Friday, May 31, 2019

Cleveland-area Ford plants redo to spark local economy

Two Cleveland-area auto plants that were closed earlier this
decade could be repurposed into advanced manufacturing
and warehousing operations. (
Redeveloping one auto plant measuring nearly 2-million-square-foot for a single manufacturer is a pretty big deal. The redevelopment of two of them for a single manufacturer is a bigger deal. The use of them for producing game-changing automotive technologies is about as big as it gets.

At least one of the game changing technologies is the plasma ignition system, also known as the sparkless ignition, according to a party involved with sales transaction.

The plants are the 1.7-million-square-foot Brook Park Engine Plant No. 2 on Snow Road and the 2.1-million-square-foot Walton Hills stamping plant on Northfield Road.

Ford's 1.7-million-square-foot Brook Park Engine Plant No. 2
(above) that closed in 2000 and Ford's Walton Hills Stamping
Plant (below) that closed in 2015 (Google).

Sparkless ignitions will replace spark plugs which have been around since the 1800s. Using plasma-based systems to ignite fuel translates to cleaner-burning, more fuel-efficient engines. Most manufacturers conservatively say sparkless ignitions improve fuel economy by 10 percent, but the potential is for savings as much as 25 or 30 percent.

However, the source could not divulge the buyer's identity. But the information available narrows the focus of who the potential buyer may be, as there are few companies who have the ability and interest to mass produce sparkless ignition systems.

The checklist for helping to identify potential buyers includes a company that:

  • Is seeking to mass-produce a sparkless ignition system;
  • Has significant financial resources to buy, redesign/retool and sustain two massive manufacturing plants;
  • Has significant know-how to redesign/retool them for their production line(s);
  • Has existing supplier/buyer relationships to ramp up volume production to fully utilize 3.8 million square feet of plant space in a reasonable period of time;
  • Produces other advanced automotive products for next-generation cars that produce low/no emissions, feature self-driving-technologies, etc. since the manufacture of sparkless ignition systems likely won't require the utilization of anywhere near 3.8 million square feet of plant space.

One of the pioneers in the field of sparkless ignitions is Plasma Igniter, LLC which makes the Coaxial Cavity Resonator Ignition System (CCRIS). However, it is a small company with few resources whose small, California-based production line is limited to military applications.

Another possibility might be an existing automobile manufacturer. All automakers are seeking to bring to market cars that offer sparkless ignition systems and other advanced powertrain technologies. However, Ford is unlikely to sell two of its large plants to a competitor -- unless that automaker has an alliance like the one Ford announced with Volkswagen earlier this year

In December, (Volkswagen CEO Herbert) Deiss said his company may expand its U.S. production presence beyond Chattanooga, Tennessee, by building products in underutilized Ford factories with UAW workers, according to the Detroit Free Press. That would be a significant change -- foreign automakers have avoided U.S. union labor other than a past General Motors-Toyota operation in California that now is the site of Tesla's factory.

But another source who knows who bought the Ford plants would say publicly only that the buyer isn't VW "unless they bought it under another name, but that would be unlikely," the source said.

Ford's Engine Plant No. 2 in Brook Park is located next to
Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Interstates 71/480,
Norfolk Southern, CSX as well as large distribution hubs for
UPS and FedEx (Google).
So the speculation here is that the buyer could be part of Tenneco/Federal-Mogul LLC. Federal-Mogul is a company based in the Detroit suburb of Southfield and earns more than $7 billion in revenue per year. Last year, the Chicago-based multinational corporation Tenneco purchased Federal-Mogul for $5.4 billion.

Even more interesting is that newly combined businesses are proposed to be separated in late-2019 into two independent, publicly traded companies -- one an aftermarket auto parts company called Driv and the other a powertrain technology company, to continue to be called Tenneco. The latter has sought to introduce a sparkless ignition system called Advanced Corona Ignition System (ACIS) that Federal-Mogul has been developing and wants to put into volume production.

"Following the separation, the powertrain technology company will be one of the world’s largest pure-play powertrain companies serving OE markets worldwide with engineered solutions addressing fuel economy, power output, and criteria pollution requirements for gasoline, diesel and electrified powertrains," according to a written statement issued Oct. 1, 2018 by Tenneco. "The powertrain technology company would have 2017 pro-forma revenues of $10.7 billion, serving light vehicle, commercial truck, off-highway and industrial markets."

Ford's Walton Hills plant is located next to Interstates 271/480
as well as Norfolk Southern (Google).
So not only is Federal-Mogul/Tenneco making a big move into sparkless ignition systems, it has significant business in other aspects of automotive production. Furthermore, it is undertaking a major corporate restructuring to capitalize on a rapidly changing automotive industry that, with the exception of Tesla, has weak strategies for reducing emissions, improving fuel economy, developing electric vehicles and advancing driverless-car technologies.

While its eyes may be bigger than its wallet right now, repurposing the Ford plants offer a relatively affordable way for Tenneco to put sparkless ignitions into mass production. They also offer a means to consolidate their warehousing operations for the eastern U.S. and close down more costly locations on the East Coast. But these aren't necessarily game-changing moves for Greater Cleveland's economy.

The sale of the two Ford plants looks to be close to do a done deal. On May 15, a New York City law firm on behalf of Wilmington Trust Co. filed Uniform Commercial Code Financing Statement Amendments with the Cuyahoga County Fiscal Officer for Ford's Brook Park and Walton Hills plants.

Wilmington Trust, as trustee under some Ford-issued debt instrument, is confirming its interest in the two properties. As part of the sale process and title search, Ford is establishing what encumbrances there may be to a clear title.


Friday, May 24, 2019

Seeds & Sprouts - Early intel on real estate projects

This is the first edition of Seeds & Sprouts - Early intelligence on Cleveland-area real estate projects. Because these projects are very early in their process of development or just a long-range plan, a lot can and probably will change their final shape, use and outcome.

