Sunday, March 7, 2021

Sherwin-Williams' HQ may alienate young talent it wants to attract

Sherwin-Williams' Build Our Future committee
continues to use the BOK Park Plaza as its mass-
ing sample for its new headquarters in downtown
Cleveland. But the building's interior design may
determine whether the HQ achieves one of its ob-
 jectives - attracting young talent (Pickard Chilton).

Sherwin-Williams' (SHW) stodgy corporate culture is colliding with its desire to attract young talent. That collision is becoming more evident as the planning advances on SHW's new global headquarters. That's unfortunate for SHW and for Cleveland since one of the major goals SHW has for its new HQ is to attract young talent to its company and to Cleveland.

We have seen before that SHW doesn't excel at public-relations nor does it seem to accommodate creative young people sometimes. Both were in evidence when it fired a part-time employee and college student Tony Piloseno who had amassed over 1.2 million followers on his paint-mixing TikTok channel that was giving SHW free publicity. Bloomberg named it one of the five worst PR disasters of 2020.

But as SHW executives, organized in a C-suite-level committee, direct its Build Our Future (BOF) efforts and screen dozens of architectural options by hundreds of design team members, there appears to be a growing frustration about SHW's HQ as well. This is especially true as the design team starts to work outward into the office floors from the building's elevator/stairwell core.

SHW's HQ design architects are from New Haven-based Pickard Chilton and their programming architects are from Cleveland-based Vocon Partners.

The HQ's interior programming is based on the premise of an open floor concept. So while the Pickard Chilton architects who designed the interior spaces at Qualtrics Tower in Seattle are on the job designing SHW's HQ, don't expect the same urban accoutrements here -- thanks to SHW. Seattle's tech scene has a proven track record of attracting young talent and is reflected in its built environment.

Open-floor offices and low-rise cubicles appear to be favored for
employees by SHW's C-suite executives  (QualityCubicles).

That's less true in Cleveland. So instead of traditional corner offices or more modern office pods, coves and meeting booths, look for low-rise cubicles throughout open floors in SHW's HQ. And instead of exposed ductwork and utilities, designers are looking at a drop ceiling of acoustic tiles to reduce noise and dust. On the bright side, the open floors will be surrounded by lots of big windows.

The BOF committee is getting pushback, notably from younger persons, on the open-floor design as well as for a corporate-imposed design principle of having employees work from any cubicle or workstation. SHW employees may be able to request whether they will have a sit or stand cubicle/workstation.

Over to the new Center Of Excellence...

If SHW isn't spending money to make the office tower workspaces a more welcoming place for workers, they appear to be willing to invest extra into the company's new Center Of Excellence (CofE) on Public Square.

This facility, to be off-limits to the public like the rest of the HQ, is labeled a "learning center and amenity" space on SHW's official site plans. Designs are coming into focus for that two- to three-story, roughly 50,000- to 80,000-square-foot building.

The CofE will be used as SHW's talent recruitment venue. It will have conference facilities for employee training and corporate functions, a small company museum for touring new recruits and VIPs, plus a rooftop lounge, perfect for after-work cocktail parties. If it doesn't get too expensive, the CofE's physical form may complement Public Square's butterfly curves, visible from overhead.

Another raw planning sample is the Devon Energy Auditorium
in Oklahoma City -- across the street from the BOK Park Plaza
and connected to it by overhead, enclosed walkways. The audi-
torium has served as a planning sample for SHW's new Center
of Excellence proposed facing Public Square (Pickard Chilton).

Connecting the CofE to the office tower and then the office tower to the parking garage will be two "sky bridges" -- enclosed pedestrian walkways. One sky bridge will be above West 3rd Street and the other will be above Frankfort. Neither will be open to the public.

The sky bridges reportedly were met with opposition by City Planning Commission Director Freddy Collier Jr. But design team members apparently consider the city's building code sufficiently vague on the pedestrian bridges that they are proceeding with their inclusion in the HQ plans.

In 2019, the city approved an enclosed pedestrian bridge above Ontario Street, between the JACK Cleveland Casino and a parking garage. It will be the second such bridge into the casino. To get it, JACK Entertainment had to win approval from the City Planning Commission, City Council and the mayor’s committee on streetscapes and infrastructure, which it did. This second casino walkway hasn't been built yet.

Collier did not respond to an e-mail from NEOtrans seeking confirmation and comment on his reported opposition to SHW's sky bridge.

On to the parking garage...

Design team sources said the proposed SHW parking deck at the northwest corner of West 3rd and Frankfort will not have enough spaces for all of SHW's employees. While the exact number of spaces isn't known, it will likely be roughly half of the HQ's workforce. The HQ is being designed to accommodate 3,500 employees.

A literally narrow example of what SHW has in mind for Frankfort
Avenue in downtown Cleveland is this skinny, unnamed alley in
Oklahoma City. It serves as an example because it is a dead-
zone. The parking garage lacks any accessory uses along
it and the alley has loading docks for the BOK
Park Plaza in the background (Google).

Commuters may park in other lots, take public transportation or walk/bike to work. Additionally, up to 1,000 existing surface parking lot spaces will be erased by SHW's HQ.

As noted in an earlier article, SHW's HQ design team members with whom NEOtrans spoke acknowledged the garage will have a liner building along West 3rd to comply with the city's building code.

That liner building must hide the parking deck behind it along its entire street frontage with at least 70 percent of that building comprised of active uses -- i.e. uses that generally include retailers, restaurants, hotel lobbies, residences, cultural amenities and recreational space.

The design team reportedly considers Frankfort an alley, not a street. If SHW is correct, it would not be required to add a liner building or any active uses along Frankfort under the city's code.

As the design team continues to use Pickard Chilton's Bank of Oklahoma (BOK) Park Plaza as its massing model, they are also using some of its design features for inspiration as well. Sources said team members consider Frankfort to be like the alley that is between BOK Park Plaza and the tower's north parking deck.

Before SHW's architects came to Cleveland to design its HQ, some
had worked on designing the interior of Qualtrics Tower in Seattle.
This isn't a cafeteria but a comfortable office setting designed to
foster collaboration or privacy as needed (Centrel Imagery).

That includes the loading docks for the BOK Park Plaza, which are accessed via that unnamed alley. On the site plan released by SHW, it shows a notch or backsquare in the northwest corner of the office tower's outline, off Frankfort. That is the proposed location of the SHW HQ's loading dock.

The loading dock and the inactive garage wall may dash the hopes of those wanting to see SHW embrace past visions by Stark Enterprises or Weston Group. Those developers proposed turning Frankfort into a walkable narrow street of lively cafes, restaurants and shops on the ground floors of mid- and high-rise buildings. Instead, SHW is designing Frankfort to be a dead zone of trucks, service vehicles and blank walls.

