Commercial development is changing the NEO landscape

The real estate boom across Northeast Ohio hasn’t slowed down this past year. You can’t help but notice the activity at Battery Park near Gordon Square Arts District, the Fat Head’s Brewery project in Middleburg Heights, commercial development along the Detroit Shoreway or in the heart of downtown with the redevelopment at Quicken Loans Arena.

This continued renaissance has numerous participants — land and property owners, corporations, development companies, architects — and each has its own focus: corporate headquarters, mixed-use developments, renovation of dilapidated property or restoration of historic buildings.

On May 16, Smart Business will present an engaging panel discussion that peels back the curtain on how many of these projects — and others — are financed. 

We will also recognize more than a dozen projects that are making a significant impact on the neighborhoods they inhabit — as well as the people and organizations involved with bringing them to life. 

2019 Project Honorees

Aspen Place
Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization
Jeffrey Ramsey, Executive director

Aspen Place is a 49,000-square-foot construction project containing 40 units of affordable rental housing, designed to serve households earning between 30 and 60 percent of the area’s median income. Located on Lorain Avenue in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood, within the heart of the Cleveland EcoVillage, it contains a community room and a small commercial space on the ground level, as well as laundry facilities, indoor bike storage, resident gardens and free recreation in the adjacent Michael J. Zone Recreation Center. 

Owned, developed, and managed by the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization (DSCDO), the $10.7 million project was completed in January 2019, with the goal of keeping housing and utility costs affordable for tenants for years to come. As such, DSCDO developed Aspen Place using Enterprise Green Communities standards, aiming to achieve a near 50 percent reduction in energy demand compared to the minimum Ohio Building Code requirements.

Additionally, DSCDO has partnered with the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority to provide free transit/bus passes for each household in the development. And Aspen Place residents are linked to local social service agencies for wraparound services, including workforce development, financial literacy, childcare, and health and wellness programming.


Central Kitchen Food Hub
The Cleveland Food Hub LLC, dba The Central Kitchen Food Hub
Eric Diamond, President; Gordon Priemer, Vice president

Central Kitchen Food Hub is the brainchild of the management team of The Central Kitchen Incubator (formerly known as Cleveland Culinary Launch and Kitchen), an economic development company that specializes in food-based businesses. Central Kitchen’s mission is to create jobs through food-based businesses by providing a certified kitchen space where clients can make products to be sold in retail outlets, as well as wholesale.

However, Central Kitchen’s management realized that many of its clients were running into issues as their businesses grew — they either outgrew the incubator, only to be challenged by the incredible expense of building out their own space, or they’d move to a co-packer, to be faced with cost-prohibitive minimum orders.

Management created Central Kitchen Food Hub as the solution for expanding the number of customers, providing a space that can accommodate both production and co-packing. Located at 7501 Carnegie Ave., the facility spans 137,500 square feet and took nearly 18 months to find.

The Central Kitchen team has made significant investments to update the location to meet customer needs and invested in building out a second retail location for the successful Cleveland Bagel Co. They’re planning phase two of the project, which will see additional facility buildouts and retail expansion.


City of Kent Police Station
City of Kent
Michele Lee, Chief of police

The new City of Kent Police Station replaces an outdated facility that had been repeatedly expanded and repurposed, resulting in code violations, structural failures, energy inefficiencies and other strains. The new, 33,000-square-foot police administration and 12-day holding facility alleviates these issues and ultimately is designed to demonstrate the City of Kent Police Department’s commitment to community policing.

Focused on forging relationships between the community and local law enforcement, the location and architecture of the new building are designed to demonstrate that commitment. The station is situated at a transition node between multiple neighborhoods and reflects the unique features, textures and colors of each. 

The interior is designed to be welcoming to the public, with a spacious lobby, adjoining restrooms and a large community/training room directly accessible from the outside. Additionally, the department’s records and dispatch have been combined to ensure there is always a person to greet visitors.

The new station has also benefited the department internally, as it is outfitted with more modern furniture and technology to expedite the operations of the officers and administration staff.


Cyan Park
J Roc Development
Jesse Grant, Owner and founder

Originally home to an abandoned industrial warehouse, J Roc Development saw the dilapidated parcel fronting Herman Park at the corner of West 58th and Herman Avenue and imagined a historic vision for what the site could be.