Voss Industries' aging, multiple-structure plant on West 25th in
Ohio City is due to be redeveloped with housing and likely some
ground-floor restaurants/retail following its sale to a Northbrook,
IL-based firm. That's the same home city as the company
developing the Market Square mixed-use complex across
Ohio City: Voss plant to become apartment complex

More than 250 apartments are planned in Ohio City's Market District following the purchase of Voss Industries' property, 2168 W. 25th St., two sources said. The 4.2-acre site and its multiple buildings totaling 240,000 square feet were sold May 22 for $4.775 million to a paper company formed by David Rotenberg, a principal of Bixby Bridge Capital, LLC in the Chicago suburb of Northbrook, IL, according to Ohio Secretary of State filings.

The number of proposed apartments should translate to about 400 residents, or more than the current 267 jobs at Voss Industries (it had 320 jobs in the early 2010s), which is relocating to a more modern plant in Berea. Plus, there is likely to be ground-floor restaurant/retail uses in the redeveloped factory which dates to 1936, per its deactivated LoopNet listing.

Bixby Bridge Capital invests primarily in Sun Belt real estate, with some Midwest exceptions, mostly in Chicago. They also provide equity to renovation projects, carried out in partnerships with developers. The Voss Industries site is located in an Opportunity Zone, making it eligible for a new source of equity from the OZ program. Numerous Cleveland-area projects are moving forward as a result of this new program.

The site is across West 25th from the Market Square development, where Harbor Bay Real Estate Advisors, LLC of Northbrook, IL (same hometown as Bixby Bridge Capital) expects to break ground this year on a 10-story 150,000-square-foot office building, a 7-story 267-unit apartment building (both buildings timber-framed), plus 75,000 square feet of retail and 560-space parking deck.

Just east of Market Square, Carnegie Development won a bid from the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) to develop 1.3 acres of land next to the Ohio City Red Line station and additional space above the tracks south of Abbey Road. To the north of the station, and despite putting the project on hold if not considering selling the property outright, Brickhaus Partners will reportedly pursue development of the mixed-use One West Twenty after all.

Clearly, the real estate market near the West Side Market and the GCRTA train station is picking up steam.

The Lumen apartment tower, under construction at Euclid
Avenue and East 17th Street, soars into Cleveland's May sky
as the Playhouse Square Foundation considers its next move
following completion next year (Ichabod The Crane/Twitter).
Playhouse Square: The Lumen, Act II

What will Playhouse Square Foundation (PHS) in downtown Cleveland do for an encore if early leasing at The Lumen apartment tower on Euclid Avenue at East 17th Street meets or exceeds expectations? The next performance could well be another residential tower for the theater district.

One place might be atop PHS's two-story Cowell & Hubbard Building on Euclid at East 13th (has the big "Playhouse Square" sign above it) which was designed to support an eight-story vertical addition. However, PHS can and reportedly does receive a tax deduction from a conservation easement of air space over this qualified historic structure. In other words, PHS gets a tax break by not developing above the Cowell & Hubbard Building in order to preserve its historic integrity. So it's in no hurry to develop it.

Instead, the site at the southeast corner of Chester Avenue and East 13th Street has PHS's interest, according to two sources. That's where PHS in 2016 strategically acquired 0.9 acres of land, currently used as a 114-space parking lot, for future development. PHS did so as it was finalizing the financing package for The Lumen.

For comparison, The Lumen sets on a 1-acre parcel, but the tower's floorplates are much smaller than the garage which occupies most of the lot. No new parking deck may be necessary for a Chester-East 13th development. In other words, there's plenty of room there to build something vertical even though it's not on a main drag as are The Lumen or Cowell & Hubbard.

One of the rationales in PHS building the 34-story, 602,000-square-foot Lumen tower was that it would put more pedestrian activity on Euclid Avenue. The activity would come from more than just those living in the 318 apartments. It would also come from shifting many visitor parking spaces from behind the theaters to across the street from them, thus encouraging more theatergoers to step out on Euclid to see and patronize the district's restaurants and shops. The Lumen's 550 parking spaces will help make that happen.

So the strategy comes from freeing up parking in the 800-space deck behind the theaters, at 1450 Chester Ave., to help support a residential tower built on the neighboring lot at Chester and East 13th. The land here is zoned for general retail and height district 6, meaning a mixed-use building as tall as 600 feet can be built without a variance.

No one yet knows how tall would it actually be. But if lots of people rent apartments in The Lumen, this second act could have a bigger, happier ending.

J-Roc Development's planned West 78th Street Community
could represent the start of housing density pushing westward
from Battery Park in to an existing industrial area (J-Roc).
Detroit-Shoreway: Lake Avenue gap-filling

As investment in redevelopment pushes west along Detroit Avenue and the lakefront toward the well-kept Edgewater neighborhood, a gap of investment remains in the middle. Specifically, the section of Lake Avenue between Detroit Avenue and Clifton Boulevard has been left out of the revitalization of the west side's lakefront. So far...

The Lake Avenue Master Plan hopes to change that. Two public meetings were scheduled to gather input for the master plan. The first was in February with the second set for April 10. But that was rescheduled for 6 p.m. May 29 at the 78th Street Studios, 1305 W. 80th St.

The Detroit-Shoreway Community Development Corp. is the plan's sponsor. Bialosky Cleveland is their consultant. Lots of ideas are being submitted for redesigning the Lake Avenue street right of way, refurbishing the railroad underpass, and establishing a land use vision for the area.

One idea is for redeveloping the 21-acre industrial triangle north of Lake toward the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks with mixed use, including some vertical housing. The land is currently zoned for general industry and semi-industry, but with height districts allowing buildings as tall as 60 feet (six stories) along Lake and 115 feet (11 stories) just south of the tracks. That height district or higher (the next levels up would permit 175 and 250 feet) would allow great views of Edgewater Park, Lake Erie and downtown Cleveland

There are already rumors that Lowe Chemical Co. wants to move from its 2.7-acre parcel at 8300 Baker Ave. Since 1984, the 51-year-old firm has owned this facility, built in 1890 with a well-kept, brick, 17,072-square-foot plant office building. It uses its rail access and is apparently seeking a new site with rail access. Next door are three largely underutilized parcels totaling 2.156 acres owned by Brian Spurgeon and partially used by his family's company, B&K Scaffolding Co.

