Friday, February 26, 2021

Little Italy development site back in play

These preliminary views show a 105-unit apartment building
proposed along East 123rd Street at the north end of Little Italy,
next to Lakeview Cemetery. Also planned as part of the develop-
ment are nine for-sale townhomes along Coltman Road (GLSD).

After many years of false starts and litigation, a large vacant parcel at the north end of Little Italy is back in play for a new real estate development.

Property owner University Circle Inc. has selected a partnership of Property Advisors Group of Beachwood and M. Panzica Development of Cleveland to develop what is called the Woodhill Supply site. The vacant 2.14-acre property is located in the 1800 block of East 123rd Street and Coltman Road.

Preliminary illustrations of the partnership's vision for the site were submitted earlier this week to the city of Cleveland's Building Department for a zoning review. The zoning review will reveal what, if any, variances may be needed prior to securing a building permit from the city.

Plans also have to be approved by the local design-review committee and the city's Landmarks Commission as Little Italy is an historic district. GLSD Architects, LLC, a Geis Companies affiliate, is the project's designer.

Early planning drafts show a 114-unit housing development offering a mix of for-sale and rental units. It includes an L-shaped, 105-unit Woodhill Apartments building along East 123rd next to Lakeview Cemetery plus two new streets, both linking East 123rd and Coltman and proposed new parking lots adding about 105 spaces.

The Woodhill Supply site is the location of the proposed Panzica-
Property Advisors Group development (Cuyahoga County).

The roughly 98,000-square-foot apartment building is proposed to be mostly four stories tall with a section at the northeast corner, away from existing housing, standing five stories. Also proposed is a row of nine, three-story-tall, for-sale townhouses along Coltman. The townhomes would have their own garages on the ground-floor of each unit and accessed from behind.

Plans show the apartment building with a ground-floor lobby, on-site management/leasing office, gym, two parcel rooms, as well as a meeting room with kitchen. Outdoor grassy areas include tables and benches plus a play area for children. Those plans are being studied by the neighborhood's design-review committee.

"We're working through the preliminary design discussions with the stakeholders," said development principal Mike Panzica. "Still premature to discuss in detail."

UCI President Chris Ronayne also said it was premature to discuss the proposed project.

This would be the second Little Italy endeavor by the partnership of M. Panzica Development and Property Advisors Group. Their first, Baricelli Inn Apartments, is under construction on Cornell Road next to the historic Baricelli Inn, an 1896-built stone mansion that was previously the Washington Place Bistro & Inn. The new-build apartment building will have 44 housing units while the historic inn will be converted into a dozen apartments.

An early draft from last fall of what the for-sale townhomes along
Coltman Road could look like, and how they could screen views
of the apartment building from some nearby homes (contributed).

For UCI, it's their second potential asset disposition this year to a developer seeking to inject new residential life into an underutilized property. At Ford Drive and Hessler Road, developers Rick Maron and Russell Berusch want to renovate two historic buildings with nine apartments and add behind them a new building with 23 micro-unit apartments.

Since UCI isn't a governmental agency, it isn't subject to public bidding requirements. Instead, for each asset disposition, UCI sent requests for information to several developers to solicit responses from them. The responses were reviewed by UCI's Development Committee.

At a Feb. 10 community meeting on the Ford-Hessler development, UCI's Vice President of Community Development Debbie Berry said UCI was looking for particular developers. Specifically, they were looking for developers that had the capacity to deliver projects and had experience in working in the community development organization's service area.

The Little Italy site became available after Woodhill Supply Inc., a distributor of kitchen and bath materials, moved out of the neighborhood in 2010 for locations in Cleveland and Willoughby.

In 2005, Woodhill Supply President Arnold Kaufman and salesman Michael Semlar were convicted of their involvement in a Cleveland Water Division corruption case and sentenced to prison. The vacated buildings caught fire in 2015 and their heavily damaged remnants were demolished. No documents regarding cause of the fire were immediately available. 

Preliminary site plan showing a redevelopment concept for
the Woodhill Supply site in Little Italy (GLSD).

In 2014, Visconsi Companies Ltd. of Pepper Pike proposed a 205-unit apartment complex featuring two buildings, each six stories tall. One would have been along Coltman and the other along East 123rd. Between them was to be a two-level parking garage with the first level below ground and the second level topped by a green roof.

Although the project was approved by the Landmarks Commission and granted variances by the Board of Zoning Appeals, a neighbor of the development site filed multiple legal challenges over several years against the city, its zoning administrator and then-property owner East 123 St. Properties, Ltd. for approving the project.

Despite his legal defeats and mostly unsuccessful appeals, the resident wore down Visconsi which gave notice in March 2018 to the Eighth District Court of Appeals that it would no longer pursue its option to acquire the property. The resident promptly dropped the legal challenges.

In March 2019, UCI acquired the Woodhill Supply property for $1.975 million from East 123 St. Properties. The property is next to UCI's operations center and police department. However, UCI determined that disposing of the Woodhill Supply site for redevelopment offered its highest and best use.

Tyler Kapusta contributed to this article.


Monday, February 22, 2021

Work starts on Via Sana on West 25th near MetroHealth

Phase one of MetroHealth's $60 million housing plan for the West
25th Street corridor is Via Sana, located at Sackett Avenue (RDL).

Construction is beginning on the first of three buildings that will comprise a $60-million mixed-use project in Cleveland’s Clark-Fulton neighborhood. The building is being developed by The NRP Group, The MetroHealth System and CCH Development Corp. -- a public-private partnership that will strengthen and revitalize the west side neighborhood by filling a need for high-quality housing.

Known as Vía Sana, meaning “healthy way,” the four-story building -- located at the corner of West 25th Street and Sackett Avenue -- will feature 72 one-, two- and three-bedroom affordable rental residences. Vía Sana is expected to be completed in early 2022.

Akram Boutros, MetroHealth president and CEO, said the name aligns with the health system's vision and plans to have a positive impact on both the physical and economic health of the people who live in the Clark-Fulton community adjacent to its main campus and beyond.

"Living a healthy life is so much more than just having medical care," Boutros said. "Factors like having access to good, safe, affordable homes, access to healthy food and access to economic opportunity can have more of an impact than doctors and hospitals. Via Sana represents our commitment to building a healthier neighborhood and providing better opportunities for its people."

Development masterplan for the new MetroHealth
System's main campus with West 25th Street along
the left side of the image. Residential features of
the health system's plan are located on both sides
of West 25th (MetroHealth).

When complete, the mixed-use development will include more than 250 affordable and market-rate apartments, 36,000 square feet of retail space and a 5,000-square-foot MetroHealth Economic Opportunity Center – all part of a holistic, sustainable neighborhood designed to support an equitable, diverse and inclusive mixed-income population.

Operated in partnership with Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C), the opportunity enter on the first floor of Vía Sana will offer job training, financial and digital literacy training and access to Tri-C classes.

"We could not be more pleased to be partnering with MetroHealth to provide safe, high quality housing to the Clark-Fulton neighborhood, as well as services that build pathways of opportunity for the community," said J. David Heller, co-founder and CEO at The NRP Group. "Dr. Boutros is a true trailblazer and national leader in thinking outside the hospital walls to bring health and opportunity to the entire community."

