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Transportation : Development News

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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

long-dormant flats water taxi could be revived by summer 2015, says metroparks ceo

The Flats water taxi of the '80s and '90s that ferried riders from the east bank of the Cuyahoga River to the west bank could be reborn as soon as summer of 2015 -- and in its new incarnation, it will connect not only spots in the Flats but also places along the river and lakefront.

Imagine biking or taking the RTA to the new Flats East project, having a beer by the boardwalk, then hopping a water taxi to Nautica or Rivergate Park – bike in tow -- and you're starting to see the full picture. Eventually, organizers say, you'll be able to take a boat from the Flats to Voinovich Park, enjoying the splendor of Lake Erie and a vista of downtown along the way.

A team of Leadership Cleveland graduates is working with the Cleveland Metroparks, Trust for Public Land, Bike Cleveland and other entities to figure out a feasible plan for reviving the water taxi. That proposal, which is expected to be completed by June, will include logistics, cost estimates and potential funding sources. The Metroparks and Trust for Public Land will take the lead from there.

"We are in," says Brian Zimmerman, CEO of the Cleveland Metroparks, which assumed management of the lakefront parks last year. "We are playing a role [in bringing back and also managing the water taxi], as well as other agencies."

"When we looked at the Metroparks strategic plan, certainly connecting communities and places became one of our core themes," he adds.

Phase I of the project likely will involve transporting people between the east and west banks and Rivergate Park, which is now under construction and about 25 percent complete. As the taxi rolls out and demand increases, additional destinations like Voinovich Park could be added to the mix.

Zimmerman says a property on the east bank has been identified as a possible multimodal hub. The facility could house a bike share program and be a port of entry for the water taxi. It's conveniently located along the Waterfront Line.

It's premature to talk about costs or even funding sources, he adds, since those are issues that the Leadership Cleveland team currently is working on.

Pam Carson, Director of the Ohio office of the Trust for Public Land, says the water taxi is essential to implementing a plan to connect a system of parks and paths along the river and lakefront. TPL is in the quiet phase of a $30 million campaign that will help to complete the Lake Link Trail and a pedestrian bridge to Whiskey Island.

"This is part of a whole network that will light up and create vibrancy for the Flats, Ohio City and Tremont," she says. "It's a system of trails and parks that will give residents, tourists and employees places to go play and recreate."

"Think about it -- it's sweet!" she adds. "The water taxi is such a beautiful thing."

Carson believes that there also is further development potential at Flats East and other stops along the water taxi route. She envisions an ice cream shop, for instance, at the Flats East entry point, similar to what exists along major trailheads in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

The project definitely will require public and private subsidy, not only to get it up and running but to operate it long-term, Carson says. Whether or not the service will be free or not is up in the air. A small fee might be charged, such as $2, but organizers also want to maintain access for low-income residents.

Source: Brian Zimmerman, Pam Carson
Writer: Lee Chilcote

tremont leaders seek to reconfigure w. 14th street for bikes, pedestrians, growth

Tremont West Development Corporation is pushing a plan to reconfigure W. 14th Street, which for decades has been a busy thoroughfare for residents and commuters, into a more pedestrian- and bike-friendly street that will spur business growth. Under the proposal, the current configuration of two lanes in each direction (plus parking in some places) would be reconfigured to one lane in each direction plus a turning lane. This would create a dedicated parking lane and bike lane.

According to Cory Riordan, Executive Director of Tremont West, the proposal was warmly received by residents and stakeholders at a recent community forum. The next steps are to further refine the plan, respond to feedback and seek funding. Riordan wants to see the project done before the I-90 ramp reopens in 2016.

"Now's the time," he says. "There's an opportunity to reconfigure the street prior to the opening, have traffic calming measures in place and create a new experience."

W. 14th is an uncharacteristically wide street for Tremont. Additionally, it serves as a gateway to the community, yet the majority of businesses are located along Professor Avenue or other side streets. Finally, the street can be both confusing for drivers and hazardous for pedestrians. Riordan believes there's a win-win-win opportunity for drivers, cyclists, pedestrians and businesses.

