Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Seeds & Sprouts XVI - City Club tower gets start date & more

This is the Sixteenth 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.

City Club Apartments tower, 720 Euclid Ave., could see a ground-
breaking occur on or about May 1. It is one of two 20+ story
apartment towers due to see construction start this spring in
Cleveland, marking the start of the Roaring 20s (Vocon).

City Club Apartments may get May 1 go-ahead

According to the construction bidding publication Dodge Reports, general contractor Cleveland Construction Inc. of Mentor has the green light to start construction May 1 on City Club Apartments -- downtown Cleveland's latest residential tower. The 23-story, 300-unit apartment building would rise at 720 Euclid Ave., one of the last downtown parking lots on the city's main thoroughfare.

City crews worked last month to relocate utilities below Euclid Avenue so that a construction tower crane for the project could be placed next to the sidewalk. But there is one more hurdle to overcome for City Club Apartments of of Farmington, MI.

A source close to the project said the property owner, currently the Goldberg family, has yet to formally notify the development team of a groundbreaking date. The reason is that the property is due to transfer to a new owner, CCA CBD Cleveland, LLC, an affiliate of City Club Apartments.

Goldberg carved out a half-acre plat from its larger 2-acre parcel last November. Goldberg's original parcel extended from Euclid south to Prospect Avenue and includes a six-level, 540-space parking garage in the middle of the property.

"The effect of the plat is to consolidate the 10 historical parcels and to split the approximately one-half acre parcel fronting on Euclid Avenue for sale to and development by CCA CBD Cleveland, LLC of the City Club Apartments project," wrote Mara Cushwa, partner and chair of Calfee, Halter & Griswold LLP's Real Estate practice group, in a Nov. 18, 2020 letter to the Cuyahoga County Fiscal Office Department.

Dodge Reports also said the cost of the construction project is $92.5 million. That's less than two other recent high-rise apartment developments -- The Beacon, a $95 million 19-story addition to the top of a 9-story parking garage and The Lumen, a $135 million 34-story apartment tower with a 540-space parking garage. 

The City Club Apartments will cost less because its height will be only 240 feet, averaging about a foot shorter per floor than either the Beacon or Lumen towers built in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Like The Beacon, City Club Apartments' parking will be availed by a nearby parking garage that is full during the day but underutilized at night.

The 24-story Artisan, shown above as 10600 Chester, is just one of
multiple high-rise buildings that will further cement the University
Circle area as Cleveland's "second downtown" (MDP).

Artisan apartments tower in UC to start by May

Along with the City Club Apartments, a taller tower in Cleveland's second downtown is among those planned to kick off the Roaring Twenties of construction projects in The Land. Artisan, 10600 Chester Ave., in University Circle will see a groundbreaking by May according to the Cleveland Business Journal.

When complete, the 298-unit market-rate apartment tower will top out at 24 stories and 250 feet and become the tallest building in University Circle. That nod currently belongs to One University Circle, a 20-story, 234-foot-tall apartment tower built a block away in 2018 at 10730 Euclid Ave.

White Oak Realty Partners of Chicago is joining with Midwest Development Partners of Cleveland and National Real Estate Advisors of  Washington DC to deliver the project. It will be first new building in the multi-tower development Circle Square.

City officials had hoped that that the 11-story, 207-unit Library Lofts apartments featuring a new, ground-floor MLK Branch Library would be Circle Square's first new building. But bureaucratic and pandemic-related delays by the Cleveland Public Library and Midwest Development Partners pushed Library Lofts' start date to late-Spring, CBJ reported.

Artisan will have 287 parking spaces over 14,005 square feet of ground-floor retail. Another 24,600 square feet of ground-floor retail will be below two other parking structures offering 488 more parking spaces. In total, there will be 775 spaces among all parking structures in the first phase. The first phase represents a $186 million investment, city documents show.

Floor plans and other documents were submitted to the city last week
for the conversion of the second floor of the New England Building,
629 Euclid Ave., from offices to apartments and a fitness center. The
plans were part of a request for a zoning review and building permit
application by an affiliate of MRN Ltd. (SA Group).

One floor of downtown office building to get apartments

A new building permit application to the city offers an indication of the health of two different downtown Cleveland markets -- office and residential. Jori Maron of Cleveland-based MRN Ltd., doing business as 629 Euclid Ltd., is seeking to convert vacant office spaces on the second floor of the historic New England Building into 11 market-rate apartments and a fitness center for building tenants.

The projected $1,275,000 renovation cost would convert the unused, 13,740-square-foot floor. Plans show the fitness center would measure 2,945 square feet and the apartments would average about 1,000 square feet each. The rest of the 17-story building is used for a Holiday Inn Express hotel and an office building including tenants like digital marketer Rosetta Inc. and real estate firm Stark Enterprises.

Maron did not respond prior to publication of this article seeking more information about the project, including if additional vacant office floors may be converted to residential or about the general health of the office market vs. residential market.

There is a lot going on in this block of Euclid Avenue. As noted at the top of this Seeds & Sprouts column, the City Club Apartments tower is due to see construction soon. And, last week, iHeart Media Cleveland announced it would move its offices, studios and about 100 employees later this year from suburban Independence to the ground floor of 668 Euclid Ave., across the street from the New England Building.

Plans for Green Opal Salon's new space in the Church+State
development in the 2800 block of Detroit Avenue in Ohio City
were submitted to the city of Cleveland for review (HD+S).

Ground-floor tenants making moves in Ohio City, downtown

Two small businesses, Green Opal Salon and Anna In The Raw, will be relocating in the coming months, according to filings submitted recently to the Cleveland Building Department.

Green Opal Salon will relocate to a 1,693-square-foot storefront in the new Church+State development, 1436 Church and State Way. The new location for the salon represents an investment of $300,000, a building permit application shows.

There, it will join with Great Lakes Health & Wellness which revealed to NEOtrans in December that it will expand to the two-building development in Ohio City's Hingetown section. Green Opal Salon has hired Hiti, DiFrancesco and Siebold, Inc. as its project architect.

Since it began in 2017, Green Opal Salon has been in business at 11627 Clifton Blvd. in Cleveland's Edgewater neighborhood. It is located between Eddy's Barbershop and Starbucks. Owner Renee Dreshaj did not return a phone call seeking more information.

Health food and juice café Anna In The Raw will relocate from the
IMG Building at left to the AECOM Building at right. This view
looks west on St. Clair Avenue from East 9th Street (Google).

Anna In The Raw, now located in the IMG Building lobby, 1360 E. 9th St., will relocate across St. Clair Avenue to the westernmost space in the AECOM Building's lobby, 1300 E. 9th., in downtown Cleveland.

With the designs of HSB Architects, Anna Harouvis plans to invest $160,000 to develop a 992-square-foot space for her new raw foods and healthy juices establishment. She was at her old location in the IMG Building since 2001. Harouvis opened her first café Mardi Gras Deli in downtown Cleveland in 1995, according to her Web site.


Thursday, March 25, 2021

Seven proposed office towers in Cleveland? Yep, seven.

A half-dozen new office towers could grace downtown Cleveland,
plus another tower in University Circle, within the next five years.
Each is due to a number of fast-growing companies that are in need
of more office space, amenities and corporate identity that meets
their growing employment and corporate needs (LoopNet).