MetroHealth’s nonprofit affiliate, CCH Development, is partnering on the project with developer The NRP Group. No taxpayer funds that go to MetroHealth are being used in the project. Rresidences at Vía Sana will be available to individuals and families earning between 30 to 80 percent of the area’s median income.

Future housing plans include these apartment buildings over
ground-floor retail and fronting West 25th Street (RDL).

The Clark-Fulton community is part of Mayor Frank Jackson’s Neighborhood Transformation Initiative and was selected as the recipient of federal funds earmarked for affordable housing through a special program created to honor the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act (FHAct50). As a result, the affordable housing component of the project received tax credits as part of the state’s FHAct50 program, which supports the city’s efforts to create a more diverse and accessible community.

Funding for the project, which was designed by RDL Architects, was provided by KeyBank, the State of Ohio and Cleveland’s Housing Trust Fund.

“MetroHealth and The NRP Group share my vision of wanting to help the Clark-Fulton community grow by improving the lives of the current community members, and bringing in new residents and businesses,’’ said Ward 14 Councilwoman Jasmin Santana. “I want to thank everyone involved in this project for spearheading this development, and bringing much-needed affordable housing options and new community amenities to the neighborhood.”

The retail portion of the overall development including and beyond this first building will feature conveniences such as a grocery store and amenities including restaurants, childcare and other community spaces. MetroHealth plans to give priority to local neighborhood businesses when filling the commercial space, and will relocate the headquarters of its MetroHealth Police Department to the property.


Friday, February 19, 2021

Sherwin-Williams releases site plans--mirrors NEOtrans' info

Sherwin-Williams released this official site plan today for its new
global headquarters in downtown Cleveland. Compare this site
plan with the one below that NEOtrans has been reporting on
this blog for the past month, plus other HQ insights (SHW).

Today, Sherwin-Williams (SHW) released its official site plan for its new global headquarters (HQ) campus in downtown Cleveland. The graphic released by the global coatings giant is virtually identical to one that NEOtrans has been reporting for a month now.

The preliminary HQ site plan posted on SHW's official Building Our Future (BOF) Web site is not the only new illustration that was shared by the company. Also provided was a preliminary site plan for the new research and development facility in suburban Brecksville.

"These proposed plans provide a high-level footprint of buildings, parking and green spaces for each site," said SHW on its BOF site. "Over the coming months, these plans will be refined and reviewed by the City of Cleveland and the City of Brecksville as required by their respective planning and design organizations."

SHW said that, based the work completed to date, company officials expect to submit design plans to each city during the second half of 2021 with a goal of breaking ground at both sites no later than the fourth quarter of this year.

This is the site plan that NEOtrans first published on Jan. 24
based on  information provided by members of SHW's HQ
design team. Several structures, each designed by SHW
HQ architect Pickard Chilton, were used to demonstrate
comparable buildings and their relationship to one
another on Cleveland's HQ site (Google/KJP).

For the HQ site plan, SHW confirmed what NEOtrans has been reporting -- that an office tower won't be built right up against Public Square as were Terminal Tower, Key Tower and 200 Public Square. Instead, a "Learning Center & Amenity" space will be built on the 1.17-acre parking lot next to Public Square. That lot was previously owned by the Jacobs Group and dubbed the Jacobs Lot.

Sources on the HQ design team told NEOtrans weeks ago that the learning center would measure about 50,000 to 80,000 square feet and be no more than several stories tall. It would offer a conference center for employee training and corporate meetings as well as a small company museum (their existing museum is only 6,000 square feet).

The same sources said a comparable structure design-wise may be Pickard Chilton's smaller, 22,000-square-foot Devon Energy Center Auditorium in Oklahoma City, across the street from the BOK Park Plaza. The latter is reportedly being used as a model for SHW HQ designers. Pickard Chilton is designing SHW's HQ.

One block west of Public Square, on the northwest corner of Superior Avenue and West 3rd Street, would be the site of SHW's new 1-million-square-foot HQ office tower. A parking garage will be just north of the tower, across Frankfort Avenue on 5.65 acres of existing parking lots previously owned by the Weston Group. The garage will have ground-floor commercial space on West 3rd but not Frankfort Avenue, per city code.

A preliminary site plan for SHW's research and development
facilities in suburban Brecksville (SHW).

As sources have said over the past couple of months, the HQ tower will likely not challenge its neighbors in terms of height. Instead, a modern glass box tower that is about 34-35 stories tall or nearly 500 feet high (e.g. 200 Public Square is 658 feet tall) is still being considered, sources said. But the glass box may have been more for massing purposes to determine floor space that would match programmed uses, sources are now saying.

SHW executives are starting to receive the plans including for exterior/curtain walls and will debate them over the next couple of weeks. While all of the floor plans are currently rectangular, executives and design team members are considering making the exterior a little more interesting than a box. The exterior form could be angled or bowed out to add some curvature or angles to it.

Sources said the plans still won't be very aggressive, considering we're talking about stodgy SHW here. But executives also apparently don't want their new HQ to be too boring either. To that end, the tower may also incorporate some color, such as SHW's Color of the Month, rather than just a glass curtain that reflects Cleveland's winter gray.

Also, NEOtrans previously reported that the western and northern perimeter of the HQ site will be left for future development -- including by other interests that might support HQ functions and employees. That was also confirmed by SHW. Those uses could include lodging, restaurants, cafes and shops that extend the current uses in the Warehouse District farther south and east along West 6th Street and St. Clair Avenue.

However, SHW disputed something that NEOtrans has been reporting -- that SHW won't be ready to move into their new HQ until 2025. Instead, the company addressed that in a written statement to SHW employees today.

The BOK Park Plaza in Oklahoma City and designed
by Pickard Chilton is being used by the SHW HQ
design team as a placeholder massing to determine
space needs and match it with programming, but
may be altered per executive input with curves or
angles to make more interesting (Pickard Chilton).

"There are multiple project workstreams underway, all focused on creating a next-generation workplace designed to serve our customers at the highest level, retaining and attracting top talent, and igniting creativity, collaboration and industry-leading innovation," SHW's statement said. 

"Over these last many months, there has been a remarkable level of collaboration and effort put forth by the BOF team consisting of our key partners, special consultants and Sherwin-Williams employees. But we are really just getting started. With a transition to new facilities by the end of 2024, there is significant work ahead of us," the statement added.

SHW also is publicly holding to its conservative jobs estimate for the HQ and R&D facilities.

"Combined, the two facilities will house more than 3,500 employees with room to accommodate future growth over time," SHW says in its latest statement.

However, NEOtrans reported earlier this month that the new HQ is being designed to accommodate 3,500 employees. That's 500 more employees than are currently based in SHW's existing downtown offices in the Landmark and Skylight office buildings along Prospect Avenue. Although many employees are still working remotely for a little while longer.



