Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Sale of Midtown development site on Euclid OK'd by GCRTA

An affiliate of the Cleveland Foundation will acquire the vacant
land at right, following a vote today by the Greater Cleveland
Regional Transit Authority's Board of Trustees to sell it. The
land is on the south side on Euclid Avenue, just east of East
55th Street. This view is from September 2018 (Google).
Historically, the area around Penn Square/East 55th Street was one of two "mini-downtowns" along Euclid Avenue east of the city's central business district. Doans Corners/East 105th Street was the other, dubbed Cleveland's Other Downtown.

But as Midtown, its busy streetcar lines and Pennsylvania Railroad station faded away as America built Interstate highways and suburbs, Penn Square's many residential hotels, theaters, stores and restaurants faded away too. The suburban flight was the era of America's Fourth Migration.

In response to the Fifth Migration, Midtown Cleveland Inc., the Cleveland Foundation and the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) would like to accommodate the return of Americans young and old to urban centers like Cleveland.

To that end, the GCRTA's Board of Trustees today approved selling property in Cleveland's Midtown neighborhood to an affiliate of the Cleveland Foundation for future development. The sale amount is $550,000.

The 2.38 acres of land located at 5508-5510 Euclid Ave. was acquired by GCRTA in 2005 and demolished several underutilized buildings to use the site as a construction staging area for the HealthLine bus rapid transit corridor. The $200 million HealthLine opened in 2008, linking downtown, University Circle and East Cleveland. The staging area has sat unused since.
Forty years ago, mostly empty shells were all that was left
from Penn Square's vibrant century from the mid-1800s to
the mid-1900s when it was a mini-downtown. Now only
two buildings from this view looking east from the rail-
 road overpass are still standing, including those at right
which stood on the property GCRTA agreed to sell to-
day to the Cleveland Foundation to redevelop (TPH).
Under Federal Transit Administration (FTA) regulations, transit agencies are required to dispose of any surplus properties. However, the FTA also encourages joint development opportunities to create jobs and promote new sources of ridership. GCRTA put the former staging area up for sale in 2017.

GCRTA is seeking to promote transit-oriented developments that put more ridership generators along high-frequency transit routes like the HealthLine -- or the Red Line rail rapid transit where GCRTA today approved a joint development in Ohio City. By making jobs and housing more proximate and transit-accessible, it will help address the city's high poverty rate.

“As part of our collaborative vision to create a new civic district in Midtown that connects downtown with University Circle, our board of directors approved strategic land acquisition to help steward thoughtful, inclusive development in the short- and long-term that will benefit our community,” said a Cleveland Foundation spokesperson.

The Cleveland Foundation plans to relocate its headquarters from the Hanna Building in downtown to alongside the Dunham Tavern. The foundation acquired property in December for a three-story, 50,500-square-foot headquarters building on the northeast corner of of Euclid and East 66th. On the northwest corner, the foundation proposes a future Center For Innovation measuring 100,000 square feet.

From GCRTA, the foundation's affiliate Civic Property Development LLC will acquire seven parcels on the south side of Euclid and east of East 55th and the Norfolk Southern Corp. railroad overpass. The foundation also planned to contribute $50,000 to aid in the planning of a transit oriented development (TOD) project or projects on the site.
This is a conceptual masterplan of the Penn Square area of Cleve-
land's Midtown. GCRTA's property is outlined in blue (Pennrose).
However, the discovery of old building foundations and a storage tank that must be removed prior to redevelopment forced the Cleveland Foundation to reduce that contribution to $20,000, according to a source. That source also said the foundation will pursue a joint real estate development with a qualified developer to build a mixed use project of housing and commercial spaces.

In recent months, Midtown Cleveland, through its real estate arm Lassi Enterprises LLC, has been acquiring, clearing and assembling properties to make them ready for future development, said Jeff Epstein, Midtown's executive director.

Pennrose Properties, LLC, Berusch Development Partners, LLC and others are also acquiring properties in the vicinity of East 55th Street, between Euclid and Carnegie avenues. The goal is to restore density to this once vibrant urban node, said developer Russell Berusch in a recent interview.

The Euclid-East 55th area was called Penn Square for more than 100 years because the main Cleveland railroad passenger station for the Pennsylvania Railroad was located here. At this station, travelers could board and alight two dozen daily passenger trains to/from places as far west as St. Louis and as far east as New York City.

Two busy streetcar lines also crossed here, carrying as many riders as all of Northeast Ohio's transit agencies combined do today. The mix of those transportation modes and mixed-use density gave the immediate neighborhood the activity level of a 24-hour, satellite downtown.


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