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sneak peak of the new corner alley at uptown

Fun and high style collide at the Corner Alley's second location at 11409 Euclid Avenue in Uptown, from the giant colorful lattice of bowling balls suspended above the main bar to the mural giving a visual depiction of Northeast Ohio's population that hangs on the opposite wall. But the strikes, spares and gutter balls aren't ready to roll just yet.
Slated for a December 3rd grand opening and a soft opening on November 29th, the site is still thrumming with the buzz of drills and footfalls of workers as they rush to finish the nearly 23,000 square feet of this stunning new entertainment venue, which seats up to 500 and will employ approximately 100. Construction started in spring 2013. MRN Hospitality Group, which owns the business, has invested $5.5 million to see it come to fruition.
Designed by Dimit Architects, the first floor clocks in at approximately 12,000 square feet with 11 lanes. The second floor has six lanes, which Corner Alley sales and marketing director Mary Lessick classifies as "boutique." Downstairs bowling is $50 per hour for up to six bowlers. The boutique lanes go for $60 per hour. In either case, shoe rental is included. Both levels feature a bar as well as numerous seating and dining areas, all of which are available for private parties.
Rental opportunities for personal or professional gatherings abound in nooks such as the Catwalk Lounge ($150 an hour) and the Mezzano ($75 an hour). Four boutique lanes and adjacent seating – AKA  the Uptown Lounge -- runs $300 an hour. The entire facility can be had for $1,500 an hour. Staff can accommodate most groups. Food and beverages are not included in hourly pricing.
For tighter budgets, a "Friends and Family Fun Pack" is available for limited hours and includes two hours of bowling, two pizzas, sodas and shoe rental for up to six people. Lessick hopes to add other promotional events such as College I.D. Night in the future.
Until then, affordable drinks include happy hour pricing ($2 for PBR Tall Boys, $5 mini-margaritas), but lead bartender Jason Rutushin also promises delights such as house sangria, vodka infused in-house in oak barrels full up with peppers, olives and pickles for a custom Corner Alley Bloody Mary, and a host of handcrafted cocktails.
"Everything is made from scratch," adds culinary director Todd DiCillo of the kitchen's offerings. "Everything is slow roasted and hand pulled." He sources his ingredients locally whenever possible, and then whips them into dishes such as baked polenta points with roasted peppers and sausages (app, $10) and braised osso bucco ragout with rigatoni and pork shank (entrée, $17). Pizzas and sandwiches go for $10 to $12. The menu also features salads, sides, deserts and kids' plates.
Other amenities will include air hockey, a pool table, modern and vintage video games (Pac-Man, Asteroids), tabletop shuffleboard, a pinball machine and 37 televisions. Picnic table seating and two outdoor fire pits round out the spacious Euclid Avenue patio, where guests are welcome to people watch while sipping wine or a bourbon and berries cocktail. Valet parking is available, but Lessick also recommends the nearby Ford Garage or the Uptown North Station Pay Station Lot, which is directly behind the venue.
MRN Ltd., owned by the Maron family, is the developer and lead contractor on the entire mixed-use complex at the corner of Euclid Avenue and Ford Drive, which houses the likes of Cleveland Yoga, Constantino's Market and Cleveland Institute of Art students, although the dorms above will be shielded from the din of Corner Alley with soundproof building materials.
The area has undergone significant transformation over the years.
"This was called 'Hessler beach' right here," recalls MRN Hospitality Group's food, beverage and events director, Christine Connell, "with all the old hippies laying around without their tops on. The Tudor Arms was Job Corps, and it was really in bad shape." Connell moved from Manhattan to University Circle in 1992 and has worked with MRN since 1997.
Alternative dress codes of yesteryear notwithstanding, Chef DiCillo sums up the energy of the place.
"We just want people to be able to have a nice wine, have a nice entrée, and then look up and see a group of kids bowling. I think that's really fun."