SHW sent the following information to employees today (02-19-21). It hasn't been posted publicly yet on the BOF site:

Since announcing our key partners last September, there has been a tremendous amount of work done to progress the Building Our Future (BOF) project. While we took a brief pause last year with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sherwin-Williams project team and our partners are fully engaged and making considerable progress. And, though many of you may be working remotely, the Company remains fully committed to building a new global headquarters and a new global R&D center designed to foster our strong culture of community, collaboration, innovation, employee development and engagement.

There are multiple project workstreams underway, all focused on creating a next-generation workplace designed to serve our customers at the highest level, retaining and attracting top talent, and igniting creativity, collaboration and industry-leading innovation. Over these last many months, there has been a remarkable level of collaboration and effort put forth by the BOF team consisting of our key partners, special consultants and Sherwin-Williams employees. But we are really just getting started. With a transition to new facilities by the end of 2024, there is significant work ahead of us.

As a reminder, the planned ~1,000,000 square foot global headquarters will be in downtown Cleveland just west of Public Square between Saint Clair Avenue and Superior Avenue. The planned ~500,000 square foot R&D center will be located in Brecksville, just off I-77 at Miller Road and Brecksville Road. The Company plans to invest a minimum of $600 million to build both facilities. Combined, the two facilities will house more than 3,500 employees with room to accommodate future growth over time. 

We are still working through the site development process and design planning for both facilities. Today we are excited to share proposed site development plans that provide a high-level footprint of buildings, parking and green spaces for each site. Over the coming months, these plans will be refined and reviewed by the City of Cleveland and the City of Brecksville as required by their respective planning and design organizations.

You can view the site plans here.

Sherwin-Williams has been and will continue to be a proud supporter of our local communities. We are committed to and value inclusion, diversity and equity (ID&E) in our workforce. This ID&E commitment is being extended to our BOF project. We have been working proactively with the cities, community leaders and trade partners to ensure this project positively impacts the local economy by providing workforce opportunities for the community. This includes awarding contracts to minority-owned and female-owned businesses, as well as small businesses. The Company continues to explore in collaboration with our partners how we can apply our ID&E approach to a broad spectrum of project activities.

Based upon the work completed to date, we expect to submit design plans to each city during the second half of 2021 with a goal of breaking ground at both sites no later than the fourth quarter of this year. 

This is a multi-year project and as such, there will be key milestones along the way. While we don’t have all of these defined today, we will continue to provide employees regular updates as new information becomes available. In the meantime, for the most current information related to the BOF project, please visit 

I know this last year has been challenging on many fronts and I appreciate your efforts in maintaining the health of each other and that of the Company. Thank you for all you do to meet the needs of our global customers and ensure their success.


Sunday, February 14, 2021

Reno, new-build planned at Ford, Hessler in University Circle

The new-construction portion of a plan to improve and expand
residential offerings at Ford Drive and Hessler Road in Cleve-
land's University Circle features this proposed building with
23 market-rate, micro-unit apartments (SA Group).

Two high-profile properties owned by University Circle Inc. (UCI) are proposed to be sold to a partnership led by two men with experience in developing real estate in the University Circle area.

The partnership comprised of Russell Berusch and Rick Maron propose to renovate the exteriors and modernize the interiors of two historic buildings on Ford Drive. They also want to add a four-story building on Hessler Road, behind the Ford dwellings. The new building would be filled with 23 micro-unit apartments.

Altogether, between the two existing buildings and the new building, 32 market-rate apartments are planned. UCI's Development Committee requested informational plans from prospective developers for their two properties totaling 0.411 acres at 1975 and 1981 Ford Drive.

Two proposals were received by UCI. It chose the Berusch-Maron proposal primarily because their development plan would not demolish the historic buildings. Instead, the seven-bedroom, five-bath house at 1975 Ford will be refurbished with five apartments while 1981 Ford will see its four apartments updated. Both buildings date from around the turn of the prior century.

The new strip of surface parking is what makes this proposed
development plan possible without demolishing the historic
houses on Ford as another developer proposed (SA Group).

The other respondent, which wasn't identified, proposed to replace the historic buildings with new construction, said UCI President Chris Ronayne. He spoke during a Feb. 10 community meeting held on Zoom. There were 55 participants on the call, most of whom apparently were neighborhood residents.

"We did not think that (demolition) was appropriate," Ronayne said. "This (Hessler) is such a special street. It was the first landmark district in the city of Cleveland. I'm grateful that the Berusch-Maron team are joining us today to continue with yet another proposal for what I think will add to this vibrancy."

Part of what made new development possible without demolishing anything is that the Maron family, through MRN Ltd., developed the adjacent Uptown neighborhood. Through AJAPPJR Uptown II LLC, the Maron family owns land behind a parking garage for Uptown.

The Berusch-Maron partnership plans to use a strip of that land for a 27-space parking lot to support this development. The new lot would be hidden behind a 6-foot-solid fence as well as by surrounding structures. 

"That (parking lot) is kind of important from the community aspect because with the new development, there's going to be 23 new units added," said Rick Maron. "The whole area has a parking dynamic that needs to be addressed. It's all hidden. I think it's a nice amenity for helping community issues of parking, not putting further demand on the area, and also visually not bothering anybody."

This vacant lot behind the house at 1975 Ford Drive is part of that
property's parcel. The garage at left would either have to be razed
or relocated to accommodate the micro-unit apartments (UCI).

The proposed parking lot would also include spaces and charging stations for six electric cars that would be available for use by subscription to any resident of the planned development.

"It transitions people away from being so dependent on one person-one car," Maron said. "I think it's going to be a movement in society especially with the urban movement going forward. I don't know that in Cleveland it's there yet. But it's an interesting idea and we'd like to try it."

The new apartment building is proposed to be four stories tall and rise on the backyard of 1975 Ford. Even though its part of the same parcel as 1975 Ford, it will have its own address -- 11300 Hessler. And it will be 10 feet shorter than the existing five-story apartment building across the street at 11211 Hessler, according to the latest plans.

The new building will measure about 15,500 square feet and have six 460-square-foot micro units on each floor except the top floor which will have five. On the that floor, one unit will be sacrificed for a open rooftop deck. Windows are planned on all sides of the building except the east side, plans showed.

No zoning variances are required for this development to move forward, said Daniel Sirk, owner of and architect at SA Group LLC -- the designer of this and many other projects by Maron.
An evening view of the proposed new micro-unit apartment building
with its 16 balconies and patios facing Hessler, contributing to its
neighborly feel and adding more eyes on the street (SA Group).

The development plan may be reviewed starting on Feb. 23 by the City Planning Commission's Euclid Corridor Design Review Committee. If the committee likes the plan and recommends no major changes, the city's Landmark Commission could receive the plans for review in March.

The developers said they hope to renovate the historic buildings in summer when students at nearby institutions are gone. Their target for breaking ground on the new micro-unit apartment building is June or July and get the structural shell up before next winter. Their goal is to complete it by March 2022.

Most of the construction materials, equipment staging and workers vehicles will access the site from the rear although one day of concrete slab foundation pours will have to be made from Hessler, Maron said.

