Monday, August 31, 2020

Mixed-use could boost proposed downtown office tower

Stark Enterprises' nuCLEus office tower might accelerate
its timetable from six-years-and-counting to imminent if
it was redesigned as a mixed-use office/residential high-
rise building over a retail/parking podium (LoopNet).

For six years, Stark Enterprises' nuCLEus proposed development has always been about mixed use. But it is yet to be about construction. It could be about both if the uses were mixed in a single tower.

For its downtown Cleveland project in the Gateway District, it has proposed a mix of ground-floor retail, restaurants and entertainment topped by parking. Above that, the project has offered various layouts of offices, residential and hotel uses in several combinations -- one tower, two towers and even two towers with a cantilevered bridge between them.

NEOtrans broke the news in April about Stark's latest iteration of nuCLEus -- a single, office-only tower over retail/parking. With this new, lower-cost version, Stark has pared away square footage for which it lacks pre-construction commitments. With that approach, prospects for building nuCLEus seemed better than ever.

Or so it seemed. But let's first go back 20-30 years ago in Stark's journey to the here and now.

Stark didn't alway love mixed use and sense of place like it does now. For the development firm's founder Robert Stark, his love of mixed use and sense of place began in the 1990s when the developer of strip retail plazas expanded his Promenade shopping center in Westlake. It added a Borders book store with an adjoining outdoor cafe and event space.

Seeing people use it for everything from poetry readings to weddings, the light bulb went off in Stark's head, Stark told me 20 years ago when I wrote for Sun Newspapers. His vision for the Westlake lifestyle center Crocker Park was cemented when he visited Mizner Park in Boca Raton, FL and saw the neo-traditional mixing of uses like old town centers with streets as public realms.

Stark Enterprises' aggressive vision for developing downtown's
largest parking crater -- the Warehouse District's Superblock.
In the 2000s, Stark sought Ernst & Young and other on-the-
move major office tenants to come to this site. Another
large downtown employer, Sherwin-Williams, chose
this site for its new headquarters after Stark moved
on to pursue development of nuCLEus (Bialosky).

As Stark often says "it's all about the experience."

But one thing Stark hasn't done in six years since the firm first announced nuCLEus between Huron Road, Prospect Avenue and East 4th Street is to start construction. It's hard to experience something when it doesn't get built.

Unlike many other builders who wait to see if they have the financing before announcing their projects with pretty graphics, Stark goes in the opposite direction. That leaves the firm open to scorn and even ridicule.

He laid out a grand plan in the 2000s when he tried to turn downtown's Warehouse District into Pesht to complement downtown Cleveland's Buda. But the Budapest metaphor was labored, his development bite was too big and all that we received of Stark's Pesht was a cleaned-up, modernized Gilman Building to which Stark Enterprises moved its headquarters from suburban Woodmere.

Now, mention "nuCLEus" in the presence of other developers and you'll invariably get a contemptuous facial reaction. You might even get a joke -- e.g. "maybe he'll build a Payless Shoe store or perhaps a couple of restaurants."

That's not entirely fair considering the paint is still fresh on Stark's Beacon at 515 Euclid Ave. -- the first new-construction high-rise apartment building downtown since The Park Center (today's Reserve Square) was completed in 1973. After Stark opened the Beacon, more apartment towers have entered or are entering the downtown market -- The Lumen, City Club and possibly another.

Proposed on the site of a large parking crater in downtown Cleve-
land, nuCLEus would create more urban vibrancy, retail activity
and tax base. But after six years of revised plans and no construc-
tion, the parking crater continues to survive (LoopNet).

Timing is important. Interest rates are low. With the pandemic, spectators are prevented from using the Gateway stadiums, so few people are parking in the sea of surface lots on which nuCLEus would rise. The disruption of major construction to downtown is much less right now with many people still working remotely.

And, it appears that there is going to be a huge flurry of major construction projects in the next few years with the City Club Apartments, The Viaduct, Rockefeller Building renovation, Dream Hotel tower, major Cleveland Clinic projects, Circle Square and two whales -- the Sherwin-Williams headquarters plus the new Justice Center courthouse/consolidated jail complexes.

It seems that now might be time to add a different block of apartments -- within Stark's already re-redesigned nuCLEus office tower. 

Earlier this year, Stark removed from its nuCLEus masterplan a 24-story apartment tower, leaving just the 340,000-square-foot office tower over the retail/parking pedestal. The plan allows for a second tower to be added at a later date atop the pedestal, much like Beacon was added to the already existing 515 Euclid parking/retail pedestal.

While Stark has significant capital resources available to build the office tower, they're not enough. The firm cannot hold a goundbreaking ceremony yet. Word is that Stark is having difficulty filling up enough of the offices to secure construction financing. The retail commitments are even less well known at this time.

Right now, it appears that Stark has about 200,000 square feet of commitments for the office tower between its own corporate offices and those of Benesch Friedlander Coplan & Aronoff LLP. The growing law firm reportedly wants 180,000 square feet of office space, but that was the number before the pandemic. It isn't known if Benesch's and Stark's numbers have changed since.

With only weeks before accepting its first tenants, the brand-new
Beacon apartments on Euclid Avenue was Stark Enterprises' first
new-construction development in downtown Cleveland (KJP).

Benesch's lease at 200 Public Square runs out in the summer of 2022. It will take about two years to build nuCLEus. Benesch will reportedly go on a month-to-month lease at the end of its current lease if nuCLEus isn't finished by summer 2022.

There were rumors that Benesch had inked a five-year lease extension to stay at 200 Public Square. But Julie Gurney, director of marketing and client development at Benesch informed NEOtrans in an e-mail that the law firm has not extended or renewed its lease. How long will Benesch continue to wait?

Stark Enterprises, which occupied the entire 18,290-square-foot Gilman Building at 1350 W. 3rd St., moved its corporate offices last year into 28,000 square feet at 629 Euclid Ave. Between it and Benesch, assuming there are no unannounced commitments, the nuCLEus office tower is roughly 55-60 percent pre-leased. 

That's not enough for Stark to start construction. Perhaps another 30,000 to 50,000 square feet of leasing commitments might do the trick to get shovels in the ground. We may be tempted to doubt whether that's possible during the midst of a pandemic when companies are rethinking their office space needs and designs.

But it is possible. In just the past month, two fast-growing companies announced they are moving their offices from the suburbs to downtown. If Fathom and Goldwater Bank didn't need to make a move ASAP, they could have filled more than 30,000 square feet of nuCLEus' office tower. And that's the rub -- having Class A office space that's readily available.

Stark could offer that if it repositioned part of the proposed office tower to include apartments. If Stark turned five floors into apartments, it would leave 242,495 square feet for offices. If Stark turned six floors over to apartment, it would leave 223,000 square feet for offices.

Stark Enterprises' latest conceptual proposal for
nuCLEus is to build a single, offices-only tower.
Perhaps this long-discussed development could
improve its chances of getting built if 100,000
square feet across 5-6 floors were changed over
to residential uses (LoopNet).

