Glenville: massive rebuilding reaches nearly “every block”

Jan. 31, 2020 was almost like a rebirthday party for Glenville. It was
the day that the city celebrated the grand opening of the CircleNorth
Apartments and a ground-floor GlenVillage retail incubator. Both were
built by the Finch Group and a result of Mayor Frank Jackson’s Neigh-
borhood Transformation Initiative. But the rebirth of Glenville began
years before. Now it is kicking into another gear with developments
on almost every block (Ian Meadows).

Case Western Reserve University student and NEOtrans contributor Tyler Kapusta has been working for the U.S. Census Bureau in recent weeks. Much of his work has him walking the streets of Cleveland’s Glenville neighborhood surveying residents. And what he’s seeing is remarkable.

While Downtown development gets most of the media attention, Cleveland neighborhoods are getting increasing amounts of real estate investors’ dollars. Although not all of it is adding value, most of it is. And yes, most of it is happening in West Side hot spots like Ohio City, Tremont and Detroit-Shoreway. But it’s also now happening on the East Side, and not just in the University Circle-Little Italy area.

Increasingly, it’s spilling over into Fairfax, Hough and especially into Glenville — a neighborhood rich with amazing architecture in its historic but long-neglected housing stock. That neglect appears to be coming to an end.

“I’ve been working for the Census and a lot of the time I’ve been in this Circle North area” of Glenville, Kapusta said. “You can’t even walk a block without seeing at least one renovation, construction or sign for future construction.”

One Knez Homes’ many developments in Glenville is the Ashbury
Pointe townhomes. Located on Ashbury Avenue at East 120th
Street, the development will offer 19 market-rate townhouses
at full build-out (Tyler Kapusta).

Hundreds of single-family homes, townhouses and apartments are recently completed, under  construction / renovation or planned in the Glenville neighborhood that began growing before Cleveland annexed it in 1904.

Jewish immigrants built up Glenville in the early 20th century, comprising 90 percent of the population until the 1950s. That’s when African-Americans moved in from the Central neighborhood and the southern states and have been the dominant demographic here ever since. It’s the birthplace of pop-culture icons like Superman and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and football stars from Benny Friedman to Troy Smith.

Today, it’s being buoyed by its proximity to boomtown University Circle, Lake Erie and the linear Cleveland Cultural Gardens between them. Glenville is also being aided by home buying and renovation programs like Greater Circle Living (GCL) and the city of Cleveland’s Neighborhood Transformation Initiative (NTI).

Since 2008, GCL provides to employees of Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, Case Western Reserve University, Judson at University Circle and nearby nonprofit employers up to $30,000 in forgivable loans for the purchase of a home at a 0 percent interest rate. Or, they can get up to $8,000 for exterior home renovations. Applicants should inquire of their employer’s Web site or benefits/human resources department for specific eligibility requirements.

One of 26 homes being built in Glenville by The Orlean
Co. This one was recently completed at 10618 Lee Ave.
and is listed for sale at nearly $270,000 (Tyler Kapusta).

Alternatively NTI began offering in 2017 up to $20,000 in down payment assistance to anyone seeking to buy a house in an NTI-designated neighborhood, including Glenville, Buckeye-Woodhill, East 79th Street corridor or Clark-Fulton.

NTI also has a Senior Home Repair Program in which seniors enrolled in the Homestead program can access up to $17,000 to make home repairs. An applicant cannot tap both the GLC and NTI programs at the same property, however.

Briana Butler, an economic development specialist at the city, has said NTI was Mayor Frank Jackson’s initiative to build financial security through home ownership among low-income and minority residents. But it won’t be limited to the Circle North area near University Circle.

“We’re starting in phases from south of Superior and our plan is to move up, north of St. Clair,” said Ward 9 Councilman Kevin Conwell.

A 36-unit Wade Park Townhomes to be built next to the Red
Line rapid transit tracks at Wade Park Avenue and Lakeview
Road evokes a classic design to look like many of Cleveland’s
industrial-to-housing conversions. It is across the street from
another Knez development that will be an industrial conver-
sion — the Hough Bakery complex (CPC).

That is manifesting itself through visible changes in Glenville’s landscape. And those changes are many.

As measured by the number of housing units, the biggest developer in Glenville is Knez Homes. Enabled by the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, tax abatement and other incentives, Knez is building 30 “infill” homes on vacant lots in Glenville in partnership with the Famicos Foundation. So far, 20 have been built but many more are in the works.

