Shaker Square has a new future after two nonprofits acquired it last week from the Coral Company. This view looks east above Shaker Boulevard the rapid transit tracks. Shaker Square sits amid mid-rise apartment and condo buildings with single-family homes just beyond. In the distance, past the square, is Shaker Heights (KJP file). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM
Nonprofits to start site cleanup in 30 days
Community developments groups Cleveland Neighborhood Progress and Burten Bell Carr Development have purchased the historic Shaker Square shopping center. The sale keeps the property under local, community-minded ownership and triggers a process by which deferred maintenance issues can be addressed and a strategy can be developed that will stabilize the center short-term and ensure it flourishes long-term.
Cleveland Neighborhood Progress (CNP) and its real estate subsidiary New Village Corporation (NVC), along with Burten Bell Carr Development (BBC) worked for more than a year with the City of Cleveland and advisors to make the purchase possible and ensure Shaker Square remains under local ownership.
Shaker Square’s previous owner the Coral Company purchased the property in 2004 for $7.5 million but experienced financial issues due both to the 2008 recession and the COVID-19 pandemic. More recently, Coral Company defaulted on a $10.6 million loan and property has languished in foreclosure, under management of a court-appointed receiver. Stakeholders said they believed a sheriff’s sale would likely result in an out-of-state buyer — willing to pay the highest bid.
Those same stakeholders expressed concern that another buyer would have little concern about the community’s interests, worsening the decay and emptying-out of the property, harming nearby home values and emerging prospects for residential redevelopment efforts on both the west and the east sides of the square. Tania Menesse, CEO and President of CNP, said community collaboration made the rescue effort possible.
“There was a genuine collaboration by city officials, residents of this community, tenants, philanthropic organizations, and others to make sure this historic, neighborhood anchor did not fade into obsolescence,” Menesse said. “We are so grateful for everyone’s partnership and assistance. The city of Cleveland’s loans were a game changer and this opportunity would not be possible without that funding.”
Property map of Shaker Square and its surroundings, with north at the top of this map. Shaker Heights is to the east or right. The properties purchased are in the four quadrants immediately surrounding the square, with Shaker Boulevard running left to right and Moreland Boulevard aligned north and south (MyPlaceCuyahoga.us).
Last spring, Cleveland City Council approved $12 million in low-interest loans for acquiring the 1929-built, brick commercial buildings immediately surrounding the Shaker Square roadways and greenspace. Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb said the city’s assistance was critical to stabilizing the shopping center and helping it recover from the negative economic impact of COVID.
“Shaker Square is a vital, historic asset that supports more than 150 jobs and is a catalyst for neighborhood development,” Bibb said. “The revitalization of this neighborhood is a priority for my administration and I am confident that this team is aligned with our vision to bring this gem to its full luster.’’
City Council President and Ward 6 Councilman Blaine Griffin said: “Across the city, we have witnessed how important neighborhood retail development is to the community, and I’m glad we are taking the right steps to stabilize this property. The city’s investment was a good and equitable investment in this project.”
Shaker Square is in the 4th Ward, led by City Councilwoman Deborah Gray. “It is critical Shaker Square remains a strong social and economic anchor for the contiguous neighborhoods,” she said. “The Square provides essential conveniences like Dave’s Grocery Store and CVS that we must ensure remain in the neighborhood, and it is an important link for key commercial corridors.
“As I stated at community meetings, my hope is that we can trust our community partners to do what is best for our community,” she said. “I stand ready to work with partners who value the community’s best interests and fully appreciate how this historic property best fits into our future.’’
In 2004, the Coral Company acquired Shaker Square with an eye toward renovations and tenant retention and acquisition. But the opposite happened as needed improvements to the nearly 100-year-old commercial district failed to materialize. This photo was taken four days before Christmas of 2004 (KJP).
Clean-up planned immediately, repairs will be prioritized
The ownership group’s first priority is to stabilize the square, which has leaking roofs, flooding issues and other critical needed repairs, and improve the appearance, occupancy and operations of the facility. While the center has languished under receivership, it has lost Balaton and Senior Tequila, two favorite dining locations.
“We are glad to be getting owners vested in the future of Shaker Square and its tenants,” said Shaker Square tenant David Saltzman, of Dave’s Supermarket.
BBC and NVC both have successful track records at developing commercial centers, including Arbor Park Place in Cleveland’s Central neighborhood; Bridgeport Place at Kinsman and East 72nd Street; Lee Harvard Shopping Center; the Fries & Schuele Building in Ohio City; and the former Saint Luke’s Hospital.
The owners have hired the very experienced retail/office property management team of CRESCO Playhouse Square Management to provide oversight of the day-to-day operations. A thorough clean-up of the property will occur within the first 30 days of ownership. While urgent, time-sensitive improvements will be made as quickly as possible, Linda Warren, NVC President, said until they do further due diligence, “there’s a lot we don’t know about the property.”
As such, the CRESCO team will conduct a comprehensive capital needs assessment, which will take approximately 3-4 months to complete and provide a prioritized list of needs and costs. In addition to the loans received, $4 million is estimated to be available for capital needs, tenant improvements and other soft costs. The St. Luke’s Foundation and Gund Foundation have committed funds to this effort, and the owners are optimistic about raising the remainder from other funders that have been approached.
Shaker Square is one of the most unique shopping districts in the city, if not the nation. It is an intimate mix of transportation, retail, office and residential. While only the commercial buildings fronting the square were sold, their reactivation can help spur residential redevelopment nearby (KJP).
Creating a long-term vision for the Square
BBC has already started a neighborhood planning process for the Greater Buckeye/Shaker Square area, said Joy Johnson, BBC’s executive director.
“We are committed to working with merchants, customers, residents, and area stakeholders to craft a community-driven vision for a renovated Shaker Square and the green space in its center,” she said. “The Shaker Square, Larchmere, Buckeye and Mt. Pleasant neighborhoods have a long and proud history of community engagement. We want to tap that spirit of activism and passion.”
Community engagement work will begin later this year and is expected to be complete mid-2023. Johnson added that long-term, the owners might consider a partnership with responsible private sector entity with “urban retail experience” and “a vested interest in Cleveland.”
Shaker Square encompasses more than 168,000 square feet of retail, office and mixed-used space in four two-story buildings. It is one of the nation’s oldest shopping districts. The Van Sweringen brothers developed the Square in the 1920s, after they built Terminal Tower.
Menesse and Johnson thanked real estate and business professionals who advised CNP and BBC throughout the acquisition process, including Art Falco, Terry Coyne, Mitchell Schneider, Stefan Homes, Paul Clark, Sean McDermott, Annette Stevenson, and Paul Stroud.
“Shaker Square is more than just a retail center – it has long been the subject of bragging rights for the east side of Cleveland,’’ said Charles “Chip” Bromley, founder of the Shaker Square Alliance. “This plan is a creative solution to a complex problem that has been years in the making, and we are grateful to all involved for saving this Cleveland treasure.”
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