While that opportunity appears lost, some may be regained by SHW's reported desire to farm out to developers the western and northern flanks of its HQ campus. Those flanks, totaling some 2+ acres, line West 6th Street and St. Clair Avenue. With them, SHW is hoping to entice expansion of mixed uses already in the Warehouse District along those streets to serve employees, customers, suppliers and visitors.

Revisiting the issue of the office tower's height...

As mentioned above, the design team has used BOK Park Plaza as their HQ model. BOF committee members liked the 27-story building's basic massing as well as its modern glass box style with which to start their design discussions. The 430-foot-tall, 700,000-square-foot BOK Park Plaza actually has rectangular floor plates shaped like parallelograms.

After much debate, BOF committee members increased the massing height to 32 stories and again to 35. Average floor heights appear to be in the 14- to 15-foot-per-floor range, which would put SHW's HQ height in the vicinity of 500 feet. That would make it the fifth-tallest building in downtown Cleveland. 

This is one of the few illustrations secured by NEOtrans from SHW's
design team. It shows the BOK Park Plaza tower placed on the
northwest corner of Superior Avenue and West 3rd Street, thus
giving the team an idea of what the SHW HQ could look like.

But at this point, there are no renderings done. All that the team has is a concept for a podium that would stick out the back side of the tower by Frankfort. By contrast, the southeast corner by Superior Avenue and West 3rd Street would likely rise straight up to the top of the tower from the sidewalk possibly with few, if any, building stepbacks, design team members say.

Security-conscious SHW will not have any public uses along the sidewalks of its HQ podium nor in the lobby. Cafeterias, a coffee shop or other services will be on the second floor, up an escalator/stairwell from the lobby. They will be for employees only.

Another interior building design feature that the team has completed is the building's core -- elevators and stairwells. The designed height of this core can be changed pretty easily and it may need to be.

Committee members have been watching Pickard Chilton digitally manipulate its glass box massing to add subtle curves or angles to it, then measure the impacts on building height, width of floorplates, building programming and, most importantly, cost.

A subtle curve added to the building's midriff could add or subtract a story or two to/from the building's height. Or angling the building from ground to crown could cause more significant impacts. So for those who want to know exactly how tall the building will be, that can't be answered yet since the team lacks an exterior rendering -- but they are getting close to creating one.

This is the only SHW HQ design illustration to be released officially.
In the absence of other information secured by NEOtrans from the
secretive coatings giant, this graphic might otherwise instigate
only questions. This article provides the answers (SHW).

Speaking of illustrations, since hundreds of people are now involved in the HQ planning process, SHW executives and design team members are prohibited from sharing project illustrations to its own HQ design team let alone the media. Instead, they're only sharing word descriptions internally.

That little tidbit tells you how secrecy-conscious this coatings company is, and not just about its new headquarters project. Sources would put themselves at risk of being fired because of SHW's compartmentalized process would allow them to more easily identify where leaks are coming from.

And, besides, they're working on so many variations of designs at this stage, it would be pointless to share them anyway. What they're considering now isn't necessarily what they're going to build.

For example, the site plan that was publicly released in February was the end product of winnowing the options from 40 different variations of site plans. Many of the early versions had the office tower on the former Jacobs Lot fronting Public Square. The 40 variations were pared to 30 the following week, then to 20, then 10, then 3 and finally to one.

One last design item offers hope for PR "disaster" SHW -- a company that sometimes acts like it's the National Security Agency. Their existing incognito HQ at 101 W. Prospect Ave. has no signs or logos indicating that it's the central offices of a multi-billion-dollar worldwide company.

That's apparently going to change at the new HQ. Sources on the design team say that there will be two big SHW logos atop the new office tower. One logo will face east and the other will face west. That seems to underscore native Clevelanders' contentions that the city has no north or south sides, just east and west.


Thursday, March 4, 2021

New Flats East Bank tower to be shorter, groundbreaking delayed

Looking north along West 10th Street and the light-rail Water-
front Line, the proposed start of the second half of the Flats
East Bank development is seen next to the Main Avenue/
Shoreway Bridge. But the final product may be shorter
and wider than what is shown here. A later phase is
seen along Front Street in the background (HSB).

In addition to a spate of high-rise developments on the horizon, there are also new low- to mid-rise developments just around the corner, too. One of them is a project that was originally proposed to be a mid- to high-rise building.

Instead, a mixed-use building representing the first salvo for the second half of the Flats East Bank development will be reduced from 11 or 12 stories down to seven or eight stories. And, as NEOtrans learned this week, its construction timeline will be pushed back by about five or six months.

Called Kenect Cleveland, this component that previously featured 325 micro-unit apartments, 25,000 square feet of co-working space, 22,000 square feet of ground-floor retail and a parking structure had already lost its planned multi-screen cinema due to a declining movie theater industry.

Kenect Cleveland developer Akara Partners CEO Rajen Shastri confirmed in a March 2 e-mail that its portion of the project will "no longer (be) above six stories." Kenect is a brand name prefix for multiple developments in multiple cities by Akara Partners of Chicago.

Site plan of Flats East Bank showing the second half of the pro-
posed development, featuring up to 2,000 new residential plus
tens of thousands of square feet of commercial space (HSB).

Scott Wolstein, CEO of the Wolstein Group and a partner in the project with Akara, clarified that Akara's six-story structure will be built above a podium. The podium of retail and restaurant spaces apparently is the responsibility of Wolstein. He would not elaborate on each partner's roles in the joint venture, however.

But the construction style is no secret. Typically, in a new, mixed-use, mid-rise building in Cleveland, the first story or two is built from reinforced concrete and accommodates commercial uses such as retail or restaurants. Above it is usually a stick-built (ie: wood-framed) apartment building.

That combination provides for a strong, mid-rise structure that is financially feasible to build in Cleveland's low-rent, high-construction-cost market.

A shorter building may mean fewer housing units or retail spaces, unless they spread northward into the area where the movie theater was planned. But Wolstein said those details have yet to be ironed out.

A conceptual image of the next planned building for Flats East
Bank. This concept has already changed. Instead it will be less
tall and possibly spread out more evenly on the site (HSB).

"We are not prepared to get into that level of detail," he said. "It will all be in the public domain when we submit plans to the city for permits."

In December, Cleveland City Council extended by 30 years an existing 30-year Tax Increment Financing (TIF) arrangement for the Flats East Bank development that began a decade ago. That will let Wolstein's Flats East Bank affiliates forego non-school property taxes on the 23-acre parcel until 2071.

It will also allow Wolstein to refinance an existing $30 million loan from the federal Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD), thereby reducing his payments and freeing up cash for the next phase of development.

After the city extended the TIF, Akara acquired the 2.45-acre property for the next phase, bounded by West 10th and 11th streets, Front Street and Main Avenue for $6.1 million, county records show. At about the same time, Wolstein and Akara's Shastri said they had hoped to break ground on their mixed-use building in June.

