Sunday, April 11, 2021

Temperatures rising? So is Cleveland

Site preparation for the 24-story Artisan apartment tower in Univer-
sity Circle is visibly underway in this aerial photo taken last week.
Artisan will be the new height champion in Cleveland's second
downtown. The lofty crown has been worn since 2018 by the
20-story One University Circle apartment tower seen in the
background at left in this southward-looking view. Along
the right side is East 105th Street with Chester Avenue
in the lower part of this image (Adam Greene).

With the arrival of spring and warmer weather, it's time for planting. And several long-planned projects are about to rise up out of the ground.

The largest of these is the 24-story Artisan tower, soon to be University Circle's tallest building at 250 feet high. A development team led by White Oak Realty Partners of Chicago started site preparations this past week on the luxury apartment tower at 10600 Chester Ave.

Subcontractors for general contractor Power Construction Co. of Chicago started excavating the 1.58-acre property where the 306,200-square-foot building will rise. Artisan will offer 298 market-rate apartments and 287 parking spaces over 14,005 square feet of ground-floor retail. 

According to FitzGerald Associates Architects, also of Chicago, Artisan will also offer a generous rooftop amenity level that includes a lounge, party room, library, conference center, fitness suite with yoga room and an outdoor deck with pool, hot tub, cabanas and grill areas.

Looking southward at Artisan from near the intersection of
Chester Avenue and East 105th Street (FitzGerald).

This is the first new building in the multiple-structure City Square development first proposed in 2015 by Midwest Development Partners of Cleveland. However the project technically began several years ago when The Orleans Co. renovated its 13-story, 1923-built Fenway Manor, 1986 Stokes Blvd., two years ago for $25 million.

City, sewer and electric utility crews were also starting work in the area to remove trees, utilities and streets from land acquired by Midwest Development Partners and its affiliates. That includes the removal of a high-speed turning lane from Chester to Stokes Boulevard on which the northeast corner of Artisan will be built.

Other land now being cleared will eventually be developed for later phases of Circle Square. But for now, it will be used for construction staging for Circle Square's near-term phases (see illustration below). They include Artisan, a 488-space parking deck and the 11-story Library Lofts, a 207-unit apartment building above what will be the new MLK Branch Library.

Parking for the existing library will be moved temporarily to the east side of Stokes. Work on Library Lofts and the parking deck will start this summer. They were designed by Bialosky Cleveland and will be built by Cleveland-based Panzica Construction Co.

Developing Circle Square will require a complicated staging
procedure involving multiple steps in the proper sequence
to work around the existing MLK Branch Library that
will stay open throughout construction (MDP).

Later phases of Circle Square could include a second apartment tower perhaps as tall as Artisan. There will also be a second new parking garage, an office building approximately 13-15 stories high, plus a hotel roughly seven to nine stories tall atop the first new parking garage that will be built south of Artisan, planning documents show.

In other news....

Demolition is due to get underway as early as April 19 to clear land at 2461 W. 25th St. for TREO -- yet another local effort led by a Chicago-based developer. The 170-unit apartment building is the creation of Mavrek Development joined by Schiff Capital Group of Columbus. The general contractor is The Kreuger Group of Cleveland.

TREO is the first phase of a potential 10-acre, mixed-use development in the Lincoln Heights section of Tremont. It could feature up to 650 housing units and ground-floor retailers. NEOtrans broke the story about TREO last October. NEOtrans followed that up last week by breaking the news about Knez Homes acquiring 3.55 acres of the Cleveland Animal Protective League's property two blocks away.

Looking south at TREO from above Walworth Run with West 25th
Street's bridge over the lowlands, Train Avenue and Norfolk
Southern railroad tracks visible at right (NORR).

Butcher & Son, Inc. of Akron will demolish the Sass Automotive & Wrecking garage on West 25th along with three houses in the 2400 block of West 20th Street, according to documents filed with the Cleveland Building Department last week. Sass Auto has already relocated to Brookpark Road in Parma.

Although demolition and site preparation work could get underway in about one week, Mavrek Principal Adam Friedberg said the site excavation and construction work could follow sometime next month.

"We are planning a more formal ground-breaking ceremony in May but have not yet finalized the details," he said in a recent e-mail.

TREO will be a five-story building from most angles, including from West 25th. But from an extension of Fillmore Avenue below West 25th, it will be seven stories. Below the 211,516-square-foot building will be a two-level parking garage with 152 parking spaces.

Looking northerly at TREO from West 25th Street near the Porco
Lounge & Tiki Room, which won't be demolished (NORR).

The building will also feature a rooftop terrace with unobstructed views of downtown Cleveland. There will be an in-house fitness center, elevator access to all floors, private landscaped courtyard, co-working lounge and bike storage for 90 bicycles.

And finally....

Renovation of the Warner & Swasey property, 5701 Carnegie Ave., may go out to bid before July, according to the Dodge Reports. At full buildout, Pennrose Properties of Philadelphia is seeking to redevelop the property for $53 million with 140 senior and workforce housing units. That could result in construction starting on the first phase in late-summer.

The project, located at the geographic heart of Cleveland's MidTown neighborhood, is considered essential to redeveloping the area by community development officials. The Warner & Swasey building has sat vacant for 30 years. For 110 years before that, machine tools were manufactured in the imposing structure.

Site plan and ground-floor uses proposed for the redevelopment
of the Warner & Swasey factory on Carnegie Avenue (Pennrose).

The $15.6 million first phase of redevelopment consists of 56 affordable senior housing units. For this phase, Pennrose secured $1 million in tax credits last year from a highly competitive program administered by the Ohio Housing Finance Agency.

Additionally, Pennrose has been amassing New Market Tax Credits, Low Income Housing Tax Credits and historic tax credits. But those elements are less competitive. Indeed, as long as a project meets the requirements for some programs, such as the Ohio Housing Finance Agency's 4 percent housing tax credit, it will receive them.

Pennrose also has $1.25 million in hard debt plus $1.5 million in Opportunity Zone funding but is seeking another $8.5 million in O-Zone equity to develop the workforce housing, according to the project's pro-forma that Pennrose submitted to the state.

One setback is that Pennrose is looking for a new general contractor for the project. It isn't known why its previous GC, Turnbull-Wahlert Construction Inc. of Cincinnati, left the project. But apparently it hasn't significantly delayed the project which hoped last year to go out to bid in early 2021.


Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Knez Homes wins large undeveloped Tremont property

The area outlined in the thick red line is currently owned by the
Cleveland Animal Protective League. The lighter red line is a
proposed lot split divider between land that the APL will retain
at the north end of the site and what Knez Homes will acquire
from the APL at the south end of the site. At left is West 25th
Street with Scranton Road and Interstate 90 at right (CCFO).

In Cleveland's built-up, booming near-West Side neighborhoods of Tremont and Ohio City, it's not often that a clean, undeveloped piece of land as big as 3.55 acres becomes available for development. But that's what just happened in the Lincoln Heights section of Tremont.

And Knez Homes, one of Greater Cleveland's largest housing developers, won that big prize.

Bo Knez, president and owner of Knez Homes, confirmed that his company will be acquiring the clean-and-green land from the Cleveland Animal Protective League (APL). The land is just south of the APL's newly renovated and expanded facilities, 1729 Willey Ave.

Knez declined to disclose terms of the deal. The transaction was facilitated by CBRE Cleveland and First Vice President Conor Coakley who said the property transfer is now in the due diligence phase.

"It's pretty big for us," Knez said in a phone interview. "It's one of the biggest pieces available on the West Side. It's a prime piece of property. We put in our bid for it and we're lucky to get it. Tremont is a growing area and we're happy to have this opportunity to invest in the neighborhood."

The Lincoln Heights Master Plan included this close-up of a deve-
lopment vision for the area that the APL has agreed to sell to Knez
 Homes. It includes land that would remain a publicly accessible
greenspace, plus new residential development and an extension
of Brevier Avenue to create access between West 25th Street
to the west and Scranton Road to the east (Seventh Hill).

The Cleveland APL first solicited interest in the property about seven years ago. But the APL was in the midst of its own growth and wasn't sure how it wanted to expand. Several site plans were considered, including at least one that showed a surface parking lot expanded south into the area that Knez ended up buying.

So how will Knez, well known locally for its single-family homes and urban townhouses, develop the site? That will be determined over the coming months as community input is gathered. Knez said he reached out yesterday to Tremont West Development Corp. Executive Director Cory Riordan.

Riordan acknowledged receiving an e-mail from NEOtrans about the property acquisition but hasn't yet provided comment. Khalid Hawthorne, Tremont West's director of real estate development, said a recent masterplan process, called the Lincoln Heights Master Plan is the guiding land use vision for that area.

The Lincoln Heights Master Plan was approved a little more than a year ago by affected block clubs, Tremont West's board and the City Planning Commission. It shows the subject property developed with a small park surrounded by townhouses and a multi-family building, plus Brevier Avenue extended through to West 20th Street, thus providing more direct access to Scranton Road to the east and West 25th Street to the west. 

"I want to hear more from Knez but we will always reference the Lincoln Heights plan as a starting point (for discussions)," Hawthorne said.

In its promotional materials, the seller showed how close its
for-sale property is to downtown Cleveland. This northward-
looking view clearly shows that proximity (Google).

"It's a blank slate," Knez said of the property his firm is acquiring. "We'll work with Tremont West and see what they want there."

"The (Lincoln Heights) plan calls for a mixture of green space and housing," Ward 3 Councilman Kerry McCormack said. "I think it's a good start."

This area, south of Ohio City's Market District and north of Interstate 90 and the expanded Nestle USA's L.J. Minor Plant, is experiencing significant growth after decades of neglect. It's the new home of Front Steps' St. Joseph Commons, a 68-unit residential facility as well as Horizon Education Center on the west side of West 25th.

The site is also within an easy walk of West 25th along which the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority is proposing to create a lite-version of its bus rapid transit on Euclid Avenue, called the HealthLine. The 25Connects project would extend from Pearl and Broadview roads in Old Brooklyn to Detroit Avenue at the north end of Ohio City.

Mavrek Development of Chicago is leading a multi-phase development along and east of West 25th, starting with Treo, a five-story building with ground-floor commercial spaces topped by 160 apartments. How it and later phases mesh with Knez's development remains to be seen.

Knez Homes is building multiple residential developments in the
City of Cleveland, including affordable infill homes as well as
luxury townhouses such as these, called West Nineteen,
located in the Duck Island section of Tremont (Knez).

"Knez builds a really good for-sale product, so I'm confident that, working with the community, they will come up with something really exciting," McCormack said.

Currently, Knez's largest development on Cleveland's West Side is the Bailey Bridge Townhomes (previously called Fulton Row), located on a 2.1-acre former junk yard at Fulton Road and Bailey Avenue. Construction is underway on the 56-unit, $15 million development. 

The APL underwent its own expansion recently. Its 28,700-square-foot animal shelter was renovated and expanded by 7,000 square feet last year for $13.5 million. Also included was a new 77-space parking lot next to the railroad tracks and west of the new addition. APL's expansion received a certificate of occupancy from the city in November.

An e-mail seeking comment and more information from Cleveland APL President & CEO Sharon Harvey was not answered prior to publication of this article.

"APL is not confirming who the buyer(s) are at this point," Coakley said in an e-mail.

This 1896 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map shows the apparently
man-made pond that was drained more than 80 years ago and
filled in nearly 70 years ago. To the north of the pond was the
Beck Provisions slaughterhouse (where the APL is today). And
 to the right of the pond was a well-placed small factory making
pepsin, a digestive that breaks down proteins (Sanborn).

APL's expansion westward rather than southward into the land Knez is acquiring was made possible by a land swap several years ago between the APL and Sustainable Community Associates' to facilitate SCA's $26 million mixed-use development, The Lincoln. APL transferred to an affiliate of SCA two parcels on Willey Avenue in exchange for a Cleveland Land Bank parcel next to APL's existing property.

According to historical records, the property Knez will be acquiring has never been developed. How it avoided development during Cleveland's industrial boom in the late 1800s and early 1900s is an interesting story. According to Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps from the 1800s, the land was actually water -- a pond. It appears the pond was man-made, resulting from a dammed-up swale.

That pond was just uphill from the Beck Provision Co., a hog slaughterhouse located from 1882-1914 on Brevier at the railroad tracks -- back when Brevier turned northward and went under the tracks. Beck Provision prepared and sold sausage, bacon and cooked ham at the original Central Market downtown.

