| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter RSS Feed

Development News

689 Articles | Page: | Show All

once-dazzling variety theatre set for rebirth as new lorain avenue anchor

The Variety Theatre, 11815 Lorain Avenue opened Thanksgiving Day 1927 with Clara Bow starring in "Hula." Over the years, vaudeville acts, movies and a host of heavy metal bands have boomed in the 20,000-square-foot main stage and theater area. It's been dark since the late 1980s. Due to the efforts of the Friends of the Historic Variety Theatre, however, previously stalled efforts to bring the vacant space back to life have renewed energy.
 
"The building is in pretty remarkable condition," says Rose Zitiello, executive director at Westown Community Development Corporation, which is a stalwart partner in the project.
 
The building is much more than a theater. It also houses eight storefronts ranging from 1,000- to 1,200-square feet, and 13 second-story 600-square-foot apartments, all of which front on Lorain Avenue and have one bedroom.
 
"It literally is one city block," says Zitiello of the fascinating structure, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
 
Current construction plans, which were put together about a year ago, call for extensive plumbing work and renovation. The apartments are to remain as such and the 300-seat balcony is slated to become a venue for a large-screen theater. Specific plans for the orchestra pit, main stage and theater space are pending. The characterization of the reborn Variety, however, will be one friendly to original musicians and grass roots music production.
 
While the project was turned down for a 2014 historic tax credit from the State, Zitiello is optimistic that the forthcoming application, which the Friends group will file next month, will be successful. She pins the hopes on the fact that the building is vacant and that the group has secured an anchor, the George Group, which intends to occupy one storefront and part of the lobby with a sports bar.
 
"We do have other local businesses that would like to go in there that are already in the neighborhood," adds Zitiello, but she was mum on further details.
 
Thus far, the $12 million project has some construction financing in place, various grants and backing from the George Group, which is headed by local entrepreneur and restaurateur Tony George. Details are confidential, but Zitiello isn't shy about her hopes for the historic tax credit dollars, both state and federal.
 
"We have been sharpening our pencils for the last year and we feel our proposal will be much more competitive," she says.
 
The Friends group, spearheaded by American Tank and Manufacturing's CEO Michael Ripich, purchased the Variety in 2009 for nearly $1.1 million. Ripich is also donating structural work on the project including steel framework from which to hang signage. First Energy funded electrical work and Wagner Sign, which Zitiello designates as a "major supporter of the project," is fabricating a new historically accurate marquee and blade sign.
 
The Variety Theater Restoration will be the centerpiece of Variety Village Streetscape Plan, which is a key feature of the Lorain Avenue Master Plan that covers territory from West 110th to West 123rd Streets and has feet in Cleveland's Cudell, Jefferson and West Boulevard neighborhoods.
 
Zitiello brings a unique perspective to the overall vision: "If you go to the far west side of Lorain at Kamm's Corners you see the transformation; the City has made a huge investment there. At the other end of Lorain is Ohio City," she says, noting that neighborhood's much-celebrated renaissance.
 
"You have both ends of Lorain anchored, but you have nothing in the middle," she says. "The Variety is smack dab in the middle. This is a viable strip. It holds up the middle."
 
Hard to argue with that logic, but Zitiello notes yet another geographical absolute that further supports the realization of the project.
 
"There are five major retail banks within a mile of me," she says of Westown's Lorain Avenue offices. "That's is a phenomenal show of financial strength. To allow Lorain Avenue to deteriorate? It's just not going to be acceptable."
 
Curious shutterbugs and history buffs will have an opportunity to poke around inside the Variety on April 11 and 12 when Abandoned America will hold The Variety Theatre: An After the Final Curtain Photography Workshop in the space. Ticket purchase and registration details are available in the link.


 

dca seeks qualified firms, individuals to rethink main avenue bridge underpass

The area under the Main Avenue Bridge underpass at the intersection of West 9th Street and Main Avenue is an unusual corner of the city that's soon to get some attention—from up to three entities that have yet to be determined. The Downtown Cleveland Alliance (DCA) is on a mission to find them.
 
The organization has queried near and far to find up to three creative professionals or teams they deem qualified to propose upgrades for the underpass area, which Laura Wiegand, director of development and community relations at DCA describes thusly: "We view it as an area that has either real or perceived gaps or barriers in the urban fabric, meaning that it's not a pleasant pedestrian experience," she says. "It's not a working bicycle connection."
 
The space also lacks lighting and wayfinding for pedestrians, says Wiegand. "It's actually even difficult for vehicles to figure out that this is how you get down to the Flat's east bank. It's especially dark in daylight because of the shadows."
 
The Main Avenue Bridge Underpass Improvement Competition is an offshoot of the Step Up Downtown initiative, which the organization bills as a "visual and tactical plan for downtown Cleveland." DCA sent out information about their quest to architectural websites and various networks.
 
"We've received inquiries from firms all over the world," says Wiegand, tagging Canadian, local and mostly U.S.-based firms, although one entry came from China that will not be considered, as the competition is limited to North America.
 
