."

McGuane says one of the most important aspects of fostering bike commuting is encouraging bike-friendly workplaces. "We wanted to knock down potential barriers that would prevent someone from biking to work," he says of his colleagues at Squire Sanders. "One of them, obviously, is having someplace to shower, clean up and change. We explored providing that within our own building, but instead we decided to do the next best thing, which was to sponsor the Bike Rack."

Jacob Van Sickle of Bike Cleveland says the number of bike commuters has been steadily rising in Cleveland and especially downtown in recent years. It's critical to offer a bike-friendly work environment in order to attract more commuters, he says. Although more is needed, the Bike Rack's growing membership, increasing number of parking lot owners in compliance with the city's ordinance, and newly installed bike racks downtown all are part of the amenity mix falling into place.
 

university circle announces plans for $130m high-rise apartment tower

University Circle Inc. has announced plans to construct a $130 million, 20-plus story apartment highrise on the current site of the Children's Museum, as well as surrounding land owned by UCI. The nonprofit has selected Mitchell Schneider of First Interstate Properties and Sam Petros of Petros Homes to lead the development team.

The announcement is the fruit of years of discussion about a luxury residential tower in University Circle. UCI has long set its sights on building such a tower, seeing unmet demand for housing in an area experiencing strong job growth, near 100-percent rental occupancy and growth in commercial amenities.

The project will include about 280 units ranging in size from 720 to 4,200 square feet. The structure will have floor-to-ceiling windows and views of the downtown skyline and Lake Erie. Initial plans call for a building that is 25 to 28 stories tall. The property also will be green-built and offer easy access to public transportation.
 
"There is substantial demand for this type of housing in University Circle," explained Chris Ronayne, President of UCI, in a release. "One University Circle will provide a quality urban design solution that meets a market demand, brings greater density to University Circle and supports neighborhood businesses with new residents. We believe this project will continue the momentum of University Circle and the renaissance underway in Cleveland... One University Circle will be a welcoming gateway to the institutions of University Circle and a home for their employees coming from all over the world.”

In keeping with a luxury urban apartment building, One University Circle will offer concierge services, a fitness center and an indoor pool. The project also will include a green rooftop and other shared amenities. Ronayne says work could begin in 2015, with the first residents moving in two years later.

The Children's Museum currently is seeking a new location in Cleveland that will accommodate its plans for expansion. The developers have announced that they intend to work with the City of Cleveland to craft a community benefits agreement for the project. The agreement will stipulate goals for hiring local and minority tradespeople and working with area high schools to provide internships.


Source: Chris Ronayne
Writer: Lee Chilcote

perspectus architecture completes merger, doubles office footprint at shaker square

Perspectus Architecture recently completed a merger with HFP/Ambuske Architects, bringing five jobs from Beachwood to Cleveland. Perspectus will remain in its second floor offices on the southeast quadrant of Shaker Square, where it has doubled its office space and is in the process of remodeling.

"Our focus is firmly based in healthcare," says Perspectus principal Larry Fischer of both companies. "We saw a lot of advantages in getting together."

Staying and growing at Shaker Square seemed like a no-brainer, he adds. "When we were looking for space, we wanted a venue or neighborhood that had a certain cool factor to it," says Fischer, who has expanded from a single 900-square-foot office to 10,000 square feet on the entire second floor of his building in the past 14 years. "We probably couldn’t afford being downtown in the primary core. There's a lot happening at Shaker Square."

The new offices are just as cool. There are now a total of 36 staffers in the redesigned space. "Being a contemporary firm, we wanted the space to really represent the work we're doing," says Fischer. "We kept a lot of the mahogany moldings and doors, then contrasted them with clean, light walls and contemporary light fixtures. At two ends, we actually exposed the old wood structure. There’s a contradiction of styles that works pretty well for us."

