Saturday, July 15, 2017

Cleveland transit-oriented development gains traction-Part 1

Van Aken District development rising
alongside the light-rail Blue Line's
Warrensville station in Shaker Hts.

See Part Two HERE

In the 1990s, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority was considering extending the Red Line into Berea. Planners touted the economic development potential of the rail line. So a group of elder Berea residents who apparently hadn't ever ridden the Red Line before took a driving tour of the areas around some of the existing Red Line stations.

What they saw were sprawling parking areas, aging or abandoned industrial buildings, used-car lots, self-storage facilities and other unsightly land uses. The elder Berea residents understandably found it difficult to believe that the Red Line extension would be an asset for their community. Little did they know that in other metro areas with new rail and bus rapid transit (BRT) lines, development arrayed in a neo-traditional land use style was popping up around rail and BRT stations. It's called Transit-Oriented Development (TOD).

More of an adjective than a noun, TOD describes a land use theme in which a transit stop is the epicenter of a densely developed, attractive public realm surrounded by mixed-uses in a walkable setting. It's a setting that produces for transit more ridership than a station surrounded by park-n-ride lots. In Greater Cleveland, the usefulness of and benefit from its rail/BRT transit system is limited by the land uses surrounding its stations. Here, many drive or take a bus to catch the train (Clevelanders call it "The Rapid") and ride it to and from work or school in downtown Cleveland. That's worth only two transit trips a day.

Rail/BRT transit systems in most other metro areas have more ridership because they are "all-purpose" systems. They have more stations that are closely surrounded by lots of residents, jobs, retail and civic uses like libraries, recreation centers, and schools including those that offer career development. They are multi-purpose rail/BRT systems along which a comfortable lifestyle can be sustained without depending on a car. In other metro areas, this transit ecosystem was built by the private sector in response to growing populations and worsening road traffic conditions. Greater Cleveland lacks those stimuli for TOD.

Greater Cleveland does have other TOD stimuli that are just as important but depend on more public sector involvement -- namely addressing a worsening physical disconnect between jobs and job seekers. In Greater Cleveland, only 10 percent of available jobs are within a 60-minute transit commute. Many available jobs are therefore left unfilled or have a smaller pool of labor available to fill them, raising costs for employers. This also keeps many residents unemployed. The disconnect has manifested itself into some inner-city neighborhoods experiencing high concentrations of poverty. The overall poverty rate in Cleveland is near 30 percent.

There are two basic alternative responses to this challenge -- either extend the transit system farther out to where the new jobs are or attract jobs and residents to within walking distance of existing, high-frequency transit. The first option simply is not possible to any great degree, absent new revenue sources for transit. Northeast Ohio transit agencies are facing flat or declining operating funding from countywide sales taxes, as well as fewer state and federal capital improvement funds. Additionally, expanding transit farther out into sprawling, low-density, less walkable areas produce proportionately higher costs and lower revenues for each new transit vehicle service-mile added.

The second option isn't necessarily cheap or easy either. Many of the underutilized properties within walking distance of existing rail/BRT stations in Greater Cleveland are problematic. Some have contaminated soil conditions due to decades of pre-regulatory commercial activity that involved the use of toxic chemicals. Other properties are tied up in protracted legal battles. And some underutilized properties have owners who don't want to develop or sell their land despite the obvious public benefits from developing their transit-accessible land with more productive uses.

Beyond the public benefit aspects of TOD that include less energy used and pollution emitted from lifestyles based on walking, biking and transit, there's actually a free-market angle to having more TOD in  Cleveland. The two largest population demographic groups -- Baby Boomers and their Millennial children -- are seeking low-mileage lifestyles. Either they don't own cars or they want to downsize by keeping just one car and using it less so it lasts longer. They also don't want to rely on their car for everything. If Greater Cleveland won't avail this lifestyle in sufficient quantity, it will lose its Baby Boom and Millennial populations to metro areas that do.

Fortunately, Greater Cleveland is waking up to these threats and opportunities. Its strengths are its rail/BRT system which offer an asset that many cities of similar size or even larger lack. Greater Cleveland also has underutilized land near its rail/BRT stations that are both a weakness (because they don't produce ridership now) and an opportunity (because they can offer a clean slate to start over with great urban design). Another weakness is that the region's public and private stakeholders need more education on the benefits of TOD, and that it already possesses but doesn't utilize public and private financing tools to plan, prioritize and develop TOD.
West Boulevard-Cudell station, proposed TOD concept.

East 116th Street station, proposed TOD concept.

An effort to utilize and focus more public financing tools to incentivize TOD in specific focus areas is underway at the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA), in partnership with the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, City of Cleveland and neighborhood development organizations. Three initial focus areas were identified by NOACA:
These three locations were identified by NOACA during a prior stage of developing a TOD scorecard and station typologies. All three sites have a market potential for TOD, but require public investment to upgrade transit facilities, improve sidewalks, narrow street widths, realign streets and enhance public realms to improve their pedestrian experiences.

There are also is zoning and funding available to help private real estate developers construct TOD. One of the most significant changes is in Congress' 2015 passage of the five-year surface transportation program authorization, called the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. The FAST Act expanded eligibility of the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) to provide low-interest loans, loan guarantees and lines of credit for up to 33 percent of costs of local TOD infrastructure and are applicable to all GCRTA rail and BRT station areas.

FAST also expanded the use of the $35 billion Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing (RRIF) program to support TOD infrastructure and development finance near passenger railroad stations, such as the Amtrak station in downtown Cleveland. RRIF loans can pay for 100 percent of project costs.

State, local and locally utilized federal incentives can also be used to incentivize TOD, such as:
  • Incentive Districts: Ohio law allows for the creation of Incentive Districts, such as around transit stations where Tax Increment Financing (TIF--the additional tax revenue created by a public or private investment) can be broadly applied to TOD infrastructure.
  • New Market Tax Credits: This federal program is often used by the Greater Cleveland Partnership (GCP) and Enterprise Community Partners (ECP) to induce private equity and/or debt capital at below-market terms for real estate developments, but GCP/ECP does not award credits based on transit-accessibility.
  • Affordable Housing ProgramsOhio Housing Finance Agency runs its own programs and allocates the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit to real estate developments. Transit accessibility is an important factor in awarding these credits.
  • Ohio Brownfields Funding: the Ohio Development Services Agency offers a menu of state and federal programs. Many properties near transit stations are polluted and require cleaning before they can be returned to productive use.
Private developers aren't waiting for TOD pilot projects. Station-area developments, most of which are utilizing TOD guidelines, are popping up around GCRTA rail and BRT stations. In the next article, I'll cover that part of the story -- which has the makings of a coming boom in station-area developments. Just about every significant real estate development in Cleveland and its inner-ring suburbs is happening within walking distance of a rail/BRT station.