“We probably have a couple hundred (Glenville homes) planned,”said Bo Knez, founder and president of Knez Homes. “We were introduced to Glenville through the mayor’s initiative (NTI). When we look for development opportunities, one thing we always look for is an economic engine nearby and University Circle is an economic engine. About 38 percent of Glenville’s properties are vacant. We thought of it as a great opportunity to bring a quality product here at an affordable price.”

In addition to the hundreds of affordable infill homes, Knez is also pursuing several large market-rate developments in the Circle North area. Circle North refers to the southern portion of Glenville. It borders University Circle and Case Western Reserve University, enabling successful development to build off of the anchor institutions.

One of the biggest developments in Glenville may be the redeve-
lopment of the Hough Bakery complex and surrounding parcels
that would bring the total development site to 5+ acres — a huge
tract of land for an urban site. Knez’s Wade Park Townhomes
are proposed to rise at right (Google).

One of Knez’s first market-rate investments in the Circle North area was a five-home development, built last year in the 19000 block of Wade Park Avenue — a section that had as many vacant homes and lots than occupied ones. They listed for $250,000+ and all of them sold before construction was done.

That encouraged Knez to build more. Next up is the 19-unit Ashbury Pointe townhouses, located at East 120th Street and Ashbury Avenue. Four units are under construction now with sale prices above $300,000.

Another Knez project is the Wade Park Townhomes at Wade Park Avenue and Lakeview Road, approved by City Planning Commission in July. The 36-unit market-rate development will be built in two rows on the parking lot for the former Hough Bakery next to the elevated Red Line rapid transit tracks.

Speaking of the old Hough Bakery plant, 1519 Lakeview, Knez is joining forces with Forest City Shuffleboard owner Jim Miketo to develop the 5-acre site, plus numerous adjoining parcels some of which extend into East Cleveland. Knez said he is near to releasing a preliminary plan for redeveloping the bakery which closed in 1992. But he’s not ready to reveal potential uses for the large site, yet.

These quadplexes at 1442-1446 East 115th Street are called the
Circle North Apartments @ 115th St. They were acquired and
renovated by Plum Tree Realty of West Chester near Cincinnati
in 2019 and managed by Wright-Cummins Property Manage-
ment LLC of East Cleveland (Tyler Kapusta).

“We’re going to be redeveloping the whole block,” Knez said. “The city is supportive and the banks are very aggressive in Glenville.”

Knez may be the largest developer in the area but it’s certainly not the only active one. Another that’s busy building homes is The Orlean Co. It is building 26 infill homes on vacant lots throughout Glenville. All of them should be completed next year. Famicos Foundation is also rehabilitating 11 long-vacant homes and putting them back on the market.

Between the public and the private sectors, hundreds of millions of dollars are being pumped into housing, workforce development and entrepreneurship programs in Glenville. Private sector funding is being attracted to the neighborhood by the city’s NTI and by Opportunity Zone program funds.

Workforce and entrepreneurship programs are being nurtured by the Cleveland Citywide Development Corp. which offers a subsidized rent structure and technical assistance programming to entrepreneurs housed in an NTI retail incubator called GlenVillage.

Ground is due to be broken in June 2021 for the first phase of
NRP Group’s Churchill Gateway Apartments, 10700 Churchill
Ave. The first phase will offer 52 housing units and a Univer-
sity Hospitals outreach center (NRP Group).
This incubator occupies 4,000 square feet within the first floor of the NTI’s first mixed-use real estate development — Finch Group’s $15 million CircleNorth Apartments, 1400 E. 105th St. Interested entrepreneurs can apply for technical assistance training and enter a “pitch competition” where finalists will be selected.The CircleNorth Apartments opened Jan. 31 with 63 affordable apartments and 13,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space. Next door, at East 105th and Ashbury, a long-closed gas station was cleared out, the soil cleaned and an attractive public park/commons was constructed by the Cuyahoga Land Bank.

“The stretch goal for University Circle was development activity that would catalyze adjacent markets,” said University Circle Inc. President Chris Ronayne. “The strength of our market coupled with innovative programs like GCL and NTI have brought investor confidence back to legacy neighborhoods. The result is a complete Greater Circle community of historic rehabs and new infill construction. It’s a win-win.”