One big change is that Perspectus' new offices now reflect the movement towards open, connected spaces. "That was a big deal to us," Fischer says. "We didn’t want to be in an old, stodgy environment. We also reorganized the studio -- all or our architects worked in teams, but they weren’t sitting in teams. Now they're more organized and have more space. We really wanted to create a space that supported how we work, and that encouraged mentoring, interaction and collaboration."

That open environment goes for the bosses, too. "There are some people that wish I had my own office," Fischer adds wryly. "But I'm out in the open, too."

Fischer praised the Coral Company for its willingness to work closely with the firm to customize the layout. Perspectus employees continue to enjoy "problem-solving walks" around the Square, taking inspiration from the architecture.

Prospectus is headquartered in Cleveland, but also has offices in Columbus and Charleston, West Virginia.


Source: Larry Fischer
Writer: Lee Chilcote

state of downtown is strong, but greater connectivity between amenities is needed, say leaders

Downtown Cleveland was named one of the top cities for millenials to live by The Atlantic, with more than 1,000 new housing units coming online, and major projects like Flats East helping to reenergize formerly moribund parts of downtown. These are just a few of the successes listed in Downtown Cleveland Alliance's 2013 annual report, and touted at this week's State of Downtown forum at the City Club.

Yet more needs to be done to connect downtown's assets, including public realm improvements, pedestrian- and bike-friendly amenities, and especially lakefront connections. These were the messages conveyed by leaders at the forum.

"We're no longer in the 'big box' phase," said Joe Marinucci, President and CEO of DCA. "Now our challenge is, how we can incrementally connect the investments."

Marinucci pointed to Perk Park, a revamped green space at East 12th and Chester, as an example of a successful strategy for creating public improvements.

Now DCA has launched Step Up Downtown, an initiative to engage residents and stakeholders in envisioning the future of downtown. With abundant plans in place, the goal is to prioritize which enhancements to focus on first, garner feedback from residents, and drill down to the implementation phase.

"This initiative recognizes that we've made a lot of investments downtown, but in many ways haven't connected the investments as well as we should," said Marinucci. "We need to make the public realm as attractive as the destinations."

Attendees posed questions about connecting to the waterfront, making downtown accessible to all income levels, and prioritizing educational opportunities for families.

Marinucci cited lakefront development plans, the incorporation of affordable housing into downtown projects and DCA's work with Campus International School and the Cleveland Municipal School District as signs of progress.


Source: Joe Marinucci
By Lee Chilcote

old brooklyn poised for growth with new leadership, key projects in place

Old Brooklyn has long been considered a quiet, family-friendly neighborhood. It has nice, modest homes and plenty of local businesses, but has never had much nightlife. It's gained a reputation as a popular neighborhood for city workers, and strong school choices have kept families from fleeing. However, a neighborhood can't stand still if it wants to remain relevant, and leaders here know that.

Yet now, the neighborhood could be on the cusp of its next identity. The board of the Old Brookyn Community Development Corporation has hired Jeffrey T. Verespej, who is currently serving as Director of Operations and Advocacy for Ohio City Inc., as its new Executive Director. Key projects are falling into place that could help move the neighborhood from sleepy to chic in the next few years.

"The reality is that Old Brooklyn already has assets that many places in Cleveland are trying desperately to build," says Verespej, who has fond memories of growing up in the community until he was seven. "It has a very solid and stable housing stock that is attractive to all different types of people. It's probably Cleveland's most family-friendly and liveable neighborhood and has been for decades. There are good schools and direct access to the Metroparks and Zoo. We have really intact commercial corridors, there aren’t missing teeth. As an Old Brooklyn resident, you can walk down the street and find something you’re proud of."

What's missing, he says, is development that builds upon those existing assets and a strong marketing campaign. "Look at downtown Old Brooklyn, at Pearl, Broadview and State," he says. "When you have millions of visitors going through your downtown each year [to the zoo], there are tremendous opportunities."

Two recent wins should help spur redevelopment. The CDC was recently awarded funding from the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) for design and engineering of the Pearl Road streetscape, which would put the wide boulevard on a road diet and add broader sidewalks, bike lanes and other amenities. This project could start as early as 2016, but there's still a lot of work to be done.