See Part Two HERE


Friday, May 26, 2017

Cleveland markets its new industrial sites

Development of the largest shovel-ready industrial/warehousing sites in the City of Cleveland aren't attracting much private-sector interest despite Cleveland's low prices. Meanwhile, inner-ring suburbs offering large parcels that are almost shovel-ready are having greater success in drawing private sector interest and potentially thousands of jobs from significant planned developments.

What, if anything, is the City of Cleveland doing wrong vs. what, if anything, are the suburbs doing right?

Take, for example, the largest available site in Cleveland in more than a half-century. Located off Interstate 77 south of the Pershing Avenue exit, the 65-acre Cuyahoga Valley Industrial Center offered the potential for up to 750,000 square feet of new manufacturing space and 1,000 new jobs, according to promotional materials for the site.

The 65-acre Cuyahoga Valley Industrial Center

Two prospective users of the former International Steel Group coal/coke plant are finalizing plans for their building construction projects that will occupy about half of the center. More than $5 million in taxpayer funds from the city and state were used to clear and clean the polluted property. But the number of jobs involved will likely be far less than backers of the redeveloped site had hoped.

Ohio High Reach LLC, which rents construction and maintenance equipment, is relocating to 12 acres of the Cuyahoga Valley Industrial Center. Ohio High Reach has outgrown its Exchange Street property in Valley View, according to Patricia Herrington, the registered agent for Ohio High Reach and ETC Commercial Property LLC.

The business database Graphiq notes that Ohio High Reach opened its doors in 2009 and already has $5.8 million in yearly revenue and 18 employees. Its relocation will allow that strong growth to continue, Herrington explained.

ETC Commercial Property bought the 12-acre site in April for $731,250 from the Greater Cleveland Community Improvement Corp., according to records from the office of the Cuyahoga County's Fiscal Officer. GCCIP is a part of Team NEO, a nonprofit, regional business development organization.

On May 8, the city's Board of Zoning Appeals approved a variance for ETC to construct a new two-story building and parking lot on the site whose address is listed as 4800 Ruffini Court. Ruffini is an old street, recently rebuilt for $1.5 million as an underpass of I-77 off East 49th Street. The street accessed the original industrial user of this site, the Fronek-Reid Coal Co., more than a century ago.

Herrington said no construction date has been identified yet as financing is still being finalized. However, she said the pending relocation had advanced far enough that Infinity Construction Co. of Warrensville Heights was hired as the building contractor.

That still leaves more than 50 acres of the Cuyahoga Valley Industrial Center left for development. Roughly 15 acres of that will be acquired by the Ohio Department of Transportation's District 12 for its new Cleveland maintenance facility, according to ODOT records.

ODOT District 12 currently has five maintenance facilities. It's existing, aging Cleveland facility is located at a 2.75-acre property at 5430 Lake Court, along I-90 near East 55th. ODOT District 12's newest maintenance facility, opening December 2016 off Emery Road and I-271 in Warrensville Heights, covers 16 acres.

Further details of ODOT's plans aren't yet available, including the number of jobs involved. But the maintenance facility's relocation would be within the City of Cleveland, possibly resulting in no net gain of road maintenance jobs.

Another publicly financed clean-up and repurposing of an old industrial site that came up short in drawing private sector interest was the Trinity Development Site. For more than 50 years, the address of 9203 Detroit Ave. was home to Club Aluminum/Monarch Aluminum Products, employing 500 people in 450,000 square feet of buildings.

An out-of-state investor bought the company in the 1980s and moved aluminum manufacturing operations to a southern state. The building was later used as a "chop shop" for stolen cars until the building caught fire in 1998 and was structurally damaged. The city seized the property, demolished its buildings in 2007, and cleaned the property of pollutants, costing $3 million in city, state and federal funds.

Despite city efforts to sell the site, there were no takers except for less than 1 acre sold to a neighboring business, Penstan Ltd. Trinity's remaining 4.7 acres are valued at $140,800 by the county. The property's zoning permits uses such as retail, light industrial and warehousing.
Proposed City Kennel development

Instead, the city will construct its new $5.3 million City Kennel at the Trinity site. The new, 13,500-square-foot building will be about the same size as the old one near Tremont and result in no increase in jobs or new tax revenues for schools from the property returning to the tax rolls. Ward 15 Councilman Matt Zone defended the decision to put the City Kennel there as a productive re-use of a property that had long been a blight on the surrounding neighborhood.

The site is a short walk to the nearby West Boulevard Red Line station, offering an opportunity for redeveloping the site with mixed uses including residential. The property was offered at $70,000 per acre. But that train has departed as construction is about to begin on the new kennel.

An opportunity to better encourage development remains possible for the available site of the former Midland Steel Products Co. Until 2005, a 540,000-square-foot plant stood on 23 acres at Madison Avenue and West 110th Street. Midland built automobile frames here from 1893 to 2003 when the plant was closed. Like the ISG coke plant and the Trinity site, a lot of tax money totaling $5.3 million was invested to clear and clean this brownfield property to make it ready for productive use again.

Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative's
concept for the Industrial Crossings
District, including the 23-acre Midland
Commerce Park, 10615 Madison Ave.

The city owns the site, dubbed Midland Commerce Park, and has it listed for sale. Like Trinity, the city is reportedly asking $70,000 an acre for Midland, or $1.61 million for the whole thing. The county valued the property at $463,200 for taxes.

Ward 11 Councilwoman Dona Brady said the city has rejected inquiries about using the property for storing trucks or other less-than-desirable uses. The city is requiring that the new user employ 10 people per acre of the property. Furthermore, the city wants the new user to pay to develop the site's utilities and roadway infrastructure. That's a tough ask when competing suburban municipalities will install utilities and roads for new office or industrial parks. There have been no takers for Midland.

Meanwhile, it's a different story in the neighboring inner-ring suburbs of Euclid and Brook Park. In a story first broken here by NEOtrans, Euclid Square Mall is proposed to be demolished for a massive distribution center, possibly for online retailer Amazon. The redevelopment could bring at least 600 jobs and possibly several times more if the project proves to be an Amazon Fulfillment Center. Principals involved with the project refuse to identify the end user.

