Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Pandemic, family, tech, cost draw new residents to Greater Cleveland

Something good often comes out of something bad, and it
looks like the global pandemic is causing many to reconsider
where they're living and working. Some of who left Cleve-
land are becoming boomerangs, returning to live closer to
family while working remotely or looking for new jobs
while also reducing their costs of living (Reddit).
License plate watchers in Greater Cleveland are having fun this summer checking out all of the out-of-state plates on the metro area's roads. And there's lots of out-of-state plates to see -- from New York, New Jersey, Illinois, California, plus other states, as well as the usual ones from neighboring Michigan and Pennsylvania.

But are the cars and their occupants visiting on summer vacation or are they moving here? While some are likely visiting, those in the real estate business say that their seeing lots of new arrivals buying houses and renting apartments.

And it turns out that the coronavirus pandemic is a major factor in the relocations as is the cost of living and the local amenities. Since lots of people are having to work from home during the pandemic, some are asking why they should remain in more expensive cities when they can live and work anywhere -- especially in low-cost Cleveland.

"There's definitely more people moving in from out of town here," said Emmanuel (Mike) Skantzos, a realtor at Howard Hanna's Rocky River office. "It's cheaper here and people are working from home."

In the last couple of weeks, he said he sold a new townhouse in Lakewood to a man from San Diego who had family here. The buyer moved to be closer to his family, to save money and because he was concerned about the virus in California. Skantzos also helped a woman from Chicago find a house in on Cleveland's West Side. She was offered a position in Cleveland and took it in part because the cost of living is less here.
Greater Cleveland's recreational opportunities and new urban
housing offerings costing well below those of coastal cities is
enticing to many people who left the metro area years, if not
decades ago and are returning (CSU).
On the other side of town in South Euclid, city Housing Coordinator Stephen Karr said he's noticed an uptick in out-of-towners locating here since he started working in that job 3.5 years ago.

"The first two years, I didn't see any people moving in from out of state, even though it's something I always look for," Karr said. "Last year there were a couple, but already this year there's been more, including two I saw just in the last week or so."

However, he acknowledged that he's not seeing the full picture due to how the city collects housing data. The city has a point-of-sale inspection only when unoccupied homes that were not previously owner-occupied are sold. Most of those are typically former rentals and foreclosures.

Even then, the only way the city learns where the new occupants are coming from is when they assume the responsibility of making the required repairs after the title transfer, he said. If the seller makes all the repairs, the city doesn't require any data about the buyer including from where they are moving.

"If I'm seeing the trend now for these houses, my assumption is that there must be more for the more typical transactions without our involvement," Karr added. "For the rentals, we don't ask any information about the tenants other than names and a contact number. A few landlords mentioned tenants moving in from out of state though when they were inquiring about inspections."
It's too soon to know if the number of out-of-state people
arriving in Greater Cleveland is a splash or a wave, if the
new arrivals will live here long-term, and how it might
impact the local economy going forward (KJP).
There is some hard data that more people are on the move and the pandemic is the reason, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center. The report says that 3 percent of Americans have changed their residence because of the pandemic.

Their residential destination is typically influenced by where family members live. Some are moving in with family members until they find can find their own place. Some moved because they lost their job or can work remotely.

Fewer people in Greater Cleveland are putting their homes up for sale. In fact, Greater Cleveland ranked second behind Providence, RI among U.S. metro areas in having the biggest decline in housing inventories listed for sale. The Cleveland area's for-sale inventory in June 2020 fell 41.5 percent compared to June 2019, causing prices to rise 8 percent year-over-year.

Another batch of data comes from the U.S. Department of Labor. In their latest report on Greater Cleveland's employment, it noted that the metro area's June workforce was at its highest level in a decade -- since June 2010.

Greater Cleveland's workforce size is seasonally cyclical, growing to its largest levels in the summer months and shrinking in the winter months. So, in order to gain some context, data from one month needs to be compared to the same month in prior years.

It is also possible that Greater Cleveland could see an increase in population without an increase in jobs, since some people could be working a job in New York City through a computer located in an apartment or house in Cleveland. It will take more time to evaluate the extent of these phenomena.
Finding a house to buy in Greater Cleveland is getting more
difficult as fewer homeowners list them for sale, causing homes
to stay on the market for less time and sale amounts to rise (KJP).
That long-distance work situation may be the future for the daughter of Cleveland-based attorney Eugene Kratus. He said she works in the fashion industry in New York City. She's working remotely and no longer has to keep her expensive home in Brooklyn -- not when she can get a much nicer home for less money in Greater Cleveland.

She considered moving to Atlanta or Charlotte, but the cost of living and family is drawing her here. So as long as she can fly to New York several times a month for work and her husband can find a job in finance in Cleveland, they will relocate here. She is one of many recent or potential Cleveland "boomerangs."

Another is Melissa Love-Ghaffari who lived with her doctor husband Sam and their three children in the outer perimeter of Atlanta. But after five years of living there, they tired of Atlanta's traffic, heat and expensive housing nearer to the city.

"The most affordable/reasonable housing is usually about 25 miles away from downtown," she said. "Once you’ve moved that far away, you’ve really minimized urban activities unless you enjoy the constant traffic. I’ve lived all over the country and driven in LA. Atlanta’s traffic is by far the worst, due mostly to the terrible drivers."

Since they still had family in Greater Cleveland, they decided to investigate returning here. Although they dislike the segregated metro area, they liked Cleveland's Midwest hospitality, being next to a Great Lake, its music and art scene, its educational opportunities and its world-renowned hospitals. And yes, she and her family like snow.

"People play outside!" Love-Ghaffari said. "My children were literally shocked to see kids out riding their bicycles and walking around town without parents hovering over them. I want to be active outside. I missed being by a huge body of water. And, yes, I missed the snow! I was in such a hurry to get out (of Cleveland) when I was younger but truly came to appreciate all the things most of us take for granted in this town."


Sunday, July 26, 2020

Sherwin-Williams HQ could offer two large buildings

Survey crews ripped open a parking lot at the
northeast corner of West Superior Avenue and
West 6th Street in downtown Cleveland, appar-
ently to locate utilities and gather soil samples
in preparation for the construction of  Sherwin-
Williams' new headquarters (Ian Meadows).
In the absence of renderings or other official news from Sherwin-Williams (SHW), Greater Clevelanders anxiously await the next little tidbit about their planned new downtown headquarters and suburban research facilities.