The pond appeared to provide ice for meat storage plus water for hogs and for cleaning the slaughterhouse. Waste could drain into Walworth Run, one of Cleveland's earliest industrial lowlands beyond the Cuyahoga River's Flats. From the pond and emptying into the slaughterhouse was a sluice -- a channel with a sliding gate for controlling the flow of water, Sanborn Maps show. 

A 1939 U.S. Geological Survey topographical map shows the pond was already drained by then. Overhead views from show the pond was partially filled in by 1952 and more thoroughly filled in by 1962. The Cleveland APL, a no-kill shelter, is located on the site of the long-gone slaughterhouse.


Friday, April 2, 2021

Another big new office building coming to Cleveland

At the south end of MetroHealth System's main campus in Cleveland
will rise a large, new medical office building and parking garage.
Estimated cost of the project is about $100 million (CEGIS).

Despite the soft office market during the pandemic and likely for some time after it, there are multiple Cleveland office building projects coming to the fore. The latest came to light this week as MetroHealth System received proposals for constructing a new medical office building on its main campus.

The new office building project is emerging as major structural construction work is nearing completion on the new 11-story Glick Center. That building, scheduled to open in October 2022, will feature a total of 270 single-occupancy patient rooms, plus a a women’s and children’s pavilion and a new environmentally efficient utility plant.

Just south of the Glick Center along Scranton Road will be the new medical office building. It is part of MetroHealth's $946 million campus transformation master plan. That includes new residential, the construction of which is just beginning.

John Campanelli, senior corporate content specialist in MetroHealth's marketing and communications office, said the new office building will be for medical professionals and their clients. The building was the subject of a recent request for proposals (RFP).

Although the height and design of MetroHealth's new medical office
building is unknown, a similar project was developed two decades
ago just south of Cleveland. Akron Children's Hospital built the
 250,000-square-foot Considine Professional Building. Two
years ago, that building was doubled in size (BWK).

"The project is in the very early stages," Campanelli said in an e-mail. "There was an RFP out for a design/build contractor and that RFP recently closed. Submitted proposals are being reviewed. Because of the early stage of the project, there are no renderings."

According to the RFP, the office building would measure about 250,000 square feet. It would also include a new attached parking garage. A rough cost estimate for the building and parking garage project is about $100 million.

Sources say the new office building will not be a tower but instead will probably top out at about four or five stories tall. The building will rise above neighboring Interstate 71 which has an interchange with West 25th Street/Pearl Road close by.

MetroHealth's Elisabeth Severance Prentiss Center for Skilled Nursing Care, 3525 Scranton Rd., will be demolished to make way for the medical office building. The single-story, 107,060-square-foot nursing facility was opened in 1999, county records show. Campanelli said work is already underway to prepare for the relocation of skilled nursing services.

Looking north on Scranton Road in September 2019, we see the
construction crane for the 11-story Glick Center towering over
the Elisabeth Severance Prentiss Center for Skilled Nursing
Care. The single-story facility will be razed to make way
for the new medical office building (Google).

In February, ProMedica and MetroHealth signed a collaborative agreement to develop a multimillion-dollar skilled nursing and rehabilitation center on the nearby MetroHealth Old Brooklyn campus, 4229 Pearl Rd. A specific cost estimate was unavailable.

The new facility is due to open in late 2021 and will be called ProMedica Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation at MetroHealth. The state-of-the-art facility will have 96 beds, be open 24 hours a day and be housed on four floors in the former Deaconess Hospital.

The timeline for opening the relocated skilled nursing facility points to demolition of the existing Prentiss Center may not occur for nearly a year. Construction of the new office building and parking garage would likely follow soon thereafter.

MetroHealth's partnership with ProMedica was finalized as construction had already gotten underway last fall on an additional $9 million worth of investments MetroHealth is making at the Old Brooklyn Campus.

These projects include the expansion of a research program that draws participants from around the world who have suffered spinal injuries and strokes, as well as new and improved space for the nationally recognized MetroHealth Rehabilitation Institute.


Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Seeds & Sprouts XVI - City Club tower gets start date & more

This is the Sixteenth edition of Seeds & Sprouts - Early intelligence on Cleveland-area real estate projects. Because these projects are very early in their process of development or just a long-range plan, a lot can and probably will change their final shape, use and outcome.

City Club Apartments tower, 720 Euclid Ave., could see a ground-
breaking occur on or about May 1. It is one of two 20+ story
apartment towers due to see construction start this spring in
Cleveland, marking the start of the Roaring 20s (Vocon).

City Club Apartments may get May 1 go-ahead

According to the construction bidding publication Dodge Reports, general contractor Cleveland Construction Inc. of Mentor has the green light to start construction May 1 on City Club Apartments -- downtown Cleveland's latest residential tower. The 23-story, 300-unit apartment building would rise at 720 Euclid Ave., one of the last downtown parking lots on the city's main thoroughfare.

City crews worked last month to relocate utilities below Euclid Avenue so that a construction tower crane for the project could be placed next to the sidewalk. But there is one more hurdle to overcome for City Club Apartments of of Farmington, MI.

A source close to the project said the property owner, currently the Goldberg family, has yet to formally notify the development team of a groundbreaking date. The reason is that the property is due to transfer to a new owner, CCA CBD Cleveland, LLC, an affiliate of City Club Apartments.

Goldberg carved out a half-acre plat from its larger 2-acre parcel last November. Goldberg's original parcel extended from Euclid south to Prospect Avenue and includes a six-level, 540-space parking garage in the middle of the property.

"The effect of the plat is to consolidate the 10 historical parcels and to split the approximately one-half acre parcel fronting on Euclid Avenue for sale to and development by CCA CBD Cleveland, LLC of the City Club Apartments project," wrote Mara Cushwa, partner and chair of Calfee, Halter & Griswold LLP's Real Estate practice group, in a Nov. 18, 2020 letter to the Cuyahoga County Fiscal Office Department.

Dodge Reports also said the cost of the construction project is $92.5 million. That's less than two other recent high-rise apartment developments -- The Beacon, a $95 million 19-story addition to the top of a 9-story parking garage and The Lumen, a $135 million 34-story apartment tower with a 540-space parking garage. 

The City Club Apartments will cost less because its height will be only 240 feet, averaging about a foot shorter per floor than either the Beacon or Lumen towers built in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Like The Beacon, City Club Apartments' parking will be availed by a nearby parking garage that is full during the day but underutilized at night.

