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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 improved access to the Mill Creek Valley, 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 I of the project.
Features of the new path will include a 150-foot bridge traversing Mill Creek, light industrial views, an overlook providing eagle-eye views of Mill Creek and the Cuyahoga Valley and soil retaining walls that will present as "vertical gardens." The 130-foot change of elevation 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, you'll have a view of Mill Creek Valley," he says. "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 $3.3 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, located at 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 pre-sale 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. They have open floor plans, second floor decks with views, large windows and rear courtyards set in the hillside. The creatively-designed homes take advantage of the slope. 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."

floating downtown offices ready to set sail following $1.5m renovation

Talk about waterfront property: one of Cleveland's coolest offices -- and perhaps the only one that not only has views of Lake Erie, but actually floats on the water -- is moving to a whole new level. With $1.5 million in renovations all but complete, software studio LeanDog and Arras Keathley Advertising (AKA) are ready to debut renovations to the Kearsage, which was built in 1892 and has served as a transit ship, barge and restaurant.

The North Coast Harbor fixture has a new wind in her proverbial sales. Gone are the vinyl-clad booths and dank coolers from the ship's days as Hornblowers Barge and Grill. The new and revamped office areas are swank on the inside and lined with new windows—a lot of new windows—that offer stunning views of the lake and downtown.
"One of the challenges of renovating a boat is that it has such great views," says Jon Stahl, President of leandog. "Every time we cut a hole it was like … cut another one … cut another one ... We kept adding windows. The good news is: we ended up with a lot of windows. The bad news is: we spent a lot more money than we anticipated."

The team, spearheaded by Stahl and AKA president Jim Hickey, had originally budgeted $1.2 million. The two-phase renovation started in 2010 and hit a nine-month snafu courtesy of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Now the race is on to get everything shipshape for the Oct. 23 christening and gala, but the finish line is in plain sight.

Improvements include an airy kitchen space in the center of the boat, a new 1,700-square-foot rooftop deck outfitted with open-air fireplaces and a 60-inch weatherproof television, and a dock where you'll find LeanDog's 27-foot fishing boat, AKA's 27-foot pleasure boat, paddleboards, kayaks and two jet skies.
"I love the water," says Stahl from the helm of the zooming fishing boat (no name yet). "Finally having access to water was a big deal for us because we had this underutilized waterfront that we all wanted to be a part of."
And now they are, with the fishing boat serving as an impromptu meeting spot; employees opting for a little lunchtime exercise courtesy of the kayaks and paddleboards; and the rooftop deck, with its giant television, as host to any number of gatherings, from business reviews to tailgate parties.
"Part of what we teach is innovation, so we wanted to have a really innovative place to work," says Stahl. "Creative people need creative environments."
The boat includes 9,219 square feet of office space, 1,700 of which is new. It also has 4,178 square feet of finished decking and a 2,036 square foot dock. The improvements came to fruition with the help of a $180,000 vacant loan grant and $95,000 low interest loan (since repaid), both from the city. No. 225 LLC (formed by Stahl and Hickey in 2012 to purchase the boat) financed the remainder of the funds through Huntington Bank. Combined, LeanDog and AKA employ 50 full-time employees and 27 full-time subcontractors.
With a few finishing touches still yet to complete, Stahl can't help but look to the future. He mentions tentative plans for more decking and a concert stage on the roof with the possibility of renting the space for venues and parties.
"If you saw it before … ," muses Stahl of the storied Kearsage as he gazes out over the lake from the rooftop deck. "You couldn't get to the water. The windows didn't even open."
"We brought it back to life."

