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preview of aha festival, an interactive arts fest to take place during gay games

Cleveland's star is burning pretty brightly these days, thanks in no small part to a string of good news regarding a certain political party’s national convention and a certain sports figure’s return. But it's about to get a little brighter. A new downtown festival will bring in nationally renowned artists during the Gay Games to create interactive light/video installations on the downtown malls.

The AHA! Festival is "a multi-day festival of lights celebrating Cleveland's recent development boom and will 'illuminate' changes to our urban landscape," according to the website. The event is scheduled to take place August 7-9. Public events will take place to engage Clevelanders and energize the city.

This week, Fresh Water caught up with several AHA! artists to preview the fest.

Public Auditorium 3D mapping: The artist collective Obscura Digital "will present a giant, digital light show on the outer walls of Public Auditorium using 3D video mapping," according to the website. The San Francisco-based studio uses unique software that allows artists to create animations and send them to one of several video projectors, covering the entire facade of a building.

"What we're trying to do is capture the essence of Cleveland in a poetic fashion," says Marc Melzer, Director of Media and Art with Obscura. "We wanted to capture the arts and culture and revitalization happening in the city."

The video installation will represent the metaphoric evolution of Cleveland by displaying the changing of the seasons from winter to spring, Melzer says. The team created the installation by visiting the site, selecting the building and then obtaining the architectural drawings. They recreated the building in a 3D virtual program and simulated their projections before creating the media.

Eight projectors will tie together in order to create one seamless image on the facade of the building. The projected image will be approximately 150 feet wide!

The Pool: Artist Jen Lewin's interactive work, which has been displayed all over the world, is coming to Cleveland. This large-scale installation "is an environment of giant, concentric circles created from interactive circular pads," according to the AHA! website. "By entering the pool, you enter a world where community play and collaborative movement create swirling effects of light and color. Imagine a giant canvas where you can paint and splash light collaboratively."

The Pool consists of 240 interactive platforms, each one three feet in diameter, which create unique patterns of color when you dance and move on them. Lewin refers to the platforms as being "like LED hula hoops." The installation requires over 30,000 interactive, controllable RGB LED pixels over 5,000 square feet.

"My work is usually very large and interactive, and it enables large groups of people to interact with art and themselves," says Lewin. "This creates a really active and engaged community experience around the artwork. This piece is twice as large as what we normally install, and we're testing a lot of new interaction control."

"What's amazing about the sculpture is that you can put it in any kind of public space," she adds. "It changes it. If you put it in a park that otherwise no one would go to, it changes it completely. It's extremely popular with kids and families."

Lewin builds every piece of her installations by hand in her studio in Boulder, Colorado.

From Cleveland, Lewin's piece will travel all over the world, including the Burning Man Festival, Portugal, Czech Republic and the United Kingdom.

Global Rainbow: This installation by artist Yvette Mattern "consists of seven parallel beams of laser light, representing the spectrum of the traditional seven colors of the rainbow, and is designed to be projected across large open sites," according to the website. "The Global Rainbow will be projecting the light beams from the Great Lakes Science Center over Mall B, into the sky. This spectacular rainbow will have the capacity to be seen from up to 36 miles away on a clear night! The colorful installation will be a dramatic and thought-provoking piece."

Mattern has noted that the Global Rainbow symbolizes hope and encompasses social and geographical diversity.

Drawing Lines: Artist Ivan Juarez's installation in the Eastman Reading Garden will also be featured during AHA!

Public events throughout the festival include Pecha Kucha, a large-scale yoga event called Believe in CLE, and the East Meets West Glow Ride.
 

sneak peek of the 9, cleveland's 'game-changing' downtown development

When it comes to The 9 in downtown Cleveland, there's no shortage of hyperboles. The $250-million project, which has transformed Marcel Breuer's long-neglected modernist tower into a 156-room high-end hotel and 194 luxury apartments, is being touted as a "game changer," the city's "first truly mixed-used building," a "best-in-class" property and the first-ever "truly luxury" residential building.

Of course, developers are known more for their sales pitches than their subtlety. So Fresh Water toured the ambitious project to get a sneak peek of the building, which is set to debut in September, to find out what all the hype is about.

The Historic Rotunda

The Cleveland Trust rotunda has been completely restored and is awaiting construction of a new Heinen's grocery store, which is set to open in 2015. (Following our tour, one insider quipped that Cleveland hasn't gotten enough urbanist cred for opening a grocery store without attached parking. "When it opens, we will," counseled another.) Our Metropolitan tour guide informed us that conservative estimates place the value of the Tiffany-style stained-glass dome at a cool $20 million. The guy who designed the murals, Frances David Millet, surprised his wife with a trip on the Titanic shortly after completing them. They didn't survive, apparently, but Millet's glorious murals continue to shine.