That little tidbit arrived in the past week, albeit not in a verbal or written form. Instead, it came from crews digging in a part of the downtown HQ site on the northeast corner of West 6th Street and West Superior Avenue. But the work wasn't for construction -- at least not yet.

The crews peeled back the asphalt at that corner to get at the soil underneath -- soil that hasn't seen the light of day since the 1830s when a small brick building was built here. It was occupied by numerous tenants over the years including the Cleveland National Bank, Hoty's Restaurant and lastly a Money Mart check-cashing business.

It and a three-level parking deck wrapping around it were razed nearly a decade ago by Forest City Enterprises for a future development to be built atop a planned West Side Transit Center that never happened. A parking lot replaced the parking deck and the heavily modified 1830s commercial building that was collapsed into its basement.

With the soil now exposed, it has led to speculation as to why. Some on social media wondered if the HQ construction was starting, possibly for a parking deck to ease the impact on downtown parking. Construction on SHW's nearly 7-acre HQ site will eliminate 1,100 parking spaces until a new parking deck with several thousand spaces is built alongside the HQ a couple of years from now.
The survey work being done is on only a small part of the over-
all site for Sherwin-Williams' future headquarters complex that
measures nearly 7 acres. The design of that complex still isn't
known but the survey work may offer clues (Ian Meadows).
But a search of city records reveals no building permits were issued or even sought for this property. Thus, the site work is likely exploratory and analysis-driven -- an educated guess shared by several real estate experts, most of whom were not willing to go on the record.

"It looks to me that they are doing exploratory ground work for better geotechnical (information) and/or where utilities might appear on civil drawings to verify," said a real estate developer who spoke off the record.

Those same experts said the nature of the soil evaluation work, as shown in photographs shared here, suggests that something more significant than just a parking deck is being considered for this part of the HQ site. That belief was shared by Zak Baris, president of Comprehensive Zoning Services LLC.

"It's not going to be a parking garage," Baris said. "I'm willing to bet it's going to be bigger than a mid-rise building here. To me, that means something up to 20 stories or even taller. The type of soil testing points to that. They (SHW) are doing two big buildings and that is probably the other building."

Comprehensive Zoning Services has undertaken a dozen large environmental and due-dilligence projects in and near downtown Cleveland in the last few years, Baris added.
This is an early massing for Sherwin-Williams' headquarters
site, showing the potential scale of office, parking and other
structures and their possible placement on the site. This week's
survey work suggests that one of the larger buildings may be
built on the far right side of the site. But the tallest building
will almost certainly be located as it is shown here -- next to
Public Square on land known as the Jacobs Lot (WKYC).
More details are slowly becoming available about the scale and cost of SHW's HQ project. SHW's main HQ building, possibly rising to be one of the city's tallest skyscrapers, will likely be built on the so-called Jacobs Lot on Public Square.

Thirty years ago, Westlake-based Jacobs Group proposed to build the 63-story, 1,200-foot-tall Ameritrust Center before Ameritrust merged with Society Bank and Society merged with Key Bank. The bank offices were combined into Key Tower -- Cleveland's tallest skyscraper at 57 stories and 948 feet.

And shortly before SHW acquired rival Valspar Corp. of Minneapolis in 2016, SHW pursued an HQ tower on the Jacobs Lot. NEOtrans began reporting on SHW's current HQ effort nearly a full year before SHW made it official. Jacobs' and SHW's efforts generated much geotechnical data about soil conditions and bedrock depths on that 1.17-acre site on Public Square.

Less is known about the rest of the SHW HQ site, comprised of the 5.63-ace formerly Weston-owned Superblock that SHW acquired earlier this year. The Superblock is bounded by Superior, West 6th, St. Clair Avenue and West 3rd Street. So contractors and subcontractors on behalf of SHW began descending on the Superblock beginning in November 2019 to gather sub-surface data.

So if SHW's 1-million-square-foot HQ skyscraper, rivaling the height of 200 Public Square (former BP Building) and possibly Terminal Tower, is built on the former Jacobs Lot, what might be in the cards for the northeast corner of Superior and West 6th?
Starting last November, geotechnical survey crews began
working throughout the Superblock in downtown's Ware-
house District, gathering soil and groundwater samples
for analysis. The information was used to help architects
and civil engineers design Sherwin-Williams' new head-
quarters' structures and their foundations (KJP). 
"There could be a hotel mixed in there," Baris speculated. "It makes no sense that there wouldn't be a hotel in this HQ project. You can control who can come to your hotel if you build it as part of your headquarters."

SHW needs significant hotel space -- and for it to be available when SHW needs it. The reason is SHW will reportedly consolidate into downtown Cleveland the training of employees from SHW offices, laboratories and stores located around the world. Employee training will be for vice presidents, salespeople, information technology, human resources and other on-the-job development.

Right now, much of that training is done in rented offices and classroom spaces at Baldwin-Wallace University in Berea and Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland's University Circle area, according to sources familiar with the headquarters programming work.

According to data acquired by NEOtrans, the number of people visiting SHW's seminars and three-day-long training classes would fill more than 100 hotel rooms every weeknight for an entire year. And that number will grow as SHW grows. That doesn't include contractors and suppliers in town to do business with SHW's HQ staff.

The site where crews are turning dirt is across West 6th from the Rockefeller Building that has its own development plan pending. More than 400 apartments, including hundreds of micro-units, over four floors of offices and ground-floor retail is planned. However, the building's sale still has not closed as of yet.


Friday, July 24, 2020

Downtown Heinen's store reopening delayed

Reopening of the Downtown Cleveland Heinen's grocery
store is delayed until right after Labor Day. Repairs, reno-
ations and reconfiguration of the store are largely complete.
However, downtown employment isn't expected to recover
sufficiently until September to justify reopening. (KJP).
Reopening of the downtown Cleveland Heinen's grocery store is delayed another month from earlier estimates. Previously, sources said the full-service store would open up again by early August. The store closed following the riots that hit numerous cities nationwide, including Cleveland, May 30.