78th street studios welcomes four tenants on new ramp level, anticipates arrival of artneo

Third Friday at 78th Street Studios is always a unique event, but this month's installment will include the grand opening of the new 20,000-square-foot "ramp level."
Four galleries have already moved into the new space and will be ready to dazzle attendees this Friday. In spaces that range from 1000 to 1500 square feet, the new tenants include The Nine 5 Gallery, an industrial art space; the Byzantine, which features eclectic home goods; Northcoast Promotions, an artisan craft market; and the second location for Hartshorn Studios, which has been at its Tremont storefront, 2334 Professor Avenue, since 2007.
"We absolutely love Tremont," says Hartshorn artist and gallery manager Lila Kole, "but we also wanted to be in a place where we have close access to lots of other peoples' ideas and artwork and kind of be working together in a hive."
"We want to sort of connect these growing areas," adds gallery owner and principal artist Rob Hartshorn of Cleveland's expanding art scene.
Dan Bush purchased the 170,000-square-foot complex on 78th in 2001. With the four new tenants, the studios now boast nearly 50 businesses. The newly opened ramp level features two suites, with an event venue and plenty of room for additional studios.
"We've got a ton of demand," says Bush of the space, which opened up when longtime tenant Grossman Inc. vacated in February of this year. "We hope to have at least another 15 businesses in the building by the end of 2015."
ARTneo, formerly the Cleveland Artist Foundation, will be occupying 2,500 square feet on the ramp level in early 2015 and will be programming an adjacent 5,000-square-foot gallery part of the year, while the rest of the building will direct shows and content for the balance. ARTneo is moving from their long-standing home at the Beck Center for the Arts.
"They've outgrown us; we've outgrown them," says Bush, who is also an ARTneo board member. "It's all a very good serendipity."
The ramp level grand opening will go one hour beyond the usual 5 – 9 p.m. Third Friday time slot, with festivities extending to 10 p.m. and including strolling accordion player Ralph Szubski, guitarist Victor Samalot, the ever-fabulous Lounge Kitty and a yet-to-be-announced neighborhood pub selling nibbles.
The Nov. 21 happening will also feature the opening reception for A Great Joy: The Women's Art Club of Cleveland 1912-2006. ARTneo and Dr. Lawrence Waldman are co-curating the show, which will be held in Suite 215, the site's pop-up shop on the second floor through Jan 17.

university circle transportation study: 'we have enough parking, but it needs to be easier to use'

While that quote comes from Chris Bongorno, transportation planning manager for University Circle Inc. (UCI), he is quick to point out that the complex parking situation in University Circle cannot be summed up in a single sentence. He also readily admits that the major thrust of the study's findings—that the existing 37,000 parking spaces in the University Circle area are sufficient in an aggregate sense—will likely raise some eyebrows.
"That will instigate a lot of reaction because that's not the perception or reality to some people," he says.
Although the findings of the District Parking Study, which is part of the larger Moving Greater University Circle Transportation and Mobility Study are still in the draft stage and not yet publicly available, Bongorno gave Fresh Water a fascinating insight into this otherwise utilitarian topic and the study's results.
"Where there are (parking) constraints is during peak times," he says, adding that identifying different parking supply and demand markets is critical. Rather than building more expensive parking garages that do not command sufficient revenue to cover the associated debt, says Bongorno, the informed option is to "find more creative ways to coordinate management and use of existing facilities."
He cites the Veteran's Administration Medical Center's two large garages, which are near peak use during the day, but no so at other times. "In the evenings, they make those garages available to the public," he says, which is convenient for attendees of events such as Wade Oval Wednesdays.
That's easy enough to understand. Who hasn't looked on with frustration at a No parking. Violators will be towed sign in front of a desolate office building parking lot on a Sunday? Hence, with 15 different organizations in the University Circle area giving 15 different messages about how to park and get around, there is significant room for coordinated efforts.
"This is not something that would be easily achieved," concedes Bongorno, adding that parking lot owners have reasons why they want to manage their own facilities, but that it can be done. He cites the recent transformation of Uptown, where surface lots were replaced with dense and dynamic mixed-use development. Getting UCI, University Hospitals and Case Western Reserve University to commit to shared-use of their area garages was instrumental in obtaining zoning variances for the new projects, which eliminated parking spaces and incurred more users.
"That's worked there," says Bongorno. However challenges persist, particularly with communication. People can't always find those spaces, which is often a problem with transportation management and will be addressed at large as the project proceeds.
A $100,000 Transportation for Livable Communities Initiative Planning Grant from the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency is funding the study, along with matching contributions from private philanthropic partners. Phase two, the Transportation and Mobility Study, began in September and is scheduled for completion in early 2015. Work on the final phase of the study, the Transportation Management Implementation Plan, will begin in spring 2015. Nelson\Nygaard, which specializes in developing transportation communities, is the lead consultant on the project.
"They're really experienced in multi-modal transportation planning around the world," says Bongorno, noting that they've done work in Pittsburgh, Boston, Philadelphia and Detroit.
Evoking the image of enormous parking lots surrounding malls or big box stores that are often half empty, Bongorno asserts, "We can't build for the day after Thanksgiving. That's not the type of district that we want. We want a district that is very efficiently using its existing assets while maintaining and promoting a walkable and very vibrant 24/7 district."
Another goal of the project is, ironically, invisible results.
"We don't want people who go to MOCA or the museums or Piccadilly to say anything about their experience driving there or parking. That's not part of their memorable experience. We want it to be about what they saw, who they ran into, and how that ice cream tasted.