Up to three qualified entities from the applicant pool will receive an $8,500 honorarium and $3,000 travel budget to inspect the underpass space and draw up a proposal that gives it an identity, improves lighting and safety in a creative way, makes it attractive, and "does the work of connecting two of our most vibrant downtown neighborhoods, which are the Warehouse District and the Flats," says Wiegand.
 
By way of example, she cites Playhouse Square as another key connection that has a unique character and placemaking attributes such as the chandelier and archways.
 
"We are not looking for a similar treatment but for a treatment that is potentially identifiable and creates a unique experience on the other side of downtown," says Wiegand.
 
The deadline for interested parties to submit their request for qualification (RQF) forms is March 6 at 4:30 p.m. The qualified candidates will be selected by April 1st. Their exploratory site visits should be complete by the end of April with final proposals due in mid-July. The winning design will be selected in early August, with fabrication and installation, the estimate for which is $800,000, tentatively scheduled for spring of 2016.
 
"We are working on fundraising for implementation of the final project," says Wiegand, adding that the current activities were made possible with the support of the Cleveland Foundation and other strategic partners. "Hopefully we'll be able to move forward in implementing it exactly as described or in combination with local firms, but that remains to be determined."
 
Details regarding the project, including RFQ submission guidelines are available here.
 
"We're looking forward to seeing qualifications from all kinds of firms," says Wiegand, "but we're particularly interested in local submissions."

 

heinen's quiet message: you are worthy of this divine space

The buzz surrounding Heinen's grand opening last Wednesday included the predictable photos and fawning. Stories were written; tweets were twittered. Local dignitaries narrated the ribbon cutting with wholly earned praise for one of the area's most highly anticipated projects.
 
Amid all the hubbub, one challenge in a Facebook post from Cleveland Yelp guru Cara Lageson caught Fresh Water's attention.
 
Question: How do you explain the entire population of Cleveland losing their minds over a grocery store to your colleagues from cities around the world?
 
Answer: You can't.
 
Actually, Cara, we're going to try.
 
Simply put, the downtown Heinen's has elevated the universal act of dropping a can of corn or a box of cereal into a shopping cart to divine heights. And no, that is not hyperbole. Where else can you order a pound of bologna under an arching Tiffany-style stained glass rotunda, or dither over single- or double-ply before the watchful eye of Francis Millet's Ohio settlers?
 
We have become so accustomed to stepping into unattractive and cheaply built big box stores that the idea of shopping as anything other than drudgery has all but vanished. They want our money; we need their stuff. Transaction complete
 
Not so at the new Heinen's. This family is glad you're here. These people respect you before you've spent a single dime. They know you are worthy of this beautiful space and so is their grocery business. After all, they spent $10 million to deliver it unto Cleveland in all of its stunning glory.
 
To celebrate that lofty assertion, Heinen's wine merchandiser Ed Thompkins offered up samples of Moet Champagne at the opening for the pauper's price of 25 cents each. That's saying something considering the regular price per bottle is $68.99.
 
Let them drink wine, indeed, and to that end, plenty of people were toasting the dazzling endeavor, but not exclusively with bubbly.
 
"For preservationists today," remarked Cleveland Landmarks Commission chair Jennifer Coleman, "it's a Mardi Gras-style holiday. I wish there were beads that we could throw."
 
Heinen's Joe Boscarello from the produce department didn't have any beads to toss amid the crowd, but he did have a suggestion on what to eat.
 
"Try a sumo orange. It's a nice big orange, easy to peel. They're the sweetest oranges, very juicy." But are they fresh? "We get deliveries five days a week. We do whatever we can to get the freshest stuff possible."
 
Local foodie and Edible Cleveland publisher Noelle Celeste found more than just oranges to laud.
 
"When you have a family business not only in Cleveland--but in the center of Cleveland--contributing to the food community here, it is just spectacular," she said. "What I love about Heinen's is that community isn't an afterthought for them."
 
The same goes for meat manager Scott Boggs. Afterthoughts have no place in his corner of the 27,000-square-foot store.
 
"We cut everything fresh daily," said Boggs from behind the bountiful counter. But how well does he know those whose sole commentary was "moo" not so long ago?
 
"These cows? I could tell you about their parents, their grandparents. We go to the farms. We know that much about our products."
 
Judging by the lines that formed at the checkout, the Heinen family knows a thing or two about the grocery business.
 
And it's a good bet, Cara, that they would welcome any of your international colleagues to walk amid the rows of peanut butter and toothpaste and bask in this most unique Cleveland cathedral.
 
They will be in good company, just ask Ward 3 councilman Joe Cimperman.
 
"Look at this room," he said at the opening. "I've got residents from public housing here. I've got residents who own half million-dollar condos here. You've got the mayor. You've got the county executive.
 
"This is one Cleveland, right here. We are no longer invisible, we're indivisible."
 

single-family homes, nature center and container park eyed for kinsman/colfax neighborhood

The team at Burten, Bell, Carr Development, Inc. (BBCD), which focuses on restoring the residential components of the Central, Kinsman, and Garden Valley neighborhoods, is crossing its collective fingers over whether or not state dollars will move the ambitious Colfax Family Homes project forward.
 
