Little Italy’s largest townhouse project in a decade

Rendering of the Woodhill Townhomes in Cleveland's Little Italy.

An early rendering of the Woodhill Townhomes accurately shows their height at four stories with rooftop decks. However, in the final design, the second-floor balconies on the townhomes are now walk-outs on all of the fronts and on some of backs. The third-floor balconies are Juliet balconies, meaning that the doors can be opened but a person cannot walk out on them. But they can be serenaded by a Little Italy Romeo. This view looks southerly along Coltman Road (SixMo). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM

Knez Homes seeks construction permits from city

So far in the 21st century, Little Italy has seen a large townhouse development get built roughly every decade. With past townhouse developments happening in 2001 and again in 2010, Little Italy is overdue for another. One of Northeast Ohio’s largest homebuilders is getting ready to fill that void.

Knez Homes and its architect SixMo Inc. have completed final design of the 17-unit Woodhill Townhomes and submitted their construction permit applications to the city of Cleveland’s Building & Housing Department for approval this week. No zoning changes or variances are required prior to their approval.

Knez anticipates starting construction on the townhomes early in 2022. Thirteen of the townhomes will be built in two buildings along Coltman Road at the intersection of East 120th Street, with one building containing nine townhomes and another having four. The other four townhomes will be built on East 123rd Street.

Site plan for the Woodhill-Coltman development between Coltman Road and East 123rd Street near University Circle.

The three groups of townhomes totaling 17 units are shown here in this overall site plan for the Woodhill-Coltman development which also includes an 80-unit, four-story apartment building, now under construction. Site preparation for the apartment building, including underground utilities, had to start before construction could begin on the Woodhill Townhomes (SixMo).

All of the townhomes will be four stories tall with rooftop decks, balconies and living spaces measuring just under 2,200 square feet, not including a 386-square-foot garage accessed from the back of the unit. Each is estimated to cost about $300,000 to construct, according to Knez’s building permit applications. Decade-old townhomes of similar size in Little Italy are selling for about $200 per square foot but can go higher depending on their interior finishes.

But more new townhouse projects are being offered as rentals, including in a development planned in Tremont’s Duck Island enclave by Knez’s Woodhill project partner M Panzica Development LLC. Despite that, Knez Homes founder and CEO Bo Knez said he’s confident for-sale housing will sell and for robust prices, especially in and near University Circle.

“We are still seeing a strong market for for-sale townhomes as well as for-rent,” Knez said. “These (Woodhill Townhomes) will remain for-sale.”

Perspective view of the Woodhill Townhomes about to start construction.

This image was extracted from Knez Homes’ building permit application submitted this week to the city of Cleveland’s Building & Housing Department. This final design shows a more pronounced balcony on the second floor of each unit. A similarly sized balcony is planned on the back of some of the townhomes as well, above the garage’s vehicular entrances (SixMo).

He graded their location A+ and cited low interest rates on mortgages, a strong growing market of eds-and-meds in the University Circle area, the city’s 15-year, 100-percent tax abatement, Greater Circle Living incentives and a limited inventory of new housing products in the immediate area.

The start of their construction was delayed by a legal challenge brought by two residents living in one unit of the previous large townhouse development — 27 Coltman Townhomes developed by Brickhaus Partners in 2009-11.

Ironically, the residents’ challenge wasn’t directed at the Woodhill Townhomes which they said they supported but at an 80-unit apartment building planned on East 123rd as part of the same development. The opponents said they feared it would lower their property values, according to court documents.

Rear view of the Woodhill Townhomes in Cleveland's Little Italy, next to University Circle.

The rear of the Woodhill Townhomes will feature vehicular entrances to the garages and extended balconies from the second floor of some units. All units will have Juliet balconies — doors on upper floors that are protected by exterior railings. These are on the fronts at the third floor and on the back of units which don’t have walk-out balconies on the second floor (SixMo).

Site preparation for the larger, for-rent apartment building had to start first before construction could begin on the for-sale townhomes. The legal challenge included a preliminary injunction that forced construction work to stop for about one month. Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Michael J. Russo dismissed the lawsuit and ended the injunction.

Prior to the Woodhill Townhomes and the 27 Coltman Townhomes before them, the previous large (15-plus units) townhome development in Little Italy was Villa Carabelli. Its 20 townhomes were built in 2001-03 on the underutilized parking lot of the Alta House Recreation Center which now shares its historic building with the Cleveland Montessori School.

Woodhill Coltman Partners LLC, led by Michael Panzica, is developing the apartment building and site. Woodhill Coltman Partners includes M. Panzica Development, City Six/Property Advisors Group, Geis Companies, Gustav Development, Knez Homes and SixMo architects. Geis is the general contractor for the development which is being built on the site of the former Woodhill Supply Inc. The business caught fire in 2015 and was demolished a year later.

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