Euclid Square Mall may be replaced by a similarly 
sized distribution center offering at least 600 new jobs.

The 66-acre mall site is owned by Beverly Terrace Ltd. that wants to sell the property for $5.75 million. As recently as 1997, when the mall was still active, the property was valued at $28,958,700 for tax purposes, according to county records. The owner since has petitioned to lower the property's taxable value to $1.1 million.

Similarly, a game-changing business development could be coming to an inactive, 88-acre portion of the Ford Motor Co.'s sprawling Brook Park complex. American Plasma Energy Group intends to revolutionize the internal combustion engine through an exclusive licensing deal with Plasma Igniter, LLC to make the Coaxial Cavity Resonator Ignition System. The CCRIS is essentially a plasma spark plug that improves fuel efficiency by anywhere from 25-50 percent while reducing carbon emissions by the same amount.

Ford Engine Plant No. 2, Brook Park

Not only is the auto industry interested in this innovation but so is the U.S. military, which has four seats on APEG's 18-member business advisory board. They are outnumbered only by the seven Northeastern Ohioans on this board, including board Chairman Doug Benns of the Cleveland suburb of Rocky River. That's a potential advantage for Northeast Ohio as APEG intends to decide by the end of summer on where to locate a production and distribution facility as well as management offices that may ultimately total 500 employees.

So far, only the empty Ford Engine Plant No. 2 on Snow Road in Brook Park has been named specifically. But APEG reportedly is keeping its options open for other sites near Cleveland, Detroit and Pittsburgh, too. The availability of the 1.2 million-square-foot Brook Park facility that closed in 2012 may offer a cost savings for APEG which prefers to locate in an existing structure rather than build new.

As recently as 2004, the county valued the Ford Engine Plant No. 2 at $33,572,400. Ford has since petitioned to have the plant's value lowered to $8.4 million. No sale or lease listing for the plant could be located. APEG may need only 10 percent of the facility's square footage to ramp up operations by the end of this year.

This doesn't include major warehouse, distribution and/or industrial developments in outer suburbs like Mentor or Twinsburg. So are the suburbs doing something right in attracting private sector employers to these redeveloped sites that the City of Cleveland is not?


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Busy month: 3 big downtown Cleveland projects?


The next month may be very busy with Downtown Cleveland construction announcements. As a follow-up to my recent posting The Cleveland Skyscraper Building-Binge Starts, it appears that three projects will be making news very soon. One project is a surprise.

Least surprising is that workers this month are swarming over the nine-level 515 Euclid parking garage. Stark Enterprises will soon erect a $62 million, 19-story apartment building called The Beacon on top of it. The workers are construction managers who are mapping out the logistics and sequencing of work to be done over the next 16-18 months. The Beacon, with its 187 apartments, is due to open in late-2018.

The Beacon apartments, 515 Euclid 

The project faces a small glitch, however. Stark representatives discovered a typo in a variance approved in Sept. 2016 by the city's Board of Zoning Appeals regarding the height of The Beacon. In 2016, BZA approved a height of 340 feet. Instead, Stark is requesting a height of 355 feet at BZA's May 22 hearing. It is possible this glitch will delay the project's start until about Aug. 1.

I've also learned from several sources that Medical Mutual's board of directors will meet June 20 to decide its facilities plan, including possibly a new downtown headquarters. They health insurance company wanted to decide its facilities plan in May but negotiations with the developer/property owner have taken longer than expected. Medical Mutual said it is unlikely it will own its new headquarters, be it an existing building or a new building. The company may seek to extend its leases to strengthen its negotiating stance.

The address or size of its new office building isn't known, but at least several major Northeast Ohio developers responded to a request for proposals from Medical Mutual last year on new or renovated buildings for Ohio's largest health insurance company. It is quite likely the public will learn in the next month about the winning proposal.

Medical Mutual HQ (Rose Building)

Medical Mutual also is moving forward on a new suburban office, apparently for its Consumers Life Insurance subsidiary based in Strongsville. There will be some corporate consolidations but those may involve its much smaller Beachwood and Copley locations. It isn't known if the Toledo office is part of the office consolidation plan.

In Northern Ohio, Medical Mutual has these existing offices (lease information according to
  • Downtown Cleveland HQ -- 2060 E. 9th St. -- 1,300 employees (lease ends late-2020)
  • Toledo Business Team -- 3737 W. Sylvania Ave. -- 500 employees (lease ends late -2020)
  • Strongsville Consumers Life Insurance Co. -- 15885 W. Sprague Rd. -- 400 employees (lease ends mid-2020)
  • Copley Mutual Health Services/Benefit Health Services Inc. -- 3636 Copley Rd. -- 50 employees (lease info NA)
  • Beachwood Data Center -- 23700 Commerce Park -- 20 employees (lease ends mid-2020)
It is interesting to note that one company, BentleyForbes, owns three of Medical Mutual's five Northern Ohio locations: downtown Cleveland, Toledo and Beachwood. BentleyForbes purchased them at the same time, in 2000, for $75 million and later took out a $52.7 million mortgage on Medical Mutual's downtown Cleveland headquarters, the 1905-built, 10-story Rose Building.

After the real estate market crashed in 2008, BentleyForbes has been unable to repay or refinance the mortgage on the downtown headquarters. About $47 million remains unpaid. BentleyForbes has occasionally been trying to sell its three buildings that are occupied by Medical Mutual. Medical Mutual will reportedly move out of all of their existing offices, and it may move out of all of them at the same time when their leases expire simultaneously in 2020, sources say.

This includes its Strongsville location to which it moved from another location in Strongsville in late 2016. But Medical Mutual will retain a suburban presence, sources said. It is not known where it will be, how many employees will be located there or from where they will come. But the board's action now allows enough time for constructing new buildings for either the downtown Cleveland headquarters, the suburban Cleveland office, or both.

Finalizing architectural documents, securing government approvals, programming and other pre-development activities for new office buildings will require about a year. Construction will take about 18-24 months. The new-construction timeline fits, albeit tightly, within the timeframe of Medical Mutual's simultaneously expiring leases. Medical Mutual may seek to stay i

Lastly, a proposed skyscraper that seemed a distant possibility may instead leap forward into the ranks of the likely candidates. As early as next month, a national real estate developer will reportedly announce plans for a 34-story luxury apartment tower on a surface parking lot at the southwest corner of Euclid Avenue and East 17th Street, according to two sources.