With leasable floor plates of 19,501 square feet (excluding the central elevator/stairwell core that includes public restrooms), that would allow enough space for about 20 apartments per floor, averaging 975 square feet per unit. If one floor at the bottom of the apartment block was designed with 40 micro units and another, at the top, with 10 lease-to-own penthouses, the six-story apartment block concept could offer 130 apartments. The smaller five-story concept could offer 110 apartments.

By adding apartments, Stark can also tap into public incentives that aren't available to a commercial-only structure, namely tax abatement. It wouldn't be available to the whole building but a partial inclusion would tip the numbers in favor of construction. To do so, the residential part of the building would have to be a separate parcel, including the three rooftop amenity spaces proposed on floors four, eight and 25 of this building.

One might ask if the slow residential market is forcing Stark to offer up to six months of free rent if people sign two-year leases at the Beacon, why would Stark add more residential inventory to the market? The reason is that the market for downtown living has a lot of growing left to do and any new building that starts construction today won't hit the market until 2022.

If a mixed office-residential nuCLEus tower fills up quickly, then another might be contemplated atop the retail/parking podium, just east of the laneway Stark proposes through this development. It might even feature a boutique hotel as part of its mix of uses as the hospitality market will surely recover and evolve in a few years. Stark could also renovate and expand its condemned Herold Building, 310 Prospect Ave., with offices, boutique hotel or residential.

It's likely that executives at Stark Enterprises have considered these angles and possibilities to move nuCLEus forward. It would be interesting to hear their views, but so far no one there is talking about them on or off the record. It's not for want of trying. Chief Operating Officer Ezra Stark didn't respond to an e-mail from NEOtrans seeking comment on these possibilities and requesting an update on the overall nuCLEus project.

Hopefully, this is Stark just being patient, knowing that there's another office tenant or three out there somewhere, ready to sign a letter of intent (or better yet, a lease) to occupy nuCLEus in a couple of years. Perhaps that's all about Stark's experience.

After six years of waiting, some of us aren't so patient about seeing a big parking lot linger on East 4th in downtown Cleveland. That's all about our experience.


Saturday, August 29, 2020

Seeds & Sprouts X - Early intel on real estate projects

This is the Tenth 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.

Conceptual plans for the new Walz Branch of the Cleveland Public Library,
topped with 51 affordable senior apartments, were presented to the Cleve-
land Landmarks Commission this week. Although the design intends
to raise the library's presence in the 7900 block of Detroit Avenue,
the commission said it went too far, pointing to the trapezoidal
overhang that dominates the facade (RPMI-Bialosky).

New Walz Library, apartments offer neighborhood transformation

Cleveland Landmarks Commission gave mixed reviews in its first look this week at plans for a new Walz Branch of the Cleveland Public Library (CPL) topped by affordable senior apartments. The development is proposed to be built on the site of the existing library, 7910 Detroit Ave., as well as where the neighboring Detroit Chateau apartment building, 7918 Detroit Ave., now stands.

Also the commission approved demolition of the 100-year-old Detroit Chateau, owned by the Detroit-Shoreway Community Development Organization (DSCDO), to help clear the way for the project. Demolition approval rested with the Landmarks Commission because the building is located in the  Detroit-Shoreway Historic District. Detroit Chateau is due to be razed in December.

Detroit Chateau has only seven of its 19 units occupied by tenants who will be relocated to new housing. The building needs $1.5 million in improvements and incurs a $20,000 per year operating losses to the community development corporation, said Brittany Senger, DSCDO's project manager of multi-family development.

When DSCDO asked the State Historic Preservation Office in 2013 to include the heavily modified Detroit Chateau on the National Register of Historic Places, it determined the building doesn't have sufficient historical or architectural character to warrant inclusion. That significantly reduced the chances of the building being eligible for historic tax credits or getting renovated.

Instead, DSCDO will apply for low-income housing tax credits to be awarded in May 2021 from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency for new construction. The apartment building above the new Walz Branch could have 51 apartments -- 20 two-bedroom units, 26 one-bedroom apartments, and five studios totaling 38,914 square feet. Planned is a rooftop deck, community room, on-site laundry and wellness center, Senger said.

The 53-year-old library also has its issues. As part of its 10-year, $100 million masterplan to rebuild or replace its facilities, CPL said the Walz Branch should have 15,000 square feet to meet programming requirements. Walz has only 9,700 square feet. The library is named after Dr. Frederick Wilhelm Walz who donated land for the library upon his death in 1945.

Also, the library building has no elevator or restrooms on the main level fronting Detroit, requiring disabled patrons to go outside and use the sloping parking lot to reach the lower level at the back of the building. Public meeting rooms are also on the lower level, Senger said.

"This has been a 10-year planning process," said Ward 15 Councilman Matt Zone. "With the land assembly (by DSCDO) behind the site, this has the opportunity to be one of the most transformative developments in our neighborhood in perhaps the last 50 years."

But several commission members pushed back against conceptual designs for the library topped by apartments. Much of the disdain was directed at the inclusion of a trapezoidal roof overhanging the glassy facade facing south at Detroit. Some said it was too thick, too tall, too large and blocks the apartment building residents' views of the street. There was no action taken by the commission on the conceptual designs.

Senger said that Zone wanted a design that gave the library a noticeable presence from the street. He said too many people pass by the library and don't even know that it's there. The conceptual designs for the mixed-use development were produced by Robert P. Madison International Inc. and Bialosky Cleveland.

After final designs are submitted and approved by the commission, the Walz Branch library is scheduled to be temporarily relocated in 2022 and its 53-year-old building demolished. Completion of the new branch topped by apartments is anticipated for May 2023.

Jacobs Entertainment Inc.'s 5.6 acres of land it listed for sale is
shown above in yellow and includes the air rights above the
 parcels shown in blue and green (LoopNet). 

CASTO backs away from Flats site, replaced by another?

Confirming a report shared only by NEOtrans, Columbus-based real estate developer CASTO acknowledged it was interested in a large plot of Flats West Bank land put up for sale by Jacobs Entertainment Inc. However, a representative of Casto said they chose not to pursue it further.

"CASTO is not in a tentative agreement nor do we plan to acquire the 5.6-acre land described in the (NEOtrans) articles," said Lauren Bowers, CASTO's manager of marketing and communications. "We did look at the land a while ago but nothing came of it."

The 5.6 acres land that Jacobs put up for sale in March is located on the Cuyahoga River waterfront. The land, with about 300 parking spaces on them, is north of Jacobs' Nautica Entertainment Complex including the Powerhouse at Nautica. The offered land does not include the Powerhouse's parking lot -- only the air rights above it.

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.

On the opposite side of the historic Superior Viaduct, another development team is seeking a separate, potential project at 1250 Riverbed St. Although still early, it could be a high-rise development that might require construction of a multi-level parking deck on Elm Street, between the Powerhouse and Stonebridge Plaza, 1237 Washington Ave.