cleveland digital public library will offer high-tech scanning for the masses

Next January, Cleveland Public Library (CPL) is scheduled to open the Cleveland Digital Public Library (CDPL) on the third floor of the original portion of the downtown branch. Construction began in July.
The space will be home to four pieces of scanning equipment: a versatile and user-friendly Knowledge Imaging Center (KIC) Scanner, a high-resolution unit suitable for photographs, a high-speed book scanner and a large format scanner that, at approximately 35- by 50-inches, will be able to accommodate maps and other oversized items. All of it will be available to the public, although the more sophisticated units will have limited public hours.
Another key function of the scanners is to digitize CPL's larger items.
"The hope is to find a way to reach behind the locked doors of special collection vaults and library vaults and share these collections more widely through the agency of the Internet," says Chatham Ewing, CPL's digital library strategist.
The project was made possible by approximately $1 million in funding from the Ohio Public Library Information Network (OPLIN) and the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). Per Ewing, the funds were divided between four libraries in four Ohio cities: Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo and Cincinnati. One of the goals is to make the newly digitized material available to the Ohio Memory project and the emerging Digital Public Library of America.
The area, which will occupy nearly one-fourth of the third floor -- approximately 2,000 square feet -- will be in the space that formerly housed the old multi-media music and CD room. The hallway leading into the new CDPL will feature displays of the physical items that have recently been scanned, those Ewing imagines to essentially be "staff favorites." Other features will include a classroom outfitted with moveable smart boards and a four- by eight-foot touch screen on which scanned collections will be viewable, "in ways that are interesting and fun."
Another goal of the CDPL is to connect with the entire Northeast Ohio region in a lofty sense.
"It's a way for us to strike up some partnerships with local organizations that have historical objects they are interested in stewarding and digitizing," says Ewing, adding that such connections will strengthen Cleveland's cultural heritage community. "We'll be offering digitization services that will enable those partner organizations to take on projects they might not otherwise imagined were possible."

what's new at the 5th street arcades: upcycled art, tacos, popcorn and a side of steampunk

With the addition of four new tenants expected to open over the coming weeks, 5th Street Arcades is celebrating a significant milestone.
"We're basically fully leased," says Lauren Wiant, marketing and community relations liaison at the 5th Street Arcades for Cumberland Development. She recalls what the space looked like only two years ago. "It was like a mausoleum. It was dead enough that you could hear yourself talk."
With a veritable reanimation of this historic Cleveland space, those days are gone.
The four new businesses include Sandy Buffie Designs, which will be taking over the former Baseball Heritage Museum space—a whopping 5,467 square feet—to showcase Buffie's contemporary handcrafted jewelry and sculpture. All of her creations are made from found and recycled objects.
"In addition to a gallery space, she'll be doing classes," says Wiant.
The arcade will also soon welcome the area's third Barrio location, which will front on Prospect in a 4,478-square-foot space. The custom taco eatery will employ 50 and seat 200, excluding the patio. Other locations include 806 Literary Road in Tremont and 15527 Madison Avenue in Lakewood.
Yet another food attraction will be popping up on the other end of the arcade. Kernels by Chrissie will occupy a 752-square-foot storefront facing Euclid. Helmed by entrepreneur Christine Fahey, the shop will offer handcrafted gourmet popcorn.
"We found her at the Downtown Farmers Market," notes Wiant. "She was a vendor there looking for a permanent storefront. She's going to do some of her popcorn production in the shop as well."
With more than 20 flavors to choose from, heaven help hungry passers-by trying to resist that aroma.
Lastly, 10PM Studio will be occupying a 535-square-foot interior space. Proprietor and artist Patty Mcphillips will offer steampunk-themed jewelry crafted from vintage timepieces.
"She was an artist featured in one of our other shops, Fra Angelica, who was interested in having a permanent space as well," says Wiant.
Wiant credits the frenetic wave to Cumberland owner Richard Pace.
"(The 5th Street Arcade) is something he took a risk on because he believed in these entrepreneurs," she says, adding that the Arcade had an occupancy rate of less than 50 percent when Cumberland took over and now boasts 45 businesses. "(Pace) provided them with incentives to get their businesses up and running."
The group's next step will be to extend shopping hours in an effort to attract the after-work crowd.
"It's a great model for the entire city," says Wiant. "It proves retail can work downtown."

growth of battery park continues with new apartments, townhomes and pizza kitchen

Neighbors in the Edgewater Hill community of Detroit Shoreway recently held a grand opening party for a colorful new 70 foot mural in the Edgewater Hill Victory Garden. The event attracted a large crowd that stuck around to enjoy clams, beer and family-friendly activities.