The second win is the acquisition of the so-called "Heninger" site -- a multi-acre property that was used as a landfill and has been vacant for over a decade -- by the Western Reserve Land Conservancy. Although the property is still under contract and WRLC has due diligence work to complete, the goal is to transform it into a park setting with some kind of public use. There might be a commercial component that fronts Pearl Road, but passive recreation, urban farming and a trail that leads to the Metroparks will likely be part of the mix, says Verespej. The Heninger site is located directly across from the zoo entrance on Pearl Road.

Old Brooklyn has also seen some recent investments along Pearl Road. Drink Bar and Grill recently celebrated its one year anniversary, and the West Side Market vendor Cake Royale has just moved its headquarters to the neighborhood.

"We have a challenge and an opportunity," says Verespej, who starts his new job in just a few weeks. "There are so many neighborhoods in Cleveland seeing an infusion of energy and investment. Old Brooklyn generally isn't a part of that conversation. That's the job of the CDC. For all the people investing in Cleveland right now, we want to let them know we're open for business."


Source: Jeff Verespej
Writer: Lee Chilcote

finch group breaks ground on 177 apartments as part of upper chester project

The Finch Group, a Florida-based developer that pioneered the luxury apartment market in University Circle with its 2007 renovation of Park Lane Villa, has broken ground on 177 units of apartments as part of the long-awaited Upper Chester project. The developer expects the project will begin leasing by June of next year, just in time for medical residents and other area professionals to snatch up the new apartments.

The Upper Chester project, which will consist of four phases and over 300 market-rate apartments, is located on Chester Avenue between E. 97th and 101st streets. Retail is being planned as part of Phase I (a coffee shop and small market concept have been discussed), but the Finch Group hasn't begun marketing yet. Efforts will begin soon as the building is now underway.

"We're bringing 177 households to the community with significant disposable income," says Mark Dodds, Principle Architect with the Finch Group. "The target market is people that are working or going to school at major institutions: Clinic, UH, Case Western Reserve University, the art museum, the orchestra."

Dodds cited a 2010 market study showing that there's demand for 700 to 800 new market-rate apartments in University Circle -- meaning that Uptown and Hazel 8, which have added nearly 300 units, have not come close to saturating the market. "There's very high demand for good quality rental housing. The more people we get to live in University Circle, the more it becomes a 24-hour neighborhood."

The building itself will feature primarily one-bedroom residences geared towards busy professionals. The finishes will be high-end, including granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. There will be a 24/7 concierge service in the building to handle various resident needs. The two-story lobby will be a social space that will give residents a chance to socialize and build community.

Dodds maintains that while Uptown is more of a college town environment geared to undergraduates, the Upper Chester project will be targeted to graduates and professionals. Fending off concerns that the project will feel isolated, Dodds says that it will be built as an open, pedestrian-friendly environment adjacent to CWRU's performing arts center at Temple Tifereth Israel. The project will also be located across the street from the Cleveland Clinic's new medical school.

Financing the project was difficult. There were no tax credits or public subsidy funds available. The developer did receive a 15-year, 100-percent tax abatement from the city. Finch is using conventional financing and equity to fund the project.

Dodds expects to get around $2 per square foot for the apartments, just under the rents that Uptown is commanding. "We're convinced this project will make money."

If all goes well, the next phase of the project could start in early 2016, setting up a completion date of mid 2017 -- just in time for a new crop of medical residents.


Source: Mark Dodds
Writer: Lee Chilcote

developer breaks ground on second phase of flats east, adding office building to mix

Flats East Development LLC, the partners behind the multi-phase Flats East development, have broken ground on Phase II. The project is expected to be complete in time for residents, visitors and office workers to enjoy the 1,200-foot riverfront boardwalk by summer of 2015. The ambitious project contains a few surprises, including a new office building that's been added to the mix.