Word is that 1250 Riverbed's development team is talking about that parking deck with another development team that is pursuing the Jacobs Entertainment property. However it is not known who is interested in the Jacobs land this time.

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.

Buyers Products is expanding again in Mentor where it already has
more than 1.4 million square feet of offices, warehouses and manu-
facturing facilities. The company is adding a 280,000-square-foot
distribution center and 17,500 square feet of offices (Buyers).

Buyers Products breaks ground for new warehouse

Construction is underway to double the size of Buyers Products' distribution center and corporate headquarters in Mentor to accommodate the company’s growing business needs. The company, a leading manufacturer in the work truck equipment industry, is located at 9049 Tyler Blvd.

The expansion includes 280,000 square feet of 67-foot-high, brand-new, state-of-the-art warehouse space with 20 additional docks. Simultaneously Buyers will add another 17,500 square feet of office space and expand its employee parking. Although the company did not disclose how many new jobs will be added by doubling the facility's size, the existing warehouse and offices accommodate several hundred jobs.

"As customer demands continue to grow, it’s imperative that we keep up," said Gary Kadow, warehouse operations manager at Buyers. "Our customers know to come to us for excellent service and rapid delivery. They expect to get what they need delivered when they need it. This expansion ensures we continue to exceed those expectations."

Buyers current warehouse stands at 250,000 square feet. It was built in 2002 and expanded to its current size in 2007. It added another 310,000 square foot fabrication facility in Mentor and, in 2012, the company acquired a 500,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, also in Mentor at 8200 Tyler. That brought Buyers-owned facilities in Mentor to four, totaling more than 1.4 million square feet.

On August 18, a small groundbreaking ceremony was held in accordance with current social distancing guidelines to kick-off construction of the new expansion. The ceremony included brief statements from company leadership and a “Golden Shovel” ceremony to honor outstanding members of the Buyers team for their contributions toward the company’s ongoing success. The company was founded in 1946.


Friday, August 28, 2020

Biz moving from suburbs to downtown Cleveland


Moving from Beachwood to the corner of East 9th Street and
Bolivar Road, near Progressive Field in downtown Cleveland,
are the regional offices of Goldwater Bank (Google).

For the second time this month, there is news that a company is relocating office jobs from the suburbs to downtown Cleveland. Earlier this month, NEOtrans broke the news that digital marketer Fathom will relocate its headquarters and about 100 jobs from Valley View to the West Bank of the Flats.

Now, NEOtrans has learned that another fast-growing company, Goldwater Bank N.A. Mortgage Division, will relocate its offices downtown by the end of the year. The Phoenix, Ariz.-based private commercial bank is moving its regional lending office from 23500 Mercantile Rd. in Beachwood to the Utica Building, 2217 E. 9th St. Goldwater will occupy the entire 11,129-square-foot first floor and an undetermined portion of the Utica Block's 11,129-square-foot basement.

The bank's office has 46 people based out of its Beachwood office although some are working remotely -- which was the case before the global pandemic hit. All of those jobs will now be based out of the new downtown location, said Ilya Palatnik, Goldwater's regional manager.

"This (downtown office space) will allow us to expand to a employment level of up to 104 employees," Palatnik said. "We keep a lot of administrative and clerical workers working remotely, but that was the case before COVID."

On Goldwater's behalf, Fischer & Associates Architects Inc. of Lorain submitted plans to the city earlier this month to secure a permit for interior demolition of the Utica Building's first floor. It previously held the Brickstone Tavern and the Stella Music Club. Both establishments were damaged, looted and closed as a result of the May 30 rioting that occurred downtown.

According to the permit application, workers will demolish and remove all existing restaurant and bar equipment including hoods, suppression equipment, bars, flooring, lay-in ceilings and non-bearing partitions and railings. They will also thoroughly clean the first floor and create a clean "white box" ready for new finishes. All existing emergency lighting, exit lighting, fire extinguishers and suppression will be maintained. The work is estimated to cost about $15,000, according to the permit application. 

The interior of the Utica Building features
this atrium and staircase (LoopNet/Cresco).

There will be follow-on permit applications for build-out of the interior finishes as well as for exterior signage. That would involve replacing the large Brickstone sign above East 9th with one for Goldwater, Palatnik said. He hoped demolition and build-out work could occur this fall. 

As part of the relocation and the addition of new jobs that the move will enable, the city of Cleveland will provide financial assistance through its Tech Delta program. That will aid Goldwater's acquisition of new equipment, computers and wiring, Palatnik added. Details about the amount of assistance was unavailable, but incentives per company per location through the Tech Delta program are capped at $50,000.

Goldwater Bank was founded in 2007. It established the Beachwood office in 2014, expanding to Fairview Park and Chagrin Falls/Bainbridge in 2018. But the latter two offices were consolidated into the Chagrin Falls location last year, Palatnik said. He noted that the relocation to downtown is a strategic one, and not merely to attract more young talent to the company with a back-to-the-city move.

"There's a little bit of that, but ultimately we want to be centralized east and west," Palatnik said. "Some of our employees live on the east side and some west. We want to be downtown. It's a business-savvy setting on East 9th."

The location is across East 9th from Progressive Field. The Utica Block is an historic, three-story brick building constructed in 1880, once called the Park Hotel. As the baseball stadium was being constructed in 1993, the downtrodden Utica Building was renovated with ground-floor restaurant/bar spaces and offices on the upper floors.

In addition to taking the entire first floor and part of the basement, Goldwater will also have acces to a rooftop deck. Palatnik said Goldwater will have offices here and not a retail operation. The rest of the 33,3870-square-foot building is occupied by offices for digital marketer Hileman Group and engineering firm Barber & Hoffman Inc.

Stonebridge Plaza, Suite 100, is seen left of the center of this photo taken
from Center Street at Washington Avenue on the Flats West Bank. The
plaza building dates from 1870 and will soon become the new home
of Fathom. The digital marketing firm will move its headquarters
to what is becoming a mini-hub of tech companies (Google).

The building is owned by an affiliate of GBX Group LLC of Cleveland and managed by George Management Ltd. of Lakewood. There were rumors last year that Midwest Development Partners LLC, the prior owners of the Utica Building, wanted to build a high-rise next to or on top of the Utica.

On Dec. 27, 2019, GBX and the George groups granted to the Historic Gateway Neighborhood Corp. a preservation and conservation easement and to relinquish the development air rights above the Utica Building, according to documents filed with Cuyahoga County.

That could provide to the GBX and George groups charitable tax deduction advantages from not developing the air rights to preserve the historic building. As part of the deal, Historic Gateway received a $40,000 donation upfront and $2,500 per year for the first five years. Annual payments will be increased beginning with the sixth year and every five years thereafter. Future increases will be equal to changes in the Consumer Price Index, according to the easement.

