Harbor Verandas project is next step in lakefront community living downtown

For decades, the hot topic among Clevelanders has been “what to do with the city’s lakefront,” comparing Cleveland’s lakefront use, or lack thereof, to other Great Lakes cities like Chicago, Milwaukee, and even Buffalo.

With the groundbreaking of Harbor Verandas at North Coast Harbor last Tuesday, Aug. 29, the City of Cleveland and Cumberland Development are one step closer to answering that burning question—and proving that lakefront community living is a feasible reality.

“We’re lucky enough to be selected [by the city] for the development of the lakefront,” says Cumberland CEO Dick Pace, who has been involved in the harbor plan for 30 years. “We finally got a mayor and city council who are taking action. [Council president] Kevin Kelley has gotten everyone to support this. It’s a good project for the city.”

According to Pace, the development of North Coast Harbor as a mixed-use community has been in the making since the 80s when mayor George Voinovich backed a lakefront development plan. By the mid-90s, with the opening of the Rock Hall, followed by the Great Lakes Science Center and what is now FirstEnergy Stadium, North Coast Harbor on E. 9th Street was becoming a reality. Those developments were followed by a marina, paddleboating on the lake, and sand volleyball and yoga on the shore.

In 2016, Nuevo Modern Mexican and Tequila Bar opened just in time to host a welcome reception for VIPs at the Republican National Convention and marked the beginning of a true mixed-use neighborhood. Over the past year, Nuevo has already seen success both financially and in increased harbor traffic, which Pace says bodes well for the project's viability.

“Everyone worried, ‘Will anyone come down to the lakefront during winter?’" he says. "The answer is, 'Yes.'"

Harbor Verandas’ groundbreaking last week represents one more key component for Cumberland’s lakefront neighborhood. The 16-unit apartment complex will feature retail on the first floor and high-end two- and three-bedroom apartments on the upper two floors. 28 parking spaces will be available in the middle of the complex, out of sight from Harbor visitors.

“What we’re doing is creating activity around the Harbor,” says Pace. Cumberland is pouring the concrete now on the $12 million project, with construction set for completion by late July 2018.

Harbor Verandas units will range from 1,700 square feet to 2,000 square feet, and every unit will have 10-foot by 15-foot (or larger) verandas with views of the harbor, the city, and Lake Erie. Rents will be on the higher end, says Pace, going for about $2.20 per square foot, or about $3,700 to $4,000 a month.

Inside, the units will feature “all first-class” amenities, says Pace, including fireplaces and upscale appliances. If one's own private veranda isn’t enough, the building will also have a rooftop deck. “You can watch the Air Show or the fireworks on the Fourth of July,” he adds.

Although the project is just beginning, Pace wants Harbor Verandas to be the first of many lakefront residential projects in the city. “We hope the project spurs more development over to Flats East Bank, over to Edgewater Park and Wendy Park,” he says.

The Harbor Verandas are geared at “those who want to be on the water and have an active lifestyle,” says Pace. He adds that he wants to make the existing Cleveland Lakefront Bikeway a major resource for both visitors and locals to access attractions around Cleveland.

“If you go east of the Harbor, the bikeway connects well at N. Marginal Road,” he explains. “Going west through W. 3rd Street, it’s not very intuitive, if you’re from out of town, how to get to Flats East Bank and Wendy Park. We need to have this whole lakefront be bike-friendly and connect it to the bikeway.”

Cumberland held off on leasing Harbor Verandas until after the groundbreaking last week, but Pace says many units have already been claimed. Retail leasing is also underway, with Cleveland Bike Tours already signed on. Pace says he hopes to have a UHBikes bike share station on the premises, to further encourage a bike-friendly community for exploring Cleveland.

Design work for the third phase of the plan—a one-story retail and restaurant building that will connect the Rock Hall and the Science Center along the Harbor’s promenade—is already underway, says Pace. “On the harbor side, you will see storefronts,” he explains. “On the Erieside [Avenue] level, which is actually 20 feet higher, you will see a park on a green roof.”

In the meantime, Pace may be involved in the next development project to complete his neighborhood vision. Plans are in the works for a proposed 18-acre development just north of the Science Center that would include market-rate houses, retail, office space, and even a school. “This is a big phase,” he says. “We hope to sign an anchor tenant before the end of the year.”

On a macro level, Pace thinks these improvements could be the much-needed spark toward realizing Cleveland's lakefront potential. “This is a microcosm for a vibrant mixed-use neighborhood,” Pace says. “More than 1.5 million people go to the lakefront every year, but then they get in their cars and drive home. It will be nice to have people who live here, who work here, and play here.”

Karin Connelly Rice
Karin Connelly Rice

About the Author: Karin Connelly Rice

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.