The proposal will populate the Colfax corridor between East 79th Street to just west of East 69th Street with 40 single-family residential units ranging from 1,850- to 2740-square feet. The structures will range from single-story ADA accessible units to three-story homes with a basement.
 
"It's a very innovative project," says Tim Tramble, BBCD's executive director. "The design is a different look. It's not what we've typically seen in Cleveland."
 
BBCD has agreements in place with area land banks for acquisition of some of the associated properties, with deals in the works on 10 additional lots. Funding is ongoing.
 
"We applied for state funding through the Ohio Housing Finance Agency," says Tramble. "If we get it, we move forward."
 
He sees the Colfax Family Home project as a compliment to two other unique Kinsman neighborhood projects: a nature center and a container park, both of which are outlined in the pending Kinsman Master Plan, which was updated just last month.
 
The nature center will be in the green space known as Kingsbury Run, an area characterized by dense vegetation and wildlife such as deer, rabbit and a hawk that nests there every year.
 
"It's about 500 feet from Kinsman Road," says Tramble, "but when you're there you feel so far removed because it's entrenched in a valley. It's amazing how close it is to the hustle and bustle of urban life."
 
BBCD eventually hopes to partner with the MetroParks on the project.
 
"We have had initial conversations with them," says Tramble, adding that the MetroParks would be the ideal entity to own and operate the property. He sees the development of the Kingsbury Run green space as building on the "health and wellness/urban agriculture/sustainability theme that we've established on Kinsman."
 
Further east down the Kinsman corridor, the proposed container park centers around an idea that has been gaining popularity.
 
Tramble explains: "It's taking shipping containers and converting them to small retail spaces," which in turn can be used by individuals in the community with goods to sell, but no means to lease a traditional retail store.
 
This "commercial node of containers" will be on the north side of Kinsman Road between East 81st and 79th Streets.
 
BBCD expects to finalize a report on the master plan late next month.
 
All of this activity will need a narrator, and the BBCD team has an app for that—or more accurately, a radio station, for which the organization has already obtained a license. Possible locations for the studio include the offices of BBCD, 7201 Kinsman Road, and Arbor Park Place at East 40th Street and Community College Avenue.
 
The community radio station will be operated by locals with the intent to bridge the disconnect between generations, give groups the opportunity to have their own radio shows and reinforce positive messaging.
 
"Sometimes we feel that we don't really have the vehicle to do that," says Tramble. "It's going to be a wonderful innovative way to engage people where they are."
 

 

fairfax update: 400 housing units in preliminary planning

Last year, the Fairfax neighborhood welcomed the opening of Griot Village, the area's first intergenerational housing project. In just a few short months, the project's success has mushroomed. To qualify for residency, a person 55 years of age or older must have custody of a minor. All 40 units are occupied and bustling with approximately 80 children. Most of the units are single-family households, many of which are headed by women, the oldest of which is 84.
 
"We did it because we kept getting more and more requests for this type of housing," says Denise VanLeer, assistant executive director of the Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation (FRDC). "It is a market niche that’s badly underserved and strained by circumstance. They need a lot of support."
 
So much so that there is a waiting list to get into Griot and queries from urban planners have come from Akron, New York and even as far as Japan to learn from the model.
 
On the heels of that success, the FRDC is unfolding its wings, so to speak, with an array of tentative projects.
 
The first is a large-scale mixed income community between East 101st and 105th Streets, which is currently inundated with vacancy.
 
"We don't know the exact number," says VanLeer, "but we're toying with 400-plus units."
 
Still in the "very preliminary planning stages," the FRDC team has been in communication with the Cleveland Land Bank and Cuyahoga Land Bank.
 
"We are in the process of land acquisition," says VanLeer.
 
While still off on the horizon, VanLeer believes the project will come to fruition as a dovetail to commercial development in the area.
 
Of the Cedar Road corridor, she says she hopes the Cleveland Clinic's Global Cardiovascular Innovation Center, 10000 Cedar Avenue, will act as a commercial development catalyst of sorts, but she words it in a much more charming way.
 
"We envision that project to have some babies or cousins."
 
Also of interest is the East 83rd Street corridor, which garnered a significant anchor in 2013 when Rumi's Market launched at 8225 Carnegie Avenue in 2013. The brightly lit Middle Eastern supermarket and café has been doing a brisk business. Per VanLeer, the PNC Fairfax Connection, a community resource center, is another entity that makes East 83rd "a major thoroughfare" and to further strengthen it, FRDC has trained it's sights on East 83rd and Cedar.
 
"We're working with a church and private investors to bring that corner back." Details are preliminary and confidential.
 
The last project harkens back to the days when Fairfax populated with grand Victorian homes. The East 89th Street Housing Project includes eight apartment buildings constructed to emulate the style of days gone by. While the FRDC has talked to developers and worked with the city architect on a vision, the project has unfortunately stalled.
 
