Midtown property sale designed to spur new development

This a conceptual masterplan of the Penn Square area of
Cleveland’s Midtown, with the Greater Cleveland Regional
Transit Authority’s property outlined in blue (Pennrose).
CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE

On Aug. 20, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s (GCRTA) Board of Trustees is expected to approve selling a chunk of Euclid Avenue land in Midtown to a Cleveland Foundation affiliate for future development.

The sale is the latest example of intensifying interest in rejuvenating this once-vibrant neighborhood that’s been relegated to pass-through status for more than 40 years.

GCRTA has a tentative deal with?Civic Property Development LLC to sell seven parcels totaling 2.38 acres at?5508-5810 Euclid Ave. for $550,000. The Cleveland Foundation will also contribute $50,000 to aid in the planning of a transit oriented development (TOD) project or projects on the site, in partnership with GCRTA.

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The foundation created Civic Property Development, filing incorporation documents with the state on May 15, to support this development site and possibly others in the future. The Cleveland Foundation has for years supported programs and projects to boost Cleveland neighborhoods, especially Midtown.

The Cleveland Foundation’s conceptual plan for its new head-
quarters (at right) and a new Center for Innovation. This view
looks north up East 66th Street from Euclid Avenue (CF).

In fact, the foundation announced on June 28 its intention to relocate its headquarters from the Hanna Building in downtown to alongside the Dunham Tavern on Euclid Avenue and East 66th Street in Midtown, despite a pending lawsuit.

The Cleveland Foundation proposes a three-story, 50,500-square-foot headquarters building on the northeast corner of of Euclid and East 66th. On the northwest corner, the foundation proposes a future Center For Innovation measuring 100,000 square feet.

While the immediate vicinity of Midtown and Hough has seen more than $400 million worth of development in the last decade, 40 percent of area residents and 66 percent of children live in poverty, according to the city.

It isn’t known yet what would be planned for the GCRTA property, but TOD typically features dense, mixed-use residential and commercial development with less emphasis on parking and more attention to walkability and, thus, transit access. The site is next to the East 59th Street station stop on GCRTA’s HealthLine bus rapid transit.

Looking east on Euclid Avenue in September 2018 from below
the Norfolk Southern railroad overpass. The vacant, GCRTA-
owned property is visible at right (Google).

Some conceptual masterplan work for the area, called Penn Square, was done in recent years. It helped developers like Pennrose Properties, LLC and Berusch Development Partners, LLC map out emerging developments along East 55th Street between Euclid and Carnegie avenues.

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The Euclid-East 55th area was called Penn Square for more than 100 years because the main Cleveland railroad passenger station for the Pennsylvania Railroad was located here. Travelers could board and alight 24 daily passenger trains to/from places as far west as St. Louis and as far east as New York City.

Two busy streetcar lines also crossed here, carrying as many riders as all of Northeast Ohio’s transit agencies combined do today. The neighborhood once had the density and activity of a 24-hour, satellite downtown, with large apartment and commercial buildings, shops, cafes and theaters.

Looking east on Euclid Avenue circa 1980, from atop the same
railroad overpass as above. The property at right, once part of a
vibrant satellite downtown area, had fallen into decay. It wasn’t
to be demolished for another 20 years. All but two buildings
on the north side of Euclid, at left, were also razed (TPH).

Prior to being bought by GCRTA, the land was home to multiple users over the last two centuries, including a country estate, mercantile businesses, wholesalers, warehouses, light industry and second-hand furniture stores into the 1980s. But as Midtown declined after World War II, the properties fell into neglect. GGF Inc., a real estate arm of the George Gund Foundation took over the property nearly 50 years ago in the hopes of spurring revitalization.

It was sold in 1977 to the DiGeronimo family, doing business as Ace Realty, and leased it to several tenants. The properties continued to decline. DiGeronimo, in turn, sold the land in 2002 to Lassi Enterprises, LLC, a subsidiary of MidTown Cleveland Inc., a community development corporation.

Midtown transferred it to GCRTA in 2005 so that it could demolish the handful of decaying buildings remaining on the property. Here, GCRTA established a construction staging site for its $200 million Euclid Corridor (later called HealthLine) that was completed in 2008. The properties have remained vacant ever since. GCRTA put the land up for sale in 2017.

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