"We want transportation to be out of the conversation unless they're saying how easy it was."

lake affect artists' studios, event venue coming to campus district

A hip new studio space adjacent to the trendy ArtCraft building in the Campus District will soon be filled with artists. Professional photographers Dan LaGuardia and his partner Amanda Sinkey expect to open Lake Affect Studios, 1615 East 25th Street, in the first quarter 2015.
While a $30,000 vacant property grant from the city of Cleveland is pending, the two purchased the 30,000-square-foot building in March 2013 for $400,000 with funds from family. The space, which is actually three connected buildings, had been on the market since 2008 and had previously housed a manufacturer of display units and a mop factory. The oldest of the three structures was built in the early 1900s, and the newest was erected in the 1990s. The other building dates to the mid-1900's.
Eleven studio spaces are currently under construction, ranging from 535- to 1400-square feet with rents starting at $0.60 per square foot. Hence, monthly rents will start at $321 with an additional shared utility fee, prorated on the percentage of square footage each studio occupies.
"We wanted to get together a like-minded community of creative people that have a lot of energy and want to work together and bounce ideas off each other," says LaGuardia. Six tenants are already on the waiting list. They include photographers, a sculptor and a video production operation. LaGuardia and Sinkey will be "studio natives," occupying space other than the 11 units for lease. Their vision for the venture is reflected in the name. "Lake Affect is kind of a play on words that alludes to how we would like to 'affect' the area around us," says LaGuardia.
Sinkey works mostly with personal portraits and weddings. LaGuardia is a commercial photographer with clients such as JoAnne Fabric & Craft Stores, Philip Morris and Red Model Management. His work often requires travel, so why Cleveland?
"I was born in Cleveland and I wouldn't go anywhere else. I love it here," he says. "I can work regionally from Cleveland and still have my home base here." His work often takes him to Chicago and New York, which poses no problem. "Both are just a short plane ride away." As for the cultural comparison, "Cleveland is cheap and affordable. It offers every thing New York or Chicago could offer, just on a smaller scale."
The 6,000-square foot event space will be adjacent to an art gallery, which will serve as a cocktail area for event attendees and showcase for resident artists. LaGuardia has fielded healthy interest in the event space but one date, September 19, 2015, is already booked—for LaGuardia's and Sinkey's wedding reception. Decisions such as buttercream vs. fondant, however, will have to wait. For now, it's all about bringing Lake Affect to life.
"Our success depends on what we do from here on out," says LaGuardia. "I'm excited to get to work and pound the pavement and get the word out about this place and fill it up."

