The next new normal: collaboration fuels affordable mixed-use residential developments

New residential development announcements and groundbreaking events typically produce inquisitive chatter, interested eyes, and general excitement in most communities. Some directors of Cleveland’s community development corporations (CDCs) have experienced that enthusiasm in their neighborhoods this year as construction began or neared on a few affordable, mixed-use developments around town.
 

“Each time our residents hear about a new project, there is always the curiosity and wonder about who it’s being built for,” says John Anoliefo, executive director of the Famicos Foundation, adding that one such project is the Churchill Gateway in the Glenville neighborhood is one of those new projects.
 

“I think one of the good things about [Churchill] Gateway is that it will be affordable,” says Anoliefo. “This will be for low-income families, and the buzz around the community is a good buzz.”
 

Churchill Gateway is among the cost-effective, mixed-use developments in Cleveland to break ground or announce plans to do so in 2020, along with Via Sana in the Clark-Fulton neighborhood and 5115 The Rising in Slavic Village.

Conceptual rendering of Churchill Gateway
 

Mixed-use developments have been a growing trend in major metropolitan areas for several years. In a 2013 article published by architecture and design firm Gensler, designer Elva Rubio states that “cities are actively investing in infrastructure and amenities. There’s a return to urbanism. And it gains momentum as cities create more livable, walkable, civic environments.”
 

In addition to living spaces, these developments often include partners or other elements aimed at improving the lives of their residents and neighbors.
 

“One of the things we’re really focused on, especially with COVID-19 happening right now, is the concept of social determinants of health, food, safety, housing, and education,” says Aaron Pechota, senior vice president of development at the NRP Group, which is developing and building the properties in Glenville, Clark-Fulton, and Slavic Village.
 

“We’ve been focused on that concept for the last couple of years. When we think about housing as fundamental pillars, it’s a huge thing.”
 

Development will aid Glenville’s resurgence
A collaboration between the City of Cleveland, Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA), the Cleveland Municipal School District, and University Hospitals (UH), Churchill Gateway will be the first in a multi-phase development and will be constructed on the site of the former Harry E. Davis Elementary School at East 105th Street and Churchill Avenue in Glenville.
 

Churchill Gateway will consist of a four-story, 48-unit apartment building and four townhomes. The one-, two-, and three-bedroom units will be available to residents at or below 60% of the area median income.
 

John Anoliefo, Executive Director, Famicos FoundationLess than two miles separate the Churchill Gateway site and the Glenville Opportunity Center, where future residents will find key resources, such as early childhood education, job training workshops, energy assistance, and more, making the development a connector for the community.
 

Additionally, Anoliefo says the demolition of the former school will eliminate the neighborhood’s blighted conditions, making way for stronger economic activity and improved social determinants of health.
 

“Instead of a gigantic vacant building, you will create housing for people with services—families who will live, work, raise children, shop, and be part of the community,” he says. “It will help in the transformation of E. 105 by bringing additional foot traffic and making the neighborhood much more attractive for investment.”
 

Churchill Gateway is just one of many projects currently under way in Glenville, in addition to the recent opening of the GlenVillage retail incubator and the 2019 redevelopment of the East Side Market. Other projects still in the planning stages include Gold Coast Lofts, which will be a mixed-use development with approximately 60 units of rental apartments. Additionally, more townhouses and condos will be located on the streets immediately surrounding Churchill Gateway. Glenville Homes will be a 63-unit apartment development, and the Orlean Company is planning 25 new construction projects throughout the neighborhood.
 

Glenville is one of four neighborhoods in Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson’s Transformation Initiative, which is geared toward “promoting healthy, sustainable and equitable opportunities to build wealth and stabilize historically fringed neighborhoods.” That makes it a prime location for a development that NRP will build with the social determinants of a healthy life in mind.
 

“I think Churchill Gateway will really make the neighborhood much more robust,” Anoliefo says.
 

Development on Churchill Gateway began in June and is expected to be completed in the fall of 2022.
 

Keeping Slavic Village residents in place
The groundbreaking for 5115 The Rising took place in late September. Located at 5115 Broadway Ave., the site of the former St. Alexis Hospital, this mixed-use residential community will be part of a four-phase recovery plan known as Broadway Rising. The plan includes affordable housing for the Slavic Village community and a new home for University Settlement, a social services nonprofit that has provided case management, assistance for homebound seniors, fresh produce for the needy, and more since 1926.
 

While most of the commercial space on the ground floor will be used for the new offices of University Settlement, there will be several thousand square feet available for retailers. The development will bring 78 apartments and 10 townhomes to the neighborhood.
 

