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Guide To Kulchur set to expand to larger digs in Gordon Square

Next week, Guide to Kulchur (GTK), the quirky bookstore and self-described "incubator for emerging and marginalized voices" will move from its tiny storefront at 1386 West 65th Street to roomier digs at 5900 Detroit Avenue.
 
"It's part of our 20 job initiative," says GTK founder RA Washington. "We're adding 20 jobs over the course of 18 months. We're going to target the youth first and set aside jobs for kids with juvenile records." He plans to start by hiring six people, with some future slots slated for recently released prison inmates.
 
The new 1,800-square foot space will feature more of what Gordon Square loves about GTK and then some, with a large stock of new books, a performance space, outside seating and even a coffee spot that will offer snacks made off site. And there's more to come.
 
"In the next 18 months, we'll take over the second floor and that will be an artist in residence space," says Washington, adding that the additional 1,800 square feet will also house a community/meeting area.
 
GTK's old home on 65th Street will transform into a regional warehouse for the Cleveland Books 2 Prisoners operation, which furnishes books to prisoners in Ohio, although Washington notes, "we get letters all the way from Texas, Indiana, Pennsylvania." He also supplies books to the homeless and invites community organizations and social justice advocates to take books free of charge for distribution from the warehouse. Regular janes and joes are free to peruse the stacks as well.
 
"People can also buy books at a pay-what-you-want rate," says Washington.
 
Amid all this development, Washington has recently launched GTK Press, which he also plans to expand at the new location in the 500-square-foot garage with more advanced equipment for printing and binding. Once established, he aims to bring in more youth employees to learn about publishing and the associated skills, from on-screen design to binding.
 
He estimates that total cost of the endeavor at $23,000. Although he is still $7,000 short of his goal, an Indiegogo campaign helped raise nearly $7,000. GTK's pitch performance at last month's Startup Scaleup event garnered an additional $5,000. Washington has also worked with Kent State to get funding via the Common Wealth Revolving Loan Fund, which helps sole proprietorships such as GTK to transform into cooperatives.
 
"The final step of the expansion is to transform Guide to Kulchur from a sole prop. to a worker owned co-op," says Washington.
 
The grand opening of the new space is slated for September 4.

 

Former landfill to become restored green space in Old Brooklyn

Twenty-eight acres in the heart of Old Brooklyn is slated to become yet another hard-earned link in the city's growing thread of urban green spaces.
 
Courtesy of a $561,000 Clean Ohio Conservation Fund grant, the Western Reserve Land Conservancy (WRLC) will acquire the former Henninger Landfill and other adjacent properties stretching along more than 1,000 linear feet of Lower Big Creek in an area immediately east of West 25th Street. The landfill was closed more than 40 years ago.
 
In addition to the Clean Ohio grant, WRLC also obtained a federal 2014 Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition grant in the amount of $15,000 to hire a riparian restoration expert to assess the property and develop a comprehensive restoration plan for what the grantor describes as "a critical riparian buffer corridor."
 
That future restoration will include erosion control, water quality improvements, and reintroduction of native trees, wildflowers and grasses as well as invasive plant removal. While plans for how the public will access the area are still underway, by its geographic positioning, it will become a growing part of the green corridor that includes the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Brookside Reservation and the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail. Officials with WRLC hope it becomes a key link between those amenities.
 
Jim Rokakis, director of the Land Conservancy’s Thriving Communities Institute, said that he's confident the space will have trails to serve area residents and employees. He added that there is much work to be done before employees from the Metro Health Campus can reach for their Skechers at lunch.
 
"We've got a lot of clean up to do," he said.
 
In a less obvious benefit, the project will support the general health of the Lake Erie watershed and will help expunge an unfortunate designation.
 
Lower Big Creek is a major tributary to the Cuyahoga River, which despite the improvements made since it infamously caught fire in 1969, is still listed as one of the Great Lakes Areas of Concern. The 46 miles thusly designated reaches from Lake Erie to Stark County and includes all tributaries. Per the AOC organization, those waters have experienced environmental degradation, fail to meet the objectives of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between the United States and Canada and are impaired in their ability to support aquatic life or beneficial uses.
 
"To delist the Cuyahoga River as an AOC, identifying and protecting natural areas to address the loss of fish and wildlife habitat within its watershed is an essential step," said a statement from the WRLC.
 
"In a developed urban area, this project does just that."
 

PRE4CLE issues grants for four new classrooms

PRE4CLE, an extension of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District that aims to expand high-quality preschool options across the city, has awarded three grants totaling $120,000 to start four new classrooms, each of which will house 20 preschoolers.
 
The Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland will open two of the new classrooms at the Oakwood Child Development Center, 9250 Miles Park Avenue. Another will be the first preschool classroom at The Citizens Academy, 10118 Hampden Avenue, which is operated by The Centers for Families and Children. The fourth will be at the Buckeye-Shaker Fundamentals Academy, 12500 Buckeye Road, under the umbrella of the Fundamentals Early Childhood Development Academy.
 
"The grants cover things like furniture, small tables, chairs and shelves," says Katie Kelly, PRE4CLE director, adding interactive toys, enrichment activities, books, puzzles and blocks to the list. "It's all the basic -- but very critical -- parts of a high-quality early childhood classroom."
 
The grants, which total $30,000 per classroom, will not cover any new construction, but the funds may be used to cover minor facility upgrades to make the spaces safe, healthy and inviting. In addition, the funding will cover staffing, but only for a short time.
 
