Big plans for reviving Slavic Village

Two new buildings are shown in this rendering of a redeveloped intersection of East 55th Street and Broadway Avenue in Cleveland’s Slavic Village neighborhood. Other buildings are eventually proposed to be renovated including The Atlas Building from which this view is portrayed. The new white building at right is proposed to be The Village 55 with apartments over commercial space. Another new building is planned at far left, on the opposite side of East 55th. This view looks northeast along Broadway toward downtown (VEDA). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM.

North Broadway Corridor target of multi-phase plan

Two new mixed-use buildings, historic renovations of others, hundreds of mixed-income apartments and retailers that could include a grocery store are envisioned as part of a $60 million to $70 million redevelopment of the North Broadway Corridor in Cleveland’s Slavic Village neighborhood. And that’s just the first phase envisioned by a development team called The Village Partnership comprised of several of Northeast Ohio’s most prolific developers.

Either on their own or in concert with other neighboring property owners who are encouraged by the redevelopment vision, the partnership laid out its plans today to a full house at the Broadway Free Library. The public input meeting was hosted by Ward 5 Councilman Richard Starr with the support of Slavic Village Development, a community development corporation. Starr said the input provided at this and future public meetings will help shape the plan and guide him as well.

“I cannot support it without your support,” Starr told the 45-plus people in the audience, most of whom were from Slavic Village.

For this first meeting, the responses from the room were mixed and widely varied. Some citizens wanted historic buildings renovated. Others wanted them demolished. Some wanted subsidized housing. Others wanted high-end apartments and pricey for-sale units to bring money and businesses back into the neighborhood. Others were concerned about development pushing up property values too fast that it forces out long-time residents who wouldn’t be able to afford the property taxes, like what happened in Tremont that was poverty stricken 20 years ago.

The first phase of The Village Partnership’s development vision for Broadway Avenue at East 55th Street is shown primarily in blue. The exception is a sliver of greenspace between the Columbia Building, left, and The Village 55 to the right of it. On the opposite corner of the intersection, two buildings are to be demolished for a new mixed-use structure (VEDA).

“The redevelopment of East 55th Street and Broadway Avenue is central to the future of our neighborhood,” said Chris Alvarado, executive director of Slavic Village Development. “And it is vital that the improvements that take place here are accessible to all of our neighbors, regardless of background, income or resources.”

The project is broken down into phases and while there is a lot of programming detail proposed for phase one, Donnie DiGeronimo, a principal at Independence-based Veda Capital LLC, said the plan is still very fluid. At this time, a total of 180-220 residential units in several buildings, all with ground-floor retail are planned in the first phase. Two new buildings are proposed with a third building to undergo an historic renovation.

That third building is the 138-year-old Columbia Building, a three-story structure at the northeast corner of Broadway Avenue, East 55th Street and Hamlet Avenue. On the ground floor of the Columbia Building, 5601 Broadway, a 1,500-square-foot café is desired. A tenant is reportedly interested in that space, DiGeronimo said. For the second and third floors, either residential units or co-working spaces are being considered.

Next door, 5605 Broadway would be razed for a greenspace and a pedestrian connector between the Columbia and a new five-story building called The Village 55. This new building could offer upwards of 100 apartments over more than 15,000 square feet of retail or commercial space, conceptual graphics show. The commercial space may include a FinTech Center offering programs in financial literacy, home ownership and more. It is the brainchild of Starr and Akil Hameed, owner of Fass Real Estate Services of Shaker Heights, and a member of The Village Partnership development team. They also desire another tenant for The Village 55 — the Village SBI, or Small Business Incubator to help new neighborhood business ideas get off the ground.

While the building at left may be renovated as part of a proposed redevelopment of the North Broadway Avenue corridor in Cleveland’s Slavic Village neighborhood, several other buildings beyond it are slated for demolition. In their place could be The Village 55, a new five- or six-story apartment building with ground-floor commercial space. Across the street, additional development is planned to help rejuvenate one of Cleveland’s most notable but faded neighborhood business districts (KJP). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM.

At the southwest corner of the Broadway-East 55th intersection, 5484 Broadway is proposed to be demolished for a five- or six-story building. It could have 100 apartments over more than 10,000 square feet of ground-floor retail. A retailer that DiGeronimo believes is a reasonable target is a grocery store, such as an urban neighborhood-style market offered by large local chains or some of the national retailers.

The number of apartments which that could be offered as affordable workforce units will depend on the outcome of a Low Income Housing Tax Credit application that may be awarded to The Village Partnership by the Ohio Housing Finance Agency before the end of the year. The partnership is seeking a 4-percent non-competitive tax credit. In an interview with NEOtrans after the community meeting, DiGeronimo would not disclose the dollar value of the requested credit.

Rent for the workforce apartments will be priced as affordable to 75 percent of the area’s median income, or AMI. According to the Census Bureau, Slavic Village’s household AMI is just over $26,400 — less than Cleveland’s AMI of $31,000. DiGeronimo said the apartments will be marketed to nurses and other health care professionals, laborers, hospitality workers and others. Not only will the tax credits help many of the hundreds of proposed apartments be affordable as workforce housing, it will help overcome development cost challenges like rising interest rates.

“Interest rates are a headwind but if we get the tax credit we’ll be fine,” DiGeronimo said. “As we learn more about this development, we’ll keep sharing more (at future community meetings).”

The Village Partnership didn’t buy the properties involved in the proposed development. Rather, it recently acquired shares in the companies that owned the properties. Those companies had drawn complaints by the some of the residents at the community meeting for their spotty maintenance and lack of security at those buildings. DiGeronimo said a full-time maintenance person was just hired and will look after the properties until construction work gets underway.

Looking southerly along Hamlet Avenue, directly across the intersection of Broadway Avenue and East 55th Street are two buildings The Village Partnership intends to demolish for a new five- or six-story apartment building over ground-floor retail. The building at left is the Columbia Building that is proposed for renovation with apartments and a café. At right is the Olympia Building which is also going to be renovated but by others who are coordinating their efforts with The Village Partnership (Google).

And for those who wonder if Slavic Village can be revived after it was devastated by the foreclosure crisis 15 years ago and deindustrialization in prior decades, Emerick Corsi, vice president of real estate development at Fass, shared some calming words at the community meeting. Previously, he was president of commercial development and real estate services at Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises when the firm sought to redevelop a depressed area of Brooklyn, NY.

“Slavic Village is a cakewalk compared to Brooklyn,” Corsi said. “We put our money and effort in there and helped turn it around. Will we succeed here? Nobody hits a home run every time in this business.”

DiGeronimo said two things are working in Slavic Village’s favor. The first is the leasing success of Cleveland-based NRP Group’s 5115 The Rising mixed-use development, which opened last fall with 178 affordable apartments, 10 townhomes and 5,000 square feet of commercial space that has been leased. The $22 million development had a waitlist of more than 2,200 tenant inquiries by the time the building opened.

He also noted that the Broadway corridor through Slavic Village is the subject of a transit redevelopment plan which recently won $432,000 in federal funding. Those funds will be used to develop plans to redesign the Broadway corridor from the Turney-Ella bus loop near Calvary Cemetery to downtown as a bus rapid transit (BRT) route with enhanced pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. Once those plans are complete, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority can then apply for federal funds to build that infrastructure. But DiGeronimo noted The Village Partnership’s development is moving forward regardless of what happens with the transit project.


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