Thursday, May 17, 2018

Lakewood Ohio's new residential boom times

One Lakewood Place, by Carnegie Development, would be the
largest development in Lakewood in more than 90 years. It
would help the city and its downtown businesses recover from
the loss of 660 well-paid Cleveland Clinic workers.

Lakewood's primary commercial district, Detroit Avenue, is becoming a lot more residential. The changeover in land use is due in large part to a change in business preferences, resulting in opportunities to offer contemporary housing in a stable, walkable community. The last time the city had so much land available for development was before the Great Depression of the 1930s.

There are eight large properties along Detroit Avenue that were or are in play for redevelopment. Most developments are for new uses, primarily residential. They include:
1. Fairchild Chevrolet -- Forest City Enterprises/Ryan Homes & Knez Homes
2. Educator's Music (and Spitzer Chrysler-Jeep?) -- Solove Development
3. McKinley School -- Liberty Development
4. Steve Barry Buick -- Unknown
5. Lakewood Center North office tower -- Lakewood Center North LLC
6. Lakewood Hospital -- Carnegie Management
7. Trinity Lutheran Church -- Unknown
8. Phantasy Cleveland -- Unknown

Fairchild Chevrolet -- The metamorphosis started more than a decade ago. Fairchild Chevrolet, located in the 12000 block of Detroit Ave., bolted for Westlake in 2005 and was soon sold and renamed as Pat O'Brien Chevrolet. General Motors was encouraging dealerships not already next to Interstate highway interchanges to move to them.

A four-acre hole was left in Lakewood's community fabric when
 Fairchild Chevrolet left for Westlake and the Great Recession
halted redevelopment of the former car dealership.
But its departure left a four-acre gaping hole along the oldest and most vulnerable part of Lakewood's main commercial corridor. That loss was felt both in terms of the corridor's physical appearance and in the level of economic activity. Suddenly and for the first time since the dealership opened in the 1940s, the area around it became a dead zone.

But Bob Fairchild, owner of the now-departed dealership, anticipated that and wanted to limit its duration. He paid to demolish all of the dealership's buildings so that they wouldn't leave a blighted landscape to be vandalized and reduce the value of surrounding properties. He also wanted to remove a barrier to the site's future redevelopment.

Rockport Square's original site plan, 2005
What he couldn't anticipate was the coming of the Great Recession of 2008-10. Fairchild sold his dealership's properties to Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises which began redeveloping four blocks of street frontage into Rockport Square luxury townhouses. When the recession hit, the development stopped cold, maxing out at 32 townhomes and leaving the two largest portions of the former Fairchild Chevrolet in limbo as weed-strewn, empty lots for nearly a decade.

When the real estate market recovered, Ryan Homes stepped in to finish the job. It built 51 more townhomes that listed for upwards of $200,000 each. All of them sold in a single year before Ryan's work was finished in 2017 (some landscaping remains incomplete).

The speed and price at which those homes sold piqued the interest of other developers in a tiny parcel that remains undeveloped from Forest City's original plan. Several houses on the east side of Fry Avenue were demolished in the mid-2000s for a part of the parking inventory to support a pair of six-story condo buildings, one on either side of Detroit, called the Lofts at Rockport Square. Those plans were scrapped in favor of Ryan Homes' townhouses.

At 1375-1391 Fry Ave., Knez Homes, Inc. will build The Mews at Rockport. The project will include nine townhouses, each three stories tall. City officials approved Knez's plans and zoning for the development in spring 2018.

Educator's Music, 13701 Detroit Ave., and the house behind it
are on land that was sold to Liberty Development Co. which
is building the luxury townhouse development, McKinley
Place. Liberty's plans for this site aren't yet known.
Educator's Music (and Spitzer Chrysler-Jeep?) -- But Fairchild probably won't be the last former car dealership to become a residential development. Farther west was the Spitzer Lakewood Chrysler dealership at 13815 Detroit Ave. Due to recession-induced restructuring in the auto industry, Spitzer lost his Chrysler Motor City franchises in Parma and Lakewood in 2010.

The Spitzer dealership leased its building and parking/inventory lots to Wingstar Transportation LLC which began in 2013 to provide trucking and logistics services. Joining Wingstar at the dealership is its sister company, Volens LLC. It began in 2015 to provide trucking equipment, trailers and tarps for shipping purposes. But Wingstar and Volens quickly outgrew the 1.6-acres of land south of Detroit, divided by Parkwood Road, and are looking for more space elsewhere.

They won't be expanding east on to the property of Educator's Music next door, at 13701 Detroit Ave.The reason is that this site's owner, the Stavash Family Limited Liability Co., has sold its land, store and house behind the store at 1406 Wyandotte Ave. An earlier rumor that Liberty Development Co. (see McKinley School/McKinley Place townhouses) was the buyer proved to be false. Instead, it is the Columbus-based Solove Development.