Goldwater isn't the only business moving its offices from Cleveland's suburbs to an historic building downtown -- or, in Fathom's case, the edge of downtown.

Earlier this month, NEOtrans reported that Fathom, a digital marketing and analytics firm, will move its headquarters from Valley View to Cleveland's Flats West Bank. The move will follow the company's June 17 purchase and planned renovation of a property at 2020 Center St., called Stonebridge Plaza, Suite 100.

Plans for the renovation work were submitted in late June to the city's Building & Housing Department for a building permit and are due to appear before Planning Commission soon. Fathom acquired the property through an affiliate called PromiseONE Properties LLC for $1.35 million, county records show.

Fathom's new headquarters featuring a contempoary design will soon
be added to the 1870-built Stonebridge Plaza, Suite 100, located at
2020 Center St., Flats' West Bank, in Cleveland. The company is
relocating from suburban Valley View (Bialosky Cleveland).

Like the Utica Building, Fathom's new home dates from the 19th century. Their destination is an 1870-built, 15,452-square-foot former machine shop that briefly was used as a Cantina Del Rio restaurant in the 1990s. It was converted to offices in 2006 by the K&D Group as part of the Stonebridge development. PromiseONE acquired the property from Stanley Zona, LTD which in turn is owned by Roger Zona.

Zona also owned TPI Efficiency, a procurement consulting firm which had its offices at 2020 Center. TPI's Efficiency's offices moved across the street to 2019 Center after Zona and another investor, Chad Kertesz, acquired the six-story Stonebridge Center office building in April for $1.7 million and renamed it The Hive My Place.

In late June when it acquired Stonebridge Plaza Suite 100, PromiseONE Properties also received a construction loan in the amount of $1,920,000 from First Federal Savings & Loan Association of Lakewood, public records show.

PromiseONE Properties intends to renovate the historic property for its own office needs. That includes 7,984 square feet for up to 79 workers on the first floor and 5,519 square feet for up to 55 employees on the second floor. Thus the maximum occupancy is 134 workers, according to planning documents Fathom and its architect Bialosky Cleveland submitted to the city.

Like Goldwater, Fathom is a fast-growing business. It began in 2006 as Fathom SEO LLC, a search engine optimization firm. Today, it has roughly 175 employees with gross revenues of $20 million to $30 million per year according to several business databases. In addition to its current headquarters at 8200 Sweet Valley Dr. in Valley View, Fathom has offices in San Diego, Detroit and Columbus.

Fathom's new home is becoming a mini-hub of technology firms. In addition to TPI Efficiency, Snip Internet, EmployStream, BoxCast and Kloud9 all have offices on the West Bank of the Flats.


Thursday, August 27, 2020

Rockefeller Building sold, new chapter begins


The Rockefeller Building was sold to a partnership
that intends to redevelop the 115-year-old office
building into a mix of apartments, offices and
ground-floor retail. The downtown Cleveland
property is located across West 6th Street from
the site of the planned $300 million Sherwin-
Williams headquarters complex (KJP).

Title to the Rockefeller Building in downtown Cleveland transferred today to a partnership that seeks to redevelop the historic edifice with housing, offices and ground-floor retail.

The 17-story building is located at 614 W. Superior Ave., across West 6th Street from the planned site of the new Sherwin-Williams headquarters. This purchase is the first what may be several spin-off investments directly resulting from the massive headquarters project.

Although all of the financing isn't yet in place to proceed with a renovation, the sale puts the building in the hands of motivated owners who have deeper pockets. The owners are a partnership of Realty Dynamics Equity Partners, LLC of Akron, OH and Wolfe Investments, LLC of Plano, TX.

The property's sale price was $13.35 million, members of the development team said. Anthony Spitalieri from Fidelity National Title assisted with the transaction.

Agostino Pintus, managing director of Realty Dynamics, and Kenny Wolfe, president of Wolfe Investments, were unavailable for comment. However, members of the development team were able to discuss on the record the purchase as well as the proposed renovation project.

"This building is in a perfect location with Sherwin-Williams' new headquarters going up across the street," said Conrad Geis, director and managing partner of general contractor and building manager Geis Companies. "Sherwin-Williams is a prime driver for business here."

The detailed and decorative facade of the Rockefeller Building on
its Superior Avenue side. The facade is a signature of a build-
ing designed in the Sullivanesque style of architecture (KJP).

The buyers and development team looked at numerous other buildings downtown for purchase and renovation. However, the Rockefeller Building apparently was their first choice and that preference was reaffirmed after looking at all of the other possibilities, so the group circled back to the Rockefeller.

The sellers were Benjamin Cappadora of Cleveland and Diana Miller of Brooklyn, NY. Together, they owned Rockefeller Building Associates which in turn owned the building since 1988. Cappadora has been a part of the building's ownership since January 1967 when Cappadora Realty Corp. acquired it from 614 Superior Co., public records show.

Cappadora, now 88 years old, has been quietly looking to sell the half-empty office building off-market for a couple of years. Geis Property Management & Leasing is taking over management of the property. Management and planning activities are led by Al Krist, president of Geis Properties.

The new owners and development team are in the process of securing federal historic tax credits for the building. These are non-competitive tax credits meaning that, if a building meets federal criteria at the time of the application, it will get them. There is a post-construction review and inspection by the National Park Service. If the building continues meet federal standards for five years after construction, its owner keeps the tax credits.

Without financing in place, representatives of the development team said there are no plans at this time to relocate within the building or evict from the building its existing tenants. The tenants are all on month-to-month leases. The 261,264-square-foot building is 51 percent occupied.

This unobstructed view from the east side of the
Rockefeller Building won't be possible for too
much longer. The photo was taken from the
"Superblock" -- now parking lots -- bought
by Sherwin-Williams Corp. earlier this
year where it will build its $300
million headquarters (KJP).

The building has faded from its former glory in recent decades. But any visitor to the Gilded Age building can see past the dust, rust, leaking pipes, grime and tarnish that a beauty exists underneath, waiting to be reborn. The building, built in two stages in 1905 and 1910, features all of the marble, iron, brass and woodwork one would expect in a structure built by Cleveland native and Standard Oil Co. founder John D. Rockefeller.

Geis Companies of Streetsboro will have the honor of restoring the building's luster and the responsibility of managing the property once construction gets under way. And the firm will manage the property once the work is done.

"When you walk in, you're going to know you're in a Rockefeller building," Geis said. "We're going to stay in line with the design, look and feel of this building to ensure the preservation of the building and the meaning behind it. We're also going to do a substantial facade cleanup like what our team did with the May Co. building (on Public Square). The Rockefeller is going to have the same kind of look and feel. It's going to be beautiful inside and out."

Although renovation plans are still conceptual, the development team proposes repurposing floors 5-16 of the Rockefeller Building with 436 apartments including 273 micro-unit apartments. The apartments would measure anywhere from about 273 to 726 square feet each, preliminary plans show.