It's a contradiction. Cleveland and the rest of the nation are in the midst of an historic office market slowdown that will likely last well into the post-pandemic era. And yet, Cleveland may be the recipient of up to seven new office towers in the next five years or so -- six of those could rise downtown and one in University Circle.

That's a stunning possibility for two reasons.

First, many companies plan to continue to rely on remote working for years after the pandemic eases over the next few months. For example, employment screening firm Asurint will go all-remote work from now on. They will sublease two of its three floors at 1111 Superior Ave., retaining the remaining floor only for training, onboarding and meetings, a real estate industry source said.

Asurint is not alone. Many other businesses are finding themselves with too much office space during and likely after the pandemic. Cresco Real Estate has a page on its Cleveland Web site dedicated just to companies who have a pandemic-related surplus of office space and need to sublease it.

Second, it's stunning because, after the 57-story Key Tower was completed 30 years ago, only two 20-plus-story office towers were added in downtown Cleveland -- the Carl B. Stokes Federal Courthouse, 801 W. Superior Ave., and the Ernst & Young Building, 950 Main Ave.

So how might Cleveland conceivably go from two new office towers in 30 years to seven new towers in five years during one of the worst office markets in the past 75 years?

The answer is found at seven large employers -- Benesch Friedlander Coplan & Aronoff, Cleveland-Cliffs, Cleveland Clinic, Cuyahoga County, McDonald Hopkins, Rocket Mortgage and Sherwin-Williams. They have some of the largest office employment growth among large employers locally. And they are not planning to keep their office staffs working remotely.

Fast-growing law firm Benesch has been seeking a new home for
years and has been patient with Stark Enterprises' plans to build
that new home at the long-planned nuCLEus development (Stark).


Benesch, one of Cleveland's largest and fastest growing law firms, has more than 200 attorneys and hundreds more employees in Cleveland and nationwide. The firm was founded in 1938 and is enjoying a growth spurt in recent years.

Since making its debut on the AmLaw 200 list in 2016, populated by the 200 largest law firms in the nation, Benesch has risen to 168th with 2019 revenues of $160 million. In just the past two years, more than 80 attorneys have joined the firm.

To continue this growth, Benesch needs more space than the multiple floors it occupies at the 46-story 200 Public Square. It proposes to be the anchor office tenant, including naming rights, of Stark Enterprises' office tower at the long-planned nuCLEus mixed-use development on the southeast corner of Prospect Avenue and East 4th Street.

Benesch's growth is revealed by its evolving space needs at nuCLEus. When it first signed on in 2015, Benesch requested 66,500 square feet of office space. Two years later, it upped its space needs to 100,000 square feet. At last report, which is now a year old, Benesch needed 180,000 square feet.

That was when a groundbreaking date for nuCLEus was days away from being announced. The pandemic and its assault on the retail and college housing sectors, both prominent in Stark's portfolio, forced Stark to postpone nuCLEus' start.

Since then, Ohio's General Assembly and Gov. Mike DeWine enacted the Transformational Mixed Use Development (TMUD) tax credit. The TMUD credit, offering up to $100 million per year for Ohio urban real estate developments, is the brainchild of Stark founder Bob Stark who originally sought it to close a financing gap for a taller version of nuCLEus.

Stark is running out of excuses to not build nuCLEus and, according to sources, intends to break ground by the end of this year. The only question is, will Stark build a 25-story office building as it proposed a year ago or go back to its original plan of a 50-plus-story mixed-use skyscraper, boosted by TMUD?

When you've devoured as many big corporations as Cleveland-Cliffs
 has in the last two years, it's time to either let out your belt and add
more office space at your existing HQ building or get a new war-
drobe in the form of a new building. Cliffs is reportedly pursuing
the latter. Where it will land is still unknown, however (Google).


The pandemic is winding down and Cleveland-Cliffs' restructuring is winding up. Over the past year, it has been assimilating its new corporate acquisitions, AK Steel and ArcelorMittal USA that returned it to the ranks of the Fortune 500. Now, the enlarged firm is looking to bring its collaborating headquarters workforce together under one roof.

Except for one thing -- there is no roof in downtown Cleveland with enough contiguous office space below it to comfortably accommodate this expanded powerhouse of natural resource shipping and metalmaking. We're talking office space for roughly 1,400 to 1,700 Cleveland-Cliffs HQ employees, equaling anywhere from 255,000 to 340,000 square feet.

One that could -- The Ellipse, the completely empty, 496,000-square-foot, 16-story former Ameritech Building constructed in 1983 at 45 Erieview Plaza -- has been taken off the market by its owner, New York City-based Somera Road.

Interestingly, Cleveland-Cliffs or other prospective end users aren't considering this building and its massive floorplates for offices. Real estate sources won't say why, but the deductive reasoning suggests a buyer is looking at it for non-office uses. Stay tuned.

The added employees from recent corporate acquisitions can't fit at Cleveland-Cliffs current HQ -- about 110,000 square feet in 200 Public Square. There isn't enough space available at the 1.2-million-square-foot office tower to squeeze in the HQ staff of the 174-year-old company.

But if both Cleveland-Cliffs and Benesch leave 200 Public Square, it will create a large vacancy at the 1985-built tower. The building is 83 percent leased but could drop to 65 percent with these two significant departures.

At this time, it appears that Cleveland-Cliffs isn't considering staying at 200 Public Square to expand into Benesch's space. The reason is that Benesch's offices are 10 floors away from Cleveland-Cliffs' offices. Companies don't like to be separated by multiple floors.

Instead, multiple sources said last October that Cleveland-Cliffs wants a new HQ building. Now as we head into spring and out of the pandemic, there is word that Cleveland-Cliffs has begun scouting downtown for a new HQ development site.

Given the square-footage numbers mentioned earlier, Cleveland-Cliffs' HQ could rise anywhere from 10-20 stories tall, not including any extra office space for future growth or lease, plus space for mixed uses and/or structured parking.

Depending on its design that might add non-office uses, the new Cleveland-Cliffs HQ could end up being a prominent building in downtown's skyline. At the very least, it might develop another one of those unsightly, windswept downtown parking craters, home of wintertime trash-nadoes.

Another high-rise appears to be in the offing for the University Circle
area, and we're not talking about the 24-story Artisan apartment tower
that's due to see construction start in April. Instead, at or near this
intersection of East 105th Street and Carnegie Avenue, the new
Global Center for Pathogen Research & Human Health is pro-
posed to rise. At left in this February 10 view is the 16-story
Cleveland Clinic's W.O. Walker Center with the 20-story
One University Circle seen at right (KJP). 


The blob that ate Cleveland's East Side continues to grow with the addition of a new Neurological Institute and an expanded Cole Eye Institute. But those two additions, totaling 500,000 square feet, could be matched by one new huge building -- the Global Center for Pathogen Research & Human Health.

Here's one development that was actually boosted by the pandemic. The desire for identifying and addressing viral threats is always there, but the COVID-19 pandemic galvanized medical, political and corporate interest in more aggressively targeting them. And Cleveland is where that battle will be joined.