"Right now the numbers don't work," says VanLeer.
 
VanLeer encourages any developer interested in learning more about the project to call Debra Wilson at 216.361.8400 for more information.
 
When asked why she believes the project will eventually come to fruition, VanLeer responds, "There's a market for it," she says, noting the project's proximity to the Cleveland Clinic. "This would be ideal for all nurses and people who work there, especially the residents who come for three years and then they're gone.
 
"They could actually walk to work."
 

ymca breaks ground on new galleria location

Earlier this month, the Cleveland YMCA broke ground on their highly anticipated new space in the Galleria. The Parker Hannifin Downtown Y is slated to open in February 2016.
 
"We had about 85 come to the ground breaking," says Rick Haase, vice president of marketing for the YMCA of Cleveland.
 
Haase notes the timing of the project, which coincides with a staggering boom in downtown residential growth. He cites the Downtown Cleveland Alliance's 2014 fourth quarter market update (p. 10), which estimates more than 25,000 people will be living downtown by 2022—up from 13,300 in 2014.
 
Considering that and the population of daily downtown commuters, the organization hopes to double the current membership of its 2200 Prospect Avenue location, which numbers nearly 3,250.
 
"Our current location at East 22nd and Prospect is, quite honestly, a little bit off beaten path," says Haase. Cleveland State University (CSU) owns that building, which was built in 1911 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Floors 2 through 8 are dedicated to CSU student housing, with the YMCA's fitness center on the first floor. The YMCA also has offices on the first and ninth floors. All of the YMCA's functions will eventually move to the Galleria.
 
The new two-story 40,000-square-foot YMCA will occupy what was formerly retail space in the gleaming mall. Amenities will include a three-lane lap pool, sauna and steam rooms, approximately 75 cardio and 25 weight training machines, a spinning studio, three group exercise studios (one of which will accommodate hot yoga) and two massage therapy rooms. Haase says presales are tentatively planned for this summer, six months in advance of the grand opening.
 
"There will be special rates for those join early," he says, adding that a presale office in the Galleria is a possibility. "There will very likely be a corporate rate as well." Packages for the area hotels are also on the horizon.
 
The total project budget is just over $12 million. Parker Hannifin is one of the private donors on the project. Werner Minshall, owner of the Galleria, donated the space, which translated into a $2.7 million gift. The organization expects to employee 39 full- and part-time workers at the new facility with an payroll of about $1.1 million over the first two years of operation.
 
The project is expected to create about 100 construction jobs and generate $7.9 million in tax revenue from new construction and labor costs. Moody Nolan is the architect and Infinity Construction Company is the general contractor.
 
Aside from the obvious attraction of a fitness club, the new YMCA will feature youth and senior programming as well as specialty programs targeted at preventing diabetes and helping adult cancer survivors transitioning out of treatment.
 
"There's a lot of impact that this project has," says Haase, "not only on the City of Cleveland but also in terms in helping to revitalize the downtown community."
 
Having just celebrated the YMCA's 160th year in Cleveland, Haase feels it's safe to say this is a long-term relationship.
 
"We're not going anywhere."
 

o-wow: former wmms program director set to launch internet radio station

After two years of jumping through financial hoops, the brains behind WMMS's heyday years will be launching oWOW, Cleveland's first live and local internet radio station, this Friday, but you can help yourself to a sneak peak.
 
"We're on the air right now, testing," says John Gorman, oWOW Media LLC's chief content officer and former program director at WMMS, from the outfit's temporary studio space in the 78th Street Studios.
 
As if on cue, a purring voice interrupts the interview.
 
"Hey everybody, I'm Ravenna Miceli. Got a B-side of a Stone's tune for you, "Jump On Top Of Me Baby" going back about 15 years, but it sounds brand new here on oWOW."
 
And as Jagger and co. pour from the studio speakers, that unmistakable feel from radio's past is reanimated: Ravenna Miceli picked this song just for me.
 
Miceli will join three other oWOW personalities: Steve Pappas, Susie Frazier and Charlotte DiFranco, all of whom have traditional radio experience. The staff has been trotting between a makeshift office (affectionately nicknamed "the trolley") and the temporary studio while their permanent 1,600-square-foot digs undergo construction. Scheduled for completion in mid to late spring, the space will include a studio and a production area with large interior windows so 78th Street visitors can look in on the action, be it a celebrity interview, a live performance or just the everyday studio buzz.
 
"What used to get people interested in radio was that it was exciting," says oWOW director of sales and marketing Jim Marchyshyn. "You looked in. You saw the DJ and you thought: this is cool. We are in show business. That's been forgotten."
 
"Studios are all empty," adds Gorman of today's traditional radio venues. "They don't have an air staff. Most of them are disembodied voices coming from another city. We're real live people. We're based in Cleveland. We can do all the things that radio can no longer do."
 