Now, according to three high-level sources, the opulent downtown grocery store will reopen immediately after Labor Day. This year, Labor Day falls on Sept. 7. But it's not just the recovery from the riots that's involved here.

The sources say the reason for the delay is that downtown office workers have not returned to levels that are anywhere close to pre-pandemic levels. Many of downtown's of employees and students whose population is roughly 100,000 are still working and studying from home.

Although there are nearly 20,000 people who live downtown, the Heinen's store made much of its money from selling prepared foods for lunch to office workers. The store was often jammed with customers during the lunch hours -- a situation that's great for business but bad for staying healthy during a pandemic.

Heinen's officials reportedly expect downtown office populations to recover enough by September to justify reopening the store at that time. Downtown Heinen's employees were furloughed or relocated to other stores for the time being.
Heinen's downtown Cleveland store
is considered to be one of the most
beautiful grocery stores in the Uni-
ted States of America (KJP).
In Heinen's absence, smaller grocers downtown have filled the void, including Constantino's, 1278 West 9th Street, DGX grocery, 1701 E. 12th St. and 1900 Food & Beverage, 1846 Euclid Ave. There are other full-service grocery stores and fresh food markets one mile or less from downtown in Ohio City and Asiatown.

During its closure, the 27,000-square-foot downtown store is being repaired, renovated and reconfigured. The store suffered some damage from the riots, however more work is being done to slightly alter the layout so that customers can shop more safely and in accordance with the state's social-distancing requirements.

During this closure, the former Cleveland Trust bank rotunda built in 1908 is being reconfigured to be more COVID-19-compliant, a source said. Much of the work has already been done. That includes getting rid of the soup/salad bar so customers and employees will have more elbow room. Fresh food cases were also reconfigured. No significant changes were made to the wine/beer area on the second level.

Officially, Heinen's isn't commenting. The most recent statement was issued in early June, which was when NEOtrans broke the story that the downtown Heinen's store would reopen and be refurbished.
Many of the downtown Heinen's
customers buy freshly prepared
foods for their lunches to either
eat them at the store or take the
food back to the office. Those
customers have vanished during
the months-long pandemic (KJP).
"We appreciate all the kind comments and support we've received concerning our downtown Cleveland store. We are still in the process of cleaning up and getting repair estimates and are not sure of a re-open date at this time," the statement said.

"Looking ahead to a post COVID-19 world, we are considering some small changes to adjust the store to better meet the needs of our customers," Heinen's added.

"Thank you for your patience. We know the stores is an important shopping option for many people and will share more information once we know more," the statement concluded.

Located on the southeast corner of Euclid Avenue and East 9th Street, the downtown Heinen's opened in February 2015. It was part of the multi-structure, $170 million Ameritrust redevelopment undertaken by the Geis Companies.

The downtown Heinen's is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful grocery stores in the United States, becoming a tourist attraction and a must-see stop for those appreciating architecture and Gilded Age history in Cleveland.


Thursday, July 23, 2020

Columbus developer has big plans for Flats West Bank

To the right or north of the Powerhouse at Nautica, a lifeless
parking lot could be filled with a large, mixed-used develop-
ment in the coming years. A Columbus-based real estate deve-
loper named CASTO reportedly is interested in the parking lot
property owned by Jeff Jacobs affiliate. This rendering was
commissioned by the firm to generate interest from poten-
tial buyers and investors in that property. (AODK).

According to three sources who agreed to speak off the record, Flats West Bank property owner Jeff Jacobs may sell 5.6 acres of prime riverfront land near downtown Cleveland to a Columbus-based real estate developer or a partner thereof.

CASTO, which focuses on urban developments from Ohio to Florida, has expressed interest in acquiring or otherwise developing the land with a significant, multi-building, mixed-use development on the site. The land currently is used as a vast surface parking lot north of Jacobs' Nautica Entertainment Complex that includes the Powerhouse at Nautica.

Jacobs is asking $17.5 million for the land, or just over $3 million per acre. That's in the ballpark for recent sales of land around the edges of downtown Cleveland. If the sale amount is close to that, only a large, vertical development might generate enough revenue to achieve a decent return on the property investment.

Current zoning for the site was recently changed by the city to allow buildings as tall as 250 feet to be built on the Flats' West Bank. As a result, developers have shown increased interest in investing here, including a 27-story apartment tower planned by United Community Developers.
There are lots of pending projects on the West Bank of the Flats
these days, despite the pandemic-related economc slowdown.
The reason is that waterfronts are almost always attractive
locations for real estate developments. Plus, any develop-
ment is unlikely to be ready for construction for at least
a year with completion still more years away (Google).

It's too early to know any details about CASTO's plans, assuming the sale even closes, let alone without any glitches. So it isn't surprising that no one's talking on the record about this yet. NEOtrans reached out to several CASTO representatives including Vice President of Development Charlie Fraas and Vice President of Development and Finance Jason Freeman.

Also contacted for comment was David Grunenwald, vice president of development at Jacobs Investments Inc., and Newmark Knight Frank real estate broker Terry Coyne. None responded to e-mail inquiries prior to publication of this article.

Jacobs in 2018 proposed a $405 million development of properties he owns on the West Bank of the Flats. Most of the development was proposed to be housing, including 664 apartments. Also proposed was a hotel, offices, restaurants and parking garages.

But some real estate market insiders believed that Jacobs proposed his development to increase the value of his land for eventual sale. As one insider put it, Jacobs isn't interested in developing in Cleveland. Everything that Jacobs does is centered around his gaming interests, namely those in Colorado. If he's selling land here, it is to invest it in gaming elsewhere, the insider said.
Towering above the Flats' West Bank in a couple of years
could be The Viaduct, a 27-story apartment building. But
it may not be the last tower on the West Bank depending
on the buyer of the Nautica riverfront property (Dimit).

CASTO's first development in Cleveland is still under construction. Work is wrapping up on the Dexter Place apartments in Ohio City, on Franklin Boulevard at a traffic circle that's being restored at West 28th Street and Fulton Road. The five-story Dexter Place has 115 market-rate apartments over 8,660-square-feet of ground-floor commercial space.

