Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Son of Seeds & Sprouts - Part I

These news tidbits are too small for Seeds & Sprouts but are nonetheless important. They include the last two weeks of items that appeared in public records such as building permits, planning commission filings, real estate listings and similar but brief references showing definitive movement in Cleveland-area real estate. They are listed by Cleveland neighborhood (per city-defined planning jurisdiction) and suburbs. Sometimes there's just too much going on to report it any other way! Thanks to Tykaps/UrbanOhio for providing insights on these tidbits.


Rehab of 2804 South Moreland is due to begin soon (Google).
2804 South Moreland Blvd. -- Building permits were filed for the rehabilitation of this three-story, 24-unit, 14,130-square-foot apartment building built in 1930. The county rates this property in very poor condition. It was bought Dec. 21, 2018 by Rakefet Landes of Beachwood although he transferred it on May 28, 2019 to 2804 Moreland LLC that lists to his home address. The property is on the southwest corner of South Moreland and Drexmore Road, next to the Shaker Square business district.

Mixed-use is planned at 12607 Larchmere Blvd. (Google).
12607 Larchmere Blvd -- A 15,500-square-foot structure is proposed to rise on a 0.356-acre lot, according to newly filed building permits. Proposed is residential over a ground-floor commercial space. The street is zoned with a pedestrian retail overlay that requires structures to be built within 5 feet of the sidewalk; heights are limited to 60 feet. The land and its two-story wood warehouse were bought in 2011 by David Davita of Mayfield Village but transferred to his firm 12607 Larchmere LLC on July 15, 2019.

An 88-unit apartment building is planned at Larchmere Blvd.
and East 121 Street on the site of a charter school (Google).
12201 Larchmere Blvd. -- First Interstate Properties proposes building a four-story, 88-unit apartment building on the 1.27-acre site of the Life Skills NE Ohio charter school. The school would be demolished to make way for the apartments, located on the northeast corner of East 121st Street and Larchmere. A Dollar Store was proposed for the property in 2018 but met with neighborhood opposition

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First phases of Sankofa Village are behind the foreground site
of the newer, later phases approved for construction (Google).
2701-2755 Community College Ave. -- The next phases of the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority's Cedar Transformation Plan (Sankofa Villageare moving forward following the filing of building permits for more than 100 housing units that will be mostly, if not all single-family townhomes. Phases one and two recently were completed with 60 apartment units and 50 townhomes. A total of 377 residential units are envisioned for the 17-acre block, replacing 70-year-old, inadequate public housing. Pennrose is the developer.

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The approximate site of a residential development being consi-
dered by the Spang Bakery's developers (Cuyahoga County).
3100 Barber Ave. -- Ben Beckman, an investor behind the conversion of the J. Spang Bakery, 2707 Barber, to market-rate apartments is filing certificates of disclosure with the city to purchase vacant land north of Barber and east of West 32nd Place. Additional nearby properties are in the land bank and are being used as a community garden. The actual size of the development site is unknown. Pursuing new construction in the same area may be a sign that the Spang Bakery apartments are filling up well.

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A recently planned apartment building in Battery Park (LDA). 
1275 West 73rd St. -- New construction building permits were filed by Columbus-based Avenue Partners for two new apartment buildings on the east side of West 73rd. Avenue Partners is buying the land from Marous Brothers that began the massive Battery Park development. One building will measure 55,000 square feet and the other 36,000 square feet adding a total of about 250 units and underground parking. A clubhouse and pool will be at the north side of the site. For size comparison, the Battery Park Lofts built in 2018 at 1250 West 75th St. measure 105,000 square feet. Separately, the city of Cleveland will extend Battery Park Boulevard east of West 73rd to West 70th, through the former property of Elite Medical Transportation/Mobile Martin EMS property.

Proposed Gordon Green party center on Detroit Avenue (Dimit).
5400 Detroit Ave. -- Building permits were issued to a local group of investors led by John E. Lawrence and incorporated as JEL LAW Properties, LLC to renovate Saigon Plaza as a party center called Gordon Green. The 0.88-acre parcel was bought on May 7, 2019. That was where the east-side's Hawken School planned to build an early-childhood center until it merged with West Park's Birchwood School. An adjacent parcel along Tillman Avenue was sold July 22, 2019 by JEL LAW Properties to Tillman Partners LLC for $447,000.