That means attracting listeners as well as advertisers. To wit, House of LaRose and Budweiser will be sponsoring oWOW's launch this weekend. As for programming, Friday Night Live will run Fridays from 5 p.m. to midnight and exclusively feature live concert audio. Daily programming will aim to give people back that live mix-tape feel, one the oWOW team thinks listeners will respond to in a world where bots make calculated music recommendations based on mysterious algorithms.
 
Look to hear Cleveland performers such as Kristine Jackson, Bob Gatewood and the Speedbumps. Lesser-known acts from across the country will also find airtime on oWOW, adds Gorman, citing Lucero and Charlie Faye.
 
"She's the new Joni Mitchell," says Gorman of the little-known singer songwriter out of Austen, Texas. "She's on a small independent label so she can't promote and market." Hence, play on oWOW could make a difference in her career while delighting Cleveland listeners, despite the geographic divide.
 
oWOW's target area will cover Northeast Ohio at large, from Erie to Columbiana County. As a perfect side note, David Helton, who created WMMS's legendary buzzard, also designed oWOW's logo.
 
While details on the complex deals are confidential, oWOW was funded by a host of private investors, a local bank and a loan and grant from the City of Cleveland.
 
"We had the odds so far against us at one point that it looked like it would never happen," says Gorman. "It made us fight even harder. We refused to give up." He adds that the founding partners also have a significant financial investment in the effort.
 
"We have serious skin in the game," says Gorman. "This has to be successful."

Photos Bob Perkoski

study shows slavic village emerging as model community

"We've turned the corner here in Slavic Village."
 
However simple that assertion from Chris Alvarado, executive director of Slavic Village Development (SVD), may be, longtime locals might eye it with some amount of skepticism. But the impact of a number of innovative programs is starting to turn the tide in this pocket of the city and a study published last month evidences that.
 
Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC) compiled the study, which was more than a year in the making. And the results of Documenting the Slavic Village Recovery Project are enough to hearten the grouchiest Cleveland naysayer.
 
The Slavic Village Recovery Project (SVRP) project is a collaborative program that targets homes for renovation, typically with a $40,000 investment, and puts them on the market in hopes of selling them to buyers with traditional funding: long-term mortgages.
 
SVRP is a partnership between Forest City Enterprises, RIK Enterprises, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress and SVD. Forest City and RIK contributed $225,000 each to the project and SVD and CNP both kicked in $25,000. The organization sold its first home in December 2013 and sold 20 homes in 2014.
 
"Each of these homes sell," says Alvarado. "They aren’t staying on the market terribly long. We have a waiting list of buyers." The goal is to have between 40 and 50 homes on the market this year. Eight are currently being renovated and should be ready to sell in a couple of months.
 
Alvarado cites this quote from the study: "The sale price of the initial homes reached the target amount of approximately $60,000, received an appraisal value above the sale price, and sold quickly."
 
"That's really important: being able to have the appraisal at or above the sale price," says Alvarado. "It means we're able to work with folks and get conventional mortgages. It's a big win." It's also a massive shift for the area, in which home prices fell so low after the 2007 foreclosure crisis that most transactions were between family members out of obligation or after a bank foreclosure.
 
"Folks are buying homes because they want to move into neighborhood."
 
Alvarado also notes this takeaway from the study: "Based on research and experience with markets throughout the state, it is GOPC's estimation that many aspects of this project could be adapted to other neighborhoods in other cities."
 
So what is the secret behind the successful project that has transformed the beleaguered Slavic Village into a model for urban renewal? Alvarado cites three components a community must have to replicate SVRP: a strong community development corporation with a staff seasoned in property acquisition and stabilization; stalwart housing stock in an area that has enduring occupancy and does not suffer severe displacement; and patient project partners that see the long-term benefit of the project.
 
The success of SVRP dovetails with the Trailside Homes project, which features new construction, to give buyers more options. But increasing the number of attractive homes is only one part of the equation. To that end, SVD's efforts to enforce codes and selectively demolish have put an impressive dent in the number of open/vacant/vandalized properties.
 
"Ten months ago," says Alvarado, "we had 172 (such properties). We're down to 64 throughout these five square miles."
 
Those undesirable properties can scare traditional buyers away from nearby nicer homes. As their numbers dwindle, families, young couples and retirees are coming back to the historic neighborhood from the suburbs or outside the region.
 
"It tells us people are excited about what's happening in Slavic Village."

homegrown chef to open lee road eatery

Clevelanders will be soon be faced with a difficult choice. Will it be the OMG Philly sammie (made with chicken and shrimp), the Hibachi Burger (topped with yum yum mayo and sautéed shrimp) or a Cleveland Polish Boy?
 
Those tempting items along with a host of other delectables will soon be available at Black Box Fix, the latest effort from Cleveland chef Eric Rogers.
 
Rogers, who left a lucrative career in healthcare finance in 2011 to cook professionally full time, will be opening the new venture in the space formerly occupied by Sweetie Fry at 2307 Lee Road.
 
The nearly 1,500-square-foot space (300 of which houses the kitchen) will feature seating for 19 or 20, counter service and cuisine Rogers describes as fast gourmet.
 
