Hundreds of apartments planned for Flats’ Scranton Peninsula

In what could soon be a similar view on Cleveland’s Scranton
Peninsula, NRP Group’s Edge 1909 in Pittsburgh’s Strip District
has a great view of the Allegheny River, just east of downtown
Pittsburgh (NRP). (CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE)

Sometimes you just never know when the right ingredients will come together to turn what should be a hot development site into a hot development site. Consider Scranton Peninsula — a post-industrial setting just 1,500 feet as the crow flies from downtown Cleveland’s Public Square.

For four decades, not only was the 80-acre Scranton Peninsula a post-industrial scene, it looked like a post-apocalyptic scene with rubble and artifacts left from hosting Republic Steel’s massive Bolt & Nut Division, Northern Ohio Lumber Co. and other industrial pillars, some of which date to the early 1800s. Those tenants of Cleveland’s hardscrabble past have given way to softwood trees, fescue and other Rust Belt flora among piles of fill dirt, concrete foundations and rusted docks.

Soon, they will give way to Cleveland’s future — a mix of local entrepreneurial and national chain light-industrial, office and retail uses, rental and for-sale housing, plus recreational edges to the lazily flowing waters of the cleaned-up Cuyahoga River. Those are the promised pieces of a 22-acre development called Thunderbird.

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One of the biggest new uses to come to Scranton Peninsula appears to be Cleveland-based NRP Group who, according to two sources, has a contract to buy the 7.44 acre Lot A of the Thunderbird development. On it, NRP Group reportedly plans to build about 325 apartments in several buildings about five to six stories tall.

While Clevelanders and Pittsburgers might not want to admit
to it, their cities have a lot in common. One comparison is they
both have navigable rivers that attract real estate development.
Cleveland’s Scranton Peninsula could soon offer downtown
and river views like this one, offered by Edge 1909 in the
Steel City’s Strip District (NRP).

According to one of the two sources, the development’s closest peer project is NRP Group’s $60 million Edge 1909 in Pittsburgh’s Strip District, 1909 Waterfront Place. That development, which opened in the summer of 2018, has 364 units in several five-story buildings along the Allegheny River. NRP is planning another 443 apartments there by 2021.

As in Pittsburgh, NRP Group may not be the only participant in the Scranton Peninsula development. The actual developer in Pittsburgh is the Buncher Co., which envisions an ambitious Riverfront Landing office and residential development. Edge 1909 is merely a part of that.

Thunderbird is the first comprehensive effort to develop Scranton
Peninsula in more than a century. The extent of vacant land, access
to navigable waterways and proximity to downtown Cleveland and
Ohio City makes this akin to SIM City development (CBRE).

So could it be on Scranton Peninsula. Thunderbird — a partnership of Fred Geis, East-West Alliance, and J Roc Development — is an equally ambitious masterplan, maybe more so because the land area is larger and mostly a blank slate. And unlike Pittsburgh’s Strip District which has a navigable waterway on only one side, Scranton Peninsula is nearly surrounded by water.

An e-mail to Taylor Brown, president of NRP Construction LLC, seeking additional information for this article was not returned by the close of business May 2. NRP Group, one of the nation’s largest apartment developers, recently built The Edison At Gordon Square, whose 306 units quickly leased out. Buoyed by that success, NRP is planning a 323-unit phase 2 across Breakwater Avenue.

After that project, NRP officials reportedly considered developing one of several sites on Cleveland’s near-West Side. But those were too close to The Edison and might have put NRP in competition with itself for residents. Scranton Peninsula was considered a unique setting for NRP’s housing products in Cleveland.

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But the first developments on Scranton Peninsula are planned to be on its perimeter and will likely be underway soon. Right out of the gate will be Civic Builders‘ Carter Road Townhomes, just east of Columbus Road and across the street from the new Centennial Lake Link Trail. This is at the south end of Scranton Peninsula. Starting this summer, construction will begin on 12 single-family homes with unobstructed views of the river and downtown Cleveland.

Civic Builders’ Carter Road Townhomes will be the first new
construction on Scranton Peninsula, albeit on its far southern
perimeter, starting this summer (Horton Harper).

At the north end of Scranton Peninsula will be a repurposed, vacant industrial building at 1970 Carter with offices, called The Avian at Thunderbird. This 20,000-square-foot, two-story building (that can be expanded with a new, 7,000-square-foot third floor) is nothing to look at right now. But developers say the open-floor building is structurally sound and can be reactivated for office use with relatively little investment.

It’s a welcome change after decades of inaction, as Forest City Enterprises previously owned the land now part of the Thunderbird development. Forest City, a publicly traded company, apparently could not earn enough of a return from developing Scranton Peninsula to satisfy many of its Wall Street shareholders. So the land sat fallow. On the other hand, Forest City never had the opportunity to tap into Opportunity Zone equity as the backers of the Thunderbird development are reportedly pursuing.

Most of the land on Scranton Peninsula remains under the ownership of Scranton-Averell Inc. This company and its predecessors have owned land here for 200 years. While Scranton-Averell is not pursuing a redevelopment of its 55 acres of peninsula land, it is supportive of the Thunderbird consortium and agreed to have its properties shown in conceptual massings, designed similar to the Thunderbird portion.

These 19th-century storage buildings were approved for
demolition by the city, erasing more of Scranton Peninsula’s
industrial past (Google)

Two historic buildings on Scranton-Averell’s land were approved for demolition last fall by the city. The brick and wood-beam warehouses stood at 1920-1944 Scranton Road. Their earliest structures were built in 1884 and expanded three times by the Cleveland Storage Company?to serve the storage and transshipment needs of the rapidly industrializing Flats area.

An 1884 advertisement stated, ?We call your attention to the advantages offered by our warehouse … especially to that large class of merchants to whom it is an advantage to have a stock of goods in this city from which to supply all small orders in broken lots, or for quick delivery to any desired point. We are prepared to receive pig iron, iron ore, copper, lumber, dry goods, canned goods, household goods.? The warehouse also had a large cold storage capacity for storing fruit, butter, eggs, and other perishable goods, according to documents compiled by the Ohio Department of Transportation from the Cleveland City Directory and the Historic American Engineering Record.

Signs for Civic Builders’ Carter Road townhomes went up in
March at the south end of Scranton Peninsula (KJP).

Last but not least, in March 2018, Carter Inland LLC, an affiliate of the Great Lakes Brewing Co., acquired 8 acres (with an option for two more) of Thunderbird property to enable an expansion of the company’s production and canning capabilities. The facility may also include a tasting room, open to the public. GLBC’s existing brewery and restaurant, in Ohio City’s Market District, cannot easily expand without demolishing buildings in the designated historic district. No formal plans for the Scranton Peninsula facility have been submitted to the city yet, but that could change in a matter of weeks or months.

Suffice it to say, Scranton Peninsula is going to start looking very different very soon. It will take time for the largely vacant expanse to regain productive use, simply because there is so much vacant land to reactivate. But the first steps on that thousand-mile journey are already being made.

END

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