Herman Ave. Townhomes to start building (Cuyahoga County).
5209-5217 Herman Ave. -- Stout Properties. LLC received building permits to construct an eight-unit townhouse development called Herman Avenue Townhomes. The project involves demolishing three existing, vacant homes. Also four parcels were recently replatted as nine lots, including a common lot to serve as a driveway and buffer, much like other townhouse developments in the neighborhood. MG2 is the project architect.

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Berusch is pursuing a development on this site at the northeast
corner of Euclid Avenue and East 71st Street (Google).
7107 Euclid Ave. -- Euclid 71 LLC, an affiliate of Berusch Development Partners, has acquired nine parcels along the east side of East 71st Street north to Chester Avenue for an unidentified development, presumed to be residential. A brick building owned by Russel J. Papalardo for his A-1 Liquidators at 7107 Euclid is the only structure remaining on these parcels that were acquired in Sept. 24, 2019. This is next to Vazza Real Estate Group's One Midtown townhouses.

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This abandoned, 160-apartment building has a buyer (Loopnet).
9410 Hough Ave. -- The spillover effect from the growth of University Circle and Cleveland Clinic is putting derelict properties to new uses. Case in point is that an unknown buyer on Dec. 6 reached a sale contract for the vacant 160-unit Kingsbury Apartments (aka Coventry Courts) with seller CLE Venture Fund LP. The 10-story building, built in 1973, had an asking price of $2.3 million. It is next to the new Axis At Ansel apartments, a 163-unit apartment building.

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The new East 79th Red Line rapid transit station (GCRTA).
2625 East 79th St. -- Building permits were filed for the $8 million renovation of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority's East 79th Red Line rapid transit station, replacing the 1955-built facility that isn't ADA compliant. The rebuilt station will serve the Opportunity Corridor area including the site of the new Cleveland Police Department headquarters and it's nearly 1,000 employees.

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Market Square's first phase is this V-shaped apartment building
along Lorain Avenue. West 25th Street is at right (Harbor Bay).
2021 West 25th Street -- Building permits were issued for phase one of site development for the Market Square project by Harbor Bay Real Estate Advisors, LLC. This will allow the city to start utilities work here on Feb. 1, 2020 and for the developer to start demolition of the Market Plaza shopping center and site excavation work by March 1. Phase one includes a seven-story, 253-unit apartment building over ground-floor retail at the corner of West 25th and Lorain Ave. Remaining retailers at the plaza are on month-to-month leases.

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NRP Group's Slavic Village Gateway development (NRP).
5163 Broadway Ave. -- Building permits were filed for the construction of the Slavic Village Gateway development, to be built by NRP Group of Cleveland. To built on 5.25 acres of land, the development's first phase will have 78 apartments and 10 townhomes along with 21,000-square-foot of ground-floor commercial spaces. One of the tenants is the University Settlement. Slavic Village Gateway will rise on the site of St. Michael/St. Alexis Hospital which closed in 2003 after 119 years of service.

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A 3.4-acre parcel in Duck Island is for sale (Cuyahoga County).
2000 Lorain Ave. -- Andrew Brickman's Brickhaus Partners is no longer pursuing an ambitious development that many consider is in Ohio City. One West Twenty actually is in the Duck Island enclave. Instead, Brickhaus has listed for sale the larger of two plots of land it assembled in recent years. It is asking $7.25 million for the 3.4 acres of land but will retain 1.32 acres of land between West 19th and 20th streets, north of Lorain Ave.

Developments on three of the four corners at Scranton-Willey-
Kenilworth will change this scene in the coming years (Google).
2329 West 16th Pl. -- As 3004 St. Clair, LLC, real estate investor David Ferrante acquired a brick warehouse and 0.42 acres of land at the northeast corner of Scranton Road and Kenilworth Avenue on Sept. 9, 2019 for $1 million. His intentions for the site became clear when he began a Design-Review case for an eight-unit townhouse development called Due North Townhomes. This intersection is attracting developments, starting with Gustave Development's 11 Scranton. Another Gustave development is proposed at the northwest corner of Scranton and Willey Avenue. And Sustainable Community Associates is planning roughly 83 residences on the southwest corner of Scranton and Willey.

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Blue Sky Brews replaces Rising Star Coffee Roasters (Google).
2187 Murray Hill Road -- A coffee and beer spot called Blue Sky Brews is coming to the southeast corner of Edgehill Road recently vacated by Rising Star Coffee Roasters. The location is on the ground floor of a three-story apartment building, close to Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals. This Rising Star store moved to 1975 Lee Road in Cleveland Heights.