Berusch added that preliminary rents for the micro units are anticipated to be about $1,500-1,600 per month including utilities, internet and parking. Projected monthly rents for the existing buildings are approximately $850 to $1,350.
One of the layout options that the resident can open up within
the micro units. The other living layouts are dining, cooking,
working, home office or simply lounging (SA Group).

"We're appealing to professionals at area institutions, mostly singles and some couples, professional or graduate students seeking a private space," he said.

The micro units would have open floors with lots of cabinets for hiding away chairs, a couch, a queen-sized Murphy bed, filing cabinets for a home office and mechanicals. A table on wheels can be raised or lowered to be a desk, countertop or dining room table. Each unit is self-contained in terms of its heating/ventilating/air conditioning (HVAC) and other features.

As is typical with Maron's other micro-unit developments, the closet across from bathroom has a washer and drier with electric hot water tank and HVAC unit for each apartment. All lighting is by LEDs. Kitchen appliances are standard-sized, the tiled full bathrooms have showers and nearly all of the units will have balconies or patios, Maron said.

In addition to developing properties separately around University Circle, Berusch and Maron worked together on the Uptown mixed-use neighborhood along both sides of Euclid Avenue from Ford to East 116th Street. They are currently working jointly on a micro-unit apartment project at 12607 Larchmere Blvd.

Looking eastwardly down Hessler Road from Ford Drive, the
planned apartment building is visible at right, across from a
larger apartment building with balconies (SA Group).

"I know the developers that are working on this project," said Ward 6 Councilman Blaine Griffin. "They're doing some neat things for us on Larchmere Boulevard. This is a great opportunity to really try to reinvigorate one of Cleveland's most historical neighborhoods."

Maron said he retired from MRN Ltd. two years ago and now develops independently or in partnership with others. But his experience in developing the East Fourth Street plus other projects downtown gave rise to his interest in micro-unit apartments.

"The units that rented the fastest were the smallest units, I think because they were cheaper units," he said. "They did not have storage. They typically were studios. The bedrooms were next to the kitchen without any cabinetry and I just felt it was not conducive to good living."

He says he sees micro units as part of emerging trends in terms of where people want to live, namely in cities, and the smaller size of many households in America today, namely without children.

"I don't know if the pandemic will change this, but 70 percent of the (nation's) population will be living in urban areas," he said, referring to recent market research he's read. "There's a lot less people forming traditional-type families. This was a product we thought it was a time a little ahead of its schedule. The concept here is for a single person or a couple."

The existing two buildings that University Circle Inc. plans to
sell to the development partnership are 1975 Ford, at center-
left and 1981 Ford at center-right. Both are proposed to have
their historic facades repaired and their interiors modernized
with more open floors, new appliances and utilities (UCI).

He said the micro units could be modified if they aren't successful or if market trends change. A wall could be removed between two of the units and make them into a single, 920-square-foot apartment. But he doubted that this would be necessary because he said he believes in the future of micro units.

The developers are seeking property tax abatement from the city for their proposed new development. They are also seeking infrastructure improvements, including to Hessler.

Most of the comments and questions at the Feb. 10 meeting focused on parking and the development's design. But some questions, including by Maron himself, were focused on the poor condition of Hessler's brick-paved road.

"I've already reached out to Public Works to talk about what kind of things they can recommend to me to look at the infrastructure in the area," Griffin said. "I've already heard from some of you (residents) that that is something that's very important."

However, he noted that the city doesn't have a brick streets repair program. He said a city consultant made a recommendation to remove Hessler's brick and wood surfaces for something more permanent -- in other words, asphalt. But Griffin said he continues to press the city's Chief Operating Officer Darnell Brown and Matt Spronz, director of the mayor's Office of Capital Projects for a cost estimate to repair Hessler.

Tyler Kapusta contributed to this article.


Friday, February 12, 2021

Bridgeworks seeks to add more height

A revised conceptual rendering of the proposed Bridgeworks
development at the northwest corner of the intersection of
West 25th Street and the Detroit-Superior Bridge in Ohio
City's Hingetown neighborhood. This view looks east
with downtown in the distance (MASS/LDA).

UPDATED FEB. 13, 2021

Plans for the Bridgeworks development in Ohio's City Hingetown neighborhood have been dramatically changed. Gone is the plan to build a seven-story hotel next to the residential portion of what was to be an 11-story building.

The new plan is to build the hotel atop the residential structure, bringing the combined height of the proposed Bridgeworks building to total of 18 stories and 200 feet. That would put it just shy of the 19-story, 208-foot-tall Lakeview Tower, 2700 Washington Ave., built in 1973 on the other side of the Shoreway highway.

It would also begin to create a skyline for Hingetown which also has the 2005-built, 12-story Stonebridge Towers Apartments, 2222 Detroit Ave., and the 11-story Church+State development that opened last year at 1436 Church and State Way.

The city's zoning code allows a building of up to 250 feet tall at the proposed site on the northwest corner of West 25th Street and the Detroit-Superior Bridge. Replacing the hotel at the back of the Bridgeworks building is an above-ground parking garage hidden by screening. Previously, a more costly, subterranean, two-level, 180-space parking garage was proposed below the structure.

A dawn view of the proposed Bridgeworks tower on West 25th
with St. Malachi Church visible at left (MASS/LDA).

The development team that built Church+State -- Grammar Properties and M. Panzica Development -- is pursuing Bridgeworks. And they're pursuing this bigger tower for a big reason -- revenue opportunities.

"We're excited about it and think it makes for a more dynamic and marketable project," said development partner Michael Panizica.

He said that the goal is to get shovels in the ground for the project by the end of summer with an 18- to 24-month construction timeline. That suggests the project's financing is coming into focus although Panzica wouldn't discuss such details.

Last November a request for qualifications (RFQ) was issued by Newmark Valuation & Advisory for the hotel portion of Bridgeworks. Proposed is a branded lifestyle hotel. Prospective hotel operators had to respond to the RFQ by Nov. 30.

The new Bridgeworks conceptual plan takes the proposed hotel
from the back of the building along old Superior Viaduct and
puts it on top, making the project more marketable to poten-
tial hotel operators and making the project eligible for a
new megaproject tax credit program (MASS/LDA).

Putting the hotel above the residential makes it more marketable to potential hotel operators. However, no operator has reportedly been signed and no prospective flag has been identified. Neither is likely until after conceptual plans are approved by the city. Thus, Panzica said it was premature to discuss details regarding the hotel.

Ohio City's Design Review Committee is scheduled to get an opportunity to review and comment on the revised plans for Bridgeworks at its next meeting on Feb. 18. Mass Design Group of Boston and LDA architects Inc. of Cleveland comprise the project's design team. New York City-based Turner Construction Co. is the project's general contractor.

Bridgeworks is proposed to be a 230,000-plus-square-foot, mixed-use development consisting with 167-170 mixed-income units, a roughly 130-room hotel, 2,000 square feet of ground floor commercial space and the parking garage. The scale of the project is similar to the previous design, only more vertical.