On the first day of fall last year, the third phase of Flats East Bank
was taking shape on the riverfront. It will have an Asian fusion
restaurant, a nightclub/restaurant, plus a live country music
club topped by a cigar and whiskey bar (Iryna Tkachenko).

"HUD will take longer than June unfortunately and (so we're) probably looking at year end," Shastri said in his e-mail.

The first phase of the Flats East Bank development, valued at $275 million, consisted of a  23-story, 480,000 square foot office tower that's 95 percent leased, an eight-story, 150-room Aloft Hotel and 30,000 square foot of restaurant and retail space. It was completed in 2013.

In 2016, the second phase was finished, totaling $146 million not including boardwalks, streets and other infrastructure. This phase featured an eight-story, 240-unit apartment building with 100,000 square feet of ground-floor retail and restaurant space. The apartments are more than 80 percent full and all of the restaurant/retail spaces are leased.

The first two phases were a joint venture of the Wolstein Group and Fairmount Properties. Fairmount sold its interest in Flats East Bank in 2018. Soon thereafter, Akara Partners entered the picture.

Site of the next phase of development on Flats East Bank is this
2.45-acre parking lot, seen here from West 11th Street at Main
Avenue. A groundbreaking for a seven- to eight-story mixed-
use building with hundreds of apartments over retail has
been pushed back to the end of this year (KJP).

Later phases of Flats East Bank could total nearly 2,000 residential units and tens of thousands of square feet of commercial space including co-working spaces, retail and restaurants. Each new phase of development would be added based on demand and market conditions. In total, it could be valued at about $550 million, Wolstein said.

Total value of investment by Wolstein and his original Flats partner, the Fairmount Properties, in the first half of Flats East Bank totaled nearly $500 million. Combined with the second half of development, the total investment in the Flats East Bank could exceed $1 billion.

The long-range plans were revealed last October during Downtown Cleveland Alliance's Episode 22 of its "Downtown Now!" Webinar and first reported on by NEOtrans. In his presentation, Wolstein described the growing market for the massive, long-term development plan.

"I have four millennial children," he said. "It was in vogue for children of that age to pick up their roots to go Chicago, New York, San Francisco and so forth. I think we've gotten to the point where people are giving a second look to Cleveland: 'You know what, I really don't need to leave. I can live here and make a good life in Cleveland.'"


Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Seventeen 10+ story projects may see construction in the next year

Up to 17 real estate development projects of 10 stories or more
could see construction start by this time next year. Four are re-
novation/conversion projects. The rest are new construction. A
few of them may get their start dates pushed back farther into
2022. And a few surprises may come out of nowhere as well.
 One thing's for sure, it's going to be a busy time in Cleveland.

In Cleveland, there are 17 buildings of more than 10 stories tall that could see their construction start in the next year. And with out-of-town developers showing greater interest in Greater Cleveland, especially after the state passed the Transformational Mixed-Use Development (TMUD) tax credit, there may be another building or two that comes out of nowhere and surprises us in the next 12 months.

What's most encouraging is that about half of the projects definitely aren't or probably aren't going to be seeking TMUD tax credits to close their financing gaps. It isn't known for certain which developers will apply for what projects since the TMUD program isn't up and running yet. 

However, some developers have already made their intentions known, publicly and privately, regarding the TMUD program. We should find out officially soon because the first applicant projects, according to the new  TMUD law, need to be certified as TMUDs by the Ohio Tax Credit Authority before the end of the state's fiscal year June 30.

Also, note that this list includes renovations and new construction. There are four 10+ story-tall buildings whose renovations could get underway by this time next year. At least one is waiting to tap into the TMUD program which can benefit $50+ million projects that are either 15+ stories tall or measure 350,000 square feet or more among all connected buildings or parcels.

The pending renovations (so far) are:

The 22-story 55 Public Square building is due to be sold to K&D
Group which seeks to redevelop it with mixed use (Google).

55 Public Square -- 55 Public Square, 22 stories, 480,000 square feet. Originally planned to be renovated into higher-end offices by Optima Management Group, alleged criminal matters are forcing its sale to K&D Group which is instead seeking a mix of residential and commercial uses. K&D will likely seek a TMUD credit to make a go of this project.

The biggest pending real estate development project in Cleveland,
be it new construction or renovation, is the conversion of the 1.3-
million-square-foot Union Commerce Bank into 870 apartments
and 90,000 square feet of commercial space (Millennia).

Centennial -- 925 Euclid Ave., 21 stories, 1.36 million square feet. Centennial is a mixed-use development of workforce housing, retail and offices. Millennia Cos. has considered TMUD credits for this project. Centennial and nuCLEus (see below) were set to see construction start a year ago but both were put on hold with the onset of the pandemic.

Redevelopment of the Rockefeller Building could
start in the next year and repurpose much of the
building with micro-unit apartments (KJP).

Rockefeller Building -- 614 W. Superior Ave., 17 stories, 261,264 square feet. According to preliminary plans, micro-unit apartments are planned on floors 5-16, offices on floors 2-4 and ground-floor retail or other commercial uses are planned. Some minor repair work on the building's exterior has started already. This first phase of development might not involve a TMUD credit.

The Baker Building, originally built in 1919 as
the Fidelity Mortgage Building, may be repur-
posed as a boutique hotel (LoopNet).

Baker Building -- 1900 E. 6th St., 11 stories, 54,000 square feet. The 102-year-old building is likely to be repurposed as a boutique hotel. After the Walton Enterprises buys a building, it typically sits on a building for 24 months before starting development work. The Baker Building was acquired a year ago. As is, it wouldn't qualify for TMUD credits.

And, here's the rest of the list. More than a dozen new-construction projects creating buildings of 10 or more stories could see construction start by March 2022. They are presented here alphabetically:

The 24-story Artisan apartment tower is set to become the tallest
building in University Circle in a couple of years (FitzGerald).

Artisan -- 10600 Chester Ave., 24 stories, 234 feet tall, 306,200 square feet. Construction could start by the end of this month on 298 market-rate apartments over 287 structured parking spaces and 14,005 square feet of ground-floor retail.

Chicago-based White Oak Realty Partners is on an accelerated timetable to build Artisan, University Circle's tallest building. Thus, White Oaks is unlikely to seek TMUD credits. This, Library Lofts (see below) and a 488-space public parking garage will comprise the first phase of the Circle Square mega-development.

With each new iteration, Bridgeworks keeps getting taller. This
latest plan has it at 18 stories and 200 feet tall (MASS/LDA).

Bridgeworks -- 2429 Superior Viaduct, 18 stories, 200 feet tall, 230,000 square feet. After their successful efforts in building the nearby Church+State in Ohio City's Hingetown, Grammar Properties and M. Panzica Development hope to start construction of Bridgeworks by mid-summer.