"We do out-of-the box cuisine. Everything's fresh and we try to use local," says Rogers. "All of our breads are made locally. This concept will focus on gourmet sandwiches that we've done at Nevaeh and several other things that we'll add to the roster."
 
Patrons of the popular Nevaeh, Rogers' South Euclid eatery that closed last November, will be able to get their fix at Black Box Fix, including Nevaeh favorites such as the Creole Soul Roll, which is stuffed with Andouille Sausage, collard greens and smoked turkey.
 
Ending up on Lee Road wasn't exactly what Rogers had planned.
 
"I wasn't looking for this location," says Rogers. "It just kind of fell in my lap though a friend of mine. It had what my first location couldn't give me, which was diversity." The foot traffic and eclectic surrounding communities sealed the deal for the self-taught chef.
 
In anticipation of a mid-March opening for Black Box Fix, which will serve lunch and dinner, Rogers is frantically refurbishing the cozy new space, largely by himself.
 
"I do have another handy man and my father's been helping out a lot," says Rogers. "Having been through this before, I know kind of what to expect."
 
Judging from his more than 22,500 followers on Instagram and Facebook, he can also expect to garner his share of business. Roger's will be offering promotions and direct ordering via those venues, to which he credits much of his success. He plans to employ 10 to 15 people at Black Box Fix, some of whom may also work for the catering side of the business, which Rogers hopes to expand after he opens the new eatery. Other Black Box Fix franchises are another future possibility.
 
Until then, Rogers will be enjoying a bit of celebrity. The Cleveland native taped an episode of Guy Fieri's Guy's Grocery Games last November that's scheduled to air in April. While mums the word on the outcome of the program, Rogers' energy is palpable.
 
"I have a high passion for what I'm doing."

 

$9m foundry project adds to transformation of flats into recreation hub

A unique property along the Cuyahoga River, featuring 80,000 square feet of space across 12 buildings, is set to be transformed into a youth and collegiate boathouse, fitness center and public park. The $9 million project, called The Foundry after its historic use, is located on Columbus Road across from Rivergate Park and will offer 500 feet of riverfront dock space for young rowers.

The Foundry is being developed by MCPc Family Charities, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, as well as by Mike and Gina Trebilcock. MCPc, Inc. is a technology integrator and consultancy located in downtown Cleveland. The Trebilcocks have three children, all of whom were rowers, and the nonprofit has long supported rowing in Cleveland.
 

Plans for the property include a new public park and multipurpose trail that will connect with Rivergate Park; offices, study rooms and other areas for young people and coaches; at least two "rowing tanks" where rowers can practice in water during the off-season; a large boathouse where boats can be stored and repaired; and possibly a second-level observation areas where parents can watch young people row. The new owners say that Phase I will be open by September.

The property is a stunning slice of riverfront beauty, offering views of downtown, Irishtown Bend, the Columbus Road bridge and the Lorain Carnegie bridge.

"We want local rowers to see there's a future for rowing here," said Matt Previts, Higher Education Vertical Manager at MCPc, during a recent tour of the sprawling property. Previts is an avid rower who coached at St. Ignatius for a decade. He is also director of rowing with the Cleveland Youth Rowing Association, the group that helps students whose schools do not have affiliated programs -- like Cleveland Municipal School District -- gain access to the sport.

CYRA and various school-based programs will be the property's main occupants and users. Currently, these groups share space with the Cleveland Rowing Foundation, which is crammed into the boathouse at Rivergate Park. The move will create a separate space that youth and collegiate rowing programs will be able to grow into, while freeing up valuable space at the current boathouse.

Previts stated that MCPc Charities plans to donate the majority of the funding necessary to renovate the complex, which is partially occupied. The property has been owned by Pipeline Development for 50 years, and a for-profit entity owned by the Trebilcocks just purchased it for $3 million. During an initial five-year period, that for-profit entity will hold the property. After that period, the Trebilcocks intend to donate it to a nonprofit that would manage it as a youth rowing center.

The complex of brick buildings includes high ceilings and two ton cranes that were once used to move heavy equipment around. The buildings will soon prove to be perfect spaces for young rowers who see the working , industrial Cuyahoga River as a vibrant recreational playground. "You can't make this stuff anymore," said Previts of the old brick walls and barn doors, which will be preserved. "The renovation will honor the heritage that is here. It just feels industrial and cool."

Kirk Lang, Executive Director of the Cleveland Rowing Foundation, released a statement in the wake of the Foundry announcement: "The announcement of plans for a second boathouse indicate that the sport is indeed on the rise here. The Trebilcock family’s investment is also, as our partners at Cleveland Metroparks have noted, another vote of confidence in the future of the Cuyahoga River as a regional destination for recreation. We will collaborate with all users on rules to ensure continued safety on the river. This announcement will not affect our plans to push forward with improvements to the current CRF boathouse that will enable us to better serve the adult, collegiate and scholastic programs that have and will continue to flourish there."

Land stated in a followup email that some youth and collegiate rowing programs will continue to operate out of the CRF boathouse.