While it is unfair to characterize the new pathogens center as a Cleveland Clinic project, there's no denying the elephant in the room here. There are multiple partners involved, as the new facility got a $565 million shot in the arm from the State of Ohio's Innovation District program. Some $200 million to $300 million will go to the new pathogens center.

Also, the Ohio Development Services Agency recently awarded a 15-year job creation tax credit for the pathogens center that would take effect Jan. 1, 2024 -- suggesting that's roughly when the new building would open and employees would start working there. That means construction would have to get underway early in 2022. Potential construction contractors were contacted by Cleveland Clinic last fall.

A significant portion of the Innovation District funding will help pay for the pathogens center, proposed to rise at or near the intersection of East 105th Street and Carnegie Avenue. Cleveland Clinic will also contribute significant funding.

Given the lack of land in that area to build 500,000 square feet of offices and research nodes in a horizontal campus setting, this structure is likely to rise vertically. Even if floorplates are large, such as in the 30,000-square-foot range, this could be a 15-20 story building. Look for plans to become public sometime this summer.

The Justice Center Steering Committee was on course to decide
today on whether to build a new, larger courthouse tower or
rebuild and expand the existing, cramped, poorly built and aging
courthouse tower in downtown Cleveland. But that decision
will be postponed to next month's meeting (CC Public Works).


It's generally true that Cuyahoga County and its government aren't exactly growing sources of employment. But some aspects of county government are, including legal matters involving housing, environmental cleanup, probate, domestic, treatment of drug abusers rather than imprisonment, as well as other civil and criminal cases.

Squeeze all of that into an aging, poorly built Justice Center, 1200 Ontario St., and you end up with a mess. There are offices located in hallways, former closets or in neighboring buildings because more than 877,000 square feet of uses don't easily fit into a 600,000-square-foot, 25-story tower.

Rebuilding and adding onto the existing courthouse will end up costing county taxpayers more over the next 30 years than if they build a new courthouse tower, a planning study shows.

At the February meeting of the Justice Center Steering Committee, the planning team said it hoped to get a report out to the executive committee by March 12. With that report, the executive committee would recommend a course of action for the steering committee.

This is not an easy decision for the executive and steering committees. It represents an investment of $400 million to $600 million in taxpayer dollars. The committees are taking more time to review options, so a decision on whether to build a new courthouse or rebuild/expand the old is not on the steering committee's March 25 agenda.

If the committee chooses a new building, it will be located downtown. It's where all of the courthouse's support infrastructure is already located such as law offices, parking, public transportation and restaurants. One rumored site for the new courthouse tower is the Fort Huntington Park, located across Lakeside Avenue from the existing courthouse.

The relocation offers exciting possibilities for the redevelopment of the existing Justice Center property. That includes a new, more user-friendly park that is surrounded by high-rise residential and offices above ground-floor shops along the sidewalks and restaurants fronting the new park.

Now in downtown's Fifth Third Center,
McDonald Hopkins is reportedly looking
for larger digs that it can call its own, in-
cluding new amenities that will help its
efforts recruiting younger talent (Hertz).


Like Benesch, McDonald Hopkins is a fast-growing Cleveland-based law firm. Last year, the firm celebrated its 90th year in business and was ranked as the 274th largest law firm in the USA. That's an increase from 320th place just two years earlier, according to It now has 149 lawyers in five offices across the country.

McDonald Hopkins is located on multiple floors in the low-20s of Fifth Third Center, 600 Superior Ave., a 28-story, 446-foot-tall tower built in 1991. Not only does the firm need more contiguous office space, it wants its own building with its name on it -- like many law firms do. It also wants an amenities-laden building to aid in recruiting new talent to the firm, real estate sources said.

“We always have to be thinking about what’s next," said McDonald Hopkins President Shawn M. Riley in an interview in the Cleveland Jewish News. "The moment one rests on one’s laurels or rests on one’s success is the moment competition passes by. We don’t want to be reacting to opportunity and growth – we want to be out in front of it.”

He cited the need for adding offices in Nashville, Charlotte, Atlanta, Austin and potentially other cities. That also means adding management and administrative support positions at its Cleveland headquarters.

Although the future office and amenity space needs of McDonald Hopkins are unknown, they are substantial enough to warrant internal company discussions about seeking a new office tower, sources said.

They said it's too early to reveal potential sites, but somewhere in the heart of downtown Cleveland's business district is a logical place. Where else would we expect an aspiring, identity-conscious law firm to plop down a new office tower?

This conceptual rendering of the Riverview phase of Tower City
Center was developed to give Bedrock Real Estate Services a
sense of how it could develop the area between Huron Road
and the Cuyahoga River. That will reportedly include a new
office building for fast-growing Rocket Mortgage (Vocon). 


Here's yet another firm that has seen stunning growth in recent years. Rocket Mortgage, an affiliate of Quicken Loans that launched in 2015, has its headquarters in Detroit. But its back-office functions are in downtown Cleveland. The firm does business with customers entirely online.

Even though it is not yet six years old, its Cleveland presence has grown from 400 jobs at the Post Office Plaza, 1500 W. 3rd St., to 700 jobs occupying 150,000 square feet at the Higbee Building, 100 Public Square. Now, it intends to expand its staffing by at least another 700 jobs and potentially 1,000, supported by a $975,000 Job Creation Incentive Program grant from the city.

Rocket Mortgage needs to expand its office footprint to 300,000 square feet. It may need even more as the nation's largest mortgage firm continues to grow. And that's a big reason why a new office tower in downtown Cleveland is being considered by billionaire Dan Gilbert & Co.

According to Jones Lang LaSalle's (JLL) 2020 Cleveland Skyline Report, there's only about 130,000 square feet of office space not yet leased in the Higbee Building. Of the total 815,000 square feet of space in the 13-story building, 527,000 square feet is used for offices; the rest is the Jack Casino.

Even if the Higbee Building had room for the lending firm's expansion, there's another reason why it may move. A Gilbert-controlled firm no longer owns the Higbee Building and has also sold the casino operations. As one might expect, Gilbert & Co. doesn't like paying rent to outside firms if it doesn't have to.

Gilbert's Rock Ohio sold the building and the Thistledown Racino property in a lease-back deal in October 2019 for $843 million to Vici Properties. The casino operations sold in January and will move its headquarters and about 90 jobs from Detroit to Cleveland, further constraining space at the Higbee Building.

Sources said in a recent NEOtrans article that the site being considered for the new Quicken Loans/Rocket Mortgage office building is Tower City Center's Riverview parking lots between Huron Road and the Cuyahoga River.

There, Gilbert-controlled Bedrock Real Estate Services is working with Cleveland-based architectural firm Vocon Partners LLC and Toronto-based engineering firm IBI Group. Site analysis work is due to get underway next month on the Riverview site, the sources said.

This narrow strip of land is owned by Bedrock partner Rock Ohio Caesars Cleveland LLC. Within that strip yet split by Canal Road are two parcels -- the 8.5-acre, 678-space Tower City Riverview Parking public lot and the 11-acre, 1,330-space Tower City Riverview South employee parking lot.

Not all of the huge site will be developed for an office building offering at least several hundred thousand square feet. Recently, Vocon developed a highly conceptual rendering showing residential, commercial, structured parking and recreational uses to accompany the office building.