The prospect of a TMUD credit helped shape the project's more vertical design. A 130-room hotel that was planned next to the 170-unit, mixed-income apartment building will instead be put above the apartments. The square footage didn't change.

Site prep has started for the construction of the 23-story City Club
Apartments on one of Euclid Avenue's last parking lots (Vocon).

City Club Apartments -- 720 Euclid Ave., 23 stories, 250 feet tall, 250,000 square feet. One could argue that construction is already under way as city of Cleveland utility relocations started in February to make way for the construction tower crane.

As of this week, the general contractor hasn't gotten the official green light from the developer and property owner, an affiliate of David Goldberg, to start site work. That go-ahead isn't expected until mid- to late-March.

Dream Hotel would rise across Euclid Avenue from the 10-story
University Hotel & Suites, now under renovation (Bialosky).

Dream Hotel -- 3635 Euclid Ave., 19 stories, 200+ feet, 350,000+ square feet. There are conflicting reports about the future of this project. Last fall, Dodge Reports said the project was delayed which a local official confirmed. Recently, Dodge Reports said the project was abandoned which two sources disputed, saying the project was merely on hold.

Dream Hotel representatives couldn't be reached for comment. When the project was first announced in May, representatives of the national hotel chain said they hoped to start construction by now. Here's hoping the unique, event-space hotel combined with the Masonic Temple is still active and starts construction by this time next year.

Sheila and Eric Samson Pavilion at the Cleveland Clinic Medical
School may be comparable in scale, 477,000 square feet, but the
proposed pathogens center will likely be more vertical (Foster).

Global Center for Pathogen Research & Human Health -- near East 105th St. and Carnegie Ave., about 20 stories, about 300 feet tall, up to 500,000 square feet. As a part of the State of Ohio's Innovation District program, Cleveland Clinic and other partners will build a $200 million to $300 million pathogens center tower at/near the location noted here, sources said.

When? The Clinic began reaching out to construction management firms last fall to build the pathogens center. And the Ohio Development Services Agency recently awarded a 15-year job creation tax credit for the pathogen center that would take effect Jan. 1, 2024. Construction on a similarly sized Sherwin-Williams research center in Brecksville may take two years. Thus it seems possible that work might begin within a year on the pathogens center.

Add about 5-7 stories to this 10-story office building, originally
planned to be the second phase of the Market Square project,
and make it residential. That's what is now planned (HPA).

INTRO phase 2 -- 2099 W. 25th St., about 15-17 stories, up to 175 feet, up to 250,000 square feet. A 10-story office building was originally planned for phase two of its Market Square development. Due to the soft office market, Harbor Bay Real Estate Advisors of Chicago is instead considering an apartment building that would approach the site's 175-foot height limit, set by the city's building code.

Reaching such heights might allow the project to be eligible for a TMUD tax credit. But before phase 2 could be considered, Harbor Bay will need to weigh the progress of first-phase leasing starting this summer. Company representatives said their learning experiences in building the mass-timber first phase would allow them to build a mass-timber second phase faster and less expensively, possibly starting in early 2022.

This is one of two remaining possible outcomes for the
Justice Center Courthouse Tower. But the jail will move
to a campus site outside of downtown (PMC).

Justice Center Courthouse Tower -- site unknown, 15-35 stories, 225-550 feet tall, at least 877,000 square feet. At the end of March, the Justice Center Executive Steering Committee may decide whether to rebuild and expand the existing, poorly built courthouse tower at 1200 Ontario St. or replace it with a less costly, efficiently designed courts facility somewhere downtown.

At this time, it appears that the new courthouse tower may be favored due to its potentially lower cost. If so, and depending on the site chosen, it could result in a mid-rise tower of about 15-20 stories. But some are interested in a smaller site and a more expensive, taller tower. If a site is chosen by summer, it is possible however unlikely that construction could get started in early 2022. A longer timeline is more realistic.

Library Lofts mixed-income apartments will rise on Euclid Avenue
with the new, taller Artisan in the background at left (Bialosky).

Library Lofts -- 10553 Euclid Ave., 11 stories, about 115 feet tall, about 152,000 square feet. Construction of this 205-unit mixed-income apartment building over the new MLK Branch Library will coincide with that of Artisan, listed at the top.

A late-March groundbreaking date still appears to be the goal but plans for the new branch library haven't been approved yet by the City Planning Commission. A shell for the library may be provided with the MLK branch added near the end of construction.

Although the actual form of the proposed Magellan-Weston
development is unknown, its principal structure, a hotel and
 residential building, may be about 30 stories (Ian McDaniel).

Magellan-Weston tower -- 310 W. St. Clair Ave., about 30 stories, 300-325 feet tall, potentially 500,000 square feet. A mixed-use development featuring a residential-hotel tower over a pedestal of parking with a future office addition is contemplated by Chicago-based developer Magellan Development Group and Cleveland-based Weston Group.

This project will almost certainly depend on it being awarded a TMUD tax credit to make the numbers work. It along the Rockefeller Building and 55 Public Square rehabs are spin-off projects resulting from the new Sherwin-William headquarters. If this proposed tower wins a TMUD credit early on, it could see construction within the next year although a later start date is more likely.

Originally, nuCLEus was to be a 600-footer as this view looking
east on Prospect Avenue portrayed in 2015. Now that Stark has
succeeded in getting the TMUD tax credit program passed, all
 design options may be back on the table (NBBJ).

nuCLEus -- 420 Prospect Ave., 25-54 stories, 350-647 feet tall, 400,000-1 million square feet. At long last, Stark Enterprises got the TMUD program passed into law -- a program motivated by nuCLEus. Yet, one year ago, Stark representatives were within days of making an announcement about a potential nuCLEus groundbreaking. And then the pandemic hit.

Much of Stark's portfolio is retail- and college housing-based -- sectors slammed by the pandemic. In January, Stark got a $22 million injection of cash from U.S. Real Estate Credit Holdings III-A, LP. It was leveraged through newly merged Stark affiliates that own student housing around Kent State University's campus. The question is, if it wins a TMUD credit, will Stark go back to its original nuCLEus plan of a 54-story Jenga-styled tower?

The BOK Park Plaza tower in Oklahoma City is
being used by architects as a placeholder massing
for the Sherwin-Williams headquarters tower. But
the final form will be about eight stories taller and
may add curves or new angles (Pickard Chilton).

Sherwin-Williams global headquarters -- 1450 W. 3rd St., 34-35 stories, 475-525 feet, 1 million square feet. The coatings giant said it hopes to break ground at the end of 2021 on its new headquarters complex with designs to be submitted to the city by summer.

Included is an office tower at the northwest corner of West 3rd and Superior Avenue, a new Center of Excellence on Public Square, plus a massive parking garage at the northwest corner of West 3rd and Frankfort Avenue for up to 1,000 cars. No TMUD application will be submitted by Sherwin-Williams.

