Friday, January 25, 2019

Old Westinghouse plant may soon be in developer's hands

The former Westinghouse plant near Edgewater Park is
sought by a real estate developer that specializes in
renovating and converting historic factories into
residential properties (CLICK TO ENLARGE)
One of the most visible historic factories in Cleveland may soon be in the hands of a developer that has a proven track record of restoring such buildings.

The former Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Co. at 1200 W. 58th St. near Gordon Square in the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood is best known for its eight-story structure towering over the Westinghouse Curve of the West Shoreway (aka State Route 2) near Edgewater Park. Or, perhaps you recall the Black Widow interrogation scene from the 2012 Avengers movie that was filmed here.

On Jan. 22, a Certificate of Disclosure was filed with the city regarding Sustainable Community Associates' purchase of the 3.62-acre property from Paramount-Breakwater Properties LLC, according to the city's Division of Records. Certificates of Disclosure must be processed by the city prior to a property transfer taking effect. The certificate was processed Jan. 25.

Motorists on the West Shoreway (State Route 2) know the old
Westinghouse plant well. It towers over the highway and the
Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks just west of Whiskey Island.
Considering the sale hasn't taken effect, Josh Rosen, one of three partners in Sustainable Community Associates with Naomi Sabel and Ben Ezinga, couldn't comment on his company's interest in the property.

"I am not at liberty at this juncture to discuss this or our involvement with this," Rosen said. "As soon as I am able to, I would be delighted to reach out and discuss any and all of this."

Because the transaction has yet to be recorded by the county, the sale amount isn't known either. The Westinghouse plant was listed for sale as an industrial property at $6 million. However, its land and structures were appraised for taxes in 2018 by the county at $1.18 million, up from $981,100 the year before.

One of 59 residences (plus 12,000 square feet of office
space) at the newly renovated Wagner Awning
Building in Tremont (SCA).
Sustainable Community Associates has built new and renovated old structures for housing in Oberlin and Cleveland. Until recently, their Cleveland projects have been all been renovations of vacant light-industrial structures, including the Mueller Lofts in Asiatown (80,000 square feet) plus the Fairmount Creamery (100,000 square feet) and Wagner Awning in Tremont (88,000 square feet).

The latter will soon be complemented by a $20 million, new-construction project by Sustainable Community Associates on the other side of Scranton Avenue. The Tappan will feature 95 residential units and a corner bakery. Rosen says his firm is putting a lot of effort into attracting a retailer, the bakery, to this new-construction neighborhood development.

In 2015 (above), redevelopment north of Gordon Square had
yet to spread east toward the foreground in this view. Now,
everything visible here has been targeted or redeveloped by
real estate investors. The extent of redevelopment was already
visible in this March 2018 view (below) by Aerial Agents.

Redevelopment of the vacant Westinghouse property will be, by far, Sustainable Community Associates' largest project to date. In total, the site contains 303,000 square feet of buildings, the oldest of which dates to 1882. The most notable is the eight-story, 122-foot-tall, 112,000-square-foot tower built in 1915. Until recently, it featured multi-story, lighted Christmas decorations, visible to motorists on the West Shoreway.

Presumably, the tower would be converted to residential because of its amazing views of Lake Erie, Edgewater Park, Wendy Park, Downtown Cleveland and the rapidly developing north end of the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood. Hundreds of new apartments and townhomes have been built, are under construction or are planned nearby.

In fact 10.5 acres of the former Westinghouse property was sold five years ago to Cleveland-based NRP Group, one of the nation's largest apartment developers. On that land, NRP Group built The Edison at Gordon Square, a 306-unit apartment complex. NRP plans to build phase two, a 323-unit complex on the south side of Breakwater Avenue and west of West 58th.

The 1915-built, 122-foot-high Westinghouse tower,
as seen from the West Shoreway (LoopNet).
The Westinghouse plant's tower could easily accommodate more than 100 residential units, depending on how the first floor is redeveloped. Its floor plates measure 14,000 square feet and the walls are 2 feet thick in some places. Skylights and/or walk-out sun decks could be offered thanks to a saw-toothed portion of the roof. A two-story penthouse could be added in a cupola-like structure on the rooftop.

How Sustainable Community Associates intends to develop the remaining 200,000 square feet of the Westinghouse complex will be interesting to see, too. If historic tax credits are used to fund the property's redevelopment, there will be restrictions on how much of the site's original architecture can be altered.

Interior of the Westinghouse tower (LoopNet).
It is possible that some of it could become parking for tenants. But perhaps some could be used for offices, restaurants or even retail like a convenience store, considering how many people already live in the neighborhood and how many more housing units are planned. Perhaps there could be a community space such as an active sports center and/or indoor farmers market.

The shorter buildings in the Westinghouse plant actually pre-date Westinghouse's ownership of it. The factory at the foot of West 58th (previously called Waverly Avenue) dates to 1882 when John Walker founded Walker Manufacturing Co. to produce power-transmitting machinery for street railways. His company substantially rebuilt and expanded the plant in 1891, three years before Westinghouse sued Walker Manufacturing for patent-infringement.

Westinghouse plant circa 1920s (LoopNet).
Walker lost the case. Court-ordered constraints on the firm's activities led to its sale to Westinghouse for about $1 million in 1898. Westinghouse manufactured aluminum and brass castings at Walker's plant but transitioned in the 1930s to become the headquarters of the Westinghouse Lighting Division. It produced lights for use in industry, at airports and along highways, including the 1939-built West Shoreway. More than 500 people were employed at this plant. It closed in 1979 and the Lighting Division was relocated to 5901 Breakwater Ave. from 1980-82, according to the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History.

