Chicago developer considers downtown Cleveland tower

This unofficial massing is shown to demonstrate the potential
scale of a possibly significant project under consideration for
2.24 acres of land at the northwest corner of West 3rd Street
and St. Clair Avenue in downtown Cleveland. However, the
actual project if built could look very different. Therefore,
its backers are being very tight-lipped (Ian McDaniel).

UPDATED NOV. 3, 2020

Here comes another proposal for a Cleveland tower — but with a word of caution. It’s still progressing and considered not close to being realized. But the players involved are serious ones, including another big Chicago developer that wants to invest in Cleveland.

That Chicago developer is Magellan Development Group LLC. This developer builds skyscrapers. Lots of them. And not just in Chicago — the birthplace of the skyscraper. They’ve built them in Nashville, Miami, Austin and Minneapolis.

But Magellan plops 30- to 50-story towers around Chicago without blinking an eye. Their latest is Vista Tower, the third-tallest in the Windy City. The 101-story, 1,198-foot-tall, $1 billion tower opened earlier this year.

The Cleveland site they’ve picked is a direct result of Sherwin-Williams agreeing to build their new global headquarters in downtown Cleveland. Three sources who agreed to speak off the record confirm Magellan is looking at building on the northwest corner of West 3rd Street and St. Clair Avenue. That’s right across St. Clair from Sherwin-Williams’ HQ site.

Warrensville Heights-based Weston Group owns most of the property for the Magellan tower. The site measures 2.24 acres – a huge development canvas for downtown Cleveland. To reduce upfront costs, Weston’s property will apparently not be sold. Instead, Magellan, Weston and its favored general contractor Gilbane Building Company are reportedly looking at a joint venture to deliver this project.

The mostly Weston-owned site for the proposed West 3rd-St.
Clair project is outlined here in red. The Justice Center is at
the right and the planned site for the new Sherwin-Williams
headquarters is at the lower left (Google).

At last reports, the project would involve ground-level retail and entry lobbies with a multi-level parking deck above. Built atop that pedestal of parking and retail would reportedly be two basic structures. The taller of the two would be a roughly 30-story tower for residential units and a five-star hotel.

A tower that’s a few stories shorter than 30 could be built on a concrete pad foundation. But a tower that’s 30 or more stories tall would require more expensive supportive caissons dug down to bedrock some 200 feet below the surface. That could reduce the financial viability of a proposed tower.

Depending on the tenant or tenants, the smaller structure would be the office building, perched atop the parking deck. Magellan and Weston reportedly would not build the office building until there is a tenant or tenants identified. There are multiple potential office users who might relocate to such a building.

As for the hotel, the developers want a five-star brand since downtown lacks one and visitors to the Sherwin-Williams HQ are demanding five-star lodging, sources say. The Ritz-Carlton at Tower City Center is a four-star hotel.

Another view, this time looking generally south, shows the
potential project in relation to the planned site for the new
Sherwin-Williams headquarters. Also nearby is the Justice
Center complex which includes its two jail buildings. The
jail is expected to move out of downtown in the next few
years. The Magellan-Weston project is at the eastern edge
of the Historic Warehouse District (Ian McDaniels).

Local real estate developer Scott Wolstein was reportedly brought into this project due to his ability to bring deals together, especially involving Starwood-brand hotels. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that a Starwood flag would be the hotelier in this project.

And considering that downtown Cleveland projects similar to this one, namely nuCLEus, have had difficulty getting off the ground, Wolstein was unwilling to discuss this potential Magellan-Weston project.

“Unlike a lot of developers, I prefer not to discuss future projects unless and until I have all the pieces in place,” Wolstein said in a recent e-mail interview with NEOtrans. “Timing depends on a variety of issues including market demand, entitlements, subsidies, availability of financing, etc.”

Ed Asher, president of Weston Residences, Equities and Development, acknowledged receiving an e-mail asking questions about this project but did not otherwise respond to it.

Street-level view of the mostly Weston-owned properties
Street-level view of the mostly Weston-owned properties at
the northwest corner of West 3rd and St. Clair. The yellow-
ish building is the Bertsch Building. Behind it is the larger,
seven-story Marion Building. Both would be demolished to
make way for the potential Magellan-Weston project (KJP).

J.R. Berger, principal of Magellan, did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment on and confirmation of the project. Berger is responsible for evaluating development opportunities for Magellan nationwide.

Tom Yablonsky, executive director of the Historic Warehouse District, said he wasn’t aware of the Magellan-Weston proposal but noted that any proposed demolitions would be carefully examined.

“The Warehouse District is both a Cleveland Landmark district and a National Register historic district.” Yablonsky said in an e-mail. “The Marion Building and the original Wohl’s Hungarian restaurant building are contributing buildings to the historic district; thus any proposed demolition will receive significant scrutiny and regulatory review.”

The site has two surface parking lots on either side of the Marion and Bertsch buildings. Weston owns everything except the 117-year-old, 12,178-square-foot Bertsch Building, 1280 W. 3rd. It sold in March in an entity sale to the law firm Koeth Rice & Leo Co. which has its offices there. However, Weston is responsible for leasing at the Bertsch Building.

The Marion Building dates from 1913 and measures 104,698 square feet. In addition to accommodating the offices of numerous law firms due to the Justice Center across the street, it is also the longtime home of Karl’s Inn of the Barristers. Both the Marion and Bertsch buildings are proposed to be demolished.

A decade ago, Weston was a suitor for the planned, new
Cuyahoga County administration building that eventually
was built on East 9th Street at Prospect Avenue. Weston’s
entry was this — a 12-story building on the same corner
of West 3rd and St. Clair where a much larger building
is proposed by Magellan and Weston (Weston-URS).

Weston has the capital resources to help make this project happen but will probably need subsidies to make the numbers work, owing to Cleveland’s high construction costs and low rents. Weston recently owned the nearly 6-acre “Superblock” of parking lots bounded by West 3rd and West 6th streets, plus St. Clair and Superior avenues.

Weston sold them to Sherwin-Williams earlier this year for $40 million for its HQ. To round out its HQ site, 1.17 acres on Public Square were acquired by the global coatings giant from the Jacobs Group for $9.2 million, public records show.

Prior to selling its Superblock properties, Weston moved all of its parking leases from the Superblock to the lot at the northwest corner of West 3rd and St. Clair. That includes parking for The Standard, an apartment building Weston refashioned from the former headquarters of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. Presumably, The Standard’s parking would be incorporated into the new Magellan-Weston project.

In March, Allstate Life Insurace Co. terminated a lien on the two Weston-owned surface parking lots along West 3rd north of St. Clair, public records show. Removing the lien makes it easier for those properties to be sold or otherwise folded into a joint venture for the proposed development.

Also, those involved with the Magellan-Weston project reportedly assume that the Cuyahoga County Jail on the east side of West 3rd will be moved in the coming years to a location outside of downtown. That is the apparent direction of the Justice Center Steering Committee that is evaluating the possible construction of a new consolidated jail facility as well as a new courthouse. The courthouse will probably stay downtown.


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