Yet while the harvest has now all but faded, the activity in the surrounding neighborhood is in full bloom. Start with The Shoreway, which boasts 45 luxury lofts and welcomed its first residents in August.
"We are currently 100 percent leased," says Dylan McBride, Shoreway property manager and resident. There are approximately 50 on the waiting list.
Managed by IRG Realty Advisors, the building features one-and two-bedroom suites, ranging from 950- to 1570-square feet with rents from $975 to $2,200. High speed Internet and access to the fitness center and 5,000-square-foot rooftop patio is included.
McBride was mum on plans for the vacant south end of the building, except to say that IRG is courting retail options. That area will be open to the public.
The building has another unique feature.
"We are a pet friendly building," says McBride, adding that there is no size maximum for pets—with some pachyderms notwithstanding.
"Obviously, someone can't have an elephant."
In neighboring Battery Park, the much-anticipated Cha Spirits and Pizza opened in the Powerhouse over the weekend and will no doubt be a boon for current and future residents. But there is more to come.
New construction sales manager Danielle Szabo of Keller Williams Real Estate reports that the company is on the lookout for another entertainment venue in the historic structure, but would not disclose details.
"They're waiting for the right entity," says Szabo, adding that a brewery/restaurant might be a good fit.
The development opened in 2006 with 13 acres. It has since expanded to include more than 150 townhomes and condominiums ranging from 1,100 square-feet to nearly 3,000. They've sold for between $199,000 and $550,000. Six new townhomes are under construction, three of which are already sold.
"Aside from the brand new construction in Battery Park," says Szabo. "There are no opportunities. It is completely full."
There is, however, future hope for those wanting to settle in the complex. Keller Williams will soon release new construction plans for Battery Park.
"It's going to be the most premier phase," says Szabo, citing the fact that it will offer permanent lake views.
Both McBride and Szabo tout the West 65th and West 76th Street pedestrian tunnels as major improvement to the area.
"It's just been tremendous to be able to have direct access right from Battery Park out to Edgewater Beach and Edgewater Park," says Szabo, adding that the West 73rd Street Extension project completion (scheduled for 2015) will provide even more accessibility.
Residents also contribute to the area's success in no small part.
"You can feel the pride when they talk to you," says Szabo. "That really impacts the growth and regeneration of the area."

as orange barrels fade, new businesses bloom on waterloo

Last week, Collinwood's Waterloo neighborhood exhaled a collective sigh of relief when the barrage of orange barrels that defined a maze of closures, one-way paths and detours for more than a year was finally removed, marking the completion of a $5.5 million streetscape and repaving project.
Area residents and businesses celebrated the milestone during the neighborhood's Oct. 3rd Walk All Over Waterloo, which is held on the first Friday of every month. In addition to showcasing a clear street, Cyclops Tattoo Studio, 16006 Waterloo Road, held their grand opening, while Waterloo Brew, 15335 Waterloo Road in the Slovenian Workmen's Home, opened its doors for a soft opening.
"Waterloo brew is the oldest school possible kind of beer joint. It’s an old school nationality hall bar," says Brew Owner and Cleveland entrepreneur Alan Glazen, noting that two-thirds of his inaugural customers were from the neighborhood -- and they drank every drop of the pub's signature Waterloo Brew. "We sold out on the first night." A grand opened is scheduled for Oct. 10th.
Those notable openings are flanked by a flurry of other economic activity in the quirky arts district. Loren Naji's funky new Satellite Gallery received an occupancy permit, perhaps fittingly, on Oct. 3rd, just hours before the Waterloo Brew would begin to flow. Construction is ongoing at Brick, a ceramics co-op at 421 East 161st Street, which is adjacent to the future Bright Coffee Bar, 16021 Waterloo Road, also under construction. Both are slated to open in spring 2015.
"We've got a lot of things in the works," says Northeast Shore's Development Corporation's business development specialist Alenka Banco. "The big celebration will happen in the spring."
By then, Zygote Press's Ink House, 423 East 156th Street will also be open. "They have their drawings and pulled all their permits," says Banco, as will the Millard Fillmore Presidential Library, 15617 Waterloo Road, wherein patrons may or may not find books, but are sure to find wood-fired pizza. The Fillmore (for short) is slated to open next month.
Other projects in the works include an ice cream shop and two eateries, one for which details are forthcoming and one at the former Key Bank Building, 15619 Waterloo Road, that will be under the wing of the Luchita's Mexican Restaurant owners. The Reverend Albert Wagner Museum of Art got one step closer to fruition by getting a nonprofit status through the Case Western Reserve University, which paves the way for fundraising.
"We want longevity. We want the arts to be sustainable," says Banco, noting that many of the new ventures, including the Satellite, Ink House and Brick, are unique in that the artist/proprietors own the associated property. "That kind of anchor in a neighborhood is unprecedented."
"It's like using art and culture as economic development tools, as engines," says Glazen.
And you've got to support those artists, asserts Banco, who got a tattoo earlier this month from Cyclops that features a quote from Shakespeare along her arm: Journeys end in lovers meetings.
"It's absolutely beautiful," she says.