Development site is on the left, past the gateway arch

The 1-acre property is owned by the Playhouse Square Foundation who in 2011 razed the two-story Hanna Annex at 1512 Euclid. Later, in 2015, the foundation acquired a mid-lot, 1/4-acre parcel to put the entire lot under one owner. The goal was to encourage development of the lot which was made more accessible after the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority extended East 17th Street south of Euclid to Prospect Avenue. The street extension was part of the Euclid Corridor Project that in 2008 that yielded the HealthLine bus rapid transit.

The Playhouse Square Foundation has been seeking to boost foot traffic in the theater district. It recognized two shortcomings of the district -- parking decks are behind and connected to the theaters, meaning that too few theatergoers set foot on Euclid Avenue's sidewalks to patronize its shops, restaurants and cafes. The foundation also says the district needs more residents -- something that is slowly being delivered by local real estate developer K&D Group Inc. K&D recently converted the eight-story Hanna Building Annex on Prospect to apartments and has begun work on the residential conversion on the upper six floors of the 12-story Halle Building.

But the proposed 34-story luxury tower would make a major contribution to the Playhouse Square Foundation's goals in two profound ways. First, it would add hundreds of moneyed residents to the theater district. And, second, it would add a proposed 600-car parking deck with ground-level retail on Euclid Avenue that requires people to set foot on Euclid Avenue's sidewalks to reach the theaters. No more sneaking in the back way, sight-unseen.

Much like 515 Euclid, this Playhouse Square tower would be built on a parking pedestal of perhaps five levels high. The foundation requested $4 million from the state's capital budget in 2016 to help fund the parking deck but got only $1 million. Additional subsidies are usually needed to make the financial numbers work for residential construction. But the more downtown residents there are, the more rents are growing to where fewer subsidies are needed.

Downtown's residential growth has attracted the interest and headquarters of powerhouse national developer NRP Group, based in Garfield Heights. NRP has chosen to relocate to Playhouse Square, into the lower floors of the Halle Building. The timing of NRP's relocation is intriguing. NRP is the nation's seventh-largest developer of apartment buildings. But it's tallest apartment building thus far is a 10-story structure in St. Petersburg, FL. If NRP is the developer of the proposed 32-story tower, it would mean a new philosophy for the 22-year-old company.

But so does relocating its headquarters and 200 employees from the suburbs to downtown Cleveland. NRP Principal and CEO J. David Heller said in an April 30th press release the company is moving to seize on opportunities for "rapid growth and expectations for further expansion (and for) enabling our employees to fully experience the city of Cleveland and what it offers."


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Bye, Euclid Square Mall; hello Amazon?

After 40 years, Euclid Square Mall is destined to be physically replaced by the latest thing in retailing -- E-commerce. The mall, having closed Sept. 19, 2016 after years of limping along with two dozen churches as its remaining tenants, is vacated and officially condemned by the city for safety violations. Euclid Square Mall had succumbed to the changing retail market and population shifts long ago.

Circumstantial evidence suggests the replacement for the 687,000-square-foot shopping mall will be a massive distribution facility for the online retail giant Amazon. Called a Fulfillment Center, the facility would measure at least 650,000 square feet and possibly be as large as 1 million square feet. Based on similar projects elsewhere in Ohio, it would represent a capital investment in facilities and equipment of more than $100 million and result in the hiring of more than 600 permanent jobs.


Two similarly sized Amazon Fulfillment Centers that opened in 2016 outside Columbus now employ 5,000 people total, or roughly double what was originally projected. An 855,000-square-foot Amazon Fulfillment Center in Etna Township employs about 3,000 people while a 1 million-square-foot Amazon facility in Obetz employs more than 2,000 workers.

According to public records, Euclid's Planning & Zoning Commission on May 9 (see last item on the agenda) will consider at its regular meeting a proposed zoning change by Seefried Industrial Properties, Inc., an Atlanta real estate developer. The agenda reads:
Seefried Industrial Properties, Inc., prospective purchaser, on behalf of Beverly Terrace Ltd, SNS Properties LLC, MCM Superior-Glen Apartments, Lee-Silsby Associates, and Gerome’s Grove, has submitted an application requesting the rezoning of a group of parcels from a U4-Local Retail or Wholesale Store District to a U6-Industrial and Manufacturing District. The proposed rezoning is for eight irregularly shaped parcels totaling 2,866,248 square feet (65.80 acres) in size.
If the rezoning and other permits are approved, Seefried will execute pending purchase agreements with the five property owners listed above to acquire nine parcels. Not only would Euclid Square Mall be demolished for this distribution facility, but so would four long-closed outlot structures. These include a Toys 'R' Us store, Stop-n-Shop grocery store, Red Lobster restaurant and a bank according to documents submitted to the City of Euclid by Seefried.



While Seefried develops facilities for other clients such as Pepsi, PPG, Home Depot, and others, recent indicators suggest the client for the Euclid project is Amazon. The indicators include:

  • Seefried's largest client is Amazon, as Seefried is the real estate developer for dozens of Amazon distribution center projects around the country;
  • A source says Amazon is opening "three or four" distribution centers around Cleveland but could not identify their locations;
  • Amazon is opening a Twinsburg sorting facility in a 248,000-square-foot building at the former Chrysler automotive plant;
  • Amazon is also leasing 80,000 square feet of space in Euclid's Bluestone Business Center, across East 260th Street from Euclid Square Mall, for a delivery station;
  • This facility's size is consistent with Amazon's largest distribution facilities (Fulfillment Centers), including its first two in Ohio as described above;
  • Amazon enjoys having its facilities receive electricity either directly or indirectly from wind turbines and Euclid's location along Lake Erie makes it ideally suited for wind power. Euclid already has four companies whose facilities are directly powered by wind.

The Euclid Square Mall site is next to Interstate 90, State Route 2 and only several miles from Interstate 271 as well as CSX's intermodal rail terminal at Collinwood Yards. It is probably the largest, cleanest, developable property so close to the urban core of the Greater Cleveland area.

Euclid city officials are to be commended for re-purposing a large site that was made obsolete by the changing retail business. They further deserve kudos for ensuring that the city will benefit from the very business activity that replaced the shopping mall -- E-commerce. Too often, very large distribution centers find sprawling, clean properties at the urban fringe, far from labor pools that need jobs and established communities that need to replace lost tax revenues.