Friday, December 6, 2019

Sherwin-Williams already spending big to put HQ at Public Square

November was a busy month for Sherwin-Williams (SHW)
and its many contractors and sub-contractors working on and
near the parking lots west of Public Square. SHW is spending
big money on this work, providing growing evidence that
this is where the Fortune 500 will put its new headquarters
plus research and development facilities (Pete Marek).
For more than a month now, real estate professionals have been watching the activity on the Jacobs Group/Weston Group-owned parking lots, located on the west side of Public Square. When asked what they think of it, their general response is "there's definitely something going on there."


Because of the amount of money being spent -- perhaps up to $10 million so far.

And when a company shells out that much money to measure, poke, drill, extract, review, document, analyze, repair, model, simulate and design stuff in around those windswept parking lots, that company is showing that it is pretty serious about that site.

That's especially true when said company isn't doing work like that at any other site in Greater Cleveland or anywhere else, according to multiple sources. Well, apparently Atlanta -- OK, just kidding!

Of course, that company is Sherwin-Williams (SHW) which has been working toward finding a site for its new 1.8-million-square-foot headquarters plus research and development (HQ+R&D) facilities.
The Jacobs and Weston lots, measuring 7.93 acres in total,
are ground zero for SHW's due-diligence activities for its
1.8-million-square-foot HQ+R&D facilities (Google).
How do I know it's SHW? Because three sources who have been directly involved at the highest levels of SHW's HQ+R&D efforts disclosed that SHW has favored the Jacobs/Weston lots for a long time.

Then, on Nov. 11, another source contacted me to say that SHW would be filing city permits later in the week for buying properties west of Public Square. Sure enough, at the end of that week, a title company named First American Commercial Due Diligence Services filed 12 certificates of disclosure regarding the purchase of the Weston lots.

Those certificates are sometimes filed by prospective commercial property buyers. On the other hand, for residential purchases, certificates of disclosure must be filed to get violation/condemnation and legal use information from the city.

According to a real estate expert who helps companies conduct their due-diligence of desired development sites, SHW has likely spent anywhere from $5 million to $10 million on the Jacobs/Weston site so far.

Granted, some of that amount -- especially for legal fees and architect's fees -- was not for site-specific work. That amount was likely in the $2 million to $5 million range, he estimated.
Geotechical survey crews first showed up on the Weston lots
on Nov. 2, poking dozens of holes into the sea of parking lots
that extend for several blocks west of Public Square (KJP).
The legal fees are probably the largest component at this point. SHW's legal counsel during the HQ+R&D project is Korman Jackson & Krantz (KJK), located at One Cleveland Center in downtown Cleveland. KJK is a prestigious, well-respected firm.

And they've been on this job since at least fall 2018. That's when NEOtrans first became aware that SHW and KJK were working through a variety of documents, ultimately including requests for proposals, task orders, property agreements, filings and other legal instruments relating to the HQ+R&D project.

That's a lot of billable hours by a firm that doesn't come cheap.

Assisting SHW through the HQ+R&D process is Welty Building Co. Its President and CEO Don Taylor is reportedly close friends with SHW CEO John Morikis. Welty has had a bad run of late, running into some financial difficulties, two sources say. Some healthy fees paid by SHW are probably helping out Welty.

After the issuance of a request for qualifications and an evaluation process, SHW and Welty hired Gilbane Building Co. in early October as the HQ+R&D construction management firm. It also pared the list of prospective HQ+R&D sites. But SHW is reportedly still listening to offers until it closes on the Jacobs/Weston lots.

Then we have the broker's fees. CBRE, the nation's largest real estate brokerage, is doing more than just circulating draft purchase agreements. It reached out to a half-dozen or so property owners downtown to solicit proposals for a combined HQ+R&D facility and to the DiGeronimo family regarding its Valor Acres site in Brecksville for the R&D center only, sources said.
During Thanksgiving week, DRS Enterprises fed hundreds of
feet of tubing into West 3rd Street, down Frankfort Avenue,
then over to West 2nd Street. A week later, they dug into
West 3rd, just south of this location, nearer to Superior
Avenue apparently to make a spot repair to the city's
sanitary sewer collector. The question is, who initi-
ated the work and why? (Pete Marek)
And CBRE reportedly did that even as it, on behalf of SHW, reached a purchase agreement with the Jacobs and Weston groups last March or April. The Jacobs/Weston lots have been SHW's favored site all along. That's no surprise considering that in 2014-15, when Morikis was SHW's chief operating officer, it hired civil engineering giant AECOM to plan for a new HQ on the Jacobs lot.

