Thursday, November 14, 2019

New CPD HQ to rise on Opportunity Corridor; is new county jail far behind?

General location of the new Cleveland Police Department
headquarters is identified with the orange oval. It is located
where the new Opportunity Corridor boulevard will intersect
East 75th Street, between two rapid transit stations (Google).
Starting in 2021, as many as 700 workers and hundreds of visitors will come each day to a newly built Cleveland Police Department (CPD) headquarters. Its location? Near to where the new $350 million Opportunity Corridor boulevard will soon be intersecting East 75th Street.

That location was announced publicly today at a hearing of Cleveland City Council's Safety Committee. Specifically the site will be at East 75th and Grand Avenue, just west of the Orlando Baking Co.

The site will also be in between two Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority rail stations on East 79th -- one for the Airport-Windermere Red Line and the other for the Shaker Heights-Waterfront Blue/Green lines.

Proposed is a multi-story office campus with 180,000 square feet of office space for HQ operations and another 115,000 square feet of space for storage, garage and supportive offices, according to the city's request for proposals.

The existing Cleveland Police Department headquarters is
located in this eight-story building that is part of the Justice
Center, at Ontario Street and St. Clair Avenue (Ideastream).
The site will also have secure parking for 400 passenger cars separate from public parking. Total area for the parking needs is estimated at roughly 160,000 square feet. So much parking may require a multi-level parking garage to be provided.

Cost of the project isn't known, but it could exceed $100 million. Fortunately, the city may already have most of the money it needs to afford this facility.

Consider that the city received $9.25 million from the sale of its old police HQ at the Justice Center on Ontario Street downtown. It will also save $5.1 million per year by closing the downtown municipal jail and paying the county to house its prisoners.

That $9.25 million can be part of the down payment for financing a CPD HQ, with annual payments of $5 million over 20 years, which is what the city appeared willing to do, per its RFP.

The city's RFP, originally issued in early 2017,  also requested that any proposed CPD HQ sites be west of East 55th and north of Interstate 490. The chosen site is east of East 55th and located on the Opportunity Corridor that is now under construction to link I-490 with University Circle.

This is the specific location for the Cleveland Police Depart-
ment headquarters, located just west of East 75th Street and
along Grand Avenue. The site is north of the Opportunity
Corridor, now under construction (City of Cleveland).
The city issued its RFP in the hopes that owners of downtown buildings would jump at the chance to land a huge tenant like the CPD. But none could meet the city's large space or security requirements.

In 2017, the city had attempted to lease 55 Public Square, but too many structural and security changes were needed. The city also had a $60 million deal in place to buy the Plain Dealer Plaza at 1801 Superior Ave. but the Department of Homeland Security reportedly nixed it for undisclosed reasons. At one point, it appeared the city would move to its old CPD HQ on Payne Ave.

In locating the CPD HQ along the Opportunity Corridor, it suggests that other developments may also be in the cards. The most significant is whether Cuyahoga County's proposed new consolidated jail facility, representing hundreds of thousands of square feet of new construction and hundreds more employees, may soon follow.

The county is considering whether to rebuild or replace its aging, inadequate jail facilities and consolidate them with suburban jails to save money. This will also coincide with jail reform that could reduce the county's jail population and thus its space requirements.
This one of many land use vision documents issued for the
Opportunity Corridor in recent years. This is from 2015, by
the Burten Bell Carr Community Development Corp. (BBC).

The current county jail is located in the 42-year-old Justice Center complex downtown. The courthouse tower may also be renovated or replaced as part of the county's comprehensive facility analysis. In its RFP, the city wanted the CPD HQ located near the county's emergency operations center, jails and courthouse.

There also are few cafes, restaurants or shops in the vicinity of the proposed new CPD HQ site on East 79th. There would have to be a number of new supportive businesses for the nearly 700 workers and hundreds more daily visitors to the CPD campus.

Access to the site should not be difficult. Construction of the third and final phase of the Opportunity Corridor, between I-490 at East 55th Street and East 93rd Street is due to conclude in mid-2021, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation. Cost of the roadway's final phase is $150 million.

GCRTA's Red Line's East 79th aging rail station is scheduled for replacement starting in 2020 at a cost of $10 million. It is due to be completed sometime in 2021. The Green/Blue lines station at East 79th is also in disrepair but with no major construction planned.


Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Cleveland's first Modernist tower to be remodeled

Reflecting Terminal Tower from across the Jacobs Group-
owned lot, 55 Public Square could soon see its value rise
with its planned remodeling as well as the construction of 
Sherwin-Williams' massive new headquarters and research
complex on several neighboring parking lots (Google).
As owner Optima Management Group describes their property, 55 Public Square is a "Class B office building in a Class A location."

That location is about to get even valuable with a planned $73.6 million remodeling of the former headquarters of The Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co., now a part of First Energy. When the 24-story office building opened in 1958, it was Cleveland's first glass curtain wall skyscraper.

The building's value will certainly increase further with Sherwin-Williams (SHW) reportedly selecting neighboring properties for its massive new headquarters plus research and development (HQ+R&D) facilities.

At least two other neighboring buildings in downtown's Warehouse District are under contract with prospective buyers who intend to renovate them and capitalize on the proximity of SHW's HQ+R&D project. However, their buyers said they weren't yet ready to publicly reveal their acquisitions or intentions.

