Fulton Road deadzone to be enlivened by trails, rails & housing

Property map of the deadzone between the Ohio City and Clark-
Fulton neighborhoods, showing some of the key sites that may
come into play in this area’s re-activation (Cuyahoga County).
CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM

ARTICLE UPDATED ON FEB. 25, 2020

Between Cleveland’s growing Ohio City and Clark-Fulton neighorhoods is a deadzone of railroad tracks, a 10-lane Interstate highway, scrap recycling businesses and two historic cemeteries. But efforts are gearing up to pump new life into this area.

Knez Homes is seeking approvals from the City of Cleveland to build one of its largest townhome developments in the city so far. As proposed, Fulton Row Townhomes would add 58 townhouses to vacant land the west side of Fulton Road, between the 180-year-old Willet Street Cemetery and the Norfolk Southern Corp. railroad tracks. Fulton’s original name was Willet.

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Through an affiliate Nascent Land Development, LLC, Knez bought 2.1 acres of land in 2017 for $135,000, according to county records. The low price reflects the decades-long lack of real estate activity in this tired-looking neighborhood of aging, modest wood-frame homes, underutilized light industries, vacant houses and empty lots. The Knez property previously was a car junkyard.

Knez and others aim to pump new blood into this area. The townhomes Knez proposes would be market-rate and measure about 1,700 to 2,000 square feet each, said Bo Knez, founder and president of Knez Homes.

“We purchased the property a long time ago, anticipating Ohio City’s growth in that direction,” Knez said. “We’ve built a lot of homes in Ohio City. With the demand that we have there, we don’t have anything unfinished and unsold in Ohio City.”

Just north of the Knez site and approaching Lorain Avenue, the old Tinnerman Building was acquired and will soon be redeveloped into 53 apartments by the Dalad Group of Independence. The Tinnerman Building, 2038 Fulton, was the home of the Tinnerman Steel Range Co. from 1880-1957 when it moved to a new plant on Brookpark Road.

Site plan for Knez Homes’ Fulton Row Townhomes, off
Fulton Road in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood (Sixmo).

Comparably sized new homes within a half-mile of the Knez’s Fulton Row Townhomes site are listing in the $200,000 to $300,000 range, according to zillow.com. But the listings show there aren’t that many new homes available for sale in the immediate area — for now.

Across Fulton from the Knez property is a 7.5-acre scrapyard owned by ScrapCom Real Estate Holdings Ohio, Ltd., formerly the American Can Co. factory. It is located at 3301 Monroe Ave. and next to the 13.6-acre, 202-year-old?Monroe Street Cemetery.

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The scrapyard property features 149,000 square feet of former can factory buildings. One of those is a two-story brick factory office building fronting the sidewalk of Monroe — the type of building that developers have renovated into housing throughout Cleveland’s 19th- and early 20th-century neighborhoods.

Three sources who agreed to speak off the record say Cleveland-based NRP Group, one of the nation’s largest developers of apartment complexes, is considering doing just that. Also under consideration is redeveloping the rest of the large site with new-construction residential units and possibly other uses.

Taylor Brown, president of NRP Construction LLC did not respond to an e-mail seeking confirmation and additional information prior to publication.

For tax purposes, Cuyahoga County in 2019 appraised the ScrapCom property at? $370,000 compared to $821,700 in 1996. The property’s low-point in terms of property values was $338,700 in 2013, county records show.

Vacant offices for the American Can Co. factory on Monroe
Street at Fulton Road are emblematic of this area — untapped
potential. But investment could soon pour into this neglected
corner of Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood (Google).

A mix of market-rate and tax-credit units are proposed, according to the sources. The tax-credit units are being sought as housing in Ohio City has become relatively expensive. So NRP Group reportedly would like to include affordable units in its project, although the number of units is not publicly known.

More details could become available when applications are submitted for the next round of Ohio Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC). Since the competitive 9 percent LIHTC is reportedly being sought — as opposed to the non-competitive 4 percent credit — the applications may not become public until February 2021. The credits help subsidize construction, renovation or property acquisition costs.

Two modes of transportation skirt along the south side of the ScrapCom, Knez and Norfolk Southern properties. One is the Red Line rapid transit tracks between the Airport-Downtown-Windermere. The other is the Red Line Greenway linking the Zone Recreation Center near the West 65th-Lorain rail station and the Cuyahoga River valley near the West 25th-Ohio City station.

Construction is underway on the Cleveland Metroparks’ $13 million Red Line Greenway, comprised of a paved trail and linear park along the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s (GCRTA) Red Line tracks. Work on the greenway is due to be completed in March 2021.

The scale of NRP’s proposed development is apparently large enough to prompt preliminary discussions with GCRTA about constructing an infill rail station at or west of Fulton. The station could also provide an access point to the greenway from Fulton. A new station could cost anywhere from $10 million to $20 million to build, based on other recent GCRTA station projects.

The southwest corner of Fulton and Bailey Avenue, where
Knez’s Fulton Row will rise, is an overgrown lot today. This
view looks south toward Fulton’s overpass of the Red Line
rapid transit tracks and the Red Line Greenway (Google).

“RTA confirmed that there were preliminary discussions with the NRP Group regarding a new station at that location,” said GCRTA spokesperson Linda Scardilli Krecic in an e-mail. “RTA awaits further information from the developer to determine the viability of expanding service in that area.”

An infill station was proposed here in the early 1970s west of Fulton, and not just because it’s in the middle of the longest stretch of the Red Line without a station — almost 2 miles. Under Mayor Carl Stokes, City Planning Director Norm Krumholz proposed the station and high-rise apartment buildings above a new rapid transit station next to Interstate 90.

Those efforts five decades ago progressed far enough to where GCRTA’s predecessor, the Cleveland Transit System, acquired nearly 2 acres of land for the station and supportive development. But the work progressed no further. GCRTA still owns that land.

The ScrapCom property and the new Knez development aren’t the only current/former scrapyards that may be destined for new uses. CBRE, the real estate broker for the Caraustar recycling facility on the south side of the tracks at 3400 Vega Ave., is calling for offers by March 6 to acquire the 5-acre property. Brick structures on site were built starting in 1873 for the Isaac Leisy & Co. Brewery.

Knez was asked about the possibility of a Red Line station at Fulton and said he was supportive of the idea.

“I don’t know if our 58 (townhome) units would be enough to support it,” he said. “It would be great for getting downtown and to the airport or University Circle. I’m a big believer in mass transit.”

END