Westinghouse plant circa 1970 (CLICK TO ENLARGE)(WikiMedia).
In 1986, the plant was sold to the Kole family of Westlake, county records show. Peter Kole was president & CEO of Paramount Stamping, Welding & Wireforming Co. He was born in Pogradec, Albania in 1937 and came to America with his mother the following year. In 1978, Kole purchased a manufacturing company, Farco, located in Elyria and in 1981 moved the company to the Westinghouse plant where he started another company, Paramount, that manufactured steel automobile seat frames. He employed 300 people. Kole also was Honorary Consul Consulate of the Republic of Albania in Cleveland, according to a biography by his alma mater Idaho State University.

Kole sold off pieces of the 14-acre factory property to developers, with the remaining portion of the plant transferred in 2016 to a company Kole created -- Paramount-Breakwater Properties LLC. That company was renamed on Jan. 7, 2019 as Paramount-Breakwater LLC, according to Ohio Secretary of State records. Presumably, the LLC, not the property, could be sold in an Entity Sale to reduce the transaction fees and property taxes on Sustainable Community Associates.


Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Stark's nuCLEus has a smaller, more achievable concept

With its scale reduced to about 2 million square feet and to a
price tag as low as $350 million, Stark Enterprises has value-
engineered its planned nuCLEus development in downtown
Cleveland in line with available fiscal resources. For orien-
tation, the intersection at the bottom of this south-easterly
view is Prospect Avenue and East 4th Street. (Stark)
After months of speculation and rumor about a scaled-down design for Stark Enterprises' downtown Cleveland megaproject called nuCLEus, revised conceptual site plans for the project were briefly posted on Stark's web site earlier today. They apparently were posted in error or posted prematurely because they were since taken down. All references to nuCLEus were briefly removed from Stark's website but since restored using an aerial graphic showing only the existing parking lot at the proposed site.

Stark representatives have yet to respond to an e-mail seeking updates about the nuCLEus project. Nor did they comment on why the new conceptual graphics and promotional brochure were posted earlier today and soon removed. Before they were removed, the nuCLEus page was shown as updated in January 2019. So clearly there is activity regarding this project.

In fact, it's possible that Stark has enough resources to build the scaled-down version of nuCLEus, which is still a very large project measuring approximately 2 million square feet. The old design showed a single 54-story residential tower connected by a four-story hotel suspended like a bridge to another, shorter building with office space. The vertical structures were to built on top of a pedestal of parking over ground-floor retail and restaurants.

The original plan for nuCLEus, as viewed from Huron Road
looking east at East 4th. It featured a 54-story residential
tower and a 4-story hotel bridge building over to a 7-story
office building (Stark).
The preliminary new design shows two disconnected towers -- one for residential (much shorter) and the other for offices (about twice as tall as before) -- atop the parking pedestal over ground-floor retail, restaurants and food halls. There are about seven floors of parking topped by an amenity/lobby level. The taller tower is the office building, offering 15 floors and higher ceilings than the 14-story residential building. The larger office and smaller residential components jibe with recent rumors about the project being scaled down

From street level, an observer would look up to a 25-story office tower and a 22-story residential tower, including the parking, amenity and retail levels below, according to the preliminary design. The residential building would also cascade down over the Prospect Avenue side of nuCLEus' parking structure, effectively hiding it. The Huron Avenue side, however, would have the parking deck exposed as its facade, albeit with ground-floor retail/restaurants. A six-lane ingress/egress for the parking garage and loading docks would be on East 4th which Stark had previously proposed closing to vehicular traffic north of High Avenue.

A scaled-down nuCLEus would no longer be the tallest tower
on Huron Road (the AT&T Building, to be renovated into a
Canopy by Hilton hotel, is 27 stories). However, nuCLEus
would still be a major presence and a dramatic improvement
compared to the 3-acre parking crater there now (Stark).
Between the residential and office towers, Stark would retain his Melbourne, Australia-inspired laneway -- a narrow pedestrian walkway lined with shops, restaurants and food halls. It will compete with the historic East 4th District that's popular most evenings, but especially with people attending the many sporting events, concerts and other shows at Gateway (Quickens Loans Arena and Progressive Field).

Stark signaled some possible momentum on nuCLEus last month when he sold his downtown Cleveland headquarters to Rlfed Manager LLC, a firm controlled by Yaron Kandelker, an Israeli investor with property holdings in Northeast Ohio. Stark Enterprises planned to move its nearly 20,000 square feet of headquarters offices from 1350 W. 3rd St. to nuCLEus upon completion of the $500+ million project.

Also motivating Stark to move forward on nuCLEus is an agreement with law firm Benesch to occupy 66,500 square feet of office space at the new development. The agreement remains in place despite Benesch extending its lease at 200 Public Square until 2022. Meanwhile, a nearly 50,000-square-foot entertainment venue called Cleveland Live! also agreed to locate at nuCLEus, as did the Ohio debut of Starbucks Reserve, an upscale coffee bar, and HopCat, a restaurant and craft beer bar. Shake Shack also sought to open at nuCLEus but grew impatient with its lack of progress and opened instead in the Garfield Building on Euclid Avenue and East 6th Street. 

