Sunday, April 18, 2021

Talks restart for Superior Viaduct linear park

Discussions for reusing Superior Viaduct for more public spaces
and fewer parking spaces have restarted after nearly a year of
going silent. City Councilman Kerry McCormack is now
leading those community conversations (AoDK).

With high-rise developments planned and built along the Superior Viaduct, an idea was floated to turn the remaining portion of the 1878-built stone bridge into a linear park. But that idea faded when a Stonebridge Condominiums resident who initiated community discussions about the idea was relocated to Philadelphia.

Or, perhaps said better, the idea briefly faded.

That's because Ward 3 City Councilman Kerry McCormack has brought it up again and will lead the discussions for the time being. The first of those discussions was a meeting held April 14 with the executive board of the Waterfront District Block Club and other Flats West Bank residents.

Those involved emphasized that the discussions were preliminary and still very early. But the goal of the meeting was to start a process to determine the future of the Superior Viaduct, leased by K&D Group, and what public amenity improvements it should have.

"I convened a group of residents," McCormack said. "I will be leading it, but convening all stakeholders including residents, K&D and others as well. The conversations will include all stakeholders and be collaborative."

On a warm evening last spring, a small number of people came
out on to the vehicle-free eastern part of Superior Viaduct. In
spite of the spectacular views, there were and are few seats,
tables, cafes, vegetation or interactive features to make
lingering on the viaduct more enjoyable (KJP).

McCormack said there is no date set yet for a follow-up meeting. But, at last week's meeting, he said the attendees wanted to create a more formal working group among stakeholders having an interest in how Superior Viaduct is used.

"This will require getting all stakeholders on board," McCormack said. "The conversation (on April 14) was just about the viaduct itself and starting a community process for the future designs of the viaduct."

That's where things were left off last year. That effort was begun by then-block club chairman Scott Aylesworth. He said the viaduct could become a small version of New York City's High Line Park, developed from an abandoned elevated freight railroad through the Chelsea section of Manhattan.

Current Waterfront District Block Chairman Mike Rogalski didn't respond to an e-mail seeking comment prior to publication of this article.

The westernmost 400 feet of the viaduct has about 140 parking spaces for Stonebridge residents, office tenants and restaurant customers. The eastern 600 feet is closed to vehicular traffic and open only to pedestrians. It has has few amenities, public seating, gardens or other features that invite people to linger on it.

The western end of the viaduct is a parking lot for Stonebridge
residents, accommodating about 140 of their cars (KJP).

Redesigning the viaduct as a linear park would require relocating the parking spaces to a new location, such as a parking garage. Building a new parking deck or converting an old warehouse nearby to relocate the parking would cost millions of dollars.

The concept arose last year as several high-rise residential developments along the viaduct were coming to the fore and would complement Stonebridge's high-rises built by K&D Group 10-20 years ago. New high-rise projects include Bridgeworks at West 25th Street that recently won approval by City Planning Commission to build a 16-story residential and hotel tower.

Activity surrounding another high-rise development, a 27-story apartment tower called The Viaduct, had gone quiet since it was approved by planning commission last August. But it resurfaced April 6 on the Opportunity Exchange website. United Community Developers is seeking $16 million in Opportunity Zone equity to help finance the project's construction costs which the developer estimates at just $65 million.

Wayne Jatsek, founder of United Community Developers, didn't respond to e-mails seeking more information. 

There have been no recent updates about other projects surrounding Superior Viaduct, including a proposed 20-story building at 1250 Riverbed Street and proposals to develop acres of parking lots in the Nautica Waterfront District. However, that could change after details are announced by the Ohio Tax Credit Authority about a new Transformational Mixed Use Development incentive.

New York City's High Line Park turned a rusty eyesore of an unused
elevated freight railroad that once served old warehouses and meat-
packing plants into a magnet for residential and office develop-
ments in the Chelsea section of Manhattan (KJP).

But, like last year, Stonebridge developer K&D Group appears dismissive of the effort or, perhaps more specifically, dismissive of the block club. K&D and the block club have had some legal fights in the past regarding the development of Stonebridge.

"No new talks have been held," said K&D Group CEO Doug E. Price III when e-mailed this week about the latest meeting. He did not respond to a follow-up e-mail. Last year in a NEOtrans article, Price said he liked Superior Viaduct the way it is. 

