Vintage La Salle set to explode with arts, mixed usage and zoomin' Internet

With a funding package all but complete, the staff at Northeast Shores Development Corporation (NSDC) in the Collinwood neighborhood is eyeing a February groundbreaking for the much-anticipated rebirth of the La Salle Theatre, 823 East 185th Street.

"We're redeveloping the La Salle Theatre into the La Salle Arts and Media Center," says NSDC's executive director Brian Friedman of the 30,000-square-foot-building. "This is going to be a video and music production facility." The rehabilitated venue will also house retail and residential space. Construction is expected to be complete in time for October 2016 move-in dates. Town Center Construction is the contractor on the project, for which LDA Architects did the design.

Of course, the building is home to the beloved 12,000-square-foot theater, 7,000 square feet of which is unobstructed. The finished space will accommodate an array of activities including multimedia art exhibitions, weddings, community meetings, musical and theatrical performances, rehearsals, parties, and other public and private events.

The second floor houses five residential units. Three one-bedroom and two two-bedroom units will let for $475 and $550 respectively. Three retail storefronts on the first floor include spaces that are 900, 700 and 300 square feet. The largest retail space has already been preleased to Milk Glass Cakes, which specializes in high-end confections depicting everything from a bouquet of paperwhite Narcissus to a come-hither hot pink corset.

"They do amazing graphic portrayals on cakes," says John Boksansky, NSDC's commercial project coordinator.

While the new arts center will not necessarily be a full recording studio, it will have a mixing board and high capacity Internet service with download and upload speeds of 50Mbps provided by Lightower Fiber Networks.

"It's critical that we have competent dedicated high speed Internet in the building so musicians, performers and others creatives are able to digitally send what they're doing back to a master recording studio, or live stream it to an audience or…  a thousand different things," says Friedman.

The unfettered upload capacity will set the La Salle apart, he adds.

"Most people's Internet provider have intentionally put a dampener on your ability to put stuff into the pipeline – into the Internet," explains Friedman, citing the slow speeds of activities such as uploading footage to YouTube. "You're able to pull down information, but you're not able to put it up – or you're allowed to put it up at a very slow speed."

That advanced 50Mbps Internet service will be available to all La Salle artists and retail and residential tenants as well, whether they're downloading or uploading.

"The entire building will be lit that way," says Friedman. "Not only will the theater space be ready and able with that connection, all commercial and residential tenants will have that included in the rent."

Approximately $3.3 of the $3.7 million needed to bring the project to fruition is in place.

"We are just rounding the bend on fundraising efforts," says Friedman. "We're trying to raise about $400,000 in the next 30 days."

The rest of the financial package includes more than $700,000 from the City of Cleveland, a $685,000 loan from Cuyahoga County, state and federal historic tax credits ($250 and $505 respectively), loans from Cortland Bank, Village Capital Corporation, IFF and a host of other funding sources.

Built in 1927, the La Salle originally featured vaudeville performances and silent movies. The 1,500-seat theatre went dark in the early 1990's. Its last use was a display area for classic cars: The La Salle Classic Auto Theatre housed more than a dozen vehicles including a '26 Ford and a '69 Camaro. It opened in 1997 and was part showroom and part swap meet. The space has been dark for more than a decade.

Now with the burgeoning success of the Waterloo Arts District, Friedman sees the La Salle as key to the Collinwood area at large, particularly as the forthcoming Made in Collinwood initiative comes online.

"La Salle is kind of a cornerstone for that new program," says Friedman, noting that Waterloo's storefronts are nearly all occupied and new makers, artists and vendors wanting to move into the area need a place to go. East 185th Street is their next logical destination.

"This is a critical step for us moving our efforts forward to improve that corridor now that Waterloo has become resilient and nearly entirely full," says Friedman.  "The La Salle is a major anchor as we pivot from Waterloo to East 185th Street."

Erin O'Brien
Erin O'Brien

About the Author: 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 for complete profile information.