Chris Alvarado, Executive Director, Slavic Village DevelopmentChris Alvarado, executive director of the Slavic Village Development, says there is a great need for quality, affordable housing in his community.
 

“This is a catalytic project for our neighborhood,” Alvarado says. “It’s in a part of Slavic Village that has not seen significant investment in more than a decade. We are the largest investment in the North Broadway area in at least 15 years.
 

“Being able to have a mixed-use property, being able to have quality storefronts on a street that had been previously lined with stores is a very big deal,” Alvarado continues.
 

Prior to The Rising project, The last residential project for Slavic Village was in 2002, as renovations began on the building that became Hyacinth Lofts. Alvarado says the addition of The Rising will serve as a stabilizer for the community. Stable housing will give way to economic stability and allow residents to thrive and flourish in their own neighborhood.
 

“The biggest issue that recovering communities have is being able to keep folks in place,” he says.
 

Another critical issue—and determinant for health in Slavic Village and beyond—is keeping lead out of homes. As part of Broadway Rising, the Slavic Village Healthy Homes Initiative seeks to eradicate lead and asthma triggers in the 250 homes surrounding the immediate area and create a lead-free neighborhood.
 

“Our outreach efforts throughout the neighborhood surrounding 5115 The Rising are based on making homes lead safe with healthy indoor air quality,” explains Alvarado.
 

The land on which 5115 The Rising will be built is owned by the City of Cleveland and has been vacant since the demolition of St. Alexis Hospital in 2007. Financing for the project is provided by the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, KeyBank, Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing, the City of Cleveland, and many others. The development is scheduled to be completed in 2022.
 

Pechota says rents will be calculated based on 30% to 60% of area median income. Most rents will range from approximately $400 per month up to $1,100 per month, depending on income, unit, and household size.
 

The development of 5115 The Rising is an example of a confluence of opportunities coming together, Pechota says.
 

“NRP is a multi-family apartment developer; that’s what we do,” he says. “We don’t go into a project saying, ‘we want to do a mixed-use development,’ but you have University Settlement in this neighborhood doing amazing work, and in dire need of a new home and serving, by and large, the population that we often serve with our affordable housing developments.”
 

Affordable development presents positive momentum for Clark-Fulton
Meanwhile, excitement is also building in the Clark-Fulton neighborhood with MetroHealth’s recent announcement of an upcoming groundbreaking on Via Sana, a 72-unit affordable housing project.
 

Via Sana, which is Spanish for “healthy way,” is the first part of a three-phase plan to construct 250 affordable homes in the Clark-Fulton area. It will also bring MetroHealth steps closer to its goal of creating an EcoDistrict.
 

Ricardo León, Executive Director, Metro West Cleveland “[Via Sana] provides much-needed, high-quality, yet affordable, housing options in the community,” says Ricardo León, executive director of Metro West Community Development Organization. “The reality is many of our residents struggle finding housing options that are safe and healthy. Significant research has shown that housing is one of the most important factors in maintaining your health.”
 

Even though there have been new construction projects in the Clark-Fulton neighborhood in the past year or so, this is the first new housing project to come to the area in decades. That news is enough reason for excitement, but León believes the project will also represent a huge step toward improving social determinants of health in the neighborhood, as Via Sana will also house a 5,000 square-foot economic opportunity center that will offer educational and workforce training as well as digital technology courses.
 

Like Glenville, the Clark-Fulton neighborhood is also a part of Mayor Jackson’s Transformative Initiative Program.
 

“This project is one of the first steps to securing long-term affordability in the neighborhood while also providing healthy housing opportunities,” says Leon.
 

Via Sana’s one-, two- and three-bedroom units will be available to those who earn 30% to 80% of the area’s median income—between $22,110 and $58,950 for a family of four.
 

“Residents are excited for development activity, particularly because it is affordable,” León says.
 

“It's been a long time since this neighborhood has seen real positive momentum.”


This story is part of FreshWater’s new yearlong series, Community Development Connection, in partnership with Cleveland Neighborhood Progress and Cleveland Development Advisors and funded in-part by a Google Grant. The series seeks to raise awareness about the work of 29 Community Development Corporations (CDCs) as well as explore the efforts of neighborhood-based organizations, leaders, and residents who are focused on moving their communities forward during a time of unprecedented challenge.

Read more articles by Nate Paige.

Nate Paige has worked in local journalism for more than 25 years, most of which was spent at Cleveland.com as a copy editor, community editor, hyperlocal producer, entertainment reporter, and social media coordinator. He got his start in the business at the Cleveland Call & Post. He currently handles social media for the city of Shaker Heights.

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