Building cross-section view of the scaled-down nuCLEus
development in downtown Cleveland. (Stark)
In the last two years, Stark tried to initiate two innovative financing schemes to provide additional public funding to his original plan for nuCLEus. The first was a $120 million Cleveland school district property tax increment financing mechanism from which Stark would give back $18 million to help finance school facility construction.

When that fizzled, Stark presented to the Ohio General Assembly a bill that would encourage insurance companies to finance up to 10 percent of large real estate developments that met certain transformational characteristics. NuCLEus could have benefited from more than $50 million in tax credits from that scheme which passed the Ohio House unanimously but didn't pass the Ohio Senate before the clock ran out on the 2018 legislative session.

Those proposed schemes suggest that Stark had a $50 million to $100 million gap in his capital stack for nuCLEus. In other words, Stark Enterprises was able to amass upwards of $400 million for the project from public and private pledges, commitments and resources already in hand or available to the firm. That might also include new capital from Opportunity Zone funds (downtown Cleveland is located in an Opportunity Zone) and from real estate investment trusts that are increasingly willing to take lower returns from longer-term investments in low-rent markets like Cleveland.

A smaller nuCLEus would produce less revenue, but it's still a very large project. The new conceptual massing for the scaled-down shows that the roughly 2 million square foot development would be split roughly evenly between parking and non-parking uses. At current construction prices, the revised design for nuCLEus could cost as little as $350 million. If so, it's possible that Stark has the resources necessary to move forward with this new plan.


Monday, January 7, 2019

County engineer's Ohio City property hits the market

The former Cuyahoga County Engineer's headquarters
in Cleveland's Ohio City neighborhood is for sale and
is expected to attract a lot of interest from real estate
developers to build new housing on the site (Allegro).
It's official. Cuyahoga County has put on the market one of the most attractive properties for redevelopment in years. The former Cuyahoga County Engineer's headquarters at the west end of the Detroit-Superior Veterans Memorial Bridge is expected to fetch the most interest by real estate developers among four sites in the county's latest disposition of surplus properties.

Last month, I wrote that the engineer's office and its 2 acres of land at 2429 Superior Viaduct would soon go on the market. It is one of five major development locations or projects emerging along the West Rim of the Cuyahoga River valley, in Cleveland's Ohio City neighborhood.

The property at 2429 Superior Viaduct is surrounded by recent and planned developments including the newly opened, $60 million apartment complex to the west called The Quarter. Its developed area is slightly larger than the county engineer's property. Just east is the multi-building Stonebridge development built in the early 2000s.

To the south is the planned and partially funded, 20-acre, roughly $100 million Irishtown Bend Park. To the north is 2210 Superior Viaduct, a proposed 11-story apartment building proposed by Activity Capital, an investor group led by Daryl Kertesz who says this project is still active.

These are two views of the former county engineer's
site that were included in the marketing flyer designed
by the county's real estate consultant (Allegro).
According to a new listing by Allegro Realty Advisors Ltd., all four of the county's excess properties will be sold through an open-bid Requests For Proposals (RFP). Bids must be received by March 18. Each property can be toured in person on one of two dates later this month. The tour dates are different for each property, per their listings.

"The one (county engineer's property) is definitely exciting," said Damon Taseff, a principal at Allegro Realty Advisors. "It's redevelopment will help keep building momentum in the area."

Taseff notes that there are two issues with the site. One is that its 2.03 acres of land includes easements that extend out into the roadways for West 25th Street and old Detroit Avenue. Those easements cannot be built upon, reducing the developable land area to 1.6 acres.

The other issue is that there is an abandoned street running diagonally through the site. He said the county is working with the city on vacating the street and removing the right of way. That will cause its ownership to revert to the adjoining parcels, all owned by the county and which are the subject of the RFP. Taseff expects the right of way to be removed by the March 18 RFP deadline, so it is shown as "to be vacated" on Allegro's marketing materials.

A 2017 satellite view of the county engineer's property. (Google)
The Cuyahoga County Personnel Review Commission still has offices in the building but Taseff said it will be moving out soon. The Cuyahoga County Engineer, which plans, builds and maintains all Cuyahoga County-owned roads, bridges and structures, was changed into the Department of Public Works during the county's reform in 2009. Its offices were relocated to the new county administration building at East 9th Street and Huron Road downtown.

Actually, there are four structures and six parcels which comprise the former county engineer's headquarters. According to the Cuyahoga County Fiscal Officer, the structures were built between 1947 and 1964, with the two largest buildings remodeled in 1970 and 1993. In total, there are 21,616 square feet of usable buildings on site. The entire property was appraised by the county at $732,300 in 2018 but was valued at $1,015,200 in 1999. The appraisals didn't include the street right of way.

The other three county-owned properties to hit the market in this latest offering are at 4000 Brookpark Rd. in Cleveland, 6100 W. Canal Rd. in Valley View, and 14875 York Rd. in North Royalton. These three are being advertised as potential light-industrial/warehousing sites.

Cuyahoga County hired Allegro Realty Advisors to help it review its real estate needs and recommend follow-up actions. After an analysis, Allegro identified dozens of properties countywide as no longer essential to the operation of county government. Many properties have already been sold off. Taseff said the four properties in this latest RFP will be the last to be disposed of for the foreseeable future.


Thursday, December 27, 2018

Stark Enterprises sells its HQ, but to whom? And why?