Educator's Music was started in the early 1950's by the late John Stavash Sr., once a member of the world-renowned Cleveland Orchestra. He built the store building in 1960. His son, John Jr., runs the store today and will relocate outside of Lakewood, though he said he hasn't decided where yet.

The retail business, including its music lessons, will continue at the current location until at least the end of May and most likely to the end of June. It may temporarily operate out of the house behind the store. The 0.4-acre property and its two structures have a tax value of $232,300, according to Cuyahoga County records.

If combined with the adjacent, former car dealership property, valued at $767,500 for taxes, these parcels would amount to a two-acre lot. That could provide enough room for several dozen townhomes or two or more multi-family residential buildings with ground-floor retail facing Detroit.

That doesn't include the 0.35-acre Bruce's Automotive & Fleet Services, 13919 Detroit Ave., at the highly visible corner of Detroit and Bunts Road. This property is valued at $165,600 for taxes and owned by G & M Property Management 3 LLC, which in turn is owned by George Shaker. Shaker has owned the property either directly or through a company for more than 40 years, county records show.

McKinley Place townhouses, while very dense, has a common
greenspace at the end of this new street where a stone remnant
stands from McKinley Elementary School that occupied this
site from 1918-2015.
McKinley School -- If the name Liberty Development doesn't ring a bell, then you might remember it as the developer that's nearly finished building the 40-unit McKinley Place Townhouses. They are rising on the 3-acre site of the former McKinley Elementary School property on West Clifton Boulevard, just north of Detroit Ave. Townhouses at this site are selling for between $314,000 and $483,000.

One of three sections of the now-closed Steve Barry Buick.
This was their new car showroom on the north side of Detroit
Avenue. Their service/repair center was on the south side of
Detroit on the west side of Orchard Grove Avenue and the
used car lot on the east side of Orchard Grove.

Steve Barry Buick -- The last new-car dealership along Detroit in Lakewood was Steve Barry Buick, 16000 Detroit Ave. Steve Barry Buick stopped selling cars more than a year ago but it continued to service and maintain cars until earlier this year. Office equipment and furniture continue to be sold off into May.

Although the property isn't listed for sale publicly, it is common knowledge in local real estate circles that Steve Barry Buick and the neighboring Bobby O's Place tavern is for sale. The asking price is rumored to be several times higher than the $940,300 the county has it appraised for tax purposes.

The dealership's property, owned by Fairlane Realty, includes four parcels totaling 0.76 acres and a small building dating from 1927 on the south side of Detroit for the used car lot. The 1.2-acre parcel and dealership sales/service building on the north side of Detroit dates from 1948. At nearly 2 acres, the combined property is comparable in size to the Educator's Music/former Spitzer site.

Lakewood Center North has towered over downtown since
1974. Until 2017, it was exclusively an office building. Now,
10 of its 15 floors are being renovated with 153 apartments.
At left is Cleveland Clinic's Family Health Center, seen
under construction in August 2017.

Lakewood Center North
-- But the single largest addition of housing units to Lakewood in many years didn't come from new construction. Instead, it came from a concept borrowed from nearby downtown Cleveland -- conversion of an aging office building into apartments. At 15 stories, Lakewood Center North, 14600 Detroit, was the tallest suburban office building in Greater Cleveland.

It lost its office building standing after the United Transportation Union's national headquarters went west to North Olmsted and New York Life insurance went east to downtown Cleveland. That left 10 floors of the office building vacant. An investor group, Lakewood Center North LLC led by Brad Kowit, acquired the building in 2013 for a mere $3.385 million from CW Capital Servicing Inc. of Bethesda, MD which bought the building seven years earlier for $14.45 million.

Ten floors in the middle of the building are being renovated with 153 apartments, offering one-bedroom and two-bedroom units. The top two floors of the building will remain as offices with the bottom three floors a mix of offices, retail and restaurants. Having apartments in downtown Lakewood, with its many restaurants and shops (including two full-service grocery stores, one of which is open 24 hours), is intended to attract more Millennials to Lakewood.

Preliminary site plan for Carnegie Management & Development's
proposed One Lakewood Place development on the site of the old

Lakewood Hospital -- The biggest development in downtown Lakewood is yet to come -- One Lakewood Place. It's due to a different kind of shift in the commercial market -- outer suburban job sprawl. Cleveland Clinic's Lakewood Hospital pulled up stakes and relocated 660 employees of its highly paid workforce from this inner-ring suburb to exurban Lorain County. While 200 Cleveland Clinic employees will remain at its new $34 million Family Health Center at Detroit and Belle avenues, the loss of so much income tax and so many workers has hurt downtown Lakewood shops and restaurants.

So the city has named Carnegie Management & Development Corp. of Westlake to redevelop the city-owned Lakewood Hospital site. At 5.7 acres, it is the largest site in Lakewood to be developed in nine decades.