"They have to hire the staff and have them on board before the state will give them their license," says Kelley of the chicken-or-egg dilemma. "That is a upfront cost; so the funds from the grants will also cover very short term staff costs that are related to that startup effort."
 
The areas impacted by the grants (Glenville, Buckeye-Shaker Square and Union-Miles) all have a demand for those preschool slots and are near the top of their supply capacity.
 
"Part of our effort is to strategically expand high quality programs in neighborhoods that are in the highest need," says Kelly. "These neighborhoods that were chosen have a variety of needs. We wanted to make sure that we continue to build access."
 
The Buckeye Road classroom is slated to open this November, with the CEOGC classrooms in Union-Miles opening by year's end. Citizens Academy in Glenville expects to have its preschool classroom ready for an early 2016 opening date. All of the grantees have space that's available and ready to be used for programs.

"These early childhood programs that are community based (and not within the public school district) operate on tight margins," says Kelley. "So something like opening up a new classroom can be cost prohibitive. We don't want that upfront cost to be a barrier and often it is."
 
While the grants do not fund tuition, which is usually covered by the families, childcare subsidies and federal and state funding, Kelly is glad to be creating high-quality learning spaces for the area's preschoolers.
 
"The grants are only for classrooms, but we think it’s a great start," she says. "This is really our first brick and mortar venture into making sure that those neighborhoods have what they need," she adds. "This will serve 80 children, which we're really happy about."

PizzaFire opens downtown, aims to kindle expansive franchise

While PizzaFire opened rather quietly yesterday at 236 Euclid Avenue on Public Square, Engage! Cleveland is hosting an event tonight at 5:30 to formally kick off the new fast-casual pizza venture (see details below).
 
The 2,500-square-foot downtown location, which seats 70, marks the second venture in what company officials hope to grow into a thriving franchise. The other PizzaFire location opened last October at 22 East Exchange Street in Akron. A third is slated to open next month in Cuyahoga Falls. Sean Brauser is the founder of PizzaFire and of the established Romeo's Pizza, which boasts 34 locations throughout Ohio.
 
Sean Brauser, PizzaFire founder"He really is a pizza genius," says Ryan Rao, the company's director of franchise sales. "He's very well recognized for his pizza creativity," he adds, citing a host of awards and accolades that Brauser has garnered for his pies and a 2005 appearance on the Food Network's $10,000 Pizza Challenge.
 
In the spirit of fast casual, PizzaFire customers can watch staff build their pie as they choose from six sauces (think spicy marina to ranch bacon) and a host of toppings. The 12 meat options include chorizo, free-range chicken and Tuscan pepperoni among others and the 17 veggie toppings range from standards such as black olives and green pepper to arugula and sundried tomato. After they're topped, pies are ready in just three minutes courtesy of an 800-degree domed brick pizza oven, the deck of which rotates.
 
"No one else in the fast casual pizza industry has this oven," says Rao, adding that he feels it gives PizzaFire's pies a superior result and an edge over the competition.
 
The company sees these first efforts as kindling for a project they hope catches fire across the Midwest and beyond.
 
"It's very wide open regarding who can truly become the Chipotle of pizza,'" says Rao, adding that there are just a handful of players on the fast casual pizza scene such as Pieology, 800 Degrees and Blaze Pizza. They are largely focused on the West Coast.
 
The company has plans in the works for up to seven more PizzaFire openings this year and is actively seeking franchise partners. For the bigger picture, however, Rao is courting venture capital dollars.
 
"We want to build out the Midwest with 100 units in six years," he says, adding of the timeframe, "it sometimes takes a while for these sexy new concepts from the West Coast to come to the Midwest."
 
Rao says the proven longevity and track record of Romeo's, which did $22 million in sales last year and employs 700 across Ohio, along with Brauser's reputation, will fuel the ambitious concept. Organic and non-GMO ingredients further define the brand, as do live hydroponic vegetables grown via Indoor Gardens' systems at the sites.
 
"When you walk into PizzaFire, you'll see lettuce growing in our cooler," he says, noting that leaves are harvested just minutes before a customer's salad is tossed. Servers also pluck leaves from a live basil plant to dress a pizza right before serving. "You can't get any fresher."
 
Rao describes the experience as visual and fun and is anxious to introduce it to the area, which the team has called home ever since Brauser opened the first Romeo's in 2001 in Medina, where the corporate headquarters are today.
 
"We look forward to sharing it with our local community because we're Northeastern Ohio people just like our customers."
 
Tonight from 5:30 to 8 p.m., Engage! Cleveland will host a business panel, tour of the new Downtown PizzaFire and a pizza tasting. The panel discussion will focus on entrepreneurship, market research and (of course) pizza. In addition, each attendee will receive a PizzaFire voucher valued at $8.50 for redemption at a later date. Tickets are $10. Registration and event details are available here. If any tickets remain, they will be for sale at the door.

Cleveland School of the Arts offers a cutting edge professional setting

This week, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) welcomes more than 600 students to the new Cleveland School of the Arts (CSA), 2064 Stearns Road.
 
"This facility will really allow the students to experience being an artist," says head of school, John LePelley of the gleaming professional venue. The CSA is a grade or two above a traditional school building "where we're in a classroom with desks and were trying to sing," adds Pelley. New to CSA, he was formerly principal of William Cullen Bryant Elementary School and assistant principal of St. Martin de Porres High School.
 