The team realized that vision with the building of Cyan Park, a 21-unit townhome complex featuring simple, straightforward design, maximum daylight with floor to ceiling windows, wide-open space with high ceilings and expansive views. Located near the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood and Gordon Square, those views include the Cleveland skyline and Lake Erie shoreline.

Beautifully designed, most of the Cyan Park units are sold or under contract. To help ensure capacity, J Roc and its partners also undertook a strategic mid-construction redesign of the complex’s third floor to meet shifting market demands for lower-price-point units, creating a plan that efficiently shrank unit sizes, lowered their price point and added a unit for sale.

The J Roc team hopes Cyan Park will add to the continued momentum of surrounding development in the neighborhood, attracting more great people to live and work within Cleveland’s city limits.


Firelands Scientific
Firelands Scientific
Jeff McCourt, CEO

Firelands Scientific was born from the idea that providing natural alternatives to modern pharmaceutical drugs is crucial for patients in Ohio. For this reason, the company built a 25,000-square-foot, full-glass greenhouse dedicated to growing plants for medicine in Huron, Ohio.

Completing the project over the span of nine months, Firelands Scientific is the second cultivator in Ohio with a greenhouse designed to promote sustainability in all facets of its processes. Using close-loop irrigation, close-loop soil and integrated pest management, its efforts provide patients with clean, high-quality medical cannabis products – the first legal cannabis available in Ohio, as well as the only sun-grown cannabis available in the state.

The Firelands Scientific team’s ultimate goal is to help more patients suffering from harsh medical side effects of prescription drugs to find a healthy alternative and improve quality of life. It also strives to provide meaningful employment and financial stimulation to benefit the surrounding community. From start to completion of the greenhouse construction, Firelands Scientific sourced $8 million in contracts with local companies.


GBX Group HQ – Empire Improvement Building
GBX Group LLC
Drew Sparacia, CEO

Originally constructed in 1913 as a clothing warehouse and retail outlet, Cleveland’s Empire Improvement Building is a historic building of note at the edge of downtown. Looking to balance modernization with historic preservation, GBX Group LLC took on the challenging task of transforming this notable building into a state-of-the-art corporate headquarters.

Completing the extensive project in 2018, GBX focused on protecting the historic integrity of the exterior, restoring damaged portions of the parapet and facade to match the original. Meanwhile, inside, the company incorporated more a contemporary style, with large windows, glass doors and hand-painted murals.

GBX took on significant risk and challenge in adding a three-story atrium between the third and fifth floors, which required cutting through the floors of the top three levels of the building. The organization also made significant investments in ENERGY STAR-certified mechanicals, as well as new plumbing and electrical that meet modern building standards.

The leading stakeholder in Cleveland’s Garment District, GBX’s transformation of the Empire Improvement Building has brought growth to a developing community. Not only has the company created jobs and tax revenue, it has engaged in supporting local neighbors and development initiatives.


GED Integrated Solutions
ORG Portfolio Management LLC
Jonathan Berns, Principal

Since its formation in 1977, GED Integrated Solutions — a state-of-the-art contributor to the glass industry — has grown to become one of the dominant sources of equipment servicing the window and door manufacturing industry. In need of a new headquarters to accommodate its expanding operations, GED turned to property manager ORG Portfolio Management LLC for assistance.

Collaborating on a site search that lasted two years and maintaining a commitment to remain within Northeast Ohio, the organizations chose the Village of Glenwillow for the headquarters project. Critical to this selection was not only the physical space but also the securing of meaningful business incentives to meet GED’s budget.

GED faced additional challenges in completing construction by the end of the company’s current facility lease. An impressive accomplishment, the new 135,000-square-foot headquarters was built in just six months. Sitting on 11 acres, it was erected with the use of 50-foot crane rails that required extreme building precision, even in adverse weather conditions.

The project was well worth it, ensuring Northeast Ohio not only retained a strong company but one that is creating ongoing growth both in employment and in opportunities within the manufacturing industry.