To help finance 55 Public Square's remodeling, Optima applied to the Ohio Development Services Agency (ODSA) for a maximum $5 million tax credit from the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program, according to a source who wasn't permitted to speak publicly about the renovation project or the tax credit application for it.
The Brilliant Electric Sign Co., then of Hough
Avenue in Cleveland, places holiday decora-
tions on the new Cleveland Electric Illumina-
ting Co. headquarters in 1959 (Press).
The Fall 2019 tax credit application period, also called Round 23, began in August. Applications are being reviewed by ODSA until Dec. 1. Approved applications are scheduled to be announced on or before Dec. 31, the OSDA web site shows. Buildings that are 50 years old or older qualify for historic tax credits.

According to documents submitted to OSDA by Optima, the $73.6 million renovation includes replacing the office tower's exterior surfaces, called the envelope, comprised of glass and steel panels as well as metal framing.

The project also involves remodeling the basement, upper two mechanical floors 23, 24 and tenant improvements on floors 1-6 and 18. That represents 40 percent or 195,474 square feet of the 480,000-square-foot building.

The restaurant wing at the corner of West 3rd Street and Frankfort Avenue, as well as the six-level parking deck on the corner of West 3rd and St. Clair Avenue are not part of the renovation, the application documents show. John Q's Steakhouse, originally owned by the Stouffer's chain, operated in the restaurant wing from 1959 to 2013.

It's apparent that Optima Management Group is moving forward with the renovation project regardless of OSDA's decision. Through an affiliate, Optima 55 Public Square LLC, the owner is soliciting for bids from construction firms to carry out the remodeling work, the source said.
This postcard was printed shortly after
55 Public Square, then called the Illu-
minating Building, opened in 1958 for
the utility (Cleveland Memory Project).
Although 55 Public Square started a post-war building boom of Modernist towers in downtown Cleveland, that boom was delayed. The electric utility's new home was built 13 years after the end of World War II and three decades after downtown's previous skyscraper was completed -- the Terminal Tower.

Built in the International Style according to the principles of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, 55 Public Square was designed by Carson Lundin & Shaw Architects. It is 300 feet tall and has 20,000-square-foot floorplates.

According to commercial real estate brokerage Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), 55 Public Square is 57 percent vacant. That's the fourth-highest vacancy rate among downtown Cleveland office buildings, trailing only the Ellipse (45 Erieview), Superior Building (815 Superior) and the Western Reserve Building (1468 W. 9th). The average vacancy rate for Class B buildings downtown is 33 percent.

The tired-looking tower's high vacancy has persisted in spite of an asking price of only $17 per square foot, or $1.26 below the average Class B asking price downtown. Class B office space, which is a lower-quality product than Class A or Trophy class (but higher than Class C), represents slightly more than half of downtown's 15 million square feet of office inventory, JLL says.
55 Public Square was built on the site of Cuyahoga
County's courthouse (1858-1912) seen at far left,
above. Next to it was the 1915-built headquarters
of the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co. which
still stands at 75 Public Square. This photo dates
from about 1920 (Cleveland Memory Project).
Two years ago, the City of Cleveland seriously considered leasing a significant portion of 55 Public Square for its new Cleveland Police Department headquarters. However, substantial facility and security changes were needed and the city began looking elsewhere.

Last year, local real estate developer K&D began the process to buy the aging office tower from Optima and convert its lower half to apartments. But K&D withdrew after taking a harder look at the cost of renovations versus projected revenues.

Optima Management Group, run by Chaim Schochet, acquired 55 Public Square in 2008 for $34 million during a recessionary buying spree in which his firm snapped up a half-dozen Cleveland towers. Optima since has sold all but two of those towers, 55 Public Square and One Cleveland Center, 1375 E. 9th St.


Wednesday, November 6, 2019

900-1800 office jobs coming to Superior Arts District downtown

Plain Dealer Plaza at 1801 Superior Ave. is under contract to
sell to MinuteMen Staffing Services Inc. on or about Nov. 8 for
its new headquarters. MinuteMen is one of two fast-growing
companies moving to the Superior Arts District on downtown
Cleveland's east side (KJP). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE
Over the next couple of years, approximately 900 office jobs are due to arrive in the Superior Arts District. That number could double by the mid-2020s as two fast-growing companies are relocating their headquarters to this redeveloping area of Superior Avenue on the eastern edge of downtown Cleveland.

The new jobs would add to several hundred office workers already there.

In a matter of days, and barring any last-minute glitch, MinuteMen Staffing Services Inc. is due to take title to the former Plain Dealer Plaza office building, 1801 Superior Ave. Terms of the transaction have yet to be disclosed.

The staffing and workers compensation firm will renovate the newspaper's old offices for more than 400 corporate and administrative employees relocated from multiple locations. Its corporate HQ was located at MinuteMen Center, 3740 Carnegie Ave., since 1997.

MinuteMen President Jason Lucarelli said his company, with annual revenues surpassing $300 million, will expand into every state in the country. It currently has 26 offices in five states, according to Cleveland Magazine. MinuteMen was founded by Jason's father Samuel G. Lucarelli in 1968.

With the growth that his firm is pursuing, Lucarelli said he anticipates that MinuteMen will double its HQ employment in the coming years to 800. The former PD building measures 236,160 square feet which is more than enough to accommodate MinuteMen's projected expansion.

The ex-newspaper building was built in 2002 for $38 million and owned by the Forest City Publishing Co. In addition to the office building, the 8-acre site has 80,000 square feet of storage and 630 parking spots in a 1969-built parking deck south of St. Clair Ave., according to county records.