The Vaults

Residents, hotel guests and invited friends soon will be able to party in the basement vaults where Andrew Carnegie and other famous Clevelanders stowed their fortunes. There are four vaults in the lower level, each with the same impossibly large, circular steel-and-glass doors. Back in the day, if one got broken into, there was a special mechanism that sealed off the other three from intruders. Now you can get access to all of them -- if you're lucky enough to score an invitation. Imagine sitting in a plush armchair and sipping a Manhattan with friends in the safe deposit box rooms that once secured the treasures of famous industrialists. Never mind the two-drink minimum; our guide explains that guests who don't spend at least $50 on their first visit will not be welcome back.

(Side note: The safe deposit boxes themselves apparently are being repurposed into an artsy chandelier. It's nice to see the building's original treasures getting second lives!)

The Restaurants 

Although the restaurants still are under construction, from the looks of things, they're going to be very nice. First, there's a lot of natural beauty to work with -- the marble-lined interior of the original bank lobby has soaring ceilings that draw the eye upwards. This space soon will be home to Adega, the main restaurant, which will have a 2,000-square-foot patio. The other spaces will be similarly impressive; for example, the 350-seat Mint Ballroom in the lower level boasts stunning recessed chandeliers.
 
The 9 will add five new establishments to the downtown scene. Beyond the Vault and Adega, there's The Ledger, a smaller, second-floor bar; Azure, the rooftop restaurant and nightclub (finally, Cleveland scores a new one); and the Alex Theater, a 70-seater that will open for special screenings, comedy shows and the like.

The Hotel

We didn't get a tour of the hotel rooms, but we were told that they're quite spacious -- in some cases, twice as large as typical suites. Rates are not cheap for downtown, hovering in the mid-$200s per night according to a web search (spokespeople won't officially comment on pricing yet). Hotel guests will have access to the same amenities as apartment dwellers, including 24/7 concierge services. Already, there are five weddings booked for November, and the place hasn't even opened yet.

The Apartments

Apartment marketing often is where hyperbole goes overboard, and The 9 is no exception. Promotional materials promise "spa-inspired bathing facilities," "full custom-designed kitchens" and an environment where "the line between everyday living and escape becomes blurred." (We're ready to move in right now, thanks.) These units, which are commanding high prices of $1.75 to $2 per square foot, already are 80 percent leased, according to sales staff. The adjacent 1010 Euclid building, which is less high-end, is reportedly 60 percent leased.  

In addition to the high-end kitchens and baths, suites have granite countertops, bathrooms with double sinks, dimmable lighting, zebra wood cabinetry, 100-inch electric fireplaces, 55-inch flatscreen TVs, wet bars, Thermador appliances with gas stoves, Bosch washer-dryers, walk-in closets and cork floors.

So what are prices like? Apartments in the two adjacent buildings, ranging from 500 to 3,000 square feet, start at about $1,000 and climb to about $6,000 per month. Cha-ching. Top units are called Sky Suites and enjoy panoramic views of downtown from all sides. At this point we're simply hoping to make friends with residents in the building.

Other Fun Facts

Did you know that The 9 also will be home to the city's swankiest indoor dog park? Yes, you heard that right. Apparently there's special technology for flushing. We didn't ask for specifics.

There are 2,500 people presently working in three shifts on this project. It's one of the most complex real estate transactions in the city's history, with 140 documents recorded sequentially in the County Recorder's office.

By now, it should be apparent why this project is so impressive. For residents, it literally will be akin to living in a hotel, because, well, they actually are in a hotel. Hotel guests, on the other hand, will have access to the city's finest amenities courtesy of the residences.

Given that The 9 will soon be "the place to see and be seen," we expect to catch a sighting of LeBron (or at least his cavalcade) on a Saturday night here sometime soon.

 

cle's first shipping container-based eatery to debut at north coast harbor

Remember the skate park built for the Dew Games held at North Coast Harbor in 2008? Well, it's been dismantled, but the concrete slab remains, surrounded by a metal-flame fence. Very soon the space will be home to the city's first shipping container-based restaurant, Blazing Bistro, which is scheduled to open in late July, adding to the amenities on downtown's lakefront.

"We've recognized for a while that one of the missing amenities on the lakefront is a gathering place for people while they're at the Rock Hall etc.," says Michael Deemer, Vice President of Business Development and Legal Services at Downtown Cleveland Alliance. "We worked with the city and with Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry to build off the success of Cleveland's food truck renaissance."

Blazing Bistro will take up residence in a recycled shipping container repurposed by Cleveland Custom Trucks. Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry (LMM), which operates the successful Manna food truck and employs formerly incarcerated and homeless individuals, was awarded the contract after responding to an RFP from DCA.