The 24-story Artisan, shown above as 10600 Chester, is just one of
multiple high-rise buildings that will further cement the University
Circle area as Cleveland's "second downtown" (MDP).

Artisan apartments tower in UC to start by May

Along with the City Club Apartments, a taller tower in Cleveland's second downtown is among those planned to kick off the Roaring Twenties of construction projects in The Land. Artisan, 10600 Chester Ave., in University Circle will see a groundbreaking by May according to the Cleveland Business Journal.

When complete, the 298-unit market-rate apartment tower will top out at 24 stories and 250 feet and become the tallest building in University Circle. That nod currently belongs to One University Circle, a 20-story, 234-foot-tall apartment tower built a block away in 2018 at 10730 Euclid Ave.

White Oak Realty Partners of Chicago is joining with Midwest Development Partners of Cleveland and National Real Estate Advisors of  Washington DC to deliver the project. It will be first new building in the multi-tower development Circle Square.

City officials had hoped that that the 11-story, 207-unit Library Lofts apartments featuring a new, ground-floor MLK Branch Library would be Circle Square's first new building. But bureaucratic and pandemic-related delays by the Cleveland Public Library and Midwest Development Partners pushed Library Lofts' start date to late-Spring, CBJ reported.

Artisan will have 287 parking spaces over 14,005 square feet of ground-floor retail. Another 24,600 square feet of ground-floor retail will be below two other parking structures offering 488 more parking spaces. In total, there will be 775 spaces among all parking structures in the first phase. The first phase represents a $186 million investment, city documents show.

Floor plans and other documents were submitted to the city last week
for the conversion of the second floor of the New England Building,
629 Euclid Ave., from offices to apartments and a fitness center. The
plans were part of a request for a zoning review and building permit
application by an affiliate of MRN Ltd. (SA Group).

One floor of downtown office building to get apartments

A new building permit application to the city offers an indication of the health of two different downtown Cleveland markets -- office and residential. Jori Maron of Cleveland-based MRN Ltd., doing business as 629 Euclid Ltd., is seeking to convert vacant office spaces on the second floor of the historic New England Building into 11 market-rate apartments and a fitness center for building tenants.

The projected $1,275,000 renovation cost would convert the unused, 13,740-square-foot floor. Plans show the fitness center would measure 2,945 square feet and the apartments would average about 1,000 square feet each. The rest of the 17-story building is used for a Holiday Inn Express hotel and an office building including tenants like digital marketer Rosetta Inc. and real estate firm Stark Enterprises.

Maron did not respond prior to publication of this article seeking more information about the project, including if additional vacant office floors may be converted to residential or about the general health of the office market vs. residential market.

There is a lot going on in this block of Euclid Avenue. As noted at the top of this Seeds & Sprouts column, the City Club Apartments tower is due to see construction soon. And, last week, iHeart Media Cleveland announced it would move its offices, studios and about 100 employees later this year from suburban Independence to the ground floor of 668 Euclid Ave., across the street from the New England Building.

Plans for Green Opal Salon's new space in the Church+State
development in the 2800 block of Detroit Avenue in Ohio City
were submitted to the city of Cleveland for review (HD+S).

Ground-floor tenants making moves in Ohio City, downtown

Two small businesses, Green Opal Salon and Anna In The Raw, will be relocating in the coming months, according to filings submitted recently to the Cleveland Building Department.

Green Opal Salon will relocate to a 1,693-square-foot storefront in the new Church+State development, 1436 Church and State Way. The new location for the salon represents an investment of $300,000, a building permit application shows.

There, it will join with Great Lakes Health & Wellness which revealed to NEOtrans in December that it will expand to the two-building development in Ohio City's Hingetown section. Green Opal Salon has hired Hiti, DiFrancesco and Siebold, Inc. as its project architect.

Since it began in 2017, Green Opal Salon has been in business at 11627 Clifton Blvd. in Cleveland's Edgewater neighborhood. It is located between Eddy's Barbershop and Starbucks. Owner Renee Dreshaj did not return a phone call seeking more information.

Health food and juice café Anna In The Raw will relocate from the
IMG Building at left to the AECOM Building at right. This view
looks west on St. Clair Avenue from East 9th Street (Google).

Anna In The Raw, now located in the IMG Building lobby, 1360 E. 9th St., will relocate across St. Clair Avenue to the westernmost space in the AECOM Building's lobby, 1300 E. 9th., in downtown Cleveland.

With the designs of HSB Architects, Anna Harouvis plans to invest $160,000 to develop a 992-square-foot space for her new raw foods and healthy juices establishment. She was at her old location in the IMG Building since 2001. Harouvis opened her first café Mardi Gras Deli in downtown Cleveland in 1995, according to her Web site.


Thursday, March 25, 2021

Seven proposed office towers in Cleveland? Yep, seven.

A half-dozen new office towers could grace downtown Cleveland,
plus another tower in University Circle, within the next five years.
Each is due to a number of fast-growing companies that are in need
of more office space, amenities and corporate identity that meets
their growing employment and corporate needs (LoopNet).

It's a contradiction. Cleveland and the rest of the nation are in the midst of an historic office market slowdown that will likely last well into the post-pandemic era. And yet, Cleveland may be the recipient of up to seven new office towers in the next five years or so -- six of those could rise downtown and one in University Circle.

That's a stunning possibility for two reasons.

First, many companies plan to continue to rely on remote working for years after the pandemic eases over the next few months. For example, employment screening firm Asurint will go all-remote work from now on. They will sublease two of its three floors at 1111 Superior Ave., retaining the remaining floor only for training, onboarding and meetings, a real estate industry source said.

Asurint is not alone. Many other businesses are finding themselves with too much office space during and likely after the pandemic. Cresco Real Estate has a page on its Cleveland Web site dedicated just to companies who have a pandemic-related surplus of office space and need to sublease it.

Second, it's stunning because, after the 57-story Key Tower was completed 30 years ago, only two 20-plus-story office towers were added in downtown Cleveland -- the Carl B. Stokes Federal Courthouse, 801 W. Superior Ave., and the Ernst & Young Building, 950 Main Ave.

So how might Cleveland conceivably go from two new office towers in 30 years to seven new towers in five years during one of the worst office markets in the past 75 years?