K&D affiliate Stonebridge Phase One Ltd. has a 40-year lease with the city that started in 2000 for the use and maintenance of Superior Viaduct. K&D pays the city $1 per year but Price said his firm renovated the viaduct at its own expense 20 years ago. In 2040, the city and K&D can renew the lease every two years thereafter.

The lease also says that the agreement should not be construed as a partnership between the city and K&D. It allows the city to walk away from the lease at any time if a public purpose for the viaduct, such as a park, is identified.

Superior Viaduct is much shorter than the High Line Park but also
roughly twice as wide. It was to offer a mixture of uses side-by-side,
including outdoor cafes, historical exhibits and interactive features
but not parking for cars, as envisioned 20 years ago by developer
K&D Group. The parking was to be built in a 150-car garage
next to the bridge at a bend in Washington Avenue (Corna).

"This lease may be terminated prior to its expiration by the director of public service should the city reasonably need the leased premises for public purposes," per the lease.

The lease refers to the zoning code on how the viaduct was to be improved and used by K&D. Price contends the current uses conform to that plan.

However, designs developed by K&D and their architect Robert Corna 20 years ago show the roadway deck of Superior Viaduct would have no vehicles on it except for replica streetcars as a nod to its history as Cleveland's first elevated crossing of the Cuyahoga River valley.

"Stonebridge Phase One Ltd. has proposed to lease the Old Superior Avenue Viaduct for the purpose of reconstructing, rehabilitating, preserving and maintaining the structure for use in connection with a planned residential and retail development to be constructed consistent with a Planned Unit Development Overlay District," the lease reads.


Saturday, April 17, 2021

AAO: why Amtrak hub at Tower City makes sense

An Amtrak mini-hub at Tower City Center in Cleveland, midway be-
tween Chicago and the East Coast, could cost similar to providing a
station free of freight train interference on downtown's lakefront.
The open door for creating this transportation center could soon
close with more development at Tower City (All Aboard Ohio).

All Aboard Ohio’s Board of Directors voted unanimously this week to favor Tower City Center as the site for a proposed Amtrak mini-hub. But the Board of the non-profit passenger rail and transit advocacy association noted that it would not oppose development of the existing Amtrak station site as the transportation hub.

The statewide group said that Amtrak's proposed mini-hub at Cleveland makes a major capital improvement like this justifiable. It didn’t make sense with Amtrak running just one or two trains each day in the middle of the night. But Amtrak’s proposed Cleveland mini-hub would bring significant new passenger traffic and business activity to downtown Cleveland.

The Board said the timing of its statement urging restoration of Tower City Center, the former Cleveland Union Terminal (CUT), as the city main railroad terminal was motivated by these factors:

  • Amtrak is proposing new routes and expanded services on existing routes that could grow its passenger rail services at Cleveland from four nightly trains to 22 trains a day, arriving and departing around the clock. Amtrak passenger boardings at Cleveland may grow from 50,000 per year (or one-fifth of Greyhound’s traffic here) currently to 500,000-1 million (or up to one-fifth of Hopkins International Airport’s annual traffic). This passenger traffic is based on rail service levels existing at other mid-sized metro areas;
  • Development is possibly on the horizon for the Riverview parking lots, between Huron and Canal roads, that could end further consideration of the remaining opportunity for restoring Tower City Center as a railroad station unless actions were taken now to preserve a railroad right of way below any development and inclusion of station facilities in any development planned by Bedrock Real Estate or its partners and affiliates;
  • Sherwin-Williams has donated to the City of Cleveland the property on which its John G. Breen Technology Center sets, prior to relocation to Brecksville in 2024. With the research facility gone, it allows for the western throat of an Amtrak station at Tower City Center to be built around the Stokes Federal Courthouse.

Moments after departing Cleveland Union Terminal (now Tower
City Center) in 1971, Erie-Lackawanna's afternoon commuter
train picks up speed, bound for Youngstown (Dave Mackay).

All Aboard Ohio said the biggest reason for developing Amtrak's mini-hub at Tower City Center is because the region’s rail transit and bus hub is already in and next to Tower City. Plus, the proximity of many businesses and attractions, the potential for co-locating with an expansion of the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, having a station free of interference from freight trains and a crossing of the Cuyahoga River that won’t further inconvenience boaters and commercial shipping are important reasons, too.

