Abbey Avenue project to start ASAP

A six-pack of townhomes will see construction start first as part of a larger development on Abbey Avenue in Tremont's Duck Island enclave.

One day before winning final approval from City Planning Commission, construction permits were requested from the city for this group of six rental townhouses at the corner of West 20th Street and Smith Court in Duck Island. Construction on the adjacent apartment building will follow (GLSD). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM

Permits sought for Duck Island apartments

How eager is M Panzica Development LLC to start building its substantial mixed-use project on Abbey Avenue in the Duck Island section of Tremont? It submitted applications for its first building permits one day before it went before the City Planning Commission for final design review.

Fortunately, the commission unanimously granted the Cleveland Heights-based developer final approval the next day, Feb. 18. And the initial permit applications were only for a grouping of six townhouses at the southeast corner of West 20th Street and Smith Court. Duck Island is located in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood.

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Dubbed the “six pack” in planning documents submitted to the city, the half-dozen townhouses will measure 10,110 square feet total. The six pack’s footprint is 3,170 square feet. Each of the townhomes is three stories tall with roof decks. Geis Construction is the general contractor and GLSD Architects, a Geis affiliate, is designing the project.

The entire development will feature 142 residences — 132 apartments in a five-story, 134,000-square-foot building along Abbey and 10 townhomes. Another four townhomes will be at the northeast corner of the site, across West 19th Street from Abbey Park. Construction of the development should take about 20 months, said Brandon Kline, director of design development at Geis Companies.

Site plan for the Abbey Avenue Apartments including 10 rental townhomes in Cleveland's Tremont Duck Island.

Site plan for the Abbey Avenue Apartments showing the ground-floor uses for the development, including the “six-pack” of townhouses at the upper-left corner of the site. The apartment building will be along Abbey with another four townhomes at the upper-right corner of the site (GLSD).

Initially, the development had no retail component. But the Duck Island Block Club and planning commission urged its inclusion. Panzica responded by adding a 1,800-square-foot space at the northeast corner of Abbey and West 20th.

That is the location where the now-closed Abbey Market Grocery currently stands. NEOtrans broke the story about this development in November 2021 in an article about two Tremont neighborhood markets succumbing to development.

The other market, Fairfield Food Market, is giving way to a parking lot that’s forced to move by a proposed 99-unit apartment building at West 10th Street and Fairfield Avenue. This project, by J-Roc Development of Cleveland, has yet to be submitted to planning commission for approval.

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No demolition permit applications have been submitted to the city yet for the Abbey Market Grocery. However developer Mike Panzica confirmed to NEOtrans he has purchase agreements for the grocery property as well as for the rest of the 1.7-ace site which is vacant and currently owned by developer Matt Berges.

A sizable apartment will rise on Abbey Avenue just east of the Ohio City Red Line rapid transit rail station.

A 132-unit apartment building with ground-floor amenity spaces and a small storefront at the northeast corner of Abbey Avenue and West 20th Street is the dominant feature of the Panzica-Geis development approved by the city this week. This is the southeast corner of the building (GLSD).

Berges said he is selling the property because he has his hands full developing the 15-unit W20th & Smith townhomes just north of the Abbey apartments site. He had been leasing it to Chicago-based developer Stoneleigh as a construction staging area for its $60 million, 241-unit Waterford Bluffs Apartments a block away on the north side of Lorain Avenue.

The Abbey Apartments development will be all rentals, including the 10 townhomes. The interior of the site will have about 90 parking spaces in a gated lot. Although the block club gave its blessing to the project, some residents expressed concerns about the lack of close-by parking. Those concerns were rebuffed by planning commission members.

“Parking problems are a good problem to have,” said commission member and Ward 17 Councilman Charles Slife said at the commission’s January meeting. “They’re the kinds of problems that real cities have and that get people to ride transit. No one has a right to the parking space in front of their home. It’s a public right of way.”

In approving final designs for the project, the commission added a recommendation to the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals that it support a vehicular exit from the parking lot onto West 20th. The area is zoned with an Urban Form Overlay that doesn’t allow for a parking lot to exit onto a main street. The West 20th exit was sought in order to alleviate traffic on Smith Court.

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