The answer is found at seven large employers -- Benesch Friedlander Coplan & Aronoff, Cleveland-Cliffs, Cleveland Clinic, Cuyahoga County, McDonald Hopkins, Rocket Mortgage and Sherwin-Williams. They have some of the largest office employment growth among large employers locally. And they are not planning to keep their office staffs working remotely.

Fast-growing law firm Benesch has been seeking a new home for
years and has been patient with Stark Enterprises' plans to build
that new home at the long-planned nuCLEus development (Stark).


Benesch, one of Cleveland's largest and fastest growing law firms, has more than 200 attorneys and hundreds more employees in Cleveland and nationwide. The firm was founded in 1938 and is enjoying a growth spurt in recent years.

Since making its debut on the AmLaw 200 list in 2016, populated by the 200 largest law firms in the nation, Benesch has risen to 168th with 2019 revenues of $160 million. In just the past two years, more than 80 attorneys have joined the firm.

To continue this growth, Benesch needs more space than the multiple floors it occupies at the 46-story 200 Public Square. It proposes to be the anchor office tenant, including naming rights, of Stark Enterprises' office tower at the long-planned nuCLEus mixed-use development on the southeast corner of Prospect Avenue and East 4th Street.

Benesch's growth is revealed by its evolving space needs at nuCLEus. When it first signed on in 2015, Benesch requested 66,500 square feet of office space. Two years later, it upped its space needs to 100,000 square feet. At last report, which is now a year old, Benesch needed 180,000 square feet.

That was when a groundbreaking date for nuCLEus was days away from being announced. The pandemic and its assault on the retail and college housing sectors, both prominent in Stark's portfolio, forced Stark to postpone nuCLEus' start.

Since then, Ohio's General Assembly and Gov. Mike DeWine enacted the Transformational Mixed Use Development (TMUD) tax credit. The TMUD credit, offering up to $100 million per year for Ohio urban real estate developments, is the brainchild of Stark founder Bob Stark who originally sought it to close a financing gap for a taller version of nuCLEus.

Stark is running out of excuses to not build nuCLEus and, according to sources, intends to break ground by the end of this year. The only question is, will Stark build a 25-story office building as it proposed a year ago or go back to its original plan of a 50-plus-story mixed-use skyscraper, boosted by TMUD?

When you've devoured as many big corporations as Cleveland-Cliffs
 has in the last two years, it's time to either let out your belt and add
more office space at your existing HQ building or get a new war-
drobe in the form of a new building. Cliffs is reportedly pursuing
the latter. Where it will land is still unknown, however (Google).


The pandemic is winding down and Cleveland-Cliffs' restructuring is winding up. Over the past year, it has been assimilating its new corporate acquisitions, AK Steel and ArcelorMittal USA that returned it to the ranks of the Fortune 500. Now, the enlarged firm is looking to bring its collaborating headquarters workforce together under one roof.

Except for one thing -- there is no roof in downtown Cleveland with enough contiguous office space below it to comfortably accommodate this expanded powerhouse of natural resource shipping and metalmaking. We're talking office space for roughly 1,400 to 1,700 Cleveland-Cliffs HQ employees, equaling anywhere from 255,000 to 340,000 square feet.

One that could -- The Ellipse, the completely empty, 496,000-square-foot, 16-story former Ameritech Building constructed in 1983 at 45 Erieview Plaza -- has been taken off the market by its owner, New York City-based Somera Road.

Interestingly, Cleveland-Cliffs or other prospective end users aren't considering this building and its massive floorplates for offices. Real estate sources won't say why, but the deductive reasoning suggests a buyer is looking at it for non-office uses. Stay tuned.

The added employees from recent corporate acquisitions can't fit at Cleveland-Cliffs current HQ -- about 110,000 square feet in 200 Public Square. There isn't enough space available at the 1.2-million-square-foot office tower to squeeze in the HQ staff of the 174-year-old company.

But if both Cleveland-Cliffs and Benesch leave 200 Public Square, it will create a large vacancy at the 1985-built tower. The building is 83 percent leased but could drop to 65 percent with these two significant departures.

At this time, it appears that Cleveland-Cliffs isn't considering staying at 200 Public Square to expand into Benesch's space. The reason is that Benesch's offices are 10 floors away from Cleveland-Cliffs' offices. Companies don't like to be separated by multiple floors.

Instead, multiple sources said last October that Cleveland-Cliffs wants a new HQ building. Now as we head into spring and out of the pandemic, there is word that Cleveland-Cliffs has begun scouting downtown for a new HQ development site.

Given the square-footage numbers mentioned earlier, Cleveland-Cliffs' HQ could rise anywhere from 10-20 stories tall, not including any extra office space for future growth or lease, plus space for mixed uses and/or structured parking.

Depending on its design that might add non-office uses, the new Cleveland-Cliffs HQ could end up being a prominent building in downtown's skyline. At the very least, it might develop another one of those unsightly, windswept downtown parking craters, home of wintertime trash-nadoes.

Another high-rise appears to be in the offing for the University Circle
area, and we're not talking about the 24-story Artisan apartment tower
that's due to see construction start in April. Instead, at or near this
intersection of East 105th Street and Carnegie Avenue, the new
Global Center for Pathogen Research & Human Health is pro-
posed to rise. At left in this February 10 view is the 16-story
Cleveland Clinic's W.O. Walker Center with the 20-story
One University Circle seen at right (KJP). 


The blob that ate Cleveland's East Side continues to grow with the addition of a new Neurological Institute and an expanded Cole Eye Institute. But those two additions, totaling 500,000 square feet, could be matched by one new huge building -- the Global Center for Pathogen Research & Human Health.

Here's one development that was actually boosted by the pandemic. The desire for identifying and addressing viral threats is always there, but the COVID-19 pandemic galvanized medical, political and corporate interest in more aggressively targeting them. And Cleveland is where that battle will be joined.

While it is unfair to characterize the new pathogens center as a Cleveland Clinic project, there's no denying the elephant in the room here. There are multiple partners involved, as the new facility got a $565 million shot in the arm from the State of Ohio's Innovation District program. Some $200 million to $300 million will go to the new pathogens center.

Also, the Ohio Development Services Agency recently awarded a 15-year job creation tax credit for the pathogens center that would take effect Jan. 1, 2024 -- suggesting that's roughly when the new building would open and employees would start working there. That means construction would have to get underway early in 2022. Potential construction contractors were contacted by Cleveland Clinic last fall.