Amenities in the new CSA include a kiln, a dark room, photography studio, four individual sound-proof practice booths for singers and musicians, two band rooms (each approximately 1,700 square feet) that are acoustically isolated via vestibules, a fully outfitted recording studio, a 2119-square-foot choral room, two 1,800-square-foot dance rooms worthy of Princess Odette and Price Siegfried and a hip 3,124-square-foot Black Box theater, in which students can immerse themselves in delivering the total performance experience.
 
"Our goal here is to teach students and prepare them for all aspects of the arts," says LePelley from the elevated catwalk surrounding the Black Box Theater and adjacent to the techie control room, "so with drama, it's not just acting. It's behind the scenes: set design, lighting, sound, all of it."
 
Likewise, two sleek gallery spaces (752- and 514-square feet) will allow students of the visual arts to engage in the professional practice of displaying their work.
 
"Throughout the year, we will operate these just as art galleries in the real world. There will be openings and events," says LePelley, adding that students will be obliged to prepare their work and plan for shows just like a working artist.
 
Visual art studio/classrooms will have prep/storage rooms and are designed with an eye on future curriculum expansions.
 
"We're really going to be able to expand the visual arts programming," says LePelley, noting that the previous CSA could accommodate traditional visual arts such as drawing, painting and photography. "But now we can bring in a loom for a textile course. We can have industrial design here."
 
Other traditional features include a 6,579-square-foot gymnasium with a portable stage and classrooms that will accommodate standards such as math, social science, chemistry, English and the like.
 
"The same way we want to prepare students of the arts for competitive programs," says LePelley, "we really want all of our students to be able to be to apply for competitive academic colleges and universities as well."
 
Groundbreaking for on the $36.5 million project was in July 2013. Moody Nolan was the lead architect and Ozanne-Hammond-Gilbane-Regency was the contractor. The building is certified LEED silver and includes design features such as a white roof, a retention/detention system that diverts storm water into ponds and a chilled beam HVAC system that construction administrator for Moody Nolan, Anne Hartman, describes as significantly more efficient than forced air systems and virtually dust-free.
 
A replica of Mark Howard's mural, which graced the exterior of the previous CSA, which was demolished to make room for the new school, will be installed in the main stairwell overlooking the intersection of Carnegie Avenue and Stearns Road.
 
The 126,000-square-foot space can accommodate up to 775 students. The CSA will be transitioning over the next years from a grade six through 12 school to a high school, housing grades nine through 12. Last year's sixth graders are grandfathered in. Hence the 2015/2016 school year will include grades seven through twelve and the following year will accommodate grades eight through twelve.
 
While CSA is a public school within the CMSD, students must audition in order to be considered for inclusion. Notable alumni include rhythm and blues performer Avant and Ohio State Representative Stephanie Howse.
 
While the school is made of steel, glass and plasterboard, LePelley does not see it as containing his students, but offering them a portal to creativity instead.
 
"In a traditional school, it's chaotic, but here people have their outlet. You can go to the ceramics room and make something. You can play the piano and tune the world out. You can connect with yourself."

For additional insight, read a profile of Daniel Gray-Kontar, CSA's director of the literary arts department as well as an instructor of poetry, playwriting and a senior writing lab.

 

Cleveland's next boom: Office space

Fourteen cents doesn't sound like much, but one thin dime and four copper Lincolns amount to what might be the most significant number in Cleveland right now.
 
"It is absolutely huge," says Gar Heintzelman, a research analyst for the global commercial real estate brokerage firm Newmark Grubb Knight Frank (NGKF). The figure represents the growth of area office rental rates over the last year, which now average $17.52 per square foot.
 
"Cleveland hasn't seen a lot of rental growth," he adds, "because there's been so much product."
 
The "product" Heintzelman's referring to is office space, which heretofore along the north coast was all but taboo to developers, but that's rapidly changing and the swift rise in downtown residential growth is a significant contributing factor. As largely vacant office buildings get snapped up for residential and mixed-use projects, they displace whatever professional tenants they have.
 
Heintzelman cites the former East Ohio Gas building on East 9th Street, which is now the Residences at 1717, as one of the first harbingers of the trend.
 
"Obviously that tower was largely empty," he says, adding that about 40,000 square feet of the space developed by K&D Management was actively occupied before the transition. "Those tenants had to go elsewhere. We're seeing more and more of that," he says. "The product is shrinking, but demand for office space has been the same for 10 or 15 years."
 
Hence, prices are up and murmurs of new construction are bubbling among the development set, particularly in the wake of the success of the 480,000-square-foot Ernst & Young Tower, 950 Main Avenue in the Flats, which is enjoying a 90 percent occupancy rate.
 
While talk is long on Cleveland's comeback, Heintzelman is all about the numbers. Every quarter, he authors a Cleveland Office Market Report, which is largely a tool for NGKF brokers and clients. His data comes mainly from data analytic giant CoStar and a proprietary database populated by NGKF's insider information.
 
Key takeaways from the current report include:
 
--The much-ballyhooed sale of the 1.4 million-square-foot 925 Building (formerly the Huntington Building) at East 9th Street and Euclid Avenue, which is slated for nearly $300 million in redevelopment. Heintzelman calls the project simply, "giant."
 