two new restaurants will expand indian, asian options in uptown district

Sanjiv Bhatt, who currently owns and manages two restaurants in North Olmsted, Inchin's Bamboo Garden and Tadka Restaurant, will be opening an Inchin's Bamboo Garden Express and Chapati Indian Grill adjacent to one another at 11440 Euclid Avenue in the Uptown development. Both establishments are expected to open by January.
The new dual location will be adjacent to MOCA in the Uptown project, which houses Panera and other venues. Bhatt describes the Chapati Grill as "a fast food concept, similar to Chipotle, but with Indian flavors." The Inchin's Bamboo Garden Express, says Bhatt, will have a menu similar to that of the North Olmsted location, which features Indian/Chinese fusion. Both restaurants will be open seven days a week with lunch and dinner service and will offer wine and beer, although Bhatt hopes to expand the Inchin's Bamboo Garden Express's potent potables to include liquor.
The two eateries will employ a total of between 20 and 25 employees. Chapati will seat approximately 35 people, while the Bamboo Garden will seat 150 and will have a private area for parties of up to 25 people. The city of Cleveland is currently reviewing the plans and drawings, but Bhatt is confident he will have official approval as early as this week. He has selected a contractor, the name of which he's withholding until the agreement is inked. Bhatt describes the contractor as a local business with 20 years of experience in restaurant work.
Bhatt cites two reasons for the expansion.
"Cleveland is coming back," he says. "When I started on the west side, it was the worst time in Cleveland. In the past three or four years, I've noticed that downtown is growing. You see construction everywhere."
Bhatt's business has also enjoyed an upswing, and his customers clamored for options.
"My east side customers would tell me that it's very difficult for them to come here to enjoy my food," he says. "They were insisting on something on the east side."
The Inchin's Bamboo Garden locations are part of a national franchised chain that Bhatt has joined. With the Chapati Grill, however, he owns the franchising rights and plans to expand accordingly. To that end, he's looking forward to another Chapati opening in the Langston Building, 2303 Chester Avenue, as soon as next month and has signed a lease for the first Chapati in Chicago.
"I can sell the franchise in all 50 states," says Bhatt. "We're targeting 20 to 25 Chapatis to open all across the country."
The Cleveland Uptown Chapati will also serve as a corporate training center for future franchisees.
"This will be our showcase for Chapati."