Considering the potential scale of the project and the variety of mixed uses, including costly structured parking, it is possible that one of the Gilbert-controlled companies will seek a TMUD tax credit to support the Riverview development project.

Official site plan for the new Sherwin-Williams global headquarters
whose largest building will be an office tower that's about 35
stories and roughly 500 feet tall. The location is west of
Public Square in downtown Cleveland (SHW).


And finally, here's the best-known of the seven office towers proposed in Cleveland. Everyone by now surely knows that Sherwin-Williams (SHW) is building a 1-million-square-foot global headquarters in Cleveland. And NEOtrans has covered this project extensively from the inside and out, more than any other media outlet.

Most recently, we reported details about SHW's plans for their roughly 35-story, 500-foot-tall tower. Way back in January, NEOtrans was first to report the HQ site plan. The HQ tower will rise at the northwest corner of West 3rd Street and Superior Avenue. North of the HQ, across Frankfort Avenue and west of West 3rd will be a large parking garage with ground-floor commercial uses on West 3rd.

Between the HQ tower and Public Square will be a two- to three-story-tall learning center which some members of SHW's HQ design team are calling the new Center of Excellence (CofE). The global coatings giant has a CofE in the ornate former Midland Bank lobby at its existing HQ, 101 W. Prospect Ave.

But the new CofE will reportedly feature more than just a primer on the paint company's history. It will have a conference center for corporate training and board meetings. Atop this short building will be a rooftop event patio for outdoor events, including after work cocktail parties.

The design of the tower will reportedly be a modern glass box, but could feature some curves or angles to make it a little more interesting -- if C-suite executives are so inclined. Design team members also want the HQ tower, parking garage and new CofE to be connected by sky bridges. 

Sources said the tower apparently will not have any public uses such as retail or restaurants, possibly including along the sidewalks of Superior and West 3rd. This appears contrary to the city's 2016-passed Urban Core Overlay District that applies to new buildings in the entire central business district. We'll see if that HQ design approach survives City Hall scrutiny.

The headquarters plan is rounded out by future development sites at the west and north edges, adjoining the Historic Warehouse District. Those plots of land, owned by Sherwin-Williams, are reportedly to be developed by others to extend the low- to mid-rise mixed-use buildings of the Warehouse District into the new HQ's campus. Look for the HQ plans to be submitted to the city by summer and construction to start by Christmas.


Monday, March 22, 2021

iHeartMedia moves offices, studios from suburbs to downtown

The new home of iHeartMedia Cleveland later this year will be
the ground floor of 668 Euclid Ave. in Downtown Cleveland.
Not only will renovation work get underway soon for the
new media studios and offices, the 23-story City Club
Apartments will soon fill the space at left (Google).

Today, iHeartMedia Cleveland announced plans to move their regional office to downtown Cleveland. The new location will be at 668 Euclid Ave. and will include a 10-year agreement lease with K&D Group.

The new agreement will move iHeartMedia Cleveland’s nine radio stations, along with the company’s sales, marketing, digital and Total Traffic operation from Independence to the new state-of-the-art street-level facility. The new offices are scheduled to open by the end of 2021.

In a written statement released today, iHeartMedia Cleveland said it has designed a brand-new state-of-the-art facility to house their iconic brands and franchises – both broadcast and digital – including stations like 100.7 WMMS, Newsradio WTAM 1100 AM & 106.9 FM, Majic 105.7, 99.5 WGAR, 106.5 The Lake, 96.5 KISS FM, Real 106.1, 1350 AM The Gambler and Cleveland’s BIN: Black Information Network 99.1 FM. 

Rendering of the new offices of iHeartMedia Cleveland, looking
out on to Euclid Avenue at right (iHeartMedia Cleveland).

This move will bring more than 100 employees into the heart of Cleveland’s downtown business landscape.

"We are thrilled to return our broadcast and digital operations to the heart of our city," said Keith Hotchkiss, president of iHeartMedia Cleveland. "Connecting our influencers, marquee talent and operation staff with the downtown business district will further drive the passion to serve the community we all call home."

Additionally, iHeartMedia Cleveland’s new vision for the workplace provides leaders and their teams with the tools they need to adapt to a changing world. New office features will include five conference rooms, 11 studios featuring cutting-edge technology, eight service booths for news, traffic, and podcast creation, and phone audio sound via Sound+.

A marquee broadcast studio and mixed-use podcast content creation room both face street-level on Euclid Avenue. Studio designs are by Beneville Studios and AUX1 design.

One of the new studios at iHeartMedia Cleveland's new location
in downtown Cleveland. The move will bring 100 employees
to downtown and more street life to Euclid Avenue.

"We are delighted that iHeartMedia will be locating their regional headquarters in downtown Cleveland, bringing 100 communication and technology jobs to the 668 Building and the Euclid Avenue Historic District," said Joe Marinucci, president and CEO of the Downtown Cleveland Alliance.

"We are so excited that iHeartMedia has decided to return to downtown Cleveland after many years, and that they have chosen our 668 Building as their new home," said Doug Price, CEO of K&D Group.

iHeartMedia is the leading media outlet in the Cleveland market with multiple platforms, including its broadcast stations; live events; data; and its digital businesses and platforms, including mobile, social and its own iHeartRadio, iHeartMedia’s free all-in-one digital music, podcasting and live streaming radio service – with 3 billion app downloads and more than 145 million registered users.


Sunday, March 21, 2021

Greater Cleveland RTA requests proposals for new trains

Approaching 40 years of age, a set of heavy-rail vehicles on the
Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority's Airport-Winder-
mere Red Line depart the West 65th-Ecovillage station, heading
for downtown and the East Side. These aging trains are in dire
need of replacement, which is coming thanks to a request for
proposals that was recently issued by GCRTA (DSCDO).

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) has issued a request for proposals (RFP) for the replacement of its four-decade-old rail fleet with a standardized type of train that offers greater efficiencies and operating flexibilities. The first new trains could arrive in Cleveland by early 2024.

Rail and transit advocacy groups like All Aboard Ohio have been advocating for years that GCRTA’s new light-rail vehicles (LRVs) should do what its previous trains could not — go anywhere on Greater Cleveland’s 38-mile rail system. That includes any future rail lines or extensions like a recently proposed Downtown Loop.

The new trains, the first order of which would total 18 vehicles, will replace GCRTA heavy-rail vehicles (HRVs) that operate on the Airport-Windermere Red Line. Future orders, depending on the availability of additional funding, will replace GCRTA LRVs operating on the (Waterfront-Shaker Heights) Blue and Green lines. 

Up to 42 additional LRVs could be ordered to replace GCRTA’s existing LRVs and, someday, possibly accommodate expansion of the three-route rail network that carries one out of five riders in the countywide, 54-route bus and rail transit system.

“It’s a great day for Greater Clevelanders,” said Stu Nicholson, executive director of All Aboard Ohio. “We are grateful to GCRTA General Manager India Birdsong and the authority’s board of trustees for making this wise and forward-thinking decision to unite the rail system with a single, interoperable fleet. I and others who came before me at All Aboard Ohio greatly appreciate GCRTA’s continued commitment to invest in its rail system.”