The days and hours of operation are not set in stone, but likely will be lunch Wednesday through Sunday with some evening hours added as well. The shipping container idea grew out of the Small Box Initiative, a program of the Historic Warehouse District Development Corporation to develop retail in parking lots on West 9th Street.

As the new lakefront development takes off, Blazing Bistro can be picked up and moved to other locations, either in the harbor or other parts of downtown.

Blazing Bistro also will be open during various events taking place at North Coast Harbor, including the new Anchors and Ales event, held August 22-23 and September 13-14 in conjunction with Cleveland Browns home games.

Deemer says the seasonal restaurant is a win-win-win for the city, residents and visitors. "It's not enough to have a park on the lakefront; we have to actively drive people there with events and amenities," he says. "We've seen food truck owners open up brick and mortar stores with great success. This is a new wrinkle."
 

fairfax intergenerational: housing for seniors raising children

Joanie Nelson and her granddaughter Jayda live in the new Fairfax Intergenerational Housing development on Cedar Avenue between E. 80th and 83rd streets. Eight years back, Joanie's daughter was struck and killed by a drunk driver in a car accident, leaving Joanie to raise her granddaughter. It's hard to raise a grandchild as a senior, of course, yet this challenge is made easier by the new housing development, which offers social workers, a computer lab and other support services that are aimed at helping grandparents who are raising grandkids.

“My granddaughter and I are thrilled with our new home at Fairfax Intergenerational," Nelson said in a press release. "I’m excited that the school and church are very close, and we have access to a computer center and after-school activities."

There are 2.4 million grandparents raising 4.5 million kids in the U.S. Fairfax Intergenerational Housing, now named Griot Village, is the first project of its kind in Ohio and one of only seven in the country. It offers an affordable, sustainable and supportive environment for seniors 55 and older who are raising children.

Griot Village was designed in accordance with Enterprise Green Community standards. The development consists of 40 new townhomes with a shared courtyard that promotes a sense of community. A Supportive Services Coordinator provides onsite services to residents. There are eight buildings, each of which has five housing units. Each unit offers homework stations and play areas, and there's an onsite community center. The new residents are in close proximity to a commercial and retail development, walking distance to University Circle, and a short distance from several major medical centers and local schools.

"This development allows grandparents to be in an environment where they can be free with fact that they’re raising a child," says Jeffery Patterson, CEO of CMHA. "You may have seniors who live in one of our senior buildings and are taking on that role, but our senior buildings were not built for that purpose. Here, there’s play equipment on the property. There's a community center where there are educational opportunities. It's in an area that provides good development opportunities for youth and seniors. We can help them to be successful."

The total project investment amount was $12 million, which was funded primarily by Low Income Housing Tax Credits. The development is a partnership between CMHA and Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation.
 

group plan commission announces details, first major grant for new park

Internationally renowned landscape architect James Corner recently unveiled his plans for Cleveland’s Public Square at the City Club. The square’s four quadrants will be connected via swaths of green space and a pathway, closing Ontario and limiting Superior to buses. It will include a water feature that will allow visitors to dip their toes in the cooling waters, sloped seating embedded in a hillside for concerts or movies, a café and natural landscaping.
 
Now, thanks to an $8 million gift from the Cleveland Foundation, the long-planned changes are one step closer to reality. LAND Studio, a local nonprofit that helps to design vibrant public spaces, will receive grant funding to help implement the Group Plan Commission’s design. The award is part of a special series of grants the foundation is making to celebrate its centennial. The south plaza of the park will be named “Cleveland Foundation Centennial Plaza.”

"This is important because it's the Cleveland Foundation taking a leadership role and saying this transformation is critical for the city’s future," says Jeremy Paris, Executive Director of the Group Plan Commission. "It's a way for them to impact the city for this generation and generations to come, and a validation of the work we’re trying to do. In addition, the gift itself is catalytic for our funding goals."

Paris says the goal is still to break ground on the project this year, and to complete the Public Square redesign by 2016, in time for major events occurring that year.

In his City Club presentation, Corner outlined the importance of public space in an economy where cities are competing for tourism and residents: “Cities are reinvesting, in a bid to retain a competitive edge, in the public realm.” With the recently renovated mall atop the convention center, Cleveland now has an opportunity to create signature public spaces connected to the lake.  
 
Corner presented key aspects of the design. The northern half of the mall will feature a manmade hill with seating seamlessly cut into it. It will also include additional foliage and gardens, with trees positioned to avoid interrupting views yet also to keep the park visible from the surrounding streets. The new water feature will be a reflective pool, yet it will also have jets. As in many other cities, Cleveland will soon have a fountain where kids can play on hot summer days.
 
When the next Polar Vortex returns, this area can be transitioned into an ice skating rink so that Clevelanders can take advantage of winter activities on Public Square.
 