"We have a crosswalk at St. Augustine Church, but when people drive 50 miles per hour down the road, it's not a very safe crosswalk," he quips. "The bike community has expressed how dangerous they feel W. 14th is."

Depending on the final plan and available funding, there might be opportunities for streetscape enhancements including public art, decorative crosswalks, curb bump-outs and reconfiguration of the Steelyard Commons roundabout.

The good news is that Tremont has seen a transformation of W. 14th Street in recent years from a place considered hard to do business in to a sought-after location. As Professor Avenue storefronts have filled up, W. 14th storefronts have become more valuable. Riordan believes that's a sign of things to come and sees the potential for even more commercial growth along that street.

Source: Cory Riordan
Writer: Lee Chilcote

shaker resident launches effort to rebuild footbridge spanning historic doan brook

Brian Cook, a real estate developer who lives in Shaker Heights, has always had a passion for Doan Brook. It's a little slice of wilderness that cuts through the otherwise urban environments of Shaker Heights, Cleveland Heights and Cleveland, and nowhere is that respite from the concrete world more apparent than on the western part of North Park Boulevard. Here, the brook cascades down the hill from the Heights, while informal pathways allow residents and visitors to take a stroll and escape into nature.

One day, Cook was hiking with his son, talking about big dreams and plans. They stopped by the falls to take a rest and enjoy the view. Wouldn't it be neat, Cook wondered aloud, if they could somehow rebuild the historic footbridge that once spanned the gorge, linking the three cities of Cleveland Heights, Shaker Heights and Cleveland?

That was Father's Day of last year, but Cook didn't focus on that dream until his son approached him two weeks later. "He says, 'How is that bridge coming, Dad?'" Cook recounts with a laugh. "I said, 'Oh, I’m actually going to have to do this.'"

Since then, Cook has talked with officials from all three cities, met with nonprofit leaders such as Victoria Mills of the Doan Brook Watershed Partners, and begun to recruit a committee of a dozen or so volunteers. The next step is to develop a conceptual proposal for the new footbridge, including an estimated budget, and begin the process of seeking funding, partnerships and approvals.

"Everyone we've talked to is very interested," says Cook. "This is a legacy project."

The original bridge was torn down in the late 1950s or early 1960s after it fell into disrepair. The footers are still in Doan Brook, causing occasional problems when it floods. Cook's proposal is not to build on the existing footers or recreate the original; rather, he wants to find a cost-effective means of spanning the gorge to allow cyclists and walkers to easily travel between North Park and Fairhill.

"People from Cleveland Heights tell me they'd go to Shaker Square more often if there was an easier way to get there," he says, citing the fact that Coventry is the nearest cut-through street. "There are many ways this would benefit the area."

The footbridge also would create a recreational amenity for walkers, runners and cyclists, and offer a picturesque point for photos. Cook had his holiday photo taken here, and many people couldn't believe the falls were in Cleveland.

The bridge also could offer opportunities for environmental education, and history markers could educate visitors about the legacy of the Doan Brook.

Cost estimates are not yet available, but an earlier proposal developed as part of the Lakes-to-Lake Trail study suggested that a new footbridge could cost $1.5 million.

Cook is hosting the first meeting of the footbridge committee this week, and hopes to use the meeting as a springboard to further develop the proposal. If you're interested in getting involved, email Brian Cook here.

Source: Brian Cook
Writer: Lee Chilcote

slavic village native son returns home to champion neighborhood redevelopment

Anthony Trzaska was born and raised in Slavic Village, where his family owns Fortuna Funeral Home. He left Cleveland to go to college, then returned home and settled in Lakewood.

Exploring the city as a young twentysomething, he became actively involved in efforts to improve Slavic Village. He watched as areas like Ohio City boomed with new development, and yet his beloved neighborhood continued to slide downhill.