Stark Enterprises' headquarters building at 1350 W. Third St.
in downtown Cleveland's Warehouse District as seen in 1964
 (left) and in 2017 (CPL, Google). (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

A potentially strategic property transfer in downtown Cleveland nearly slipped under the radar last week. Not only was the transfer publicly filed the Friday right before the Christmas holiday weekend, perhaps to avoid attention, but it was sold using a process that concealed the details of the transaction.

On Dec. 21, Stark Enterprises sold its 18,290 sf headquarters building at 1350 W. 3rd St., according to public records filed with the Cuyahoga County Fiscal Officer. The buyer is a company called 1350 W6, LLC. The person who formed that company on Dec. 13, per Ohio Secretary of State records, was none other than Stark Enterprises' founder Robert L. Stark.

No dollar amount was included. So anyone scanning the hundreds of property sales at the end of the month would probably look for transactions with larger dollar amounts first. Stark 1350 LLC bought the property in 2007 for $1.3 million and was asking $2.9 million, according to its since-removed listing on LoopNet.

Why would Stark sell a property to his own company? Because the company that Stark created in order to buy the property is probably going to be sold to another party. Why do that? Because the buyer can acquire the company for less money than the property. Acquiring a property incurs more transaction fees and potentially a higher property tax burden if the sale price is known. It's a process called Entity Sales.

The presence of another party is also inferred by the fact that Stark sold the property via a "Limited Warranty" exchange. If no other party was involved, Stark would have probably sold it via a "General Warranty" deed transfer. A limited warranty protects the seller in the event that some unknown liability could be passed on from the building's past. The Stark headquarters building was built in about 1900 and modernized with a new fa├žade in the late 1960s.

The location of Stark Enterprises's headquarters is visible in
this map courtesy of the Cuyahoga County Fiscal Officer.
All of the parking lots visible in this image are owned by
subsidiaries of Weston Investments. West 6th Street is
in the buildings' shadows on the lower left (CCFO).
It begs the question why Stark didn't just sell the company that had previously owned his HQ. A possible reason is that the company, Stark 1350 LLC, had Stark's name in it. The new buyer probably didn't want any reference to Stark in the company's name. That name, 1350 W6 LLC, is also an enigma. The property isn't at 1350 West 6th. It's at 1350 West 3rd. Both are at the corner of St. Clair Avenue. Unless it's a typo, the company's name suggests that the buyer has plans for the south side of St. Clair, all the way from West 3rd to West 6th.

The property along the south side of St. Clair from next to Stark's HQ west to West 6th is owned by a subsidiary of Weston Investments, a major real estate developer based in Warrensville Heights. None of these properties have transferred in the last two years and there's no indications from any other public records databases that these Weston subsidiaries were sold, added new partners or transferred to new statutory agents.

Stark Enterprises' proposed nuCLEus development in down-
town Cleveland will includes about 200,000 square feet of
offices, including for Stark's new headquarters (NBBJ).
I have reported on recent rumors about the Dream Hotel chain being interested in a site on "St. Clair Avenue in the Warehouse District" but had no further details regarding its location. I have contacted Stark Enterprises to learn more about the sale of it headquarters property but have yet to hear a reply.

Stark Enterprises plans to relocate its HQ offices from 1350 W. 3rd to its massive nuCLEus mixed-use development just north of Quicken Loans Arena. But Stark has been unable to fill a gap in their capital financing stack. It isn't yet known if this sale will contribute to it or otherwise affect Stark's timetable for building nuCLEus and relocating its HQ to it. But, unless Stark Enterprises moves to temporary offices, any redevelopment of Stark's HQ building is unlikely to occur until after nuCLEus is built.


Monday, December 10, 2018

Pop goes the West Rim

Click to enlarge all graphics (Google).

A skeptical Clevelander would look at the above map where five potential major real estate developments may rise atop the West Rim of the Cuyahoga River valley and question how many will actually get built. An optimistic Clevelander would be certain that most, if not all, will get built. And an older, lifelong Clevelander would look at that map and be amazed that there are five potential major projects at all.

Then again, some may argue that a sixth has already been built -- The Quarter, a $60 million, 194-unit apartment building with ground-floor retail that opened earlier this year on Detroit Avenue at West 25th Street. The developer, Snavely, also bought the Forest City Savings and Trust Building across Detroit and is renovating it with 38 affordable apartments and a food hall for start-up restaurants.

Or, that a seventh major real estate development is under construction here -- Church+State, a $57 million, 161-unit apartment complex (one 11-story building and a six-story building) rising on Detroit, north of Church Avenue at West 29th (formerly State) Street. Hemingway Development is leading this project.

Others might say the above map omits an eighth major project that is actually a stimulus of several of the proposed big projects on the West Rim -- Irishtown Bend Park. This large park along and between the Cuyahoga River and West 25th, from Detroit Avenue south to Columbus Road, has amassed tens of millions of dollars in funding commitments. It will get built in some form over the coming years. But the full slate of proposed improvements to realize the vision for Irishtown Bend carries a price tag in the neighborhood of $100 million and will require more fundraising.

Point is, there is going to be a large park here. And quality public spaces draw residents and investments. The West Side Market is one such quality public space -- an ethnic, European-style fresh food market house that has few equals in the USA. It is at least party responsible for two of the major developments planned at the southern flank of the valley, across from downtown Cleveland.