Corporate headquarters aren't the only real estate developments
coming to the Superior Arts District. This commercial building
at 2125 Superior is being renovated into 58 apartments as well
as a ground-floor, street-facing restaurant (KJP).
Although the PD relocated its editorial offices to Tower City Center and then to Brooklyn, retains about 200 employees at 1801 Superior. Advance Ohio, the Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland and the YMCA of Greater Cleveland also lease office space in the building. But most of the building is vacant.

The City of Cleveland was near to purchasing the property last year for the new Cleveland Police Department HQ. That move was nixed for reasons that the city has yet to disclose.

Disposition of the old MinuteMen Center, which dates from 1935 but was renovated in 1997, hasn't been determined. It may be put up for sale. Since it has yet to be put on the market, Midtown Cleveland Executive Director Jeff Epstein declined to comment on the future of the property.

His community development counterpart at Campus District Inc., Executive Director Mark Lammon, also declined comment on MinuteMen's pending purchase of 1801 Superior as the sale hasn't yet closed.

Additionally, he wasn't at liberty to discuss another pending HQ relocation to the Superior Arts District -- that of Brecksville-based CrossCountry Mortgage, LLC. Lammon declined comment because the fast-growing mortgage firm's plans haven't been formally announced.

CrossCountry's CEO Ron Leonhardt led a team of investors on Dec. 28, 2018 to buy a 6-acre block full of historic commercial buildings from Tap Packaging Inc., formerly the Chilcote Co. The buildings were constructed between 1910 and 1940, Cuyahoga County records show.

Multiple historic buildings southeast of the
intersection of Superior and East 21st are
due to be renovated into the new corporate
headquarters for CrossCountry Mortgage,
currently located in Brecksville (KJP).
The six-acre block is bounded by Superior, East 21st and East 22nd streets, plus Payne Avenue. All 16 of the parcels in that block were bought by CC Superior Holding LLC for $849,500, according to county records.

In recent media reports, Leonhardt said CrossCountry, founded in 2003, could see its HQ staff grow to 1,000 employees in five years. His company has already outgrown its 50,000-square-foot HQ on Miller Road in Brecksville. For this article, Leonhardt did not respond to questions posed to him in an e-mail. He acknowledged receipt of the e-mail, however.

A real estate development source said that, between MinuteMen, CrossCountry,, Hotcards, LLC and real estate firm GBX Group LLC, the Superior Arts District could exceed 1,200 daytime employees in a couple of years. With future growth, that figure could surpass 2,000 jobs in several more years.

Residential, restaurant and retail development in the Superior Arts District are growing too. For $12 million, Developer Bobby George is renovating a vacant, 59,000-square-foot commercial building at 2125 Superior into 58 apartments over an as-yet unidentified cafe that plans to serve breakfast and lunch. The property is next door to GBX's offices at Superior and East 21st.

More residential developments are planned in the immediate neighborhood, but aren't far enough along in the development process for the source to provide further details publicly. That could include a property acquisition that occurred as part of Leonhardt's Dec. 28, 2018 transaction.

In it, Leonhardt and his unidentified partners transferred by quit-claim deed five properties along the east side of East 22nd, north of Payne, to 2130 Superior Avenue, LLC, county records show.

That firm is an affiliate of BEK Developers, LLC, of Beachwood. BEK is an acronym for the first names of Bob Risman, his wife Eleanor and their daughter Kathy Risman -- part of one of wealthiest families in Greater Cleveland.

Their proposed development, rumored to be a residential project, hasn't been announced. But, when combined with the ground-floor restaurant and retail offerings likely to appear along the sidewalk in CrossCountry's HQ development, it is clear that this neighborhood is about to become much more active.


Rivian looking more likely to buy & use Cleveland-area Ford plants

More information is pointing to electric vehicle manufacturer
Rivian as the possible buyer of both of Greater Cleveland's
vacant Ford plants. This is Rivian's headquarters, located in
the Detroit suburb of Plymouth, MI (Rivian).
Several thousand new, well-paying jobs appear to be bound for Greater Cleveland which could become a hotbed of Electric Vehicle (EV) production for many years to come. That's based on recent news and tips from a couple of insider sources.

In a NEOtrans article posted Sept. 23, I speculated that EV startup Rivian may be the likely buyer of two Cleveland-area plants mothballed by Ford Motor Co. One is the 1.7-million-square-foot Brook Park Engine Plant No. 2 that closed in 2000 and the other is the 2.1-million-square-foot Walton Hills Stamping Plant that closed in 2015.

That speculation could be a realistic outcome considering several recent developments.

A source familiar with the two factories said that Ford is going through the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Voluntary Action Program (VAP) for the vacant Walton Hills plant. The VAP process would start by the end of this year or early next year for the Brook Park Engine Plant No. 2. An Ohio EPA spokesman confirmed this.

The VAP process starts when a property owner submits environmental data for Ohio EPA to review and determine if any environmental contamination exists and needs to be cleaned. Afterwards, if the property is found to be clean enough to meet Ohio EPA standards, the property owner would receive a covenant not to sue.

Ohio EPA says this covenant protects the property owner or operator and future owners from being legally responsible to the State of Ohio for further investigation and cleanup. For the subject of this article, it is important to note this protection applies only when the property is used and maintained in the same manner as when the covenant was issued.