The nonprofit organization said it spoke up now because time could soon run out on considering Tower City Center as an Amtrak mini-hub. Future development may possibly encroach on the Riverview parking lots between Huron and Canal roads. This may well be the last opportunity to restore passenger railroad service to what was the Cleveland Union Terminal. Cleveland has a good back-up location on the lakefront, but All Aboard Ohio said it would like to see the better location explored now before it’s too late.

Here is additional detail on why All Aboard Ohio said Tower City Center is a superior location for an Amtrak mini-hub station in Downtown Cleveland:

Today, restoration of passenger rail service at Tower City Center
would have to be sited differently than it was decades ago, due
to development encroaching on the former Cleveland Union
Terminal rights of way. But other changes, like the departure
of Sherwin-Williams' research center will create opportu-
nities for restoring stations here (All Aboard Ohio).

  • Greater Cleveland’s public transportation hub is located at Tower City Center and outside its front door on Public Square. Not only is Tower City the hub of all rail rapid transit lines, but the downtown Cleveland routes of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA), Akron Metro RTA, Laketran, Portage Area RTA and Stark Area RTA all converge on Public Square.
  • Tower City Center is also within a five-minute walk of more employers, hotels, restaurants, shops and attractions than the lakefront station site. And it offers the potential for air-rights development above the station, tracks and related facilities – something that is more complicated above tracks that also host freight trains, especially those carrying hazardous materials, as is the case on the lakefront.
  • Railroad rights of way accessing Tower City Center remain largely intact even though tracks were removed shortly after railroad passenger service to CUT ended in 1977. They are mostly owned by GCRTA and exist parallel to GCRTA rail rapid transit tracks which Amtrak trains cannot use due to federal regulations regarding crash impact standards as well as insufficient lateral clearances.
  • The 2002 construction of the Stokes Federal Courthouse on CUT’s west throat had presented an obstacle. But during the West Shore Corridor Alternatives Analysis a decade ago, Parsons Brinckerhoff (now WSP) showed that railroad commuter trains from Lorain could enter a station built on the former CUT coach yards, now the Riverview parking lot. It required building above Canal Road to avoid the Stokes Federal Courthouse. But now, Canal Road can be rerouted or removed and the western throat to a Tower City Amtrak station built where Sherwin-Williams Breen Technology Center is now located after its probable demolition sometime after 2024.
    Numerous cities throughout the United States are restoring or
    expanding their historic railroad stations for their intended pur-
    poses. This is the historic Denver Union Station which was
    being modernized and dramatically expanded in 2013 to
    accommodate regional passenger trains (Ryan Dravitz).
  • Amtrak officials expressed to All Aboard Ohio their desire for having a station in Cleveland with operations that will have to contend with few if any freight trains. A station at Tower City Center would offer that. To enjoy this same benefit at a lakefront station would involve rerouting freight trains to a “Lakefront Bypass” just south of downtown Cleveland, requiring the investment of about $200 million to add tracks to existing Norfolk Southern rights of way.
  • Tower City Center offers the potential for a shared station facility with the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad (CVSR), offering enhanced visitor access to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. CVSR has long desired an extension of their train services to downtown Cleveland which, according to past studies, would result in annual ridership growing from about 200,000 passengers per year to more than 300,000. Direct CVSR service to the lakefront is not operationally or economically feasible.
  • Another advantage of a Tower City Center station is that trains would cross the busy, navigable portion of the Cuyahoga River on a high-level bridge. On the lakefront, that crossing is via a drawbridge that must be raised and lowered every time any boat larger than a small recreational watercraft seeks passage. The railroad has the legal right of way here, which causes significant traffic jams of boats and larger lake carrier ships. Increasing rail passenger traffic on the lakefront will worsen this waterway congestion and negatively impact commercial shipping.

Cleveland's tiny Amtrak station on the lakefront is served only by
four pre-dawn trains. Yet they provide a brief bit of nightlife to
downtown's windswept lakefront as seen here in 2015 (KJP).

Lastly, Greyhound bus service is likely to follow Amtrak into a new or expanded station facility in Cleveland, as has happened throughout Ohio and the nation. Greyhound traffic is about 250,000 passenger boardings per year in Cleveland. A multi-modal transportation center that combines Greyhound with an Amtrak mini-hub would consolidate passenger boardings and improve connectivity between transportation modes. At stations where Amtrak and Greyhound co-locate, total passenger boardings have typically increased by about 20 percent.