After World War II, Chase Brass & Copper Co. had two large plants on either side of East 260th Street in Euclid. One was sheet mill on Babbitt Road and the other a tube mill on East 260th (formerly Upson Road). The tube mill was shut down in the middle of a strike in 1973. In 1975 the mill was demolished for Euclid Square Mall, built by Jacobs, Visconsi & Jacobs (now the Jacobs Group) and opened on March 1, 1977. The mall's last retailer, a Dillards outlet store, closed in September 2013.

- END -

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Cleveland skyscraper building-binge starts


Construction workers will begin building in August The Beacon apartment tower at Euclid Avenue and East 6th Street in downtown Cleveland. But that's just the start. Those of us who like to see construction cranes over downtown will probably enjoy the skyline view for the next decade or so.

The reason is that the 28-story Beacon apartments by Stark Enterprises is likely to be the first of many new large buildings to rise downtown. How many is "many"? It could be as few as three or four and as numerous as 10.

Why is this happening now? The Cleveland skyscraper building binge is due to the following factors:
Consider these large, older downtown office buildings that have, are being or will soon be converted to residential (post-conversion, some buildings include hotel, retail and/or office uses):
  • Cleveland Athletic Club, 225,000 square feet, 15 stories;
  • Halle Building, 392,000 square feet, 12 stories;
  • John Hartness Brown Buildings (4 buildings), 250,000 square feet, 6-7 stories.
  • Leader Building, 322,600 square feet, 15 stories;
  • 925 Euclid (was Huntington Building), 1.4 million square feet, 22 stories;
  • Residences at 1717 (was East Ohio Gas HQ), 340,000 square feet, 21 stories;
  • Scofield Residences (was Euclid-Ninth Tower), 140,000 square feet, 14 stories;
  • 75 Public Square, 150,000 square feet; 15 stories;
  • Standard Apartments (was the Standard Building), 350,000 square feet, 21 stories;
  • Terminal Tower, 584,000 square feet, 52 stories;
  • The 9 (was Ameritrust complex), 831,000 square feet, 29 stories;
  • Tower at Erieview, 750,000 square feet, 40 stories.
Other local factors are significantly affecting the downtown office market, including these recent or pending relocations:
  • Cleveland Police Department headquarters moving from its own building to 55 Public Square by 2018, taking 180,000 square feet;
  • Forest City Realty Trust headquarters moving from Terminal Tower to Key Tower in 2018, taking 148,000 square feet;
  • Millennia Companies headquarters moving from Valley View to Key Tower in 2017, taking 45,000 square feet;
  • New York Life Insurance moving from Lakewood to 200 Public Square in 2016, taking 110,000 square feet;
  • NRP Group moving from Garfield Heights to the Halle Building in early 2018, taking 43,000 square feet.
While those moves are tightening up Cleveland's downtown office market, perhaps even more exciting is the investment by national and international firms in the central business district -- and the reasons why. Cleveland’s relatively affordable cost of living compared with Chicago and especially coastal cities is attracting businesses to the metro area, fueling demand for office space.

"Many owner-users are snatching up space as prices remain relatively affordable compared with the national average, and as asking rents remain on the rise," said Ryan E. Moore, associate, Marcus & Millichap in RE Business Online. "Moving forward, upward pressure on rents and relatively higher returns compared with gateway metros will continue to motivate investors to inject capital into the Cleveland office sector, primarily in downtown Cleveland."

Consider these out-of-town investments and the reasons for them:
  • Turkish capital firm Alto Partners bought the half-empty 55 Erieview office building as well as the neighboring buildings at 65-75 Erieview and will modernize the combined 280,000 square feet of office spaces located between East 9th and East 12th streets south of Lakeside Avenue;
  • Alto is also buying the legally troubled quartet of John Hartness Brown office buildings at 1001-1101 Euclid Ave. that have seen their renovations stall, but Alto's project will likely be a mix of hotel/housing/retail and take roughly 250,000 square feet of office space off the market;
  • Those projects may be but a glimpse into Alto's big plans for Cleveland, as "Alto really likes the Cleveland area and is committed to acquiring and developing a few million square feet in that market," said Michael Sabracos, Alto's chief executive officer for U.S. operations;
  • Another out-of-town investor, Somera Road Inc. of New York City, bought the half-empty, 16-story, 45 Erieview office building at East 9th and Lakeside Avenue and will bring in back-office tenants from New York that are desperate to reduce their real estate and employment costs.
  • Somera founder and principal Ian Ross said "I think a lot of national companies in Los Angeles, New York, (Washington) D.C. (and) Chicago, are saying the cost of living in those cities has gotten astronomical. Attrition problems continue to be an issue. Companies are looking toward the Midwest. I do think there will be growth in the Greater Cleveland area in terms of new tenancy."
  • Ross added investing in downtown and other urban settings in Cleveland will retain and attract young people: "The millennial generation is what a lot of large American corporations are focused on, managing the attrition of that very fickle employment base. The suburban office concept, which you see a lot of in the Midwest and you see a lot of in Cleveland, specifically ... that's going by the wayside. That's not going to be the pull or the attraction for that highly sought-after employee."
Despite these new market trends, significant speculative office construction in Greater Cleveland remains non-existent. That could soon change. The historical average downtown Cleveland Class A office vacancy rate is 12 percent. But since early 2016, the vacancy rate dove below 11 percent and is projected to fall below 8 percent by 2020.

Typically, a vacancy rate of 10 percent or less and rising rents will justify the development of a speculative office building. Downtown Cleveland office vacancies remain the highest in the metropolitan area, but are falling quickly due to residential conversions of older office buildings and most of their tenants remaining downtown.

"It would not be surprising, though, to see announcements for new speculative construction in the very near future," said Colliers International's first-quarter 2017 Cleveland office market report.

And then there's the issue of corporate growth and consolidations. Two stand out above all others:

1. Medical Mutual may soon announce a new office building to consolidate its 1,300 workers from downtown's 115-year-old, 380,000-square-foot Rose Building at East 9th and Prospect Ave. Medical Mutual also has 700 employees in Beachwood, Copley and Strongsville offices (leases expire in 2020), plus another 500 workers in Toledo that may be consolidated into a new tower downtown. The lease-expiration timeline means Medical Mutual must make a decision any day now.

