Lakewood Center West, seen at left next to its big brother Center North Apartments in downtown Lakewood, was sold to a New York developer who intends to redevelop it with residential over retail (Google). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM
Sale sets stage for latest apartment conversion
While Lakewood waits on the Downtown Lakewood development, a mostly residential development could come to this inner-ring suburb’s former office and current retail district even sooner. According to Lakewood city officials and Cuyahoga County records, a Brooklyn, NY-based developer has acquired the seven-story Lakewood Center West at the northeast corner of Detroit and St. Charles avenues for $2.4 million. The developer told NEOtrans that they envision 60-70 apartments on the upper floors and will retain the ground-floor and basement commercial tenants.
The sale and apartment conversion had been rumored for weeks but the sale confirmation came March 16 when the transaction was recorded by the Cuyahoga County Fiscal Office, making it a public record. Sold was 0.336 acres of land to 14650 Detroit Ave. LLC, a company name derived from the property’s address and that lists to the Zagelbaum family of Brooklyn, NY. On that land is the 77,112-square-foot Lakewood Center West office building which began losing office tenants before the pandemic and the rising popularity of remote working.
Selling the property was LCW Associates, Ltd., an affiliate of Mayfield Heights-based North Pointe Realty which is a partner with CASTO of Columbus in the nearby Downtown Lakewood development. Lakewood Center West was built in 1982, eight years after the neighboring 15-story Lakewood Center North was built, county records show. With the ground floor and lower level to continue as commercial uses, floors two through seven would have enough space to offer approximately 66 apartments, based on typical floor spaces for Cleveland-area apartments.
Buying Lakewood Center West was a company led by Joe Zagelbaum. He and his family are involved in real estate development, title work and law. Riverside Abstract, whose president is Yoel Zagelbaum, assisted in the sale transaction and did the title work for it, county records show. Some of the Zagelbaum family’s offices are in one of two neighboring five-story buildings in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn which the family developed five years ago. This is the second project their firm is pursuing in Greater Cleveland. The other is the West 73rd Street Apartments in the Gordon Square section of Cleveland’s Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood.
Lakewood Center West with the taller Center North Apartments behind it are seen here in October 2022 from Warren Road (Google).
“It looks like a really beautiful community,” Joe Zagelbaum said in a brief phone interview about his interest in developing in Greater Cleveland. “It’s an opportunity for us and for the neighborhood.”
Plans for the redevelopment were submitted to the city, he said. Zagelbaum also confirmed that about 60-70 apartments would be added to the building on floors two through seven, and that the existing commercial tenants on the first floor and lower level would remain. Nonprofit community development organization LakewoodAlive has its offices on the lower level while optometrist Lakewood Optical and mental health therapists Thriveworks Counseling & Psychiatry are on the building’s first floor. The rest of the building is almost entirely vacant.
“Hopefully it will be a successful project,” Zagelbaum said. “We are looking forward to talking about it with the community.”
Lakewood At-Large City Councilman Tristan Rader, who lives near Lakewood Center West, mentioned the pending deal at a Committee of the Whole meeting a few weeks ago where the Downtown Lakewood development was discussed. He and Lakewood Planning and Developer Director Shawn Leininger noted the likely conversion to apartments and the addition of more downtown residents in regards to the construction of the Chase Bank branch across Detroit Avenue. Last month, JPMorgan Chase & Co. paid $1.8 million for the half-acre parcel on the southeast corner of Detroit and St. Charles.
An apartment at the neighboring Center North Apartments showing the view and the windows which look smaller from the ground. Lakekwood Center West has similarly sized windows and added columns of smaller windows (centernorthapts.com).
Rader said that occupancies at Lakewood Center North, which was converted to 182 apartments on floors 12-15 in 2017, are at 95 percent. Rents range from $965 for a 540-square-foot one-bedroom unit to $1,715 for a 1,340-square-foot two-bedroom unit, according to the property’s Web Site. Kowit & Company Real Estate Group of Mayfield Heights redeveloped that building for approximately $15 million after its largest remaining tenant, New York Life Insurance, moved its offices to downtown Cleveland. That left the building more than half vacant.
“Since I started on council in 2018, an issue that has come up time and time again is housing,” Rader said. “People want to move to Lakewood or they want to stay in Lakewood, and it’s becoming harder to find an affordable place live. Adding housing, increasing density, are critical components to any affordable housing strategy. I’ll add, I can see Center West out of my front window. I bought my house in the heart of downtown Lakewood because I love the walkability in vibrancy. The potential of more great neighbors right across the street, who I can enjoy this really cool place with, is a happy thought.”
“LakewoodAlive will remain at Lakewood Center West while the upper floors will change in use from office to residential,” said Jacqueline Bon, communications & design manager at LakewoodAlive. “We are located in the basement and look forward to working with the new owner. There are several office and professional service tenants on the first floor. We are not aware of the status of office tenants on the upper floors.”
Zagelbaum is also the owner of 1325 West 73rd Development LLC which is seeking to in the fast-developing Gordon Square section of Cleveland’s Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood on the city’s near-West Side. Another developer is listed in city records for that project — SGW Properties LLC, also of Brooklyn. The developers plan a two-phase project, starting with a five-story, 108-unit, 120,000-square-foot apartment building.
The first phase would be built on 0.64-acres bought in March 2022 by the developer and Michaella Hajjar of Strongsville, doing business as MH Quality Plus LLC, for $775,000, according to Howard Hanna. A vacant, single-story, 13,700-square-foot light industrial building on the site was demolished in late spring. For later phases to the south, the developer would build on two additional parcels at 1345 and 1351 W. 73rd totaling 1 acre. Those parcels were acquired by the developer for $1.04 million, county records show.