CWRU seeks more housing

Today, it’s a nursing home. Tomorrow, McGregor At Overlook may be home to dozens of college students from Case Western Reserve University. At least that’s the plan by the growing university which is doing what it can to accommodate its increasing enrollment (Google). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM.

Growing enrollment strains housing options

Symbolism comes in many forms. A compelling symbol for the University Circle-area economy is seeing a building which housed people at the end of their working lives be turned into one for people preparing to start their careers. That’s the plan for the McGregor At Overlook, 2187 Overlook Rd., which Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) wants to buy and convert into student housing. When you need space for a growing number of students, you do what you can to accommodate them.

And the number of CWRU students has been increasing steadily for a long time. Over the past decade, the private, research-oriented university whose roots go back 197 years to when Northeast Ohio was still referred to as the Connecticut Western Reserve, has seen its enrollment grow by more than 18 percent, with the undergraduate population growing 29 percent, according to data referred to by the university’s media relations staff. Growth was more tepid in previous years. In 1988, 8,079 students were enrolled and grew to only 9,095 by 2004. The growth curve turned upward after that, thanks primarily to undergraduates.

In 2013, CWRU had 10,325 total students with 4,661 undergraduates. Last fall, 12,201 were enrolled with 6,017 undergrads. The school could be growing even faster if it could accommodate more of its admitted first-year students over the last five years. In 2017, 25,380 people applied to CWRU, 8,405 were admitted and 1,305 first-year students enrolled. Last fall, 38,655 people applied to CWRU, 10,013 of those were admitted and 1,553 were enrolled, university data shows.

Finding more places for more students to live on and off campus has been a goal for university officials and developers for years. CWRU has worked with developers on building more apartments for upperclassmen to live off campus so that it frees up more residence halls on campus for the faster growing number of underclassmen. Projects like Integrity Realty’s 58-unit boarding house in Cleveland Heights helped spell CWRU from having to build any residence halls since 2015. But that time has passed.

These are site plans for expanding CWRU’s South Residential Village along Murray Hill Road. Just up the hill is the South Quad with more residence halls for students (CWRU).

Only the pandemic slowed CWRU in constructing any new residence halls. Once the pandemic faded, officials restarted planning for two new dormitories. They’re called phases one and two of the South Residential Campus and will add 600 beds at the intersection of Murray Hill and Adelbert roads. Construction got underway last year and should be complete in time for the fall 2023 semester. Phase three of the South Residential Campus would add two more buildings and another 450 beds or so on what’s called CWRU Lot 44 across Murray Hill, next to the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s (RTA) Cedar-University Red Line station.

But some new opportunities allowed CWRU to look in a less expensive and more immediate direction for new housing. In 2021, an according to the Cuyahoga County records, the university bought a 29-unit, 120-year-old apartment building at 1716 E. 115th St. for $1.26 million to accommodate more upperclassmen. And, as the Monroe Apartments at the Woodhill site in Little Italy neared completion, CWRU leased all 80 units in the building, located at 1862 E. 123rd St., through the 2023-24 school year. It was just the latest of 18-month leases the university has taken of new or existing buildings in the University Circle area.

But student housing expansions beyond University Circle are in the works as apartment rents in the city’s cultural district continue to rise. Genesis Global Holdings LLC, a New York City-developer, won approval by Cuyahoga County Council this past week to acquire a 4.25-acre development site at 13231 Euclid Ave. in East Cleveland on which the developer hopes to build up to 250 apartments and retail, including possibly a grocery store. David Garland, Genesis Global’s managing member, told NEOtrans that he heard from University Circle-area institutions, including CWRU, about their need for more affordable housing that’s becoming more difficult to get in the cultural district.

Site plan for the McGregor At Overlook nursing home which CWRU has a purchase agreement to buy and hopefully turn into student housing (HGF).

That also led CWRU planning staff to look up the hill, near the Cleveland-Cleveland Heights city line, to find the 25-unit, 17,202-square-foot McGregor nursing home on Overlook Road that was listed for sale. No asking price was shown. The university secured a purchase agreement for the site, but CWRU staff said “The university will not comment while an agreement is in process.” However, a filing with Cleveland’s Building Department shows the university’s interest.

“CWRU is seeking change of use from senior living/nursing home to student housing/dormitory,” wrote Joanne Brown, assistant director of CWRU’s Planning, Design and Construction Department in the application to the city. “Purchase of property is contingent upon usage.”

To accommodate the change, CWRU is also seeking an expansion of the nursing home’s parking lot. The top-of-the-hill site is near CWRU’s the South Quad which the university would like demolish someday and possibly keep for recreation or sell off for future development, according to the university’s long-range plans. Although university staff said they expect enrollment growth to continue, they could not share data on those expectations.


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