CASTO representatives are reportedly so happy with this project that they began looking for their next project in Cleveland. The sources said Casto was interested in redeveloping the historic Voss Industries factory, 2168 West 25th St., that sold last year for $4.775 million to an investor group incorporated as R & L Ohio City, LLC.

That group is led by Bixby Bridge Capital, LLC based in the Chicago suburb of Northbrook, IL. Coyne is involved in that project too but as an investor/partner, sources say. When Coyne got the listing for the Nautica property, CASTO reportedly turned their interest to that site.
CASTO's Dexter Place apartments are only a few months away
from completion on Franklin Boulevard in Ohio City. The
strength of the near-west residential market combined
with the allure of waterfront living led Casto to buy
Jeff Jacobs' Nautica riverfront land (KJP).

Another source says that Ari Maron of MRN Ltd. has stepped in to replace CASTO on the Voss redevelopment. Maron has not yet responded to e-mails sent to two of his addresses seeking comment.

In addition to redeveloping the Voss property with apartments over ground-floor commercial uses, Maron reportedly would develop a parking lot that MRN owns between the Bakersfield Tavern and MRN's United Bank Building. In 2018, MRN renovated offices on the third and fourth floors of the 94-year-old building into 25 apartments for $4.5 million.

The source said MRN has proposed an eight- to 10-story apartment building on the West 25th parking lot. It would rise across the street from the nine-story Intro apartments being built by Harbor Bay Real Estate Advisors, LLC, also of Northbrook, IL. The status of this conceptual development in light of the ongoing pandemic is not known.


Monday, July 20, 2020

West Side gem may sparkle again as Arch at St. Michaels

The arched main entrance to St. Michael School on Scranton
Road in Cleveland retains its beauty despite decades of accu-
mulated dirt and grime. The school and its adjacent convent
are proposed to be renovated with apartments for seniors,
 mostly low-income, according to public records (Google).

Article updated July 21 with quote from Councilwoman Jasmin Santana, with corrections made July 27 regarding property ownership.

Considered by some historic preservationists as one of the rare architectural gems on the city's West Side, St. Michael School is in the hands of local interests seeking to restore the luster to this weathered jewel. The five-story school building with its statues of saints and other ornaments was threatened with demolition when the property fell into foreclosure nearly three years ago.

But last year, investors acquired the property at 3146 Scranton Rd. to save and restore the building. The group, led by SoTre Properties' Managing Partner Eric Lutzo along with Kim F. Bixenstine and her husband Bart of Shaker Heights, engaged CHN Housing Partners of Cleveland to purchase and redevelop the site. Hiti, DiFrancesco & Siebold, Inc. of Cleveland is the project's architect.

Permit applications were submitted last week by the development team to the City of Cleveland for the renovation of the former Central Catholic School and convent in the South Tremont neighborhood. The towering St. Michael Archangle Roman Catholic Church next door, at the corner of Scranton and Clark Avenue, is not involved in this transaction or restoration.
Built in 1906 and designed by French-born architect Emile
Uhlrich, St. Michael School structure is designed in the
Victorian Gothic style like its namesake church that's
14 years older, just north of the school (Google).
The 114-year-old school and 60-year-old convent will be adaptively reused as senior independent living. The unit mix will consist of 20 one-bedroom and 15 two-bedroom units in the main school building and 12 one-bedroom units in the convent for a total of 47 units, according to the permit filed with the city's Building & Housing Department.

Laura Boustani, strategic communications manager of CHN Housing Partners, said 45 of the apartments will be restricted and affordable to seniors at incomes that are 60 percent or less of the area's median income and two units will be unrestricted market-rate apartments.

"The project will feature multiple common areas and support spaces including a community room, a wellness center, on-site property management, service coordinator and dedicated maintenance and janitorial staff," Boustani said in an e-mail. "The Arch at St. Michaels represents the preservation and revitalization of a community icon that has been decaying and at risk of being lost."

The project is still early on in the development process; it could appear on the City Planning Commission's docket in October. Also, not all financing is in place. However, the project's partners were recently sent a letter of intent from the city which chose the Arch at St. Michael as one of its projects it intends to support with a pot of tax credits from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency.
An early rendition of plans for the St. Michael School and
convent site that were submitted to the city (B&H).

Tania Menesse, Cleveland's director of community development, didn't respond to an e-mail seeking comment prior publication.

"This is great news for the neighborhood, which is seeing numerous economic development projects and improvements," said Ward 14 Councilwoman Jasmin Santana who represents the area. "St. Michael the Archangel Church is an historic site and reusing the school for affordable senior housing is a great addition."

Estimated cost of the project at this early stage is $12.8 million, Boustani said. Although CHN typically does new construction, it has two historic renovations on its resume. One is the Winton on Lorain, 9431 Lorain Ave. in Cleveland, completed in 2013. The other is the Westerly Apartments, 14300 Detroit Ave. in Lakewood, completed last year.

As proposed in its permit application, all surface-mounted utilities will be removed from the building. The masonry, decorative stone elements, stone ornaments and sculptures will be repaired and cleaned. Stone elements that are severely damaged will be replaced with cast-stone pieces and mortar to match the previously existing elements. All windows and doors will be replaced. The interior will be thoroughly renovated with original historic themes and features.
The 1960-built convent on Prame Avenue is not only less
ornate and newer than the neighboring school, it is also
smaller -- measuring just 12,845 square feet compared
to the 70,695-square-foot school (Google).
The former school, one of three sites used by Central Catholic until 2003, was most recently used as offices for the West Side Ministries. The nonprofit group was affiliated with the Community Care Network, Cleveland Christian Home and other charities to provide social services to the neighborhood.

But Key Bank foreclosed on a loan for the property in 2017 and the property went to auction in February 2018 with a minimum asking price of $600,000 -- or two-thirds of the property's appraised value of $900,000. There were no takers at that price.

The Bixenstines, under the name 3146 Scranton Road LLC, acquired the property through a second auction a year later for $375,000, county records show. They transferred it on Sept. 22, 2019 to a company listing to Lutzo called Arc on Scranton, LLC for $378,750. CHN has an option to acquire the property from Lutzo.