"Every year, it was a much different neighborhood," says Trzaska, describing the foreclosure epidemic that devastated the streets where he'd once played as a kid. "I graduated from law school in the worst economy since the Great Recession, and that was layered on top of what was happening with the neighborhood."

Today, Trzaska is a business attorney who has reinvested in Slavic Village. He serves on the board of the Slovenian National Home (The Nash) and purchased a building on Fleet Avenue that he plans to fix up for a new commercial tenant. He doesn't believe that Slavic Village needs to be Ohio City, but rather, "the new wave of the Old World," where the past is respected yet change is embraced.

"I look at what's happening with the regentrification of historic neighborhoods, and I think that makes what I'm doing more probable and even likely," he says.

Trzaska's efforts to open up the Nash to more people and make it a joint that welcomes everybody from hipsters to longtime regulars recently was detailed in Scene.

The Nash's Facebook "likes" jumped by 42 percent thanks to that article, Trzaska says. He's expecting a good crowd at Friday's Open Bowl, where $10 buys you shoe rental and all-you-can-bowl for three hours. There's a cash bar, good tunes and Lebowski on the television. Trzaska himself has introduced Nash Nosh, updated versions of classic Slovenian food like stuffed and fried pierogis.

Trzaska also is heavily involved in revitalizing Fleet Avenue, which he views as one of Slavic Village's best shots at renewal. The city soon will spend about $8 million to transform Fleet into its first complete-and-green street, including bike infrastructure and green infrastructure, and there's already been some new investment in the area, he says, in the form of properties changing hands.  

Fleet Avenue already is home to classic ethnic delis like Seven Roses and butcher shops like Krusinski's. Trzaska sees an opportunity to add newer businesses to the mix, including an updated, younger version of the butcher shop. His building at 5014-16 Fleet Avenue will house the construction crew during the streetscape rebuilding. Once it's been completed, Trzaska will bring in a new tenant.

While there are many challenges to redeveloping Fleet Avenue, including convincing existing owners that change is needed, Trzaska sees the area as one with potential. With projects like Slavic Village Recovery underway, he believes that he can leverage neighborhood activity to achieve a new vision for the area.

Source: Anthony Trzaska
Writer: Lee Chilcote

shaker heights becomes latest city to vie for bike-friendly community designation

Shaker Heights is seeking to become the next city in Northeast Ohio to earn a bicycle-friendly community designation from the League of American Bicyclists. A crowdfunding campaign launched this month to raise funds for 25 additional bike racks for the city illustrates one way the leafy east-side community has redoubled its efforts to develop cycling amenities.

"The city just finished its second application," explains Rick Smith of the advocacy group Bike Shaker and the Shaker Heights Public Works and Safety Committee. "One thing the League encourages cities to do is provide bike parking around the community, so we figured that we'd try to focus on that as low-hanging fruit."

So far, the cities of Cleveland, Cleveland Heights and Lakewood are the only ones in Northeast Ohio to receive the increasingly coveted designation. Each one has earned a bronze-level award for its efforts. By comparison, Portland, Oregon, is the only major city in the U.S. to earn a platinum-level designation.

The IndieGogo campaign aims to raise $4,500 to help fund racks produced by Metro Metal Works, a project of Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries that employs low-income individuals. The bike racks will be installed at public and private locations throughout the city. The goal is to paint them "Shaker Red," pending city approval, Smith says, to enhance the city's brand as a bike-friendly community.

The city also is offering five cycling-related courses through its Department of Recreation, and plans are in the works to add more "sharrows." The next step is to revisit the Lee Road plan and add bike lanes/infrastructure there, Smith says.

"The city is getting serious," notes Smith, citing the fact that Shaker Heights now has a Bicycle Programs Manager and has issued a proclamation designating May as Bike Month throughout the city, similar to other communities around the country.

"It's slow going, but all agree that cycling is an asset to the community, and that cycling improvements improve property values and quality of life," says Smith.