In other words -- these are still auto manufacturing plants, albeit vacant, and would remain as auto plants. Furthermore, the source said Ford doesn't intend to demolish the vehicle production-related structures on these properties. The source didn't reveal the buyer. The Ohio EPA spokesman said Ford didn't reveal the buyer to them either.

However, the source said that Ford wanted to get the VAP process done quickly because the buyer for both plants is on a timeline.

Ford's 1.7-million-square-foot Brook Park Engine Plant No. 2
(above) that closed in 2000 and Ford's Walton Hills Stamping
Plant (below) that closed in 2015 (Google).

So if the two properties would continue to produce new vehicles or parts for vehicles under the new ownership, who would the buyer be? Ford wouldn't sell to a competitor. Instead, it would likely be a firm with whom Ford has a partnership.

Volkswagen is one possibility. Ford and VW announced in January that they are joining forces on delivering medium-sized pickups for global customers starting in 2022. But the production facility for that has already been identified. It will be in Chattanooga, TN.

Then in July, Ford and VW expanded their partnership to include equal investments in Argo AI, an autonomous vehicle platform firm with dual headquarters in Munich, Germany and Pittsburgh, PA.

But the scale of Argo AI's facilities for producing software and computing equipment will likely be much smaller than two auto plants totaling nearly 4 million square feet. And multiple reports say a single buyer will acquire both of Greater Cleveland's two vacant Ford plants.

That brings us to Rivian.

The start-up EV manufacturer has developed a revolutionary electric engine and vehicle frames. Rivian's engines offer remarkable performance of 0-60 mph in three seconds and fossil fuel-competitive ranges of 400 miles or more per charge.

Rivian's flexible frames will be used not only in its vehicles but also in Ford's new EV products. Ford was so impressed with Rivian that it invested $500 million in the start-up firm which has yet to mass-produce any vehicles. Rivian has acquired a former Mitsubishi factory outside of Normal, IL and expects to begin mass production of EV pickups and SUVs in 2020.

But that doesn't address Ford's desire for mass quantities of Rivian's so-called "skateboard platform" vehicle frames (the chassis looks like a skateboard) for its as-yet-unidentified new EV line. Nor does it take into account Amazon's order to Rivian for $10 billion worth of electrically powered delivery trucks.

To consider the scale of production facilities needed, the 3.7-million-square-foot Ford Avon Lake, OH plant produces 370 truck chassis a day. That's 128,000 to 135,000 chassis per year. That's just chassis.

Rivian acquired and re-tooled a 2.6-million-square-foot
former Mitsubishi plant near Normal, IL where it will
produce its first two vehicle lines. But that doesn't take
into account where it will manufacture enough frames
for Ford's new line of electric vehicles that may be
produced at new facilities in Avon Lake (Rivian).
Speaking of Avon Lake, Ford and the United Auto Workers announced Nov. 1 a $900 million investment to expand the factory to accommodate a product line that would create more than 1,500 permanent jobs for Greater Cleveland.

This week, Crain's Cleveland Business reported that the product line would be Ford's new but unidentified EV -- likely the product line that would use Rivian's skateboard platform.

"Ford intends to develop a new vehicle using Rivian’s flexible skateboard platform," Ford said in a written statement released in April when it announced its investment in Rivian. "This is in addition to Ford’s existing plans to develop a portfolio of battery electric vehicles" including a Mustang-inspired crossover and a zero-emission version of the F-150 pickup.

Ford's investment represents a little less than a 10 percent stake in Rivian. As part of the deal, Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of Automotive, will join Rivian’s seven-member board.

"I think we have a winner with the Rivian pick" to buy the two Ford plants, said a business investor with ties to Greater Cleveland who is familiar with Rivian. "If in fact Rivian takes the two Cleveland plants from Ford, I'd bet the payment will be some form of equity."

Putting Rivian's chassis production facilities and Ford's new EV production facility close to each other probably makes logistical sense. Also, it is interesting to note that Ford's facilities in Walton Hills, Brook Park, Avon Lake and even Rivian's Normal plant are all on Norfolk Southern Corp. rails, simplifying the production process.

Greater Cleveland appears to have the inside lane on the future of automotive technology -- EV production -- because it has two large, mothballed, yet well-maintained auto-making facilities in close proximity to each other. And it has a workforce that knows how to build stuff, especially cars.

It is rare for a region to get a large, closed automotive plant back up and running, let alone two.


Two sources: Sherwin-Williams chooses its HQ+R&D site

Two high-level sources say that Sherwin-Williams will build
its massive new headquarters plus research and development
facilities on 8 acres of parking lots to the west of downtown
Cleveland's Public Square. SHW has been planning its new
HQ+R&D for more than a year. However, construction isn't
likely to start until early-2021 with completion due sometime
[UPDATED 11-07-19]

Regarding one of Cleveland's most anticipated real estate developments in many years, two high-level sources say that Sherwin-Williams (SHW) has chosen its site for a combined headquarters plus research and development facility.

That site is the 7.93-acre swath of parking lots owned by the Jacobs Group and Weston Group, just west of downtown's Public Square.

The sources who contributed information to this article requested anonymity because they aren't authorized to speak publicly about the project. However, both sources are very close to and familiar with the HQ+R&D decision-making at SHW.

SHW has had a contract to buy the Weston lots for months, a third source said. While that doesn't guarantee that SHW would see that contract through to a sale and deed transfer, it does mean that SHW didn't want anyone else to have a shot at buying some or all of the Weston lots while SHW did its due diligence in the HQ+R&D search.