cuyahoga county now the 'gold standard' for abandoned property reclamation

Some of the most significant strides in Cleveland's renaissance come from the quietest corners, where people with rolled sleeves toil behind desks, taking on daunting challenges. While their accomplishments aren't often regaled with flashy grand openings and popping champagne corks, their impact is unmistakable.
Hence, when the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corp (or more commonly, the Cuyahoga Land Bank) quietly celebrated the passage of Senate Bill 172 earlier this month, few noticed. The legislation, which was authored by Douglas Sawyer, special projects and policy counsel for the Cuyahoga Land Bank and Gus Frangos, the organization's president and general council, is an important link in an ongoing effort that has catapulted Cuyahoga County from the infamous "ground zero" of the foreclosure crisis to a nationally recognized pioneer in expediting and processing vacant and abandoned property.
"Cuyahoga County is considered the gold standard," says Sawyer of the county's reputation as a leader in the area of abandoned property reclamation. "It's really a credit to the city and county. All of the different players realized how big the problem was here and have come together to try and tackle these problems."
SB 172 improves and streamlines processes previously established in House Bill 294 (2006). That legislation included a nationally groundbreaking alternative to the traditional judicial tax foreclosure process for abandoned properties: the administrative tax foreclosure hearing. The administrative process, performed by the Cuyahoga County Board of Revision, takes between six and 12 months, whereas the customary judicial process can go on for one or two years. Once a property is foreclosed, it is essentially cleansed of delinquent taxes and other financial encumbrances, and can make its way into "someone's hands that can do some thing good with it" by way of the land bank, says Sawyer.
The original 2006 legislation, however, allowed for any number of entities such as lien holders or banks to "move to dismiss"—essentially putting the kibosh on an administrative foreclosure—and sending the case back to the judicial system completely anew.
"That's not good," says Sawyer, noting that the county invests much preparation, due diligence and funding (approximately $1,500) into each administrative foreclosure case. SB 172 saves all of that, allowing the case to remain intact and simply transfer into the court system along with all the associated documentation.
Sawyer describes another thing he likes about SB 172. The legislation removes the obligation for a local municipality, county or county land bank to obtain permission from owners of properties that have been forfeited to the state--who are often difficult (if not impossible) to find--in order to assess those properties. He cites the tiny Village of Glenwillow.
"Glenwillow is getting onto a property that was forfeited to the state," says Sawyer. "They're doing some environmental testing and as long as there's not something really really bad on it, they'll pull it from the forfeiture list through our land bank and they're going to do some good things on the property." Without SB 172, he adds, "they wouldn't have any ability to do that."
Since its inception in 2009, the Cuyahoga Lank Bank has transacted 4,600 properties, demolished 2,960 and facilitated the renovations of 980. It currently holds title to 1,330 properties. A founder of the land bank, former County Treasurer Jim Rokakis, went on to create the Thriving Communities Institute, a region-wide effort to help revitalize urban centers by transforming vacant properties.
"We are really one of the leaders," says Sawyer. "If you want to be doing this kind of work, this is a great place to be doing it. This is the cutting edge."

trailside homes in slavic village gains momentum as fifth buyer takes the keys

Adding to a small but growing group of new Slavic Village residents, the fifth homebuyer moved into the Trailside Homes development earlier this month. Slavic Village Development Executive Director Chris Alvarado says the group of new homeowners represents the neighborhood and then some.
"This is reflective of the entire city," says Alvarado. "We're bringing folks in from the suburbs as well," he adds, noting that the newcomers are young couples and singles that have also come from Cleveland proper. They've been moving in since late 2013.
The newest resident discovered the project during a Rooms to Let event earlier this year, which coincided with an open house at Trailside.
The homes range from $119,000 to $132,000 and 1,155 to 1,367 square feet. Financial incentives include down payment assistance and 15 year tax abatement.
"These are all energy star homes," says Alvarado, with estimated maximum utility bills of $70 per month, which includes winter heating. "You're talking about less than $700 a month for all of your home expenses."
Construction of Trailside started in 2013, with work focusing on streets, infrastructure, connections to Morgana Trail, and construction of the first ten homes. The development could eventually include between 70 and 100 homes, although the next construction phase is still in the planning stage. The project has been in the works for years, and the developers hope that sales will now pick up.
Third Federal Savings & Loan has driven the project and owns the unsold homes and future lots, which lie north of the organization's 175,000-square-foot Broadway Avenue corporate headquarters.
"Third Fed financed the entire project," says Alvarado, adding that they started back in 2011 when "the market wasn't that great." He lauds the company's commitment to the neighborhood.
"The partnership with them is not just in terms of expanding their campus and building Trailside," says Alvarado. "They have a foundation that is heavily invested in youth development and working with the schools." Other partners on the Trailside collaboration include Zaremba Builders and Progressive Urban Real Estate.