"My husband and I have been private investors in various projects of SoTre Properties, including the St. Michael’s property, for approximately 10 years," Kim Bixenstine wrote in an e-mail. "We believe in SoTre’s mission of saving homes and building community in the South Tremont neighborhood."
The before-and-after views of the school's renovation may
not look much different at first glance, but careful inspec-
tion reveals the extent of work necessary to revive this
aging beauty to its former granduer (B&H).
"Investing in distressed properties in Tremont's southside is the cornerstone of our business," Lutzo said. "As you know, CHN Partners have been exceptional stewards of property in Cleveland for many years and, without exception, their involvement with this project is welcome."

St. Michael School was one four structures designed for religious institutions in Cleveland's urban core by French immigrant Emile Uhlrich, said preservation consultant Steve McQuillin. Each were Byzantine-Romanesque, Gothic Revival or High Victorian Gothic themes evocovative of European cathedrals, which helped many of Cleveland's early 20th-century immigrants feel right at home.

Unfortunately, St. Michael School is the only one that has a future at this point. St. Andrew Catholic Church, built in 1907 at 5135 Superior Ave., was demolished in 2009. St. Procop Church, built in 1902 at 3181 W. 41st St., was closed in 2009. Church of the Nativity/Blessed Virgin Mary, built in 1925 (the school Ulrich designed was built in 1913) at 9600 Aetna Rd., closed in 1992 and is heavily vandalized.

"We are humbled to be able to save St. Michael's School and be part of the community building that will be part of this development," Lutzo added.

Tyler Kapusta contributed to this article.


Sunday, July 12, 2020

Rockefeller Building to start new life with housing, offices

Cleveland's Rockefeller Building, built by Cleve-
lander John D. Rockefeller Sr., is being bought
by a group that will redevelop the historic struc-
ture with micro-unit apartments, offices, retail
and parking. It is the first major spin-off project
from Sherwin-Williams' decision to build its new
headquarters in downtown Cleveland (KJP).
According to several sources, a development partnership is acquiring the Rockefeller Building, 614 W. Superior Ave., in downtown Cleveland and will redevelop the historic office building with micro-unit apartments, offices, retail and parking.

This is one of the first of potentially several major spin-off real estate development projects resulting from Sherwin-Williams' decision to build its new consolidated headquarters in downtown Cleveland.

Proposed are 436 units of market-rate apartments with some smaller than 300 square feet. There also will be four floors of offices, some ground-floor retail and structured parking off Frankfort Avenue. Acquiring and developing the Rockefeller is a partnership of Realty Dynamics Equity Partners, LLC of Akron and  Wolfe Investments, LLC of Plano, TX. Geis Companies of Streetsboro reportedly is the general contractor.

The micro-units are, in part, intended to serve Sherwin-Williams' employees who recently relocated to Cleveland to work in the headquarters. They will provide residential opportunities next to a headquarters site that offers 3,500 jobs at the outset and ultimately promises many more in the future, potentially up to 4,400 jobs.

The development partnership was attracted to the 115-year-old Rockefeller Building because of its location. It is right across West 6th Street from the nearly 7-acre swath of parking lots that Sherwin-Williams announced in February as the site for its new, $300+ million headquarters complex.
This unobstructed view from the east of the
Rockefeller Building won't be possible for
much longer. The photo was taken from the
"Superblock" -- now parking lots -- that was
bought by Sherwin-Williams Corp. where it
will build its new global headquarters (KJP).
The property that is being sold includes land that measures 1.84 acres of which 1.1 acres is surface parking lot. The Rockefeller Building itself measures 261,264 square feet. The acquisition also will include a five-level, 43,617-square-foot brick and concrete parking garage out back that was built in 1925.

The Rockefeller Building is larger than 75 Public Square -- another development that owes its recent momentum to the neighboring Sherwin-Williams headquarters project. Renamed as Public Square North, renovations are due to get underway next month.

Millennia Companies and Cleveland Construction will convert 75 Public Square into 114 apartments with ground floor retail. The 15-story, 131,000-square-foot building was built in 1915 as the headquarters of the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co.

But pre-development activity at 75 Public Square started long before there were even rumors about Sherwin-Williams' headquarters plans. The earliest insights were first reported by NEOtrans in October 2018 -- nearly a year before the company officially acknowledged it had begun planning for a new headquarters.

Also, NEOtrans had been reporting for months before it was officially announced that the Fortune 500 company had settled on the Public Square site. That news reportedly heightened the buyers' interest in the Rockefeller Building. More details about the renovation project will be revealed when the title transfers.

Title to the building, previously owned by Rockefeller Building Associates, is due to transfer this month. The deal has been in the works for nearly a year. All financing is in place for the renovations to get underway this year once all city approvals have been secured, including a review by the Landmarks Commission. The building was listed in 1973 the National Register of Historic Places.

General contractor Geis has a track record working with historic renovations and conversions of commercial buildings to housing. It is now wrapping up for Detroit-based Bedrock Real Estate the revitalization and conversion of the 880,000-square-foot May Company department store on Public Square into 307 apartments and ground-floor retail.
Although looking tired and in need of renovation, Cleveland's
Rockefeller Building remains an architectural beauty and a re-
minder of the Gilded Age in which Cleveland thrived. Another
of the city's Gilded Age gifts is Sherwin-Williams whose down-
town Cleveland investment is motivating the renovation and
conversion of The Rock into micro-housing and offices (KJP).
Another large historic renovation project on Geis' resume was the massive Cleveland Trust high-rise headquarters and bank rotunda conversion into The 9 luxury apartments, Metropolitan Hotel, several restaurants and Heinen's grocery store.

Rockefeller Building Associates is an affiliate owned by Benjamin Cappadora of Cleveland and Diana Miller of Brooklyn, NY. But the primary person in the partnership is Cappadora who, before 1988, owned the building as Cappadora Realty Corp. Cappadora, now 88 years old, has been quietly looking to sell the half-empty office building off-market for a couple of years.

The Rockefeller Building was built by Standard Oil Co. founder and Clevelander John D. Rockefeller Sr. In 1903, he bought and razed a portion of the Weddell House, one of the city's finest and most historic hotels. For 56 years, it hosted some of the most famous people of the 19th century including President Abraham Lincoln, General Philip H. Sheridan and General George A. Custer.