A significant portion of the Innovation District funding will help pay for the pathogens center, proposed to rise at or near the intersection of East 105th Street and Carnegie Avenue. Cleveland Clinic will also contribute significant funding.

Given the lack of land in that area to build 500,000 square feet of offices and research nodes in a horizontal campus setting, this structure is likely to rise vertically. Even if floorplates are large, such as in the 30,000-square-foot range, this could be a 15-20 story building. Look for plans to become public sometime this summer.

The Justice Center Steering Committee was on course to decide
today on whether to build a new, larger courthouse tower or
rebuild and expand the existing, cramped, poorly built and aging
courthouse tower in downtown Cleveland. But that decision
will be postponed to next month's meeting (CC Public Works).


It's generally true that Cuyahoga County and its government aren't exactly growing sources of employment. But some aspects of county government are, including legal matters involving housing, environmental cleanup, probate, domestic, treatment of drug abusers rather than imprisonment, as well as other civil and criminal cases.

Squeeze all of that into an aging, poorly built Justice Center, 1200 Ontario St., and you end up with a mess. There are offices located in hallways, former closets or in neighboring buildings because more than 877,000 square feet of uses don't easily fit into a 600,000-square-foot, 25-story tower.

Rebuilding and adding onto the existing courthouse will end up costing county taxpayers more over the next 30 years than if they build a new courthouse tower, a planning study shows.

At the February meeting of the Justice Center Steering Committee, the planning team said it hoped to get a report out to the executive committee by March 12. With that report, the executive committee would recommend a course of action for the steering committee.

This is not an easy decision for the executive and steering committees. It represents an investment of $400 million to $600 million in taxpayer dollars. The committees are taking more time to review options, so a decision on whether to build a new courthouse or rebuild/expand the old is not on the steering committee's March 25 agenda.

If the committee chooses a new building, it will be located downtown. It's where all of the courthouse's support infrastructure is already located such as law offices, parking, public transportation and restaurants. One rumored site for the new courthouse tower is the Fort Huntington Park, located across Lakeside Avenue from the existing courthouse.

The relocation offers exciting possibilities for the redevelopment of the existing Justice Center property. That includes a new, more user-friendly park that is surrounded by high-rise residential and offices above ground-floor shops along the sidewalks and restaurants fronting the new park.

Now in downtown's Fifth Third Center,
McDonald Hopkins is reportedly looking
for larger digs that it can call its own, in-
cluding new amenities that will help its
efforts recruiting younger talent (Hertz).


Like Benesch, McDonald Hopkins is a fast-growing Cleveland-based law firm. Last year, the firm celebrated its 90th year in business and was ranked as the 274th largest law firm in the USA. That's an increase from 320th place just two years earlier, according to It now has 149 lawyers in five offices across the country.

McDonald Hopkins is located on multiple floors in the low-20s of Fifth Third Center, 600 Superior Ave., a 28-story, 446-foot-tall tower built in 1991. Not only does the firm need more contiguous office space, it wants its own building with its name on it -- like many law firms do. It also wants an amenities-laden building to aid in recruiting new talent to the firm, real estate sources said.

“We always have to be thinking about what’s next," said McDonald Hopkins President Shawn M. Riley in an interview in the Cleveland Jewish News. "The moment one rests on one’s laurels or rests on one’s success is the moment competition passes by. We don’t want to be reacting to opportunity and growth – we want to be out in front of it.”

He cited the need for adding offices in Nashville, Charlotte, Atlanta, Austin and potentially other cities. That also means adding management and administrative support positions at its Cleveland headquarters.

Although the future office and amenity space needs of McDonald Hopkins are unknown, they are substantial enough to warrant internal company discussions about seeking a new office tower, sources said.

They said it's too early to reveal potential sites, but somewhere in the heart of downtown Cleveland's business district is a logical place. Where else would we expect an aspiring, identity-conscious law firm to plop down a new office tower?

This conceptual rendering of the Riverview phase of Tower City
Center was developed to give Bedrock Real Estate Services a
sense of how it could develop the area between Huron Road
and the Cuyahoga River. That will reportedly include a new
office building for fast-growing Rocket Mortgage (Vocon). 


Here's yet another firm that has seen stunning growth in recent years. Rocket Mortgage, an affiliate of Quicken Loans that launched in 2015, has its headquarters in Detroit. But its back-office functions are in downtown Cleveland. The firm does business with customers entirely online.

Even though it is not yet six years old, its Cleveland presence has grown from 400 jobs at the Post Office Plaza, 1500 W. 3rd St., to 700 jobs occupying 150,000 square feet at the Higbee Building, 100 Public Square. Now, it intends to expand its staffing by at least another 700 jobs and potentially 1,000, supported by a $975,000 Job Creation Incentive Program grant from the city.

Rocket Mortgage needs to expand its office footprint to 300,000 square feet. It may need even more as the nation's largest mortgage firm continues to grow. And that's a big reason why a new office tower in downtown Cleveland is being considered by billionaire Dan Gilbert & Co.

According to Jones Lang LaSalle's (JLL) 2020 Cleveland Skyline Report, there's only about 130,000 square feet of office space not yet leased in the Higbee Building. Of the total 815,000 square feet of space in the 13-story building, 527,000 square feet is used for offices; the rest is the Jack Casino.

Even if the Higbee Building had room for the lending firm's expansion, there's another reason why it may move. A Gilbert-controlled firm no longer owns the Higbee Building and has also sold the casino operations. As one might expect, Gilbert & Co. doesn't like paying rent to outside firms if it doesn't have to.

Gilbert's Rock Ohio sold the building and the Thistledown Racino property in a lease-back deal in October 2019 for $843 million to Vici Properties. The casino operations sold in January and will move its headquarters and about 90 jobs from Detroit to Cleveland, further constraining space at the Higbee Building.

Sources said in a recent NEOtrans article that the site being considered for the new Quicken Loans/Rocket Mortgage office building is Tower City Center's Riverview parking lots between Huron Road and the Cuyahoga River.

There, Gilbert-controlled Bedrock Real Estate Services is working with Cleveland-based architectural firm Vocon Partners LLC and Toronto-based engineering firm IBI Group. Site analysis work is due to get underway next month on the Riverview site, the sources said.

This narrow strip of land is owned by Bedrock partner Rock Ohio Caesars Cleveland LLC. Within that strip yet split by Canal Road are two parcels -- the 8.5-acre, 678-space Tower City Riverview Parking public lot and the 11-acre, 1,330-space Tower City Riverview South employee parking lot.