Source: Rick Smith
Writer: Lee Chilcote

bistro to open this spring in long-vacant slavic village bank building

Christian Ostenson says that he wants to do for Slavic Village what Sam McNulty did for Ohio City. He's emulating that successful entrepreneur by opening Thee Six5 Bistro, a 5,000-square-foot restaurant in a renovated, historic bank building in the Warszawa District on E. 65th. And while Slavic Village isn't Ohio City -- and isn't necessarily striving to be -- the new venue seems destined to add to the area's hidden charm.

Ostenson says Six5 will be an affordable, all-American bistro with frequent Polish and Slovenian specials in a nod to the area's rich ethnic heritage. It will have an open floor plan, large push-open windows and a rooftop deck and bar. Situated directly across from St. Stanislaus Church in the heart of the historic district, the building offers great views in an area with plenty of foot traffic.

"We want to make Slavic Village a destination, to bring people back to see what the area has to offer," says Ostenson, who steered clear of pricier real estate in Tremont or Ohio City because he wanted a spot where he could be a "pioneer."

Ostenson, a custom home builder who also runs Best of Both Worlds catering, purchased the building a few years ago with his wife Sarah for just $31,000, according to county auditor records. The second floor ceiling had caved in, and the roof dated back to the 1930s. "The building had seen better days," he notes.

But the builder has completely renovated the place from top to bottom, blowing through his $15,000 plumbing budget and spending more than four times that amount instead. But he's not complaining -- this is a project of passion as much as profit, he says. "I plan on being here awhile, so I don't need to make it all in a minute."

While he won't yet reveal the name of the chef on the project, he promises fresh, upscale cuisine at affordable prices. "We don't even have a freezer in the restaurant."

Ostenson will launch a Kickstarter campaign to help fund his pizza ovens before Thee Six5 Bistro opens in April. He promises that the rewards will be stellar.

This spring, the City of Cleveland will spend nearly $9 million rehabilitating nearby Fleet Avenue as one of the city's first complete-and-green streets.

Thee SixFive Bistro was financed by Key Bank, the City of Cleveland Storefront Renovation Program and the Economic and Community Development Institute.

Source: Christian Ostenson
Writer: Lee Chilcote

developer breaks ground on only for-sale residential project in university circle

The developers behind University Place Townhomes, a 19-unit project on E. 118th Street in University Circle, have broken ground on their new project. With two sales in hand, they're laying the foundation and intend to start vertical construction in the spring.

"The demographic is pretty much what we thought it would be," says Russell Lamb, a principal with Allegro Realty and partner in the project, which includes several Allegro principals. "The buyers are either people who work in the Circle, particularly medical institutions, people who want to move back to an urban environment who are downsizing, or young professionals."

"We're the only for-sale project in University Circle," he adds. "We're pretty comfortable with where we are right now." The developers hope to obtain several additional sales in the spring so they can start construction on additional units.

While much of the action these days is in the rental market, the for-sale market also is showing signs of renewed life, says Lamb. He believes University Circle is a particularly strong, underserved market, in part because there's so little developable land. The parcel on E. 118th was a rare vacant property within the district's boundaries that could be developed.

The units range in size from 1,100 square feet to just under 2,100 square feet, with prices starting at $250,000 and climbing to $450,000. Lamb describe the prices as "expensive for Cleveland, but not expensive for University Circle," an area that commands a premium.

The project design features five separate buildings around a central, European-style courtyard utilizing modern building techniques including cementitious exteriors. Dimit Architects designed the units. The interiors, while not extravagant in terms of square footage, are "modern, open and airy; there's a good use of space," Lamb says.

Uptown has been a particular "center of gravity" for the project, he adds, providing much-needed amenities that will attract the home-buying set.

What's needed to complete the Circle? "More people," Lamb says. "If any place in Cleveland has got it all, it's gotta be University Circle."

Source: Russell Lamb
Writer: Lee Chilcote
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