But the Rockefeller Building wasn't built all at once; it was built in two stages over the seven years. Most of the building was built in 1905 but was expanded west along Superior by 1910. Total cost was $1 million. Rising to 17 stories, the building was Cleveland's tallest at the time and built in the “Sullivanesque” architectural style -- named after Louis Sullivan, called the father of skyscrapers.
Covering the lower floors of the Rockefeller Building is a cast-
iron tapestry of organic-geometric ornaments, likely an homage
to architect Louis Sullivan's Guaranty Building in Buffalo (KJP).
Sullivan was a mentor to Frank Lloyd Wright; but Sullivan's mentor was Cleveland architect John Edelman whose lone remaining work product in Cleveland stands at 1350 W. 3rd St., wrapped in 1960s modernism. It is also the only remaining structure on the Superblock purchased by Sherwin-Williams for its headquarters.

Designed by the firm Knox & Elliot, which later moved its offices into the Rockefeller Building, the structure is considered by many to be the best example in Cleveland of the Sullivanesque style. Its design reportedly was inspired by Sullivan's Guaranty Building in Buffalo, including its vertical columns to express the steel frame underneath and a tapestry of organic-geometric cast-iron ornaments on the lower stories.

The Rockefeller family was very proud of its Cleveland building and wanted it to remain in the family. So John D. Rockefeller Jr. bought the Rockefeller Building from his father for one dollar. Throughout its early years, the building hosted offices for iron, coal and lake shipping interests that made the city an industrial giant.

One of the most entertaining stories of its past is what happened after 1920 when the property was bought by Josiah Kirby, founder of the Cleveland Discount Co., then a large mortgage firm. The building was renamed the Kirby Building. That so angered the Rockefeller family that in 1923 they bought the building back merely to return the structure to its original name. It has been called the Rockefeller Building ever since.


Thursday, July 9, 2020

Pandemic quarantines CWRU development

Case Western Reserve University's $72+ million South Resi-
dental Village development is on hold indefinitely because
of the coronavirus pandemic (photo by Tyler Kapusta).
Construction of several residence halls at Case Western Reserve University has been put on hold indefinitely, another victim of the COVID-19 pandemic and the fiscal uncertainties that surround it. Construction on the first phase of the $72+ million multi-phased project was due to start in early 2021.

Christopher Panichi, CWRU's director of planning, design and construction confirmed today that the expansion of the South Residential Village at Murray Hill and Adelbert roads has been halted.

"There's no time frame (on its delay) so yes, it's indefinite," Panichi said

The project may be revisited in the near future because of growing enrollment and since the university has put a lot of effort into this project. That includes feedback sessions with students, drafting of architectural designs and the selection of a general contractor -- Donley's Inc. of Valley View.

"It's unfortunate, but who knows what will happen," Panichi added.
Alhough renovations continue on Fribley Hall and commons,
the proposed residence halls on two university-owned parking
lots on either side of Murray Hill Road are stalled (Google).
Proposed on CWRU parking lot No. 5 next door to Fribley Hall, the university planned to construct the two residence halls costing $72.46 million and adding 600 beds. They represented phases one and two of the South Residential Village expansion and total up to 185,000 square feet of new facilities, according to CWRU planning documents.

A third phase proposed across the street could follow the construction of the first and second phases. Conceptual plans for the third phase show two connected residential buildings on CWRU parking lot No. 44 between Fribley Hall and the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority's Cedar-University Red Line rail station that was renovated in 2014. There is no estimated cost yet for the third phase.

In addition to adding more residential units for CRWU students, part of the goal of developing the two parking lots with housing was to concentrate the South Residential Village closer to campus and transportation services. The existing CWRU campus housing at the top of the hill in Cleveland Heights could eventually be demolished and redeveloped with recreation or newer residences.

NEOtrans is the only Cleveland media outlet to report that CWRU was pursuing this large expansion of the South Residential Village. That article was published last January. This is the first and only follow-up article since then on the project by a Cleveland media outlet.
A construction fence surrounds Fribley Hall and commons
as renovations of the CWRU property continue through the
summer break and into the fall (KJP).
The architect for the new South Residential Village dorms is William Rawn Associates of Boston. The firm's portfolio shows only one local project -- Cleveland Clinic's Taussig Cancer Center, 10201 Carnegie Ave.

Construction of the residence halls was to follow completion of renovations to the 1964-built Fribley Hall and commons, according to a notice of commencement filed by CWRU on Oct. 31, 2019 with the Cuyahoga County Fiscal Officer. Fribley Hall was last renovated in 2000 but that was limited to the cafeteria.

The Albert M. Higley Co. was hired in 2018 as CWRU's general contractor for the renovations to Fribley Hall, county records show.

Plans for the two new residence halls showed one-bed rooms would measure 105 square feet and two bed rooms would measure 170 to 171 square feet. Furnishings would be provided by the university. They are proposed to include one or two bed/dressers, wardrobes and desks per room. Students provided input on the layout, decorations and furnishings at public meetings last winter.
Rendering of Fribley Hall, post-renovation, as seen from the
intersection of Murray Hill and Adelbert roads (CWRU).
Renovation work continues on Fribley Hall including a new outdoor dining area and expanded Fribley Commons. A loading area for Fribley Hall was demolished to make way for the expanded commons and to open up the north side of the hall with more glass.

It has been five years since CWRU built a residence hall -- the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Residence Hall, located in the campus' North Residential Village at 1576 E. 115th St., just south of Wade Park Avenue. No other housing expansions are planned by CWRU even though additional off-campus leasing of apartments is difficult to secure absent new inventory.

The proposed residence halls in the South Residential Village were for second-year tudents. CWRU's enrollment continues to grow, rising from 9,000 students in 2000 to 12,000 last year. Their expansion options have involved building a few new dormitories as well as making it easier for more upperclassmen to live off campus.

There are private, off-campus developments now underway that could provide additional housing to CWRU students in the meantime. They include 1609 Hazel Apartments, 2235 Overlook boarding house, the Baricelli Inn Apartments and, across the street, The Ascent at Top Of The Hill. Other nearby projects are planned but not yet underway.