How big might Medical Mutual's new building be? An average of roughly 200 square feet per employee could equal a 500,000-square-foot tower. With modern, open floor plates averaging about 25,000 square feet -- small enough to be illuminated with natural light -- perhaps 20 stories of offices may be involved (not counting parking, contingencies for growth, additional speculative office space, or vertically stacked mixed uses). It isn't known where Medical Mutual would build its new headquarters.

2. Sherwin-Williams in 2015 outgrew its headquarters in the 87-year-old, 900,000-square-foot Landmark Office Towers, 101 Prospect Ave., with some of its 2,800 workers spilling over into 50,000 square feet of the neighboring Skylight Office Tower. That was before the global coatings giant announced in 2016 it would acquire Minneapolis paint firm Valspar that could bring up to 600 more jobs to downtown Cleveland. That doesn't count another 300 workers in Sherwin-Williams' Breen Technology Center, 601 Canal Rd., next to where the company was founded 150 years ago.

The Valspar deal should be wrapped up by this summer and an announcement about a new headquarters building may soon follow. Using the same spatial assumptions from the Medical Mutual scenario, Sherwin-Williams may be looking at 740,000 square feet of offices contained in a 30-story tower (again, not counting parking, contingencies for growth, additional speculative office space, or mixed uses). The site of Sherwin-Williams' tower isn't known either, but it will be in or near downtown Cleveland. Sherwin-Williams' corporate charter says the company's headquarters must be located within 1 mile of the firm's founding location on Canal Road.

Both historic buildings currently containing Medical Mutual and Sherwin-Williams are obsolete as headquarters for major corporations. They have enclosed offices which don't facilitate employee interaction and creative collaboration. They are costly to light, heat, cool and maintain. But they are perfect for residential conversions. And both the Rose Building and the Landmark Office Towers are in dynamic areas of downtown with other residential buildings, shopping, restaurants, entertainment and transportation.

One more significant office building is planned and likely will be built downtown:

3. Cuyahoga County's Justice Center development appears to be moving forward. The Cleveland Police Department is selling its headquarters which is part of the old, decaying Justice Center complex to the county and moving its 180,000 square feet of offices to 55 Public Square (see above). Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish referred in his annual State of the County address on April 19 to an upcoming project that the county is going to be involved in that will be the "largest yet" though he gave few details.

A new county courthouse tower could follow the cost-effective approach of the county's new administration building that was built and owned by a private developer to which the county pays rent. The courthouse tower project might involve a land swap in which the old Justice Center is given to the developer that builds the new courthouse tower. A new tower could be one of Northeast Ohio's largest real estate developments since the old, 2.3-million-square-foot facility was opened in 1976 and expanded in 1995. If built with slightly larger floorplates averaging 40,000 square feet, a 2.1 million-square-foot courthouse tower might climb upwards of 50 stories.

Considering all of these projects, downtown Cleveland's skyline will look different in the next few years, and possibly very different over the next 10 years. How different? Consider the photo comparison below.



The "tomorrow" Cleveland skyline picture shows labeled massings of buildings speculated, planned or under construction. These massings are identified and described below in the order of their possible likelihood:

  • Edge/CSU -- Edge CSU Student Living LLC is constructing an 11-story residential building on Euclid at East 18th Street. The project should be completed in summer 2017;
  • 515 Euclid -- Stark Enterprises is beginning construction on The Beacon apartments in 19 stories atop the nine-level 515 Euclid parking garage. It is due to open in late-2018;
  • nuCLEus -- Stark Enterprises and J-Dek Investments are wrapping up financing for the 1-million-square-foot development at East 4th and Prospect, including residential, offices, retail, hotel and parking in multiple structures, including a 48-story tower.
  • Hippodrome Tower -- Some believe a new Medical Mutual office building could rise on the Goldberg family-owned site of the Hippodrome Theater, now just parking in the 700-block of Euclid and Prospect. This is next to Medical Mutual's current headquarters in the Rose Building. 
  • Jacobs Lot Tower -- Ever since the 60-story Ameritrust Tower project died in 1990, Jacobs Group's parking lot has scarred Public Square. Some believe Sherwin-Williams will build its new headquarters tower here. Others believe this Public Square address is the perfect site for a new county courthouse tower.
  • Weston Superblock office tower -- Weston Inc. and Citymark Capital may build at the northwest corner of Superior Avenue and West 3rd Street a 37-story tower for whichever office user, between Sherwin-Williams or the courthouse tower, doesn't land on the Jacobs Lot.
  • FEB (Flats East Bank) Phase 3 -- Fairmount Properties seeks to build an 11-story residential tower atop retail and a movie theater on West 11th and Main Ave.
  • PHS (Playhouse Square) residential tower -- An unidentified national developer is seeking to build a 30-story residential tower including a 600-car parking garage pedestal, much like 515 Euclid. Playhouse Square Foundation sought $4 million from the state in 2016 to help build the parking pedestal but won only $1 million.
  • Weston Superblock residential tower1 -- A 25-story residential tower is proposed on the southeast corner of St. Clair Avenue and West 6th Street. This was to be the first phase of Weston's Superblock development but the office market may change that.
  • Weston Superblock hotel tower -- A later phase of the Weston/Citymark Superblock development in the Warehouse District is to include a roughly 20-story hotel. No hotelier has been publicly identified, however.
  • Weston Superblock residential/office tower2 -- Someday, the final phase of development of the superblock development may be realized, with this structure being an residential and/or office building.
With all of the moving parts of the coming downtown Cleveland skyscraper binge, it will be interesting to see what end-users and developers bring their projects off the drawing boards first and where they will land. Keep tabs on Cleveland's building binge as things could move quickly toward the end of this year.


Sunday, March 13, 2016

Downtown Cleveland's next office tower is in the works

During LeBron James' playing time in Miami, residents and visitors to Cleveland got a brief insight as to the headquarters location of one of this city's most successful and enduring corporate citizens. However, the street address of that company could soon change and in a very visible way.

The paint and coatings giant Sherwin-Williams (SHW), founded in 1866 in Cleveland, isn't a flamboyant company. The only time it displayed a sign on its headquarters, telling the world what's inside, was in the final year of James' absence. The basketball star's previous 10-story-tall mural gave way to a barren, brick wall for three years. Then in 2013, a similarly sized marker was placed there by SHW. It suggested the company's headquarters was close by. Indeed, the mural hung on SHW's home -- the unfinished side of an 86-year-old collection of three buildings known as the Landmark Office Towers. That unfinished side is where a fourth building, 18 stories tall like the other three, was to be built until the Great Depression halted it.