If SHW found a better site or found fault with the Weston lots, they could walk away from the contract and Weston would be free to negotiate with any other potential buyers. I don't know if SHW had a similar deal pending with the Jacobs Group for its Public Square property, but it probable that it did.

One of the sources stated that "the Weston lot excites them (SHW) as an opportunity to make a revolutionary sort of campus." The source said the other sites were more difficult to work with in achieving SHW's vision of a connected urban campus.

The other source confirmed details previously reported only at NEOtrans about the scale of the project. The combined HQ+R&D would measure 1.8 million square feet, with 1.45 million square feet for offices and 350,000 square feet for R&D, the source said. Also, roughly 2,000 parking spaces could be included for up to 6,000 employees.

The HQ+R&D employees would include nearly all of SHW's 4,400 employees already in Northeast Ohio, plus hundreds more from around the country. Additional future growth would bring the total to 6,000 workers in the coming years. There are currently about 3,300 SHW workers located downtown.

Weston/Citymark's 2015 plan for the "Superblock" featured
a mixed-use vision of four buildings of 20 stories or more,
the tallest being 37 stories. SHW's HQ+R&D site would add
another acre with the inclusion of Jacobs' lot but feature
1 million fewer square feet of new structures (Weston).
Parking isn't calculated in the 1.8 million square foot figure. When added, it could bring the project's total size to approximately 2.5 million square feet. Although it is too soon to know about proposed building heights on the urban campus, sources previously said SHW isn't interested in an "iconic" tower exceeding 40 stories.

SHW hasn't announced or officially revealed anything publicly about the HQ+R&D project since Sept. 12 when it first acknowledged it was pursuing a new HQ+R&D, more than 10 months after NEOtrans first reported the HQ project on Oct. 31, 2018. But an announcement could come soon considering the speed at which SHW is moving.

Mike Conway, SHW's director of corporate communications, wasn't contacted for this article because of information he has relayed in the past. In researching a follow-up article in May about the planned HQ, he denied that SHW was considering a new HQ and then said the denial was off the record.

When asked why it was off the record, he said "Because there is nothing to write about." He also said that SHW hadn't considered a HQ project in 2014-15 either, which also was false. Conway was communications director in 2014-15, too. He is retiring at the end of this year.

Bedrock Cleveland hasn't been notified about SHW's decision to build at the Jacobs/Weston lots. A source close to their legal team at Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP said they are continuing to pursue a SHW HQ as part of its riverfront phases of CityBlock. It was one of SHW's HQ site finalists.

One of the two high-level sources referenced at the start of this article said SHW made its decision to go with the Jacobs/Weston lots more than a week ago, which resulted in the hiring of geotechnical surveyors from Enviroprobe Integrated Solutions Inc. and Environmental Works Inc. to gather soil samples starting Nov. 2 from a dozen holes drilled into the 6.76-acre Weston lots.

SHW already has core samples from beneath the 1.17-acre Jacobs lot, resulting from their hiring of AECOM five years ago to plan for a 900,000-square-foot HQ tower there. That HQ project was shelved when SHW redirected resources to acquire its Minneapolis-based rival Valspar.

Geotechnical surveyors cordoned of areas of the Weston lots
over the the last few days to extract core samples of earth from
deep below this Warehouse District parking crater (KJP).
Enviroprobe and Environmental Works, both out-of-state geotech firms, were hired within days of the site decision.

SHW facilities consultant Welty Building Co. of Fairlawn bypassed locally popular geotech surveyors -- Intertek/Professional Service Industries, Inc., Terracon Consultants Inc., David V Lewin Corp., Solar Testing Laboratories, Inc., said another high-level source who wasn't authorized to speak publicly about SHW's project.

"Taking samples helps us determine the type of foundation systems that we can use," the source said. "It (the soil boring) needs to happen before any real design can start."

Design may have already started on the Jacobs lot tower. SHW hired Vocon Partners LLC as its HQ+R&D architect, which helped it research potential sites. A city source said final programming could lead to building massings and renderings being submitted to the City Planning Commission within several months.

However, final design will likely take more than a year due to the scale of the project. Construction could begin in 2021 and would likely continue for more than two years.

"Any transition to new facilities is not expected to occur until 2023 at the earliest and would require board approval," SHW officials said in their Sept. 12 press release.

An urban campus with public spaces where workers can have
lunch, recharge their creativity, meet colleagues or just enjoy
the city is what SHW appears to have in mind for the Jacobs/
Weston lots. This setting is what Weston/Citymark planned
for the same area four years ago (Weston). 
Through a request for qualifications process, Welty selected Gilbane Building Co. on Oct. 8 to join its development team as SHW's HQ+R&D construction manager. Welty previously worked with Gilbane and Vocon on building Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.'s global headquarters campus in Akron. The team also added star-architect Gensler to design Goodyear's exterior.

When researching recently built corporate headquarters, SHW CEO John Morikis reportedly liked what he saw in Goodyear's HQ. In contrast, a source said Morikis did not like the design of and finishes in Eaton Corp.'s new headquarters in Beachwood.

Ironically, Morikis bought the vacant Bay Village land on which his new, $10 million lakefront mansion sets from Susan J. Cook, vice president of strategic facilities planning at Eaton Corp.