Sunday, July 5, 2020

Two developments, two sides of town and redesigned, too

A new development concept is proposed for 12607 Larchmere
Blvd. in Cleveland. Another project, the View On Detroit in
Lakewood, also is moving forward with a new approach
to its conceptual design and proposed uses (SA Group).
Two small-to-medium-sized developments on each side of town are finding new lives after they've been significantly redesigned. One was a purely residential development in Lakewood that shrank but added mixed use. The other was a mixed-use development in Cleveland's Larchmere district that has become purely residential.

The Larchmere development not only has a totally new design concept but an additional developer involved. Previously, Berusch Development Partners pursued a 20,000-square-foot project with RDL Architects moving its office from Shaker Heights into a 13,000-square-foot ground-floor space next to a new coffee shop and topped by four apartments.

Now, MRN Ltd. founder Rick Maron seeks to bring his penchant for micro-unit apartments to Larchmere. In partnership with Berusch, who bought the 0.356-acre property a year ago, Maron proposes 28 apartments in an L-shaped building surrounding 19 off-street parking spaces.

"The mixed-use/office project I'd been planning can't proceed because the coronavirus hit my anchor office tenant hard, which is why I'm now planning micros with Rick," Berusch said in an e-mail.

The development borrows from Maron's recent micro-unit developments in Cleveland including an eight-unit project called Mikros Smart Suites, 11427 Ashbury Ave. in Glenville and the eight-unit Tremont Oaks, proposed at 2260 W. 14th St. in Tremont. In fact, the units are of the same size and design as those being planned in Larchmere.
Proposed site plan for 12607 Larchmere
in Cleveland (SA Group).
Prior to submitting them to the city, Maron didn't change the architectural renderings' labels showing their location and identity of the micro-units from his Tremont project. The concepts were developed by SA Group of Cleveland.

The micro-units measure a mere 436.3 square feet and each unit is identical to the next in terms of their proposed layout. They have a fold-away queen-sized bed, a fold-away wall-mounted TV, and a stowable table for dining, office work or other uses.

A chain-of-title agreement and 30-year non-school tax financing arrangement were approved by the City Planning Commission on May 15 to aid the previously proposed project. Those incentives would apply to the new project as long as the property doesn't transfer to a new owner. An existing two-story warehouse on the site must be demolished prior to construction.

MRN is best known for redeveloping East Fourth Street in downtown Cleveland and for the Uptown District in University Circle. Berusch served as a consultant to MRN on the Uptown development and redeveloped two buildings next to Uptown.
Propoosed layouts based on activities
in the proposed micro-units. They are
the same as those planned for a Maron
development in Tremont (SA Group).
On the other side of town in Lakewood, one of Jerome Solove Development Inc.'s two development sites secured its final zoning approval from the city on July 2. Planning Commission unanimously approved a conditional use permit for the View On Detroit located on Detroit Avenue just east of Bunts Road, said City Council President Dan O'Malley.

The conditional use is for a mixed-use overlay district to construct two four-story structures containing 113 market-rate apartments as well as a designated commercial space on the first floor in the east building. There will also be 140 parking spaces; 113 spaces are required per the building code. The development site is located in a general commercial district.

The eastern building has more of a sidewalk presence than the western one thanks to the first-floor commercial space and a lobby, mailroom, bike storage and fitness area at the corner of Detroit and Parkwood Road. As proposed, the west building has no access points along its ground floor facing Detroit, making it less pedestrian friendly.

The impervious Detroit facade in the west building, closer to the Detroit-Bunts intersection, makes one wonder if a mixed-use building is envisioned for a future phase at the corner. Solove said he has attempted to acquire the property on which Bruce's Automotive sets at the corner of Detroit-Bunts but has been turned down so far by owner George Shaker.
Site plan for Solove's View On Detroit, located at the current
site of the vacant Spitzer Chrysler-Plymouth car dealership
and the former Educators Music shop (JSDI).
Owners of the other properties have agreed to sell to Solove, including the vacant Spitzer Chrysler-Plymouth car dealership and Stavash Family LLC, owner of the now-closed Educator's Music shop. All buildings on both sites will be razed. NEOtrans broke the news in 2018 about Solove's interest in developing this site.

This is the third version of the View On Detroit proposed by Solove. The first proposed a massive, eight-story apartment building west of Parkwood and a multi-level parking deck fronted by a five-story apartment building on Detroit east of Parkwood. The second version scaled down the project with a less-massive eight-story apartment building east of Parkwood and a surface parking lot west of Parkwood.

Solove also is planning a second Lakewood development at another former car dealership. The Columbus-based developer got city approval last year to build 160 apartments and 3,500 square feet of ground-floor commercial space centered at 16000 Detroit, site of the closed Steve Barry Buick.

The development is planned on both sides of Detroit, with three-story buildings and surface lots on multiple parcels. That includes the neighboring Bobby O's tavern, 16013 Detroit. However, Solove has yet to take title to any of the parcels, according to public records. Solove is reportedly wrapping up the financing for both Lakewood projects.

Tyler Kapusta contributed to this article.


Friday, July 3, 2020

Lots of good long-term economic news for Greater Cleveland

Rays of employment hope are shining strongly on Greater
Cleveland this summer. There are a number of new, long-
term job-growth developments emerging in metro area.
This article notes some of the bigger ones (Xiaofan Luo).
As jobs start to come back following the pandemic-related economic shutdown, there are also new jobs coming online for Greater Cleveland. These aren't restored jobs; they are jobs resulting from economic growth in sectors that were either unaffected by the shutdown or they are structural changes from employers seeking lower-cost ways of doing business.

One of the sectors that wasn't hurt by the shutdown was the warehousing/distribution sector. Businesses continue to look hard for warehousing/distribution space and the bigger the better.

Amazon has been in the news a lot lately, as it seeks to build new delivery stations like the one planned near Slavic Village or lease existing, large facilities like the one near the Cleveland/Lakewood line.

But those 112,000 to 168,750-square-foot facilities are relatively small compared to some of what's in the works elsewhere in Greater Cleveland. Here is a recent sampling.

A better idea for local Ford plants?

While it's good news that a new suitor will apparently acquire
both of the vacant, Cleveland-area Ford plants, the buyer will
reportedly re-use the huge factories for warehousing instead
of for manufacturing with fewer jobs (
According to a source connected with the repurposing of the vacant Ford auto plants in Brook Park and Walton Hills, both will be acquired by the same buyer. At last report in late May, Brook Park Mayor Mike Gammella suggested two bidders were involved in the purchasing of the two plants. He isn't commenting publicly on who it is.