Not all of the huge site will be developed for an office building offering at least several hundred thousand square feet. Recently, Vocon developed a highly conceptual rendering showing residential, commercial, structured parking and recreational uses to accompany the office building.

Considering the potential scale of the project and the variety of mixed uses, including costly structured parking, it is possible that one of the Gilbert-controlled companies will seek a TMUD tax credit to support the Riverview development project.

Official site plan for the new Sherwin-Williams global headquarters
whose largest building will be an office tower that's about 35
stories and roughly 500 feet tall. The location is west of
Public Square in downtown Cleveland (SHW).


And finally, here's the best-known of the seven office towers proposed in Cleveland. Everyone by now surely knows that Sherwin-Williams (SHW) is building a 1-million-square-foot global headquarters in Cleveland. And NEOtrans has covered this project extensively from the inside and out, more than any other media outlet.

Most recently, we reported details about SHW's plans for their roughly 35-story, 500-foot-tall tower. Way back in January, NEOtrans was first to report the HQ site plan. The HQ tower will rise at the northwest corner of West 3rd Street and Superior Avenue. North of the HQ, across Frankfort Avenue and west of West 3rd will be a large parking garage with ground-floor commercial uses on West 3rd.

Between the HQ tower and Public Square will be a two- to three-story-tall learning center which some members of SHW's HQ design team are calling the new Center of Excellence (CofE). The global coatings giant has a CofE in the ornate former Midland Bank lobby at its existing HQ, 101 W. Prospect Ave.

But the new CofE will reportedly feature more than just a primer on the paint company's history. It will have a conference center for corporate training and board meetings. Atop this short building will be a rooftop event patio for outdoor events, including after work cocktail parties.

The design of the tower will reportedly be a modern glass box, but could feature some curves or angles to make it a little more interesting -- if C-suite executives are so inclined. Design team members also want the HQ tower, parking garage and new CofE to be connected by sky bridges. 

Sources said the tower apparently will not have any public uses such as retail or restaurants, possibly including along the sidewalks of Superior and West 3rd. This appears contrary to the city's 2016-passed Urban Core Overlay District that applies to new buildings in the entire central business district. We'll see if that HQ design approach survives City Hall scrutiny.

The headquarters plan is rounded out by future development sites at the west and north edges, adjoining the Historic Warehouse District. Those plots of land, owned by Sherwin-Williams, are reportedly to be developed by others to extend the low- to mid-rise mixed-use buildings of the Warehouse District into the new HQ's campus. Look for the HQ plans to be submitted to the city by summer and construction to start by Christmas.


Monday, March 22, 2021

iHeartMedia moves offices, studios from suburbs to downtown

The new home of iHeartMedia Cleveland later this year will be
the ground floor of 668 Euclid Ave. in Downtown Cleveland.
Not only will renovation work get underway soon for the
new media studios and offices, the 23-story City Club
Apartments will soon fill the space at left (Google).

Today, iHeartMedia Cleveland announced plans to move their regional office to downtown Cleveland. The new location will be at 668 Euclid Ave. and will include a 10-year agreement lease with K&D Group.

The new agreement will move iHeartMedia Cleveland’s nine radio stations, along with the company’s sales, marketing, digital and Total Traffic operation from Independence to the new state-of-the-art street-level facility. The new offices are scheduled to open by the end of 2021.

In a written statement released today, iHeartMedia Cleveland said it has designed a brand-new state-of-the-art facility to house their iconic brands and franchises – both broadcast and digital – including stations like 100.7 WMMS, Newsradio WTAM 1100 AM & 106.9 FM, Majic 105.7, 99.5 WGAR, 106.5 The Lake, 96.5 KISS FM, Real 106.1, 1350 AM The Gambler and Cleveland’s BIN: Black Information Network 99.1 FM. 

Rendering of the new offices of iHeartMedia Cleveland, looking
out on to Euclid Avenue at right (iHeartMedia Cleveland).

This move will bring more than 100 employees into the heart of Cleveland’s downtown business landscape.

"We are thrilled to return our broadcast and digital operations to the heart of our city," said Keith Hotchkiss, president of iHeartMedia Cleveland. "Connecting our influencers, marquee talent and operation staff with the downtown business district will further drive the passion to serve the community we all call home."

Additionally, iHeartMedia Cleveland’s new vision for the workplace provides leaders and their teams with the tools they need to adapt to a changing world. New office features will include five conference rooms, 11 studios featuring cutting-edge technology, eight service booths for news, traffic, and podcast creation, and phone audio sound via Sound+.

A marquee broadcast studio and mixed-use podcast content creation room both face street-level on Euclid Avenue. Studio designs are by Beneville Studios and AUX1 design.

One of the new studios at iHeartMedia Cleveland's new location
in downtown Cleveland. The move will bring 100 employees
to downtown and more street life to Euclid Avenue.

"We are delighted that iHeartMedia will be locating their regional headquarters in downtown Cleveland, bringing 100 communication and technology jobs to the 668 Building and the Euclid Avenue Historic District," said Joe Marinucci, president and CEO of the Downtown Cleveland Alliance.

"We are so excited that iHeartMedia has decided to return to downtown Cleveland after many years, and that they have chosen our 668 Building as their new home," said Doug Price, CEO of K&D Group.

iHeartMedia is the leading media outlet in the Cleveland market with multiple platforms, including its broadcast stations; live events; data; and its digital businesses and platforms, including mobile, social and its own iHeartRadio, iHeartMedia’s free all-in-one digital music, podcasting and live streaming radio service – with 3 billion app downloads and more than 145 million registered users.


Sunday, March 21, 2021

Greater Cleveland RTA requests proposals for new trains

Approaching 40 years of age, a set of heavy-rail vehicles on the
Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority's Airport-Winder-
mere Red Line depart the West 65th-Ecovillage station, heading
for downtown and the East Side. These aging trains are in dire
need of replacement, which is coming thanks to a request for
proposals that was recently issued by GCRTA (DSCDO).

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) has issued a request for proposals (RFP) for the replacement of its four-decade-old rail fleet with a standardized type of train that offers greater efficiencies and operating flexibilities. The first new trains could arrive in Cleveland by early 2024.