To the eastern end of this hemmed-in industrial district is the Battery Park neighborhood, formerly the Eveready Battery Co. factory. More housing could soon be encroaching deeper on the industrial district, as J-Roc Development has acquired a 1-acre strip of land along the east side of West 78th. There, based on early conceptual massings, J-Roc envisions a long, six-story apartment building fronted by townhouses.

It's across the street from the West 78th Studios (site of the May 29 public meeting), a factory converted into artist galleries, studios and performance spaces a decade ago. It may have been what set this lakefront neighborhood on a course toward a conversion from industry to mixed uses. Then again, the spread of redevelopment west from Gordon Square might have already fated this area's 21st century purpose.

The makeup of retail on West 25th Street may continue changing
with a planned Pins bowling alley, across the street from Mitchell's
Ice Cream shop. Daniels Furniture will reportedly consolidate into
an existing store location at 2800 Superior Ave. (Google).
Ohio City: from furniture to Pins

Daniels Furniture, 1882 W. 25th St. in Ohio City, is reportedly under a purchase agreement by developer Chad Kertesz for renovation and conversion into a bowling alley named Pins, two sources say. The Ohio City neighborhood is popular with young professionals and bowling is a popular participatory sport among young people, so it's not surprising that a bowling alley is a strike for the Market District.

The decades-old store is spread among two parcels totaling 0.26 acres and two brick buildings, a 4,402-square-foot structure built in 1923 and a 13,826-square-foot structure built in 1910 with a terra cotta facade. The larger building was built with several second-floor apartments but are no longer occupied and their windows were covered with concrete blocks.

Daniels Furniture is a local chain of three stores, so it will stay in business. It reportedly plans to consolidate its two center-city stores into its location on the east edge of downtown, 2800 Superior Ave. in the Superior Arts District. Daniels Furniture other Cleveland-area location is 4569 Northfield Rd. in North Randall. A Daniels Furniture representative refused to comment.


Monday, May 20, 2019

Sherwin-Williams' HQ: will it be Ohio's tallest or suburban-bound?

Based on new information about Sherwin-Williams' proposed
headquarters and research facility space needs, it's possible that
the global coatings firm could build the tallest skyscraper in
Ohio, like the 1,200-foot-tall Ameritrust Center tower planned
 in 1990 (at left), soaring above the neighboring Key Tower,
Terminal Tower and 200 Public Square. Or SHW could build
a sprawling campus in the city of Cleveland or in the suburbs
UPDATE: Sherwin-Williams isn't commenting on this story and, after it was published, an internal e-mail was sent to company managers and department heads advising them to not comment if any media asks about the company moving its headquarters/research and development activities to new facilities.

It appears the stakes couldn't be higher for the City of Cleveland as global coatings giant Sherwin-Williams Co. (SHW) prepares to issue a request for proposals from development teams seeking to build a massive new headquarters and research facility.

How high are the stakes? Perhaps as high as the 947-foot Key Tower or possibly more. That's how tall the 153-year-old company's new corporate headquarters could be, according to two sources. Or, considering that SHW's executives like being within walking distance of the company's research and development activities, it's possible that the new HQ and R&D facilities could both move to Cleveland's suburbs, taking nearly 4,000 good-paying jobs with them.

So the potential outcomes are an iconic new skyscraper for a growing multinational company in downtown Cleveland or the loss of thousands of jobs from a city trying to recover from decades of job losses.

Those are pretty monumental stakes.

It is apparent that SHW prefers to stay in downtown Cleveland. Since 2014, it has commissioned at least two concepts by an out-of-town architect for a new skyscraper on the Jacobs Lot on Public Square. It hired the world's largest civil engineering firm to flesh out the concepts into plans that were nearly ready to be released to the public in late 2015. That was when SHW executives switched course and began the process of buying Minneapolis-based rival Valspar. The debt from that $11 billion acquisition should be paid down just three years from now.

At right is the Jacobs lot, vacant since 1989, on the West Roadway
of Cleveland's Public Square. It was to be the site of the Ameritrust
Center tower until Ameritrust merged with Society Bank and then
Key Bank. Multiple sources say it was Sherwin-Williams' favored
site in 2015 for a new headquarters tower, before the company
acquired Valspar, became larger and faster growing. Weston's
five-acre Superblock of parking lots is just beyond (Google).
More information is becoming available as the world's biggest commercial real estate services firm prepares to circulate an RFP for a new HQ and R&D facility for the fast-growing coatings giant. It appears months of work by a century-old Cleveland-based law firm in drafting the RFP is nearing conclusion. The RFP is due to be released by the end of this year, multiple sources say.

Everything is on the table. SHW will listen to all offers. And SHW will get a lot of them as it seeks to build 1.6 million square feet of HQ space and R&D facilities, according to two sources.

Those space-needs figures are much higher than what was previously reported on this blog. SHW is growing so quickly and it needs to have the elbow room in its HQ to accommodate future growth for decades to come. Spread among six locations, SHW's Cleveland-area employment is rapidly approaching 5,000 workers, roughly 80 percent of which are office/lab personnel; the rest are industrial. SHW has been headquartered in the Landmark Office Building, 101 Prospect Ave., since 1930 and in the Breen Technology Center, 601 Canal Road, since 1948.

It isn't publicly known how that 1.6 million square feet will be divided among HQ and R&D. But it appears that anywhere from 200,000 to 300,000 square feet could be for R&D. SHW's existing R&D (currently in 140,000 square feet in the crowded Breen Center) space in Cleveland could nearly double in size.

SHW closed its Chicago lab and moved its employees into a former Valspar Applied Science & Technology Center, 1101 South 3rd St., near US Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis. That complex measures more than 170,000 square feet. Some R&D employees may stay in Minneapolis. Some may move to Cleveland when SHW's new, larger R&D facility opens.