The cafe will be located on the south side of the park. The concept and operator have not yet been chosen, but it will likely be a fast-casual sandwich and coffee shop. The Sailors and Soldiers monument will be well preserved and improved as part of the project. New lighting will highlight the historic monument and the design will open up the space around it to provide uninterrupted views. 
 
In his talk, Corner called attention to the importance of simply populating parks, as well as offering creative, interactive programming. “People love to simply lounge, to be with other people and see others,” he explained.
 
Closing Ontario and limiting Superior to buses remains somewhat controversial, with some wanting not to close the streets and others wanting to close Superior entirely. Corner noted that Superior could be closed occasionally and lined with tents for farmers markets or festivals in the summer months. Design elements will help make crossing Superior a pedestrian-friendly experience. “Our traffic engineers are nationally renowned for traffic planning, and in their estimation, what we’re doing is a good thing in terms of how traffic works in Cleveland,” Corner stated.

Finally, Corner noted how public space can generate economic development in cities. James Corner Field Operations previously had worked on the High Line in New York City. This revolutionary park transformed an abandoned elevated rail line that was once seen as a blemish in the neighborhoods through which it ran. It was about to be torn down until a neighborhood group had the visionary idea to turn it into a park. The High Line is now the second most visited tourist attraction in New York City, attracting 4.5 million people in 2012. It has spurred $2 billion in economic development and 12,000 new jobs in neighborhoods flanking the park.
 
“These are significant investments that aren’t only beautifying, aren’t only socially enriching and enhancing, but also will boost the economy of the city if not the region," Corner stated.
 

waterloo arts district announces launch of new businesses, including bright coffee bar

Every great neighborhood has a great coffee shop. Yet the evolving Waterloo Arts District, home to the Beachland Ballroom and a bevy of art galleries and record stores, currently lacks one. That's going to change soon, as Kimberly Homan, originator of Beachland's popular Sunday brunch, is planning to open Bright Coffee Bar on Waterloo's east end.

"I'm pretty invested, having put a lot of time in on Waterloo," says Homan, who has worked on the street for more than eight years. "I love the atmosphere and attitude. It's still a work in progress but we're all kind of growing together."

Bright is just one of several new businesses that will open on Waterloo later this year or early next year as part of Operation Light Switch. Waterloo Brew, the new neighborhood-inspired craft beer that will be brewed in the reworked Slovenian Workmen's Home, will hold a launch party on Friday, October 3rd. Restauranteur Tom Bell of the Flying Monkey Pub in Tremont has announced that his newest project, in the former Harbor Inn, will be called the Millard Fillmore Presidential Library. And Satellite Gallery and Ink House are under construction on E. 156th Street.

With the new streetscape set to be unveiled this fall, Waterloo is ready to celebrate and welcome these new businesses, which will only add to the street's revitalization.

Other new launches either under construction or soon to break ground include the fiber and textile studio Praxis, the ceramic studio and gallery Brick, and the long-awaited restaurant Crop Rocks, led by well-known chef Steve Schimoler.

Bright Coffee Bar might not open until next year -- the construction schedule is still fluid -- but Homan says it will add a much-needed piece to the Waterloo development puzzle. Regular amenities such as coffee shops and restaurants will help to drive more consistent traffic on the street.

Homan, who originally is from Collinwood and lives in the neighborhood, couldn't be more excited about returning to the street as the proprietor of a new business.

Bright will be small and cozy, a community hub with excellent coffee and baked goods. The entire building is being renovated inside and out by Northeast Shores Development Corporation. Homan plans to incorporate healthy, seasonal and local food, and will purchase her coffee from Solstice Roasters in Midtown.

"They do wonderful things with coffee," she says. "They really bring out the flavor profile of the beans they roast, which are done in small batches. They focus on medium roasts, not the Starbucks culture where they're all burnt. They're flavorful, bright coffees."

Bright also will feature baked goods from Goody Two Shoes Bakery, including vegan and gluten free options. Homan also plans to offer vegan hot chocolate.

The space will have large bay windows with seating. There will also be seating at the coffee bar and a few tables in the front room. In the back room, there will be a lounge area with chairs and couches. The entire place will seat 24-30 people. It will be connected to Brick ceramic studio and gallery, which is opening in the same property.

Homan has launched a Kickstarter campaign to help get Bright brewing.
 

bloom & clover wax studio extends lorain ave's westward retail march

Some might say that the opening of a waxing studio in the former home of the Speak in Tongues music club signals a seismic shift in the Ohio City neighborhood it calls home. To owner Danielle Fuller, it simply fills a need for those looking to get pretty.
 
On Tuesday, July 8, Fuller opened the doors to Bloom & Clover Wax Studio at 4309 Lorain Avenue, the former home of the infamous rock club Speak in Tongues, which closed in 2001. It has remained vacant ever since.