Glenville is leveraging its proximity to the many health care institutions in University Circle in other ways, too. The Greater Cleveland Fisher House last year opened a 32-unit housing development for the families of veterans receiving treatment in the nearby Louis Stokes Cleveland Veterans Administration Hospital. This $12 million development was built at East 105th at Orrville Avenue, a block north of the VA Hospital.

An $800,000 renovation is underway of a once-condemned apart-
ment building at 11310 Itasca Ave. by New Frontiers Develop-
ment Group of Cleveland (Tyler Kapusta).

Across Orrville, NRP Group‘s Churchill Gateway Apartments, 10700 Churchill Ave., are on track for a June 2021 groundbreaking. The $13.5 million first phase will be a four-story apartment building with 48 workforce apartments, four townhomes and a ground-floor University Hospitals outreach center. It will be built on the site of the Harry E. Davis Elementary School that closed in 2006. Phase two will be built on the north side of the lot.

A small apartment building with even smaller apartments was built earlier this year by Rick Maron at 11427 Ashbury. Eight micro-unit apartments measuring about 457 square feet leased out with rents of $1,500 per month. They are furnished and the rent includes parking and utilities.

Farther north, across the street from the St. Clair-Superior Neighborhood,?WRJ Developers LLC are planning a 70-unit apartment development called ArkiTainer on 72nd. This would be the first apartment buildings in Cleveland built from repurposed shipping containers.

The $13.8 million, 70-unit residential development would replace several abandoned apartment blocks and vacant lots with three, four-story buildings totaling 51,200 square feet. The developers have acquired four parcels and have options on three others, 887-915 E. 72nd, totaling about 1 acre. The development site is located in the Glenville-Rockefeller Park Innovation District — a designated Opportunity Zone.

Front and back views of the condemned Switzer Apartments,
1285 E. 101st St., that overlook the Cleveland Cultural Gardens.
Tax credits were awarded last month to renovate this 98-year-
old apartment building (B&H).

“We are seeking Opportunity Zone Equity and private equity investors to raise 25 percent equity for project financing,” WRJ Developers said in a written statement. “WRJ Investment Fund, LLC is prepared to accommodate all Opportunity Zone investors.”

“Along with our committed community partners, we collectively express our excitement to help provide new housing and public spaces in this great neighborhood,” said City Architecture in a written statement. The Cleveland-based firm has designed many of the improvements in Glenville. “Through the tireless dedication of Famicos, The Finch Group, The Orlean Co., Knez Homes, New Frontiers Development Group and many others, these transformative investments are building community and changing lives.”

But it’s not just new apartments getting planned and built. Historic walk-up buildings made of brick that faced the wrecking ball are instead getting bought up and renovated throughout Glenville. More are planned.

Through an affiliate, Collinwood resident Abigail Searles recently acquired the 98-year-old Switzer Apartments, 1285 E. 101st St., that overlook the Cleveland Cultural Gardens. She submitted plans to the city this month to renovate the condemned three-story, 15,201-square-foot building with 12 apartments. The $1,043,097 project won $100,000 in tax credits from the Ohio Development Services Agency last month.

There is amazing architecture and history still waiting to be redis-
covered and renovated in Glenville. Many buildings are getting a
second lease on life, be they single-family homes and “Cleveland
Doubles,” at left, or the 105-year-old Gothic Revival Notre Dame
Academy, 1325 Ansel Ave., that was spared from the wrecking
ball and renovated into apartments in 2016 (Google).

New Frontiers Development Group, founded by Kevin Alin who relocated to Cleveland from the California Bay Area, is renovating a formerly condemned, three-story, walk-up brick apartment building at 11310 Itasca Ave. with 16 suites for $800,000, according to a city permit. New Frontiers bought the 100-year-old, 17,208-square-foot building for $40,000, public records show.

Those Glenville apartment rescue projects were preceded by even larger, individual efforts by Famicos every couple of years during the 2010s. Starting in 2012, Famicos thoroughly renovated the 1904-built Doan Elementary School for $13 million into the Doan Classroom Apartments, 1350 E. 105th.
Two years later, the 1958-built, nine-story University Towers Apartments, 1575 East Blvd were renovated for $27 million. Then, in 2016, the Notre Dame Apartments, 1325 Ansel Rd., was thoroughly renovated for $10.6 milion.
In addition to those affordable housing redevelopment projects, Famicos renovated 13 historic former duplexes into the single-family homes called the Heritage Lane Homes on East 105th between Wade Park and Ashbury. Once complete in 2016, the homes sold for upwards of $300,000.

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