But the biggest factor in all of this is Cleveland's improving job market. It is diversifying and growing at rates that rank it with the fastest-growing metropolitan-area economies in the USA. Plus, the two biggest demographic sectors in American history -- Millennials and Baby Boomers -- want to live in downsized housing in walkable urban settings that offer quality biking and public transit amenities.

So here are the five West Rim development sites and what is or may soon be happening there:

In 2019, Cuyahoga County may dispose of excess properties,
including the former County Engineer's office at the west end
 of the Detroit-Superior Veterans Memorial Bridge (Google). 
Cuyahoga County Engineer's property -- If you've ever taken one of the subway tours in the lower deck of the Detroit-Superior/Veterans Memorial Bridge, then you've set foot on this 1.75-acre property. The entrance to the subway tour requires stepping across this land, owned and once used by the Cuyahoga County Engineer's office.

Not only does the engineer's office no longer use this property, but they're not even called the county engineer anymore. It's called the Department of Public Works and in 2014 it was consolidated along with many other county offices into the administration headquarters at East 9th Street and Prospect Avenue downtown.

So it, along with dozens of other properties countywide, has been deemed no longer essential to the operation of county government after a year-long analysis by the county's real estate advisor, Allegro Realty Advisors Ltd. The six-parcel county engineer's site will likely be the subject of an open-bid Request For Proposals by the county in early-2019.

However, a number of details about its disposition are not yet known, including if the six parcels will be sold individually or as a package, and if the county will seek to vacate the unused right of way of Superior Viaduct that separates parcel 00315046 from the other five county parcels. Or will that be up to the winning bidder to pursue? Either way, vacating this right of way will cause this land to be absorbed by the adjoining parcels, regardless of who owns them.

Questions about the disposition of the county engineer's property, directed at the county's Public Works Public Information Officer Koula Celebrezze, were referred to Damon Taseff who is heading up Allegro's county real estate advisor team. He said more details about this site will be publicly available very soon.

"I will be able to speak to more of this (disposition) in the coming weeks," Taseff wrote in an e-mail.

The Cuyahoga County Engineer's site which, if redeveloped,
could offer commanding views of Downtown Cleveland,
Irishtown Bend Park and the Cuyahoga valley (Google).
The county engineer's property is in a prime location for a major development. The Quarter apartment complex was built on 2 acres -- only slightly larger than this site (if the unused part of old Superior Viaduct is vacated).

And just east of the county's land is Stonebridge, a multi-structure mixed-use complex built in the early 2000s. Its closest building to the county engineer's site is an 11-story condominium building called Stonebridge Waterfront but is set on land lower in elevation. So a similarly sized building (or taller) on the county's land would tower over it and offer amazing views of downtown Cleveland, Irishtown Bend Park and the Cuyahoga Valley.

Downtown Ventures' proposed mid-rise apartment building at
2210 Superior Viaduct would be comparable in height to the
neighboring Stonebridge Waterfront building. Also visible is
the County Engineer's property, seen just above the massing
for 2210 Superior Viaduct (CityArchitecture).
2210 Superior Viaduct-Kertesz -- Daryl Kertesz's Downtown Ventures LLC paid $350,000 in June 2016 for a small industrial building at 2210 Superior Viaduct a short distance from the county engineer's site. Activity Capital, an investor group led by Kertesz, has proposed to replace the small industrial structure with a 64-unit apartment building perhaps 11 stories tall. He chose that height because it would come up to the 115-foot restriction for the current zoning height district. But Kertesz said he would like to get a variance and build up to 20 stories if the market allows for it.

Kertesz's conceptual designs for the project won approval from Cleveland Planning Commission's Design Review Committee. But that was nearly three years ago in February of 2016. Kertesz said he was attracted to the Detroit-West 25th intersection due to residential momentum in the area. That includes Stonebridge and the newly completed The Quarter, as well as traffic calming improvements to the intersection to enhance pedestrian safety.

"It's still an active project," Daryl Kertesz said in a phone interview. "It just has to be the right project. There's a lot going on in that area and I'm not sure if more of the same (Class A multi-family) over there is the right answer given the market saturation. We will only get one bite at the apple and when we have the right project, we will pull the trigger."

If the county engineer's site is developed, it may further boost the area as an attractive, high-density urban neighborhood or it could over-saturate it. Nearby is Lakeview Terrace public housing, including the 19-story, 204-foot Lakeview Tower built in 1973. But now the area is attracting residents with more disposable income that should attract more retailers, restaurants, so-called "Creative Class A" loft offices and jobs to the north end of Ohio City. It remains to be seen if that could, in turn, nurture a feedback loop of attracting more residents.

The 5-acre, 530-space Lutheran Hospital parking lot will offer
an unobstructed view of Downtown Cleveland when buildings
on the east side of West 25th Street are demolished for the new
Irishtown Bend Park (Google).
Lutheran Hospital parking/Weston -- While many urbanists lament the parking craters downtown, there is a large crater in Ohio City too. The 5-acre Lutheran Hospital surface lot acts like a moat between the long-established neighborhood around the West Side Market to the south and the emerging Detroit-West 25th intersection to the north.

The property has gained greater prominence with the development of Irishtown Bend Park, as well as the impending demolition of several buildings on the east side of West 25th. Front Steps Housing and Services will move by 2020 to its new address in the 2500 block West 25th. Its old facility at 1545 W. 25th will be demolished as will the abandoned, three-story, eight-unit Riverview Family Estates, 1505-1525 W. 25th. (not to be confused with the 15-story, 498-unit Riverview Tower, 1745 W. 25th.).

