Preservation celebration: Cleveland Restoration Society, AIA recognize notable restoration projects

The city may have mostly shut down during the past year, but builders and preservationists kept their noses to the grindstone—preserving and revitalizing some of Northeast Ohio’s prime architecture.

The Cleveland Restoration Society (CRS) and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Cleveland will recognize 14 of those projects tomorrow, Thursday, May 20, at the organization’s annual Celebration of Preservation awards ceremony.

 Margret Lann, CRS director of preservation services and publications, says they received 29 nominations this year and AIA introduced a new category—the award for compatible new building in an historic district.

“We received a record number of nominations this year, and the AIA added a new award category, which drew a lot of nominations,” Lann explains. “The pandemic slowed a lot of projects down a bit, and they were wrapped up in late 2019 and early 2020.”

Lann says the new AIA award category brings with it many considerations that must be made when new construction is going into an historic district. “We all want to welcome new construction, but it should respect the historic district by having a massing, scale, and placement that is deferential to the existing historic structures,” she explains.

The $60 million mixed-use, mixed-income development Quarter project in Ohio City wins this year's compatible new building in a historic district award. The project was led by the Snavely Group, with partners Brown, Gibbons, Lang & Company and the Orlean Company, and features apartments, the Music Settlement, a grocery store, and retail space.

Lann says this year's projects are all stellar. Here is a detailed look at five of the projects.

Woodland Cemetery Entrance Award of Excellence for Restoration
The 1853 Woodland Cemetery in the Central neighborhood was Cleveland’s main public cemetery well into the early 20th Century, serving as both a park and as the final resting place for Cleveland mayors, soldiers, police officers, politicians, and other notable figures. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986 and designated a Cleveland landmark in 2008.

As the cemetery at 8901 Woodland Ave. undergoes ongoing restoration and preservation, restorations of the 1875 Woodland Cemetery Gatehouse were completed this year after a three-year effort. The project is winning the award of excellence for restoration.

After years of neglect, in 1995 the gatehouse had to be dismantled. But, in the process, the 1,530 stones were numbered, cataloged, and stored on pallets. By the time the gatehouse began restoration efforts by Sona Construction, architect Kevin Robinette, and masonry specialists from McMahon Masonry Restoration, 1,500 were still usable for reconstruction. Every detail was seen to—even new lighting and landscaping around the gatehouse.

“Good things are worth the wait,” says Lann of the decades-long project.

Olympic ChurchDistinguished Retrofit of a Sacred Landmark Award
The 1933 former St. Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Church on West 11th Street in Tremont was the first Ukrainian Orthodox Church established in Cleveland. It was in the heart of the Ukrainian religious and social community for several decades, and then was purchased by the Spanish Assembly of God in 1967 for its community religious center.

In 2016, the church sat vacant before Olympic Forest Products Company, working with Historic Preservation Group, began renovations in 2018. Using state and federal historic tax credits, Olympic adapted the church to house its new corporate offices. The rehabilitation of this building preserved the vacant church and rectory, addressing many deferred maintenance issues, halting the ongoing deterioration of historic finishes, and returning the property to productive use.

Lann says the conversion of the historic St. Vladimir Church to office space, which was completed last year, is a great example of the incredible potential for the often-difficult adaptive reuse of local sacred landmarks. “They just did a gorgeous job,” she observes. “It’s a great re-use of space for a company to use as an office.”

Extensive repairs and maintenance work were done to the exterior, including fixing work that had been previously done with the wrong materials. The special glazed, variegated gold-orange brick was repaired and rebuilt, while specialty windows and doors were retained and restored, and vinyl windows were replaced with aluminum windows that match the remaining historic wood windows. The front rose window was retained and lights were installed to show off the building’s facade.

Inside, the few historic elements that remained were preserved. Using glass partitions, the open sanctuary and rectory are now the main open office areas. “This is a great example of how you can adapt a building but also preserve the exterior,” says Lann.

Sanford HouseDedication to Preservation Award
The 1862 Nelson Sanford House at 2843 Franklin Blvd. in Ohio City was once owned by Cuyahoga County and used for the county archives, and now is owned by Franklin Clubhouse LLC.

Renovations include a front porch addition to match a previously demolished historic porch, and interior refurbishments and reconfigurations to include an Irish pub, wine cellar, conference room/kitchen, attic game rooms, and offices, according to architects HSB Cleveland.

Lann says the judges were most impressed with the attention to historical detail. “They really respected the layout and footprint of the original single-family home,” she says. “They didn’t tear down or construct new walls and kept as much of the original historic material as they could.”

Prospect YardExcellence in Urban Adaptive Reuse Award
The 1917 Stuyvesant Motor Company at 1937 Prospect Ave. E. once served as a showroom and service center for the automobile manufacturer, and later a variety of other businesses including an architectural printmaking company, says Lann.

The building stands today, in the heart of the Campus District by Cleveland State University, as Prospect Yard—an affordable workforce housing complex with 42 one- and two-bedroom family loft-style units.

Designed by Perspectus architects, Lann says the architectural print shop left behind hazardous material from the printing process that had seeped into the concrete. “They made massive repairs to abate the hazardous materials,” she says. “They were able to repair all of the existing windows, replace the missing windows with steel [replicas].”

Central High School GymnasiumOutstanding Rehabilitation Award
The 1907 Central High School in Amherst sat vacant since 1987, but in 2016 brothers Tony and Donel Sprenger and friend Bill Starbuck bought the abandoned building with the intention of creating a senior living facility as part of Sprenger Health Care Systems.

It wasn’t until 2016 that the next generation of the Sprenger family began to make that vision a reality. In 2018, the rehabilitation process began to transform the former school into The 1907 at Central School—a 40-apartment luxury senior living facility.

Lann says the Sprengers took great care in preserving the historic building. “Anywhere there was historic material, they worked very hard to maintain and repair that material,” she says. “There was a lot of care to preserve historic material and a lot of consideration to the amenities.”

Other award winners
The other Celebration of Preservation award winners include:

The May (two awards): Distinguished adaptation of a Cleveland landmark and AIA building craft award.
Fernway Elementary School : Excellence in reconstruction.
Tinnerman Lofts: Design excellence.
3018 Clinton Avenue: Heritage Home Program sward.
Bowery District and Standard Savings Bank: Catalytic rehabilitation of an urban block.
Pivot Center for Art, Dance, and Expression: Community Impact award.
Music Hall in the Public Auditorium: Outstanding reinstatement of an historic interior.
Terminal Tower: Award of merit for the interior rehabilitation of an iconic landmark. 

The awards ceremony tomorrow, Thursday, May 20 will stream live at 7 p.m. on CRS’ Facebook and YouTube sites. It is free to attend, but registration is required to get the link.

Read more articles by 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.