One of Cleveland undeveloped waterfronts is the one that's closest
to Public Square. This conceptual rendering shows a potential pro-
 gram of work for Rock Ohio to develop that waterfront (Vocon).

Tower City Riverview --  115 Huron Rd., 15-25 stories, 225+ feet tall, unknown as to mass. Two of the fastest-growing mortgage companies in the nation have the bulk of their office employment in downtown Cleveland, or soon will. CrossCountry Mortgage will move its headquarters from Brecksville to the east side of downtown. And Rocket Mortgage is rapidly expanding its offices in the Higbee Building at Tower City Center. But will they stay there?

Sources say preliminary site evaluation is under way by design and engineering firm IBI Group of Toronto for developing the Riverview parking lots between Huron Road and the Cuyahoga River. Recent massings by Vocon architects for Rock Ohio's affiliate Bedrock Real Estate show a mix of offices, residential and recreation for this area. This is a potential applicant for a TMUD tax credit.

Two towers are planned to rise at the north end of the Van Aken
District and next to the Shaker Heights Country Club (SCB).

Van Aken District Phase 2 -- 19999 Farnsleigh Rd., 17 stories, 190 feet tall, about 230,000 square feet. A likely TMUD candidate, this project would add about 225 market-rate apartments to the new Van Aken District in a stunning design of two connected towers. One tower is proposed to be 17 stories and the other 16.

RMS Corp. is trying to position the Van Aken District, located at the end of the light-rail Blue Line, as the downtown of Shaker Heights. There is already the 12-story Tower East office building immediately east of the Van Aken District. Additional offices are planned as part of the mixed-use district but will likely wait until the office market warms up again.

In total, that makes seven to nine projects out of 17 listed here (including the four renovations listed at the top) that could be potential applicants for TMUD tax credits. That's a welcome sign as it will leave more credits in the future for more projects, including some of which that were listed in this recent project inventory.

Many of the projects or potential projects listed in that inventory may not be ready to see construction start in the coming year. Or, there simply is a lack of information to say whether those projects have enough financing to move forward. But suffice it to say, the next year and beyond are going to be busy times in Cleveland's real estate construction industry.


Friday, February 26, 2021

Little Italy development site back in play

These preliminary views show a 105-unit apartment building
proposed along East 123rd Street at the north end of Little Italy,
next to Lakeview Cemetery. Also planned as part of the develop-
ment are nine for-sale townhomes along Coltman Road (GLSD).

After many years of false starts and litigation, a large vacant parcel at the north end of Little Italy is back in play for a new real estate development.

Property owner University Circle Inc. has selected a partnership of Property Advisors Group of Beachwood and M. Panzica Development of Cleveland to develop what is called the Woodhill Supply site. The vacant 2.14-acre property is located in the 1800 block of East 123rd Street and Coltman Road.

Preliminary illustrations of the partnership's vision for the site were submitted earlier this week to the city of Cleveland's Building Department for a zoning review. The zoning review will reveal what, if any, variances may be needed prior to securing a building permit from the city.

Plans also have to be approved by the local design-review committee and the city's Landmarks Commission as Little Italy is an historic district. GLSD Architects, LLC, a Geis Companies affiliate, is the project's designer.

Early planning drafts show a 114-unit housing development offering a mix of for-sale and rental units. It includes an L-shaped, 105-unit Woodhill Apartments building along East 123rd next to Lakeview Cemetery plus two new streets, both linking East 123rd and Coltman and proposed new parking lots adding about 105 spaces.

The Woodhill Supply site is the location of the proposed Panzica-
Property Advisors Group development (Cuyahoga County).

The roughly 98,000-square-foot apartment building is proposed to be mostly four stories tall with a section at the northeast corner, away from existing housing, standing five stories. Also proposed is a row of nine, three-story-tall, for-sale townhouses along Coltman. The townhomes would have their own garages on the ground-floor of each unit and accessed from behind.

Plans show the apartment building with a ground-floor lobby, on-site management/leasing office, gym, two parcel rooms, as well as a meeting room with kitchen. Outdoor grassy areas include tables and benches plus a play area for children. Those plans are being studied by the neighborhood's design-review committee.

"We're working through the preliminary design discussions with the stakeholders," said development principal Mike Panzica. "Still premature to discuss in detail."

UCI President Chris Ronayne also said it was premature to discuss the proposed project.

This would be the second Little Italy endeavor by the partnership of M. Panzica Development and Property Advisors Group. Their first, Baricelli Inn Apartments, is under construction on Cornell Road next to the historic Baricelli Inn, an 1896-built stone mansion that was previously the Washington Place Bistro & Inn. The new-build apartment building will have 44 housing units while the historic inn will be converted into a dozen apartments.

An early draft from last fall of what the for-sale townhomes along
Coltman Road could look like, and how they could screen views
of the apartment building from some nearby homes (contributed).

For UCI, it's their second potential asset disposition this year to a developer seeking to inject new residential life into an underutilized property. At Ford Drive and Hessler Road, developers Rick Maron and Russell Berusch want to renovate two historic buildings with nine apartments and add behind them a new building with 23 micro-unit apartments.

Since UCI isn't a governmental agency, it isn't subject to public bidding requirements. Instead, for each asset disposition, UCI sent requests for information to several developers to solicit responses from them. The responses were reviewed by UCI's Development Committee.

At a Feb. 10 community meeting on the Ford-Hessler development, UCI's Vice President of Community Development Debbie Berry said UCI was looking for particular developers. Specifically, they were looking for developers that had the capacity to deliver projects and had experience in working in the community development organization's service area.

The Little Italy site became available after Woodhill Supply Inc., a distributor of kitchen and bath materials, moved out of the neighborhood in 2010 for locations in Cleveland and Willoughby.

In 2005, Woodhill Supply President Arnold Kaufman and salesman Michael Semlar were convicted of their involvement in a Cleveland Water Division corruption case and sentenced to prison. The vacated buildings caught fire in 2015 and their heavily damaged remnants were demolished. No documents regarding cause of the fire were immediately available. 

Preliminary site plan showing a redevelopment concept for
the Woodhill Supply site in Little Italy (GLSD).

In 2014, Visconsi Companies Ltd. of Pepper Pike proposed a 205-unit apartment complex featuring two buildings, each six stories tall. One would have been along Coltman and the other along East 123rd. Between them was to be a two-level parking garage with the first level below ground and the second level topped by a green roof.

Although the project was approved by the Landmarks Commission and granted variances by the Board of Zoning Appeals, a neighbor of the development site filed multiple legal challenges over several years against the city, its zoning administrator and then-property owner East 123 St. Properties, Ltd. for approving the project.