Cook was in charge of building Eaton's new HQ. Morikis moved earlier this year into the lakefront home that he and his wife built, which suggested that SHW wasn't likely to move its HQ out of Greater Cleveland.

SHW's first store opened at 118 Superior Avenue on the east
side of downtown Cleveland's Public Square in 1866. SHW
plans to start construction of its 21st-century HQ+R&D on
Superior on the west side of Public Square (SHW). 
SHW has been headquartered in the Landmark Office Tower, 101 W. Prospect Ave., since 1930. It occupies about 800,000 square feet of the 900,000-square-foot building and outgrew it in 2014 when it began leasing 51,810 square feet of space in the neighboring Skylight Office Tower.

In 2017, after acquiring Valspar, SHW leased a 151,830-square-foot office/flex space at 4770-4780 Hinckley Industrial Parkway in Cleveland. There, it houses several hundred workers in office spaces that SHW renovated.

One of SHW's oldest facilities is the John G. Breen Technology Center, built in 1948 but was doubled in size in 1998 to 140,293 square feet. It was built next to SHW's pre-1930 headquarters and where SHW was founded in 1866. Today, it is the workplace for about 400 researchers and scientists.

The Breen Center is so full that most of Valspar's R&D staff remain in a 170,000-square-foot complex in Minneapolis. Interestingly, adding the floor space of SHW's R&D facility to that of the former Valspar R&D equals roughly 310,000 square feet. Adding 40,000 square feet of elbow room and expansion space would equal the 350,000 square feet desired for SHW's new R&D facility.

By 2023, the Jacobs lot on the west side of Public Square
and the parking lots beyond it on the Weston "Superblock"
will have significant buildings on them, hosting thousands
of jobs and reviving a part of downtown that hasn't thrived
since the early 20th century (Google).
The Weston "Superblock" is surrounded by Superior and St. Clair avenues, plus West 3rd and West 6th streets in the Warehouse Distrct. Four years ago, Weston and Citymark Capital LLC planned 3.5 million square feet of residential, offices, a hotel plus shops and restaurants. To guide the development, the city enacted at Weston's request a pedestrian-retail zoning overlay for the Superblock in 2016.

The site has been mostly parking lots since the mid-1970s when the nearby Justice Center was built with insufficient onsite parking. Dozens of 19th-century buildings were razed. The Justice Center is the subject of a study by the county to determine whether to rebuild it or construct new jail and courthouse facilities elsewhere.

The Jacobs lot, on the west side of Public Square, has been surface parking since 1990. That's when the 13-story 33 Public Square building and the 12-story One Public Square building were demolished for the 1,198-foot-tall, 60-story Ameritrust Center tower. But the tower project was canceled before construction could begin when Society Bank acquired Ameritrust.

At long last, it appears this massive parking crater that has scarred downtown for decades may finally be developed. It should also be noted that real estate investors, aware that SHW's HQ+R&D could land here, have shown interest in neighboring properties. Expect those properties to change hands and for developments to be announced for them in the coming days, weeks and months.


Sunday, November 3, 2019

Sherwin-Williams drills down on data for HQ sites

Geotechnical survey crews descended upon the Weston Group-
owned parking lots in downtown Cleveland's Warehouse Di-
Identifying where Sherwin-Williams' (SHW) massive headquarters plus research and development (HQ+R&D) facilities might land requires lots of information. And the global coatings giant gathered a lot more detail this weekend.

Survey crews on Nov. 2-3 fanned out across 5.6 acres of parking lots owned by the Weston Group, a couple of blocks west of downtown Cleveland's Public Square.

In what's called the "Superblock," surrounded by Superior and St. Clair avenues, plus West 3rd and West 6th streets, geotechnical survey workers from Enviroprobe Integrated Solutions Inc. and Environmental Works Inc. labored in a cold drizzle. The brawny crews bored perhaps a dozen holes deep below the asphalt of the entire Superblock and extracted core samples.

The broad area of sampling suggests a massive development over the whole Weston Superblock. A source close to the HQ property negotiations says that "the Weston lot excites them (SHW) as an opportunity to make a revolutionary sort of campus."

SHW already knows a lot about the 1.17-acre Jacobs Group-owned lot on the west edge of Public Square. It's where the Fortune 500 company planned to build a new, 900,000-square-foot HQ tower in 2014-15 until it redirected its resources to acquire rival Valspar.

When Weston-Citymark planned to develop the Superblock
according to their vision, they imagined three 20- to 25-story-
tall towers on the site with a fourth tower being a 37-story-tall
office building. Sources say few if any SHW buildings on the
Jacobs/Weston lots would be so tall. That makes sense consi-
dering SHW's 1.8 million square feet would be spread across
more land than Weston-Citymark's plan for 3.5 million square
feet of office, residential, hotel and retail space (Weston).
Just five years ago, SHW hired civil engineering firm AECOM to help it plan a new HQ. As part of its fact-finding, AECOM subcontracted with a geotechnical driller to gather soil samples all the way down to bedrock, some 200 feet below the Jacobs lot.

Today, SHW is a larger, faster-growing company. Not only are its HQ needs much larger. This time, with Valspar's R&D workers in Minneapolis unable to unite with SHW's research workers in Cleveland's overcrowded John G. Breen Technology Center on Canal Road, a new or expanded R&D facility is in the cards too.

