An eastbound Red Line train arrives the West 25th-Ohio City station from the airport. The land to the left, right and above the Red Line tracks and parallel greenway trail is the subject of a joint station-area development agreement between the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority and MRN Ltd. To the right is the soon-to-open Intro development. This view is looking generally south from Abbey Avenue (KJP). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM
Site links Tremont’s Duck Island, Red Line, Market Square
Representatives of a real estate development partnership have been making the rounds of near-west-side neighborhood block clubs to present conceptual ideas and get feedback for developing land next to the West 25th-Ohio City Red Line Station. But those same representatives caution they are still early in the design process so there is no formal plan yet.
One partner in the joint development is the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA); the other is Cleveland-based MRN Ltd. They are reportedly considering a mixed-use development on either side of and possibly above the Red Line rapid transit tracks and the parallel greenway trail. The 5.9-acre development site is bounded by Columbus Road, Abbey Avenue, Gehring Avenue and West 25th Street.
Their most recent presentation to a block club was last week, to the Irishtown Bend Neighborhood Block Club. Two persons at the meeting but who asked to not be identified publicly both said the development team proposed three short buildings with approximately 120 housing units total, ground floor retail and parking either within the buildings or nearby as a garage. They acknowledged that MRN and GCRTA are working only with concepts at this time, however.
But they said they considered one of the most exciting parts of the team’s proposal was to add a partial cap over the tracks and greenway just south of Abbey that would provide a second entrance to the rail station. It would offer improved transit rider access to Harbor Bay Real Estate Advisors’ Intro development that’s nearly done with construction. A second phase by Harbor Bay, possibly involving a 15- to 16-story residential high-rise south of Intro, is in the works.
Another pedestrian bridge proposed south of the cap would enhance the linkages between Tremont’s Duck Island to the east with Ohio City’s Market District to the west. The meeting attendees said public funds would probably be sought for rail station improvements along with the infrastructure over the tracks and greenway.
Map of the joint development site for partners MRN Ltd. and the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (MyPlaceCuyahoga/KJP).
Revenue from the joint venture would provide GCRTA with local funding to leverage federal dollars for the station and walkways. The Tower City Center and Ohio City stations were GCRTA’s first rail facilities to be replaced after Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1991. They are showing signs of wear and tear.
But when MRN Principal Ari Maron was asked if those two separate reports from last week’s meeting were accurate, he said nothing has been decided.
“We haven’t developed a plan yet,” he said in an e-mail interview. When asked what was discussed, he replied “That is a private conversation between neighbors. When we have a plan and are ready to put something forward for public discussion I will let you know.”
MRN developed the mixed-use Uptown in University Circle a decade ago and, shortly before that, the East Fourth District. According to sources familiar with the company, the firm has most of its development attention focused on converting the former Voss Industries plant, 2164 -2214 W. 25th, into the Carriage Works with a mix of housing, lodging, shops, co-working, food hall, restaurant/speakeasy and a restoration of narrow alleys through the site lined with shops and eateries.
James Rusnov, GCRTA’s manager of real estate, declined to comment on what was presented at the block club meeting. Neither Tom McNair, executive director of Ohio City Inc., or Cory Riordan, executive director at Tremont West Development Corp., responded to e-mails seeking comment or more information prior to publication of this article.
Looking south from Abbey Avenue along the west side of Columbus Road. The proposed MRN Ltd.-Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority development site is to the right (KJP).
Businessman Sam McNulty, who co-developed the Duck Island 7 townhouses in Tremont and opened five restaurants on West 25th in Ohio City, attended a recent Duck Island Block Club meeting in which Maron and Rusnov presented their development ideas for the GCRTA site. He said he is opposed to developing it and prefers that it remain a wooded area.
“I did attend the Duck Island Block Club meeting a few weeks ago where he (Maron) presented,” McNulty said in an e-mail to NEOtrans. “As when Carnegie Management presented their plan years ago to develop that greenspace, the informal vote we took back then was nearly unanimous for preserving the wooded hillside and against developing it. I spoke out at the most recent meeting with Ari Maron in favor of preserving the greenspace and the whole room erupted in applause. And believe me, it wasn’t because I’m some great orator!”
In 2019, Carnegie Management and Development Corp. of Westlake was chosen by GCRTA to develop its Columbus Road property but pulled out less than a year later without explanation. In 2018, Cleveland City Council rezoned multiple parcels of land in the fast-growing Duck Island neighborhood. The rezoning followed six years of neighborhood engagement and the creation of a local development masterplan based on public input.
According to Cleveland zoning maps, the land along the west side of Columbus Road was rezoned with a multi-family classification and an urban frontage overlay allowing building heights of up to 35 feet. West of the Red Line, a mix of limited retail business and semi-industry zoning categories exist. Building heights of 115 to 175 feet are permitted. Residential structures typically average about 10 feet of height per floor while commercial structures offer more height.
GCRTA reached a joint venture agreement with MRN in 2020 to develop its property next to and possibly above the Red Line tracks and greenway. In the past, GCRTA typically sold its excess property to a new user. But the Federal Transit Administration is encouraging transit agencies to diversify their revenues and promote transit-oriented development around stations to increase ridership and reduce over-dependence on driving which is the largest source of climate-changing carbon emissions.