--The sale of the former Fifth Third Building at 600 Superior Avenue for more than $50 million. "That's over $100 a square foot," notes Heintzelman. "That's a high number. That's a pre-recession high number."
 
--The law firm Benesch opting into the ambitious and yet-to-be realized nuCLEus project in the Gateway District with a lease agreement on 66,500 square feet. "It shows there is a demand for new high class A office space," says Heintzelman. "It kind of proves that the Ernst & Young Building was not an anomaly."
 
--The Republican National Convention temporarily leasing 40,000 square feet in the Halle Building. "It's not going to be a negative when they leave; it's going to be a net positive while they're here," says Heintzelman, noting that the space is already slated for mixed-use redevelopment. "It's not going to get pushed back onto the market."
 
Heintzelman, a lifelong Clevelander, speaks from personal experience on this unprecedented turn around and the residential boom. He's in the market for a Downtown apartment.
 
"I'm on four waiting lists and can't find a single place," he laments. "The vacancy rate for apartments in the city of Cleveland is lower than Chicago, Brooklyn and Los Angeles. That's not a joke. It's harder to get an apartment in Cleveland than those three places." He did, however, manage to put a down payment on a unit in the Guernsey, 2836 Franklin Boulevard in Ohio City.
 
As Heintzelman and droves of educated millenials elbow one another out of the way to move Downtown, it's creating a gravity, which is also a boon for office development. "That talent is going to attract more business into the city," he notes, adding that the trend is here to stay.
 
"I don't see this as a bubble."

 

Esperanza Threads offers organic handmade goods in Detroit Shoreway

Last month, a small business with a big heart opened a storefront in the Gordon Square neighborhood. Founded in 2000 by Sister Mary Eileen Boyle, Esperanza Threads sells 100 percent organic cotton clothing, baby items, towels and blankets that are handcrafted right across the street. Esperanza had heretofore offered their goods online and at local craft and fair trade events.
 
"We use the funding we get from that to fund our real mission," says Lucretia Bohnsack, Esperanza's executive director, "which is to train people in the art of industrial sewing and help them get jobs."
 
Stepping into the Esperanza's retail shop at 6515 Detroit (formerly Retropolitan) is like stepping back in time. The superlative quality of the fabrics and handcrafted composition is unlike anything lining the shelves of Target or Macy's. The lush cotton begs to be touched. Pricing is surprisingly reasonable. Washcloths are just $5.50. An adult tee shirt featuring a design by Cleveland artist Kevin Fernandez or Chuck Wimmer (among others) goes for $24. Considering this irresistible hooded baby bath blanket will last long enough to swaddle three generations (or more) of clean wet babies, the $28 price tag is a bargain. Other offerings include a catnip cat toy, scarves, robes and a few items made by different suppliers such as socks.
 
Shop hours are 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, although Bohnsack is happy to accommodate other time slots by appointment (call 216-961-9009 between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday through Friday). The storefront venture, which is a collaborative effort between Esperanza and the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Corporation, will be open through October, after which plans are tentative.
 
"We'll see what happens," says Bohnsack. "We'll see if we're able to stay."
 
All of Esperanza's items are made by a staff of four sewers in a shop adjacent to the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish. Three of them are graduates of Esperanza's unique training program, which gives a leg up to the most vulnerable among us: international refugees and locals in need of a helping hand. Approximately 75 percent of the trainees are refugees from other parts of the world and 25 percent are from Northeast Ohio.
 
The program gives Sister Mary Eileen and Bohnsack a different perspective on the horrors unfolding in countries such as Syria or Afghanistan or Sudan, which so many of us watch from the comfort of our living rooms.
 
"We get those people here," says Bohnsack, recalling the day one trainee learned that his entire village had been destroyed and his family killed. Sister Mary Eileen describes another woman from the West African nation of Benin.
 
"She came here on her own seeking asylum because she had been in a very abusive situation all her life," she says, adding that the woman is scheduled for an interview at National Safety Apparel this week. "Hopefully she'll get the job."
 
The program takes in six people every six weeks for a three-week training course.
 
"In 2014, we had a 72 percent hiring rate," reports Sister Mary Eileen.
 
Esperanza works with a network of organizations to identify candidates for the program, including Catholic Charities Migration and Refugee Services, Building Hope in the City, US Together, Asian Services in Action and West Bethel Baptist Church. They also take referrals from satisfied clients.
 
It all culminates with the honorable ideologies driving Esperanza: fair wages, a safe and welcoming working environment, sustainability, hard work, products and practices that respect the Earth and, most importantly, people helping people.
 
"If every one of us did something little to make a difference," says Bohnsack, "the world would be a better place."
 

Art, history, design define new Little Italy-University Circle Rapid Station

 
This week, the highly anticipated $17.5 million Little Italy-University Circle Station will open on Mayfield Road at East 119th Street, with a ribbon cutting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. this evening at the new station.
 
"University Circle is thriving," says Joe Calabrese, CEO and general manager of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA). He also notes that the area's growing success has gone hand in hand with parking challenges, which has its own peril. "People don't feel comfortable going there because of parking concerns."
 
Calabrese, along with a host of area partners including the Cleveland Foundation, the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA), Little Italy, University Hospitals, the Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University, hopes the new station will change that.
 
"The whole community is trying to do more to promote people going to University Circle--not necessarily by car, but by other means as well," he says. "So this will be a great option for them to get to that great area."
 