Floors 2-4 will have renovated offices for existing or new tenants. The ground floor, with entrances off West Superior and West 6th, will have 12,000 to 15,000 square feet of retail, be it shops, barber/salons, restaurants and/or food hall. They will be accessible not only to the building's office tenants and hundreds of residents, but also to Sherwin-Williams' 3,500+ office workers and visitors.

The Vault at The 9, below the Heinen's grocery store at East 9th
Street in Euclid Avenue, offers an example of how a vault in
the lower level of the Rockefeller may be renovated and
repurposed. Geis Companies renovated The 9 and may
soon renovate the Rockefeller too (

"We're going to be bringing in some strong tenants on the ground floor," Geis said.

The development team proposes lots of amenities for the building's tenants, including a movie theater, dog park, rooftop amenities and more. And while the top floor is normally used for penthouses, it won't be in The Rockefeller. Instead, it will be used for storage units because it can't be used for much else.

"The ceiling heights (on the 17th floor) are low -- just seven feet," Geis said. "It was originally used for vaults and they were put on the top floor for security."

The theory was that the vaults' location improved the chances of catching a safe-cracker before he could get down to street level. That knowledge would hopefully discourage would-be thieves from trying. The Rockefeller Building was an imposing building -- the city's tallest when it was built. There was also a vault in the basement, reached by a marble staircase, that offers redevelopment possibilities.

"It could be similar to The Vault at The 9," Geis said, referring to the cocktail lounge that Geis Companies fashioned from a large bank vault in the basement of the 113-year-old Cleveland Trust rotunda at East 9th Street and Euclid Avenue.

The Rockefeller has features not available in any other historic building downtown including the potential for mixed use and good floor layouts offering a high ratio of rentable space to gross space. The investors and development team said that would help generate more revenues than other potential office-to-residential conversions downtown.

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 deci-
sion to build its new headquarters downtown is motivating the
renovation and conversion of The Rock into micro-unit apart-
 ments, refurbished offices and ground-floor retail (KJP).

Cleveland's first "skyscraper" was built in the “Sullivanesque” architectural style -- named after Louis Sullivan, called the father of skyscrapers. Sullivan was a mentor to Frank Lloyd Wright; but Sullivan's mentor was Cleveland architect John Edelman whose lone surviving 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.

Acquisition of the Rockefeller Building includes a 95-year-old, five-level, 43,617-square-foot brick-and-concrete parking garage behind, accessed off Frankfort Avenue. Geis said the garage could be retained for parking, repurposed with retail or put back on the for-sale market after a tax-increment financing incentive is added to it. It is unlikely to be demolished as it is in an historic district -- the Historic Warehouse District

Also included in today's sale is the 1.84 acres of land on which the Rockefeller Building and its parking garage sets. Of that land, about 1.1 acres is currently used for surface parking. Geis said the land would initially be used for construction staging. After that, it could be developed with new uses.

Once renovation work starts on the Rockefeller Building, it could take about 18-24 months to complete. Geis noted that his company's renovation of the May Co., completed this year, and The 9, finished in 2015, were each completed in under 18 months.

"We are able to do it (so quickly) as Geis is a design-build firm so we can do projects up to 20 percent faster because of all the in-house capabilities we have," he said.


Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Cleveland is rising higher on the waterfront


The above map shows areas highlighted in this article about
existing and proposed concentrations of waterfront high-
rises in and near downtown Cleveland (Google).

Coastal cities have one thing in common -- a tendency to build more high-rise buildings along their waterfronts. In real estate, where location is all-important, few things attract investment more than an accessible waterfront. That's true for shorelines on oceans, Great Lakes and major rivers.

But in Cleveland, which grew up in the 1800s as an industrial power, it turned its waterfronts over to industry, shipping and railroads. They were what drove Cleveland's growth until the middle of the 20th century. The decision limited lake access to the public and thus the development of housing, especially the high-rise kind.

Now, in post-industrial Cleveland, everyone from politicians to developers to civic-minded activists to environmentalists are trying to claw back the city's waterfronts from the relics of industry. That is sure to draw more housing investment to within an easy walk or bike ride of Cleveland's waterways.

All of this is set against the backdrop of a sub-plot of climate change which could push some southern or eastern coastal residents to northern coastal refuges on the Great Lakes. And the Great Lakes themselves are affected by climate change. They are experiencing record high water levels, driven by increasing precipitation as measured over the decades.

It's not Cleveland. Instead it's Milwaukee, another Great Lakes
city that has a shoreline dotted with numerous high-rises. And
they aren't just limited to downtown either. Nearly as many of
the city's high-rises are scattered among its near-north side at
the right of this photo taken from in Lake Michigan (KJP).

Work by Cuyahoga County and affected communities has started on a 30-mile-long cross-county trail along Lake Erie's shoreline. The trail's goal is two-fold -- to strengthen the shoreline thus protecting property owners from further erosion and to improve public access to Lake Erie. In other words, cities and the county are offering erosion protection in exchange for public access to the lake.

The work actually started several years ago in the City of Euclid where nearly 1 mile of lakefront trail and erosion control has been built or is under construction. The work will increase the amount of publicly accessible lakefront in Euclid from 5 percent to 30 percent, including the area below multiple high-rises in the vicinity of Kenneth J. Sims Park.

Lakewood also created a lakefront trail below Lakewood Park, highlighted by the Solstice Steps. The next section of lakefront trail and erosion control to see construction could be below Lakewood's Gold Coast -- Greater Cleveland's largest collection of residential high-rises along the lakefront. But no high-rises have been built here since 1980. That could change with more lakefront access.

Several aging, non-descript buildings that are only 2-3 stories tall on the south side of Edgewater Drive in Lakewood could be replaced by taller buildings. Some of those properties have been eyed by real estate developers proposing high-rises that are taller than the shortest buildings on the north side of Edgewater or are positioned so that their residents could see between lakefront towers to view Lake Erie.

Lakewood's Gold Coast is one of the most densely populated parts
of Greater Cleveland, featuring high rises as tall as 29 stories.
Its views of Lake Erie and downtown Cleveland are its
 primary attractions. The density has drawn dozens
of restaurants, several grocery stores and many
other stores and services to the area (Google).

Not all lakefront land is fertile ground for high-rise development. For example, Cleveland's Edgewater neighborhood just east of Lakewood's Gold Coast is hostile to the development of more multi-family development. That is due to decades of efforts by the Edgewater Homeowners Association, some of whom have political connections. I wrote about those efforts for Sun Newspapers in 2013.

The neighborhood's hostility toward high-rises goes back to 1979 when the association won a landmark court case in 1979 against Xen Zapis, developer of the West Chateau apartments, 10301 Lake Ave. The Edgewater Homeowners Association fought Zapis’ attempt to build more highrises along Lake Avenue, this time east of West 116th Street. The homeowners prevailed.