Health Education Campus & Dental Clinic
Case Western Reserve University Cleveland Clinic
Barbara R. Snyder, President Tom Mihaljevic, M.D., CEO and president

Set to open in spring 2019, the Health Education Campus & Dental Clinic is the result of a collaborative effort between Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic. Together, these organizations aim to bring medical, nursing, dental medicine and physician assistant students together to learn with, and from, each other.

The new campus is on Chester Avenue between East 93rd and East 100th streets in the heart of Cleveland Clinic’s main campus and just a few blocks west of Case Western Reserve. It has two buildings — the Sheila and Eric Samson Pavilion and the Dental Clinic.

The completed pavilion will be a 485,000-square-foot building where students will learn, study and dine together. It will feature a 27,000-square-foot central courtyard, a 7,000-square-foot auditorium and a 4,800-square-foot lecture hall, as well as an innovative laboratory. The completed Dental Clinic will be a three-story, 126,000-square-foot structure providing students a spacious, state-of-the art environment in which to treat patients under the supervision of dental faculty.

By facilitating interprofessional education, the Health Education Campus & Dental Clinic will promote team-based health care, which research shows leads to better patient outcomes and satisfaction.


L. N. Gross Company Building
Renaissance 2000
Robert Cene Jr., President

A long-standing, historic landmark in the Kent community, the 250-foot-long L. N. Gross Company Building was constructed as a garment manufacturing facility in 1928. Boasting beautiful industrial Art Deco details, it has served multiple owners and purposes over the years but had recently fallen into neglect.

Onus and DS Architecture saw opportunity in the space, with the former purchasing the building and the latter undertaking restoration efforts. Facing numerous challenges, their goal was to retain as much historical integrity as possible while also providing a modern, LEED-certified interior. Key projects included a brick cleaning and reinstatement process to retain 90 percent of the original brick, a high-efficiency roof replacement and restoration of the existing steel industrial sash window frames.

Located on the edge of downtown Kent’s commercial district near the Cuyahoga River, the restored L. N. Gross Company Building has energized a formerly blighted neighborhood. It houses two successful businesses, while encouraging public use of the building itself, as well as recreation spaces along the river. Additionally, restoration efforts have mitigated previous environmental concerns.


Lake Health Beachwood Medical Center
Lake Health
Cynthia Moore-Hardy, FACHE, President and CEO

Beachwood Medical Center is the result of a unique partnership among Lake Health, more than 20 local independent physicians and developer Manna Isle Ohio. This visionary team designed a 69,800-square-foot, full-service hospital on the corner of Chagrin Boulevard and Richmond Road, with a collective focus on eliminating patient and visitor stress to provide the best environment for healing and outstanding patient outcomes.

Every aspect of the new facility — artwork, furniture, lighting, air quality, even the food — was designed to support healing. Uncommon in the industry, all patient rooms are private suites, which reduces the possibility of infection and provides the best healing environment. Patients can control their room temperature, lighting and timing of meals, with a family zone to support overnight visitors.

The hospital’s state-of-the-art surgical theaters are spacious and equipped with the latest in LED surgical lighting and video technology. Unlike other hospitals, the operating rooms are quarantined, with no one permitted to walk in and out of the area wearing scrubs. This controls contamination and further minimizes infection.

In addition to the benefits for patients, the new Beachwood Medical Center will provide significant tax revenue for the city of Beachwood.


Marble Room Steaks and Raw Bar
The Millennia Cos.
Frank R. Sinito, CEO

Opened in late 2017, Marble Room Steaks and Raw Bar occupies the former National City Bank lobby on Euclid Avenue. The restaurant’s design melds the classic style of the historic bank hall with contemporary flair, creating a unique environment that balances preservation of the space’s rich history with 21st century updates.

Historic decorative elements were restored to their original condition, including marble walls and columns, ornate plaster ceilings, bronze gates and chandeliers. These elements were complemented with modern photographic art, geometric acoustical panels and plush seating. Additionally, a sushi and raw bar, and an all-glass wine cellar above the bar, are prominent fixtures installed within the restaurant.

Located just east of East 6th Street, which had previously not seen much investment, Marble Room has helped to change that. Offering valet service and an improved streetscape, the new activity and illumination have improved the safety and appeal of the area.