Today, only Red Line trains can run on the Red Line and Blue/
Green Line trains can travel on those lines. But a standardized
train can serve any rail line, including future services like run-
ning express from Green Road in Shaker Heights to Hopkins
Airport or having all Red Line trains circulate around a Down-
town Loop built from an extended Waterfront Line (GCRTA).

For years, current and former All Aboard Ohio representatives (including yours truly) researched and wrote articles and press releases on the benefits of GCRTA replacing its aging rail fleet with a modern, standardized rail vehicle that could increase the rail system’s efficiency, reliability, vehicle utilization, through service on multiple lines, opportunities for expansion and improved customer experience.

“GCRTA is to be congratulated for reversing a bad decision made by its largest predecessor, the Cleveland Transit System (CTS), 75 years ago by overturning the original plan to develop a unified rail rapid transit system in Cleveland,” said Ken Sislak, Vice President of AECOM, a former GCRTA Director of Rail, and former Vice-Chair of All Aboard Ohio. “GCRTA’s decision to buy rail cars capable of operating on any route is great news for Greater Cleveland.”

Sislak’s reference is to CTS’s decision after the end of World War II to abandon plans for a citywide rapid transit system that used LRVs. Instead, CTS’s first new rail line would be a crosstown rapid transit route operated with HRVs, opening in 1955. That route became today’s Airport-Windermere Red Line.

But that new route was not fully compatible with the then-City of Shaker Heights’ already existing LRV-operated rapid transit lines — today’s Waterfront-Shaker/Van Aken Green and Blue lines.

The CTS HRV and Shaker Heights LRV systems had station platforms with different heights as well as curves and lateral clearances on the Shaker lines that would not permit CTS’s HRVs to use them. Incredibly, at the three stations shared by the two systems — Tower City, East 34th-Campus and East 55th — the HRVs and LRVs have had to load and unload passengers at different platform locations.

Some of the features of GCRTA's new rail car fleet are shown
here, with many more listed below and, of course, within the
RFP issued recently by the transit authority (GCRTA).

Even after CTS, Shaker Heights Rapid Transit and other systems were united under GCRTA ownership in 1975, the two rail systems continued to operate as if they still had separate owners. That was reflected in GCRTA replacing the Blue and Green line’s trains with LRVs in 1979-81 and the replacement of the Red Line trains with new HRVs in 1984-85. Those two fleets continue to operate to this day.

With the issuance of the RFP, GCRTA requests firms or groups of firms to submit proposals for the new trains by 2 p.m., May 19, 2021. GCRTA will entertain scheduled site visits by prospective bidders to its Central Rail and Maintenance Facility at East 55th and its Brookpark Shop from March 29th through April 9th. GCRTA said it intends to award a contract to the winning bidder in October 2021.

“GCRTA requests proposals for the designing, manufacturing, testing, furnishing, delivery and performance testing of 18 high floor light-rail vehicles capable of servicing both nominal 41-inch high platforms and nominal 3.5-inch to 16-inch low platforms with options for up to 42 additional vehicles,” GCRTA and its railcar consultant Hatch-LTK wrote in its RFP.

“The work shall also include delivery of data, manuals, drawings, training and support services, spare parts, special tools and diagnostic equipment, which shall be delivered as specified. The contract shall be a firm-fixed-price contract,” the RFP noted.

A big part of offering a top-notch urban quality of life is a top-
notch public transportation system. Cleveland has Ohio's largest
urban rail system but its reach and quality falls short of those in
other metro areas of similar size, including cities that used to be
smaller than Cleveland. GCRTA and the city can attract more
housing and jobs to within a comfortable walk of rail stations
by continuing to invest in the rail system and offering more
station-area development-ready sites (Michael Collier).

Among the many specifications in GCRTA’s 1,314-page RFP:

  • The new rail fleet must operate across the HRV and LRV systems;
  • May use automated “gap filler” apparatus to narrow the gap between train and station platform;
  • Train body should be a single car or articulated;
  • Must be bi-directional with operator cabs at both ends;
  • Offer multi-unit operation in trains of up to three vehicles;
  • New fleet’s design should minimize changes to GCRTA’s infrastructure;
  • Meet GCRTA dimensional and weight requirements;
  • Trains must have a service-proven design;
  • Be compatible with GCRTA’s rail signaling systems;
  • Comply with “Buy America” requirements;
  • Cars must come equipped with two pantographs: one for collecting electrical power from overhead wires and one to provide ice cutting on those wires;
  • For a period of time, the new fleet may operate on tracks with both of the existing fleets;
  • Collision compatibility between fleets should be considered;
  • The vehicles require battery systems to provide limited off-wire capabilities in case of power loss;
  • Trains must achieve 60 mph maximum speeds;
  • Corrosion resistance is a major point of emphasis for the agency.

All Aboard Ohio said it is looking forward to GCRTA picking the best type of LRV that offers its customers a safe, comfortable and convenient ride. With this investment, projected to exceed $300 million upon full completion of the entire order, Greater Clevelanders will continue to enjoy Ohio’s largest urban rail system.

That system provides Greater Cleveland with superior mobility, environmentally friendly electrically powered transport, access to jobs and services and incentivizes pedestrian-friendly economic development near stations, All Aboard Ohio added.


Friday, March 19, 2021

CSU starts campus masterplan process

The last master plan for Cleveland State University was developed
in 2014. The Washkewicz College of Engineering and the Center
for Innovation in Medical Professions were among the result of
that plan. Other projects didn't happen, including redevelop-
ment of the Wolstein Center or the relocation of athletic
fields closer to Interstate 90, allowing for redevelop-
ment of the old fields nearer to downtown (CSU).

As first reported here at NEOtrans last summer, Cleveland State University (CSU) began a search for a consultant to help it design a new downtown campus masterplan. That consultant has been found, with CSU hiring Boston-based Sasaki Associates Inc.

The firm has many campus master-planning efforts on its curriculum vitae. They include for Case Western Reserve University, the Nord Family Greenway in University Circle, Euclid Avenue Healthline Bus Rapid Transit, Lorain Community College buildings in Elyria and North Ridgeville, among many other credits in the USA and around the world.

The masterplan, CSU's first since 2014, will help it continue a decades-long transition from a regional commuter school to more of a nationally prominent residential institution. But this planning effort could also help it determine the placement of and surroundings for future investments in educational and research buildings, athletic facilities, parking and more.

A new wrinkle has been added to the master-planning process -- the long-term impact of the pandemic. With remote learning, some students may wish to continue learning from home, including from several states away. But other students want the campus life, especially an urban campus in an affordable city like Cleveland.

CSU has encouraged the development of more student housing on or near its campus. But that housing has been undertaken by private developers and managed privately. According to sources close to the planning process, CSU appears interested in developing and managing its own student housing.

The fate of the Wolstein Center could be determined by this latest
master plan process. The university previously wanted to hire a
private firm to develop the nearly 10-acre property with up to
1,000 beds of student housing. Now, CSU appears willing
to develop and manage the housing themselves (DCA).

The university owns and operates only two residence halls -- Fenn Tower and Euclid Commons, totaling 1,039 beds. Both are still relatively new offerings. Fenn Tower is an historic renovation, completed in 2006. Euclid Commons was built new in two phases in 2010-11. CSU rates and plans range from $3,700 per semester to $11,200 per academic year, depending on accommodations.