So finding a spread of land where there are few or no resident NIMBYs nearby might present more fertile ground for high-rises. There is such a place, between the stable Edgewater neighborhood to the west and the rapidly growing Gordon Square/Battery Park neighborhood to the east.

That place is just south of Cuyahoga County's second-longest stretch of continuous publicly accessible shoreline -- Edgewater Park (second only to East 55th Street Marina/Gordon Park/Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve). The Lake Avenue industrial triangle is one of the largest surviving industrial areas on the west-side lakefront.

The Lake Avenue industrial triangle in the foreground is one of
the last lakefront industrial areas left on the city's West Side. It
could stay industrial or add residential uses following the intro-
duction of a form-based zoning code in this area (Google). 

The roughly 30-acre triangle is bounded by Lake Avenue, a busy railroad line and the Gordon Square/Battery Park area to the east. In it are viable industries like Alcon Industries, Universal Grinding, Lowe Chemical or Mid-American Construction. Some of these companies' facilities are more than a century old, such as Lowe Chemical's well-maintained, three-story, 112-year-old brick structure at 8400 Baker Ave.

But the triangle also has 20 houses, several small walk-up apartment buildings, and the 78th Street Studios -- the largest fine arts complex in Northeast Ohio. It was built in 1905 as the Baker Electric Motor Vehicle Co. factory at 1300 W. 78th.

The Lake Avenue triangle is also one of three areas where the City of Cleveland will introduce its form-based zoning code pilot, NEOtrans reported. Form-based zoning is driven by an urban area's physical form, not by its type of land use. So if industries want to stay, they can. If developers want to expand residential uses here, they can do that too.

Considering the potential high cost of acquiring, clearing and cleaning up the industrial triangle's properties, only large-scale developments might be feasible here to generate enough to revenue to offset those costs. These factors, plus the site's proximity to Lake Erie and Edgewater Park as well as its lack of NIMBYs, are why this site might be suited to high-rise development.

West 58th Street is along the bottom of this image looking west.
To the right is the old Westinghouse plant and below is the
HKM Marketing property. Beyond is The Edison, Battery
Park and other developments that have turned this former
industrial area into more of a resiential area. Proximity
to the lake, Edgewater Park and downtown Cleve-
land are the draws for residents (AerialAgents).

Moving farther east, the next fertile ground for high rises would probably be east of the already extensively developed Battery Park. It starts in the area of the former Westinghouse plant on West 58th Street. The plant itself features a mid-rise building -- an eight-story structure that's been considered for residential conversions.

But the high cost of redeveloping the site has stalled such plans. Like the industrial triangle to the west, a large-scale development here might generate enough revenue to overcome those costs. But so far, no one has put that ambitious project together.

One that was rumored to be interested was Westlake-based Carnegie Management and Development Corp. But its attention instead turned to the other side of West 58th and acquired the 4.8-acre HKM Direct Market Communications Inc. property, 5501 Cass Ave.

According to an article in Crain's Cleveland Business, Carnegie is making a long-term play here, possibly considering a mid- or high-rise residential development rising above the West Shoreway several years from now. To do so would require rezoning the site with either a form-based code or changing the height district to allow buildings taller than 35 feet.

United Community Developers' proposed 27-story apartment
building called The Viaduct won final approval from City
Planning Commission this past week. Its views of down-
town Cleveland, Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River
will be unparalleled on the near-West Side (Dimit).

Height districts along Detroit Avenue don't increase from "two" (60 feet) to "three" (115 feet) until east of West 29th Street. That's where Grammar Properties and Hemingway Development of Cleveland plus Cedar Street Development of Chicago joined forces to build Church+State, rising as tall as 11 stories with great views of the lake and downtown.

Some of the same players will build again, this time at a development called Bridgeworks on the northeast corner of West 25th Street and Detroit. From here all the way down to the Cuyaoga River, the height district is a lofty "five," meaning buildings as tall as 250 feet can be built.

Although Bridgeworks isn't likely to rise anywhere near that tall, another proposed development, this time on the north side of Superior Viaduct, intends to use every bit of the height limit. United Community Developers plans to build a 27-story apartment building called The Viaduct starting in mid-2021. It will have views of and access to both of Cleveland's waterfronts -- the lake and the river.

Just down the hill, along the West Bank of the Flats, more potentially vertical development is in the offing. Here, Columbus-based CASTO reportedly was seeking to acquire 5.6 acres of waterfront land. At $3 million per acre, the asking price would demand a large-scale, potentially high-rise development to offset the land acquisition costs. But CASTO and seller Jacobs Entertainment Inc. couldn't finalize a deal. There are reportedly other interested parties, however.

How might the Flats' West Bank get developed in the near future
is anyone's guess. But it could follow this vision proposed recently
for Jacobs Entertainment that is selling its riverfront land (AODK).

Another development team, including Cleveland-based Paran Management, is interested in developing a riverfront property at 1250 Riverbed St., also reported only at NEOtrans. Sources say their residential development might also be a high-rise. According to recents reports, Paran and another developer are in conversations about building a shared parking garage on Elm Street the north side of the Superior Viaduct, as was previously noted in this May article as well as in this June article.

Yet another high-rise is in the works that could offer river and lake views, this time on the Flats East Bank. What is sometimes called Phase 3B (Phase 3A's riverside restaurants/bars are under construction) would include a 12-story building featuring micro-unit apartments over commercial uses and possibly an adjoining theater.

Downtown has a growing number of high-rises, including 14 residential buildings of 15 stories or more. Nine of those residential towers were opened in the past decade either through new construction or by conversion of older commercial buildings.

More are coming, including the 23-story City Club Apartments at 720 Euclid Ave. It received final design approval by City Planning Commission last week and could see construction in November. Two more mostly residential high-rises are in the works, including a conversion of the historic 17-story Rockefeller Building as well as possibly a new-construction tower at the edge of the Warehouse District.

City Club Apartments, a 23-story tower at 720 Euclid Ave., won
final design approval by City Planning Commission last week.
It is one of several high-rise buildings in the works in down-
town Cleveland that could see construction in 2021 (Vocon).

The last two would be spin-offs from the $300 million investment that Sherwin-Williams Corp. is making by building a new headquarters in downtown Cleveland. It's main building on the west side of Public Square will reportedly rise to between 45-55 stories, potentially approaching the height of the city's tallest -- Key Tower.

More high-rise residential buildings might be built someday, just outside of downtown or along the lake. Near the East Shoreway and the Waterfront Line just northeast of downtown, buildings are limited by a "four" height district, maxing out at 175 feet. But south of the railroad tracks and the lake bluff and east to Interstate 90 is a "six" height district where buildings as tall as 600 feet could be built. East of there along the lakefront, 115 feet is the height limit.

The area northeast of downtown has no buildings of height nor are there any plans to construct any. That's too bad, as downtown's building heights drop off a cliff from the 20- to 40-story towers of the Erieview District west of East 12th Street to buildings of only a few stories east of there.