The source NEOtrans spoke with said both facilities would be repurposed for industrial-commercial warehousing activities. The source would not divulge any more information, including if the buyer was a developer or an end-user.

Both plants are massive. The former Brook Park Engine Plant No. 2 measures 1.7 million square feet of facilities, setting on 195 acres of land. The former Walton Hills Stamping Plant totals 2.1 million square feet of structures on 111 acres.

The repurposing of the two huge plants is good news. But it's not the great news that some local community development leaders had hoped for. One of them said privately that, while warehousing jobs are better than having huge factories sitting idle, warehouses have fewer jobs per square foot than manufacturing faciltiies. Also, warehousing jobs don't usually pay as much as those in manufacturing.

Consolidated operations are a gas

AmeriGas' existing Business Services Office at 24650 Center
Ridge Rd. in Westlake will move next year when its lease
expires. Employees from this location will join several
hundred others consolidated from other cities into a
new site possibly in Brooklyn Heights (Google).
AmeriGas Partners L.P., the nation's largest propane marketer, could see its Greater Cleveland presence grow dramatically as early as next year. Following its 2019 acquisition by UGI Corp., AmeriGas is looking to consolidate its call center and customer service operations.

A source who spoke off the record said that AmeriGas could be consolidating several hundred jobs to and within Greater Cleveland. That includes up to 125 employees at its Business Services Office at the King James Office Park in suburban Westlake. AmeriGas' lease at 24650 Center Ridge Rd. will expire next year.

Where might the jobs be consolidated? The source said that a site in Brooklyn Heights is under consideration. Cleveland could also be an outside possibility. However, no specific locations are publicly known at this time. As a side note, the Cleveland suburb Brooklyn Heights should not be confused with the suburb Brooklyn.

The move has nothing to do with COVID-19. Instead, it is the result of corporate realignment following UGI's acquisition. UGI pledged "to align its liquefied petroleum gas distribution operations across the U.S. and Europe to drive efficiencies and accelerate growth." A second AmeriGas call center in South Carolina also is planned.

Cleveland, Pittsburgh in a healthy fight

Cleveland has some healthcare heavyweights on its team as
well as a number of small, healthy startups that helped
nurse the region to the nation's second-best metro
area for healthcare jobs (Kevin M. Nord).
If there was a championship for healthcare jobs, Pittsburgh would be edging out Cleveland for the lead. But in this competition, being No. 2 in the nation for healthcare jobs isn't a losing spot to be in.

According to a June report by Phoenix-based Grand Canyon University, the two Rust Belt rivals in football and in their post-industrial economic recoveries are fighting it out on the field of one the nation's biggest job-growth sectors.

Points that contributed to Cleveland's high score were the number of available healthcare jobs, average pay, share of healthcare jobs among all local jobs, living wages and average apartment rents. The latter two categories helped push Cleveland and Pittsburgh to the top of the ranking and contributed to a medical powerhouse like Boston falling to 13th.

Interestingly, 14 of the cities that scored high for healthcare jobs were located in the Great Lakes-Northeast region. Only four top-ranked cities were located in the southern states east of the Mississippi River. Three were located west of the Mississippi but east of Rocky Mountains. And only one city west of the Rockies, Riverside, CA, was ranked highly for healthcare jobs.

Israeli tech startup IDs Greater Cleveland

UVeye Ltd. may put its North American operations group head-
quarters and a production facility in Greater Cleveland (UVeye).
A fast-growing tech-startup will locate its North American operations group in the Greater Cleveland area, if the hiring of the two men to lead it is any indication. UVeye Ltd. hired Glenn Hemminger of Mentor as its managing director of North American operations and Bob Rich of Chardon as director of North American sales.

Hemminger previously was director of international business development at Cleveland-based Dealer Tire and Rich worked in sales at DealerSocket, CDK Global, and The Cleveland Plain Dealer, according to a UVeye press release.

A Cleveland-area headquarters or operations center location was buoyed by the fact that UVeye plans to establish offices in Ohio and New York. Furthermore, UVeye said it has multiple sites under consideration for future production and warehouse facilities, including in Ohio, Michigan and Texas, as well as several locations in the southeastern United States, the company said.

In the past year, UVeye raised $35 million in venture capital from Toyota Tsushu, Volvo and others. UVeye's inspection technologies can identifty paint and sheet-metal defects, component damage, missing parts and other quality-related issues within seconds. Auto manufacturers as well as auto repair shops, such as service departments at car dealerships, are potential customers.

The scanning and inspection technology can also be used in security applications to identify explosives, weapons, toxins, drugs and other potential threats hidden within vehicles at border crossings and at entrances to secure facilities.

Silicon Valley firm to sew up costs in Cleveland

Stitch Fix Inc. opened its first eastern distribution center in
2016, a 484,000-square-foot facility near Bethlehem, PA
employing 500. A similar number of jobs may soon be
bound for Greater Cleveland thanks to the company
recognizing the region's high quality workforce
and lower costs of living (
There is always a benefit of similar businesses locating near each other so they can draw from an agglomeration of workers and suppliers skilled in that field. But when that market grows so hot that the costs of living affects the cost of doing business, then it's time to move employees who can work from anywhere.

That has happened to San Francisco-based Stitch Fix Inc., a personal-shopping service and clothing retailer. It will lay off 1,400 people in California while hiring 2,000 people in lower-cost cities like Austin, Dallas, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh and Cleveland.

The 1,400 laid-off workers will be offered jobs at the new locations. The laid-off workers represent about 18 percent of Stitch Fix's total workforce, according to a report. All of the 2,000 new jobs will be stylist positions.

No workplace locations are identified for the new jobs nor is a breakdown available as to how many jobs will be based in each city. But even if the 2,000 jobs aren't divided evenly among the five cities, Cleveland is likely to get a significant number of jobs from this restructuring.

Prior to the pandemic, the Cleveland-Akron area was one of the nation's hottest housing markets and was expected to be even hotter in 2020. The reason was -- and based on the news in this blog posting, still is -- because of the low housing costs and high quality of life here versus high housing costs on the coasts.