East Cleveland on track for $100M project

The vacant, county-owned East Cleveland Adult Activity Center at Euclid and Superior avenues awaits its next use, which could be as a grocery store and a centerpiece to a potentially significant residential development between stations on the HealthLine and Red Line rapid transit routes. The Red Line rail station is visible in the background (Google). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM

Multi-story buildings may rise at transit-oriented site

Cuyahoga County Council’s approval this week of a property sale to a New York City-based developer could lead the way toward a “significant” development in the heart of East Cleveland. The site, at Euclid and Superior avenues, is just one-half-mile from the eastern edge of University Circle and set between stations on the HealthLine bus and Red Line rail rapid transit routes.

In a unanimous vote, Cuyahoga County Council authorized county Executive Chris Ronayne and his staff to execute an agreement for the sale of seven contiguous, county-owned parcels to Genesis Global Holdings LLC of New York City for $680,000. The site is located at 13231 Euclid Ave., measures approximately 4.25 acres and has a 27-year-old, 43,489-square-foot, single-level building on it that was used as the East Cleveland Adult Activity Center.

In a phone interview with NEOtrans, David Garland, managing member at Genesis Global, said his firm has transitioned from leading multiple large developments in New York City to “frontier markets” including the renovation of the Olympia Building, 3361 E. 55th St., in Cleveland’s Slavic Village. His firm also is investing in Newark, NJ, Newburgh, NY, and other markets outside of New York City.

“East Cleveland is begging for a renaissance,” Garland said. “It’s right at the edge of Cleveland’s University Circle. That whole section is becoming a bit of a bubble with people getting priced out of it. There’s been a psychological barrier to going eastward (into East Cleveland) and it’s time to erode that.”

He said he has spoken with representatives of Cleveland Clinic, Case Western Reserve University (CWRU), University Hospitals and some of the civic and cultural institutions in University Circle to get their sense of needs and growth. He noted that CWRU’s enrollment is growing quickly and they said they need more affordable housing nearby while Cleveland Clinic plans to add more than 1,000 jobs just for its Innovation District project. Tentatively, up to 250 housing units are envisioned to surround the existing building at the Genesis Global site. He said that building has a lot going for it, including it being well maintained and its location next to public transportation.

“It (the building) is ideal for creating a center for new jobs given its easy access to public transportation,” Garland said. “The initial plan is to tenant the disabilities building with retail and then build upon that momentum. We want to build around it with new housing. There’s definitely a food desert in that area and it (a grocery store) is part of our thinking.”

Shaded in blue is the site that Cuyahoga County will sell to Genesis Global Holdings. The Red Line and its rail station are shown in red and the HealthLine and its stations are shown in white (Google).

There are few full-service grocers in or near East Cleveland and even fewer that are transit accessible. The closest full-service grocery store to East Cleveland is the Save-A-Lot, 11905 Superior Ave., located just inside the city limits of Cleveland. The grocery store or other retailers in the existing building plus any additional commercial structures could connect with one or more apartment buildings. Given the limited amount of developable space if the existing building is retained, and that there also may need to be a parking structure for the apartments, the parking may have to be built within the lower floors of the apartment building or buildings. Given those constraints, it’s probable that if no more than two residential buildings are added, at least one of them would have to be a high-rise of 10 stories or more.

Consider that the newly built Waterford Bluffs in Tremont has 241 apartments and nearly fills out a 3.4-acre site with a five-story building. If no portion of the existing building on the Genesis Global site is demolished, about 1.5 acres of its land may be developable for residential structures. And roughly half of that developable land appears to be divided among just two spaces — one facing Euclid and another facing Superior — that would have ideal floorplates for multifamily buildings. The largest developable space fronts Lockwood Avenue, a street of mostly single-family homes.

Cheryl Stephens, county council vice president, touted the proposed development as “significant.” She represents the council’s 10th District, including Bratenahl, Cleveland’s Collinwood neighborhood, Cleveland Heights, University Heights and East Cleveland.

“This is a project that will redevelop an intersection along Euclid Avenue in East Cleveland, the primary thoroughfare for the city,” Stephens said. “The investment will be significant. First, after acquisition, they will continue to maintain the site and there will be investment of over $100 million in this site over the life of this project. It’s the kind of project that brings not just community and economic development but housing to the neighborhood and more affordable housing in a quality condition is needed in East Cleveland and, for that matter, on the east side of Cleveland as a whole.”