The Trailside project represents Slavic Village Development's vision for the entire Broadway/Slavic Village area, which offers a level of affordability that is largely unavailable in downtown Cleveland or trendier neighborhoods like Tremont. As the community slowly recovers from the devastation of the housing crisis, advocates hope that the neighborhood's assets will eventually drive growth.
"In order for us to stabilize the neighborhood and help people stay here and thrive, they need to have all the things that are a part of a strong neighborhood," says Alvarado, citing strong schools, youth programs and a "dense network of partners that work with one another so that whatever needs you have as a family, we're able to meet those needs and do it in an affordable way."

Perhaps the most unique feature of the Trailside project is that it backs up to Morgana Run, a two mile bicycling and walking path. The Towpath is also easily accessible, and plans are in the works to connect the trail to downtown.
"I want to make sure that this is a neighborhood that is beautiful," Alvarado says, "and has all the services and amenities you could possibly want."

storefront renovation fills bruno casiano gallery with new light

Longtime Detroit Shoreway fixture the Bruno Casiano Gallery has finally opened its eyes, so to speak, courtesy of a storefront renovation.
The gallery, which is located at 5304 Detroit Avenue, is filled with natural light after more than 50 years without front windows. The two new windows, which were installed last week, occupy spaces that were bricked up at an unknown point in the building's past.
"It used to be a speakeasy, this place," says owner Bruno Casiano, adding that the structure dates back to the 1930s and also housed a boat business for many years during the mid- to late-1900s.
The $22,000 renovation included removal of the brick, installation of two eight-foot by eight-foot windows, new awnings and improvements to the front stoop, including new tiling. The project will be part of the city's Storefront Renovation Program, by which up to 40 percent of costs are reimbursed, with a maximum of $25,000 for an exterior upgrade, after the work is complete and the bills are paid.  

"That's a big investment for a small company like me," says Casiano of the $22,000 tab. "To get something back? It really helps. It's a really good program."
Casiano purchased the 2,500-square-foot building in 2001.
"It had been abandoned for so long. It was a mess. It took me two years of sweat equity. I really worked." He installed new floors, bathrooms and dry wall before opening the gallery and subsequently leasing the space. Tenants included a music recording and photography studio and Wall Eye Gallery before Casiano reopened the space as Bruno Casiano Gallery in 2013. He occasionally displays his own work, but it's mostly the work of others that adorns the 1,500 square feet of display space.

Born in Gary, Indiana, in 1960, Casiano and his family moved to his family's hometown of Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico when he was nine. He studied art in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic before coming to Cleveland in 1994 to earn his bachelor of arts in illustration at the Cleveland Institute of Art. His work, which has been described as "strongly Puerto Rican in essence," has been displayed at dozens of shows across Northeast Ohio, as well as in Puerto Rico and Chicago. He has also been commissioned by the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Fort Wayne Museum of Art and the Hispanic Business Association.
Casiano began working with the city and the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization in April to bring the project to fruition. He expects the finishing details to be complete in time for the gallery's 2014 Christmas Show, which debuts on November 14 with a reception from 6 to 10 p.m. Casiano is looking forward to showing off the space's transformation at that time.
"The artists will be around. We'll have hors d'oeuvres. It will be fun."

long-dormant euclid beach carousel almost ready to ride

The quest to bring the historic Euclid Beach Carousel back to life has had its ups and downs, but in the end, the generosity of donors prevailed. The Euclid Beach Carousel Society raised $1.6 million for the project, which will spring into motion on November 22nd in a beautiful new glass pavilion at the Western Reserve Historical Society.
"We've gotten donations from people all over the country who remember Euclid Beach, and a lot of really strong support here in Cleveland," says EBCS Chairwoman Terry Kovel.  "We say, 'Euclid Beach' and people smile."
Some supporters may, in fact, find the horses more animated than they bargained for. "Our biggest problem is that nobody believes us when we say: you're going to be able to ride the horses," says Kovel. "They think it's a museum exhibit that's going to just stand there."