Those are less expensive than many off-campus housing options, especially as housing in downtown Cleveland gets more expensive. Although the growing interest in micro-units may help to reduce those costs. Those costs are relative, of course, as Cleveland housing costs are less than those of many major cities and urban universities.

CSU would like to take advantage of its urban setting and lower housing costs, hence the interest in developing more on-campus housing. The question for CSU administrators and Sasaki planners is -- where?

One site that may be targeted is the Bert L. and Iris S. Wolstein Center, 2000 Prospect Ave. The 30-year-old, 13,610-seat arena would have hosted thousands of fans cheering the CSU men's basketball team this season, playing its way into the college basketball tournament. Instead, it's hosting thousands of people getting mass-vaccinated to help end the COVID-19 pandemic.

But CSU administrators, including President Harlan Sands, likely won't demolish the center without first consulting with Iris Wolstein. Her late husband Bert who passed away in 2004 was a 1953 graduate of Marshall College of Law which became part of CSU in 1969. Iris Wolstein, now 91, remains active in real estate, serving as president of Heritage Development Co.

CSU athletic fields dot the east edge of downtown Cleveland, but
could be moved eastward toward Interstate 90 to make way for
more student housing, as proposed in the last master plan (CSU).

"President Sands has a great relationship with Iris," said George Kimson Jr., Heritage's chief operating officer. "He's assured her that, as they have news about the center, they would be in contact with her. They've not had discussions with her (about the Wolstein Center) in a few years."

That occasion, in 2016, was a result of the university's last master-planning process. CSU administrators and trustees went out to bid on redeveloping the Wolstein Center site with housing for 1,000 students. That effort was put on hold a year later as the university first wanted to determine whether it should privatize its parking assets.

"They've been around the block a few times on redeveloping the Wolstein Center," Kimson said.

If the Wolstein Center isn't demolished, then administrators and planners may look to the north side of the campus. There are many underutilized properties there which could be developed. Among them are surface parking lots owned by affiliates of Shaia’s Parking Inc. and the Frangos Group. 

Principals at both of these local parking lot empires have shown an interest in getting more involved in real estate development, but have few products on the landscape so far. Shaia, in particular, is reportedly promoting the development of townhomes on its parking lots around the Greyhound bus station, 1465 Chester Ave.

Planners may look at moving the Greyhound bus station to a new
site so that the 1948 art deco depot and its surrounding parking
lots can be redeveloped with new housing and other uses (KJP).

The parking firm is also suggesting that the bus station itself be turned into an "entertainment facility," according to preliminary plans circulating among real estate stakeholders. Principal Vic Shaia and his son Paul also touted in 2017 the redevelopment of Ambassador Lanes, 1500 Superior Ave., into a tech hub called The Zeppelin. That project remains undeveloped.

A message left with Vic and Paul Shaia on the contact page of their company's Web site was not returned prior to publication of this article.

Another CSU athletic facility the master plan will likely take a hard look at is Krenzler Field. The soccer and lacrosse field features a removable, air-supported dome. It neighbors on Chester the Viking Softball Field and the Medical Mututal Tennis Pavilion. Krenzler Field was renovated in 2018 for $2.9 million.

But as lacrosse and especially soccer have increased in popularity, including the possibility of a professional outdoor soccer team playing in Cleveland, the 1,500-seat facility may be too small. A larger stadium could be part of the master plan and incorporate facilities for softball and tennis. The 2014 plan had these athletic facilities moved closer to Interstate 90 but, like the Wolstein Center's replacement, it never happened.

CSU may also be at the center of an exciting new effort to boost CSU as a center of medical innovation. That centers around the January announcement of the creation of a Cleveland Innovation District. Last year, CSU hired Forrest Faison III, former U.S. Navy Vice Admiral and served as the 38th Surgeon General of the Navy and chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery from 2015 to 2019.

He was named senior vice president for research and innovation/chief healthcare strategy officer at CSU. Faison will oversee a broad effort to unify and expand the university's educational, outreach and scholarship efforts in all aspects of health care, while spurring the continued growth of Cleveland as a center for medical innovation.


Saturday, March 13, 2021

Asiatown development could be largest in 15 years

Both sides of Payne Avenue in the vicinity of East 33rd Street are
targeted for a multi-phase, mixed-use development by Frontline
Development, Fairmount Properties and NRP Group (Google).

Cleveland's Asiatown enclave could soon be seeing its largest development in 15 years. This newest endeavor involves a mix of renovation and new construction on properties used for the since-relocated Dave's Supermarket. The last big development in Asiatown was Tyler Village.

On the north side of Payne Avenue at East 33rd Street, the 43,000-square-foot supermarket is proposed to be repurposed by Fairmount Properties and Frontline Development Group as a 45,000-square-foot office/commercial complex called Culture33 for one or many tenants.

On this 1.26-acre parcel was the site of the original Dave's Markets Inc. The current building was built in 1957, remodeled in 1988 and again in 2006. Two years ago, the market moved to a larger store on Chester Avenue at East 57th Street. There are several other small- and medium-sized grocery markets in Asiatown most of which specialize in Asian foods.

Dave's Markets grocery chain was founded in 1930 by Alex Saltzman who operated a produce wagon on Payne. The growing business passed to his son David, for whom the business is named. His son Burton currently is the owner of the Payne Avenue properties totaling nearly 3 acres, county records show.

Looking north on East 33rd toward Payne, the former Dave's
Supermarket is proposed to be renovated and repurposed as
as Culture33 offering new office spaces for lease (Bowen).

Among those properties is 0.23 acres at the northwest corner of Payne and East 33rd and 0.5 acres at the southwest corner of Payne and East 33rd. Both are shown as potential development sites in promotional materials about Culture33 made available by Fairmount and Frontline. Retail, restaurants and/or medical services are envisioned for those parcels.

The developers had hoped to deliver phase one of Culture33 by June, consisting of professional office space in the repurposed former Dave’s Supermarket building. But pandemic-induced softness in the office market has apparently delayed delivery. Sheila Wright, president of Frontline, and Scott Pollock, senior vice president at Fairmount, did not respond to e-mails prior to publication seeking more information.

On the south side of Payne, the parking lot for the Dave's Supermarket is proposed to be developed by NRP Group and Frontline as Payne Avenue Apartments. The $13 million, 51-unit mixed-income apartment development would feature an L-shaped building along the sidewalk of Payne, between East 33rd and 36th, and extend south along East 33rd.

Proposed on the 0.93-acre parking lot is a four-story apartment building with parking behind. It will include one, two, three and four-bedroom units. Apartments will be affordable to individuals and families from 30 percent to 60 percent of the area's median income and will contain eight units designated for project-based vouchers.

A rendering of the proposed Payne Avenue Apartments in the
Asiatown neighborhood. This development will added density
in the community, across the street from Culture33 (NRP).

Monthly rents are forecast to range from $351 (reduced by $409 in subsidies) for a 657-square-foot, one-bedroom unit to $1,195 without direct subsidy for a four-bedroom, two-bath, 1,222-square-foot unit, according to data submitted to the Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA).

The developers are working with the City of Cleveland, the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority and MidTown Cleveland Inc. to secure community support and state financing for the project. 