Sherwin-Williams' vibrantly colored mural on the Landmark
Office Towers was displayed above Ontario Street for only
one year (2013-14). It read: "Our Vibrant Home Town --
Sherwin-Williams and Cleveland: Together since 1866."

SHW's giant mural pictured above gave way to a new James mural following his 2014 return to Cleveland. SHW's offices returned to anonymity, at least for those who did not already know the firm occupied most of the 900,000-square-foot Landmark Office Towers, which SHW owns. It also owns the land on which its Breen Technology Center sets on Canal Road downtown, roughly where the company was founded.

Since the Great Recession, the company has grown quickly -- from $7.8 billion in revenues and earnings per share of $4.19 in 2009 to more than $11.34 billion in revenues and earnings per share of $11.16 in 2015. That's five consecutive years of record sales and four years of record earnings. SHW has outgrown its Landmark home. Now its offices are spilling over like so much paint into a portion of the neighboring Skylight Office Building, a 12-story, 321,000-square-foot building constructed by Forest City Enterprises in 1991. That building is almost entirely full too.

In 1990, Sherwin-Williams planned to build
this 30-story office tower called "Gateway at
Landmark" where the LeBron James mural is
today. The recession of the early 1990s halted
further consideration of this skinny tower
. A
reincarnation of this tower apparently isn't
being considered because it is too small.
So SHW's Chief Operating Officer John Morikis began looking at his company's growth and measuring it against SHW's space needs. He came to the conclusion that the Fortune 500 firm needed more room to grow. The question is, should it expand into other downtown buildings or consolidate its offices into a new headquarters building. The latter was favored. So basic questions needed to be answered next such as how much space would it need, where should it be located, would SHW want to own the building or pay rent, and who would build it?

As Morikis was promoted to chief executive officer effective Jan 1, 2016, the search for a new headquarters went into high gear. Major downtown developers and property owners were contacted about constructing a roughly 40-story office building with modern floor plates averaging no more than 30,000 square feet so that open working spaces can be illuminated with natural light and foster more employee collaboration. Modern open-floor configurations also typically reduce the need for space by about 20 percent compared to the inefficient, enclosed rooms that SHW office workers are in now.

Those contacted reportedly include (see graphics at end of blog posting):
  • Geis Companies plans a low-rise, multi-building office campus called the Burke Development District at the west end of Burke Lakefront Airport that could accommodate 750,000 square feet of offices. Geis is also reportedly seeking to develop properties north and south of Playhouse Square;
  • Jacobs Group owns the parking lot on Public Square where the 60-story Ameritrust tower was to be built before the bank was acquired by Society Bank in 1991. Jacobs/Hines proposed a 21-story office building on that lot but the idea fizzled during the Great Recession; and
  • Weston Inc's conceptual plan for the Superblock in the Warehouse District, approved by the city, features two 23-story apartment towers, one hotel tower and a 37-story office tower on the NW corner of West 3rd St. and Superior Ave.

City Hall and developer sources confirmed these sites were under consideration but did not know which, if any was favored by the company. The Public Square site would certainly be the most visible, but given SHW's traditions, an identifiable headquarters building has not been a priority for this unassuming company. Whichever developer offers the best financial deal to SHW will likely win. The financial picture could also entail SHW selling or trading the Landmark Office Towers for redevelopment. It's an ideal candidate for a housing conversion.

Conceptual plans for other downtown Cleveland developments offering much smaller office leasing opportunities would have to be significantly altered to accommodate SHW. Stark Enterprises' proposed nuCLEus development north of Quicken Loans Arena features a 54-story, mostly residential skyscraper. It is proposed to have 200,000 square feet of offices. The Benesch law firm committed to 66,500 square feet of that, prompting Stark to consider altering its plans to add another 100,000 square feet of office space to "respond to demand."

Fairmount Properties/Wolstein Group are planning a small office building of roughly 150,000 square feet on Front Street as part of their third phase of Flats East Bank. Dick Pace/Trammell Crow plans only 80,000 square feet of offices in their lakefront development north of First Energy Stadium. That project's conceptual plan was recently amended to add more residential, not offices.

At one point, plans apparently were moving fast enough to spawn company-wide rumors that SHW was going to announce the new headquarters building at its national sales meeting Jan. 22-27, 2016. The event is held in late January every year in Orlando, Fla. and attended by more than 6,000 salespersons. Alas there was no announcement. [UPDATE: the reason why no announcement was made was likely due to the uncertainty surrounding SHW's pending acquisition of Valspar announced March 20.]

As recently as late February, a member of Mayor Frank Jackson's cabinet said that several downtown Cleveland sites remained under consideration by SHW. There is no information at this time to suggest that any sites outside of downtown are being considered. SHW apparently wants to stay close to its geographic roots, not far from where Henry Sherwin and Edward Williams founded the company along the banks of the Cuyahoga River 150 years ago this year.

It would be apropos if plans for a stunning new downtown Cleveland headquarters tower for this global coatings giant could be publicly unveiled in the company's sesquicentennial year. If all goes right, they will be.

Geis Companies' Burke Development District.
Jacobs Group/Hines' 21-story Public Square
tower, proposed in 2008.
Jacobs Group's 60-story AmeriTrust Tower on
Public Square, proposed in 1991.
What the AmeriTrust tower would look like if it was built as a
40-story structure, which is approximately the size Sherwin-
Williams is reportedly considering for its new headquarters.
Weston Inc.'s Superblock plan for the Warehouse District, with
the 37-story office tower being the closest structure shown.
Stay tuned!


Saturday, January 16, 2016

Cleveland ready to scrape the skies more

Downtown Cleveland buildings under construction in 2016 or planned in coming years are shown in light-blue (click to enlarge all photos). Courtesy of

The pace of investment in America's cities has been one of the remarkable stories since the end of the Great Recession. There are few places where that investment is more evident than in Greater Cleveland which in 2014 ranked ninth in the nation in total new construction jobs (not percentage of change).

Much of that is for renovating historic buildings, rebuilding infrastructure and some modest new buildings. Anyone who has spent time downtown or in neighborhoods like Asiatown, Gordon Square, Little Italy, Ohio City, Tremont or University Circle in recent years has seen orange barrels, scaffolding and construction crews everywhere.