Even if all of Minneapolis' R&D staff moves to Cleveland (which is unlikely), that leaves about 1.3 million square feet for SHW's HQ space. For comparison, the 57-story Key Tower is 1.25 million square feet. If SHW decides to stay downtown, it might stick with past plans to build its HQ tower on the Jacobs lot on the west side of Public Square. That lot measures 50,000 square feet, but could be reduced to about 40,000 square feet if Frankfort Avenue and the Public Square sidewalk are widened as part of a plan to build a new super-tall here.

The 1990-planned 63-story Ameritrust Center
tower on the Jacobs lot was to be built on a 12-
story-tall pedestal with 50,000-square-foot floor-
plates (same size as the lot itself), then narrow
significantly among the upper floors (KPF).
The base of Key Tower is only 28,000 square feet. Key, like many tall buildings, tapers inward as it soars higher. Its floorplates average 22,000 square feet. If a new SHW tower's floorplates average close to that, it could be at least 60 stories tall.

Why would SHW consider the suburbs? Again, because SHW wants its HQ and R&D to be close to each other. And since R&D activities for a coatings company involve combustible materials, albeit in small quantities, it might need to be in a location where nearby land uses aren't threatened by an accident.

But right next door to the Jacobs Lot is the largest swath of undeveloped land in the central business district -- Weston Inc.'s Superblock. Currently a five-acre surface parking lot, the Superblock has lots of room and no pending plans for at least half of it. Weston's most recent plan for the Superblock, a multi-building, multi-phase development, has faded away.

The northern half of the Superblock may be in play by Realife Real Estate Group. Through an affiliate 1350 W6 LLC, Realife purchased Stark Enterprises' headquarters, 1350 West 3rd St. Apparently Stark's planned move in a few years to a 24-story office tower in its nuCLEus development isn't soon enough for Reallife. Whatever Reallife has planned for the north half of the Superblock is of a time-sensitive nature -- so much so that Stark will temporarily move by the end of this year to a 28,000-square-foot space at 629 Euclid Avenue.

That still leaves the door wide open for the 2.6-acre southern half of the Superblock -- the portion closest to the Jacobs lot. A 300,000-square-foot R&D facility in two buildings securely separated by 30 feet, each measuring 70 feet wide by 200 feet long (offering floorplates similar to Breen's) and 11 stories tall could front Superior Avenue.

At this location, Superior is a 130-foot-wide right of way with no buildings across the street except for the corner of a hotel ballroom with windowless, concrete walls. Behind the R&D facility could be an 11-level, 3,000-space parking garage for SHW's HQ and R&D workers along Frankfort Avenue, effectively shielding whatever is ultimately built north of Frankfort from the R&D structure.

This view along Canal Road show the proximity of the Breen
Technology Center (far-right) to the Carl B. Stokes Federal
Court House Tower across the street. In the distance is
Sherwin-Williams' headquarters since 1930 -- the
Landmark Office Building (Google).
But the R&D concerns may be overblown in the first place. After all, the federal government doesn't consider SHW's existing R&D facility a structural threat. If it did, it wouldn't have built its 23-story, 430-foot-tall Carl B. Stokes Federal Court House Tower a mere 80 feet from SHW's Breen Technology Center in 2003.

Even if SHW decides against putting an R&D facility in Cleveland's central business district, other sites at the edges of downtown could be in play. One that has been discussed among real estate insiders is Scranton Peninsula. Developers of the 22-acre Thunderbird site have courted SHW, a source said.

There have been references shared in past articles in this blog that SHW's corporate charter requires the company to keep its principal executive offices within one mile of where the company was founded in 1866 -- basically where the Breen Technology Center is today. But a keyword search of corporate governance documents reveals no such requirement.

SHW's articles of incorporation do require "the place where this Company shall be located and its principal business shall be transacted is the City of Cleveland in the County of Cuyahoga and State of Ohio." It appears that amending the articles requires a vote by two-thirds of the company's shareholders.

Outlined in yellow, Sherwin-Williams' 80-acre Warrensville
Heights World Automotive Headquarters and technical center
is only partially developed, offering a potential suburban site
for the corporation's principal executive offices and research
facilities. But it would limit the growth of the Automotive
Finishes Group or force it to relocate as well (Google).
In the end, SHW's consideration of Cleveland's suburbs for its HQ and R&D spaces may have more in common with Swagelok's recent facility search. In 2018, Solon-based Swagelok Co. issued an RFP for a new corporate headquarters and innovation center. While company officials claimed that it would consider building a new home anywhere, few expected Swagelok to leave the city where it was founded in 1965. Sure enough, Swagelok decided to stay put and build a new Solon facility for 400 employees now, and possibly growing to 1,000 in the near future.

SHW's roots go 100 years deeper into Cleveland's soil. To pull them out would be a tremendous blow to the city and to SHW as well. And it wouldn't merely be a public relations stain on SHW.

Executives at Eaton Corp., which relocated its headquarters and 700 jobs from downtown Cleveland to suburban Highland Hills in 2013, are reportedly regretting their move. The reason is Eaton is having a difficult time luring young talent to their sprawling, disconnected office campus. Companies like PNC, NRP Group, BrightEdge, New York Life Insurance and more have moved offices downtown, while others like CrossCountry plans to move its HQ downtown and Progressive Insurance is considering growing its downtown presence.

A departure of SHW to the suburbs may not have a strong chance of occurring, but there is a chance. And it's one that the city and downtown Cleveland cannot afford. On the flipside of that coin is a skyscraper that could become Ohio's tallest and, when combined with an R&D facility, would help fill downtown's largest parking crater with 4,000 jobs and urban vibrancy.

The stakes are monumental.


Sunday, May 19, 2019

Mid-rise housing on Detroit Ave heads west

This seven-story apartment building is proposed to be built at
4005 Detroit Ave. by Adam Hayoun in Cleveland's Ohio City
Housing continues to make its inexorable push westward along Detroit Avenue in Cleveland's Ohio City neighborhood. The latest project is 4005 Detroit, a seven-story apartment building with ground-floor retail. Plans for the project were recently submitted to the city for approval.

