As Duck Island fills, Berges goes SOLO

Construction is wrapping up at the West 20th at Smith Court townhomes in Tremont’s Duck Island enclave and all 14 of the homes have sold out. This view was taken in March. Developer Berges Home Performance sees strong demand continuing and is expanding west into Ohio City’s SOLO district (Noah Belli). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM.

While others put projects on hold, Berges builds

Don’t tell Matt Berges that new home construction in the U.S. is in a 15-month-long slump. The owner of Cleveland-based housing development firm Berges Home Performance LLC will tell you that success depends on what you’re building and where. The where in this case is the near-West Side, specifically Duck Island, a neighborhood Berges helped rebuild. But it is running out of space for more new homes, prompting the 23-year-old firm to look elsewhere to satisfy an as-yet insatiable housing demand.

In these early decades of the 21st century, Berges led development efforts in the Cleveland neighborhood of Duck Island. Once a no-man’s land between Ohio City and Tremont pock-marked by swaths of vacant lots among decaying houses, today’s Duck Island has some of Cleveland most expensive homes. In recent years, homes have sold for nearly $1 million and, in a few cases, above that magic number.

Developers like Berges looked beyond Duck Island’s historic shortcomings and recognized it for its inherent strengths. Those strengths include great views of downtown and the Cuyahoga River valley, plus easy access to the West Side Market, nearby restaurants, the West 25th-Ohio City Red Line train station, the Towpath Trail and other trails to come and more. Berges considers Duck Island to be Cleveland’s most vibrant real estate market. But its time as a place to build new may be winding down.

Berges Homes Performance acquired another builder’s pre-approved plans for a development called Monroe 5 and is now constructing them as Monroe Place. It shows how Berges is able to move forward with new development to satisfy high demand for new housing (Beegan).

“Buildable lots are becoming extremely limited in Duck Island, so Monroe is our next area of focus,” Berges said in an e-mail to NEOtrans, referring to Monroe Avenue in the SOLO (South of Lorain) section of Ohio City. “We have 16 to 20 upcoming single-family homes in the works that we’ll be introducing this year.”

Those projects include Monroe Place, now under construction at 2700 Monroe. It has five attached townhomes that extend north on a new access drive from Monroe. Their for-sale listing went active yesterday with starting prices of $520,000. That development site was actually pursued by another developer, Dureiko Construction Inc. of Cleveland Heights, as a project called Monroe 5. The project was already pre-approved by the city. Berges acquired the project and the property in February, county records show.

“Given the very limited supply, yes we still see a strong demand in our area,” Berges said. “While many builders have been forced to slow down production with all of today’s challenges, we’re pushing forward with as many as we can.”

Employing a more traditional design typically found in Cleveland neighborhoods, Berges Home Performance is building these five Monroe Single family homes (one is hiding at far left) at the southwest corner of Monroe Avenue and West 30th Street (Beegan).

So his company is moving ahead with additional plans for more residential developments in SOLO. There’s the Monroe Single Family Homes starting with five townhomes at the southwest corner of Monroe and West 30th Street. Three more townhomes are planned at 2211 W. 30th with another four next door in the next phase. As with their homes on Duck Island, Berges’ homes will feature superior air tightness, energy recovery ventilation, attention to southern exposure, and all types of insulation to ensure low energy use and comfort, he said.

“Past townhouse projects have sold as quickly as we can build them, including all of units in the 14-home project we are currently finishing up at West 20th and Smith Court (in Duck Island),” Berges said.

With the Federal Reserve Bank likely ending its row of interest rate increases, now might be a good time to do what Berges has been doing all along — build. Mortgage rates have likely peaked and the nation’s job market has remained resilient. Those factors have helped key housing indicators nationally and locally rebound in the early months of 2023. Locally, Greater Cleveland had the nation’s second-largest drop in the unemployment rate in March, falling to 4.2 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


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