Once those buildings are gone, Lutheran Hospital's main parking lot or whatever development that may someday replace it will have a tremendous view of downtown and be right across the street from the new 20-acre hillside park. City Planning Commission's vision, per a rezoning done a few years ago, is for ground-floor retail along West 25th topped by multi-story buildings. To ensure enough parking remains, a significant parking deck would be needed.

There may be real interest in a development in that area. A company recently bought a half-acre of land at 1550 W. 25th that's surrounded by the Lutheran Hospital parking lot. On that small parcel is a former auto parts supply house that was bought in October 2017 for $435,000.

The buyer was I.B. Development LLC, which was registered with the state on Sept. 19, 2017 by Nadine Ezzie. She was general counsel for national real estate developer Weston at the time and the filing listed Weston's Warrensville Heights' address. Two other companies were also registered at about the same time with similar names, including Weston-I.B. Development, LLC and AK My Place I.B. Development LLC.
Clinton West Apartments are at left (the upside-down U-
shaped roof) and The Vine luxury townhouses are to their
right, or west (
My Place Homes was founded by Chad Kertesz (cousin to Daryl Kertesz) in 2010 and has been developing housing in Ohio City. That includes The Vine townhomes, a joint venture among Kertesz family members and their respective companies, rising on Vine Court at West 32nd. It is just west of the 70-unit Clinton West apartments, a project My Place developed with the Geis family in 2017. Crain's Cleveland Business reported in June that My Place Homes is a partner in I.B. Development with an unidentified national developer. But the state registrations show that developer is Weston.

"It's too early in pre-development to talk about it (the West 25th site plans) in detail," Chad Kertesz said to Crain's. He didn't respond to an e-mail request for an interview prior to publication.

A challenge for any future development here will be securing at least $20 million for a large parking garage to replace Lutheran Hospital's 530-space surface lot. South of Franklin Boulevard, two additional surface lots front West 25th and serve the hospital as well as the Cinecraft Building. They contain another 220 spaces. It is unlikely the hospital would pay for a new parking deck because they are not causing the change to the parking situation.

One funding possibility is to use tax-increment financing to secure a loan from a public sector partner, such as a port authority or from the U.S. Department of Transportation which offers Transportation Infrastructure Financing & Innovation Act (TIFIA) loans, credits and guarantees for transit-oriented developments near rail and bus rapid transit stations. This development is on the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority's MetroHealth Line BRT-lite.

While local officials hope that many visitors will access the Irishtown Bend Park via walking, biking and transit, larger events will require a large parking facility. So while a new parking deck could serve Lutheran Hospital by day, it could also serve a new real estate development and the park in the evening and at night.
Harbor Bay's Market Square development (HPA)
Market Square-Harbor Square REA -- Look for the existing strip shopping center called Market Plaza at Lorain Avenue and West 25th to be demolished in Fall 2019. Following that, Chicago-area Harbor Bay Real Estate Advisors hopes to start construction on Market Square, a 3-acre development at West 25th Street and Lorain Avenue with a 12-story office building, 10-story apartment building, ground-floor retail and a 550+ car parking deck just above the west side of the Red Line tracks.

The reason why this development is moving forward is due to the persistence of Cleveland-area native Dan Whalen who is director of Harbor Bay. Whalen encouraged his employer, which builds major projects around public transportation in the Midwest, to look at Cleveland and, specifically, Ohio City. The project site is next to the Ohio City Red Line rail station.

A new feature may be added to the project's plans -- a walkway from Columbus Road and the rail station to Market Square. This development will be similar in height to the United Bank Building across West 25th from the project site. That renovated building has attracted new office tenants and leads credence to the notion of attracting more to the Market District.
Original plan for Brickhaus Towers/One Twenty West (HPA)
One West Twenty-ex-Brickman -- It's possible that we may hear an announcement in 2019 regarding the former Brickhaus Towers/One Twenty West development. This project was proposed by Andrew Brickman who has a lot on his plate already. There have also been reports that an investor withdrew from this project. Brickman scaled back his original plans for Brickhaus Tower to a smaller plan called One West Twenty.

Instead, a national developer is seeking to take over this site to deliver as many housing units as possible to the booming near-West Side. Sources asked that this developer not be named publicly as the company doesn't like to announce a project unless it is more than 90 percent certain the project will happen.

Word is that the new developer will likely go back to something similar to Brickman's original vision for this site -- a larger-scale mixed-use development with mid- to high-rise towers offering 500-600 apartments with ground-floor retail and live-work units facing Lorain. The new developer is not concerned about the scale of this project, citing increased interest by New York City investors in Cleveland and its newfound job growth.

If the larger-scale development is achieved, along with at least several of the others mentioned above, a number of substantial buildings will ring the West Rim of the Cuyahoga Valley in the coming years.

In addition to the 11-story Stonebridge Waterfront, 11-story Church+State, 19-story Lakeview Tower, 15-story Riverview Tower and the 10-story United Bank Building, we could soon see more big buildings here. The West Rim could see as many as six or seven large buildings in the five development sites discussed in this article. If so, Ohio City could have an impressive skyline for an urban neighborhood.


Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Lakewood housing hunt drew Columbus developer here

Preliminary site plan for Solove Real Estate's high-end market-
rate apartment complex on Detroit Avenue east of Bunts Road
in Lakewood. (BBCO Design)(Click to enlarge all images)
Anyone who has tried to buy a high-quality, competitively-priced home in Lakewood in the last year or two knows the drill. The real estate search is one of the most difficult scavenger hunts you'll play. Unless you're willing to sacrifice many features you want in a home or make a high, all-cash offer, a Lakewood housing hunt is not a game for the impatient.

Real estate developer Jerry Solove of Columbus knows it all too well. His son spent the past year looking to buy or rent a home in Lakewood. Solove and his son learned that quality homes sell within a day or two of being listed with a realtor, with some prices bid upward in all-cash deals. Solove recalled seeing a renovated bungalow for sale this summer on Mathews Avenue, behind the Around The Corner Saloon. It was listed in the evening and, before the sun rose again, it was already under contract by a buyer.

Experiences like this are one reason why Lakewood housing prices rose 22.5 percent, highest among all Cuyahoga County communities in 2018. Another reason for the price spike is that Lakewood has lost more than 1,700 housing units since the 1980s due to demolitions of housing and conversions of rental doubles into single-family, for-sale homes.

Lakewood housing inventory is limited. Only East Cleveland's housing stock is older than Lakewood's in the county. Another reason for the price spike is the growing interest by Milennials and Baby Boomers, the two largest generations in U.S. history, in downsized housing in walkable settings -- something that the streetcar suburb of Lakewood touts. And still another reason is that the Greater Cleveland's economy has picked up significant momentum in recent years, adding jobs faster than all but 15 other metro areas.

Columbus developer Jerry Solove addresses a Nov. 27 public
meeting about his proposed Lakewood project. (Prendergast)
Eventually, Solove's son found a decent Lakewood apartment.

"But we spent a year trying to find a home," Solove said at a public meeting at Lakewood City Hall on Nov. 27. "The community need is for more single-level housing. We intend to focus on two category of residents. First are people just starting their careers and families, and earning $45,000 to $85,000 or more. Second, we want to serve empty-nesters who don't want to climb stairs."

His Columbus-based firm, Solove Real Estate, is proposing to build an apartment complex with 278 housing units in two mid-rise buildings, a 375-space parking garage plus a pocket park and a rooftop lounge on the site of the former Spitzer Lakewood Chrysler dealership at 13815 Detroit Ave. and neighboring Educators Music. The development plan is at a conceptual stage, called a massing, and will be refined with more input.

Conceptual plan of proposed development. Above, this view
looks south from Detroit Avenue. Below, the view looks
northward toward Detroit Avenue. (BBCO Design)
"Our goal is to try to have a pedestrian feel along Detroit (Avenue)," said Bhakti Bania, CEO of  BBCO Design -- Solove's architect. "There will be heavy landscaping on all of our perimeters."

The preliminary idea is to have a five-story parking garage with an entry off Parkwood and fronted by apartments on Detroit with a one-story amenity building south of the parking garage. The building west of Parkwood would be eight stories of apartments and a public pocket park. All servicing (utilities, waste, etc) would be off Bunts, Detroit and Wyandotte.

The public meeting was the first step in a four- to six-month-long city review process that will start in January or February and be shaped by public input, traffic studies, market data and the city's existing development masterplan called Community Vision. That plan, updated most recently in 2017, has these guiding principles for housing:

  • A housing market that is stable and provides for moderate growth in housing values.
  • Adequate housing opportunities for the city’s economically and culturally diverse residents.
  • A high-quality housing stock that is diverse in style and is well maintained through proactive code enforcement and community home improvement programs.

It can be argued that this proposed development responds to all of these masterplan goals by helping to address the shortage of quality, contemporary housing that is, in part, causing Lakewood housing prices to spike and taxes to rise.

"We work hard for urban development," Solove added. "We try to have pedestrian-friendly communities. The attention to detail is very important to us. We have a good retention rate and we take a lot of pride in what we do."

Solove has a purchase agreement with Spitzer Lakewood Chrysler Plymouth and a partnership with Stavash Family LLC. The buildings on those parcels will be demolished. The Stavash family, which has owned Educators Music since it opened in 1960, sold their company to two partners on Oct. 4, according to the Ohio Secretary of State's website. The two partners, Scott McDermott and Bill Craighead, introduced themselves at the Nov. 27 meeting.

Attempts by Solove to purchase the 0.35-acre parcel used by Bruce's Automotive & Fleet Services, 13919 Detroit Ave., were rejected by George Shaker. He owns G & M Property Management 3 LLC, which in turn owns the property leased by Bruce's Automotive.

"We tried to incorporate Bruce's but he (Shaker) wants nothing to do with that," Solove said.

One of the early steps would involve rezoning the roughly two acres of land from C-3 Commercial to Planned Development, said Bryce Sylvester, the city's director of planning and development. Solove said he is not seeking any public subsidies from the city for this development -- a testament to the strength of Lakewood's real estate market.

"Bill (Craighead) and I drove to Columbus to see Solove's developments first-hand," McDermott said. "I was impressed with Solove's developments. This (Lakewood project) is a market-driven development. It will fill quickly."

The goal is to start construction in 2019 and open in the Spring of 2021, Solove said.


Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Another big investment coming to Lakewood

Two acres of mostly vacated land near the center of Lakewood
is proposed to be redeveloped by Columbus-area real estate
developer Jerry Solove (CLICK TO ENLARGE).
Over the past 30 years, Lakewood has lost more than 1,700 housing units, with only Cleveland, East Cleveland and Euclid losing more. The average age of its housing stock is the second-oldest in the county. At the same time, growing interest in traditional, walkable communities has made Lakewood a hot real estate commodity. It's why Lakewood had the highest property value rate of increase, 22.5 percent, among all Cuyahoga County communities in 2018.

So, to say that real estate investors are interested in Lakewood is an understatement. That includes everyone from real estate corporations to mom-and-pop renovation companies converting duplexes into luxury single-family houses to people simply trying to outbid each other for their next place to live.

Furthermore, the biggest, most underutilized properties are highly sought after. Those that often fall into that category are former car dealerships whose automotive operations have left for outer-suburban highway interchanges. The next one is about to fall.

Jerry Solove, of Columbus-based Solove Development Inc., has a contract to acquire about 2 acres of the former Spitzer Lakewood Chrysler dealership at 13815 Detroit Ave. and neighboring Educators Music. Terms of the sale are not available. The 1.6-acre Spitzer property and structures are valued at $767,500 for real estate taxes, according to the Cuyahoga County Fiscal Officer's records. The 0.4-acre Educators Music property and its two structures have a tax value of $232,300.

A two-acre parcel could provide enough room for several dozen townhomes or two or more multi-family residential buildings with ground-floor retail facing Detroit Avenue. Solove's plans will be revealed at a public meeting at 7 p.m. Nov. 27 at Lakewood City Hall's auditorium.

Solove Development Co. has built a variety of residential and
mixed-use styles depending on their immediate surroundings.
Above is The View On Pavey Square offering student housing
near Ohio State University. Below is phase 2 of The View On
Fifth in Columbus' Grandview Heights neighborhood. These
are a small glimpse of the architectural and land use styles
developed by Solove Development (Solove).

Much of Solove's recent developments have been in Columbus. Most are near the Ohio State University campus and in the neighborhoods just north of downtown Columbus. Lakewood is obviously a different market, but has some similarities as well. Lakewood is popular with young professionals and new arrivals to Greater Cleveland, based on all of the out-of-state license plates seen around town and the new faces in Lakewood's schools and day care centers.

Someone can learn a lot about a real estate developer by looking at what types of projects and genres they like to build. Developers of projects in urban and inner-ring suburban neighborhoods prefer to stick with projects common in those areas. Look for three- to six-story buildings of for-sale townhomes or market-rate apartments, sometimes with a shop, restaurant or cafe to provide a pedestrian-friendly street presence on a busy thoroughfare.

Due to recession-induced restructuring in the auto industry, Spitzer lost its Chrysler Motor City franchises in Parma and Lakewood in 2010. Spitzer still owns much of its Lakewood site but leased its building and parking/inventory lots to Wingstar Transportation LLC which began in 2013 to provide trucking and logistics services.

Joining Wingstar at the dealership was its sister company, Volens LLC. It began in 2015 to provide trucking equipment, trailers and tarps for shipping purposes. But Wingstar and Volens quickly outgrew the 1.6-acres of land south of Detroit, divided by Parkwood Road, and are looking for more space elsewhere.
Educators Music closed last spring after it and the house behind
it was sold to Solove. The former Chrysler dealership is just out
of view to the right, and shown in the view below (Google).

Also under contract to sell is the Stavash Family Limited Liability Co. which owns Educator's Music, 13701 Detroit Ave. and the house behind the store at 1406 Wyandotte Ave. Educator's Music was started in the early 1950's by the late John Stavash Sr., once a member of the world-renowned Cleveland Orchestra. He built the store building in 1960. His son, John Jr., runs the business today and temporarily relocated to the house behind the now-closed store.

It should be noted that Solove's plans don't include the 0.35-acre parcel used by Bruce's Automotive & Fleet Services, 13919 Detroit Ave. It is at the highly visible corner of Detroit and Bunts Road. This property is valued at $165,600 for taxes and owned by G & M Property Management 3 LLC, which in turn is owned by George Shaker. Shaker has owned the property either directly or through a company for more than 40 years, county records show.

Copy of a letter sent to property owners near
the proposed Solove development site.

According to sources, Shaker has been approached by multiple persons seeking to buy this site, including a Columbus-based real estate broker. However, Shaker has turned them all down. He has a multi-year lease with Bruce's Automotive which recently expanded into the former Baker Towing site on Detroit, just east of Cove Ave. 

There are more than a half-dozen recently built, under construction, or planned real estate investments along Lakewood's Detroit Avenue corridor. These include Rockport Square Townhomes built on the former Fairchild Chevrolet, Center North Apartments in the former office tower, McKinley Place townhomes built on the former McKinley School, One Lakewood Place mixed-use development at the former hospital site, an unknown residential development planned on the site of the now-closed Steve Barry Buick and neighboring Bobby O's Place tavern, an unknown development at the closed Trinity Lutheran Church, and an unknown development at the closed Phantasy Cleveland theater complex.

Combined, they would make a significant dent in the loss of housing inventory that has helped drive Lakewood's population loss, declining from a peak of 70,000 residents in 1970 to 60,000 in 1990, to 50,000 today. Having more modern housing options to complement the many historic and, in some cases, obsolete housing in Lakewood will enable the community to remain as an attractive place to live for years to come.