Proposing the 36-unit residential development is Hayoun Corp. owner Adam Hayoun whose Ohio City resume includes notable historic renovations like the Belden Seymour House, 3805 Franklin Blvd., and the Masters House, 3811 Franklin Blvd. Hayoun is also the principal at ABC Renovation LLC.

In addition to 11 one-bedroom units and 25 two-bedroom units, the proposed apartment building would feature a leasable, 1,318-square-foot retail space and a 605-square-foot lobby fronting Detroit Avenue. It would also have 44 parking spaces on two levels, accessible from Wheat Court, an alley behind the property.

The proposed building is designed to have small frontage on
Detroit Avenue with the structure widening to the south along
the Wheat Court alley (LDA).
Under the corporate name 4007 Detroit, LLC, Hayoun bought the two-parcel, 0.258-acre property for $155,000 in 2016 from David Steinberg, doing business as 4005 Detroit LLC, county records show. The property is located at the western edge of an Opportunity Zone, making it eligible for OZ program equity. A decaying, vacant, 5,602-square-foot warehouse built in 1920 on the site is due to be demolished.

The site is located at the only curve in Detroit Avenue between West 25th and the Cudell neighborhood. It is next to offices for Progressive Urban Real Estate, Blain's Folding Service and Cleveland Bagel.

4005 Detroit Avenue would tower over its one-story neighbors,
but probably not for long. Developers continue to acquire more
properties along the Detroit corridor (LDA).
And while, many real estate insiders have speculated that the spread of high-density housing on Detroit Avenue overlooking Whiskey Island would ultimately force out the growing manufacturing presence of the Kowalski Heat Treating Co., this project shows it would leapfrog it instead. Ironically, 4005 Detroit designer LDA Architects Inc. planned the six-story The Edge apartment building just east of Kowalski.

The project fits in with the citywide 2020 development masterplan's proposed use for this site, which is mixed use/residential. The zoning code allows a 60-foot-tall building to be built here; this building would be 81 feet tall. The gross floor area and minimum setbacks also would require variances from the Board of Zoning Appeals. The building's maximum gross floor area of 49,785 square feet exceeds the 11,237 square feet allowed under the zoning code.

This is the rear of the 4005 and 4007 Detroit Avenue properties
along the Wheat Court alley, as seen in 2016 (Google).
Also, the minimum rear yard setback along the Wheat Court alley is 32 feet, six inches. As proposed, the building has zero setback for the garage and eight feet for the residential part of the structure, according to documents submitted by Hayoun and LDA Architects Inc. to the City Planning Commission.


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Gordon Park lakefront housing - the sequel

Conceptual renderings show the Shoreline Phase II at East 55th
Street and Interstate 90 would offer views of Lake Erie from
seven sides of its northern frontage. But the building would be
too short to see the downtown Cleveland skyline over its five-
story Phase I next-door neighbor to the west (Vocon).
The Gordon Park area on the East Side isn't to be confused with the Gordon Square area on the West Side. Gordon Square is a populous, fast-growing, historic neighborhood. But the lakefront lands along and near Gordon Park could soon add "fast-growing" to its descriptions too, as first reported in a February NEOtrans article.

Now, there's more happening -- a 212-unit, five-story apartment building called The Shoreline Phase II is proposed to be built at 5455 North Marginal Road, according to documents filed with the Cleveland Planning Commission. The four-acre site is on the northwest quadrant of the Interstate 90-East 55th Street interchange. It is located next to the 167-unit The Shoreline apartment building, currently the only housing in the Gordon Park area.

The four-acre patch of grass outlined in red shows the proposed
location of an investor partnership's planned, 212-unit apart-
ment building, just east of downtown Cleveland (Vocon).
The Shoreline Phase II represents an investment of approximately $30 million by a group of investors led by the property's owner Quay 55 East Limited Partnership. An exact investment amount isn't yet known. Mark Coffin, whose name is listed prominently on public records associated with the property and the partnership, has yet to return a phone call seeking more information.

Coffin's firm developed The Shoreline on six acres next door in 2002, back when it was called Quay 55 and had only 138 apartments. This five-story apartment building was originally the four-story Nicholson Terminal building, once a warehouse that received new cars from Detroit by ship. But Coffin defaulted on a $20 million U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-guaranteed loan.

The five-story Shoreline Phase II western face, as it would
appear to the existing residents of The Shoreline Phase I,
from across an expanded parking lot (Vocon).
The property went through several owners until 2017 when Landmark Lakeshore LLC bought Quay 55, renamed it The Shoreline, and got approval to add 29 apartments to the property by converting indoor parking spaces to housing. That 2018 development represented a new spark of developer interest in the area, fueled by the quick leasing of the added units.

The partnership's 144,016-square-foot second phase includes 160 one-bedroom apartments, 32 studio apartments, and 20 two-bedroom apartments, as well as a new pool and poolhouse to be shared with The Shoreline Phase I. Phase II will add 322 outdoor surface parking spaces and 95 indoor spaces. In Phase I are 63 indoor and 67 outdoor parking spaces. Total parking is proposed to be 561 spaces, planning documents show.

Site plan and parking plan for The Shoreline Phase II shows
the location of a total of 561 existing and planned parking
spaces, as well as the location of the new pool and a new
poolhouse for residents of both phases (Vocon).
It is the second large housing development to be planned within walking distance of Gordon Park this year.

On Feb. 15, B.R. Knez Construction, Inc., DBA Knez Homes, presented conceptual plans to the City Planning Commission to get its feedback before proceeding with more detailed designs for a mixed-use development.

Commission members urged Bo Knez, president and CEO of Knez Homes, to reduce the density of his proposed plan and improve connectivity with "nearby amenities," according to planning staff feedback. The site is at 5700 South Marginal Rd. with two parcels of city-owned land totaling 3.9 acres. In urban development, that is a large canvas.