“You wouldn’t believe the random stuff we found in this place,” says Fuller.

Walk in there today and you’ll find a hip, contemporary space with three employees eager to depilate clients in style and comfort. The former S.I.T. space was divided into two 1,000-square-foot properties.

“The space is a little industrial, mid-century modern mixed with hard edges,” says Fuller. “It has its rough edges, but with pretty pieces -- just like me.”

Fuller, who lives in Ohio City and has a child who attends Campus International, is a skilled aesthetician with years in the business. But all of those years have been spent in suburbs, where all of the salons and studios tend to be located.

“The problem is that there isn’t anywhere for girls -- and guys too -- to go in the city for these services,” she says. “All the salons are in the suburbs. With all the young professionals moving into the neighborhood and downtown, it seemed like the perfect timing to open.”

In addition to making customers baby-smooth, Bloom & Clover will also offer spray tans. “We want to keep people out of the sun and healthy,” she adds.

In addition to old cassette tapes, Fuller unearthed the old bowling alley addition in the back, which doubled as “home away from home” for many touring musicians. That old lumber was turned into furniture.

As for the name, Fuller says she was just looking for something “fun and quirky, not all new-agey.”
 

literary lots to again bring books to life with family friendly programming in ohio city

Your kid's summer camp may be super-cool. It might have a room full of musical instruments, a shiny new playground or even a 30-foot-tall waterslide. But does it have a giant squid you can play on while listening to books? What about a 17-foot-long submarine in which to create seafaring adventures? Yeah, we thought not.

Welcome to Literary Lots, a free three-week program in Ohio City that transforms underutilized lots into literary landscapes. Last year, the nonprofit startup transformed the park next to the Carnegie West public library into a set inspired by "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs." This year, the same park will be filled with sea creatures inspired by "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea." Families will find a great deal to love here, including daily story hours, afternoon literary programs for youth, hands-on art activities and evening programs for kids and adults.

"It's the whole idea of bringing books outside," says founder Kauser Razvi, a consultant who lives in Ohio City with her two children. Razvi launched the grassroots program last summer in conjunction with the Cleveland Public Library and other nonprofit partners. "Literary Lots is unique in that it provides an environment for families to learn and explore books together in a different way. We want to bring people together and celebrate the inspiration books provide us."

Literary Lots is not an actual camp, of course, but rather a free drop-in program that seeks to engage kids from diverse backgrounds in reading and literature by making it fun. The goal is also to build community and activate an underutilized urban park. Last year, more than 1,000 children and parents visited the lot.

Families are invited to hang out daily from 10 a.m. into the evening hours (a schedule is posted online). The lot, adjacent to Carnegie West, is located at Bridge and Fulton avenues. The official opening takes place on Saturday, July 19th, and the program runs through Sunday, August 10th.

Some of this year’s highlights include afternoon workshops with Lake Erie Ink and Art House, a poetry open mic and a storytelling workshop and performance.

Razvi stresses that this is a bootstrapped program that needs support to be successful. Last year, she launched a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised well over $5,000. This year she aims to raise $7,500. The rewards are pretty sweet, including a silk-screened poster, t-shirt, naming rights to the coral maze, and, for big ticket donors, an invitation to the preview party.

"I've always been a library lover; I love books and stories," says Razvi. "After last year, I said, 'I don’t know if I can do it again.' Then my son said, 'Mom, I know it’s a lot of hard work, but it’s really great and everyone loves it. See how happy people are when they come? It’s so interesting how they make it.' I figured I must have done something right to elicit that response from an eight-year-old boy."
 

daily press juice bar to open this summer in gordon square arts district

Jodi Rae Santosuosso grew up in the restaurant business, working in her parents' Italian restaurant. She later moved to California for 10 years, where she grew enamored of the healthy living movement and got into cold-pressed juices. When she returned to Cleveland to join the revitalization of her hometown, she discovered that there weren’t many juice bars in the city, so she decided to launch her own.

If all goes as planned, Daily Press, a juice bar and vegan café, will open next month in the Gordon Square Arts District (6604 Detroit Ave.). The cafe will serve cold-pressed juices and vegan menu items that include raw sandwiches, soups and salads. Daily Press will open at 7 a.m., with evening hours yet to be determined.

"I want to help people be healthy and feel good, and to make it easy and convenient for people to do that," says Santosuosso. "This is new to Cleveland, but the market is here; people are just not aware of the benefits of juicing this way."

Cold-press juicing is different from tossing fruit in a blender and grinding it up, she explains. The heat from a centrifugal juicer can destroy natural enzymes in the drink, making it less nutritious. There are two steps in the cold-pressing process: First, you turn the produce into pulp so that the vitamins and other good stuff stays intact. Second, you put the pulp into a bag and place it in a hydraulic press, where 2,000 pounds of pressure releases all that sweet goodness.
"The result is delicious juice that has all kinds of good things for your body," she says.