Rail and transit advocacy groups like All Aboard Ohio have been advocating for years that GCRTA’s new light-rail vehicles (LRVs) should do what its previous trains could not — go anywhere on Greater Cleveland’s 38-mile rail system. That includes any future rail lines or extensions like a recently proposed Downtown Loop.

The new trains, the first order of which would total 18 vehicles, will replace GCRTA heavy-rail vehicles (HRVs) that operate on the Airport-Windermere Red Line. Future orders, depending on the availability of additional funding, will replace GCRTA LRVs operating on the (Waterfront-Shaker Heights) Blue and Green lines. 

Up to 42 additional LRVs could be ordered to replace GCRTA’s existing LRVs and, someday, possibly accommodate expansion of the three-route rail network that carries one out of five riders in the countywide, 54-route bus and rail transit system.

“It’s a great day for Greater Clevelanders,” said Stu Nicholson, executive director of All Aboard Ohio. “We are grateful to GCRTA General Manager India Birdsong and the authority’s board of trustees for making this wise and forward-thinking decision to unite the rail system with a single, interoperable fleet. I and others who came before me at All Aboard Ohio greatly appreciate GCRTA’s continued commitment to invest in its rail system.”

Today, only Red Line trains can run on the Red Line and Blue/
Green Line trains can travel on those lines. But a standardized
train can serve any rail line, including future services like run-
ning express from Green Road in Shaker Heights to Hopkins
Airport or having all Red Line trains circulate around a Down-
town Loop built from an extended Waterfront Line (GCRTA).

For years, current and former All Aboard Ohio representatives (including yours truly) researched and wrote articles and press releases on the benefits of GCRTA replacing its aging rail fleet with a modern, standardized rail vehicle that could increase the rail system’s efficiency, reliability, vehicle utilization, through service on multiple lines, opportunities for expansion and improved customer experience.

“GCRTA is to be congratulated for reversing a bad decision made by its largest predecessor, the Cleveland Transit System (CTS), 75 years ago by overturning the original plan to develop a unified rail rapid transit system in Cleveland,” said Ken Sislak, Vice President of AECOM, a former GCRTA Director of Rail, and former Vice-Chair of All Aboard Ohio. “GCRTA’s decision to buy rail cars capable of operating on any route is great news for Greater Cleveland.”

Sislak’s reference is to CTS’s decision after the end of World War II to abandon plans for a citywide rapid transit system that used LRVs. Instead, CTS’s first new rail line would be a crosstown rapid transit route operated with HRVs, opening in 1955. That route became today’s Airport-Windermere Red Line.

But that new route was not fully compatible with the then-City of Shaker Heights’ already existing LRV-operated rapid transit lines — today’s Waterfront-Shaker/Van Aken Green and Blue lines.

The CTS HRV and Shaker Heights LRV systems had station platforms with different heights as well as curves and lateral clearances on the Shaker lines that would not permit CTS’s HRVs to use them. Incredibly, at the three stations shared by the two systems — Tower City, East 34th-Campus and East 55th — the HRVs and LRVs have had to load and unload passengers at different platform locations.

Some of the features of GCRTA's new rail car fleet are shown
here, with many more listed below and, of course, within the
RFP issued recently by the transit authority (GCRTA).

Even after CTS, Shaker Heights Rapid Transit and other systems were united under GCRTA ownership in 1975, the two rail systems continued to operate as if they still had separate owners. That was reflected in GCRTA replacing the Blue and Green line’s trains with LRVs in 1979-81 and the replacement of the Red Line trains with new HRVs in 1984-85. Those two fleets continue to operate to this day.

With the issuance of the RFP, GCRTA requests firms or groups of firms to submit proposals for the new trains by 2 p.m., May 19, 2021. GCRTA will entertain scheduled site visits by prospective bidders to its Central Rail and Maintenance Facility at East 55th and its Brookpark Shop from March 29th through April 9th. GCRTA said it intends to award a contract to the winning bidder in October 2021.

“GCRTA requests proposals for the designing, manufacturing, testing, furnishing, delivery and performance testing of 18 high floor light-rail vehicles capable of servicing both nominal 41-inch high platforms and nominal 3.5-inch to 16-inch low platforms with options for up to 42 additional vehicles,” GCRTA and its railcar consultant Hatch-LTK wrote in its RFP.

“The work shall also include delivery of data, manuals, drawings, training and support services, spare parts, special tools and diagnostic equipment, which shall be delivered as specified. The contract shall be a firm-fixed-price contract,” the RFP noted.

A big part of offering a top-notch urban quality of life is a top-
notch public transportation system. Cleveland has Ohio's largest
urban rail system but its reach and quality falls short of those in
other metro areas of similar size, including cities that used to be
smaller than Cleveland. GCRTA and the city can attract more
housing and jobs to within a comfortable walk of rail stations
by continuing to invest in the rail system and offering more
station-area development-ready sites (Michael Collier).

Among the many specifications in GCRTA’s 1,314-page RFP:

  • The new rail fleet must operate across the HRV and LRV systems;
  • May use automated “gap filler” apparatus to narrow the gap between train and station platform;
  • Train body should be a single car or articulated;
  • Must be bi-directional with operator cabs at both ends;
  • Offer multi-unit operation in trains of up to three vehicles;
  • New fleet’s design should minimize changes to GCRTA’s infrastructure;
  • Meet GCRTA dimensional and weight requirements;
  • Trains must have a service-proven design;
  • Be compatible with GCRTA’s rail signaling systems;
  • Comply with “Buy America” requirements;
  • Cars must come equipped with two pantographs: one for collecting electrical power from overhead wires and one to provide ice cutting on those wires;
  • For a period of time, the new fleet may operate on tracks with both of the existing fleets;
  • Collision compatibility between fleets should be considered;
  • The vehicles require battery systems to provide limited off-wire capabilities in case of power loss;
  • Trains must achieve 60 mph maximum speeds;
  • Corrosion resistance is a major point of emphasis for the agency.

All Aboard Ohio said it is looking forward to GCRTA picking the best type of LRV that offers its customers a safe, comfortable and convenient ride. With this investment, projected to exceed $300 million upon full completion of the entire order, Greater Clevelanders will continue to enjoy Ohio’s largest urban rail system.

That system provides Greater Cleveland with superior mobility, environmentally friendly electrically powered transport, access to jobs and services and incentivizes pedestrian-friendly economic development near stations, All Aboard Ohio added.