While the former CUT rights of way are mostly intact, some uses have encroached upon the right of way in the past four decades. In nearly all situations, there is sufficient room for the new uses and the restored railroad track to co-exist. For example, through Ohio City, the CUT right of way was built to accommodate six tracks (two for rapid transit and four for railroad). There is room to shift the existing Red Line Greenway closer to Columbus Road to allow for two Amtrak tracks to be constructed. In other locations, such as on the east side of Tower City, RTA tracks and electrical installations would have to be moved slightly to accommodate Amtrak tracks.

Here is 2019 passenger boarding data (and change from the prior year) for Amtrak stations that have Amtrak service levels in the 14-28 trains per day range, plus 2019 Cleveland Hopkins International Airport passenger enplanements data:

  • Albany, NY — 26 trains/day — 806,960 boardings +0.08%
  • Seattle, WA — 14 trains/day — 682,132 boardings -0.06%
  • Milwaukee, WI — 16 trains/day — 639,713 boardings +5.8%
  • Portland, OR — 16 trains/day — 585,344 boardings +1.6%
  • Lancaster, PA — 28 trains/wkday, 16 Sa/Su — 577,305 boardings +1.7%
  • St. Louis, MO — 14 trains/day — 354,304 boardings -2%
  • Cleveland Hopkins International Airport — 4,894,541 enplanements +4%

With an Amtrak station, Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad station and Greyhound station — all combined under one roof at Tower City Center — the total passenger traffic from all three modes could exceed 1.3 million boardings per year.

Developing an Amtrak mini-hub that's largely free of freight train
traffic on downtown Cleveland's lakefront will require relocating
freight trains to a bypass route just south of downtown. That may
be as expensive as restoring Tower City Center/Cleveland Union
Terminal (below) but without as many of the benefits as serving
the transportation center on Public Square (All Aboard Ohio).


Friday, April 16, 2021

ARPI Apartments to continue Hough's residential growth

Construction could get underway in June on a 42-unit apartment
building on East 93rd Street in Hough, led by ARPI Development
LLC. Thanks to meeting the right people, the project moved from
idea to the cusp of construction in just eight months (GLSD). 

City Planning Commission today approved plans for a new apartment building in Cleveland's Hough neighborhood, marking the latest sign of continued investment in new housing options for that community.

The $12 million development, ARPI Apartments, 1865 E. 93rd St., will offer 42 units of mostly studio and one-bedroom apartments with a small number of two-bedroom units. All apartments in the four-story building will have first-floor patios or upper-floor balconies. 

There will also be an on-site gym, rooftop patio and community room. A 28-space parking lot is planned behind the building. Two vacant residences will be demolished to make way for this project.

It will join the likes of Signet Group's Axis at Ansel Apartments, Inspirion Group's East 90th Apartments, Famicos Foundation's 75Chester and Cleveland Custom Homes' plan to build 100 houses in Hough.

The sudden growth of housing development activity in this long-troubled neighborhood is a direct result of what is happening nearby in University Circle and Fairfax, namely the growth of the Cleveland Clinic and the Health Tech Corridor. That includes the recent announcement of the Cleveland Innovation District.

The new apartment building is designed to complement a variety
of architectural styles and colors on East 93rd. Principals involved
with the development said they strived to be extra-sensitive to the
neighborhood that has long had a tumultuous history (GLSD).

"Our goal is to find undervalued properties that are on the cusp of being developed," said Richard Arnstine, CEO of ARPI Development LLC which he founded with his son-in-law Zach Pinkert. "With the Cleveland Clinic, Case Western Reserve University and the new businesses growing in the area, we wanted to build here."

But building new housing in a low-income neighborhood like Hough can be a delicate issue. Arnstine is sensitive to that and is pledging to work closely with neighborhood stakeholders on how his development can better support residents and businesses in need.

"We want to take some of the profits we make and put them back into the neighborhood," said the retired orthodontist who originally started out at The Ohio State University as a real estate major. "We'll sit down with neighborhood groups and Councilman Basheer Jones to identify how best to support the neighborhood."

He singled out Jones for praise along with Council President Kevin Kelley for their support. Justin Fleming, real estate director of Stay Realty/‎Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, also was instrumental in assisting ARPI's efforts, Arnstine said.