The development is in the service area of the the St. Clair-Superior Development Corp. But MidTown is overseeing the project given its greater staffing and historical capacity to facilitate real estate developments, said Joe Duffy, executive director of St. Clair-Superior Development Corp.

"The NRP Group and Frontline Development Group submitted an application for a competitive low-income housing tax credit funding to the Ohio Housing Finance Agency for a mixed-use, mixed-income, joint venture development at the corner of Payne and East 33rd," said Jeff Epstein, executive director of MidTown Cleveland.

To finance the residential project, developers and their partners are seeking $10 million in housing tax credits over 10 years from OHFA. Epstein said OHFA will publicly announce its funding decisions in late May.

Looking west on Payne toward downtown Cleveland in 2019, the
recently closed Dave's Supermarket is on the right and its parking
lot is on the left. With the pending developments, this scene may
look very different and more lively in the coming years (Google).

Other Cleveland-area projects seeking OHFA funding include:

Bedford Heights Senior Apartments, 24819 Columbus Rd., is an $11 million, 52-unit senior housing community will address needs for more housing, especially senior housing in Cuyahoga County. Amenities in the immediate area include the Bedford Heights Community Center that offers recreational opportunities and a full-service senior center. It is also next to Mother Theresa Manor.

Cleveland Scholar House, 2565 Community College Ave., is up for its third try in securing tax credits for the $12 million project. CHN Housing Partners will be the developer, property manager, owner and supportive service provider of the proposed 40-unit building situated within walking distance of Cleveland State University and Cuyahoga Community College’s Metropolitan Campus.

Franciscan Annex, 3648 Rocky River Dr., is a collaboration of Our Lady of Angels Apartments, Inc. and Salus-Joyce Development LLC. This new-construction, multi-family building will provide 63 non-subsidized mixed income units for tenants over the age of 62.

Warner and Swasey II, 5701 Carnegie Ave., is part of a larger redevelopment by Pennrose Development and MidTown Cleveland of the prominent and historic Warner & Swasey manufacturing facility. This mixed-income development will bring 50 affordable residential units to help restore this building and boost prospects for additional investment the area.

Tyler Kapusta contributed to this article.


Tuesday, March 9, 2021

The Justice Center plan that could transform downtown

A plan reportedly being considered for a new courthouse tower
(shown in orange) could reshape a significant portion of down-
town Cleveland with sites for new developments (yellow) and
help support proposed projects like the Magellan-Weston tower
(purple). And it could build off of the momentum from nearby
projects like the new Sherwin-Williams headquarters, with its
site plan shown in this unofficial illustration (Ian McDaniel).

At the end of this month, on March 25, the Justice Center Steering Committee may make a decision on whether to build a huge new Cuyahoga County-City of Cleveland courthouse facility or rehabilitate and expand the existing one at 1200 Ontario St. According to sources, the early odds have the committee preferring a new courthouse, primarily due to its lower cost over the next 30 years.

The committee has already decided to relocate the jails out of downtown to a low-rise campus facility. The only question is where. 

For the courthouse portion, the committee wants to keep a new facility as close to the existing, 1977-built courthouse as possible. All of the support infrastructure is already there -- nearby law offices, parking, the hub of public transportation and plenty of restaurants for employees, jurors and visitors.

Part of the calculus against rehabilitating and expanding the 1977 courthouse is the cost escalation factor. Before any construction could occur at the existing site, the new jail site would have to be chosen, designed and built over the next three years. Ditto for the new police headquarters. Then the old jail and police department facilities would need to be demolished, cleared and the site cleaned.

Only then could construction of the expanded courthouse and renovations of the 1977 facility begin, with their expected completion in about five to six years. That would also mean that the 1977 courthouse's offices would have to be moved twice, including to an unidentified interim location.

Construction costs are escalating at 4-6 percent per year, so they also compound. Construction costs rising at only 4 percent annually would therefore increase by 23 percent over five years. At 6 percent over six years, the escalation would reach nearly twice as high. Also, reusing the existing site limits design efficiency and construction schedules.

Significant features discussed in
this article are shown on the above
satellite view. Other locations are
shown for reference (Google).

Consider that a new courthouse costing $400 million to $600 million could soon cost $492 million to $738 million if it had to wait for developable land to be made available at the existing Justice Center site. That influences the committee to look at sites that could be ready much earlier.

Those sites are complicated by the committee's reported desire to not build a huge skyscraper and instead limit the courthouse to a mid-rise. That's a difficult mission considering the new courthouse will contain at least 877,000 square feet of space and the availability of wide swaths of undeveloped land downtown appear to be diminishing relatively quickly.

So where might the new courthouse go? Across the street.

The hot rumor is that the committee is looking at a large city-owned property at the northeast corner of Lakeside Avenue and West 3rd Street for the new courthouse's site. That property is the Fort Huntington Park, right across Lakeside from the Justice Center.

The park was to be the home of a replica of a tiny fort that briefly stood nearby during the War of 1812 but the replica was never built. Today, it's a public greenspace that's a bit off the beaten path and battered by winds unimpeded from nearby Lake Erie, making it inhospitable for much of the year. The fort and park were named after Samuel H. Huntington, Ohio's third governor.

An even more exciting part of that rumored plan is that the 1.6-acre park would be relocated to where the Justice Center complex now stands. The existing Justice Center site totals nearly 7 acres. So the relocated park could be increased in size and still leave a significant amount of land around it for new development.

And a new, larger park would put the old park's features -- John Corrigan statue, Jesse Owens statue, Peace Officers Memorial and Oliver Perry statue -- closer to the heart of downtown where more passersby could see them and learn about them.

This is an unofficial site plan of what might be consi-
dered by the Justice Center Steering Committee later
this month. Since details are lacking, this graphic fills
in some voids by speculating on what features might
be considered now or in the future (Ian McDaniel).

The rumor comes with few details since we're still early on in the courthouse decision-making process. So there's a lot of what-if options about the park and potential development, still in the idea stage, that make this scenario more exciting.

One idea that could be considered is putting parking below the relocated park, much like Cincinnati's rejuvenated Washington Park in the Over-The-Rhine neighborhood. That would alleviate the need for developers of surrounding parcels to try to finance the least cost-effective part of downtown housing -- the parking.

A parking deck below the park could be filled night and day. At night, residents of new apartment and condo buildings would park there. In the daytime, it would be used by office workers, especially as 1,000 surface parking spaces will be lost starting next year to Sherwin-Williams' headquarters development a block away.

This scenario -- a new park surrounded by new residential development -- works whether the 1977 courthouse is demolished or if it's sold to someone wishing to try to rebuild it and convert it to housing or other new uses. When it turns 50 years old in a few years, the 1977 courthouse would be eligible for historic tax credits to help make this brutalist monolith potentially cost-effective for renovation.

But, according to contractors who built the 1977 courthouse, it wasn't well constructed. It was built at a time of much mob corruption and many corners reportedly were cut. That plus political infighting caused the $60 million project to cost $128 million.

Perhaps the only thing worth keeping might be the caissons to bedrock, if the 1977 courthouse is dismantled rather than imploded. If analyses show the caissons are still strong after demolition of the 1977 courthouse, they could be repurposed to support a modern, lighter residential high-rise on the north side of the new park.

