place making: MRN caps off string of successful urban developments with tudor arms

The stately Tudor Arms building towers above Carnegie Avenue like a stone sentinel safeguarding a rich piece of Cleveland's past. Constructed in 1931 as the Cleveland Club, an exclusive men's club, the 11-story building was converted to a luxury hotel in the 1940s. The grand building has been vacant since 2007 when its last tenant, Cleveland Job Corps, moved to a new home.

Yet now, thanks to a $22 million restoration project, the landmark property appears set to reclaim some of its former glory. When it reopens its doors this spring as a Double Tree, the 154-room hotel and restaurant will provide employment for 75 people. Double Tree was selected because of its reputation as Hilton's boutique brand.

Ari Maron, principal of MRN Ltd., says that he "fell in love" with the Tudor Arms when he first toured it seven years ago. "We knew there was an opportunity to create a first-rate hotel because of the growth of the hospitality sector and traffic from the Clinic and University Circle," says Maron, whose development firm purchased the building in 2007.

The project, when taken in tandem with MRN's other projects in University Circle, Ohio City and its flagship East 4th Street, proves the local developer is finding success by mastering the art of place making while improving the city around them.

Since breaking ground last year, MRN has restored the building's brick and limestone façade, rehabilitated two ornate second-floor ballrooms, and built out the hotel rooms. When completed, the guestrooms will feature airy layouts, hardwood floors and impressive views of University Circle, Lake Erie and the downtown skyline.

As one of the area's tallest buildings, notes Maron, the views are breathtaking. "I brought friends to the roof to watch fireworks on the Fourth of July," he says.

MRN has taken pains to carefully restore the Tudor Arms' distinctive historic features. The firm hired artist Nicolette Capuano to rejuvenate the faded murals and frescoes found on ceilings and walls. In addition, they hired skilled craftsmen to renovate the two glorious, high-ceilinged ballrooms. Slowly but surely the Crystal Room's elegant plaster molding and the Tudor Room's handsome fireplace tile work are coming back to life.

Maron says his firm bought the Tudor Arms from Case Western Reserve University because they are bullish on the future of University Circle. "We believe in the vision for the Circle and Euclid Avenue as a hub for education, technology businesses, and health care," he says.

MRN spent three years plotting the Tudor Arms project. Last year, they secured a commitment from Double Tree, closed on a dizzyingly complex financing package, and broke ground. "Developers, lenders and community development groups in Cleveland have gotten good at collaborating on deals, perhaps by necessity," says Maron.

The Double Tree is one of six proposed new hotels in the city, including another project in University Circle. According to data from Lakewood-based Hotel and Leisure Advisors, room occupancy in Northeast Ohio trended up last year, though it remains at only 55 percent (compared with 70 percent in the '90s).

Maron says the hotel will be successful because it fills a critical gap in the lodging market. The new Double Tree will offer rooms for an average of $120 per night, a price that is slightly lower than other area hotels. The InterContinental, which is a few blocks away, sells rooms from about $130 per night.

By collaborating with the folks from Greater University Circle Initiative and Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation, MRN and Double Tree aim to identify, train and employ low-income residents.

Founded thirty years ago by Rick Maron, who was later joined by sons Ari and Jori, MRN Ltd. is defying the economic downturn by carving out unique urban niches. East 4th Street is an adult-friendly entertainment district. Market Place in Ohio City will serve as a hub for indie, sustainable retail. And Uptown's bevy of new apartments, retail and entertainment will bring a boost to University Circle.

The success of urban neighborhoods like these does not surprise Ari Maron one bit. "People want to be in neighborhoods that have amenities, places to walk to, and transportation options," he says. "They want to live close to where they work."

And there's research to back those claims up: Millennials and Baby Boomers -- the two largest demographic groups in the U.S. numbering at 150 million -- share a common interest in vibrant cities. It's true of the trio behind MRN, each of whom lives, works and plays in the city of Cleveland.

"It's our community," Maron says. "Cities are the future, and we're riding that wave."

Photography by Bob Perkoski *except where noted
- Photo 1: Exterior of the old Tudor Arms Building
- Photo 2: The Crystal Room at the Tudor Arms Building
- Photo 3: Mural by Artist Nicolette Capuano in the Crystal Room
- Photo 4: Tudor Room
- Photo 5: Wall detail in the Tudor Room
- Photo 6: View of Cleveland from the roof
- Photo 7: Tudor Arms Gargoyle
- Photo 8: 1960 photo from the Cleveland Press Collection, Michael Schwartz Library, CSU*

Read more articles by Lee Chilcote.

Lee Chilcote is a journalist, essayist and poet whose work has appeared in many regional and national publications. He is Managing Editor of Fresh Water Cleveland and Editorial Director of Issue Media Group. He has earned Master's degrees in English/Creative Writing and Public Administration from Cleveland State University. Originally from Cleveland Heights, he lives in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood with his family.
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