Solutions At Work (SAW) Inc., a non-profit organization founded in 1969 in partnership with the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities, was using the property for its East Cleveland Adult Activity Center. SAW chose to permanently close the center in 2021 rather than reopen it from a pandemic-induced shutdown. District 4 Councilman Scott Tuma said the property sale was the result of two requests for proposals (RFP) with the first in 2021 and the second one issued last year. He represents Parma, Parma Heights and Middleburg Heights and chairs council’s Public Works, Procurement and Contracting Committee.

Behind the Emily Street station on the HealthLine bus rapid transit is the site to be acquired by Genesis Global Holdings (Google).

“This property has been deemed surplus and no longer needed by the Board of Development Disabilities,” Tuma said. “County issued an RFP for buyers of the property and the RFP closed on Sept. 8, 2022 with four bids submitted. The estimated value of the property was $600,000 and the bid came in at $680,000. The funds will be delivered to the county at closing time (of the purchase agreement) and proceeds of the sale will go to the developmental disability board which are not county general funds. The building had previously been used as an adult training facility and the developer is looking at a mixed-use development on the site and it’s my understanding that the city of East Cleveland is supportive of this project.”

If developed as envisioned with 250 apartments, grocery store and other retail, the Genesis Global site would be on par with the scale of mid- to high-rise developments built along high-frequency transit routes in University Circle, downtown, Ohio City and Shaker Heights. But all of those offer luxury apartments. After Woodhill Station, this would be the first large Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) offering affordable housing outside of Greater Cleveland’s hot neighborhoods.

Putting affordable, quality housing and jobs within a comfortable walk of public transportation has become a growing issue of importance for Cuyahoga County. Starting last year, the county joined with the city of Cleveland and other inner-ring suburbs to develop zoning and other policies that make it easier to build dense, mixed-use TODs along high-frequency transit routes operated by the Regional Transit Authority (RTA).

This development site is bracketed by stations two such routes — the 24-hour HealthLine bus rapid transit and the 21-hour Red Line rail service. During daytime and evening hours, both routes run every 15 minutes in each direction to University Circle, Cleveland Clinic, Midtown and downtown Cleveland with the Red Line continuing to the West Side and the airport. Those high-frequency transit routes serve some of the largest job centers in Ohio but there are few concentrations of quality, affordable housing along them, and even fewer basic retailers and services that offer households without cars access to the basic necessities of living.

According to a report issued last year by the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission, within a quarter-mile “walkshed” of bus routes offering daytime departures every 15 minutes or better and within a half-mile walkshed of rail stations, only 17 percent of land in those areas is used for buildings; 25 percent is used for parking. Much of the rest is undeveloped. TOD-designed developments are illegal in most communities due their car- or industrial-oriented zoning codes. The Genesis Global site is zoned for commercial and light manufacturing, according to Cuyahoga County’s Geographic Information System.

Few large-scale affordable housing developments have been built near transit stations in Greater Cleveland. Most have been luxury developments like Intro in Ohio City, seen here (KJP).

After checking with staff who deal with TOD, Robert Fleig, RTA’s public information officer, said he had no comment on the potential development of the site.

Clevelanders for Public Transit said in its recent report “Ending the Transit Death Spiral: A Positive Vision for Public Transit in Greater Cleveland” that sites like the one Genesis Global is buying must be developed with density and mixed uses in a walkable setting. “Getting people closer to already existing frequent train and bus lines while reducing sprawl development, longer commutes, increased pollution and population decline out of Cuyahoga County is essential,” the report said.

“That (Genesis Global) site has some of the strongest transit access in the region,” said Alex Rubin, a member of Clevelanders for Public Transit’s coordinating committee and the organization’s treasurer. “If the project succeeds, it will be because it was designed to capitalize on those transit assets.”

That means few if any surface parking lots and more street-level activity — buildings and parking decks lined with shops, restaurants, doorways and windows that put light and eyes on the sidewalks. Clevelanders for Public Transit noted that some TOD-thematic apartment buildings in Cleveland and other cities, there are fewer parking spaces than apartments and tenants get free monthly transit passes instead, saving developers money. But some had more modest transit hopes for the East Cleveland site.

“If this development gets built, maybe RTA will finally bother to fix the escalator at the Superior (Red Line) rapid station, which has been broken for years,” quipped Chris Martin, chair of Clevelanders for Public Transit.


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