"Currently, we've broken ground on Building 4, which is the large residential building with 243 apartments above a parking deck and retail podium," says Brice Hamill, Director of Design with Fairmount Properties. "With Building 4 being the largest of the buildings [in Phase II], we needed to kick it off now to complete it on schedule. We just finished up the auger piles and deep foundation, and now we're coming out of the ground and casting columns for the first floor retail."

The apartment building will feature high-end units with floor-to-ceiling windows, granite countertops and other luxury finishes. Although lease rates have not yet been announced, you can bet that they'll push the envelope. Residents here will be able to enjoy suites featuring hardwood floors, 10-foot loft-style ceilings and a balcony on every unit so they can watch the action go by.

There's also a second floor common rooftop deck over the retail area, and the penthouse suites will have access to their own private rooftop decks. "We think we have the best residential site in Cleveland given the views and activity on the water – from planes to trains to boats, and we did a lot to capture that," says Hamill.

Retail concepts include Toby Keith's Bar and Grill, BBR, Beer Cellars, The Big Bang dueling piano bar, Flip Side, FWD, Panini's Bar and Grill, Crop Kitchen and Vine and Cropicana. Hamill says the one he gets the most reactions to is Toby Keith's.

"Everyone wants to know about Toby Keith's," he says with a laugh. "There's an insanely high county music listenership here, with no venue for them."

Another design element that will be sure to surprise and delight Clevelanders is the fact that the entire waterfront area can be closed to vehicles and turned into a pedestrian-oriented district for festivals, summer events, pig roasts and the like.

"From an urban planning standpoint, that's one of the coolest things we're doing down there," says Hamill.

There's also a 3.5-acre park that will be owned by the developers yet publicly accessible. The 1,200-foot boardwalk will be maintained by the Metroparks, Hamill says.

The developers also have broken ground on Flip Side, a gourmet burger bar with a large selection of regional craft beers, on a lot adjacent to Phase I.

The new office building will be much smaller than the Ernst and Young Tower, totaling about 150 to 200,000 square feet with additional retail. It was born out of the surplus demand for space in the tower, which is now nearly 95 percent leased.

"It will be large floor plates, and we look at that as a cool possibility for a company... to get branded power in a downtown building," says Hamill.

Hamill promises that more local restaurants and establishments will be announced soon, including an ice cream venue, countering concerns that Flats East Phase II will consist largely of chain restaurants. "We're going to bring in not just a fine dining concept, but places for everyone: young, old, married, not married, kids or no kids," says Hamill.

Surface parking lots will surround the development for now, but over the long term, those could become future phases for additional development.


Source: Brice Hamill
Writer: Lee Chilcote

city of cleveland selects lakefront developer to create true mixed-use neighborhood

The City of Cleveland announced that it has selected Dick Pace of Cumberland Development along with national developer Trammel Crow to redevelop the city's lakefront. Their proposal would erect 250 apartments, 80,000 square feet of office space and 30-40,000 square feet of retail in Phase I, which clusters around North Coast Habor. Phase II would add 750 apartments north of Browns Stadium.

At the heart of the proposal is something the city sorely lacks: a truly mixed-use neighborhood along the lakefront, complete with amenities for residents and visitors, with opportunities for people to live, work and play on Lake Erie.

"I started on the waterfront 30 years ago," says Pace, an architect and developer who designed what was then called the "inner harbor," so it's fitting that at this point in his career he'd work on the next phase of lakefront development. Pace has also developed property on the HealthTech Corridor and the 5th Street Arcades.

Perhaps the most unusual feature of Pace's development is his plan to create a school. He believes that creating a high-quality downtown school is essential to furthering the growth of the area and attracting families. No decision has been made about whether it would be a district or charter school, but it will be geared to the neighborhood. Just imagine kids walking to school on East 9th Street.

"This is all part of creating a neighborhood," he says. "It will give us a market that's untapped in the city of Cleveland -- the city has lost a lot of young families."

