This is a basic massing of The Pearl to show its potential scale, if it wins support from the Duck Island Block Club. Architectural details will be added after this conceptual phase is refined. Overlooking Walworth Run ravine, The Pearl would offer market-rate apartments above retail at the intersection of West 25th Street and Columbus Road. This view looks generally north (Bialosky). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM
Mixed-use project planned at West 25th and Columbus Road
Article updated Dec. 7, 2021
A frantic pace of development continues in and near Cleveland’s Duck Island enclave, where Tremont meets Ohio City, especially along West 25th Street south of the Market District. The latest entry is Independence-based Realife Real Estate Group’s The Pearl, a seven-story apartment building over parking and a retail space.
Preliminary plans were presented this evening to the Duck Island Block Club show 185 market-rate apartments on six floors above ground-level parking. The parking would be hidden behind and below a 6,545-square-foot retail space and a 4,416-square-foot resident amenity space. These windows-heavy spaces would front Columbus and give the building a stronger street presence. The north side of the building steps down so that the northern-most portion of The Pearl would be no taller than the neighboring houses.
In its basement would be a parking-only level and help to provide the development with 176 spaces. The amount of parking conforms to the building code and acknowledges The Pearl’s walking distance to the Market District, the Ohio City Red Line train station and the West 25th transit corridor that the city and the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) want to be redeveloped with bus rapid transit and transit-oriented development.
In this southward-looking view along West 25th Street, The Pearl would be a significant presence at the wide intersection of Columbus Road at the south tip of Tremont’s Duck Island. Not show in this view is the five-story Treo Apartments, now under construction on the other side of the bridge over Walworth Run, or the second phase of Intro that could rise to at least 15 stories just out of view of the bottom of this image (Bialosky).
The Pearl’s basement would be visible on the southeast side of the building overlooking the Walworth Run ravine and the Flats Industrial Railroad. The unused railroad right of way may become a multi-purpose trail leading to Scranton Peninsula and the Towpath Trail, said Flats Forward Inc. Executive Director Jim Haviland.
Plans show the building would appear to be eight stories tall from the railroad side where the basement elevation would be visible. To motorists and transit riders coming from the south on West 25th, The Pearl would have a commanding presence and announce their arrival into Duck Island and the Market District where numerous other large developments are planned or under way.
“It’s a great location with a lot going on around it,” said James Asimes, Realife’s director of acquisitions in a phone interview last week. “I understand the interest in this area.”
This is a ground-floor site plan for The Pearl. Below this level would be the basement comprised entirely of parking. Above the ground floor would be 185 apartments, with the units getting larger the higher up in the building you go (Bialosky).
He acknowledged The Pearl’s plans are preliminary and could be significantly altered depending on the input from the Duck Island Block Club at its meeting tonight. However, persons attending the meeting said the project was well received by block members. The project will be presented next week at the Near West Design Review Committee and then at the City Planning Commission.
Ward 3 Councilman Kerry McCormack has said he wants proposed development projects in his ward to get support from the affected block club. He didn’t respond to a text message yesterday asking for his opinion on this project. Tremont West Development Corp. Executive Director Cory Riordan didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment either. Duck Island is part of Tremont.
Realife has secured an option to buy the vacant, privately owned land from Kamis Properties, LLC, Asimes said. Kamis purchased much of the site earlier this year for $150,000 and the rest, comprised of nine small parcels, in 2015 for $26,000, property records show. But more than time has separated those purchases.
Site of The Pearl, as proposed. The map shows zoning and urban frontage overlays which, in the case of The Pearl, requires a retail presence facing Columbus Road which is included in Realife Real Estate Group’s plans. Current zoning allows for The Pearl to be constructed here (Bialosky).
Between the two groups of properties is an unused street right of way called Brevier Avenue. Realife would like the city to vacate Brevier which would result in it being absorbed into the adjacent Kamis-owned parcels. Total area of the proposed development site, including the Kamis and Brevier lands, is about 1.5 acres.
Most of the apartments in the building would be one-bedroom units measuring 768 square feet and be concentrated in the center of the structure on the second through fifth floors. At the ends of the building on the lower floors would be two-bedroom units. Six studio apartments, 469 to 535 square feet, would be located around a stairwell at the north end.
The largest apartments with large outdoor patios would be on the sixth and seventh floors, including a 2,036-square-foot unit at the corner overlooking the West 25th-Columbus intersection, preliminary plans show. There would also be a sixth-floor indoor residential amenity space measuring 4,810 square feet leading to an outdoor amenity space of 2,986 square feet.
Looking south on Columbus Road toward the angled West 25th Street intersection, the development site for The Pearl is at left where the billboards now stand. Also to be removed is the street to nowhere — Brevier Avenue. There is a sign and an intersection for it, but no street. Yet the right of way heading down the hill is owned by the city. The unused right of way would be vacated so The Pearl could be built (Bialosky).
Asimes was reluctant to discuss where financing stood for The Pearl. However he noted that the $3.38 million Realife is receiving from the sale of a small, historic office building downtown next to the new Sherwin-Williams HQ site won’t come into play for this project. Realife is eager to move forward quickly on developing The Pearl, he said.
The development is at an awkwardly angled intersection of West 25th and Columbus that isn’t pedestrian-friendly. The angle at which Columbus ends at West 25th encourages turning cars and trucks to travel at higher rates of speed than if Columbus was curved sharply into a T-intersection with West 25th. The wide intersection also mean it takes a long time for pedestrians to cross it.
While Asimes said he was not aware of any pending plans to redesign the intersection, he said a redesign might be possible when GCRTA starts construction for the 25Connects bus rapid transit project along West 25th from Detroit Avenue south to near the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.
“With the West 25th redesign going on, we’ll see how that goes,” he said. “There was also a former gas station in the city’s right of way (across Columbus from where The Pearl is planned). The street wasn’t always as wide as it is now.”
Numerous developments are planned or under construction near where The Pearl is proposed. Not shown is Matt Berges’ Cooper Flats development immediately north of where The Pearl would rise. Under construction are 18 apartments on one side of Willey Avenue and another 12 units in a second building across the street. Both overlook the Walworth Run ravine, as would The Pearl (Bialosky).
Improving pedestrian safety and access to the Market District will also help developments to the south along West 25th, including the recently built St. Joseph Commons. Treo Apartments is under construction by Chicago-based Mavrek Development on the south rim of the Walworth Run ravine. Just east of it, Knez Homes may buy and develop a huge undeveloped property owned by the Cleveland Animal Protective League. Additional developments are under consideration nearby.
To north of The Pearl along West 25th, Cleveland’s MRN Ltd. is planning the Carriage Works, a mixed-use redevelopment of the large Voss Industries plant. Across the street, Chicago’s Harbor Bay Real Estate Advisors LLC is approaching a spring 2022 completion of Intro, a massive mixed-use project at West 25th and Lorain. That’s only phase one. In October, Harbor Bay paid $2 million for 0.366-acres of land between phase one and The Pearl for phase two which could feature a 15- to 17-story residential building over ground-floor retail.
Asimes is a principal in another development group that’s investing in Cleveland’s near-west side. Local Development Partners, LLC built Harbor 44 at Lorain Avenue and West 44th Street and is adding a second phase called Harbor Flats just south of it. He is also developing townhome-style apartments called The Clermont at 2222 Fulton Road. Two existing houses were already being demolished last week for that development.
Last Friday, Dec. 3, Asimes, in partnership with others, won final approval from City Planning Commission for the design of Pelton Flats condominiums, 2258 Literary Road in Tremont. Construction on that small project should start this winter.