The 2-acre site includes several historical buildings from its prior life as the Cuyahoga County Engineers' offices, laboratory and garage. Plus it has an entry building for the former streetcar subway on the lower level of the Detroit-Superior Bridge. Some of those may be repurposed to residential and hotel amenity uses although the 1960-built Engineers' lab/offices would be demolished, plans show.  

Plans for Bridgeworks show a public plaza and restaurant at the
corner of West 25th and Detroit-Superior Bridge (MASS/LDA). 

An historic designation was awarded for the Cuyahoga County Engineers' buildings last September that would make their renovation eligible for historic tax credits. The amount of those credits would probably be too small to make a significant contribution to the developers' capital stack.

But by increasing the project's height above 15 stories, Bridgeworks may also be eligible for a Transformational Mixed-Use Development (TMUD) tax credit if the total value of the project is more than $50 million. Given the scale of the project, it is likely to be in excess of that.

TMUD is a new state program that is already generating significant interest among real estate developers seeking to invest in large-scale projects in Cleveland and other large Ohio cities with populations above 100,000.

When first proposed, Bridgeworks started out with a proposed height in the six- to eight-story range. It was then bumped up to 11 stories last fall and now would provide an even more significant vertical presence on the west end of the Detroit-Superior Bridge, offering lofty views of downtown and Lake Erie.

The revised site plan shows the location on the right where the
hotel was previously proposed. In its place is an above-ground
parking garage lined with six micro-commercial spaces along
Superior Viaduct to provide a low-cost place for new
businesses to get their start (MASS/LDA).

Tyler Kapusta contributed to this article.


Monday, February 8, 2021

Warehouse District building conversion to start

The Liberty Textiles Building, 1277 W. 6th St., has sat vacant
for more than 30 years. But life will finally be returned to this
ornate, 147-year-old building with 20 apartments plus com-
mercial spaces on the ground floor and basement. Less
certain is the future of a proposed development to be
located on the parking lot at right (Google).

It's been three decades in the making but redevelopment work is finally about to begin at the Liberty Textiles Building, 1277 W. 6th St. in downtown Cleveland's Warehouse District. The possibility of a planned, larger building rising on the parking lot next door is less certain, however.

Interior demolition work may start by the end of March on the historic structure to prepare it for rehabilitation. Renovation work would follow soon thereafter, said a source close to the project but who wasn't authorized to speak publicly about it.

An interior demolition permit application was submitted last week to the city by Joe Kasouff, doing business as KRA Management and whose offices are located nearby along West 6th in the Kassouff-owned historic Johnson Block. Kasouff didn't respond to an e-mail seeking more information prior to publication of this article.

The permit references that the upper three floors of the building will be renovated with 20 market-rate apartments but a separate permit will be required for the rehabilitation work. Apartments are planned owing to the difficulty in getting financing for a previously sought boutique hotel or downtown condominiums.

"The Liberty Textiles Building is a four-story masonry and wood building constructed in 1874 in the Cleveland warehouse historic district," reads a development summary included with the permit application. "(The) project will be completed in two phases. Phase one will consist of selective demolition, site investigation and discovery."

"Phase two will consist of remediation, restoration, change of use and interior build-out," the application continues. "The proposed renovation will convert the existing structure to a mixed-use building consisting of commercial space on the first and basement levels and residential units on all levels. The façade will be restored including restoration of the existing first-floor storefront, replacement on the existing windows on floors 2-4 and reconstruction of a cornice."

View and location of the Liberty Textiles
Building as shown in KRA Management's
permit application to the city (Berardi).

The ground floor and basement measure 5,334 and 5,201 square feet, respectively. Floors 2-4 each measure 5,314 square feet. All told, the Liberty Textiles Building totals 26,477 square feet of usable space. 

However, renovation of the existing building is only part of what Kassouf has proposed here. He also plans a new, four-story, 60-unit apartment building above a two-level parking garage on the parking lot his family owns next door, 1299 W. 6th St.

With the historic renovation and new construction taken together, the project would represent an investment of about $25.3 million, according to a filing with the Ohio Development Services Agency.

The source said Kassouf is still working to secure financing for the new apartment building over the parking garage but has enough resources to start renovating the historic Liberty Textiles Building.

Kassouf has secured more than $10 million for the renovation including an $8.055 million Huntington Bank loan that his 1277 West Sixth Street LLC received on Feb. 28, 2020, county records show. Funding also includes $1.996 million in Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credits awarded to the project in June 2017.

Evolution Construction Services LLC of Mentor will conduct the interior demolition. The permit application shows the firm will remove all existing construction, finishes, plus mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems as required for implementation of the newly planned uses and finishes.

The Liberty Textiles Building is one of the last vacant,
historic structures still awaiting rehabilitation in
downtown's Historic Warehouse District (Google).

All fixtures and equipment removed will be consigned to the project's general contractor, Mentor-based Cleveland Construction Inc., for reuse as salvaged materials or disposal, per KRA Management's interior demolition application.

All interior doors, light fixtures, built cabinetry and other items considered salvageable during construction will be stored and reused by the general contractor. Cleveland Construction is noted for its historic renovations, including the 2016 rehabilitation of the Schofield Building at Euclid Avenue and East 9th Street. 

The project's architect is Berardi + Partners Inc. of Columbus with I.A. Lewin & Associates of Cleveland as the structural engineer, and WHS Engineers of Cleveland as the systems engineer, the filing with the city shows.

In the 19th century, the building was called the Carpenter Brothers Block, according to a Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of 1886. It was used for boot and shoe manufacturing which had expanded into buildings next door on Bank Street (as West 6th was called before 1905) and behind on Academy Street (now West 4th Street). There also was a tobacco factory on site.

Liberty Textiles was founded in 1919 and located at 1277 W. 6th until the Goldberg family sold the building on New Year's Eve 1987 and moved their business to 5600 S. Marginal Rd. in Cleveland. Liberty Textiles remains in business to this day; Marvin Goldberg has owned it since 1960, according to Ohio Secretary of State records.

Kasouff's father, James, acquired the building for $345,000 under the name Prime Properties Limited Partnership. He quit-claim deeded it to 1277 West Sixth Street LLC in November 2015, county records show. The building's façade was cosmetically cleaned up more than a decade ago but the building has remained vacant since Liberty Textiles moved out.

James Kassouf was pardoned by former President Donald Trump in the waning days of his administration for a 1989 tax case. The longtime real estate developer and parking lot owner had pled guilty to one count of filing a false tax return.

Tyler Kapusta contributed to this article.


Saturday, February 6, 2021

First new multi-family housing in a century planned on Clark Ave.

Alta Villa Flats 50-unit apartment building is proposed
to rise at the northwest corner of Clark Avenue and West
32nd Street in Cleveland's Clark-Fulton neighborhood.
This and the planned Pilsener Square Apartments
will begin to address the neighborhood's short-
age of quality, affordable housing (RDL).

Clark Avenue is one of those strange streets in Cleveland with an odd mix of buildings.

It has a lot of older structures. On the sidewalks are storefronts and taverns topped by a few apartments. There's a scattering of light industrial buildings from the 1800s and early 1900s. And then there's all those newer single-use buildings -- mostly fast-food restaurants and small-box stores -- set back behind lots of pavement and empty parking spaces.