The lakefront development is also closely linked with plans to better connect the lakefront with the rest of downtown. The City of Cleveland is planning to build a pedestrian bridge from the mall to North Coast Harbor, and residents and visitors that use it would find themselves right in the midst of new shops and amenities.

Pace originally planned about 80,000 square feet of office space with smaller, 5,000-10,000 square foot users in mind, but he's already been contacted by a few bigger players. He says that the city could end up with a few bigger companies, including some that are currently located in the suburbs, along the lakefront.

The apartments will be market-rate, with higher prices for premier units on the waterfront or on upper floors. However, Pace hopes that some units will be affordable enough that teachers at the school can afford to live here.

The retail is the most defined piece of the project. Just like harbor districts in other cities, Cleveland could soon have a seasonal concession vendor, kayak rental facility and waterfront seafood restaurant. There would also be an indoor retail area linked to the pedestrian bridge, Science Center and Rock Hall, allowing people to hop between amenities without going outdoors on a winter day.

Pace says the complex project, which will be built without public subsidy, should start in 2015 and wrap up 5-7 years later. Phase I would open much sooner -- Clevelanders could start enjoying these lakefront amenities by 2018.

Next steps include negotiating a land lease with the city, refining conceptual architectural plans, holding community meetings, and pursuing financing. These are Herculean tasks, to be sure, but Pace says this long-awaited project will happen.

"This is a great time," he says. "The finanicng is starting to become available, and there's momentum for downtown housing. This piece of property has always been premier, and now is the time when the pieces are starting to come together."


Source: Dick Pace
Writer: Lee Chilcote

group plan commission hires director, set to break ground this year on public square revitalization

Jeremy Paris, the recently hired Executive Director of the Group Plan Commission, wants to help Clevelanders reconnect with their iconic downtown public spaces. The Group Plan Commission is expected to break ground later this year on the reconfiguration of Public Square, new amenities for the downtown malls, and a bike-ped bridge that will link the mall overlook with North Coast Harbor.

If you're skeptical that these big picture projects, which have been dreamed about for years with no action, will get done, well, don't worry; Paris will convince you otherwise.

"Cleveland deserves these world class public spaces," he says fervently. "We’ve done an unbelievable job of establishing downtown amenities, and our neighborhoods are increasingly thriving and exciting. Our job is to build the connective tissue, to have public spaces that can weave together these amenities and be gathering places for the city. We’re building on the wave of downtown investment, and I think the city will look and feel different when we get this job done."

Paris attended Yale and Harvard and lived in Washington D.C. for a dozen years. After returning to Cleveland with his wife -- a Cleveland transplant -- he interviewed with County Executive Ed FitzGerald and landed a job in his office. After working on the Group Plan project on behalf of the county, he applied for and was selected as the Group Plan Commission's first director.

"I wanted to be civically involved, and to plug in in terms of what’s going on with economic development and downtown development," he says. "I wanted to work at the hub of the political community, business community and the public realm, and try to get things done for the city. That’s where I feel like I’ve landed."

Although specifics of the Group Plan Commission's work are still being ironed out -- nationally-known architect James Corner, who designed the High Line in New York City, has been tapped for the project -- Paris says that $30 million has been assembled from the city, county and other sources and designs are being finalized.

A public meeting at the City Club is being planned, probably sometime in April, to reveal specifics of these designs and garner additional public feedback. Yet the basic concepts discussed for several years remain the same. The Public Square re-do will involve closing Ontario and reconnecting the four quadrants of Public Square; the mall improvements are geared towards making it a thriving, people-filled public space by adding public art, seating, stages, reflecting pools and the like; and the bridge will better connect downtown to the lakefront.

"We want people to use these public spaces, to turn them into activated spaces and not just pretty vistas," says Paris. "Watching people discover these public spaces, even in their current form, I've already seen a change. People look down and say, 'Oh, there’s the lake.' It's like they're seeing it for the first time."


Source: Jeremy Paris
Writer: Lee Chilcote
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