Knez's concept for a mixed-use development at Interstate 90
and East 55th were not warmly received by the City Planning
Commission which urged Knez to reduce the proposed density
and improve connectivity with nearby amenities (RSA).
On it, Knez says he plans 50-60 townhomes, 90-100 apartments and 8,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space on the Shoreway side for retail, restaurants or offices. Townhouses would be above the commercial spaces, he said in a phone interview.

Knez, who is a very active developer in Greater Cleveland and especially in the urban core, was born in Slovenia and raised in the East 55th-St. Clair Avenue neighborhood. He said he has wanted to develop near his old neighborhood for some time but the market wasn't right. Now, the market for housing in the Gordon Park area is obviously improving.


Saturday, May 4, 2019

Old CPD station? New CPD station

Cleveland's historic Central Police Station on Payne Avenue
may become the site of a large, new police headquarters and
storage facility. (Google) CLICK TO ENLARGE IMAGES
Trying to repurpose an existing building in or near downtown Cleveland for the city's new police headquarters was a well-intentioned exercise with a cost-saving goal. Despite it not being fulfilled, the effort may still have a happy ending. The reason is the police department may go back to its old home.

After rejecting two existing buildings downtown, city officials are reportedly interested in locating the new Cleveland Police Department headquarters at the site of the 1937-built Central Police Station, 2001 Payne Ave., according to source who could not speak publicly about the project because he was not authorized to do so.

The new CPD HQ will be a substantial structure, combining about 500,000 square feet of new and renovated offices, storage and parking. No construction cost estimates are available for the now-favored site, but they are likely to be far higher than the $60 million the city figured it would need to buy and modify the ex-Plain Dealer building nearby before that deal died last fall.

The historic Central Police Station was CPD's HQ until 1977 when the department relocated to the Justice Center, 1300 Ontario St. But the old HQ measures about 90,000 square feet -- only half of the 180,000 square feet that CPD needs just for its administrative and operations offices in its new HQ.

Furthermore, the old Central Police Station is being actively used by the Cleveland Police Athletic League and offices for the CPD's Bureau of Community Policing which includes the Neighborhood Watch Program, Auxiliary Police, Citizen's Police Academy and more. Those and other uses may continue to occupy a substantial part of the old police station.

So officials are looking at renovating the old five-story Central Police Station and, behind it, constructing a new office building of about 120,000 to 150,000 square feet. To benefit from outdoor light and to reduce heating, cooling and lightning expenses, open floors with floorplates no more than 30,000 square feet are optimal. That could mean a four- or five-story new-build office building.

Yet that is only part of the picture when it comes to estimating the size of the new CPD HQ. The largest part of the new HQ is the parking and storage -- secure parking for employees and storage/supply of police vehicles, plus public parking. The police garage also requires office space for supportive services. The garage and supportive offices for police vehicles doesn't need to be next to the HQ, but the city considered it desirable.

The now-favored site for the Cleveland
Police Department headquarters, parking
and storage facilities, which could spread
out onto adjacent city lots (Google/KJP).
If all of the uses were stacked in a structure with 30,000-square-foot floorplates, it would be more than 16 stories tall. In reality, the public parking might be split off in a city-owned parking lot on the west side of East 19th Street. That would allow secure employee parking and police vehicle storage and servicing to be in a multi-level garage next to or below a new, consolidated CPD HQ-storage facility.

The city issued a request for proposals (RFP) in early 2017, hoping that owners of downtown buildings would jump at the chance to land a huge tenant like the CPD. But none could meet the city's requirements, including:

  • The CPD HQ and police storage/garage facilities should be located east of the Cuyahoga River, west of East 55th Street and north of I-490;
  • 180,000 square feet of office space for HQ operations;
  • 115,000 square feet of space for storage, garage and supportive offices;
  • Secure parking for 400 passenger cars separate from public parking (equal to a 160,000-square-foot parking garage);
  • Private elevators and secured stairwells if multiple floors in a shared building;
  • Ability to separate staff from the public portions of the operations;
  • Ability to install high-technology and work in an efficient, high-quality, healthy environment;
  • Occupancy by Dec. 31, 2017 or March 31, 2018 at the latest.

The city's preferences were to find leased space for up to 20 years in an existing or new building near the municipal and county courts as well as the city's Emergency Operations Center at the Justice Center. It preferred lots of public parking, flexible office floor plans, plus back-up communications, power, water and heating systems.

CPD's current home is the eight-floor portion of the Justice
Center on Ontario Street. The city wants out of the aging site
and the county wants to consolidate its offices from nearby
buildings into a single, county-owned structure (Google).
None of those could be found in an existing structure or structures. If the city had begun its search 20 years or even 10 years ago, they might have been able to find a suitable building. Not now. To quote Ian Hunter, "All of the good ones are taken."

And that doesn't even take into account Department of Homeland Security regulations which affect the design of law enforcement facilities, especially the principal offices, employee parking and storage facilities for a major city's police force.

Indeed, those regulations were apparently what doomed the city's signing of a purchase agreement with developer Fred Geis' GLP Superior LTD that owns the former Plain Dealer building, 1801 Superior Ave. It is located a few hundred feet north of the site the city is favoring now.

Homeland Security regulations reportedly prohibit a police station sharing a building with tenants who are not subject to security screening, or possibly even taking over a building whose former tenants didn't screen its visitors. The ex-Plain Dealer building is home to the YMCA of Greater Cleveland, the Council of Economic Opportunities for Greater Cleveland, as well as

The possibility that Homeland Security regulations doomed the ex-Plain Dealer site was buoyed by the fact that city officials refused to discuss the reasons why the city suddenly backed out of the purchase deal without any prior notice. The city planned to invest $60 million to buy, renovate and modify the ex-Plain Dealer property.

So, between the lack of existing downtown structures with enough suitable space and the complications associated with Homeland Security regulations, the city basically has no choice but to build a new or mostly-new CPD HQ.

Fortunately, the city may already have most of the money it needs to afford a new-build, consolidated CPD HQ-storage facility. Consider that the city received $9.25 million from the sale of its old police HQ. It will also save $5.1 million per year by closing the downtown municipal jail and paying the county to house its prisoners.