New buildings directly and indirectly resulting from the relocation
of the county-city courthouse would alter downtown Cleveland's
skyline in a significant way. And this view from the west doesn't
include other large buildings likely to see construction in the next
year, like City Club Apartments, the new Sherwin-Williams HQ,
nuCLEus and a Tower City Riverview project (Ian McDaniel).

On the south side of the new park, along St. Clair Avenue, there is room for two more new buildings. These could also be residential high-rises. They would be across St. Clair from the Weston Group's The Standard Apartments, a 21-story building originally built as offices in 1925 and renovated in 2018.

North of the new park and west of the site of the 1977 courthouse is room for a fourth building, possibly an office building. That site would put it across Lakeside from the new courthouse tower. It would be a terrific location for offering Class A space for law office tenants.

There actually is a new tower proposed in this area. Magellan Development Group of Chicago and Weston Group of Warrensville Heights are considering a roughly 30-story residential and hotel tower at the northwest corner of West 3rd and St. Clair.

A smaller office building just north of the residential-hotel tower was reportedly under consideration too. But that component would be part of the plan only if a large office tenant or two were signed in advance. The passage of the Transformational Mixed-Use Development tax credit makes this project more likely. It could also aid developments surrounding the new park, too.

The new park -- especially if it had parking below it -- across West 3rd from the Magellan-Weston site would make this and all of the surrounding developments more attractive and more financially viable.

How does this square with the possibility that the committee wants to limit the new 877,000-plus-square-foot courthouse's height? As it turns out, potentially very well. The 1.6-acre Fort Huntington Park site is big. Its 70,000-square-foot plot of land is big enough that it could hold 2½ 1977 courthouse towers built side-by-side. The 1977 courthouse tower has 28,000-square-foot floorplates.

These are the two remaining options still on the Justice Center
Steering Committee's list. A new jail on a new site outside of
downtown has been decided. What hasn't been is what to do
with the courthouse facilities -- should they be rebuilt and
expanded on-site or built new at a new site. This summary
says the less expensive option is for the courthouse to be
built new at a new site -- but where? (CC Public Works).

So, let's play what-if again. What if the new courthouse was built on a six-story, 100-foot-tall pedestal? That would make it roughly equal in height to the 1912 courthouse next door, home to the 8th District Court of Appeals. That pedestal would allow it to accommodate nearly half of the new courthouse's space needs.

And what if the rest of the courthouse space was put in a tower atop the pedestal, right at the northeast corner of West 3rd and Lakeside? That would keep the tower from crowding up against and dominating the 1912 courthouse.

So the new tower above, offering comparable floorplates to the 1977 courthouse tower, could add another 17-18 stories. The total height of the pedestal plus tower would be 23-24 stories, or just under 400 feet high. It's a lofty building to be sure, but not if the entire 877,000-plus square feet was put in a tower with 28,000-square-foot floorplates.

Where could the parking for some of the thousands of workers and daily visitors go? Building a parking garage on the existing the Justice Center site to serve a new courthouse wouldn't work out timing-wise. The parking would have to be built at the same time as the new courthouse tower.

One possibility is to replace the 46-year-old, four-level, 1,200-space Huntington Parking Garage with a new garage with more levels -- much like Willard Park Garage behind Cleveland City Hall. In the 1990s, the city replaced that 1970s garage. It was a mirror of the Huntington garage. The new Willard Park Garage has twice as many levels and parking spaces as the old deck and so could a new Huntington garage.

Another option is for the county to build a new garage on land it already owns next to Courthouse Square, 310 Lakeside Ave. In 2003, the county acquired the site at 426 Lakeside to expand parking options for its many facilities and offices in the area. It is only a surface lot right now, offering more than 120 spaces. A deck built here could dramatically increase the number of parking spaces.

At right is Jail 1 with the courthouse tower rising next to it. Both
may soon be headed elsewhere. What could replace them on this
site could change the face of downtown Cleveland and leave it in
a better shape physically and economically than before (Google).

This site was where Felder Properties demolished the old Schoolbelles Uniforms building in the 1990s for Courthouse Tower, a 27-story mixed-use project featuring a DoubleTree Hotel. That project was abandoned in the 2001 recession.

The county also owns land below the elevated Shoreway -- a roadway that is often considered for downgrading to become a street-level boulevard through downtown to reduce a physical barrier between the central business district and the lakefront.

Downgrading the Shoreway could also spur development of the many parking lots north of the Shoreway and west of West 3rd, which is where Fort Huntington actually stood. The fort could be honored on its actual site -- not the location where Fort Washington Park is now. The county and C&K Properties Inc. own the site where the fort once stood.

Fort Huntington Park was established in 1937 for want of ideas of how else to develop this site. It was left neglected after a mostly residential neighborhood that stood here for decades was razed as part of the Group Plan of 1903. There were plans in the past for building additional court facilities or parking here but those efforts were resisted by the Early Settlers Association of the Western Reserve. The city formalized the park with major renovations in 1977.

Fort Huntington Park isn't sacred ground. The original fort, comprised of a small, star-shaped stockade built of chestnut trees was actually located 500 feet to the northwest. Built as a defense of America's border with British North America during the War of 1812, it briefly occupied a strategic location.

It was positioned west of Seneca Street (today's West 3rd) and north of Lake Street (today's Lakeside) on a bluff overlooking Lake Erie a century before the shoreline was pushed from the bottom of the bluff to farther out into the water. The fort's primary defense was a single cannon mounted on wheels.

This is where Fort Huntington stood more than 200 years ago in
defense of this nation during the War of 1812. We're looking west
from West 3rd Street along Summit Street, below the Shoreway.
If the Shoreway bridge is someday replaced with a street-level
boulevard, the land along it could become more attractive to
development, including an appropriately sited park to honor
the brief service of Fort Huntington to this nation (Google).

No one died here in defense of a nation here as no battles were fought here. A British warship, the Queen Charlotte, appeared off-shore in June 1813 as British forces sought to retake the Northwest Territory for British North America. But a sudden thunderstorm discouraged the ship's commander from attacking the tiny village of Cleveland and its 250 citizens.

Forty years later, the actual fort site was chosen for the city's first new Union Station railroad terminal below the bluff with the Lakeview Hotel, the Lake Shore Hotel and a smattering of residences atop the hill. No trace of the fort remained by the late 1800s, according to Sanborn Fire Insurance maps of 1886.

When there is a massive project like the new Justice Center on the drawing board, it's an opportunity to shake the dust off some old ideas and put them on the front burner. One of those could be to properly honor a small facet of the Battle of Lake Erie with a replica of Fort Huntington where the fort actually stood, plus displays of Clevelanders' efforts in building ships that served in the battle.

There is a lot involved if the county seeks to build the new courthouse on the site of Fort Huntington Park. But in so doing, it could put a larger park in a more hospitable, accessible location and make its surrounding land available to development to increase residential, Class A office and ground-floor restaurant/retail offerings in an attractive, urban park setting.

It may well be the best option available to address the goals and live within the constraints established by the Justice Center Steering Committee. And it would leave downtown Cleveland in a better, more vibrant condition than it was. Again, this is just a rumor, but it's a very intriguing one. We'll see in what direction the committee goes later this month.