That could change depending on the outcome of new planning efforts underway by several public-sector entities: Cleveland State University (CSU), the Cleveland Metroparks and the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT).

The east flank of downtown Cleveland comes to an abrupt end
at about East 12th Street. From Cleveland State University's
Krenzler Field, it looks like a wall. Perhaps it could expand
eastward someday, especially along the lakefront (CSU).

As NEOtrans first reported in June, CSU is starting a new campus-wide masterplan. Among the facilities that CSU will reportedly look at is addressing a shortage of student housing. It may also focus on new efforts to dramatically increase its medical education offerings. It could even replace or renovate Rhodes Tower, CSU's tallest building.

The Metroparks is conducting a land use plan for the lakefront east of Burke Lakefront Airport to Gordon Park. This is focused on recreational offerings and boosting public access to the lake from the neighborhoods to the south. A similar effort to improve access to Edgewater Park on the West Side helped boost real estate investment in areas south of the of the Shoreway (Interstate 90 here) and lakefront railroad tracks. 

A similar outcome could occur on the East Side and create an "Edgewater East" as some real estate developers described it. Much of the area south of the lakefront railroad tracks is still industrial, but there is more developable land north of tracks on the East Side vs. the West Side. That's especially true after FirstEnergy demolished its Lake Shore Power Station in 2017.

Options for rerouting Interstate 90 through the former FirstEnergy
Lake Shore Power Station site could increase the size of Gordon
Park as well as provide lakefront residential development
opportunities and enhanced lake access (CPC). 

And that leads us to ODOT's lakefront plans. It is looking at how to protect Interstate 90 from Lake Erie's rising water levels and wave action. The highway is only a few feet from the lake at the location where the road went around the former power station.

ODOT will look at better protecting the highway at its current location or possibly rerouting away from the lake through the former FirstEnergy property. The city has urged FirstEnergy and ODOT to consider rerouting the highway with the power station no longer there. It could open up significantly more lakefront land to restore Gordon Park nearer its original, pre-highway size. And it could make land more accessible to residential development south of the highway.

Each of these public-sector planning efforts could foster more fertile sites for more lakefront high-rises east of downtown. They could help create more quality housing, boost retail offerings and improve lake access on the East Side. And it would create a more impressive entrance to Cleveland's urban core on I-90 from the east -- the kind that every big coastal city should have.


Saturday, August 22, 2020

Edgewater Hill project: signs of sudden growth

The West 73rd Apartments is the second large development proposed
by United Community Developers. The other, a 27-story apartment
tower called The Viaduct above Flats West Bank, also was on City
Planning Commission's docket yesterday. Combined, these two
projects may cost about $120 million to develop (Dimit/CPC).


For those watching the City Planning Commission's virtual meeting yesterday, two examples of sudden growth were apparent. Both centered around a new apartment building project in the Edgewater Hill section of Cleveland's Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood.

The examples of sudden growth raises a couple of tangential questions: Where did this apartment building development suddenly come from? And where did its developer, Brecksville-based United Community Developers, suddenly come from too?

The development is a 75-unit apartment building at 1351 W. 73rd St. whose design won final approval at yesterday's City Planning Commission meeting. Commission members were unanimous in their support of the final design. The project has the working title "West 73rd Street Apartments."

A prior plan for the site called Edgewater Hill Luxury Townhomes had 21 townhouses. It cleared all of the planning and development hurdles and was days away from a groundbreaking ceremony scheduled for May 9, 2019. But the groundbreaking never happened.

The 0.725-acre townhouse development site continues to be owned by the developer that sought to build the townhouses -- an affiliate of Cleveland Custom Homes located in Westlake. The rest of the apartment building site is owned by Columbus-based Wickford Holdings LLC run by developer Michael Casey.

Proposed site plan and location of the West 73rd Apartments in the
Edgewater Hill section of the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood.
Detroit Avenue is just out of view at the bottom (Dimit/CPC).

Those two properties will be acquired as neither Cleveland Custom Homes or Wickford Holdings will be involved in the West 73rd Apartments, said United Community Developers' principal Wayne Jatsek in an Aug. 24 e-mail. Total area of the development site is 1.14 acres.

"Neither Wickford nor Cleveland Homes are affiliated with the new development," Jatsek said.

As fast as the Edgewater Hill townhouse development plan disappeared, the apartment building project took its place. It isn't unusual for apartment bulding projects of this size in Cleveland to linger for a few years before they get final approval from Planning Commission. Not this one.

The site for the project isn't a surprise, however. West 73rd has become a principal thoroughfare since December 2016 when it was punched through to Edgewater Park with the aid of $34 million in local and state funds. It was part of a concerted effort to increase this neighborhood's access to the lakefront by improving pedestrian, bike and vehicular routes under the busy Norfolk Southern railroad tracks and the Shoreway.

Two small warehouse buildings on the site will be razed and replaced by a long, four-story, 95,000-square-foot apartment building that "steps down" in the middle of the structure to account for the land sloping down northward toward the lake, said Maggie Young, an architect at Lakewood-based Dimit Architects LLC.

The West 73rd Street Apartments' final design has 91 parking spaces which exceeds that which is required by the building code. Most of the parking spaces will be below the apartment building with access via a driveway near the intersection of West 73rd and Herman Avenue. Also proposed are internal and external bike racks.

With West 73rd Street in the foreground and downtown Cleveland
along with Lake Erie in the distance, United Community Deve-
lopers is banking that its development's proximity to those
and other assets will be a draw to tenants (Dimit/CPC).

On the east side of the building facing the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School's athletic field will be a swimming pool that has a sun shelf with lounge chairs in water that is 6-9 inches deep. Surrounding the building will be plantings that were changed to be more pet-friendly as a result of input from the Near-West Design-Review Committee.

Also planned are numerous rooftop amenities including a putting green, bocce court, sitting area, hammocks, wood deck, rooftop bar and grill area with TVs, said Peggy Brown, a landscape architect based in Cleveland Heights.

Planning Commission member Diane Downing said she has a daughter who lives across West 73rd from the development site. She noted that traffic on the street already backs up on the street. She asked how this West 73rd Street Apartments project as well as two more buildings offering another 250 apartments planned farther north will affect traffic.

Young said there is no traffic study yet for the West 73rd Apartments and said United Community Developers is working with the Edgewater Hill Block Club on its members' concerns and ideas.

City planner Adam Davenport said the city is considering some traffic-calming features for West 73rd which was completely rebuilt two years ago from Detroit Avenue north to Father Frascati Drive. A stop sign at the intersection of West 73rd and Herman could be added, he said.

"Design-Review supported this (apartment building) project more than the previous plan which was townhouses," Davenport said.

In the wake of the townhouse project, United Community Developers led by Jatsek stepped in. He and his development firm are somewhat enigmatic. Few in local development circles had heard of either until this past spring when Jatsek and his firm announced a 27-story apartment tower called The Viaduct to rise above the Flats West Bank at 2208 Superior Viaduct. That project won schematic approval from Planning Commission yesterday.

