George files development plan for Irishtown Bend land

Bobby George property West 25th Street and Detroit-Superior Bridge

On May 10, at a building at the southeast corner of West 25th Street and the Detroit-Superior Bridge, crews paint over graffiti including obscenities directed at the property owner Bobby George. With the clock ticking down on sale negotiations with the city, George has submitted a development plan for the site (Freethink). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM

ARTICLE UPDATED JUNE 9, 2021

As protracted negotiations with the City of Cleveland drag on toward a possible impasse over a critical piece of land, developer and restaurateur Bobby George on June 7 submitted development plans for that property. Interestingly, those plans were drafted more than a year ago.

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The 0.41-acre property is located at 1435 W. 25th St., at the southeast corner of the Detroit-Superior Bridge in the booming Hingetown section of Ohio City. Set on that land is a decrepit, sometimes-graffiti-tagged small building and a really big billboard above it.

City officials have been trying to acquire the property for the 23-acre Irishtown Bend Park. All other properties for the park have been acquired or have purchase agreements except this one. And structures on all but one of those acquired parcels were demolished earlier this spring. Once the remaining residents are relocated from the old Front Steps, 1545 W. 25th​, it too will be demolished. A new Front Steps, called St. Joseph Commons, opened at 2554 W. 25th.

That leaves in the way of Irishtown Bend Park only a decayed, 15,689-square-foot structure and an apparently profitable billboard perched atop it. As the city was trying to acquire that property several years ago, it was instead snapped up by George via his Mortgage Investment Group LLC in 2018 for $248,200, according to county records.

Plans for Irishtown Bend Park

Plans for Irishtown Bend Park would remove all existing structures as they are located on an unstable hillside. Work to stabilize the hillside, due to start later this year, cannot be completed until the structures are removed (CMG Landscape Architecture).

Now, according to two sources close to the negotiations, George is asking the city to buy the property for $4.2 million. City officials have made several alternative proposals to George for a land swap as well as different locations for establishing electronic billboards. The sources requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the negotiations.

One of the properties George sought from the city was the former 100th Bomb Group restaurant across Brookpark Road from Hopkins Airport. Instead, the city had already leased it to a joint venture seeking to open a business called the Aviator Event Center.

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With the city running out of options and time to appease George before the matter becomes an eminent domain case in probate court, the developer yesterday submitted plans to the city for a $4 million “wellness center.” But those plans raise more questions than they answer, sources said.

First, a programming plan for the wellness center drawn up by Richard L. Bowen & Associates was dated April 10, 2019. And renderings by the same architectural firm were dated March 8, 2020. The plans apparently were not shared publicly until yesterday.

proposal for a wellness center on West 25th Street

A proposal for a wellness center on West 25th Street (at lower left) shows a 22-space parking lot on land owned by the West Creek Conservancy which is acquiring land here not for development or parking, but for the Irishtown Bend Park (Bowen).

David Bowen, the son of the founder of the architectural firm and one of its principals is also one of the two contacts listed on George’s application to the city. Bowen is also chair of the City Planning Commission where he has served since 1997.

Neither Bowen or the firm’s Director of Design Kyle Hulewat, listed as the other contact on George’s zoning review application, responded substantively to an e-mail by NEOtrans seeking more information about the proposed wellness center project and its timing. However, Bowen did acknowledge receiving the e-mail which also asked its recipients if they could put NEOtrans in touch with George.

NEOtrans has yet to hear from George to learn more about the project, his progress in securing financing for it, and when he intends to start building repairs and renovations. That includes shoring up the foundation on a failing hillside that could collapse into the Cuyahoga River and block maritime traffic, according to the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency.

Sources estimate that stabilizing a small portion of hillside at a cost of about $5 million would be necessary before George’s property could be redeveloped. Total cost of stabilizing the entire Irishtown Bend slope is about $44 million. After that work is done, construction on the park can begin.

plan drawn in 2019 for 1435 W 25th St Ohio City

Programming plan drawn in 2019 and submitted this week for a building located at 1435 W. 25th St. in Ohio City (Bowen).

The city reportedly will not give George a building permit until the hillside is stabilized. The same sources said that the existing building would have to be demolished first to construct caissons necessary to stabilize the slope. In other words, the sources said George’s building cannot be developed or saved.

Even if the building could be saved, the property cannot be developed due to parking. George’s property is not large enough to accommodate the number of parking spaces to meet building and zoning code requirements. George would have to secure a variance from the city to offer less parking than the code allows. A variance is unlikely considering the city’s adopted land use plan for that site is a park.

It is not clear what the property’s proposed use would be classified as – as retail, office or possibly a clinic/health/medical center. Those different uses require different amounts of parking spaces. The existing building is proposed to be redeveloped with 17,473 square feet of usable space.

Proposed uses include a yoga/flex room, juice bar/retail space, education corner, meeting room, treatment rooms, cryogenic therapy room, light therapy room, float tanks room, steam/sauna, co-working space, kitchenette, outdoor patio and rooftop deck, per documents Bowen submitted to the city.

George is co-founder of a popular wellness center nearby called LYV The Wellness Space, 1870 W. 25th. A source familiar with his businesses said the popularity of LYV has prompted George to seek expansion on the near West Side, downtown and other locations that are growing in population and income.

Renderings development corner West 25th Street - Detroit

Renderings of a conceptual development located at the southeast corner of West 25th Street and the Detroit-Superior Bridge. The renderings were drawn more than a year ago according to the date on the lower-right corner of the image (Bowen).

According to the city’s building code, if the proposed use is considered office/co-working space, George would need to provide 35 parking spaces. If a retail use, 70 spaces would be needed. And if it’s a clinic/health/medical center, George would have to provide 87 parking spaces.

A site plan shows 12 parking spaces on land George owns. A rendering shows 22 spaces on land George doesn’t own. But that wouldn’t be the first time George has offered parking at this location on land he doesn’t own, the sources said.

After food hall/business incubator Ohio City Galley opened in October 2018, the business leased land across West 25th from George for parking. Unfortunately, George didn’t own the land on which he leased out via a written agreement. Ohio City Galley closed in February 2020.

Ward 3 Councilman Kerry McCormack, Ohio City Inc. Executive Director Tom McNair and LANDstudio Executive Director Gregory Peckham were all contacted for comment on this situation but none responded to NEOtrans’ requests.

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