One land use that Clark doesn't have are large, multi-story, multi-family residential buildings. That's despite the fact the neighborhood is growing in population and is one of the city's most ethnically diverse.

But that lack of dense housing could change in a few years because of two planned multi-family housing developments. One would convert the former Pilsener Brewing Co. Bottle Works, 6605 Clark, into 39 apartments called Pilsener Square. The other would build a new 50-unit apartment complex on 1 acre of mostly vacant land at the northwest corner of Clark and West 32nd Street called Alta Villa Flats.

If built, both would be the largest housing developments on Clark. The Alta Villa Flats development at 3120 Clark would be the first multi-family residential structure built on Clark since the 1920s, city building records show.

The neighborhood's diversity includes a large and growing Latinx segment and an increasing number of African-Americans, along with a significant number of Central and Eastern European immigrant descendants, according to an October 2019 Clark-Fulton Target Area Plan by the Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA).

The International Village mural on the west wall of the City Bank
Building at Clark Avenue and West 25th Street (OHFA).

That plan is part is part of a new initiative by OHFA to create mixed-income, diverse and accessible communities in Ohio’s three largest cities. It was begun in 2018, the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act.

In public meetings conducted at the start of OHFA's planning, surveys showed housing was the number-one priority for neighborhood residents. 

"A number of suggestions were solicited, such as developing incentives to encourage the redevelopment of vacant structures and also assisting existing homeowners with repairs and energy efficiency upgrades," the report said. "Aggressive code enforcement by the city was also recommended. Given the strength of the market and a growing need for affordable housing, developing additional affordable housing was a top priority of many residents."

Metro West Community Development Organization is sponsoring both of the apartment building developments. It is partnering with Marous Brothers Construction Co. to redevelop the Pilsener Brewing Co. Bottle Works. And it is partnering with The Community Builders Inc. to construct Alta Villa Flats.

On Feb. 1, the Board of Zoning Appeals unanimously approved all of the variances requested by Community Builders to move forward with Alta Villa Flats. Developer's representatives said they could not secure financing, including Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC), without the variances.

Location, site plan, potential materials and landscaping for the
proposed Alta Villa Flats at 3120 Clark Ave. (RDL/PAB).

The property's zoning -- general retail and two-family housing -- hadn't changed since 1929, said Margaret Kavourias, project architect at RDL Architects. Furthermore, the 60,383-square-foot apartment building proposed for the 1-acre site has roughly three times the density that's permitted in the zoning code.

"We've identified a need for new and more affordable housing in this area," said Cleveland City Planner Matt Moss. "City Planning Commission would like to rezone the area for more housing."

The site is comprised of seven parcels. The lot at the corner has a former used-car dealership with a still-occupied house behind it. Metro West has a purchase agreement with property owners Hani K. and Samira H. Ziadeh.

Not only was the ancient zoning inappropriate for the proposed apartment building, so was the city's parking requirements. Major cities are increasingly adopting parking maximums. Cleveland still has parking minimums and the minimum for a development of this size on this lot is 50 off-street spaces. A representative of the national developer that has been building mixed-income developments for 60 years said 25 spaces are plenty for a mixed-income apartment building like this.

"We have found through our operational team that, very often, mixed-income housing tends to be overparked because many of our residents cannot afford cars," said Nicole Boyer, senior development project manager at The Community Builders. The firm is America's largest nonprofit developer of urban mixed-income housing.

Proposed site for Community Builders' new four-story apartment
building would eradicate this house and a vacant lot used most
recently as a used-car dealership (KJP).

She said their tenants often depend on public transportation to reach their jobs and walk to nearby shopping. Community Builders also likes to locate their projects within close proximity to employment centers such as the new $1 billion MetroHealth Medical Center, Boyer added.

"Our historic data has shown that parking ratios of anywhere from 50 to 60 percent of the overall unit count are more than sufficient and often times those parking spaces are still underutilized," she said. "We think that the close proximity to the bus line on Clark Avenue which connects to some of the more prominent Rapid (transit) lines in Cleveland is a really great amenity for our residents."

The Alta Villa Flats development will also feature a covered bicycle parking area and have a Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority bus stop in front of the new apartment building.

Following a systemwide redesign by the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, the bus route that is tentatively proposed to operate on Clark starting in June will be the No. 25 bus, starting at Public Square downtown, traveling through Ohio City, Tremont, Steelyard Commons, Clark, Madison Avenue and ending at the Westgate Transit Center in Rocky River. It is proposed to operate every 30 minutes throughout the day.

Metro West is also pursuing a district-wide parking plan for the neighborhood, said Ricardo León, executive director of the community development corporation. When implemented, that plan would allow for shared parking with other lots to absorb possible parking overflow and guest parking.

Plenty of underutilized parking areas exist along Clark Avenue
including this one for an auto parts store across the street from
the site of the proposed Alta Villa Flats (Google).

"We've found that only 30 percent of parking in the area is used," said León.

Community Builders will also construct a pocket park due to what León called "a lack of robust greenspace in the neighborhood." He said there is a potential for a lighted play area and landscaping features like a sculpture that kids can climb on. On-site management will be provided by Community Builders.

Construction timeline for the roughly $15 million Alta Villa Flats depends on when financing is awarded. Boyer said that construction would start roughly one year after all of the project's funding is secured. Although a neighborhood's design-review committee approved the project's conceptual design, the more refined designs by RDL Architects won't be submitted for approval until after the funding is in hand.

Meanwhile, last May, Cleveland's City Planning Commission and City Council awarded landmark status to the historic Pilsener Brewing Co. Bottle Works to help it win historic tax credits and LIHTCs. With those funds, the sturdy brick and masonry building would be converted into the Pilsener Square Apartments.

However, the $12.27 million project missed out on opportunities to win a $817,050 competitive New Affordability tax credit from OHFA last year. There were 11 applicants in Cuyahoga County alone; OHFA funded four of them in 2020. Pilsener Square sponsors are reapplying for 2021 awards. Historic tax credit applications are still pending.

What the southwest corner of Clark Avenue and West
65th Street looked like 107 years ago when the Bottle
Works building (at right with the P.O.C. sign on it)
was brand-new. The Pilsener Brewing Co. building
at the corner has since been replaced with a Dollar
Store and the building at left is a vacant lot (CPC).

Financing for the project will include low-income housing tax credit equity, OHFA's Housing Development Assistance Program, permanent mortgage, Federal Home Loan Bank's Affordable Housing Program funds, Cleveland Housing Trust Fund, federal HOME Investment Partnership block grants administered by Cuyahoga County plus a deferred developer fee, according to Pilsener Square's proposal summary.

The 53,550-square-foot Bottle Works was added in 1914 to the Pilsener Brewing Co.'s sprawling plant at Clark and West 65th Street, called Pilsener Square. The brewery was started in 1892 and expanded rapidly with additional structures that are no longer standing except the Bottle Works. The company which brewed P.O.C. beer and other once-popular brands closed in 1984.