Some of Daily Press's offerings will include the Johnny Apple Manziel (apple, ginger and lemon), Greenest Cleanse (kale, spinach, chard, parsley, cucumber, ginger and turmeric) and Water You Doing? (watermelon). A 16-ounce juice in a glass jar will sell for $7-9. If you bring back the jar, you get $1 off your next juice.

The 800-square-foot storefront will have a bar that seats five to six people, additional window seating and some outside tables. There will be Wi-Fi access for anyone who wants to work at the cafe. Santosuosso is looking forward to joining the neighborhood.

"I love the neighborhood and the arts district, and Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization was really excited about having me come to this space," she says. "It helped that the neighborhood wants me here."

If you're interested in checking out Daily Press before the cafe opens, Santosuosso will be at the Gordon Square Farmers Market for the next few weeks, and she invites you to come by and learn more about juicing.
 

blazing saddle cycle to open second location in little italy, across from new rising star coffee

Wondering why there are no bike shops between Ohio City and Cleveland Heights, despite the rise in bike commuting in and around University Circle? Well, soon there will be. Blazing Saddle Cycle, the edgy bike shop that opened a few years ago in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood, has inked a deal to open a second location in Little Italy. This newest outpost will be at the intersection of Murray Hill and Edgehill roads, across from the new Rising Star coffee. Both of these hotspots are set to open later this year.

Co-owner Travis Peebles, who founded the bike shop with fellow bike guru James Rychak, says the seed was planted in his head when Greenhouse Tavern chef Jonathon Sawyer stopped by the west side shop and complained about the lack of bike shops in University Circle. The next day, Peebles took a ride over there and discovered a "For Rent" sign during his first pass through the neighborhood. He knew instantly that the location was a winner.

"We knew two years ago that this neighborhood needed a bike shop, but at that time, we were just getting settled into the west side," says Peebles. "People would bring it up to us, and we'd often fantasize about it. Then, when Sawyer planted the seed, we said, 'Let’s go see what we can find.'"

"There’s so much potential over here, I'm almost a little bit nervous," he says, adding that the duo has taken on a third partner to keep up with their double-digit growth. "I'm not sure I can wrap my head around how busy we could possibly be when however many thousands of students come back in August. The corner of Edgehill and Murray Hill is the busiest bike intersection in the city."

Despite his trepidations about being able to handle the business that might walk through the door when Blazing Saddle opens on August 1, Peebles is psyched about the space. It's 700 square feet and has "as much character" as the west side shop, he says, which in its former life was a 100-year-old hardware store with beat-up wood floors and a vintage facade. The owners are doing the build-out themselves, using many finishes and furnishings salvaged from the former Theresa's restaurant across the street, which is where Rising Star will open.

"The neighborhood is great," Peebles says. "People are so, so positive about us moving into the area. We can't work for 15 minutes without someone coming by."

The new location (2190 Murray Hill Rd.) will carry the same types of bikes as the original, but the owners might add some new lines as well. They'll continue to do "custom restorations of quality used bikes," bringing sturdy classics from the ‘70s back to life. And repairs will remain a staple, too. "We want to make sure we cater to everybody."

Recently, the neighborhood has seen investment in bike infrastructure, including new bike lanes on Edgehill Road. Peebles and Rychak are banking on the growth of the cycling community in University Circle, Cleveland Heights and points beyond.

Although Peebles acknowledges the need for outside help to manage his company's growth, the partners have built their entire business pretty much on their own with no bank loans. "The fewer institutions we can involve, the better," he quips.
 

eastman reading garden installation prompts reflection on urban environment

Cleveland Public Library's Eastman Reading Garden once again will be transformed with public art this summer, as Mexican artist Ivan Juarez has recently completed the fifth temporary installation of the See Also program. The work, entitled Drawing Lines, features custom-built steel shapes threaded together with rope. The pieces are intended to be functional spaces in which visitors can sit and read, have lunch or talk, but they also are intended to inspire reflection on our relationship with the urban environment.  

"I am an architect who combines architecture with other disciplines, in this case landscape and art," Juarez explained during a recent visit to the garden. "I wanted visitors to be able to go inside and see different views and layers of the city."

According to the website of LAND Studio, the organization that coordinates the program, "Juárez brings a global perspective and a new interpretation of the space that imaginatively frames views of the garden’s natural beauty."

The site explains the meaning behind the installation: "A continuous thread moves across new and existing elements in the garden to filter the natural light and create new passages and spaces to gather and reflect. At the same time, the installation’s architecture is being broken apart. Its walls are transparent. Anyone can explore the installation, discovering new spaces, shadows, and frames. Similarly, Cleveland Public Library strives for greater openness and access for all, keeping its place as a community anchor with engaged learning and diverse programming."