The Foundry project will also displace a few tenants, perhaps most notably the Cleveland Museum of Art's Community Arts Program. This is the spot where CMA's Community Arts Director Robin Van Lear and her cohorts store and create puppets and props for Parade the Circle. Previts stressed that the transition will be gradual so that existing tenants can find a place to land.

Previts believes the building's new use will not cause a conflict with existing property owners, despite everpresent concerns in the Flats -- and particularly around Rivergate Park -- about parking and traffic. Plans for the buildings will accommodate enough parking spaces for visitors, he stated. A few of the non-historic buildings will be knocked down to create additional parking spaces, and many of the youth coaches drive their rowers in buses down to the river.


sustainability takes center stage in neo, tackles biz bottom lines

Sustainability is gaining traction throughout the region, in public policy and everyday applications -- particularly in the world of business both big and small.
 
Just last week, the Cuyahoga County Executive's office announced that former Ohio House of Representative member Michael Foley will helm the newly created Department of Sustainability, which according to a statement will "(promote) economic development to support businesses that provide environmentally sustainable products and services; (educate) the public about environmentally sustainable practices; and (collaborate) with businesses, non-profit organizations and government agencies to develop programs incorporating environmentally sustainable methods into accepted practice."
 
Area businesses, however, are already incorporating policies to that end, which was evidenced last month during a roundtable discussion on how business is reacting to climate change. Cleveland State University's Center for Sustainable Business Practices hosted the event, which included the City of Cleveland, the small business Kalman & Pabst (K&P) and corporate giant Parker Hannifin.
Mike Wasserman 
"I think we felt like we were in very good company," says K&P co-owner Mike Wasserman, who spoke at the roundtable, noting that his 12-employee business in MidTown was a nice contrast to Parker Hannifin, which employs some 57,500 people in 50 countries. "They have a different perspective."
 
The centerpiece of K&P's sustainability practices is a 137-panel rooftop solar array, which generates between 25 and 30 percent of of the studio’s electricity. That savings, coupled with $17,000 in solar renewable energy credits the company has garnered courtesy of the array, which was installed in 2010, have resulted in a three and a half-year payback for the installation.
 
Per Wasserman, future green plans for the 18,000 square-foot commercial photography studio, with its three working kitchens, include the installation of a system that collects and reuses the property's rainwater run-off and expanding usage of LED lighting. Currently, fluorescent and LED bulbs make up more than 75 percent of K&P's lighting.
 
Wasserman is also interested in smart technology, which monitors employees' behavior and controls energy systems accordingly.
 
"I'm really interested in the technology side of things," he says, stipulating that any green improvements have to "make sense for the bottom line as well."
 
During the roundtable, Parker Hannifin's Dennis Wolcott, resource conservation and energy programs manager, cited the company's collective "resource conservation" as resulting in an overall savings of $160 million since 2004.
 
Matthew Gray of Cleveland's Office of Sustainability stated at the forum that the Midwest region emits 20 percent more greenhouse gasses per capita than the national average. Hence, efforts from huge corporations like Parker Hannifin and small local outfits such as K&P are equally important and impactful.
 
"Were always looking to do something—and it might be a little thing," says Wasserman, "but those little things compound and build into big things."

red-hot rental market ignites conversion of garfield building into downtown apartments

A deal more than a year in the making has finally come to a close, and as a result, another of Downtown's grand spaces is about to undergo a stunning transformation. The historic Garfield Building, 1965 East 6th Street, is slated to become apartments.
 
The West Coast-based Westcore Properties, which purchased the building for $8 million in 2008, has sold the 11-story, 160,000-square-foot structure to the Millennia Companies for $6 million. Westcore, however, did not lose money.
 
"On the surface, you could say we paid $8 million and sold it for $6 million, so we lost $2 million," summarizes Don Ankeny, president and CEO of Westcore Properties. "But along the way, we probably got 15 percent unlevered return on our capital. We enjoyed six years of very attractive cash flow."
 
Originally built in 1893, the refurbished building will be renamed the Corning Place. Preliminary plans call for 125 one- and two-bedroom apartments ranging from 540- to 1,325-square-feet with estimated rents from $1.70 to $1.90 per square foot.
 
The first floor, which includes the breathtaking column-lined lobby, houses between 35,000- and 40,000-square feet of retail opportunity, none of which has been locked into tenants.
 
Permits for the $40 million project, which received a $5 million historic tax credit, are pending and should be in hand within 30 to 60 days, well ahead of a construction start date in June. Units are expected to be ready for rental 18 to 24 months after that. Sandvick Architects are the designers on the job and the general contractor is American Preservation Builders. Both firms are based in Cleveland.
 
Westcore's sole tenant for the building was PNC, whose lease expired in December. The Garfield Building was the real estate acquisitions firm's only Cleveland holding.
 
"We had a good experience in Cleveland," says Ankeny, "and with the right opportunity we would come back."
 