Even though SHW favored the Jacobs/Weston lots, it wanted to generate alternatives to see if anything else was worth considering locally while giving lip service to sites outside of Greater Cleveland. The goal was to give its board of directors some meaningful data for sticking with the Jacobs/Weston lots.

Those are valuable parking lots. They likely carry a price tag of up to $6 million per acre, based on recent property transactions. The Jacobs/Weston lots are just shy of 8 acres. Based on that math, the Jacobs/Weston lots are likely worth $40 million to $50 million.

"Sherwin-Williams would have had to put up earnest money for the land," the due diligence expert said. "Earnest money is usually anywhere from 3-5 percent of the agreed upon purchase price. And that usually doesn't come back to the purchasing prospect if the transfer doesn't go through. So SHW could be out $1.2 million to $2.5 million if they don't buy the Jacobs and Weston lots."

Then there's the architect's fees.

"The architect fees are a fortune, probably in excess of $1 million at this point," the due-diligence expert said.
DRS Enterprises cut into Superior Avenue at West 6th Street
above a lateral sewer line that continued under the sidewalk.
Meanwhile, DRS crews were feeding hundreds of feet of
plastic tubing into the sewers at West 9th Street (KJP).

In the early stages, SHW's architect Vocon Partners LLC was working on alternative concepts, ranging from interior finishes to potential site options. Now, they've moved on to programming, spatial patterns, configurations and massings -- aspects that are becoming more site-specific with time.

That's for an HQ+R&D to accommodate up to 6,000 workers, including 2,500 jobs that would be new to downtown Cleveland.

Vocon is a very capable firm. But when the conceptual designs are being developed and advance into schematic designs, it is possible that a "starchitect" could be brought in.

For example, when Welty, Vocon and Gilbane last joined forces on building a Northeast Ohio headquarters facility -- for the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. in Akron -- they ended up bringing in San Francisco-based Gensler to put on the finishing touches. It's possible they already have or are considering it -- after all, why would people from Gensler's Chicago office start following me on Twitter?

By the way "hello" -- hope you're enjoying the blog!

And now we come to the visible work that's been underway for the past month using geotechnical core drilling rigs, groundwater well drilling rigs, vacuum excavators and even some possibly related sewer work.
The sewer work by DRS came a week after
the same firm drilled into the Jacobs lot and
capped several groundwater testing wells
from which samples were immediately
retrieved and tested by Strategic Enviro-
nmental Services Inc. (KJP).
In the first two weeks of November, the geotechnical drilling rigs and vacuum excavators belonging to Enviroprobe Integrated Solutions Inc. and Environmental Works Inc. descended upon the Weston lots.

Into the third week of November, groundwater testing/removal wells were dug into the Jacobs lot by sub-surface construction firm DRS Enterprises with water samples removed and tested by Strategic Environmental Services, Inc. which conducts environmental remediation and waste disposal.

It's possible that the groundwater tests found sanitary sewer flow infiltration. And it's also possible that SHW paid for the follow-on sewer repairs, perhaps to be reimbursed by the city.

Why? Because the very next week and continuing into December, the same well-drilling contractor DRS Enterprises was busily making sewer repairs in the city's street rights of way, including pipe re-lining and excavations to make spot repairs on West 3rd Street and westward along Superior Avenue. They even worked the day before and the day after Thanksgiving when many people are on vacation.

I wrote a Nov. 30 article where I doubted that SHW had initiated the sewer work. Now I'm thinking they did. I wasn't aware on Nov. 30 that DRS had also done the Jacobs lot well-drilling a week earlier.

It wasn't for a lack of asking. The sewer workers themselves dismissed any questions. The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District said it wasn't the one making the repairs and besides, these were sanitary sewer collectors which are the responsibility of the city.
In 2017, Cleveland City Council voted to vacate an unused
alley called Broome Court, N.W. It did so at the request of
Weston Group which had planned but later abandoned a
major development on its land. The alley is circled in red
above. The ordinance brief is below (City of Cleveland).

I've reached out to several city officials, including asking them to speak off the record, to better understand what is happening here with these repairs. But none of them, not even the usually chatty ones, were talking.

It's highly unlikely that the city could authorize a private contractor to make repairs so quickly except in emergencies. It probably wasn't the city and it probably wasn't an emergency. The reason is because it all started with DRS drilling groundwater test wells from a private property (Jacobs lot) which, if the city led this effort, it would have required getting the law department involved to secure access.