Combining the HQ+R&D brings the scale of the project to 1.8 million square feet (not including parking), per a request for qualifications by SHW's facilities consultant Welty Building Co. for construction management services for some or all of SHW's HQ+R&D. Two sources say Gilbane Building Co. won the bid on Oct. 8.

But Bedrock Cleveland, which owns Tower City Center and its Riverview parking lots plus other parcels between Huron Road and the Cuyahoga River, is the leading competitor to the Public Square site that SHW had long desired.

Bedrock is making a strong pitch to SHW. And it can tell SHW what the earth looks like far below the surface of its properties because it gathered soil boring data several years ago when it planned to build the phase two casino south of Huron.

Geotechnical survey crews began taking core
samples at Weston's Superblock Nov. 2. Here,
crews worked near St. Clair Avenue and West
6th Street (UrbanOhio/Cleveland95).
So the only place where SHW doesn't have good soil data below its final, desired sites for its HQ+R&D is at the Weston lots -- until now. Despite the impressions from well-informed sources, the surveying work this weekend shows that SHW may not yet be favoring one of the two final sites.

"Taking samples helps us determine the type of foundation systems that we can use," said a high-level source who wasn't authorized to speak publicly about SHW's project. "It (the soil boring) needs to happen before any real design can start."

And knowing what type or scale of foundations are needed will establish a baseline of costs for comparing the Jacobs/Weston and the Bedrock sites. So will the actual value of the land involved.

Unlike 2014-15, SHW has added a new/larger R&D facility to go along with a new HQ. So more land than just the Jacobs lot would be needed this time around. That's why the Weston lots are in play, offering a 6.77-acre site by combining the Jacobs/Weston lots for the HQ+R&D.

The riverfront site is even larger. SHW already owns 9.2 acres of riverfront land for the Breen Center, next to the 2.7 acres of land Bedrock is offering between Huron and Canal, just east of the Carl B. Stokes U.S. Courthouse tower. For either site, a large amount of downtown land is involved and it is expensive.
Geotech crews moved their way south to alongside and then
beyond Frankfort Avenue which divides the Superblock in
half. Usually, a geotech survey crew pokes a few holes in
the ground at a proposed development site. These crews
drilled perhaps a dozen such holes over a 5.6-acre area,
suggesting a very large development project (KJP).
The Jacobs/Weston lots are appraised by the county for tax purposes at about $4 million per acre, which is based on the most recent, comparable property sales in that area. By comparison, Bedrock's Riverview parking lot currently is valued at $2.4 million per acre. But it was valued by the county at $5.26 million per acre as recently as 2014.

In the past week, several insider sources were equally split on which site had the edge. But all agreed that SHW was close to nailing down its preferred location for an HQ+R&D. That facility would become the workplace for up to 6,000 employees in the coming years.

This weekend's activity shows how refined that data gathering process has advanced. In the end, SHW may have requested the geotech work to either justify sticking with a long-desired site or to eliminate it from further consideration.


Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Sherwin-Williams HQ+R&D is down to two sites; decision due soon

This unofficial massing represents how Sherwin-Williams' new
headquarters and new/renovated research facilities (all shown
in dark orange) might appear if built on Bedrock Cleveland's
and SHW's properties between the Cuyahoga River and Tower
City Center in downtown Cleveland. It also shows, to the right
of the increasingly likely SHW site, apartment, hotel and office
buildings that represent later phases of Bedrock's CityBlock
development (Geowizical). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE
A source close to ongoing property negotiations said Sherwin-Williams could decide in "the next week or so" between two downtown Cleveland sites for its new global headquarters plus research and development facility.

Officially, SHW has held steady to its official statement that it will announce its HQ+R&D site decision by the "end of this year or early 2020."

However, the source said SHW's decision is now down to two sites and may be leaning toward one of them:

1. Bedrock/SHW riverfront: The site includes about 2.7 acres of Bedrock Cleveland-owned land, between Huron and Canal roads, and between the Carl B. Stokes U.S. Courthouse tower and the Tower City Center Riverview entrance. Next to it, SHW owns 9.2 acres between Canal and the Cuyahoga River. It is where SHW's John G. Breen Technology Center is located and where SHW was founded 153 years ago.

2. Jacobs/Weston: West of Public Square, a total of 6.77 acres of parking lots owned by the Jacobs Group and the Weston Group would provide the site for a connected, urbanized office campus. It would be fully integrated into the amenities of a major city's central business district. Cuyahoga County officials apparently are interested in this site for a new Justice Center complex, as well.

The source believed that the Bedrock/SHW riverfront site had the advantage for several reasons.

"They (Bedrock) can move quicker, they can take a lower return since Dan Gilbert is a multi-billionaire, and it will also tie better into CityBlock, giving that some life," the source said. "I think there's enough of a push politically by Bedrock and the CityBlock team that will probably get it done."
Another view of the unofficial massing, showing a possible
juxtaposition of new and renovated SHW buildings in dark
orange at the riverfront site. To their right or east are four
buildings that could become the later phases of Bedrock's
CityBlock development. To the right of them are new and
planned buildings by Stark Enterprises (Geowizical).
Previously, NEOtrans reported that SHW had narrowed its HQ+R&D search down to four downtown Cleveland sites.

In 2014-15, SHW had completed civil engineering and architectural work for a 900,000-square-foot headquarters on the Jacobs lot on Public Square. That effort was shelved as SHW worked to acquire rival Valspar.