Construction on the $17.5 million project ($8.9 million of which came from a federal TIGER grant) began in October 2013. The contractor was McTech Corporation. Paul Volpe, founder of City Architecture and a Little Italy resident, led the design team.
 
Highlights of the new station include artistic lighting of the bridges leading to the station, a terrazzo floor designed by artist Suzy Mueller Frazier and lighting fixtures by artist Jennifer Cecere that will remind some of the handmade white doilies that festooned the side tables in Nona's parlor.
 
"This is little Italy and our design team really spent some time looking at appropriate art," says Calabrese, "to almost make you feel like you're in Italy."
 
Another fascinating design element begins with an historic oddity courtesy of the same gents who delivered unto us the Terminal Tower, the Van Sweringen brothers.
 
"They basically built the Shaker Rapid," says Calabrese, adding that the famed brothers planned other rail lines throughout the region. "When we did our investigation as to where we were going to relocate our station, we found this old foundation (we call it a vault) for a station that the Van Sweringens built but never finished." The structure dates back to the 1920s and will now serve as the entranceway and lobby for the new station. "It's an historic piece of transportation history," says Calabrese.
 
The new Little Italy-University Circle Station will replace the East 120th Street Station, which the Plain Dealer described two years ago as, "aging, outmoded, secluded and unsafe-looking." Per Calabrese, demolition plans are well under way, with a contract already in place.
 
"It was not in a good location," he says. "It needed significant upgrades. It was built in the 1950's"
 
These efforts are part of GCRTA's ongoing campaign to address and update an aging system in a changing city that is playing catch-up to other municipalities across the country.
 
"Public transit ridership is growing. It's growing nationally. It's growing here in Cleveland with a whole new wave of public transit advocates: millennials," says Calabrese, adding that the up-and-coming generation isn't nearly as concerned with car ownership as their parents. They want to live and work where walking, biking and public transit options are robust.
 
"If they can't get the lifestyle amenities they want here in Cleveland, they're going to go cities that offer those amenities like Boston, Chicago and New York City," he says, adding that the new Little Italy-University Circle Station is a stalwart step to attracting and keeping them here.
 
"Little Italy is such an important and iconic area of the city," says Calabrese. "We think this station will be a game changer."
 

Gluten-free Cafe Avalaun coming to Richmond Road

As early as next month, Brian Doyle will be opening the Avalaun Café, 4640 Richmond Road, suite 200, which will set itself apart for many reasons, including being gluten-free. Doyle is the chef at the Beachland Ballroom and owner and chef for Sowfood, a caterer and CSA-style purveyor of prepared foods specializing in gluten-free options.
 
While Doyle, alongside pastry chef Maggie Downey, have been running Sowfood in the 1,900-square-foot space since March, Doyle didn't finalize details on Avalaun until just last month.
 
"It's been in the planning stages for about a year," says Doyle of the project, which he is financing privately and with a microloan from the Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI).
 
Avalaun will feature an array of Downey's gluten-free baked items, salads, soups and sweet and savory crepes.
 
"Anything you can put in a sandwich, you can put in a crepe," says Doyle. Menu specifics, however, haven't been nailed down yet--except for the coffee. Crooked River Coffee Company will be providing top shelf beans for an area that's badly in need of a good cup of joe.
 
"We're going to be filling a void," says Doyle, noting that coffee options between Beachwood and Miles Road on Richmond Road are essentially nonexistent save for fast food chains. Initially, Avalaun will be open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday, although Doyle hopes to expand those hours at a later date. He plans on hiring six employees, for which he is currently soliciting applicants.
 
The space is the former site of Café Beníce. Since it previously housed an eatery, construction is minimal and Doyle is doing much of it himself with the help of some friends. Painting, decorating and minor construction are ongoing.
 
The space features a large window between the dining area and the bakery, so patrons can watch the action in the kitchen. Avalaun will seat 20. Bridget Ginley, artist and host of the Sunday evening Erie Effusion on WRUW, constructed the tables for the café from reclaimed pallets. Carole Werder is creating a unique art installation with a poignant impetus.
 
"Avalaun was my mother's name," says Doyle. "She passed away when I was eight."
 
To that end, Werder's piece will be a painting of a tree with three-dimensional elements. Doyle describes the work as, in part, characterizing his mother's soul.
 
"She was an artist and a poet."
 
And she surely would be smiling upon her son's latest venture: a gluten-free eatery with a sharp eye on healthy local food in a stylish venue that's run by a sustainably minded staff.
 
"It's not going to be this stark shopping center vibe," says Doyle. "It's going to be very unique and eclectic. It's going to have a lot of character and personality."

 

Exclusive first look: the Creswell

A new boutique apartment building with a quirky history, the Creswell, 1220 Huron Road, is set to open with 80 luxury one- and two-bedroom apartments in Playhouse Square.

Move in dates will commence in September on the first six floors. Units on floor seven will be available in October. Floors eight through 11 are scheduled to start coming online in November, with all the apartments slated for completion by year's end. Thus far, 54 have been released to the market, and they are going fast.
 
"We have 44 hard reservations out of 80 units," says Jon Mavrakis, managing director of CITIROC Real Estate Company, who is representing the project partners, the Slyman Group and the Dalad Group.
 
Units will range from 773- to 1,162-square feet with rents from $1,275 to $1,920, although rents for the 11th floor two-bedrooms will top $2,000. North-facing apartments on the second floor will feature historic leaded windows.
 
