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Architectural firm moves from old Republic Steel building to Flats





While Clevelanders are still celebrating the reopening of the Columbus Road Bridge, a century building is on the verge of rebirth just down the way. Fabo Enterprises Inc, which is currently leasing 2,200 square feet in the old Republic Steel Building, 3100 E. 45th Place, will soon be occupying new offices in an unusual space at 1736 Columbus Road.
 
"From what I can tell," says Fabo founder and president Brian G. Fabo, "it's actually six different buildings that have sort of morphed together over time." He estimates the oldest portion of the structure, which the company purchased in May 2014 for $237,500, dates back to the 1860's.
 
Work on the long-vacant structure started last September. After the harsh Northeast Ohio winter put the kibosh on construction, it recommenced in earnest in March. Veteran Construction is the contractor on the project.
 
So, what sort of surprises did those old walls hold?
 
Try a wall with zero structural integrity hiding beneath a thick blanket of vines. The brick had virtually disintegrated and the wall was being held up by concrete block in-fill that was in the old window openings.
 
"We actually ended up having to take that wall completely down," recalls Fabo. "Of course, that was not in the budget and it was not in the schedule." Snafus notwithstanding, Fabo expects to move into the space over Memorial Day weekend.
 
Total project cost is confidential, but funding includes a mortgage and tenant improvement loan. Historic tax credits, which are based on percentages of the project cost and will come in the form of reimbursement from the state and federal tax credits, were instrumental to the project's fruition. The city of Cleveland also extended a low-interest loan as part of the Vacant Properties Initiative.
 
The firm's design portfolio includes recognizable local spots such as Wileyville, 1051 West 10th Street, Irishtown Bend townhomes and Choolaah Indian BBQ on 27100 Chagrin Boulevard.
 
"That was such a fun project to work on," says Fabo of the Indian barbecue spot.
 
Founded in 1998 as a part time venture for Fabo, helming the firm became his full-time job in 2008. Since 2010, the company, which is licensed in 32 states, has seen 27 to 62 percent year-to-year growth. Hence, it was time for a move.
 
"I wanted to own my own building rather than rent," explains Fabo, enumerating his three property search criteria: being in Cleveland proper, great views of downtown and, "I wanted garage space."
 
Garage space?
 
That partly explains why the firm, which currently has 14 employees, will occupy 5,400-square-feet of the 30,000-square-foot building. While some of the unused space will be slated for professional expansion, the garage will house Fabo's unique car collection, which includes a 2005 Morgan Aero, a mid-90's Jaguar convertible and a 1979 Mini Cooper.
 
"I have a hard time driving that one," says the 6-foot 3-inch-Fabo of the vintage sub-compact.

Read more articles by Erin O'Brien.

Erin O'Brien's eclectic features and essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and others. The sixth generation northeast Ohioan is also author of The Irish Hungarian Guide to the Domestic Arts. Visit erinobrien.us for complete profile information.
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