sneak peek of the 9, cleveland's 'game-changing' downtown development

When it comes to The 9 in downtown Cleveland, there's no shortage of hyperboles. The $250-million project, which has transformed Marcel Breuer's long-neglected modernist tower into a 156-room high-end hotel and 194 luxury apartments, is being touted as a "game changer," the city's "first truly mixed-used building," a "best-in-class" property and the first-ever "truly luxury" residential building.

Of course, developers are known more for their sales pitches than their subtlety. So Fresh Water toured the ambitious project to get a sneak peek of the building, which is set to debut in September, to find out what all the hype is about.

The Historic Rotunda

The Cleveland Trust rotunda has been completely restored and is awaiting construction of a new Heinen's grocery store, which is set to open in 2015. (Following our tour, one insider quipped that Cleveland hasn't gotten enough urbanist cred for opening a grocery store without attached parking. "When it opens, we will," counseled another.) Our Metropolitan tour guide informed us that conservative estimates place the value of the Tiffany-style stained-glass dome at a cool $20 million. The guy who designed the murals, Frances David Millet, surprised his wife with a trip on the Titanic shortly after completing them. They didn't survive, apparently, but Millet's glorious murals continue to shine.

The Vaults

Residents, hotel guests and invited friends soon will be able to party in the basement vaults where Mark Hanna and other famous Clevelanders stowed their fortunes. There are four vaults in the lower level, each with the same impossibly large, circular steel-and-glass doors. Back in the day, if one got broken into, there was a special mechanism that sealed off the other three from intruders. Now you can get access to all of them -- if you're lucky enough to score an invitation. Imagine sitting in a plush armchair and sipping a Manhattan with friends in the safe deposit box rooms that once secured the treasures of famous industrialists. Never mind the two-drink minimum; our guide explains that guests who don't spend at least $50 on their first visit will not be welcome back.

(Side note: The safe deposit boxes themselves apparently are being repurposed into an artsy chandelier. It's nice to see the building's original treasures getting second lives!)

The Restaurants 

Although the restaurants still are under construction, from the looks of things, they're going to be very nice. First, there's a lot of natural beauty to work with -- the marble-lined interior of the original bank lobby has soaring ceilings that draw the eye upwards. This space soon will be home to Adega, the main restaurant, which will have a 2,000-square-foot patio. The other spaces will be similarly impressive; for example, the 350-seat Mint Ballroom in the lower level boasts stunning recessed chandeliers.
 
The 9 will add five new establishments to the downtown scene. Beyond the Vault and Adega, there's The Ledger, a smaller, second-floor bar; Azure, the rooftop restaurant and nightclub (finally, Cleveland scores a new one); and the Alex Theater, a 70-seater that will open for special screenings, comedy shows and the like.

The Hotel

We didn't get a tour of the hotel rooms, but we were told that they're quite spacious -- in some cases, twice as large as typical suites. Rates are not cheap for downtown, hovering in the mid-$200s per night according to a web search (spokespeople won't officially comment on pricing yet). Hotel guests will have access to the same amenities as apartment dwellers, including 24/7 concierge services. Already, there are five weddings booked for November, and the place hasn't even opened yet.

The Apartments

Apartment marketing often is where hyperbole goes overboard, and The 9 is no exception. Promotional materials promise "spa-inspired bathing facilities," "full custom-designed kitchens" and an environment where "the line between everyday living and escape becomes blurred." (We're ready to move in right now, thanks.) These units, which are commanding high prices of $1.75 to $2 per square foot, already are 80 percent leased, according to sales staff. The adjacent 1010 Euclid building, which is less high-end, is reportedly 60 percent leased.  

In addition to the high-end kitchens and baths, suites have granite countertops, bathrooms with double sinks, dimmable lighting, zebra wood cabinetry, 100-inch electric fireplaces, 55-inch flatscreen TVs, wet bars, Thermador appliances with gas stoves, Bosch washer-dryers, walk-in closets and cork floors.

So what are prices like? Apartments in the two adjacent buildings, ranging from 500 to 3,000 square feet, start at about $1,000 and climb to about $6,000 per month. Cha-ching. Top units are called Sky Suites and enjoy panoramic views of downtown from all sides. At this point we're simply hoping to make friends with residents in the building.

Other Fun Facts

Did you know that The 9 also will be home to the city's swankiest indoor dog park? Yes, you heard that right. Apparently there's special technology for flushing. We didn't ask for specifics.

There are 2,500 people presently working in three shifts on this project. It's one of the most complex real estate transactions in the city's history, with 140 documents recorded sequentially in the County Recorder's office.

By now, it should be apparent why this project is so impressive. For residents, it literally will be akin to living in a hotel, because, well, they actually are in a hotel. Hotel guests, on the other hand, will have access to the city's finest amenities courtesy of the residences.

Given that The 9 will soon be "the place to see and be seen," we expect to catch a sighting of LeBron (or at least his cavalcade) on a Saturday night here sometime soon.

 
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