With the rebuilding of Cleveland's foundation substantially underway and the region's economy pivoted away from manufacturing (only 11 percent of the metro area's employment), most renovation-related work is about to transition to new construction. Big time.

Cleveland's Public Square is seeing its largest transformation
in decades, an investment of more than $50 million. Courtesy
of the Cleveland Group Plan Commission.
Don't get me wrong. There's still lots of old buildings and infrastructure to rebuild or replace. While many of Cleveland's neighborhoods have seen amazing transitions and rising populations, others remain out of control from a safety and economic perspective. But bringing residents with purchasing power to support more jobs in a core city that's accessible to all is a worthy goal. A job is the best social program there is. More residents mean more shopping, restaurants and amenities which also make downtown more attractive to companies seeking settings to establish offices and to access talent.

So while there are still more old office buildings and department stores to convert into residential and other supportive uses (see the huge 925 Euclid or the May Company buildings), the market for more residential continues to grow as more residential products are added. Downtown buildings, in total, have 1,800 people on waiting lists. And yes, there's a few office buildings that will soon be in the mix too. All of these will change the skyline of downtown Cleveland in ways not seen in decades.

Here are the recently built, planned or proposed buildings of 20 stories or more in downtown Cleveland, ranked in order of probability:

Ernst & Young Tower/Flats East Bank Phase 1 (completed 2013): 23 stories or 330 feet tall, with 480,000 sq. ft. of office space. $275 million first phase includes an adjacent 9-story Aloft Hotel on W. 10th at Main. Phase 2 added a 8-story apartment building with surrounding restaurants. Phase 3 in 2016 will add an 11-story apartment building plus grocery store and movie theater, all developed by Fairmount/Wolstein.
Flats East Bank Ernst & Young
Tower. Photo by the author.
Hilton Convention Center Hotel (to be completed 2016): 32 stories or 380 feet tall, with 600 hotel rooms and Level 32 Skybar restaurant open to the public, on Lakeside at Ontario, costing $272 million and developed by Cuyahoga County.
Cleveland Hilton Convention Hotel.
Warehouse District Parcel A (groundbreaking August 2016): 24-story apartment tower with 352-apartments and adjacent 7-story mixed-use building to be developed by Weston/Citymark Capital at SE corner of St. Clair and W. 6th. $100 million is estimated for first phase.
Parcel A would host the two closest buildings at the bottom-
center of this rendering of the Warehouse District. Courtesy of
the Cleveland Planning Commission.
515 Euclid (construction due late-summer 2016): 27-story tower (18-story apartment building with 200 units atop existing 9-story parking garage) to be developed by Stark Enterprises at the building's namesake address. Parking garage cost $20 million. Adding the tower could cost about $50 million.
The planned apartment tower atop 515 Euclid is shown in purple
in this northerly view. Courtesy of Stark Enterprises.
nuCLEus (demolitions due late-summer 2016): 54-story tower mixing apartments, offices (Benesch is anchor office tenant) and hotel over pad of retail and parking between E. 4th, Prospect and Huron to be developed by Stark Enterprises and J-Dek Investments for about $380 million.
Even though it wouldn't be downtown Cleveland's tallest (Key
Tower would still be taller), the 54-story nuCLEus tower would
dominate the city's skyline when viewed from the south side.
Courtesy of Stark Enterprises.
Playhouse Square tower (groundbreaking TBA): 30-story tower featuring mostly apartments but may include dine-in movie/TV theater or other non-residential use on the ground floor to be developed by the Playhouse Square Foundation on SW corner of Euclid and E. 17th.

Justice Center replacement (groundbreaking TBA): 55-65 stories if all 2.3 million sq. ft. of current uses not including structured parking were stacked in the same structure with huge floorplates of about 40,000 sq. ft. each. Or the new center could be put in two new towers of 25-35 stories each, including parking. The current jail is spread among 20 floors; the courts tower is 25 stories; the police department is 9 stories. None has public parking. A space needs analysis is underway.

Warehouse District Parcel B (groundbreaking TBA): 24-story apartment tower with 380-apartments and adjacent 6-story mixed-use building to be developed by Weston/Citymark Capital at SW corner of St. Clair and W. 3rd.
Another view of the multiple towers and lower-scale buildings
proposed for the Warehouse District's parking crater by Weston
and Citymark. Courtesy of Cleveland Planning Commission.
Warehouse District Parcel C (groundbreaking TBA): 24-story apartment or hotel tower with 370-apartments or 250 hotel rooms and two adjacent 5-story mixed-use buildings to be developed by Weston/Citymark Capital at NE corner of Superior and W. 6th.

Warehouse District Parcel D (groundbreaking TBA): 37-story apartment or office tower with 1.5 million sq. ft. of space to be developed by Weston/Citymark Capital at NW corner of Superior and W. 3rd.
Weston/Citymark's proposed four towers in the Warehouse
District would dramatically change the skyline by filling in
most of downtown Cleveland's largest parking crater.
Courtesy of Cleveland Planning Commission.
The 37-story proposed skyscraper listed last could find an anchor tenant soon and be bumped higher up the list. Medical Mutual may consolidate its 1,700 Northeast Ohio employees into roughly 600,000+/- sq. ft. of space. That could be located in downtown Cleveland, based on their actions recently in consolidating its Central Ohio offices into a single building in downtown Columbus. Perhaps Medical Mutual might move to Weston/Citymark's development.

Perhaps Jacobs Group may build the insurance company a new, high-profile tower on its now-dismal Public Square parking lot. There are also rumors that Sherwin-Williams is in the market for a big new tower. The 150-year-old paint company has outgrown its headquarters space in the Landmark Offices at Tower City Center.

More new buildings albeit shorter than 20 stories are under construction or about to get underway in downtown Cleveland. This includes the 11-story, 237-unit Edge CSU Student Housing underway at Euclid and E. 18th and an 11-story, 100-unit apartment building will likely see a groundbreaking this year at Flats East Bank. Plus numerous buildings in the 5- to 20-story range are under construction or will start this year in Cleveland's Ohio City, Gordon Square, Tremont, University Circle and other city neighborhoods.

If you're having a hard time keeping track of it all, check back weekly at UrbanOhio's Northeast Ohio "Projects & Construction" section. There's always something new going on citywide and even a few developments in the suburbs. The pace of construction will kick into high gear after July once the Republican National Convention clears out of town. But most of the above projects will get their final designs reviewed by the city in the meantime and the graphics will be posted at UrbanOhio.