Downtown's very first lakefront apartments are on the horizon

Twenty years ago, the initial North Coast Harbor project was completed—capping off the addition of a $10 million manmade inner lake, surrounding promenade, and a three-acre park. Over the past two decades, the area has seen the addition of the Steamship William G. Mather Museum, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, FirstEnergy Stadium, Great Lakes Science Center, and more.

Now North Coast Harbor is ready to take its master plan next-level with the debut of downtown’s first true lakefront living option: Harbor Verandas. On track to open its doors to residents on October 1, the luxury mixed-use development will feature 16 units and six retail spaces, along with a 32-space private parking garage. Rents will range from approximately $3,300 to just over $4,000.

“By far, these will be the most luxurious apartments in Cleveland,” says Anthony Valencic, preconstruction manager for John G. Johnson Construction, of the 48,000-square-foot complex. “This building will set the new standard for the harbor.”

Set on the site of the original Crooked River Skate Park, the Harbor Verandas are the second site to make its debut under the new plan (the first being Nuevo Modern Mexican & Tequila Bar). At least four other sites are still to be developed for the area, which extends from the 9th Street Pier over to FirstEnergy Stadium.

The former skate park site“We’re delighted that we’re finally at the point of implementing the master plan,” says Dick Pace of Cumberland Development. “Now that we’re at the point of opening the first residences on the lakefront downtown, we believe it will activate the harbor. While it’s a small building, it sets up the larger development north of the stadium and proves the [rental] market.”

So far, the building is half-leased, which Pace says is ahead of schedule. According to Pace, the tenants are a mix of families, people moving from places like Washington, D.C. and New York, and “empty nesters.” Says Pace, “We thought we were marketing toward empty nesters, but what we found is a very diverse market in age range and professions."

Named for the private balconies in each unit, Harbor Verandas were designed to offer residents a “true indoor/outdoor connection,” according to Dimit Architects co-founder Analia Nanni Dimit. The oversized verandas measure up to 750 square feet, and are meant to act as “outdoor living rooms” in terms of scale and arrangement. All have views of the water, and many of the units overlook FirstEnergy Stadium, the Rock Hall, and the downtown skyline. (Valencic says he spotted Alice Cooper walking into the Rock Hall one day during construction.)

“The verandas are grouped in two-story stacks with lots of glass doors and windows,” says Dimit. “The arrangement really sets the stage for the overall appearance of the building.”

Veranda view looking south toward the city and Rock Hall

According to Dimit, the modern exterior also utilizes cedar cladding and metal paneling similar to its sister project, Nuevo Modern Mexican. In addition, the building features brick masonry intended to signify “permanence and stability as related to dwellings,” says Dimit. Atop the building will be a 1,100-square-foot community rooftop deck designed for year-round use.

Interior renderingAs for the apartments, the 16 two- and three-bedroom units fit into four different layouts ranging from 1,720 to 1,923 square feet (not including the veranda). Across-the-board features include living room fireplaces, 10-foot-high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, walk-in showers, and walk-in master bedroom closets. The kitchens feature Bosch appliances, islands, and quartz countertops.

Though the retail spaces will make their debut after the residences’ opening date of October 1, Pace says that confirmed tenants include Cleveland Bike Tours and his own company, Cumberland Development (currently housed in the Arcade). Possible other tenants include a restaurant, coffee shop, bakery, and/or an art gallery.

While the project is running on time, it hasn’t been without its challenges. In order to identify a suitable foundation for the building, Dimit says that at least six strategies were considered. “As with most waterfront projects, the foundation system proved challenging from an engineering standpoint,” says Dimit.

Valencic says they ultimately installed 72 Auger cast piles 100 feet deep into the shale. “On a traditional building, we could excavate down four or five feet and pour concrete, and the earth would withstand any movement,” he says. “This construction method allows us to put this type of building on fill dirt.”

The half-acre site also experienced unusual constraints due to its prime perch in the harbor and marina. “We have very little space to work because we have to keep the harbor operating and [allow for] traffic volume with people going out to the Goodtime III, Nuevo, and Voinovich Park,” says Pace. Adds Valencic, “Our fence line would typically be out into the lake for all this laydown area, but we have to keep a constant perimeter for pedestrian access open.”

With the Harbor Verandas nearing completion, Pace already has his eye on the next phase of North Coast Harbor development in the area between the Rock Hall and Great Lakes Science Center. Though negotiations prevent him from sharing exact details, he will say it’s a “major” commercial project and “another exciting addition to the lakefront.”

He also adds that the master plan is also ever-evolving. Case in point: currently, John G. Johnson Construction does monthly workshops with ninth graders at MC2 STEM High School (inside the Great Lakes Science Center) where they teach the science behind making concrete. After allowing the students to review the master plan for North Coast Harbor, Pace says they had a valuable suggestion that he plans to implement.

“We had a sand volleyball court and bocce ball court [planned], but they pointed out that we had no basketball court,” says Pace. “They did a whole project designing the court and getting a cost estimate. With a bunch of ninth graders giving us advice, we were smart enough to listen.”

But first? The debut of Harbor Verandas, which Pace says will set the tone for the rest of the harbor: “When these are complete, people will say this isn’t like anything else in town.”

Harbor Verandas rendering

Read more articles by Jen Jones Donatelli.

As an enthusiastic CLE-vangelist, Jen Jones Donatelli enjoys diving headfirst into her work with FreshWater Cleveland. Upon moving back to Cleveland after 16 years in Los Angeles, Jen served as FreshWater's managing editor for two years (2017-2019) and continues her work with the publication as a contributing editor and host of the FreshFaces podcast. When not typing the day away at her laptop, she teaches writing and creativity classes through her small business Creative Groove, as well as Literary Cleveland, Cleveland State University, and more. Jen is a proud graduate of Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.