This time around, SHW, led by its facilities consultant Welty Buidling Co., is pursuing a 1.8-million-square-foot HQ+R&D complex, highlighted by a 40-story HQ tower. On Oct. 8, SHW through Welty chose Gilbane Building Co. as its construction manager, according to a high-level source.

That same source said that the HQ+R&D facilities would be immediately adjacent to each other, regardless of site, and accommodate up to 6,000 employees. About 3,300 SHW workers are currently employed in downtown Cleveland and another 1,100 elsewhere in Northeast Ohio.

If the Jacobs lot on Public Square was chosen for the HQ, then the R&D facility and all structured parking for the HQ+R&D would probably go on the neighboring Weston-owned lots in the Warehouse District. Yet there has been no chatter among insiders in Cleveland's close-knit real estate community that the Jacobs/Weston site was favored by SHW in this HQ endeavor.

Instead, a source said that the county and many influential law firms want a new Justice Center courthouse tower built within a few blocks of Public Square. Even with the jail possibly relocated out of downtown, the only undeveloped lands large enough and so close to Public Square are the Jacobs and Weston lots.

Any deal that might be part of a new Justice Center is still years off as the county has yet to decide its course of action. But it could be enticing to Weston and/or Jacobs to accommodate a new courthouse tower if the county buys their land and, in exchange, gives the keys to the old Justice Center complex to rebuild or raze it for new development.

Adding 1.8 million square feet of new HQ+R&D facilities for
SHW just west of Public Square could require more significant
new construction yet fill downtown Cleveland's largest parking
crater. But developing that 7 acres of parking lots may have to
wait for a decision by county officials on whether to build a
new Justice Center courthouse tower (Geowizical).
Meanwhile, relocating to the Bedrock/SHW site would be less disruptive to SHW. It could use its existing parking, albeit expanded. And it could allow SHW to modernize and expand its existing, 140,000-square-foot R&D facilities at the Breen Center. Without it, SHW would have to build an entirely new R&D facility measuring, by some estimates, up to 350,000 square feet.

How easy could relocating to the Bedrock/SHW riverfront site be for SHW? It could move its office furniture, equipment and materials without using trucks or even having to go outside. Passageways through Tower City Center would allow for such an indoors move.

Recent news has created a buzz around the Bedrock site. It started with CityBlock's announced $110 million first phase in The Avenue Shops at Tower City which is due to get underway in early 2020. The next phases of CityBlock, between Tower City and the Cuyahoga River along Huron and Canal roads east of SHW's Breen Center, may soon receive a jolt of capital.

Bedrock Real Estate exited its casino businesses including selling off and leasing back its Cleveland-area casinos, raising $843 million in capital in the process. That capital may stay with Rock Ohio Ventures, allowing it to develop the riverside phases of its CityBlock project.

"The combined efforts of our gaming properties together with the other Cleveland assets operated by our sister companies including the Cavs, Avenue Shops at Tower City and the May Company Building, have created a strong connection to the city and allows us to remain heavily committed to the Cleveland area," said Mark Dunkeson, CEO of JACK Entertainment.

This massing by Vocon, SHW's and CityBlock's architect,
shows future phases of CityBlock immediately east of the
 site that some say has the lead in landing SHW's HQ. And
it is just east of SHW's existing R&D facilities that could
soon be expanded. This massing's view is cut off right at
the edge of a candidate SHW HQ+R&D site (Vocon).
"We will continue to invest significant capital into these properties which will have a lasting positive impact on the city and Cuyahoga County," he added.

Several large buildings are proposed by Bedrock adjacent to and east of the site that SHW is weighing. They were included in a massing for Bedrock by Cleveland-based Vocon Partners LLC, which is also SHW's architect. The massing represented potential future work by Bedrock above the river but south of Huron Road, including offices, apartment buildings and hotels, according to another source.

It should also be noted that the law firm guiding SHW's HQ+R&D project -- Korman, Jackson & Krantz LLP -- is the same law firm assisting the CityBlock effort. But it is not the same law firm representing Bedrock Cleveland in its negotiations with SHW. Instead, that law firm is Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP.

More news this week pointed to increased buzz surrounding the CityBlock site. The London Stock Exchange Group's Elite Initiative, an international business support program, chose Cleveland for its North American headquarters. A source close to Bedrock's CityBlock project was hopeful that Elite would soon sign a lease at CityBlock for its HQ.

In the early 1970s, SHW's 19th-century HQ and factory in the
foreground still stood next to its 1948 research facilities that
would be expanded in 1998. This view looks west from SHW's
post-1930 HQ in the Landmark Building. Scranton Peninsula is
at left and Ohio City is beyond the many bridges (SHW).
Lastly, just across the river, NRP Group is finalizing its designs for 330 residences on Scranton Peninsula. NRP Group usually goes where the action is or is going to be. But what action exists on Scranton Peninsula -- currently a desolate, 80-acre blank slate of land?

None, but the calculus changes dramatically if a Fortune 500 company builds a massive new facility just a half-mile walk away. NRP Group reportedly was aware that the Bedrock/SHW riverfront site was seriously being considered by SHW for many months.

A real estate development source with intimate knowledge of downtown Cleveland projects pointed to the developments at and near Bedrock's CityBlock and its legal and architectural linkages to SHW as intriguing. He argued that it reinforces what the source close to the SHW negotiations believed -- the Bedrock site had the edge for SHW's HQ+R&D.

"At this point, I would be shocked if the Bedrock site wasn't selected," he said.