The confusion presented a quandary for the group as they prepared for the Nov. 22nd donor thank you party. "We had quite a time deciding how to write our invitations," she says. "We finally said, 'cocktail attire—but be prepared to ride a horse.' We had visions of women coming in really short dresses or really tight dresses."

The event will mark the eve of the carousel's grand opening to the public on Nov. 23rd. Until then, festive replica horses dot the front lawn of the WRHS.
One point of pride in the project is less obvious than the glorious galloping horses.

"It's a very green building," says Kovel, adding that the carousel will rotate slowly all night long and will be illuminated. "The power needed to keep the carousel lit and running at night is the equivalent to that of a 60-watt light bulb."
The 1910 carousel was a key attraction in the legendary Euclid Beach Park. When the park closed in 1969, the ride was sold to Palace Playland in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, where it operated until 1996. When the ride became available for sale in the late 1990s, the Greater Cleveland Partnership (formerly Cleveland Tomorrow) partnered with the Trust for Public Land and the Ford Foundation, and got the beloved ride back to Cleveland.
"They gave the horses to the Western Reserve Historical Society," says Kovel, whose husband Ralph was on the WRHS board of trustees at the time and tried relentlessly to get the organization to install the carousel. "He tried and tried," says Kovel of Ralph's efforts, "but (the board) kept voting him down. When he died, I decided—with some of his friends—that we had to do something."
That was six years ago. Thanks to the efforts of Kovel and others, something was done, with WRHS as a key partner. Now visitors from Greater Cleveland and beyond will be able to reap the benefits when the carousel reopens.

To learn more, you can visit Fresh Water's past coverage of the carousel here.

long-time area construction firm to move into flats

Nestled between the old Superior Viaduct and the Center Street swing bridge in the Flats sits a building that once housed a foundry for the White Sewing Machine Company. The squat, one story brick structure dates back to the late 1800's.
Vacant for 15 years, the space is now in the final stages of a major update as the John G. Johnson Construction Company (JGJ) gets ready to move into their new digs at 1284 Riverbed Street. The company is scheduled to move into the space on November 10th.
"Being in construction, we like to see renovation/adaptive-reuse projects," says JGJ's business development manager Matt Large. "We're doing that right now; we're turning a steel foundry for sewing machines into construction offices for the modern era."
The transformed 7,500-foot space will feature an open office/industrial warehouse layout designed to facilitate collaboration between employees. Cleveland-based architects Herman Gibans Fodor, Inc, completed the design work. Cost for the project is confidential, but county records show that the previous owner, Riverside Construction, sold the building to M&M Companies LLC for $530,000. It transferred in February. The space is approximately twice as large as the firm's current facility, which is housed -- believe it or not -- in a house at 8360 East Washington Street in Chagrin Falls. The company has been there for 27 years.
"We feel the employees are really going to like it," says Large of the new space, "and that it will really make them excel at their work."
Founded in 1928 and incorporated in 1943, JGJ specializes in construction management, commercial and general contracting. Their portfolio is mostly dedicated to houses of worship, educational and governmental buildings. Examples of their work include the Euclid Public Library, the Cuyahoga Heights Elementary School, the Chabad Jewish Center of Solon and a number of structures for the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland.
"We just want to have a greater Cleveland presence," says Large on the impetus of the move. "We feel that moving to Cleveland is a great thing for us to do right now. A lot of our work is in Cleveland and the surrounding counties. Things are booming."
The company is currently at work on projects such as an east side maintenance facility for the city of Cleveland, renovations to Judson Park in the University Circle neighborhood, and a renovation of Hotel Breakers at Cedar Point.
Business for JGJ has nearly doubled in recent years. The company is hiring and expects to have about 15 employees in the new offices. He cites the popularity of Merwin's Wharf, the anticipated opening of Brick and Barrel Brewery and activity along Columbus and Elm Streets as harbingers of good things for the area.
"We're getting caught up in that little area of the Flats, caught up in the potential growth. We feel like it’s a great area to be a part of and we plan to be there for a long time."