The preservation and adaptive reuse of National City Bank Hall, as well as the nearby Garfield Building, were made possible through multiple layers of financing — including a historic tax credit award and historic conservation easement.


Miracle League Park
Lake County Ohio Port and Economic Development Authority
Mark Rantala, Executive Director

In 2017, the Lake County Ohio Port and Economic Development Authority, along with its community partners, embarked on a new mission, believing that every child should be able to play baseball. They created Miracle League, a nonprofit organization that gives children with physical and cognitive disabilities the opportunity to play baseball in an organized league.

The Port Authority spearheaded the development of a $1.2 million stadium, Lake Health Miracle League Park, to be an inclusive playground. Raising funds for the project through private and corporate donations, the stadium field was designed with a special hypo-allergenic padded surface to prevent injury and be wheelchair accessible. Located at Classic Park in Eastlake, the first pitch of the Miracle League of Lake County was thrown at Lake Health Miracle League Park in July 2018.

In addition to serving children with disabilities, the stadium is also the stadium of the Lake County Captains, a Class A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. Its developers hope it will also help attract families to Lake County because of its openness to embrace children from all walks of life.


Northside District/Northside Marketplace
Testa Cos.
Joel Testa, President and COO

The Northside Marketplace is the most recent venture in the Northside District of Akron, which was created in 2007 by developer Testa Cos. Designed to be the city’s first mixed-use development, Northside District offers loft condos, luxury rentals, a hotel, restaurants, bars and shops. The Northside Marketplace addition is part retail incubator, part urban shopping mall and part social hub, conceptualized with the goal of helping small businesses to grow while creating a vibrant destination.

The marketplace is built around the format of the traditional suburban shopping mall, where larger anchor tenants help drive traffic to smaller startups, and all benefit from a food source. The project includes a 10,000-square-foot retail space offering low rents to encourage home-based businesses to make the leap in their growth journey. Anchored by a central checkout, Testa had hoped to attract 27 vendors — and now houses more than 60.

The Northside Marketplace also offers visitors a spacious indoor public food market, which includes a year-round farmers market, as well as a hub and social lounge that incorporates a craft beer bar and wine and champagne bar. The project grossed more than $1 million in sales in its first year.


One University Circle
First Interstate Properties Ltd.; Petros Development
Mitchell C. Schneider, President; Sam Petros, CEO

Developed as a joint venture by First Interstate Properties Ltd. and Petros Development, One University Circle (OUC) is a $116 million, 20-story, 276-unit apartment building located on 1.3 acres in the heart of University Circle. The companies’ shared vision for the building was to create a new, dynamic environment that offers the patrons, professors, doctors and professionals of the surrounding institutions a convenient, urban lifestyle.

Intended for high-end residential living, the OUC building was designed with sustainable building practices to reduce the environmental footprint of the project and achieve LEED certification. Features include community lounges, a conference center and fitness center, among other amenities. Externally, residents share access to a community garden, grilling stations, pool and on-site, heated parking. OUC’s luxury units are spacious, with balconies and operable windows.

These features, combined with OUC’s prime location, have realized leases above proforma rents, with projections for the complex to stabilize this summer. Ultimately, First Interstate and Petros Development hope that, through a successful first year of occupancy, OUC will become a catalytic project for Northeast Ohio, inducing additional investment and redevelopment in the region.


Residence Inn by Marriott Hotel and Retail Building
The Witness Group
Ohm Patel, CEO

The Witness Group is constructing a four-story Residence Inn by Marriott extended-stay hotel on 4.3 acres in Middleburg Heights. Replacing a former Residence Inn property in the city, the new hotel is designed to not only meet but exceed the latest Marriott design standards. Amenities within the 90,000-square-foot space will include large suites with full kitchens, meeting rooms, a gift shop, indoor pool, fitness center, business/computer center, patio area, sports court, free Wi-Fi and free parking. 

The project was made possible by a public-private partnership between the city of Middleburg Heights and The Witness Group. The latter overcame challenges in development of the land, specifically in the area of soil stabilization, through a uniquely structured Job Creation Grant agreement with the city to ensure the project achieved adequate financing.

