Samsel Supply in Flats sells to developer

View looking north on Old River Road

On Cleveland’s Flats East Bank, the two buildings at the right are only a part of the Samsel Supply Co.’s properties on Old River Road it sold to GBX Group LLC. But the red brick building is the largest of them, and it may be expanded vertically to accommodate apartments atop the existing building, with parking in the four levels above ground-floor retail/restaurants (Google). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM

Vertical residential expansion atop parking, retail considered

In a few years, a group of five 100- to 150-year-old Samsel Supply Co. buildings on both sides of Old River Road on downtown Cleveland’s Flats East Bank, could gain new life, according to several real estate sources. The reason is that Cleveland-based GBX Group LLC, doing business through several affiliates created for the ownership of these properties, acquired the five buildings and intends to redesign at least one of them — possibly significantly.

The largest building GBX purchased is actually two connected buildings — a five-story red brick building at 1285 Old River that measures 109,845 square feet and a green-painted three-story brick building that’s 11,613 square feet, according to Cuyahoga County records. The five-story building, which is not a registered historic landmark, is the one most likely to be redesigned.

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Sources said GBX has considered conceptual plans for the building that would redevelop the five-story building with retail and restaurants on the ground level and parking on floors two through five. Atop the building, at several floors of apartments would be added. The sources said the building was built to accommodate industrial equipment that’s heavier than cars and the structure remains in extremely good condition.

However, one of the sources said the vertical addition doesn’t sound like something that GBX, which is noted for its historic preservation and restoration projects, would pursue. NEOtrans sent an e-mail to a GBX spokeswoman seeking clarification but has not received a reply prior to publication of this article.

Three of the five buildings being acquired by GBX Group on Flats East Bank

These three buildings, from left starting with the blue building, are 1322, 1316 and 1294-1310 Old River Road. All are 19th-century structures and are due to be renovated to their original historic architectural features (Google).

Also acquired were three properties across the street — the 1871-built Upson-Walton Company Building at 1294-1310 Old River that measures three stories tall and 22,884 square feet. It is a nationally registered landmark. Also included was 1316 Old River, a one-story, 1,344-square-foot building and 1322 Old River, a three-story, 4,878-square-foot building — both 19th-century buildings. Those structures are to be renovated and restored with their original historic architectural features.

A sale price was not publicly disclosed. The properties were appraised by the county for tax purposes at $1,874,300, public records show. Sources said Samsel was asking $8 million in private, off-market conversations with potential buyers.

When asked by NEOtrans via e-mail Dec. 1, 2021 about rumors that Samsel Supply’s properties were under a sales contract, Samsel Supply President Kathy Petrick claimed that was not true.

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“No, that would be an inaccurate statement,” said Petrick in a Dec. 1 e-mail reply. “We have a lot of tire kickers all the time.”

Yet on Dec. 7, Petrick signed the closing documents to transfer the properties to GBX. Petrick is the daughter of Frank Samsel who founded Samsel Rope and Marine Supply Co. in 1958. The company has been located on this same stretch of Old River Road ever since. She, along with her brother Mike Samsel, own the company today. Petrick did not say where Samsel Supply might move.

Largest building to be acquired by Samsel Supply.

Another view of Samsel Supply’s largest building it sold to GBX Group. This structure is reportedly strong enough to be converted to indoor parking and support several levels of apartments above it. However that isn’t GBX’s modus operandi for treating historic properties such as this (Google).

However, Petrick said she is sometimes told that Samsel has other owners whenever she threatens to tow cars that park illegally in the company’s parking lot, in the shadows of the overhead West Shoreway/Main Avenue Bridge.

“I have been told by guys in my parking lot that their dad owns the building,” she said.

An increasing amount of property sales activity has occurred on the Flats East Bank lately. For example, in the waning days of 2021, the Cleveland Metroparks paid $3 million for a half-acre parking lot at 1290 Old River Rd., next to the Upson-Walton Company Building. The parking lot will eventually be converted to a public park.

Sources familiar with this property said there were prospective buyers of that parking lot who wanted to develop it. But, in addition to the millions the seller 1290 LLC wanted for the property, the cost to develop the site was too high. The steel bulkhead along the river had to be repaired at a cost of millions more to support the weight of a new building here.

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