Developer acquires lakefront industrial site for housing

The location of 8400 Lake in proximity to downtown Cleveland and Edgewater Park.

A large property close to Edgewater Park and downtown Cleveland sold yesterday to Property Advisors Group, a developer with a 45-year history of investment in Greater Cleveland. The sale could offer a new lakefront housing development and cause more real estate dominos to fall in what has been an industrial area for more than a century (Cresco). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM

Edgewater Park, Lake Ave. redo, proposed zoning prove attractive

Some real estate developers join a parade already in progress. Others start the parade. Property Advisors Group (PAG) appears to be in the latter category with their acquisition yesterday of a large property at 8400 Lake Ave. on which it intends to build housing.

PAG is starting what some expect will be the arrival of more investors and more residential developments along and north of Lake Avenue, between Detroit Avenue and Clifton Boulevard. This is an area that hasn’t yet seen the kind of investment activity as Gordon Square to the east or the stability of the Edgewater neighborhood to the west.

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The area north of Lake is primarily industrial, as it has been since the lakefront railroad tracks were built in the mid-1800s. Many housing units nearby were built so workers could walk to the industries or catch streetcars on Lake. The area is zoned with general industry and semi-industry classifications.

But by early 2022, this same area could be rezoned with a pilot of a long-proposed Form-Based Zoning Code. Form-Based Zoning focuses on building form as it relates to streetscape and adjacent uses. Thus it encourages mixed use and relies on design concepts and patterns intended to preserve the assets and character of a community. By comparison, traditional or Euclidean Zoning focuses on the type of use allowed on the land.

The newly sold 8400 Lake Avenue is seen here on the newly rehabilitated Lake Avenue.

Rehabilitation of Lake Avenue is nearing completion. This view looks west from 8400 Lake Ave., seen at right, toward Clifton Boulevard and the bridge carrying the lakefront railroad tracks over Lake (KJP).

PAG’s development vision for the property, although not yet clearly defined, could be the first project to test Cleveland’s Form-Based Code pilot. That suits PAG Vice President of Leasing & Acquisitions Brad Nosan just fine.

“We’re excited about it,” Nosan said. “The Form-Based Zoning and the location are what attracted us to this property. How else are you going to create change if you’re not willing to give it a shot? In order to make a larger change, we have to show how it works. So let’s go for it.”

He said the city’s century-old zoning code is difficult to work with and likely discourages other developers from wanting to invest in Cleveland. Modernizing the zoning code into one that clarifies for developers what the community expects from them in terms of proposed designs will help reduce or eliminate a perpetual tug-of-war between developers, the city and neighborhood stakeholders.

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“Over the long run, it’s going to make development easier for everyone,” he said. “I think it’s going to help implement the right kind of development.”

Proposed zoning under the City of Cleveland's new Form-Based Zoning Code.

A large area at the west end of the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood and the north end of the Cudell neighborhood is the subject of the city’s Form-Based Zoning pilot that could come before the City Planning Commission as early as November (CPC).

That was echoed by Adam Stalder, executive director of the Northwest Neighborhoods Community Development Corp., formerly the Detroit-Shoreway CDC.

“The Form-Based Code pilot is attractive for developers because it allows flexibility for different uses within a structure and higher densities so long as the buildings are designed in a way that promotes the urban fabric and walkability,” Stalder wrote in an e-mail interview with NEOtrans. “With the city’s current 1920/30’s zoning code, mixed-use buildings are generally not allowed by-right and require a cumbersome (and expensive) appeal process.”

For $1.25 million, PAG acquired the 2.156-acre property from Brian Spurgeon whose family has owned the site since 1996, property records show. The Spurgeon family has owned and operated B & K Scaffolding Co. out of a 17,000-square-foot warehouse located on the property. The building, most of which was built in 1890 and rated by the county to be in fair to poor condition, will be demolished. B & K Scaffolding reportedly is looking for a new home.

In its place will likely be a mix of housing — such as for-sale townhomes or a similar type fronting Lake. A multi-family component such as an apartment building could rise north of the for-sale homes and overlook the railroad tracks, the Shoreway and nearby Edgewater Park. Developing the housing on an old industrial site will first require site cleanup. Nosan said the amount of pollutants found on-site were low.

The property that Property Advisors Group bought include four parcels totaling 2.156 acres.

Four parcels totaling 2.156 acres at 8400 Lake Ave. were acquired yesterday by Property Advisors Group from the owner of a company that rents scaffolding. The buyer would like to develop for-sale houses and rental apartments on the site (Cresco).

Being within walking distance to the park was the most important factor when it came to the site’s location, Nosan noted. But distance doesn’t matter if access is bad. That access is improving as of this writing, as Lake is being rebuilt for $3.6 million into a more pedestrian- and bike-friendly avenue to Edgewater Park and to Gordon Square.

“We love the access to the park and to Upper Edgewater,” Nosan said. “People want to be closer to green space and to have access to green space. There is no larger green space in the city of Cleveland than Edgewater Park. The geography is great and the Lake Avenue project is exciting.”

“The Lake Avenue resurfacing and the Formed-Based Code pilot are great examples of our community members, city officials, non-profits and developers coming together to ensure that future development is done in a way that improves our urban experience while attracting investment to areas which haven’t experienced it in the past,” Stalder said.

East of the property that PAG acquired is Lowe Chemical Co., located for decades in a 19th-century factory that might make for an attractive housing conversion. To the west is the Midpac Manufacturing Hub. A parcel boundary dividing Midpac’s property from PAG’s is shown on Cuyahoga County maps as incorrectly running through Midpac’s building, said David Leb, a Cresco Real Estate broker who facilitated the purchase for PAG. Instead, the boundary is immediately adjacent to that building.

Property Advisors Group's acquisition is within walking distance to Edgewater Park.

Proximity and access to Edgewater Park was cited by a Property Advisors Group representative as one of the most important factors in their purchase of 8400 Lake Ave. for a housing development (KJP).

Some may argue that the redevelopment of industrial areas south of the lakefront railroad tracks started more than 15 years ago with the demolition and clean-up of the closed 14-acre Eveready Battery Co. plant. In its place rose Battery Park with roughly 500 housing units — both townhomes and apartments — built or under construction.

And investment is spreading to the east end of Lake where that street intersects with Detroit Avenue. That’s where Rochester, NY-based LLD Enterprises recently purchased 1.25 acres for $1.75 million for a probable multi-family development. The site previously hosted a Burger King restaurant. Like PAG, LLD Enterprises hasn’t firmed up plans for its new acquisition.

PAG was founded in 1986 by Nosan’s father Richard Nosan who is the firm’s principal. Richard Nosan began by investing along Rockside Road in suburban Cleveland, developing more than 350,000 square feet of commercial space. The company also acquired commercial properties in that same area and expanded to Columbus, Dayton and the city of Green near the Akron-Canton Airport. Also, PAG owns student housing at Slippery Rock University in Western Pennsylvania.

But Brad Nosan, a resident of Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood, said he is more interested in urban real estate. He got his start as a broker for Newmark Group. Since, he bought and renovated buildings in Ohio City, Detroit-Shoreway and elsewhere. Wearing his City Six Development hat, Nosan partnered with developer Mike Panzica on the Baricelli Inn and Woodhill developments in Little Italy.

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