About 20,000 feet of rope was used to create the installation, along with custom-built frames. The rope was provided by Samsel Supply in the Flats.

Drawing Lines will be illuminated during AHA!, a festival of lights that will take place August 8-10 during the Gay Games. The purpose of the festival is to highlight the transformation of downtown, local artists and public artwork.

See more images here.
 

developer purchases southworth building, plans 18 new downtown apts

Developer Rich Cicerchi of Cicerchi Development Company was scouting for an investment opportunity downtown when he met Matt Howells, owner of the Park Building and the Southworth Building. The two developers stayed in touch, and Cicerchi later purchased the vacant Southworth building from Howells. Now he plans to convert it to 18 high-end apartments that will add to downtown's rental housing boom.

Cicerchi's interest in downtown goes back to when he was a kid. "I remember going downtown with my dad,” he says. “I'd grab his big hand in my two little hands and he'd swing me from one sidewalk line to the next, having a good old time. He was twice my height, and I'd look past him at all the big buildings, all the activity and people. That's what got me enamored with downtown."

Cicerchi, who is primarily a residential developer, watched downtown's decline and resurgence and decided that he wanted to be a part of the efforts to improve Cleveland's urban core. In 2006, he purchased the Krouse building on East Fourth Street and converted it to apartments.

The Southworth Building is located at 2013 Ontario, across from Tower City and the casino. Built in 1850, the four-story building will be converted to nine one-bedroom and nine two-bedroom apartments. The plans call for an atrium to be constructed in the center of the building to bring in natural light, Cicerchi says. On the lower level, there are two retail spaces that house a Subway and an Indian restaurant. Parking will be a short distance away in the May Company garage.

Perhaps the coolest feature, other than the suites themselves, will be the roof deck overlooking Public Square and downtown.

Cicerchi plans to preserve the building's historic features wherever he can, including refinishing existing wood floors that can be salvaged. High-end features likely will include granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. The suites will have a lofted look, with exposed spiral ductwork and high ceilings. One bedrooms will be about 750 square feet, two bedrooms about 1,100 square feet. The building also will boast many green, energy-efficient features. Tri-State Capital will soon provide financing for the $4 million project.

The first suites should be completed by early 2015, the developer says.

"I always look at properties with the eyes of potential," says Cicerchi. "I saw a great way to add more downtown living and integrate it with the downtown community."
 

cle metroparks zoo opens new circle of wildlife carousel in time for summer

The new Circle of Wildlife carousel at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo features 64 animals hand-carved by Carousel Works in Mansfield, Ohio, and grouped according to their natural environment. The carousel opened a few weeks ago just in time for the busy summer season.

"The response has been extremely exciting," says Zoo Director Chris Kuhar. "Folks are amazed by the carousel, which is extremely large and very beautiful, as well as the murals. Then there's the story that it was carved just down the road in Mansfield, by one of the world leaders in the creation of wood carousels."

Single ride tickets for the carousel are $3 ($2.50 for Zoo Society members). All-day ride passes are available for $8 ($6 for members). Directly adjacent to the carousel is the brand new Nature Discovery Ridge play area, which features natural habitats of rocks, water and trees where kids can play.

There also are new restroom facilities, concession stands, picnic shelters and an observation deck at Nature Discovery Ridge. The pavilion is available for rent, and the Metroparks is planning to build an events center called Stillwater Place adjacent to the carousel, which can be rented for weddings and other events. 

Carousel Works created eight custom animals that don't appear on any of its other carousels, including an Anatolian shepherd, lynx, ocelot and ring-tailed lemur. The animals and their habitats were selected by zoo conservation staff.

"This project is all about connecting the dots between people, animals and habitat," says Kuhar. "All of the animals on the carousel either have a conservation or education component. They're either animals in the collection or they're animals we support in conservation and education projects."

The project also features a number of historic sculptures of endangered bird species by local artist Viktor Schreckengost. The sculptures were repurposed from another project.

 

downtown westin hotel opens with dazzling display of local artwork

The new Westin Hotel in downtown Cleveland, which opened a few weeks ago, has transformed a formerly dreary concrete monolith into a showcase of modern design and local artwork, both inside and out. The contemporary facade includes a carefully screened parking garage and glassy facade that angles out towards the street to greet visitors as they approach. Inside the lobby, the warm, dark wood interior features chandeliers and a large art installation called "Cellular," a head fashioned from wooden mosaic tiles that was designed by local artist Olga Ziemska.

The exterior of the hotel also features a 30 foot tall mural of the Cuyahoga River Valley, a work of public art that can be enjoyed by both visitors and passersby.