"climb zion" gym, unique community center, coming to historic tremont church

Imagine vertically climbing past a 130-year-old stained glass window through a working bell tower, settling into the Downward Facing Dog pose in a vintage auditorium, or scaling a bouldering wall in a holy sanctuary.
 
Sound like heaven? Try Tremont.

The notion is soon to become a reality when local entrepreneurs Niki Zmij and Chick Holtkamp bring their love of climbing to the north coast by way of a unique project.
 
"We both have strong ties to Cleveland," says Holtkamp, a seasoned climber and real estate investor whose family has been handcrafting pipe organs here for more than 150 years. "There's always an opportunity to move somewhere else. We want to bring some of what we learned out there back here."

"Out there" refers to more than 50 climbing gyms in 12 states the couple toured in order to shape their vision of "Climb Zion," the transformation of the Zion United Church of Christ, 2716 West 14th Street, into a 40,000-square-foot community center that will feature climbing, yoga, community activities, a café, lounge areas and even a sauna. While the facility will cater to advanced climbers, the larger intent is to be all-inclusive.
Niki Zmij and Chick Holtkamp 
"We want to build a place that has stuff to challenge the really hard core climbers," says Zmij, "but also has stuff that's achievable and fun for someone who walks in off the street." To that end, it's not hard to imagine a chaperoning parent or uncle sipping coffee, watching climbers scale the array of walls and thinking: looks fun … I could do that ...
 
The result when they take the plunge?
 
"People surprise themselves and blow expectations out of the water," says Zmij.
 
Plans include building a large addition in the rear of the property that will house the main climbing gym and connect to the existing buildings, which include the church proper and a schoolhouse. The area between those buildings would become an atrium that will echo the Ames Family Atrium at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
 
"We were really inspired by what they did," says Zmij, noting how the CMA atrium turned beautiful exterior walls into beautiful interior walls. "All of these stained glass windows will be inside the atrium between these two gothic style buildings.
It's like being in a European village."

One aspect of the project that separates it from the handful of other renovated church/climbing gyms across the country is that the parishioners of Zion United Church of Christ will still convene in the main sanctuary on Sundays, just like they have since 1885 when the church was dedicated (the congregation is older still, dating back to 1867).
 
Once numbering in the thousands, there are now less than 20 church members.
 
"As you can imagine," says Zmij, "the upkeep of these buildings has become difficult." But the prospect of the climbing gym has put some pep in parishioners' steps. "I think they're excited about more people coming to this place," she says, adding that the exposure may translate to more members. "How cool would it be to stay after your Sunday church service and climb for a couple of hours?"
Zion United Church of Christ 
The couple expects to close on the purchase of the property, details of which are confidential, this summer. They are also negotiating with the Ohio Department of Transportation regarding an adjacent vacant property, which would facilitate parking for 80 to 90 vehicles.
 
Access will be public, with membership plans for the committed and day passes for the curious.
 
As for total renovation costs, "It depends on how you do it," says Holtkamp. "If we phase it in, then our renovation budget is in the order of $2.5 million. If we do it all at once, it's more like $4 million." Optimistic scheduling includes a late summer/early fall 2015 groundbreaking and early 2016 opening.
 
"We think it's definitely possible," says Zmij. "It would be great to be open for the Republican National Convention."
 
Traditional financing, private investors and (hopefully) an historic preservation tax credit, for which the couple will apply next month, will fund the project.
 
"We're committed to making this happen whether it's with the tax credits or without," says Zmij. "We have some dollars locked in."

While both are part of the hardcore climbing scene, Holtkamp recalls when the sport was mainly practiced outdoors by men in their twenties.

"Indoor climbing has grown up. We know how to do things really well now," he says of the niche industry that produces climbing wall equipment. "It's a good time to start doing this."

The demographic has changed as well, with about a 50/50 split between men and women and an age range that has expanded on both ends.
 
"Four-year-olds climb and 90-year-olds climb," says Holtkamp. "The gym will be built to accommodate all of these people."

small box cle announces newest tenant, blue edge, a gift and beauty products boutique

Small Box, the innovative shipping container retail cluster in the Warehouse District, has announced its newest tenant: Blue Edge, a collaboration between Edge Hair Studio and Blue Envelope that will offer "eco-conscious and high-end gift and beauty products."

Edge Hair Studio and Blue Envelope are both located in downtown Willoughby. According to the release, "Edge Hair Studio is a full-service, eco-conscious hair and nail salon ... Edge is the only studio on the east side of Cleveland to carry the full line of exclusive Davines products. These products, handmade by a dedicated, passionate family in Parma, Italy, have a cult-following for the luxury they provide in a beauty routine. Every item is handwrapped by an in-house artist."
 
Blue Envelope is a three-year-old stationery studio. The firm specializes in customized stationery and sells "exclusive and some locally-designed stationery and gift brands" at their current location.

Both tenants have been active in growing the downtown Willoughby business scene. The release notes, "Historic Warehouse District Development Corp. welcomes with excitement Blue Edge as this group of creative and community-minded business owners make their first foray into Downtown Cleveland."
689 Articles | Page: | Show All
Signup for Email Alerts