Two upper levels of the structure could be used for apartments averaging about 900 square feet each. Indoor parking and residents' amenities such as a community room, laundry facilities, resident lounge and atrium are proposed mostly on the lower level which is below street level next to Clark. On the south side of the street, the land slopes downward away from Clark. 

The name "Pilsener" comes from the Czech city of Pilsen, where the light Bohemian lager beer was first made. Just southeast of Pilsen is where the brewery's founder, Wenzel Medlin, was born -- Mecichov, South Bohemia, Czech Republic, in 1849.

Tyler Kapusta contributed to this article.


Thursday, February 4, 2021

Mid-rise apartment complex planned for Gordon Square

A significant mixed-use development is proposed on Detroit Avenue
in Cleveland's Gordon Square neighborhood by a well-funded de-
veloper without a lot of development credits to its name (Dimit).

A proposed major mixed-use development in the Gordon Square area is due to go before City Planning Commission as early as this month. The development, called Waverly & Oak, at 5506 Detroit Ave., is the first major new-construction effort by Cleveland-based Bond Street Group.

But don't let that kid you into thinking this firm doesn't have the juice to pull off an ambitious project whose estimated cost would be in the tens of millions of dollars. Consider the principals behind Bond Street Group, incorporated in 2014 -- Todd Leebow, Taylor Hawkins and Justin Strizzi.

Leebow is president and CEO of Majestic Steel, a privately owned Bedford Heights manufacturer of flat-rolled steel founded in 1979 with revenues of $520 million in 2019. But he is probably more famous for being a friend of basketball star LeBron James and a passionate Cavs fan.

Hawkins is a senior vice president and principal at Cleveland-based Bellwether Enterprise Real Estate Capital, LLC -- a fast-growing commercial financier. Strizzi is director of real estate at Majestic Steel and handles much of the public relations work at Bond Street Group.

Eighteen months of construction could start this summer for the seven-story, 122-unit apartment building over 16,000 square feet of commercial space, including a restaurant, fitness center and co-working facility with memberships available to the public. Below it, an underground parking structure with more than 100 spaces is proposed, according to a project brief made available to NEOtrans.

Birdseye view of the property on which Waverly & Oak could
see construction as early as this summer (Bond Street Group).

"The project will include new exterior public space and expansive sidewalks along Detroit Avenue to encourage pedestrian traffic and public gathering," the brief reads. "The central courtyard may be used for public events such as farmers' markets and art walks."

Strizzi said Waverly & Oak is a working name for the project while the developers work on branding during the design process. The name is a play on the naming evolution of West 58th Street -- called Waverly Avenue and Oakland Street before the city renamed north-south streets numerically in 1905. The project was previously dubbed the Gordon House.

Because the project's details are preliminary, some of the designs and features could change based on public input, Strizzi said. The developer's first significant interaction with the public was a meeting held Feb. 3 via a Zoom video conference with nearby property owners, businesses and other stakeholders. The call was hosted by Ward 15 Councilwoman Jenny Spencer.

In that meeting, several stakeholders raised questions about parking, whether amenities will be accessible to residents and a construction timeline, according to two meeting participants who did not wish to be identified publicly. A couple of people on the call commented positively about the quality of the materials proposed for use in the development.

Strizzi said the project's Web presence is due to go live at about noon today on the CoUrbanize Web site where members of the community can provide input on the project and ask questions. The site soon will also have information about commercial space availability, residential pre-leasing and memberships. The project's web address will be

Conceptual view of the proposed development, as seen from
the north side from Tilman Avenue. The presence of so many
balconies is to provide residents on the north and east sides
of the complex with downtown and lake views (Dimit).

"This section of Detroit Avenue in Gordon Square is the ideal location to deliver on our vision for residential development," Strizzi said in an e-mailed statement. "Waverly & Oak residents and members will enjoy incredibly thoughtful design and engineering inside and out, at every detail, and when they walk outside, they’ll have all of the amenities of the neighborhood – restaurants, bars, theatres, retail shops – at their doorstep."

"Our vision is to restore and modernize the dynamic character of Gordon Square, created by a decades-long interweaving of art and industry that has made it the home and workplace of choice for the region’s creatives, and the city’s makers and movers,” added Leebow, Bond Street’s founder.

Leebow is also the founder of Cleveland-based Kind of One Concepts Hospitality Group, which plans to operate a restaurant and rooftop lounge in the new building, according to a written statement from Bond Street.

"Our conversations with the developer of this project are in the early stages," said Adam Stalder, executive director of the Detroit-Shoreway Community Development Organization. "DSCDO has encouraged them to start engaging the community earlier rather than later. Our goal as a community organization is to make sure that our stakeholders are aware and have a chance to weigh in on that future development."

Stalder was reluctant to call this project a next step up for Gordon Square which he said implies that new, market-rate, mostly-residential construction is somehow better than existing land uses. But he said it is a natural progression of development along Detroit Avenue.

"With the dense development of Ohio City’s Hingetown, it is only a matter of time until development fills in the gaps between that area and Gordon Square," Stalder added. "The desirability of the neighborhood and specifically the Gordon Square Arts District is leading to denser and taller buildings. We have seen this already at the Edison (on Father Caruso Drive). However, this is the first proposal along Detroit."

View of the development site from the corner of Detroit Avenue
and West 57th Street, looking easterly along Detroit. The two
buildings at the center of this image are to be razed (KJP).

Two buildings are proposed to be demolished for Waverly & Oak -- the Vietnam Market, 5506 Detroit, and the vacant Club Azteca, 5602 Detroit. Bond Street and former Club Azteca stakeholders began conversations in recent months on how the legacy and history of the club may be honored and acknowledged in the new project.  

The development site would measure 0.9 acres. All but one of the seven parcels to be acquired for the project are owned by Mayekar Familia, LLC, which in turn owns the Vietnam Market. It is surrounded by parking lots that extend back to Tillman Avenue.

Bond Street Group has a contract to buy this property. The sale price is unknown. It was listed for sale in mid-December for $1.5 million. The Vietnam Market will close; it will not relocate. But the Minh Anh restaurant next door isn't going anywhere.

The only parcel not owned by Mayekar Familia is occupied by the former Club Azteca. The nonprofit Mexican-American club has been at that site since 1952, according to Cuyahoga County records. Following a tax foreclosure, county records show the 0.106-acre property was acquired by the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corp. on Oct. 21, 2020.

Bond Street's plans will be reviewed by the neighborhood's design-review committee as well as by the city's Landmarks Commission to secure a certificate of appropriateness to demolish the two buildings on the site.

According to the project's summary, the developer said it is focused on creating an attractive, community-centric mix of uses on the street level, bringing residential density to Detroit Avenue and filling in the "missing teeth" along Detroit created by the current surface parking lots and vacant building that sit on the site.

"Higher buildings are a natural desire for developers in this area to take advantage of the views of the lake and downtown," Stalder said. "This is the first but I am certain it won’t be the last."

Tyler Kapusta contributed to this article.


Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Fulton House development plan in Ohio City getting mixed reviews

A four-story, 20-unit apartment building is proposed to be built
atop and set back from a faded, historic building on Fulton Road
in Cleveland's Ohio City neighborhood. The project, called the
Fulton House, would have ground-floor retail (Horton Harper).

A small mixed-use development proposed on the site of Ohio City Brews on Fulton Road is getting some mixed reviews from the community. But the developers are confident that they can address many of the concerns.

If so, they hope to start construction this summer on a 20-unit apartment building atop an existing, 96-year-old building to be converted into two storefronts and parking. The project would freshen up and activate an underutilized, high-profile street corner in a densifying, vibrant urban neighborhood.

Local Development Partners, LLC (LDP) is pursuing Fulton House, 1828 Fulton. The $4.9 million project would be a five-story building with residences that are comprised entirely of one-bedroom apartments to meet the demand for such units.

Preliminary plans show the residences would range in size from 480 to 924 square feet, averaging 740 square feet. Twenty percent of the units will be affordable due to their reduced floor layouts, said LDP principal James Asimes (pronounced ah-sim-ez) in a phone interview. Asimes has lived in Ohio City for about seven years.

"I've been past that building a number of times and saw an opportunity to renovate an existing structure that activates its street presence and adds apartments," Asimes said. "It's a great corner when you look at what else is around it. That building deserves to be something better and in line with some of the other buildings in the neighborhood.

Site of the proposed Fulton House development. The black part
of the development is new construction while the dark-gray por-
tion is the existing commercial building to be renovated and re-
designed to provide new retailers and parking (Horton Harper). 

"We've tried to be thoughtful and respectful with this project," Asimes said. "I think some of the details of the project have been overlooked."

That includes the proposed apartment building pulled back from the edges of the historic building to reduce the scale and sheer walls above the sidewalks that exist at other mid-rise buildings in the neighborhood like the West Virginia Building or the West Side Community House.

Also, the use of specialty European wood for cladding the apartment building is a unique feature. A European supplier, Thermory, is looking to expand in the USA. They use a chemical-free process to treat wood. This would be the first building in the USA cladded with this product, Asimes said.

"The area at Woodbine and Fulton that's now used as a trash collection area and parking would be turned into an attractive patio and gathering space," he added. "We saw that when the picnic tables were put out in front of the old firehouse on West 29th, it made that into a de facto gathering space. We hope to do something similar here."

The ground floor would have two retail spaces, one tentatively measuring 1,708 square feet and the other 459 square feet, as well as eight indoor parking spaces. There will also be three new on-street parking spaces availed by cutting into the sidewalk along Woodbine Avenue.

The proposed Fulton House apartments would feature numerous
balconies on the upper floors as well as a small public patio at
the corner of Fulton and Woodbine. These and other features
of the development would add to vibrancy and safety of the
area by putting more eyes on the street (Horton Harper).

Vehicular entry to the indoor parking would be via an existing curb cut on West 31st Place. The outdoor patio, regardless of whether a restaurant or café locates on the ground floor, would be provided at the northwest corner of Fulton and Woodbine.

"It (the patio) would be a great benefit to a potential tenant," Asimes noted.

Apartments will feature luxury finishes, stainless-steel appliances and engineered wood floors, according to a project summary. Floor layouts will provide eat-in kitchens and in-suite laundries. Bathrooms will have tiled floors, tiled showers and oversized vanities. Eighty percent of the units will have outdoor balconies, each with enough space for a four-person dining table.

Preliminary plans show the five-story building would be 60 feet tall, between the heights of two nearby buildings -- the 54-foot-tall West Side Community House and the 62-foot-tall West Virginia Building. Originally, 1828 Fulton was built in 1925 with a storefront, gas station and service garage/warehouse.

Asimes is also director of acquisitions for the Realife Management Group based in downtown's Warehouse District. 

Height and scale comparisons with existing mid-rise buildings
in the Ohio City neighborhood (Horton Harper).

The developers have already combined their real estate abilities in several Cleveland-area projects, including in Ohio City. They are building the $5 million Harbor 44 development, now under construction at the southeast corner of Lorain Avenue and West 44th Street. That two-story-tall project was scaled back from its original four-story plan as a result of neighborhood feedback.

There, they razed the long-closed and decayed Ohio City Furniture for a 22,000-square-foot commercial development including a 7,200-square-foot Sherwin-Williams paint store, relocating from the now-razed Market Plaza to make way for the massive Intro development. A 4,800-square-foot ground-floor retail space is available. Upstairs, 10,000-plus square feet of office space is available for lease.

Fulton House is proposed as a 23,717-square-foot building. Retail tenants aren't nailed down yet, so it's too early to say if Ohio City Brews would return once the year-long construction is completed.

"We've had an initial conversation with them," Asimes said. "But we haven't come to anything definitive with them."

The developers chose to present Fulton House on the interactive real estate Web site CoUrbanize. Asimes said the goal was and is to get input from the community prior to and during reviews by the city.

The existing, 96-year-old building at 1828 Fulton that would be
built upon is in need of some serious TLC (Google).

Those reviews started Jan. 21 with the Ohio City Design Review Committee. That's where the community's reaction was mixed, said Tom McNair, executive director of Ohio City Inc. Concerns were expressed about the new building's scale and modern design affecting the historic charm of the area. But he noted that the project's plans are still very conceptual and subject to revision.

Next, the developers and their architect, Westleigh Harper, principal and co-founder of Horton Harper Architects of Cleveland, will present the project later this month at the city's Landmarks Commission.

"The existing building to remain with some changes to allow additional retail and a safer vehicular ingress (and the) new building built atop it," said Harper. "All the new facades, other than a portion of the West 31st face, will be setback from the perimeter of the existing structure."

The project must appear before the Landmarks Commission because the project is in an historic district and the building upon which Fulton House would rise is an historic building. McNair also said Ohio City Inc. will host a virtual forum on the project. There has been no block club vote on the project yet.

"Working with CoUrbanize is working out real nice in terms of information sharing," McNair said. "The developers are getting input to refine the plan. It's important to note that it's a preliminary plan. It's an initial proposal."

The addition of an outdoor patio, at left, located at the corner of
Fulton and Woodbine, would add new life to this Ohio City
neighborhood (Horton Harper).

LDP has a purchase agreement for the 0.159-acre parcel, owned since 1989 by Tom Hatzopoulos. The agreement would be executed if city approvals, including zoning variances, are granted.

Zoning for the property is currently two-family, with a 35-foot height limit and the structure's maximum gross floor area can be only one-half times the area of the lot. In other words, the existing commercial building doesn't conform to the city's zoning code either, McNair pointed out.

"The current use is not in the best interest of the community as it is a one-story building," he said. "But for Fulton House to be built as it is currently proposed, it would need a substantial number of variances."

The city's Board of Zoning Appeals is the panel responsible for hearing applications for building code variances. Such an application would follow a project review and vote by the Landmarks Commission.

"When we first started working with this project, we started talking with neighbors and the block club as part of the outreach program," Asimes said. "We wanted to be respectful of the process we were asked to follow."