Scattered throughout the hotel are more than 1,500 works by local artists, including Sarah Kabot, Liz Maugans, Michael Loderstedt, Dana Oldfather, Jen Craun and Anne Kibbe, to name a few. The operators of the hotel, Sage Hospitality, worked with the nonprofit group LAND Studio to select and feature artists in the lobby, public spaces and 400-plus guest rooms.

(Check out this slideshow of the art here)

"This is kind of an incredible investment for a group from outside of Cleveland to make, and they did it because this was a way to make this project truly local," says Greg Peckham, Executive Director of LAND Studio. "It generates a tremendous amount of goodwill, but also a true investment in the local arts economy. This project put a job on the table for three local framers for a year. There's a lot of spinoff effect and benefit of this one small aspect of a $68 million project. It also feels distinctively Cleveland; it's not something you could find in another city."

For Peckham, Ziemska's striking sculpture is one example of the high-quality artwork found throughout the hotel. The work illustrates how humans are a part of nature, visually representing the correlations between the human body and natural world. It also highlights Cleveland's growing reputation as a sustainable city. The figure's eyes are closed, as if enjoying a restful night's sleep after an eventful day.

"I work a lot with natural materials," says Ziemska. "My work bridges the gap between humans and nature, to help us better understand our place in the world."

Ziemska is a Cleveland native who left Northeast Ohio after high school. When she returned for family reasons, she discovered a vibrant artistic community and began putting down roots. She has won several major awards and commissions since moving back to Cleveland, including twice being selected for an individual artist fellowship through Cuyahoga Arts and Culture. "That grant has literally kept me here," she says. "I feel like there's such support for artists in Cleveland."

Peckham says that the artwork, which was handpicked by Sage executives, reflects several guiding themes, including connections between the manmade and natural environments and Cleveland's history as a place where people make things with their hands. Much of the artwork has been reproduced from originals in order to keep the overall project costs economical. The original artwork is largely hung on the 22nd and 23rd floors of the hotel, in the higher-end executive suites.

"The owners wanted to create a real streetscape -- they wanted people to come in, for it to be a living room for the city," explains Peckham. "People are invited and encouraged to come in regardless of whether or not they’re staying there."

Other features of the 484-room hotel include the farm-to-table steakhouse Urban Farmer, a 3,000-square-foot workout studio and 20,000 square feet of meeting rooms. The new Westin, which has undergone a complete renovation into a LEED-certified green building, is located at 777 St. Clair Avenue.

entrepreneur rides cycling obsession all the way to his very own lakewood bike shop

Growing up in Akron, Ryan Sheldon landed his first job in a bike shop after applying for one approximately 20 times and hanging around the shop like a groupie. At the time, he was 17 years old and working as a bagger in the grocery store next door. Eventually, the owners hired him, seeing a spark of passion that was worth nurturing. He worked there for 15 years.

Now, the 33-year-old bike lover has struck out on his own with Beat Cycles, which recently opened in a long-vacant storefront in Lakewood (15608 Detroit Avenue). Sheldon renovated the place himself from the studs up over the course of five and half grueling months -- opening just in time for good cycling weather.

"I saw the opportunity to bring a really cool shop with a unique vibe to Lakewood," says Sheldon, who says he has a particular passion for working with all levels of cyclists and getting new folks interested in cycling. "My approach is really open; I'm passionate about what I do, and I love getting kids on bikes."

Sheldon says that Lakewood, a dense city of 52,000 residents, is a great place for biking. He says there's room for another bike shop even though there are at least four (Spin, Century Cycles, Blazing Saddles and Joy Machines) within a few miles.

Sheldon may be new to the whole entrepreneurship gig, but he's pretty much always been into bikes. "It’s that first sense of freedom you get," he says. "As a kid, you can get away from your parents on a bike... and they can’t quite catch you."

Sheldon was bit by the entrepreneurship bug after rising to the level of regional manager at his previous job. He saw opening his own store as "the ultimate level of creativity." First, he had to identify the right spot and pull together financing. He had savings but not enough, and no bank wanted to touch the deal. They wanted him to be able to show some profit before they'd loan him money.

Then he contacted the Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI), a nonprofit community-oriented lender that was eager to help him get started. After a lot of ups and downs, the loan finally closed and he was on his way.

Beat Cycles features warm, refinished hardwood floors and walls wrapped in reclaimed wood. The colors are bright and eye-catching. Sheldon and his coworkers removed a drop ceiling and replaced electric and other mechanicals. "It's fun to walk in the store and really see your vision in finished form," he says.

He couldn't be more excited about being an entrepreneur. "From a young age, I thought it would be cool to have a job that you loved. I carried that mentality and mindset up to ripe old age of 33. It doesn’t feel like work if you enjoy it."
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