The city wouldn't have bothered with that time-consuming process in an emergency. The city would have drilled into an adjacent public right of way, especially a lightly used one like Frankfort or even the northwest quadrant or roadway of Public Square.

And why would the city drill in the first place? Sanitary sewer leaks weren't stinking up Public Square or spilling out onto the street. The drilling started because SHW wanted to check subsurface conditions below the Jacobs lot for which it has a purchase agreement.

If it was SHW that paid for the sewer repairs, as I now suspect, then they are dead serious about locating on this site. You don't spend that kind of money and effort to address a possible infiltration from the aging sanitary sewers nearby if you're still debating this site. And considering how fast they got a crew out there and even worked the Friday after Thanksgiving, it appears SHW is in a big hurry to get this done.

The sewer repairs were obviously not cheap, regardless of who paid for them.

By the way, speaking of lightly used public rights of way, another example of SHW's HQ+R&D due-diligence work was revealed publicly on Nov. 21.
On Dec. 2, the alley Broome Court N.W. was removed from
Cuyahoga County's plat map, shown above, and absorbed by
the neighboring parcels, owned by Weston. The authorizing
document for changing the plat map was filed Nov. 21 and
is shown below (both images: Cuyahoga County).
On that date, title work by First American Commercial Due Diligence Services -- the same company filing the certificates of disclosure for SHW -- discovered a vacated street right of way that was supposed to have been removed from Cuyahoga County's plat maps two years ago.

Cleveland City Council voted in 2017, at the request of Weston which was then pursuing a since-abandoned development, to vacate an alley called Broome Court N.W. The county never removed the alley from the plat maps by distributing the right of way among adjacent parcels. The vacation plat of Broome Court was filed with the county recorder's office Nov. 21 and the plat map was redrawn Dec. 2.

This is an example of the title work that's necessary in order to discover and fix anomalies for the 46 parcels in the Jacobs/Weston lots. That work may eventually involve a possible further redrawing of plat maps to consolidate parcels following their acquisition by SHW. All of this title work is another significant expense for the global coatings giant, the due-diligence expert noted.

Finally, he added that the normal time for such due diligence work involving a large project is about six months plus multiple two- to three-month extensions as needed following the execution of purchase agreements. So it's not surprising that the due diligence for a project of this scale could take six months to a year, he said.

SHW's purchase agreements reportedly were executed in March or April. This project is bigger than any that the expert has ever experienced. It's understandable that the due-diligence work is not yet done nearly eight months later.

But that work may be coming down the home stretch to the finish line, concluding with a public announcement by SHW about an estimated $1 billion HQ+R&D campus and up to 6,000 retained and new jobs for downtown Cleveland.


Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Chiclets gum factory apartments, townhouses get new owner

A complicated transaction involving several companies, all
tracing back to a California man, resulted in the acquisition
of the Chicle Apartments and Chicle Townhomes on Detroit
Avenue in Cleveland's Cudell neighborhood (Google).

A California-based real estate investor has purchased the Chicle Apartments and Chicle Townhomes (Chicle is pronounced "chick-lee") from a local firm that renovated the former Chiclets gum factory and built the townhomes on Cleveland's west side nearly 15 years ago.

Little is known about managing member Krishna Venkatarama of Cupertino, Calif. or his intentions involving multiple properties at 10307-10335 Detroit Ave., in the Cudell neighborhood. On Nov. 25, Venkatarama and his partners acquired the properties near the West Boulevard Red Line rail station through three companies created in September.

Chicle Luxury Apartments LLC bought from 10307 Detroit Ave Limited Partnership the 1888-built Chiclets gum factory that was renovated in 2005 for $4.8 million into 23 apartments and a ground-floor commercial space. The purchase includes 0.622 acres of land, according to the Cuyahoga County Recorders office.

On the same day, Chicle Land Development LLC bought from Chicle Land Investment LLC 0.884 acres of land on which 10 townhouses set. This transfer didn't include the townhouses but it did include an easement for access to a driveway off Detroit Avenue owned by the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority.
The entire Chicle site is visible in this streetview from June
2019. The 23-unit apartment building is at left and the partly
completed townhome development is at right. The rest of the
site was to be filled with up to 44 townhomes (Google).

Also, on Nov. 25, a third company named Chicle Luxury Townhomes LLC acquired all 10 of the townhomes at the site. The townhomes, measuring anywhere from 939 to 1,300 square feet, were built 2007-10 by Kemper Co. and Civic Builders LLC. Betty Kemper founded Kemper Co. in 1994. Kemper also was responsible for renovating the Chicle Building.