The east side of the proposed West 73rd Apartments complex
features a swimming pool above a subterranean parking
deck. Out of view to the right is Our Lady of Mt.
Carmel School's athletic field. (Dimit/CPC).

"Ideally, we would like to perform both projects in tandem," Jatsek said. "However, we understand the approval process for The Viaduct may take some additional time due to the complexity of the building and the challenges of the site. Project overlap may be a best-case scenario."

Although no cost estimate for The Viaduct has been publicly released, it may approach $100 million. Similarly, the cost of the West 73rd Apartments is not officially known either, but could carry a price tag in the neighborhood of $20 million.

Those are a couple of big projects for a developer without a long track record constructing big buildings -- or at least delivering increasingly larger buildings over many years. Jatsek and several in his family do have a track record, but mostly with numerous smaller projects including home renovations and additions as well as heavy-highway construction projects.

Jatsek was the frontman for a 24-unit luxury townhouse development in Westlake called Hillsborough Point on Center Ridge Road. Despite winning over voters in 2017 to change the zoning for the site from general business to multi-family, the project was ultimately shot down by Westlake's Planning Commission. Last spring, Jatsek said the design was probably too urban for Westlake. So he headed to the city to try his luck there.

According to sources, Jatsek is a frontman for others including unidentified Opportunity Zone fund investors. Jatsek said he intends to secure additional financing from the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority and other partners. Most recently, United Community Developers has joined forces with two giants in local development circles -- Geis Companies and the Osborne Group to build The Viaduct.

Jatsek acknowledges that United Community Developers is taking big steps forward with these projects but didn't respond to questions about his funders and partners or how his firm's sudden rise might be perceived by others. But suffice it to say, the real work for United Community Developers is about to begin.


Thursday, August 20, 2020

City Club Apartments tower may rise in November


A groundbreaking for the 23-story City Club Apartments tower on
Euclid Avenue could occur as early as November. Although the
global pandemic slowed the start of the project, the delay was
not as much as feared just a few months ago (Vocon/CPC).

UPDATED AUG. 21, 2020

If you missed seeing construction cranes over downtown Cleveland, you may not have to wait long for their return. With the city's approval of final designs tomorrow for the City Club Apartments, the first of several cranes likely in 2021 could sprout in the spring.

A member of the development team for City Club Apartments said the project is on track to break ground in November for the firm's first project in Cleveland. The comments were made this week at City Planning Commission and at the city's Downtown/Flats Design Review Committee. Both panels unanimously approved final designs for the project.

"The developer is doing everything they can to start construction in November," said Denver Brooker, a principal at Vocon Partners LLC, the project's architect. "A lot has changed in the world since February (when Planning Commission last reviewed City Club Apartments) but this project has stayed the course."

Last winter, before the pandemic swept the globe, project backers hoped to start construction this summer. By spring, as financial markets and supply chains took pandemic-related hits, Michigan-based City Club Apartments realized they may have to push the start date back to early-2021.

Standing between the City Club Building (no affiliation) and The
Residences at 668, the City Club Apartments tower would provide
a much-needed boost to shops and restaurants on Lower Euclid
Avenue. Downtown is only now recovering from the global pan-
demic and May's nationwide riots (Vocon/CPC).

But sources said that City Club Apartments was able to nail down financing for its proposed 23-story Cleveland tower at 720 Euclid Ave. Part of that financing involved refinancing City Club's Cincinnati property through the issuance of $68.5 million in debt by Asia Capital Real Estate.

City Club said in a press release this week it has $750 million worth of projects under development/construction in Cincinnati, Detroit, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Louisville and Cleveland with expansion planned for the East Coast.

The 250,000-square-foot Cleveland tower has a projected construction cost in the $85 million to $100 million range. That's based on the construction costs of two other Euclid Avenue apartment towers built in the last two years -- the 28-story Beacon and the 34-story Lumen. The latter is Ohio's tallest residential building at 396 feet. City Club's tower is proposed to reach to 241 feet in structural height but a rooftop decorative element could bring that to about 250 feet.

Although this tower will be shorter than the two latest apartment towers, it promises a dynamic street presence featuring a glassy, two-level retail/lobby base and extensive landscaping, including "four season" vegetation that would incorporate fake plants above the building's lobby. The owner will maintain the real and fake vegetation. Proposed retail includes a cafe, restaurant and a doggy day care business. On the rooftop amenity deck would be an indoor/outdoor terrace and swimming pool.

Extensive vegetation is planned along the City Club Apartments' Euclid
Avenue sidewalk as is a canopied entryway that's reminiscent of a
movie theater's entrance. It's a nod to the Hippodrome Building
and theater that stood here from 1907-1981 (Vocon/CPC).

In between, City Club and its design team at Cleveland-based Vocon proposed about 313 market-rate apartments, roughly half of which will be 400-square-foot studio apartments. The smaller units will be marketed to younger residents who have been priced out of the downtown market. There will also be one-, two- and three-bedroom units measuring up to 1,400 square feet, according to schematic plans approved by Planning Commission Feb. 21. That housing mix hasn't changed in this final plan.

"The design is exhuberant and iconic," said design-review committee member Jack Bialosky. "But it is a fashion statement in some ways. I look forward to a conversation about it (the design) in 20 years."

The City Club Apartments, named after the development and management company, has no connection to the Cleveland City Club meeting and event venue located next door at 850 Euclid. The site for the apartment building was chosen because it is currently one of the last surface parking lots left on Euclid downtown.

Prior to 1981, the Hippodrome Building stood here and contained an ornate theater by the same name. But owner Judge Alvin Krenzler started demolishing the building in the middle of night to get ahead of preservationists' appeals to save the building.

Among the features the city's design review committee members
said they liked most about the City Club Apartments was its
street presence. That presence features a landscaped, two-
level retail/lobby base (Vocon/CPC).

An entrance canopy above Euclid's sidewalk was designed to look like a theater's entrance, said Jodi Vanderwiel, design director at Vocon. That won praise from the design-review committee, especially from Tom Yablonksy, executive director of the Historic Gateway Neighborhood Corp.

"This is a win," he said. "It respects the heritage of the site."

After the Hippodrome was razed, a six-story, 540-space parking garage was built in the middle of the David Goldberg-owned property which extends south to Prospect Avenue. The new apartment building will utilize the existing garage which is mostly empty at night.

A future phase two could rise on the Prospect side if the proposed tower on Euclid leases quickly. That could also depend on the amount of new residential units in development or under construction in downtown Cleveland over the next year or two.

If construction starts in November on the City Club Apartments tower, a construction crane might follow in May or June. And by then, the new Sherwin-Williams headquarters complex featuring at least one tower west of Public Square could be under way. The last construction crane over downtown was for The Lumen and was taken down in February.