foreign language immersion school set to open next year in cleveland

Educational opportunities for Cleveland grade-schoolers could soon expand with the addition of a new foreign language immersion school in the 2015-16 school year. Last February, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) gave the Global Ambassadors Language Academy (GALA) the thumbs up on a new charter school for children in kindergarten through grade eight.
"This is going to be the first foreign language immersion school in the region," notes GALA's founder Meran Rogers, adding that it will also be the first Mandarin immersion school in the state.
"Outside of our country, attending a school where you're immersed in another language is typical," says Rogers. She should know. She taught at an immersion school in Taiwan for a year and saw the benefits it brought to children there. The experience made Rogers wonder, why don't we have this here? And GALA was born.
The new charter school expects to open for the 2015/2016 school year offering Spanish and Mandarin programs, although Rogers hopes to expand in the coming years, particularly with Portuguese and Arabic programs. Upcoming milestones for the school include getting a preliminary agreement filed with the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) next March, and a formal contract between CMSD and GALA filed with ODE next May. The group is optimistic that these procedures will go smoothly as GALA plans to begin hiring staff in February and start enrolling students in March. They are currently accepting intent to enroll forms for their inaugural year.
Enrollment is free for all Ohio residents. GALA will receive the standard state and federal per-pupil allocations. Private donors have included the Albert B and Audrey G. Ratner Family Foundation, RPM International Inc. and Margaret Wong & Associates. Rogers is also hopeful that GALA's application of a $653,000 federal three-year grant will be approved in the coming days.
GALA will announce the school's location in December, after completing a series of community information meetings (tonight, Oct. 4, Oct. 8 and Oct. 9, RSVP required). Information gleaned from those gatherings and the intent to enroll forms, such as where students live, will determine the school's location. GALA is considering three potential spots, although Rogers will not disclose details except that all three are in Cleveland proper with one on the west side of town, one on the east side and one in the middle.
In addition to her international teaching experience, Rogers has another more personal reason for starting the venture.
"I grew up in Cleveland and both of my parents were immigrants. I grew up speaking a blend of four languages: Polish, Taiwanese, Chinese and English," she says, adding that the confusion over language caused the Cleveland Public Schools to label her as a special education student instead of one with English as a second language. When she transferred to Lakewood Public Schools in second grade, the mistake was corrected. Nonetheless, Rogers still carries negative feelings over the experience and disappointment that her diversity wasn't valued and nurtured.
"I grew up feeling that my culture and my languages were a burden—something that needed to be done away with—to assimilate," she says. "If I offer students in similar situations a program that embraces their culture and diversity—or other cultures and diversity—I think that's good for our community."
Rogers stresses that GALA is not targeting Mandarin or Spanish speaking students. "It's actually just the opposite," she says. "Our model is to target English speaking students."

keybank donates $4m towards revitalization of public square, bringing project closer to its goal

The KeyBank Foundation has announced a $4 million donation towards the revitalization of Public Square, bringing this long-sought project one step closer to a fall groundbreaking and completion in 2016. The gift is the project's first corporate donation, and the single largest gift in the KeyBank Foundation's history. In recognition, Group Plan Commission leaders spearheading the project have pledged that the new pathway that will ring Public Square will be called the KeyBank Promenade.

“The redevelopment of Public Square will be one of the most significant projects in the city’s history, and we are proud to be able to play a part in making it happen,” said KeyCorp Chairman and CEO Beth Mooney in a press release. “It will provide the kind of public space that acts as a magnet for residents and visitors. Years from now, Clevelanders will regard this project as one of the essential elements in the city’s revitalization.”

KeyBank's gift also meets the requirements of a $1 million challenge grant from the Cleveland Foundation. The gift includes $500,000 for long-term maintenance.

Check out Fresh Water's past coverage of Public Square's revitalization here and here.

craft sandwich and beer bistro planned for gordon square will offer delivery service

It seems there's a new venue with reclaimed wood and industrial furnishings opening up every day on the near west side of Cleveland. Yet Jon Mavrakis, who is opening up the new craft sandwich and beer bistro Local West in Gordon Square with his dad and brother, says his new eatery will fill a gap in the marketplace. Every sandwich will be locally sourced, and they'll be priced between $8 and $14. Local West also plans to offer delivery service, something that is not widely available.

"We'll be able to deliver craft sandwiches and a six pack of craft beer right to your doorstep, if that's what you want," says Mavrakis, a real estate broker who owns CitiRoc, a real estate sales and marketing firm focused on the urban market.

Local West, which will be located in the former Niko's Greek Grille at 7400 Detroit, is expected to open by January. Mavrakis says they will source all of their meats, poultry and produce from Ohio, and will make their burgers from scratch with grass fed beef. Orlando Baking Company will supply locally made bread. The menu will feature burgers, Cuban and pressed sandwiches and poutine. 

"We'll have homemade sides and exotic things like octopus sandwiches or a beef tongue sandwich," he says. "We'll have an Italian double dip sandwich with prime cuts in it. It's not going to be a Subway by any stretch of the imagination."

The bistro is considered family-friendly and will be open from 11 a.m. until about 11 p.m. The owners have applied for a full liquor license but only plan to serve craft beer and wine. Most of the selections will be from Ohio, and they'll only serve bottles. Mavrakis says he's excited that Banter is opening up next door.