Three of the townhouses were sold years ago as condominiums to individual persons while the others were rented to residents for years by Chicle Land Investment LLC. Units 12, 14 & 28 were sold July 31, 2018 by individual persons for $169,900, $169,000 and $159,750 respectively to Chicle Townhomes LLC, formed by Betty Kemper.

County records show those townhouses as well as the rented townhomes owned by Chicle Land Investment were all sold to Chicle Luxury Townhomes last week.

Sale amounts were not publicly available. However, Venkatarama's three companies each recorded mortgages with Cuyahoga County on Nov. 25. Two mortgages, both in the amount of $672,000, were secured from Conventus LLC of San Francisco on Nov. 21. One company securing the mortgage was Chicle Luxury Townhomes and the other was Chicle Land Development. The loans mature on June 1, 2021.

The Chicle site, as seen in 2018, is above. The original plan for
the site in 2005, below, shows how it would be built out with
up to 44 townhouses, including future townhomes on Detroit
Avenue. The top of both images is north (Google, LDA).

The third mortgage recorded last week, but signed Oct. 8, was in the amount of $1.5 million for Chicle Luxury Apartments, made by Sabal Capital II LLC of Irvine, Calif. The mortgage matures on Dec. 1, 2029.

Additionally, on Dec. 2, Venkatarama filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) a Form D notice of an exempt offering of securities by Chicle Luxury Apartments, LLC. The total amount of securities available and sold was $400,000.

According to the Form D notice, executive officers of Chicle Luxury Apartments, LLC other than Venkatarama are residents of Calgary, Alberta, Canada and Sunnyvale, Calif.

Future plans for the site are not revealed in any known public records. That includes a reciprocal easement agreement by and between Kemper's Chicle Land Investments and Kemper's Chicle Townhomes filed with Cuyahoga County in 2007 and amended on Nov. 21, 2019 before the sale to Venkatarama's companies.
A massing plan for the Chicle site from 2005 shows how it
could look at near-full build-out, omitting the townhouses
on Detroit Avenue at right. The Norfolk Southern Corp.
railroad right of way is at left (LDA).

Questions about future plans involve whether the townhomes will be rented as apartments or sold as condos. Another question is whether additional townhomes will be built.

The original plan for the site in 2005 had 36 townhomes in the first phase and another eight townhouses along Detroit Avenue to be built later. Only 10 townhomes were built, shortly after the Chicle building's residential conversion. Some of the townhomes yet to be built would have offered up to 2,200 square feet, according to LDA Architects.

A voicemail left at a number listing to Venkatarama as well as a phone message left with his wife at their home in California were not returned prior to publication.

The principal place of business for Chicle Luxury Apartments listed on the SEC Form D is a residence on Glendora Lane in Parma Heights. That home was purchased in June 2018 by Tracy O. Mooney, public records show. A voicemail message left at his home was not returned before this article was published.
A rendering of the Chicle townhomes from 2005 (LDA).

Interestingly, the June 2018 deed to Mooney's newly purchased Parma Heights home was prepared by attorney Anthony Asher, 4760 Richmond Road, Suite 200, in Warrensville Heights, according to the Cuyahoga County Recorder's office.

Asher is founder and chairman of the Weston Group, one of Northeast Ohio's largest real estate investment, development and property management firms. The address that Asher listed on Mooney's deed was that of Weston's corporate headquarters.

Very few public records could be located to reveal current or past real estate investments or ownerships by Venkatarama. One that was found was another SEC Form D notice from last year.

Venkatarama was listed as manager of CG Apartments, LLC, a Florida limited liability company that in November 2018 sold $600,000 in $50,000 increments from a total of $700,000 in securities, according to the SEC filing. Other executive officers of CG Apartments, according to the filing, were residents of Coppell, Texas and Frisco, Texas.

Staff at the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization, which includes Cudell Improvement Inc., were not familiar with the sale of the Chicle properties or with Venkatarama's intentions at this time and thus could not comment on the transaction.


Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Fortune 500 company to establish HQ in downtown Cleveland

Corporate headquarters of Cleve-
land-Cliffs Inc. is in 200 Public
Square in downtown Cleveland.
It is viewed from the west side
of Public Square where survey
wells were recently drilled for
Sherwin-Williams proposed new
headquarters facilities (KJP).
**UPDATED Dec. 7, 2019**

In case you missed the major-league news, and if you rely on Cleveland local news media you probably did, but another Fortune 500 company will establish its corporate headquarters in downtown Cleveland.