Construction started in January. Vocon is the architect on the project, which was awarded a $3.55 million state historic tax credit in 2013, and Dalad Construction is the contractor. The total cost is expected to be about $16 million.
 
The 1920 Creswell was originally constructed as a garage for roadsters your great-great granddad zipped around in. Per the Aug. 15, 1920 Cleveland Plain Dealer (PD): "The south side of Huron Road at E. 12th Street is being improved with an eleven-story fireproof concrete structure with brick and terra cotta trimming that will house 800 cars." The Creswell was also built to last, with a footing of concrete piles that extended down 50 feet on account of quicksand (per the PD on Nov. 7, 1920).
 
"The subfloors are all about two-foot-thick concrete," says Mavrakis of the building's solid construction. "It's very quiet."
 
Hence, residents of the Creswell will not need to worry much about hearing the goings-on of their upstairs neighbors, which may include the four-footed variety. Two pets up to thirty pounds each will be allowed per apartment.
 
While the building has endured these 95 years, the garage went out of business in 1923, after which the structure was quickly reborn as the Carnegie Hall Building and was home to a host of businesses in the entertainment industry and local legends such as the Cleveland Recording Company and Wyse Advertising. The style back then? Just plain cool.
 
The new Creswell will have plenty of cool of its own, with a 1,000-square-foot fitness center and a rooftop deck that is scheduled to open in spring of 2016. Parking will be available at the Halle Garage for an additional charge. The first floor will have a 4,000-square-foot restaurant, a tenant for which has yet to be placed.

"We're engaging some local operators," says Mavrakis. "We have a lot of interested people"

He adds that one of the best parts of bringing these unique and modern apartments to a vintage building in Playhouse Square is the storied surroundings.
 
"We feel this is the best neighborhood in the city."
 

Six Shooter Coffee coming to Waterloo

Peter Brown, proprietor of Six Shooter Coffee will move his bean-roasting operation from Miles Road in Cleveland to the corner of East 161st Street and Waterloo Road in the Collinwood neighborhood. Like so many proprietors of days gone by, he'll be living above the 900-square-foot shop, which will also house a storefront café.
 
"It's very old school and it's very efficient," says Brown, adding that the arrangement will allow him to focus solely on his fledgling venture. "I feel like that's the safest way to make the business work."
 
Scalish Construction is the contractor on the job and Cindy Wan is the architect. Northeast Shores Development Corporation is also assisting with the build out. The budget is confidential, although Brown did receive a grant, also confidential, from the Small Business Association.
 
Brown plans to have two hourly employees and a store manager, with tentative hours from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the week and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends. The café will have bar seating along the front windows facing Waterloo and a few tables, accommodating between 26 to 36 customers. Six Shooter will be open as early as September and, Brown vows, no later than October.
 
The shop will offer an array of coffee options including pour overs, lattes, cappuccinos and espressos, with classic drip coffee for those in a rush. But however his customers prefer it, Brown takes his brew seriously.
 
"If you can think about coffee like some people think about wine, where different regions provide different flavor profiles," he says, "that's the approach that we're taking to coffee and I roast it to accentuate where it comes from." He describes one of his current batches from Bali as having notes of dark chocolate, pear and wafer.
 
With joe that lofty, it will come as no surprise that flavored syrups will be limited to chocolate, vanilla and honey.
 
"Personally, I am a purist," says Brown, "but I recognize that people like what they like."
 
A small menu will include items baked strictly off site, as the kitchen area at Six Shooter will be dedicated to bean roasting. Poison Berry Bakery, a purveyor of vegan treats, will be one of the food suppliers, although Brown may add others.
 
Six Shooter Coffee is also available The Grocery in Ohio City and Brown has a tentative agreement with Whole Foods to offer his beans in their forthcoming Rocky River store.
 
So, what's the story behind the name?
 
"I'm a little bit of a history buff," says Brown. "LBJ had a ranch where he served coffee and he called it 'six shooter coffee.'" Also, Brown's friends have been known to call him Pistol Pete.
 
"So it's a little bit of a nod to history and a little bit of a play on my name."
 
Brown is putting out a call to local artists interested in displaying their work at Six Shooter to contact him at for a possible commission/sale arrangement. He is available at 614-361-2437 or sixshootercoffee@gmail.com.

 

Artcraft Building to be reborn as office space

The Artcraft Building, 2530-2570 Superior Avenue, which is beloved amongst the art set for its gritty appeal and inexpensive urban studio space, is about to undergo a major facelift. The building changed hands last year from the Roy Group to Global X as part of a larger real estate portfolio deal.
 
The renovations will include the installation of all new windows and a complete overhaul of the HVAC system, which is currently powered by steam heat.
 
"It must be the most energy inefficient building in northeast Ohio," says Global X's chief investment officer Timm Judson, "so we're going to change all that."
 
Other upgrades will include façade work (cleaning and tuck pointing), new exterior lighting, interior structural changes, restoration of the water tower, which is still used for the building's sprinkler system, a new security system, a yet-to-be-determined parking expansion and a refresh of all the common areas including the 26 bathrooms, which will be stripped down to the studs and completely redone.
 
"They are in desperate need," says Judson. "The tenants are pretty excited about that."
 
Whether or not they'll be around to enjoy the new bathrooms, however, is another matter.
 