"We'll continue to work with the city to aggregate additional lands for future phases and expand our partnership with the neighborhood," he added, noting the speed at which the project moved forward. "We were pleasantly surprised at how fast this all came together. It happened because we met the right people along the way."

The first phase by ARPI Development is seen at the bottom of
this image, with north to the right and Chester Avenue to the
left. Future phases could rise on the next block west, which
is East 90th Street, near other developments (GLSD).

One of the first people he met was Zak Baris, president of Comprehensive Zoning Services Inc. He put him in touch with Conrad Geis and Brandon Kline, principals at Geis Companies, as well as Mike Bowen at Calfee, Halter & Griswold LLP. Those connections, in turn, put Arnstine in touch with investors Agostino Pintus of Akron and Kenny Wolfe of Dallas.

Because of them, the project went from an idea last October to possibly putting shovels in the ground as early as this June. Construction should take about one year, Arnstine predicted.

"Kenny Wolfe and I have been actively looking at that area for nine months," said Pintus who invests heavily in Northeast Ohio. He is delivering 300 residential units in the coming months in this region with another 700 in the planning pipeline. That includes the redevelopment of the Rockefeller Building in downtown Cleveland.

"When the ARPI Apartments project cropped up, we realized we had to be a part of it," Pintus added. "We wanted to be a part of the dynamic growth of the area, with everything that is happening in Cleveland. It's just phenomenal. It's becoming a shining gem like it was 100 years ago."

"The goal was to create a formidable project that blends perfectly with the neighborhood," Baris said. "We're looking at blending our project with the neighborhood by meeting the current residents' needs and being mindful of them. We don't want to build anything too tall or anything too large."

He said that construction financing is due to close in a matter of weeks. The group continues to work with city officials to aggregate additional lands for future phases that could deliver up to 160 residential units on East 90th and 93rd streets, according to preliminary plans submitted to the city.


Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Sherwin-Williams HQ design sheds box, may boost height

Although much smaller than what than Sherwin-Williams is considering
for its new downtown Cleveland headquarters, Atria III in the Toronto
suburb of North York offers an example of the kind of design features
that will add some interesting angles, patterns and features to the
global coatings giant's new Cleveland office tower (Google).

As one part of Sherwin-Williams' (SHW) global headquarters design team works its way outward from the new office tower's elevator/stairwell core, other designers are already contemplating what the exterior of the building might look like.

And there is good news on that front -- the basic box that's been used merely for massing purposes up to this point is going bye-bye. But the glass curtainwall continues to be the building's exterior material favored by SHW's C-Suite executives on the Building Our Future Committee.

That's according to sources on the SHW design team who cannot identify themselves because they are not authorized to speak publicly about the project. SHW's HQ process has largely been shrouded in secrecy throughout, yet NEOtrans has been able to accurately share with SHW employees and the community the progress of this important project for two and a half years.

The aforementioned massing box, used by SHW architect Pickard Chilton, was borrowed from the BOK Park Plaza in Oklahoma City. That prior work by the designer was used as a starting point to determine raw space needs at SHW's HQ. As noted in NEOtrans articles, that basic form would be digitally manipulated to add new features to achieve what SHW wants.

In place of the massing box is an exterior form likely to feature angles, indents and patterns to make the façade more interesting. Those features would not only affect the HQ tower's architectural statement about the global coatings company, but that conceptual exterior design could result in smaller or larger floor sizes, thus changing the building's overall height.

This was the starting point for SHW architect Pickard Chilton in
designing a new HQ. The designer used a prior work -- the 27-
story BOK Park Plaza in Oklahoma City -- as a placeholder for
SHW's new tower. Like a digital block of clay, it began shape-
shifting that block into SHW's desired final form (contributed).

SHW's new $300+ million HQ complex will rise on what are now surface parking lots west of downtown Cleveland's Public Square. The office tower itself will rise on the northwest corner of Superior Avenue and West 3rd Street with a parking deck north of the tower and a new Center of Excellence on Public Square. NEOtrans shared this basic site plan one month before it was released officially.

The mix of conceptual exterior form and finalizing of internal functions will reportedly allow SHW's design team to come to a conclusion on the building's height in May, sources said. When the basic box was used for massing purposes, a projected building height of about 34-35 stories and an average floor height of roughly 14 feet per floor was used. That would have put SHW's HQ tower's height at just shy of 500 feet.