Today, Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. announced it will be acquiring AK Steel Holding Corp. for $1.1 billion in an all-stock deal. In terms of revenues, the minnow just swallowed the whale. Cliffs generated about $2.12 billion in net revenue in 2018 whereas AK generated $6.08 billion.

At total net revenues of $8.2 billion in 2018, the combined company would have ranked as the 350th-largest company in the United States. Among Northeast Ohio firms, that would put the combined company between No. 256 Parker-Hannifin and No. 383 J.M. Smucker.

AK Steel, founded in 1899 in Middletown, OH, ranks at No. 461 on the Fortune 500 list. Cliffs, founded in 1847 in Cleveland, slipped out of the Fortune 500 in 2015.

The two firms considered their combination would be complementary across mining, pelletizing and innovative manufacturing to create a vertically integrated producer of value-added iron ore and steel products.

Cliffs is a highly profitable mining company whereas AK Steel is a low-profit steel manufacturer. Combined, the Cliffs-AK expects to save about $120 million in the first year after the acquisition is completed..

The firms said that the savings would come primarily from consolidating corporate functions, reducing duplicative overhead costs, and procurement and energy cost savings, as well as operational and supply chain efficiencies, according to a written statement.

"AK Steel will become a direct, wholly-owned subsidiary of Cliffs and will retain its branding and corporate identity. Cliffs will continue to be listed on the NYSE (New York Stock Exchange) with its HQ in Cleveland, while maintaining a significant presence at AK Steel’s current offices in West Chester, Ohio along with its Research and Innovation Center in Middletown," the statement said.

Cleveland-Cliffs has a prominent presence in the downtown
skyline, but not in the usual manner. It's name adorns the side
of the Steamship William G. Mather Museum docked at North
Coast Harbor, part of the Great Lakes Science Center (KJP).
Cliffs' HQ is located at 200 Public Square, the city's third-tallest skyscraper at 46 stories and 659 feet. Built as the Standard Oil of Ohio (Sohio) HQ in 1985, an ownership group led by New York-based DRA Advisors acquired the 1.27-million-square-foot building in 2018 for $187 million. Local developer-investor Scott Wolstein has an ownership stake in the building.

Cliffs' HQ, as well as Cliffs Natural Resources Inc., leases about 200,000 square feet in 200 Public Square, which is 86 percent leased according to Jones Lang LaSalle's 2019 Cleveland Skyline market report.

Only three floors -- four, 10 and 13 -- in 200 Public Square are entirely or almost entirely available (ie: not leased). Few if any of the floors near where Cliffs is located (upper-20s to mid-30s) have any leasable space available.

While Cliffs' actual HQ staffing data is not available, it is possible to estimate its staffing. At an average of 150-200 square feet per employee, Cliffs may have as many as 1,000 to 1,300 employees in its HQ. Or at least it used to before it made cutbacks in HQ staffing the mid-2010s. Sources say that two of the floors that Cliffs leases at 200 Public Square are empty.

Similarly, detailed data on AK Steel's HQ employment is unavailable. However, the company has about 2,400 employees in Butler County of which 1,730 are hourly workers at the AK Steel's Middletown Works steel complex. That may leave up to 700 employees at AK Steel's HQ in West Chester, which is also in Butler County.

Obviously, many of those aren't coming to the Cleveland HQ either because they will be downsized or are needed for local management of the Middletown Works. But it is possible that dozens or perhaps even hundreds of corporate staff may be relocated to Cleveland.

Regardless of the number, it appears to be a big win for Cleveland. Anytime you add a new Fortune 500 company HQ, or even a Fortune 1000 company, or any growing company for that matter, it's a win for Cleveland's economy.

If only our local media paid as much attention to the employment wins as it does to the losses, or even the hollow threat of a potential loss, we might realize the jobs growth that is occurring here.


Cleveland Foundation acquires Midtown land for new HQ

The Cleveland Foundation has taken title to and recorded a
deed for land on which it will build its 50,500-square-foot
headquarters (shown in orange) on the northeast corner of
Euclid Avenue and East 66th Street (Cleveland Foundation).
Despite a cloud of legal action hanging over it, titles to two Midtown properties were transferred last week to the Cleveland Foundation for its proposed new headquarters.

A 50,500-square-foot HQ is proposed to be the first phase of a civic and mixed-use district along both sides of Euclid Avenue and on both sides of East 66th Street led by the foundation.