Despite his legal defeats and mostly unsuccessful appeals, the resident wore down Visconsi which gave notice in March 2018 to the Eighth District Court of Appeals that it would no longer pursue its option to acquire the property. The resident promptly dropped the legal challenges.

In March 2019, UCI acquired the Woodhill Supply property for $1.975 million from East 123 St. Properties. The property is next to UCI's operations center and police department. However, UCI determined that disposing of the Woodhill Supply site for redevelopment offered its highest and best use.

Tyler Kapusta contributed to this article.


Monday, February 22, 2021

Work starts on Via Sana on West 25th near MetroHealth

Phase one of MetroHealth's $60 million housing plan for the West
25th Street corridor is Via Sana, located at Sackett Avenue (RDL).

Construction is beginning on the first of three buildings that will comprise a $60-million mixed-use project in Cleveland’s Clark-Fulton neighborhood. The building is being developed by The NRP Group, The MetroHealth System and CCH Development Corp. -- a public-private partnership that will strengthen and revitalize the west side neighborhood by filling a need for high-quality housing.

Known as Vía Sana, meaning “healthy way,” the four-story building -- located at the corner of West 25th Street and Sackett Avenue -- will feature 72 one-, two- and three-bedroom affordable rental residences. Vía Sana is expected to be completed in early 2022.

Akram Boutros, MetroHealth president and CEO, said the name aligns with the health system's vision and plans to have a positive impact on both the physical and economic health of the people who live in the Clark-Fulton community adjacent to its main campus and beyond.

"Living a healthy life is so much more than just having medical care," Boutros said. "Factors like having access to good, safe, affordable homes, access to healthy food and access to economic opportunity can have more of an impact than doctors and hospitals. Via Sana represents our commitment to building a healthier neighborhood and providing better opportunities for its people."

Development masterplan for the new MetroHealth
System's main campus with West 25th Street along
the left side of the image. Residential features of
the health system's plan are located on both sides
of West 25th (MetroHealth).

When complete, the mixed-use development will include more than 250 affordable and market-rate apartments, 36,000 square feet of retail space and a 5,000-square-foot MetroHealth Economic Opportunity Center – all part of a holistic, sustainable neighborhood designed to support an equitable, diverse and inclusive mixed-income population.

Operated in partnership with Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C), the opportunity enter on the first floor of Vía Sana will offer job training, financial and digital literacy training and access to Tri-C classes.

"We could not be more pleased to be partnering with MetroHealth to provide safe, high quality housing to the Clark-Fulton neighborhood, as well as services that build pathways of opportunity for the community," said J. David Heller, co-founder and CEO at The NRP Group. "Dr. Boutros is a true trailblazer and national leader in thinking outside the hospital walls to bring health and opportunity to the entire community."

MetroHealth’s nonprofit affiliate, CCH Development, is partnering on the project with developer The NRP Group. No taxpayer funds that go to MetroHealth are being used in the project. Rresidences at Vía Sana will be available to individuals and families earning between 30 to 80 percent of the area’s median income.

Future housing plans include these apartment buildings over
ground-floor retail and fronting West 25th Street (RDL).

The Clark-Fulton community is part of Mayor Frank Jackson’s Neighborhood Transformation Initiative and was selected as the recipient of federal funds earmarked for affordable housing through a special program created to honor the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act (FHAct50). As a result, the affordable housing component of the project received tax credits as part of the state’s FHAct50 program, which supports the city’s efforts to create a more diverse and accessible community.

Funding for the project, which was designed by RDL Architects, was provided by KeyBank, the State of Ohio and Cleveland’s Housing Trust Fund.

“MetroHealth and The NRP Group share my vision of wanting to help the Clark-Fulton community grow by improving the lives of the current community members, and bringing in new residents and businesses,’’ said Ward 14 Councilwoman Jasmin Santana. “I want to thank everyone involved in this project for spearheading this development, and bringing much-needed affordable housing options and new community amenities to the neighborhood.”

The retail portion of the overall development including and beyond this first building will feature conveniences such as a grocery store and amenities including restaurants, childcare and other community spaces. MetroHealth plans to give priority to local neighborhood businesses when filling the commercial space, and will relocate the headquarters of its MetroHealth Police Department to the property.


Friday, February 19, 2021

Sherwin-Williams releases site plans--mirrors NEOtrans' info

Sherwin-Williams released this official site plan today for its new
global headquarters in downtown Cleveland. Compare this site
plan with the one below that NEOtrans has been reporting on
this blog for the past month, plus other HQ insights (SHW).

Today, Sherwin-Williams (SHW) released its official site plan for its new global headquarters (HQ) campus in downtown Cleveland. The graphic released by the global coatings giant is virtually identical to one that NEOtrans has been reporting for a month now.

The preliminary HQ site plan posted on SHW's official Building Our Future (BOF) Web site is not the only new illustration that was shared by the company. Also provided was a preliminary site plan for the new research and development facility in suburban Brecksville.

"These proposed plans provide a high-level footprint of buildings, parking and green spaces for each site," said SHW on its BOF site. "Over the coming months, these plans will be refined and reviewed by the City of Cleveland and the City of Brecksville as required by their respective planning and design organizations."

SHW said that, based the work completed to date, company officials expect to submit design plans to each city during the second half of 2021 with a goal of breaking ground at both sites no later than the fourth quarter of this year.

This is the site plan that NEOtrans first published on Jan. 24
based on  information provided by members of SHW's HQ
design team. Several structures, each designed by SHW
HQ architect Pickard Chilton, were used to demonstrate
comparable buildings and their relationship to one
another on Cleveland's HQ site (Google/KJP).

For the HQ site plan, SHW confirmed what NEOtrans has been reporting -- that an office tower won't be built right up against Public Square as were Terminal Tower, Key Tower and 200 Public Square. Instead, a "Learning Center & Amenity" space will be built on the 1.17-acre parking lot next to Public Square. That lot was previously owned by the Jacobs Group and dubbed the Jacobs Lot.

Sources on the HQ design team told NEOtrans weeks ago that the learning center would measure about 50,000 to 80,000 square feet and be no more than several stories tall. It would offer a conference center for employee training and corporate meetings as well as a small company museum (their existing museum is only 6,000 square feet).

The same sources said a comparable structure design-wise may be Pickard Chilton's smaller, 22,000-square-foot Devon Energy Center Auditorium in Oklahoma City, across the street from the BOK Park Plaza. The latter is reportedly being used as a model for SHW HQ designers. Pickard Chilton is designing SHW's HQ.

One block west of Public Square, on the northwest corner of Superior Avenue and West 3rd Street, would be the site of SHW's new 1-million-square-foot HQ office tower. A parking garage will be just north of the tower, across Frankfort Avenue on 5.65 acres of existing parking lots previously owned by the Weston Group. The garage will have ground-floor commercial space on West 3rd but not Frankfort Avenue, per city code.