"We're trying to keep a lid on rental increases," says Judson, "but there will be rental increases. We've spoken to the tenants about that. Some will stay; some will go." Judson was short on specifics, saying that the financial model is still in the planning stage, but he does see rents moving up in phases, "so everyone's not sticker shocked." Currently, approximately two-thirds of the 265,000-square-foot building is occupied.
 
One thing that will not change is the hand-operated elevators.
 
"That was one of the truly charming features of the building that the tenants seem to love," says Judson, adding that the elevator operators will continue "being a part of the fabric of the building."
 
Global X has budgeted $16 to $18 million for the project. "We'll be using federal historic tax credits, applying for state credits, and then we'll be using a mix of traditional and incentive based financing." Sandvick Architects are the historical advisors on the project with Vocon as the primary architect. The contractor is Marous Brothers. Judson hopes to begin work by early December. After that, milestone dates are tentative.
 
"We just don't know what our timeline looks like right now," says Judson, adding that some "fairly large space users" have expressed interest in the refurbished class B+ offices. "We can't make any promises on delivering space, but we're getting close."
 
Global X will be moving its own offices from 1303 Prospect Avenue into a 20,000-square-foot space in the Artcraft in the summer of 2016—depending on how things go with the Republican National Convention.
 
"We don't know how complicated that will be," says Judson. "So it may be that we wait until that event has passed."
 
With residential development the reigning king in metropolitan Cleveland, the Artcraft project begs the question, why office space?
 
"We've gone through a couple of different plans and iterations," says Judson, which included everything from gutting the building down to the columns to a residential build-out, but Global X eventually settled on offices.
 
"Our thinking was, with all of these office buildings being converted to residential, all those displaced tenants and businesses need some place to go and there's not a whole lot downtown in quality B+ space."
 
While the Artcraft project will be Global X's first foray into the once-derided and now booming section of Superior Avenue, it will not be it's last. The organization has amassed a number of properties in the Campus District, plans for which are still highly tentative.
 
"There are a couple of other buildings on (Superior) Avenue that we have our eye on," says Judson. "You don't want to get into an area after it's become really hot because then you're going to pay through the nose," he adds. "We just need to get our arms around what we're doing to do with these buildings. We're taking them one at a time."
 

Upscale Innova apartments are filling fast

On June 1, residents began moving into Innova at 10001 Chester Avenue. The ultra-luxury apartments are attracting a diverse array of tenants with 177 new units ranging from 512 to 1,120 square feet. Named after rock stars (the Daltrey, Mercury, Bowie and Vedder), rents for the studio, one- and two-bedroom units start at $995 and top out at $2,600. Thus far, 67 units are occupied; another 10 or so are reserved.
 
"We probably have another 15-20 applications out on top of that," says Lori Reynolds, regional property manager for the Finch Group, which owns and manages eight properties in Cleveland. The 705-square-foot one-bedroom units and studios are already gone.
 
"Those were sold out in March," says Reynolds, adding that about four two-bedroom apartments remain along with a number of 802-square-foot one-bedroom units.
 
Amenities in each unit include full size appliances, a wall hook up for a flat screen television and USB outlets in every room.
 
"You can basically plug and play in any room," Reynolds says. 
 
The building features a 2,300-square-foot fitness center and a recreation center of the same size. The rec space houses a full kitchen including cabinetry made by Rustbelt Reclamation. Fire pits and lounge seating dot the Sky Deck, which has two 80-inch televisions and a large grilling space. Access to everything is included in the rent. The recreation center, however, can be reserved for private parties for a fee.
 
Twenty-four hour concierge services include everything from dog walking to dry cleaning pick up. Grocery delivery from Presto Fresh is free for orders of $50 or more.
 
"If they place their order by 7 a.m.," says Reynolds, "they'll get it the same day. If not, it will be there early the next day."
 
Construction on the $42 million project started in early 2014 and is essentially complete. While free surface parking is available for residents now, future plans include a three-story 100-space garage, which will have a separate fee. In the rear of the building, a community garden awaits eager hands and locked bike storage is available as well.
 
Each apartment may be home to two pets. Dogs under 80 pounds and cats are allowed. Also in the rear of the building, a dog park is all but complete.
 
"We're adding a drinking fountain for the pups," says Reynolds.
 
The Finch Group prides itself in top shelf service. For Innova residents, that service includes extras such as complimentary wine and hors d'oeuvres from 5 to 7 p.m. on Fridays in the lobby. On Saturdays from 8 to 10 a.m., a light breakfast is served in the same space.
 
Tenants hail from Cleveland, Parma and Brunswick, as well as Saudi Arabia, England and Thailand. They are professionals, students and hospital employees.
 
"We do offer incentives to employees of Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals as well as Case Western Reserve University students," says Reynolds. However, she is mysterious about yet another group of future residents.
 
"We have 22,000 square feet of retail space on the first floor," says Reynolds. "We are in talks with a national drug store, a local restaurant, a small eatery and some office space." Reynolds would not disclose further details on the push for commercial tenants other than to say, "we're close with that."

Soda fountain expansion coming to b. a. Sweetie Candy Company

Still basking in the success of his company's move and expansion earlier this year from Brooklyn to Cleveland, Thomas Scheiman, president of b. a. Sweetie Candy Company, is looking forward to what he calls the most exciting project of his career: Sweeties Soda Shoppe, which is slated to open October 25.
 