The Cleveland Foundation said it is leading multiple partners and investors in a direct real estate development approach to bolstering Midtown to enhance the vibrancy of Cleveland’s neighborhoods and public spaces.

The foundation said it considers the creation of a new civic and mixed-use district in Midtown to be essential to that mission. Relocation of its offices from Playhouse Square to Midtown will help further that mission, it contends.

Design, construction and relocation activities of its new HQ are expected to take up to three years. Transfer of the properties to the Cleveland Foundation will enable it to begin development of its new headquarters "as soon as outstanding contingencies are promptly resolved," as written in public statements issued by the foundation in recent months.

Presumably, those unresolved contingencies refer to the ongoing litigation. Cleveland Foundation Media Relations Officer Alan Ashby didn't return a phone call seeking comment prior to publication of this article.

Midtown Cleveland Inc. Executive Director Jeffrey Epstein said he could not comment on the foundation's HQ project, or the timelines of what comes next for it.

Two non-contiguous parcels totaling 1.364 acres along the east side of East 66th Street between Euclid and Chester avenues were transferred Nov. 25 to an affiliate of the Cleveland Foundation for $600,305, according to the Cuyahoga County Recorders' office.
Rendering of what the proposed headquarters of the Cleveland
Foundation could look like. At right is the Dunham Tavern Mu-
seum property including the large amount of urban greenspace
that will remain after the HQ is built (Cleveland Foundation).
East 66th Street LLC was incorporated on May 15, 2019 by Cleveland Foundation President Ronald Richard, Ohio Secretary of State records show.

The property was acquired from the Dunham Tavern Museum. Dunham Tavern, built in 1824 as a farmhouse and stagecoach inn, is the longest surviving structure in Cuyahoga County still located at its original site.

A limited warranty deed was also filed with the Cuyahoga County Recorder's office on Nov. 25. It has East 66th Street LLC's tax mailing address listed at Midtown Cleveland Inc., 5000 Euclid Ave., Suite 100.

The deed includes a number of property usage restrictions, including limiting any development built on the two parcels to no more than four stories in height. It also precludes pornography businesses, strip clubs, massage parlors, head shops, fast food businesses, houses of worship, disco/nightclubs, warehouses, single-use retailers of 25,000+ square feet, drive-through lanes and any operations associated with cannabis.

A third parcel measuring 0.4 acres was acquired by the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority in February 20, 2019. It sits between the two parcels the foundation acquired. The port authority has a long-standing, formal partnership with Lassi LLC -- Midtown Cleveland Inc.'s real estate arm.

As seller, Dunham Tavern Museum, an Ohio non-profit corporation, originally reached a purchase agreement on March 18 with Lassi Enterprises.

According to the deed documents, the purchase agreement was assigned by Lassi Enterprises to East 66th Street LLC on Aug. 8. The agreement was then amended on Aug. 26 to acknowledge the assignment from Lassi Enterprises to East 66th Street LLC.
Looking north up East 66th Street from Euclid Avenue, the
Cleveland Foundation's proposed civic center will restore
some of the lost density of this once-vibrant urban neigh-
borhood, including a new property acquisition by the
foundation on Euclid just east of East 55th Street and
the railroad tracks (Cleveland Foundation).
But several Dunham Tavern Museum members had already filed suit on May 30, alleging that the museum corporation and two of its board members were acting in a manner that conflicted with the interests of the museum by selling the properties.

The lawsuit was dismissed on July 24 by Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Nancy Margaret Russo.

The plaintiffs filed a notice to appeal the ruling on Aug. 16 and, as appellants, they have until Dec. 7 to file reply briefs to the appellee's brief that was filed Nov. 27, according to the Eighth District Court of Appeals' docket.

In addition to the Cleveland Foundation headquarters on the east side of East 66th, a partnership of investors will pursue the development of a 100,000-square-foot Center For Innovation on the west side of East 66th, north of Euclid Avenue.

Furthermore, in August, the foundation also acquired from the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority 2.38 acres of land on Euclid Avenue just east of East 55th and the railroad tracks for the development of a mixed-use project. Like the Center For Innovation, the foundation will lead a partnership of investors to develop it.

"The foundation doesn't develop real estate," Epstein said. "Aside from their headquarters, their partners will develop the real estate. We'll work with them to decide what is the right mix of uses for the (Euclid Avenue) site" across from the new University Hospitals Rainbow Health Center.

Lassi and the port authority have acquired multiple properties throughout Midtown. They have razed and cleared any structures on those properties and are making the cleaned-up parcels available for redevelopment.