That $9.25 million can be part of the down payment for financing a CPD HQ-storage facility, with annual payments of $5 million over 20 years, which is what the city is willing to do, per its RFP (noted above).

At least the city has found a site where it can use an already existing, city-owned building -- a former police station, no less -- and city-owned parking lots to develop its police station of the future. And considering that most of the nearby buildings are pretty short, the new CPD HQ could have a commanding presence on the eastern edge of Cleveland's central business district.


Friday, May 3, 2019

University Circle's trio of 11-story developments

Infinium is a 327,000-square-foot development proposed to be
built by The Finch Group on the old Cleveland East site of the
Centers for Dialysis Care, 11717 Euclid Ave. (RDL).
Three developments featuring 11-story residential buildings are planned to rise in the coming months in Cleveland's University Circle.

The Finch Group is proposing to build a mixed-use project called Infinium on the soon-to-be-vacated site of the Cleveland-East facility for the Centers for Dialysis Care (CDC), 11717 Euclid Ave., according to two sources.

Infinium could rise 11 stories, with the top floor being the second level of a two-story penthouse offering westward views toward downtown Cleveland. The apartment building is proposed to include 133 mixed-income units, many with corner balconies, above a glassy, two-story retail and restaurant atrium facing out toward Euclid Avenue. The mixed-income units suggests that Opportunity Zone equity will be tapped. An outdoor swimming pool is planned on the roof of the retail atrium, according to a project description by RDL Architects.

Along East 117th and 118th streets, 32 townhouses are proposed, concealing an interior parking garage. All told, 165 residences are planned in the tower and among the townhouses. Total square footage of the Uptown-area development is estimated at 327,000 square feet.

Two-acre sites are difficult to come by in densely developed
University Circle. So when the relocation of the Centers for
Dialysis Care became likely, University Circle Inc. sought to
have the vacated site redeveloped with uses that could further
support economic development in the Uptown area (Google).
To make way for the development, CDC is moving its Cleveland-East location into a new, two-story, 48,000-square-foot, $15.5 million facility at the corner of Carnegie Avenue and Stokes Boulevard. It is one of 18 such CDC locations in Greater Cleveland. Construction of the new CDC facility is done, allowing for demolition of the old site.

The old CDC property, totaling 1.9 acres, was acquired by University Circle Inc. (UCI) in 2017 for $3.075 million, according to Cuyahoga County records. A UCI source said the community development corporation anticipates retaining ownership of the property for the foreseeable future. Finch will develop the UCI-owned property.

The same source also said that this project doesn't preclude another development planned by the Finch Group -- Park Lane Condominiums, 10570 Park Lane. Here, Finch plans a skinny condo building with only 18 condos in an 11-story building that carries an estimated price tag of $20 million.

Finch Group's proposed 11-story Park Lane Condominiums,
as seen from the new Nord Family Greenway (Finch).
The tiny site is next to Park Lane Villa, an historic residential hotel Finch renovated as luxury apartments more than a decade ago. Park Lane forms the south side of the $20 million Nord Family Greenway that was completed in 2018.

Finch's Park Lane Condominiums would provide for-sale units on top of a parking garage entrance, between the villa and the 11-story Judson Manor, just north of the massive Circle Square development that's getting under way.

Library Lofts apartments is the second phase of the four-block
Circle Square development. Renovation of the Fenway Manor
apartments at right is first phase. Both are the first steps in the
overall $300 million Circle Square development (MDP).
Orlean Co.'s $16 million renovation of the 13-story, 144-unit Fenway Manor apartments represents the first phase of the Circle Square development. But an 11-story apartment building called Library Lofts would be the first new-construction element of the four-block plan first announced in 2015 by lead developer Midwest Development Partners.

The many new-construction elements of the Circle Square development require significant public sector coordination and sequencing. That includes acquiring and demolishing the old Third District Police Station on Chester Avenue as well as accommodating the relocation of the city's MLK Branch Library into a new home in the development. The old library will be demolished and the site developed with new uses, per the Circle Square vision.

A new Cleveland MLK Branch Library is proposed to be on
the ground floor of the planned Library Lofts, commanding
a street presence on busy Euclid Avenue (SO-IL+Kurtz).
Although it will be built above and next to the new library, the proposed Library Lofts apartment building is being reviewed by the City Planning Commission as a separate project. If approved in the coming weeks, final design will commence soon thereafter and construction could start by year's end.

The Circle Square development, originally called University Circle City Center (dubbed UC3), offers to create a new downtown for Ohio's fourth-largest employment district. Its planned mid-rise buildings, ground-floor retail and civic uses such as the new library are planned to complement the 2018-built, 20-story One University Circle apartment tower and Cleveland Clinic's 1984-built, 16-story W.O. Walker Center -- both across Euclid Avenue from Circle Square.

By the way, readers may ask: Why are 11-story buildings so common in Cleveland? Because in many areas of the city 115 feet (or 11 stories) is the maximum height that a building can be built without having to request a variance from the city's Board of Zoning Appeals. Hopefully, three more 11-story buildings will rise soon in University Circle.


Thursday, May 2, 2019

Hundreds of apartments planned for Flats' Scranton Peninsula

In what could soon be a similar view on Cleveland's Scranton
Peninsula, NRP Group's Edge 1909 in Pittsburgh's Strip District
has a great view of the Allegheny River, just east of downtown
Sometimes you just never know when the right ingredients will come together to turn what should be a hot development site into a hot development site. Consider Scranton Peninsula -- a post-industrial setting just 1,500 feet as the crow flies from downtown Cleveland's Public Square.

For four decades, not only was the 80-acre Scranton Peninsula a post-industrial scene, it looked like a post-apocalyptic scene with rubble and artifacts left from hosting Republic Steel's massive Bolt & Nut Division, Northern Ohio Lumber Co. and other industrial pillars, some of which date to the early 1800s. Those tenants of Cleveland's hardscrabble past have given way to softwood trees, fescue and other Rust Belt flora among piles of fill dirt, concrete foundations and rusted docks.