The building seats about 35 people inside and fits another 18 on the front patio. The venue will be very casual and will only offer counter service. Mavrakis says they're only sprucing up the exterior, but the interior will be "dramatically different."

"We'll have reclaimed wood with wrapping around it, and all our furniture will made from recycled wood and steel we had fabricated," he says. "We'll have vintage chandeliers and lighting. It’s basically going to be a walkup open kitchen where you’re going to order from the chef."

Local West benefited from several incentives from the City of Cleveland, says Mavrakis, including a Neighborhood Retail Assistance Grant for new job creation. With the addition of Banter and Local West, the Gordon Square Arts District is now seeing development activity spread further west along Detroit Avenue.

ohio city-based urban orchid opens second location in renovated little italy church

Urban Orchid, a floral boutique that opened in Ohio City in 2011, recently celebrated the opening of a second location at 2062 Murray Hill Road in Little Italy. The new shop is located inside an elegant, historic church converted to retail space. With business booming, the owners needed an east side workspace for arrangements and deliveries on the other side of town. Larger arrangements for weddings and other events are still being done in Ohio City.

"We wanted to keep it in the city, but we wanted to be in another neighborhood with a similar feel to Ohio City," says Jeffrey Zelmer, who owns Urban Orchid with Brandon Seitler, a floral designer. "We thought Little Italy was a good opportunity."

Zelmer describes the new space as possessing "amazing" architecture; it offers soaring ceilings, hardwood floors and many other historic features. The owners worked with local contractors John Paul Costello and Alex Loos to custom-build furnishings and work stations using reclaimed materials. "We tried to enhance the architecture of the space, and not mask it off," says Zelmer of the build-out.

The new location boasts a choir loft that allows visitors to get a bird's eye view of the space. Zelmer and Seitler are considering hosting pop-up shops there.

The company already has 75 weddings booked for this year and additional staff has been brought on to keep up with demand. "Brandon’s design capabilities and floral style are exceptional and people really respond to it," says Zelmer. "The word of mouth spead like wildfire. We also carry a really interesting line of locally made merchandise that can’t be found in other places. People are attuned to wanting to shop local, and we are a local business that carries local artists."

newly-unveiled flats plan prioritizes projects, sets stage for additional development

The 2014 Flats Forward Framework Plan, which is being unveiled today at a public meeting at the Music Box Supper Club on the West Bank, offers a roadmap for the area's future. Some of the key priorities identified in the plan include preserving the area's history as an industrial corridor, further developing recreation and riverfront access opportunities, investing in infrastructure and wayfinding signage, and designating land uses to clear the way for additional development.

"The Flats are a critical part of Cleveland's history and demonstrate immense opportunity for future growth," the report states, citing the $4.5 billion in new development that has occurred downtown since 2010, 95 percent apartment occupancy rates, and the growth of Ohio City, Tremont and Gordon Square as reasons for optimism.

The report divides the core of the Flats into six different areas -- the Old River Channel, East Bank, West Bank, Columbus Peninsula, Scranton Peninsula and Irishtown Bend. Some of the challenges identified in the report include confusing entryways into the Flats and the lack of wayfinding signage, the underused riverfront, crumbling infrastructure and poor public transit access.

So what's the future look like? The Flats Forward plan shows a network of green spaces (Whiskey Island, Canal Basin Park, Scranton Flats, Rivergate Park)  connected by trails (Lake Link Trail, proposed River Walk Trail, Towpath Trail). It calls for a maintenance plan to improve the condition of streets and sidewalks and make the area more bike- and pedestrian-friendly. It calls for wayfinding signage, better waterfront access, and improved public transit links.

The plan also develops a roadway typology, suggesting that certain streets should be designated for primarily industrial uses.This could reduce the conflicts that currently exist between industrial concerns and other users in the Flats.

Other immediate next steps including identifying and applying for funding for planning efforts, hiring a marketing and branding firm, and determining market demand and potential land uses through a detailed economic study.