A preliminary site plan for SHW's research and development
facilities in suburban Brecksville (SHW).

As sources have said over the past couple of months, the HQ tower will likely not challenge its neighbors in terms of height. Instead, a modern glass box tower that is about 34-35 stories tall or nearly 500 feet high (e.g. 200 Public Square is 658 feet tall) is still being considered, sources said. But the glass box may have been more for massing purposes to determine floor space that would match programmed uses, sources are now saying.

SHW executives are starting to receive the plans including for exterior/curtain walls and will debate them over the next couple of weeks. While all of the floor plans are currently rectangular, executives and design team members are considering making the exterior a little more interesting than a box. The exterior form could be angled or bowed out to add some curvature or angles to it.

Sources said the plans still won't be very aggressive, considering we're talking about stodgy SHW here. But executives also apparently don't want their new HQ to be too boring either. To that end, the tower may also incorporate some color, such as SHW's Color of the Month, rather than just a glass curtain that reflects Cleveland's winter gray.

Also, NEOtrans previously reported that the western and northern perimeter of the HQ site will be left for future development -- including by other interests that might support HQ functions and employees. That was also confirmed by SHW. Those uses could include lodging, restaurants, cafes and shops that extend the current uses in the Warehouse District farther south and east along West 6th Street and St. Clair Avenue.

However, SHW disputed something that NEOtrans has been reporting -- that SHW won't be ready to move into their new HQ until 2025. Instead, the company addressed that in a written statement to SHW employees today.

The BOK Park Plaza in Oklahoma City and designed
by Pickard Chilton is being used by the SHW HQ
design team as a placeholder massing to determine
space needs and match it with programming, but
may be altered per executive input with curves or
angles to make more interesting (Pickard Chilton).

"There are multiple project workstreams underway, all focused on creating a next-generation workplace designed to serve our customers at the highest level, retaining and attracting top talent, and igniting creativity, collaboration and industry-leading innovation," SHW's statement said. 

"Over these last many months, there has been a remarkable level of collaboration and effort put forth by the BOF team consisting of our key partners, special consultants and Sherwin-Williams employees. But we are really just getting started. With a transition to new facilities by the end of 2024, there is significant work ahead of us," the statement added.

SHW also is publicly holding to its conservative jobs estimate for the HQ and R&D facilities.

"Combined, the two facilities will house more than 3,500 employees with room to accommodate future growth over time," SHW says in its latest statement.

However, NEOtrans reported earlier this month that the new HQ is being designed to accommodate 3,500 employees. That's 500 more employees than are currently based in SHW's existing downtown offices in the Landmark and Skylight office buildings along Prospect Avenue. Although many employees are still working remotely for a little while longer.



SHW sent the following information to employees today (02-19-21). It hasn't been posted publicly yet on the BOF site:

Since announcing our key partners last September, there has been a tremendous amount of work done to progress the Building Our Future (BOF) project. While we took a brief pause last year with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sherwin-Williams project team and our partners are fully engaged and making considerable progress. And, though many of you may be working remotely, the Company remains fully committed to building a new global headquarters and a new global R&D center designed to foster our strong culture of community, collaboration, innovation, employee development and engagement.

There are multiple project workstreams underway, all focused on creating a next-generation workplace designed to serve our customers at the highest level, retaining and attracting top talent, and igniting creativity, collaboration and industry-leading innovation. Over these last many months, there has been a remarkable level of collaboration and effort put forth by the BOF team consisting of our key partners, special consultants and Sherwin-Williams employees. But we are really just getting started. With a transition to new facilities by the end of 2024, there is significant work ahead of us.

As a reminder, the planned ~1,000,000 square foot global headquarters will be in downtown Cleveland just west of Public Square between Saint Clair Avenue and Superior Avenue. The planned ~500,000 square foot R&D center will be located in Brecksville, just off I-77 at Miller Road and Brecksville Road. The Company plans to invest a minimum of $600 million to build both facilities. Combined, the two facilities will house more than 3,500 employees with room to accommodate future growth over time. 

We are still working through the site development process and design planning for both facilities. Today we are excited to share proposed site development plans that provide a high-level footprint of buildings, parking and green spaces for each site. Over the coming months, these plans will be refined and reviewed by the City of Cleveland and the City of Brecksville as required by their respective planning and design organizations.

You can view the site plans here.

Sherwin-Williams has been and will continue to be a proud supporter of our local communities. We are committed to and value inclusion, diversity and equity (ID&E) in our workforce. This ID&E commitment is being extended to our BOF project. We have been working proactively with the cities, community leaders and trade partners to ensure this project positively impacts the local economy by providing workforce opportunities for the community. This includes awarding contracts to minority-owned and female-owned businesses, as well as small businesses. The Company continues to explore in collaboration with our partners how we can apply our ID&E approach to a broad spectrum of project activities.

Based upon the work completed to date, we expect to submit design plans to each city during the second half of 2021 with a goal of breaking ground at both sites no later than the fourth quarter of this year. 

This is a multi-year project and as such, there will be key milestones along the way. While we don’t have all of these defined today, we will continue to provide employees regular updates as new information becomes available. In the meantime, for the most current information related to the BOF project, please visit 

I know this last year has been challenging on many fronts and I appreciate your efforts in maintaining the health of each other and that of the Company. Thank you for all you do to meet the needs of our global customers and ensure their success.


Sunday, February 14, 2021

Reno, new-build planned at Ford, Hessler in University Circle

The new-construction portion of a plan to improve and expand
residential offerings at Ford Drive and Hessler Road in Cleve-
land's University Circle features this proposed building with
23 market-rate, micro-unit apartments (SA Group).

Two high-profile properties owned by University Circle Inc. (UCI) are proposed to be sold to a partnership led by two men with experience in developing real estate in the University Circle area.

The partnership comprised of Russell Berusch and Rick Maron propose to renovate the exteriors and modernize the interiors of two historic buildings on Ford Drive. They also want to add a four-story building on Hessler Road, behind the Ford dwellings. The new building would be filled with 23 micro-unit apartments.

Altogether, between the two existing buildings and the new building, 32 market-rate apartments are planned. UCI's Development Committee requested informational plans from prospective developers for their two properties totaling 0.411 acres at 1975 and 1981 Ford Drive.

Two proposals were received by UCI. It chose the Berusch-Maron proposal primarily because their development plan would not demolish the historic buildings. Instead, the seven-bedroom, five-bath house at 1975 Ford will be refurbished with five apartments while 1981 Ford will see its four apartments updated. Both buildings date from around the turn of the prior century.

The new strip of surface parking is what makes this proposed
development plan possible without demolishing the historic
houses on Ford as another developer proposed (SA Group).