Planned is a $75 million mixed-used project featuring an apartment tower with hundreds of units, 60 townhouses, 100,000 square feet of offices and 84,000 square feet of retail. The only question at this point is how tall will the main building be -- six stories of offices with 200 residential units in other buildings to the south? Or will it be 18 stories with 200 residential units atop the six-story office pedestal plus the other 200 residential units south? Carnegie is considering the latter because it is more cost effective, the Lakewood residential market is strong and downtown Lakewood shops and restaurants need the business to make them whole from the loss of so many hospital workers.

Trinity Lutheran Church and its two single-level retail buildings
just beyond were listed for sale but are no longer on the market.
Instead, the site is under contract with an unidentified developer
to re-use the vacant structures or demolish them for a new land
use plan.

Trinity Lutheran Church -- Another development that could soon move forward is the repurposing of one or more parcels owned by Trinity Lutheran Church, 16400 Detroit, between Hall and Westlake avenues. Three parcels are here. They total 0.729 acres and are valued at $680,400 for taxes. The church is on the westernmost parcel and two, single-level storefront-type buildings are on the two easternmost parcels. Those two were to be razed and developed with a Wendy's fast-food restaurant but there wasn't sufficient space for parking and a drive-through lane.

The church sanctuary wasn't part of that discarded, conceptual plan. Trinity Lutheran is moving a half-mile west to Lakewood Congregational Church. An unidentified developer is under contract by Trinity Lutheran to find a new use for its old property.

Since 1980, the Phantasy Cleveland has helped launch many
fledgling music careers in rock, new wave and punk. But the
former movie theater complex is for sale and could soon be
redeveloped with residential or other uses (
Phantasy Cleveland -- Last on this list is the Phantasy Cleveland, 11794-11814 Detroit, a 55,000-square-foot live entertainment complex with three stages and three bars. Built in 1918 as the Homestead Theater, it continued to show movies until 1979. It was part of a theater district that also included the ornate, Spanish-style, 1927-built Loew's Granada Theatre at the southeast corner of Detroit and West 117th. It closed and was demolished in 1969 for a Shell gas station that succumbed in the 1980s to a Pizza Hut.

It's possible that the Phantasy, for sale for $1,050,000, could be redeveloped with apartments or remain as a theater. The theater complex itself is set on 0.52 acres of land. An adjoining 0.172-acre parcel is also owned by 11802 Detroit Ave. It is The Chamber Danceclub, formerly the Highland Studio, and appears to be part of the Phantasy sale listing.

Detroit Avenue, looking east from Beach/Winchester avenues
at the Rockport Square townhouse development. Compare this
view with the Fairchild Chevy scene near the top of this article.
More of Detroit Avenue, especially where the other two closed
car dealerships now sit, could soon look similar to this.

All of these developments will help Lakewood stop and reverse a decades-long loss of housing stock and, more importantly, loss of population. Cuyahoga County's loss of population and households is well-known. It started with the city of Cleveland in the 1960s and continues to this day, albeit more slowly as the city rebuilds its aging, obsolete housing stock. Despite Cleveland being incorporated 100 years before Lakewood had, the average age of Cleveland's housing stock is actually one year newer (1940 vs 1939) due mass demolitions and extensive new construction.

Lakewood has the third-most housing units in Cuyahoga County (30,569 units or 5 percent of the countywide total), trailing only Cleveland (213,983 or 35 percent) and Parma (36,682 or 6 percent). Lakewood lost 1,725 households between 1990-2010, ranking behind Cleveland, East Cleveland and Euclid in housing loss, according to a 2016 study by the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission. More recently, the growing conversion of many Lakewood rental duplexes into for-sale, single-family homes is raising the value of housing but reducing housing units and population.

Lakewood has 28,144 living units, 30.6 percent of which are apartments, 33.3 percent are one-family homes and 23.5 percent are two-family homes. The only cities that have more apartments are Bedford Heights, East Cleveland, Highland Hills, Mayfield Heights, North Randall, Warrensville Heights and Woodmere.

With Lakewood as a benchmark, only four cities have a smaller share of their housing stock as single-family homes -- East Cleveland, Highland Hills, Linndale and North Randall. And only four cities had a greater share of their housing stock as two-family living units -- Linndale, Newburgh Heights, Cleveland and East Cleveland.

Cuyahoga County cities with the largest share of new living units constructed between 2010-2013 were Cleveland with 681 units (valued at $103 million) or 27 percent of the Cuyahoga County total, and Strongsville at a distant second with 251 units (valued at $81 million) or 10 percent of the countywide total. Lakewood added only 20 living units valued at $6 million during that period.

That shows how much catching up Lakewood has had to do. The existing and potential Detroit Avenue corridor developments listed in this article (plus others in Birdtown, Clifton Pointe and scattered sites) are helping to add nearly 1,000 modern housing units to this stable, walkable community.


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