Final exterior renderings will be designed starting in late-May and into June, the sources said. Although, "final" is still a relative word for the design team. They will actually be considered conceptual by the city until Planning Commission reviews and amends or adopts them. Amended designs would then go back to the city for review in the schematic phase of review. If approved, SHW's design team will put its finishing touches on the plans and submit them for final approval.

At 35 stories, the proposed 1-million-square-foot HQ tower would have floorplates of about 28,571 square feet. A floorplate of between 20,000 and 30,000 square feet is considered an optimal maximum for an office setting as it allows the interior to be illuminated by natural light and is easier to heat and cool.

The height may also be influenced by a building feature contemplated by the design team. That feature is an angled rooftop transitioning into the upper floors. The floorplates could become larger farther from the top, thus creating a "stepping down" effect until the optimal floorplate is reached for the general offices below.

SHW's proposed HQ site plan in downtown Cleveland, just west
of Public Square seen at lower right. The light-blue areas along
West 6th Street and St. Clair Avenue will be offered by SHW to
developers to expand the Warehouse District's mixed uses into
the SHW campus and provide future HQ expansion (SHW).

A comparable design is the Atria III office building in North York, a suburb of Toronto, sources said. Atria III is 30 years old and much smaller than what SHW's HQ will be, but the roofline of that suburban building offers some insights into the design team's thinking.

If that design approach is taken, it might push the building's height above 500 feet. So might other features such as indents and patterns that push in or out the glass curtainwall. Those kinds of design elements are also evident in the exterior of the Atria III building which has a twin next door, Atria II. At the top of the tower will be two big SHW logos, one facing east and one facing west, sources said.

A SHW HQ that's a few feet either side of 500 would make it the fifth-tallest building in downtown Cleveland. If it is designed to be more than 529 feet tall, it would become Cleveland's fourth tallest, eclipsing Erieview Tower. Only Key Tower (947 feet), Terminal Tower (708 feet) and 200 Public Square (658 feet) -- all with Public Square addresses -- would be taller.

Sources noted there are also several new design options being considered for the company's new Center of Excellence, shown on SHW's official site plan as a learning center and amenity. The conference and training center, plus a small SHW museum will be located on the so-called Jacobs site, named after the Jacobs Group which previously owned the Public Square property.

Among the design options under consideration is to increase its height from two floors to three. And additional minor alterations to the building's exterior are contemplated. However, it would still be connected to the HQ office tower by a skybridge over West 3rd, just as the office tower would be connected to the parking deck by an enclosed walkway over Frankfort Avenue.

An aerial view of the 6.82 acres of surface parking lots that SHW
will develop for its new HQ. The dark parking lot at right is the
former Jacobs Lot on Public Square. To the left of it is West
3rd Street with Superior Avenue along the bottom of the
image. SHW's HQ tower will rise at the center-bottom
of this view next to Terminal Tower (Adam Greene).

As noted in previous NEOtrans articles, the parking deck will reportedly have enough parking spaces for roughly half of the SHW HQ's workforce, sources said. The HQ is being designed to accommodate 3,500 employees. SHW's new HQ will erase about 1,000 existing surface parking lot spaces.

The new parking 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 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.

At last word from the design team, no public uses will apparently be provided by SHW along Frankfort. or anywhere around the exterior or interior of the HQ tower. Instead, there will be a loading dock for the HQ tower on Frankfort, shown as a notch on the official site plan. The tower will be angled to provide a larger sidewalk area at the corner of West 3rd and Superior that could avail a sidewalk café or other public activity.

SHW is opening up its property along West 6th, St. Clair and Frankfort to development in order to expand mixed uses from the Warehouse District into the HQ campus area. That could allow some public uses along Frankfort immediately east of West 6th or be held for future HQ expansions. However, none of those potential uses or activities have been identified at this early stage.

For 91 years, SHW has been headquartered at 101 W. Prospect Ave. in downtown Cleveland. Previously, the HQ, research facility and first manufacturing plant were located at and near 601 Canal Rd. since 1864. The research facilities are still located at that address but were donated last year to the City of Cleveland in anticipation of relocating its several hundred employees to a new site in suburban Brecksville.


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.