metroparks' mill creek connector bridge to be set next month

With the addition of nearly 1.25 miles of trail, area walkers, bikers and runners will have access to Mill Creek, a lesser-known scenic urban waterway, by spring of next year.
The Mill Creek Connector Trail will extend north from Bacci Park, East 71st Street and Warner Road, to the intersection of Garfield Boulevard and Warner Road. The addition will connect to the Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation by way of a curving wooded path in Bacci Park, completed in 2007 as phase one of the project.
Features for the new path will include a 150-foot bridge traversing Mill Creek, light industrial scapes, an overlook providing eagle-eye views of Mill Creek and the Cuyahoga River Valley, soil retaining walls that will present as "vertical gardens," and a 130-foot change of elevation, which will be offset by a 1,100-foot switchback to facilitate grades not in excess of the five percent accessibility standard.
"The entire trail is ADA accessible," says Sean McDermott, the Metroparks' chief planning and design officer, adding that construction is well underway. "We are actually getting ready to set the bridge over Mill Creek. We will be doing that in November. That will be a major milestone of the project. After that we'll be continuing earthwork up Warner hill." The project is scheduled for completion by June 2015.
The unusual mixture of nature and industry that characterizes much of the adjacent Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation will also be inherent on the forthcoming trail.
"When you get to the overlook, which is at the top of switchback," he says, "you'll have a view of Mill Creek Valley. You'll also be next to industry, which is an interesting dichotomy."
Ground broke on the trail in August. Independence Excavating is proceeding with the $3.293 million project, $1.9 million of which comes from federal funding that is administered by the Ohio Department of Transportation. The balance is funded by the Metroparks.
McDermott notes that the Mill Creek Connector meets several criteria in the organization's strategic plan, such as connecting Cleveland to the inner ring suburbs and furthering the development of the regional greenway system.
"When we can get that accomplished, it really is something to celebrate," he says.


recently completed footbridge townhomes bring new life to hidden valley in tremont

In 2009, things were looking bright for the Footbridge Townhomes, 2868-2882 West 11th Street. Construction was well under way and one of the four units was pre-sold.
"When we started the project, it was kind of a precarious time in real estate," says Progressive Urban Real Estate president David Sharkey. "We needed that presale to get the project moving."
The precarious state of things turned into what Sharkey calls the "real estate depression" and the presale went south.
"The whole thing fell apart," recalls Sharkey. "That is what really stalled the project out."
To make matters worse, all the naysayers had something to gloat over.
"A lot of people thought (the project) was a mistake," says Sharkey. "They didn't think it would succeed. For a while it kind of seemed that way."
While he admits being an advocate of the area was a challenge, Sharkey is quick to offer a view of it through more forgiving eyes, pointing out the lush greenery, stunning views of the neighboring industrial valley and access to area parks and entertainment via the arching footbridge that spans Interstate 490 (which will soon be open to the new West 12th Street Neighborhood Pathway). The unique pocket is at once secluded and urban. With all that going for the project, he didn't give up.
Working with Tremont West Development Corporation and the city of Cleveland, the team was able to secure federal funding from the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP). Approved earlier this year, the funds covered the remainder of construction financing and a 20 percent forgivable second mortgage for buyers.
All four units have sold.
They range from 1,238 to 1,373 square feet and sold for between $140,000 and $168,000. Construction is finishing up, but Sharkey feels confident the homes should all be occupied within four or five weeks.
Civic Builders (affiliated with Progressive Urban Real Estate) owns more than 16 other lots in the area, with most of them along West 11th and a couple on West 12th. Plans for those are not yet in place.
"We're trying to figure out our options," says Sharkey, noting that additional townhomes or a custom home project are possibilities. In any event, he sees the Footbridge project as a harbinger of good things to come for this underappreciated part of town.
"We have been determined to see it through to the end—and we have. It's a big deal," says Sharkey. "It took some creativity. Without the city of Cleveland coming through and working with us on the NSP funding, I'm not sure it would have happened. But in the end it is succeeding and it's going to be a catalyst for great things to come down there."

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