At a private press function held this week, Avi Greenbaum, a partner of the Florida-based Hudson Holdings
, announced the company's plans for the staggering 1.4 million-square-foot 925 Building (formerly the Huntington Building). It all started on a romantic note.
"The moment we walked into this building, we fell in love," said Greenbaum.
Now Hudson intends to open this magnificent space to Cleveland and the world, with the breathtaking 61,000-square-foot lobby as the centerpiece.
"We want to activate this lobby so everyone in downtown Cleveland wants to use it: for meetings, for a drink, to come and relax, to stay," said Greenbaum of a space that's been closed to the public for years. "We're looking forward to making this building as lively as it once was."
In order to do so, Hudson intends to pour $280 million into the 925. Initial plans include 550 hotel-style apartments, 400,000 square feet of office space, a 300-room flagged high-end hotel, 200,000 square feet of banquet/retail/conference space as well as a host of dining, lounge and club options in the building's unique areas, from the fascinating vaults to the airy penthouse ballroom and rooftop. Parts of the building will hopefully be available to host events for the 2016 Republican National Convention. The full buildout is tentatively slated for completion in 2018.
"We're going long and big on Cleveland," said Greenbaum.
As of yesterday, Hudson Holdings had owned the building for one week and a day. In an unmistakable underscore of the company's commitment to the project and the city, after the tours and photo ops and questions came to an end, Greenbaum hosted a full-service gourmet meal in that grand lobby. It unfolded at a single table that seated some 45 guests, complete with candles, flowers and linens.
First, roaming wait staff served mini crab cakes and gazpacho shots while attendees sipped flutes of Mumm Napa Brut Prestige champagne. Driftwood Catering
then offered up plates worthy of the three-story limestone pillars and marble walls and floors: greens and mandarin oranges dressed with blue cheese and toasted almonds, duck confit in a black berry reduction, seared sea scallops and corn risotto. They topped it off with politely wrapped cake lollipops. A full service bar and cheeseboard (think ripe strawberries, St. André triple cream brie) was available throughout the event.
Cleveland's newest cocktail also made its debut. "The Huntington" is a concoction of Grey Goose Vodka, Patron Tequila, fresh lime and simple syrup.
Such an auspicious display surely bodes well for the intersection of East 9th
Street and Euclid Avenue, but if Greenbaum's grace as a host does not persuade, there is the less tasteful discussion of money. Case in point: The seller of 925 Euclid Avenue, Optima Ventures, purchased it in 2010 for $18.5 million. The building was at about 50 percent occupancy.
Hudson purchased the building, which down to about eight percent occupancy, for $22 million, "which kind of speaks to the change that's going on in Cleveland," said Optima's representative Terry Coyne, vice Chairman of Newmark Grubb Knight Frank
, adding that right now in Cleveland, mixed-use development is king and traditional tenants are not necessarily what a buyer is looking for.
"If you bought the building fully occupied," he said, "you'd probably have to pay people to leave."
Prices on vacant buildings going up, the historic Schofield Building transforming into a boutique Kimpton Hotel
, oodles of capital pouring in from out of state, an urban resort
at the once-derided Breuer building, a vacant bank building reborn as a divine grocery store
... it's all a far cry indeed from these musings
that ran in the New York Times on June 17, 2007:
"Marcel Breuer, one of the fathers of modern architecture, built only one skyscraper, the 29-story Cleveland Trust Tower, which today stands abandoned on a forlorn block downtown."
That "forlorn block" is part of an intersection that's slated to become one of the city's greatest comeback stories, in no small part due to the sheer audacity of the associated projects. With this most recent announcement and the driving force behind it, the borders of the city won't be able to contain the success of East 9th
Street and Euclid Avenue. Greenbaum's banking on that very assertion with his wallet and his heart.
"We think this is really going to help raise Cleveland's profile nationally," he said of his latest love. "It was possibly the most grand building we've ever walked into."