"It will be our own recipes," says Scheiman of the future ice cream offerings. "There'll be a lot of testing going on in October."
 
With 5,100 square feet of space, the new soda fountain will be a far cry from the quaint storefront operations of yesteryear. Scheiman expects to add 16 people to his existing staff of 43 in order to man the new 150-seat establishment. Sweeties Soda Shop will be adjacent to the staggering 40,000-square-foot candy store and Golfland, a miniature golf course that is also part of the growing Sweetie campus at 6770 Brookpark Road.
 
The new space will feature a party room that will seat 50 and have a dividing wall to accommodate two concurrent parties of up to 25 attendees each. This will significantly expand the outdoor party accommodations available seasonally at Golfland. The business end of the soda shop will be an "open kitchen concept," with windows showcasing employees preparing toppings and mixing and freezing the ice cream.
 
"You'll be able to see everything," says Scheiman.
 
With the addition of the soda shop, he sees the Sweetie campus as a perfect family destination spot, with a host of fun options including a leisurely stroll through the candy store's 14 aisles, a round of miniature golf and then a stop at the soda shop for a sundae, cone or float.
 
"They can make a half a day out of this," says Scheiman.
 
Fogg is the general contractor on the job. Chroma Design is doing the interior design. Both firms are local, which is something Scheiman strives for. To that end, he notes the store's acrylic candy bins come from HP Manufacturing on Carnegie Avenue and the shelving racks are supplied by Ohio Wholesale.
 
The campus is approximately five acres. While the candy store was a new construction, the soda shop will occupy a building that was built in the early 1980's and originally housed a restaurant, then a video arcade and most recently a church. Scheiman purchased the property in January 2012. The golf course was also existing, but had been shuttered. Cost for the multi-faceted and privately funded project is confidential, but Scheiman describes it as "an incredible amount of money."
 
Scheiman bought the candy company in 1982 when it was called Bag of Sweets and employed just four people in a 1,200-square-foot space that offered no retail sales. This is the company's third major move and expansion since then.
 
"Foot traffic is up 45 percent," says Scheiman, adding that Sweeties is on track to see 400,000 people come through its doors this year, up from 260,000 last year at the previous location, 7480 Brookpark Road. He credits the 40-foot lollipop beckoning travelers on Interstate 480 and the colorful sign on Brookpark for at least some of the added business. BNext Awning & Graphics of Cleveland supplied both.
 
"This already is a destination," says Scheiman of Cleveland's largest candy store, noting that the sweetest part of the job isn't necessarily sampling the stock. "It's so rewarding to see families together doing something that is really cool."

Mayor reveals Oatey's best kept secret during groundbreaking ceremony

Last Thursday beneath threatening skies, Oatey hosted a groundbreaking ceremony at the Emerald Corporate Park off Grayton Road near Interstate 480 in Cleveland.
 
The 99-year-old company, which offers more than 6,000 plumbing products, paid $1.35 million for 7.6 acres at the site, on which it intends to build a two-story 43,500-square-foot building that will house its headquarters. Construction is slated for completion next year. Donley's is the contractor on the project, while Vocon is the architectural firm on the LEED certified design. Oatey will keep its three other Cleveland area locations open, two of which are on West 160th Street. The other is on Industrial Parkway.
 
During last week's groundbreaking event, Martin J. Sweeney, representing the 14th District in the Ohio House of Representatives, touted the company's commitment to the city and environmental responsibility.
 
"They were green before anybody else was green," said Sweeney of Oatey, noting how the company transformed a retention basin adjacent to its warehouse into a natural preserve that's a haven for migrating birds. "They should be commended on many different levels."
 
Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish mused over the company's success, which he attributed to "a product line right out of professional wresting," adding that products such as Haymaker TMSizzle TMMegaloc TM, "and my personal favorite, the Sludgehammer TM" are bound to be successful.
 
While Budish's comments drew laughs, Mayor Frank Jackson drew attention to a facet of the Oatey operation that has little to do with its formidable Iron Grip TM products or Knock-Out TM test caps, but says a great deal about the company as a member of the community.
 
"When I visited the company," said Jackson, "I ran across a group of developmentally disabled employees who were the happiest employees I ever saw. They were happy because the Oatey company had given them an opportunity."
 
That program, which Oatey runs in collaboration with the United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) Association of Cleveland, has been in place for more than two decades. It currently employs approximately 20, with 12 doing light manufacturing and between eight and 10 in the distribution facility. They work six hours a day, every day.
 
"They actually help us out a lot," said vice president of operations Kevin Ellman, adding that the company recently invested $20,000 to upgrade the group's work area with ergonometric chairs and tables. "They do a lot of light assembly and they're very valuable to our workforce."
 
Oatey currently employs approximately 385, with plans to add up to 80 more jobs over the next four years, thereby increasing payroll by $3.8 million annually. Those new jobs and the projected overall investment in the new build garnered an incentive package from the city that includes a 70 percent tax abatement and a Job Creation Incentive Grant. Oatey has committed to stay in Cleveland for at least 10 years.
 
As for the UCP program, Ellman said talk is underway to expand it into the new headquarters with some office workers. Until then, he notes how the group offers a subtler benefit that reaffirms Mayor Jackson's comments.
 
"Whenever I'm in a bad mood or I'm not having a good day," said Ellman, "I go right down to that work cell and I talk to them. They're always positive. They just uplift me."
 
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