In addition to the hotel, The Witness Group’s scope includes construction of a 12,000-square-foot retail outbuilding along Bagley Road that will accommodate three restaurants and one retail unit to complement the hotel. The total development project reflects an $18 million investment in Middleburg Heights.


The Bowery District
Bowery Development Group LLC
Donzell S. Taylor, Principal

Construction of the Bowery District — a project consisting of the rehabilitation of six historic buildings into a significant, mixed-use complex for residential, office and retail use — is under way. A $42 million investment in Akron, each initiative in the project will transform a long-vacant, highly visible and underutilized area of the city’s urban core.

The district’s anchor tenant will be the 200-seat Civic Auditorium. It’s projected the theater will add 100 new events each year, contributing to the district’s collective force of amenities and bringing additional people to downtown Akron to promote growth, particularly within the South Main Street corridor. The development project will also create 92 new apartment units, helping to meet strong demand for additional downtown housing, as well as additional retail and boutique office spaces.

Spearheaded by the Bowery Development Group in cooperation with the city of Akron, Development Finance Authority of Summit County and community partners, the Bowery District is expected to be completed at the end of 2019. The completed complex will generate new taxes from operations and foster job creation to benefit the region at large.


The East End
Industrial Realty Group LLC Industrial Commercial Properties LLC
Stuart Lichter, President and chairman of the board Christopher Semarjian, Owner

Partners Industrial Realty Group LLC and Industrial Commercial Properties LLC have created a unique live, work, play environment in Akron called The East End. They have redeveloped a 5-million-square-foot campus formerly owned by Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co.

The East End includes a hotel, gymnasium, theater, office and retail space, restaurants and loft apartments. Leveraging a public-private partnership with the city, the developers invested $5.5 million in extensive streetscape improvements to connect these components in 2016, the first of its kind in the area. At that time, no other private entity had participated with the design planning or funding of a public works project in Akron.

The project’s unique approach to adaptive reuse has not only revitalized the former Goodyear campus but also served as a catalyst to stimulate further development in Akron. It was also key to retaining Goodyear within the city in a new headquarters space and retaining local talent, and has created additional job opportunities and support for local businesses. Serving as a new economic and social center for the city, The East End provides significant economic opportunity and prosperity for the region.


The Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse Transformation
Cleveland Cavaliers; Gateway Development Corp.; Cuyahoga County; City of Cleveland
Len Komoroski, CEO

The Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse Transformation is a major renovation project to update Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse (formerly Quicken Loans Arena), home of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Cleveland Monsters. Now in its 25th year of operation, modernization of the publicly owned arena will help to maintain its elite status, enhance the fan experience and continue to provide a positive impact for the region over the long term.

A partnership among the city of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County and the Cavaliers, The Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse Transformation is the first major structural renovation of the arena since it opened in 1994. Critical to renovation efforts will be the overall expansion of the facility to more than 152,900 square feet, accommodating enlargement of critical public areas such as entryways and concourses, as well as creation of a new, more contemporary exterior glass façade and atrium.

The $185 million transformation comes at a fraction of the cost of building a brand new facility. Over the next two decades, project partners expect the transformed arena to help support the momentum of growth taking place in downtown Cleveland, as well as continue to stimulate development in the Gateway District.


UH Rainbow Center for Women & Children
University Hospitals
Jordan Javier, Director, UH Rainbow Center for Women & Children

The UH Rainbow Center for Women & Children was built to house the UH Rainbow Pediatric Practice and Women’s Health Clinic, expanding capacity at the main campus. Located in Cleveland’s burgeoning MidTown neighborhood, the center is expected to become the primary site for training the next generation of pediatric and OB/GYN clinicians and will serve a federally designated medical/dental underserved area.

Key to the design of the $26 million capital project was improved patient experience, particularly with regard to the accessibility and welcoming feel of the facility. The center is designed with color-coded hallways containing locally relevant themes to improve wayfinding. Environmental health and sustainability were also prioritized in design, with the building expected to receive LEED Gold Certification. A solar array provides half of the building’s energy use.

Ultimately, the UH Rainbow Center for Women & Children will make a significant impact on the surrounding community, offering both traditional medicine and community services tailored to the needs of the historically underserved neighborhood. The center is also expected to create 19 full-time jobs within the first year of operations.