Soon, they will give way to Cleveland's future -- a mix of local entrepreneurial and national chain light-industrial, office and retail uses, rental and for-sale housing, plus recreational edges to the lazily flowing waters of the cleaned-up Cuyahoga River. Those are the promised pieces of a 22-acre development called Thunderbird.

One of the biggest new uses to come to Scranton Peninsula appears to be Cleveland-based NRP Group who, according to two sources, has a contract to buy the 7.44 acre Lot A of the Thunderbird development. On it, NRP Group reportedly plans to build about 325 apartments in several buildings about five to six stories tall.

While Clevelanders and Pittsburgers might not want to admit
to it, their cities have a lot in common. One comparison is they
both have navigable rivers that attract real estate development.
Cleveland's Scranton Peninsula could soon offer downtown
and river views like this one, offered by Edge 1909 in the
Steel City's Strip District (NRP).
According to one of the two sources, the development's closest peer project is NRP Group's $60 million Edge 1909 in Pittsburgh's Strip District, 1909 Waterfront Place. That development, which opened in the summer of 2018, has 364 units in several five-story buildings along the Allegheny River. NRP is planning another 443 apartments there by 2021.

As in Pittsburgh, NRP Group may not be the only participant in the Scranton Peninsula development. The actual developer in Pittsburgh is the Buncher Co., which envisions an ambitious Riverfront Landing office and residential development. Edge 1909 is merely a part of that.

Thunderbird is the first comprehensive effort to develop Scranton
Peninsula in more than a century. The extent of vacant land, access
to navigable waterways and proximity to downtown Cleveland and
Ohio City makes this akin to SIM City development (CBRE).
So could it be on Scranton Peninsula. Thunderbird -- a partnership of Fred Geis, East-West Alliance, and J Roc Development -- is an equally ambitious masterplan, maybe more so because the land area is larger and mostly a blank slate. And unlike Pittsburgh's Strip District which has a navigable waterway on only one side, Scranton Peninsula is nearly surrounded by water.

An e-mail to Taylor Brown, president of NRP Construction LLC, seeking additional information for this article was not returned by the close of business May 2. NRP Group, one of the nation's largest apartment developers, recently built The Edison At Gordon Square, whose 306 units quickly leased out. Buoyed by that success, NRP is planning a 323-unit phase 2 across Breakwater Avenue.

After that project, NRP officials reportedly considered developing one of several sites on Cleveland's near-West Side. But those were too close to The Edison and might have put NRP in competition with itself for residents. Scranton Peninsula was considered a unique setting for NRP's housing products in Cleveland.

But the first developments on Scranton Peninsula are planned to be on its perimeter and will likely be underway soon. Right out of the gate will be Civic Builders' Carter Road Townhomes, just east of Columbus Road and across the street from the new Centennial Lake Link Trail. This is at the south end of Scranton Peninsula. Starting this summer, construction will begin on 12 single-family homes with unobstructed views of the river and downtown Cleveland.

Civic Builders' Carter Road Townhomes will be the first new
construction on Scranton Peninsula, albeit on its far southern
perimeter, starting this summer (Horton Harper).
At the north end of Scranton Peninsula will be a repurposed, vacant industrial building at 1970 Carter with offices, called The Avian at Thunderbird. This 20,000-square-foot, two-story building (that can be expanded with a new, 7,000-square-foot third floor) is nothing to look at right now. But developers say the open-floor building is structurally sound and can be reactivated for office use with relatively little investment.

It's a welcome change after decades of inaction, as Forest City Enterprises previously owned the land now part of the Thunderbird development. Forest City, a publicly traded company, apparently could not earn enough of a return from developing Scranton Peninsula to satisfy many of its Wall Street shareholders. So the land sat fallow. On the other hand, Forest City never had the opportunity to tap into Opportunity Zone equity as the backers of the Thunderbird development are reportedly pursuing.

Most of the land on Scranton Peninsula remains under the ownership of Scranton-Averell Inc. This company and its predecessors have owned land here for 200 years. While Scranton-Averell is not pursuing a redevelopment of its 55 acres of peninsula land, it is supportive of the Thunderbird consortium and agreed to have its properties shown in conceptual massings, designed similar to the Thunderbird portion.

These 19th-century storage buildings were approved for
demolition by the city, erasing more of Scranton Peninsula's
industrial past (Google)
Two historic buildings on Scranton-Averell's land were approved for demolition last fall by the city. The brick and wood-beam warehouses stood at 1920-1944 Scranton Road. Their earliest structures were built in 1884 and expanded three times by the Cleveland Storage Company to serve the storage and transshipment needs of the rapidly industrializing Flats area.

An 1884 advertisement stated, “We call your attention to the advantages offered by our warehouse ... especially to that large class of merchants to whom it is an advantage to have a stock of goods in this city from which to supply all small orders in broken lots, or for quick delivery to any desired point. We are prepared to receive pig iron, iron ore, copper, lumber, dry goods, canned goods, household goods.” The warehouse also had a large cold storage capacity for storing fruit, butter, eggs, and other perishable goods, according to documents compiled by the Ohio Department of Transportation from the Cleveland City Directory and the Historic American Engineering Record.

Signs for Civic Builders' Carter Road townhomes went up in
March at the south end of Scranton Peninsula (KJP).
Last but not least, in March 2018, Carter Inland LLC, an affiliate of the Great Lakes Brewing Co., acquired 8 acres (with an option for two more) of Thunderbird property to enable an expansion of the company's production and canning capabilities. The facility may also include a tasting room, open to the public. GLBC's existing brewery and restaurant, in Ohio City's Market District, cannot easily expand without demolishing buildings in the designated historic district. No formal plans for the Scranton Peninsula facility have been submitted to the city yet, but that could change in a matter of weeks or months.

Suffice it to say, Scranton Peninsula is going to start looking very different very soon. It will take time for the largely vacant expanse to regain productive use, simply because there is so much vacant land to reactivate. But the first steps on that thousand-mile journey are already being made.