Although this plan represents a long-term vision, new economic activity is already being generated in the Flats. The shipping channel is very active, Rivergate Park is a recreation hub, the Columbus Peninsula is seeing redevelopment and both the East and West Banks are adding new businesses. This report suggests that this activity will increase -- and provides a roadmap to help guide it along.

flats-based brick and barrel brewery to open before end of october

Brick and Barrel, a new brewery, winery and taproom at 1844 Columbus Road in the Flats, is finally set to open its doors after months of delays. The tentative opening date is Tuesday, October 21st, the same day the new Columbus Road bridge is expected to open to traffic. Partner Jason Henkel promises that at the very least, the venue will roll up its garage doors and start pouring pints by the end of the month.

That's good news for Cleveland beer fans, who will soon be able to quench their thirst at yet another new brewery. The venue will no doubt prove popular, with a new taproom that is airy and comfortable, a location offering views of iconic bridges and the downtown skyline, and easy access to Rivergate Park.

The squat, one-story building was a machine shop and coal processing plant in its former life. It was "a complete mess," says Henkel, when he and co-founders Mike Dagiasis and Karl Spiesman leased it from owner Mid-State Restoration. The partners have renovated it from top to bottom and installed a 3.5-barrel brewing system, a seven-barrel fermenter and a seven-barrel conditioning tank. There will be a new front patio.

The minimalist interior furnishings are made from reclaimed materials that were procured from Old School Architectural Salvage. A church pew and 19th century barn wood were used to build the bar, and the bartop is made from an old chalkboard. Tables were constructed using old warehouse carriages once used by industrial businesses in the Flats. The taproom seats about 35, but can hold up to 150, and patrons have great views of the beer and wine production areas.

"We wanted to give people a feel for the neighborhood, and bring some of the outside inside," says Henkel of the decision to use reclaimed materials.

Spiesman says that Brick and Barrel will offer traditional styles such as German Kolsch and English ales. There will be no pasteurization or flavoring. Brick and Barrel will sell kegs to individuals and distribute them to restaurants and bars. The brewer eschews some of the eclectic, ultra-hoppy beers that are popular these days, preferring simpler styles and doing a few things well.

"There are other people doing beer and doing it well," says Henkel simply. "We want to be another one doing it, and make the rising tide lift all boats."

The winemaking operation is still in the works, but the partners already have experience with importing grapes and making their own wine. The rear of the facility will house a wine press and crush that will be used to produce whites and reds. Brick and Barrel expects to sell wine onsite by the glass and bottle.

Phase II of the brewery will involve a beer garden out back. The owners have to work out plenty of details with the city, including purchasing a vacated alley, but Henkel envisions a group of picnic tables with a cool outdoor chandelier hanging overhead. The location offers views of Rivergate Park.

$11m buckeye square building offers supportive housing for chronically homeless

Housing First, a coalition of more than 40 public and private organizations throughout Northeast Ohio, was formed in 2006 to end "long-term and chronic homelessness" in Cuyahoga County. With the recent completion of Buckeye Square, an $11.3 million building that offers 65 affordable, furnished studio apartments for low-income individuals and families, the group is closer to its goal of building 1,271 units of permanent supportive housing.

“Housing gives residents security and stability to combat other issues and get back on their feet," said Marc McDermott, Vice President and Ohio market leader for Enterprise Community Partners, Inc., the Housing First Initiative leader, in a release." All of the partners that made Buckeye Square possible are changing lives, and the model’s success in Cleveland proves that housing makes all the difference.”

The coalition has seen a 73 percent drop in chronic homelessness since the program began, which it cites as evidence that the strategy has been successful.

Buckeye Square, which officially opened this week, is located at Buckeye Road and E. 116th Street. The building offers shared laundry facilities, a community room with kitchen, a computer lab, resident parking, a 24-hour staffed front desk, outdoor space and on-site social services.

Supportive housing is aimed at helping the chronically homeless get back on their feet. Support services are provided to help them become more independent and reintegrate with their neighborhoods. Enterprise leads Housing First projects by assembling capital, working with local leaders and offering expertise. Cleveland Housing Network has acted as lead developer, while EDEN has served as co-developer and property manager. FrontLine Service helps provide supportive services to residents.

Buckeye Square was built using Low Income Housing Tax Credits as well as HOME funds and other grants. Enterprise furnished a predevelopment loan of $572,600.

Housing First also recently obtained a grant from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency to create a mobile health clinic that will serve all of its buildings.
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