Large apartment building planned in Lakewood

Apartments are planned for the NTB site across the street from the Phantasy Theater in Lakewood, Ohio.

In addition to the redevelopment of the Phantasy Theater on Detroit Avenue in Lakewood into Studio West 117, its developers would like to construct a large apartment building on the site of the closed National Tire & Battery service center seen at left in this August 2019 view. A few months after this photo was taken, the NTB shop closed and was put up for sale. (Google). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM

Site is across the street from Phantasy Theater

One of the surprise applicants to a new ‘megaprojects’ tax credit program was the Studio West 117 development, a project now under way at the east end of Lakewood. Until the tax credit applications were submitted Oct. 29 to the Ohio Department of Development, public information about the project showed it was limited to renovations of historic buildings.

Now, a significant new-construction apartment building for seniors is being added to the $75 million planned revitalization those historic structures into a hub of entrepreneurship, arts, culture, health and human services for Cleveland’s LGBTQ+ community.

The proposed apartment building could reach or exceed 265,000 square feet in a multi-story building located on the closed National Tire & Battery (NTB) service center, 11801 Detroit Ave. Developers of Studio West 117 are seeking $8,687,615.20 from Ohio’s new Transformational Mixed-Use Development (TMUD) tax credit program to help finance the expanded project.

Gaslamp Capital President Daniel Budish and Betsy Figgie who owns Your CFO Resource are developing Studio West 117 in and around the Phantasy Theater, 11794 Detroit Ave. Budish confirmed that he has a purchase agreement to acquire the 1.1-acre lot and the 14,878-square-foot former NTB service center. The current owner is the Niki Group of San Diego, CA which has properties nationwide.

Fieldhouse rendering for the Studio West 117 development.

Rendering of what The Fieldhouse at Studio West 117th could look like when its renovation is completed in the spring 2022. Other phases of the Phantasy Theater complex will come on line into 2023 (Groundswell).

It bought the NTB property in 2016 for nearly $1.2 million, county records show. Niki Group put the building on the market shortly after NTB closed in 2019. The NTB building, built in 1948 as West Side Pontiac and operated from 1962-99 as Jackshaw Pontiac, would be demolished under Budish’s plan. The structure’s hydraulic vehicle lifts along with any soil pollution caused by them would have to be removed.

In its place would rise an apartment building catering to LGBTQ+ seniors to be developed by A Place for Us Development LLC, said its founder and Executive Director Linda Krasienko. Her firm developed in 2016 A Place For Us apartments in partnership with Cleveland-based NRP Group at 11610 Madison Ave., across from the West 117th-Madison rapid transit station. But that building has a lengthy waiting list for available apartments; more units are needed in the area, said Lakewood City Council President and Ward 4 Councilman Dan O’Malley.

“I think developing some residential property there would be great especially if it’s going to serve the needs of a particular population that has very limited housing options right now,” he said. “When we talk about LGBT seniors, these are folks who, unfortunately, a lot of them lost contact with their families a long time ago and so their options are more limited than others when they reach retirement age. So I think it would be great if we could provide that there. I’m hopeful that Studio West can get it and then make it a part of their complex.”

In addition to the megaprojects tax credit, O’Malley encouraged the developers to seek state Brownfield environmental remediation grants; the program’s budget was recently increased to clean up polluted sites. Ohio’s 2022-23 budget includes $350 million for investigation, clean up and revitalization of Brownfield sites and another $150 million for demolition of vacant buildings.

Site plan and layout of Studio West 117 development.

Location and identities of the various properties acquired or under purchase agreements for the Studio West 117th development. Detroit Avenue is the yellow line that runs generally left-to-right (west to east) in this view. West 117th Street is the yellow line running top-to-bottom (north to south) across the image (Google).

Krasienko was mum about the scale of the proposed apartment building. However, the TMUD program’s requirements offer some insight. The Studio West 117 application was submitted as a Major City project. To be eligible for the program, a major-city project within 10 miles of a city having 100,000-plus people must exceed $50 million in value and either be at least 15 stories tall or have 350,000 or more square feet in buildings to be renovated or built on contiguous properties.

Budish’s firm works primarily on historic renovations and historic tax credit financing which is one reason why he’s partnering with A Place for Us Development on the new-construction component. And he acknowledged that the TMUD’s size requirements would be met through its square footage rather than height criteria.

“We have a new-construction residential component on an adjacent parcel that puts us over the 350,000-square-foot threshold,” he said. Budish is the son of Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish.

Through an affiliate, Gaslamp Capital acquired in 2020 about 85,298 square feet of existing buildings on the Lakewood side of West 117th Street. They include the Phantasy Theater complex on Detroit Avenue plus the Mack Products building to the north of it on Hird Avenue. The 100-plus-year-old Mack Products building is currently under renovation as Studio West 117’s Fieldhouse. It will host a gym and a South American steak restaurant, Stone oven pizza kitchen and rooftop tapas bar lead by Yanira Llanos and her wife Yasmeen Desiree, Budish said.

A Place For Us apartments on Madison in Cleveland.

A Place For Us Housing, a senior LGBTQ+ complex at 11610 Madison Ave. in Cleveland were built in 2016 but its 55 units often have a waiting list for available apartments (Google).

His firm also acquired on the Cleveland side of West 117th a mixed-use building with eight apartments over the My Friends Restaurant and several occupied storefronts at 11600-11640 Detroit Ave. But its 19,000 square feet cannot count as part of the TMUD application because it is not a contiguous parcel.

If the Studio West 117 apartment building was proposed to be as large as those that Jerome Solove Development Inc. of Columbus initially considered for two sites in Lakewood, O’Malley said he would have some reservations about that. In particular, a Solove apartment building planned for the former Spitzer Chrysler dealership on Detroit just east of Bunts Road was originally designed to be eight stories tall. Neighbors and city council members opposed it, forcing the development’s planned height to be halved.

Another Solove apartment complex is planned for the former Steve Barry Buick dealership in the 16000 block of Detroit but was kept to three stories. Solove lost his financing for both developments but has gained a new investor that will allow the two projects to proceed, O’Malley said.

Fedor Manor on Madison Avenue in Lakewood.

Fedor Manor is an 11-story, 145-unit apartment complex for seniors and located at 12400 Madison Ave. in Lakewood’s Birdtown neighborhood (Google).

For a size comparison, A Place For Us apartments on Madison has 55 units in a 64,768-square-foot, four-story tall building, county property records show. Even larger is Fedor Manor, a senior housing apartment building owned by SSC&M Haven Inc. at 12400 Madison Ave. in Lakewood’s Birdtown neighborhood. Built in 1982, the 145-unit apartment building is 11 stories tall, 116,812 square feet and sets on a 0.944-acre lot.

The front parcel on which the NTB building stands is zoned as general commercial and measures about 0.66 acres. A mixed-use building is permitted. So is an apartment building but only as an accessory use, such as atop a ground-floor business, according to the city’s zoning code. The maximum allowed height of a building on this parcel is 120 feet — enough for a 12-story residential building. The two NTB parcels behind the lot fronting Detroit are zoned as single- and two-family residential and used as parking lots.

For a 265,000-square-foot building to fit on the front NTB lot that measures about 28,750 square feet, it might require a nine-story-tall building. But apartment buildings don’t usually have floorplates that large unless they have several light wells or can be built skinnier on a larger lot. If the apartment building is expanded to the two parcels behind the Detroit lot and are rezoned, their roughly 47,500 square feet of space could allow up to 265,000 square feet of space to fit into a six-story building.

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