The other respondent, which wasn't identified, proposed to replace the historic buildings with new construction, said UCI President Chris Ronayne. He spoke during a Feb. 10 community meeting held on Zoom. There were 55 participants on the call, most of whom apparently were neighborhood residents.

"We did not think that (demolition) was appropriate," Ronayne said. "This (Hessler) is such a special street. It was the first landmark district in the city of Cleveland. I'm grateful that the Berusch-Maron team are joining us today to continue with yet another proposal for what I think will add to this vibrancy."

Part of what made new development possible without demolishing anything is that the Maron family, through MRN Ltd., developed the adjacent Uptown neighborhood. Through AJAPPJR Uptown II LLC, the Maron family owns land behind a parking garage for Uptown.

The Berusch-Maron partnership plans to use a strip of that land for a 27-space parking lot to support this development. The new lot would be hidden behind a 6-foot-solid fence as well as by surrounding structures. 

"That (parking lot) is kind of important from the community aspect because with the new development, there's going to be 23 new units added," said Rick Maron. "The whole area has a parking dynamic that needs to be addressed. It's all hidden. I think it's a nice amenity for helping community issues of parking, not putting further demand on the area, and also visually not bothering anybody."

This vacant lot behind the house at 1975 Ford Drive is part of that
property's parcel. The garage at left would either have to be razed
or relocated to accommodate the micro-unit apartments (UCI).

The proposed parking lot would also include spaces and charging stations for six electric cars that would be available for use by subscription to any resident of the planned development.

"It transitions people away from being so dependent on one person-one car," Maron said. "I think it's going to be a movement in society especially with the urban movement going forward. I don't know that in Cleveland it's there yet. But it's an interesting idea and we'd like to try it."

The new apartment building is proposed to be four stories tall and rise on the backyard of 1975 Ford. Even though its part of the same parcel as 1975 Ford, it will have its own address -- 11300 Hessler. And it will be 10 feet shorter than the existing five-story apartment building across the street at 11211 Hessler, according to the latest plans.

The new building will measure about 15,500 square feet and have six 460-square-foot micro units on each floor except the top floor which will have five. On the that floor, one unit will be sacrificed for a open rooftop deck. Windows are planned on all sides of the building except the east side, plans showed.

No zoning variances are required for this development to move forward, said Daniel Sirk, owner of and architect at SA Group LLC -- the designer of this and many other projects by Maron.
An evening view of the proposed new micro-unit apartment building
with its 16 balconies and patios facing Hessler, contributing to its
neighborly feel and adding more eyes on the street (SA Group).

The development plan may be reviewed starting on Feb. 23 by the City Planning Commission's Euclid Corridor Design Review Committee. If the committee likes the plan and recommends no major changes, the city's Landmark Commission could receive the plans for review in March.

The developers said they hope to renovate the historic buildings in summer when students at nearby institutions are gone. Their target for breaking ground on the new micro-unit apartment building is June or July and get the structural shell up before next winter. Their goal is to complete it by March 2022.

Most of the construction materials, equipment staging and workers vehicles will access the site from the rear although one day of concrete slab foundation pours will have to be made from Hessler, Maron said.

Berusch added that preliminary rents for the micro units are anticipated to be about $1,500-1,600 per month including utilities, internet and parking. Projected monthly rents for the existing buildings are approximately $850 to $1,350.
One of the layout options that the resident can open up within
the micro units. The other living layouts are dining, cooking,
working, home office or simply lounging (SA Group).

"We're appealing to professionals at area institutions, mostly singles and some couples, professional or graduate students seeking a private space," he said.

The micro units would have open floors with lots of cabinets for hiding away chairs, a couch, a queen-sized Murphy bed, filing cabinets for a home office and mechanicals. A table on wheels can be raised or lowered to be a desk, countertop or dining room table. Each unit is self-contained in terms of its heating/ventilating/air conditioning (HVAC) and other features.

As is typical with Maron's other micro-unit developments, the closet across from bathroom has a washer and drier with electric hot water tank and HVAC unit for each apartment. All lighting is by LEDs. Kitchen appliances are standard-sized, the tiled full bathrooms have showers and nearly all of the units will have balconies or patios, Maron said.

In addition to developing properties separately around University Circle, Berusch and Maron worked together on the Uptown mixed-use neighborhood along both sides of Euclid Avenue from Ford to East 116th Street. They are currently working jointly on a micro-unit apartment project at 12607 Larchmere Blvd.

Looking eastwardly down Hessler Road from Ford Drive, the
planned apartment building is visible at right, across from a
larger apartment building with balconies (SA Group).

"I know the developers that are working on this project," said Ward 6 Councilman Blaine Griffin. "They're doing some neat things for us on Larchmere Boulevard. This is a great opportunity to really try to reinvigorate one of Cleveland's most historical neighborhoods."

Maron said he retired from MRN Ltd. two years ago and now develops independently or in partnership with others. But his experience in developing the East Fourth Street plus other projects downtown gave rise to his interest in micro-unit apartments.

"The units that rented the fastest were the smallest units, I think because they were cheaper units," he said. "They did not have storage. They typically were studios. The bedrooms were next to the kitchen without any cabinetry and I just felt it was not conducive to good living."

He says he sees micro units as part of emerging trends in terms of where people want to live, namely in cities, and the smaller size of many households in America today, namely without children.

"I don't know if the pandemic will change this, but 70 percent of the (nation's) population will be living in urban areas," he said, referring to recent market research he's read. "There's a lot less people forming traditional-type families. This was a product we thought it was a time a little ahead of its schedule. The concept here is for a single person or a couple."

The existing two buildings that University Circle Inc. plans to
sell to the development partnership are 1975 Ford, at center-
left and 1981 Ford at center-right. Both are proposed to have
their historic facades repaired and their interiors modernized
with more open floors, new appliances and utilities (UCI).

He said the micro units could be modified if they aren't successful or if market trends change. A wall could be removed between two of the units and make them into a single, 920-square-foot apartment. But he doubted that this would be necessary because he said he believes in the future of micro units.

The developers are seeking property tax abatement from the city for their proposed new development. They are also seeking infrastructure improvements, including to Hessler.

Most of the comments and questions at the Feb. 10 meeting focused on parking and the development's design. But some questions, including by Maron himself, were focused on the poor condition of Hessler's brick-paved road.

"I've already reached out to Public Works to talk about what kind of things they can recommend to me to look at the infrastructure in the area," Griffin said. "I've already heard from some of you (residents) that that is something that's very important."

However, he noted that the city doesn't have a brick streets repair program. He said a city consultant made a recommendation to remove Hessler's brick and wood surfaces for something more permanent -- in other words, asphalt. But Griffin said he continues to press the city's Chief Operating Officer Darnell Brown and Matt Spronz, director of the mayor's Office of Capital Projects for a cost estimate to repair Hessler.

Tyler Kapusta contributed to this article.