A dozen high-rises in the works downtown

Although only a conceptual rendering, sources say the first phase of lakefront development may be two high-rises like these on East 9th Street between the lakefront railroad tracks and the Shoreway relocated as a boulevard. This view looks north on East 9th. Other potential high-rises are at left next to the proposed North Coast Connector (AoDK). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM.

Bedrock, Haslams, county, others all have big plans

Last week, NEOtrans wrote about three high-rises in a single development — the first phase of Bedrock’s riverfront site — that could see construction start by this time next year. But that is by no means the only downtown high-rise development in the works. NEOtrans is aware of a dozen potential high-rise projects of 10 stories or more in various stages of development, not including those already under construction downtown. This inventory includes only potential new-construction high-rises that could see a groundbreaking in the next couple of years, not major renovation projects like The Centennial, redevelopment of the Rose Building and others.

In the first phase of Bedrock’s riverfront development appear to be uses that Bedrock’s owner Dan Gilbert can control. Included is an 11- to 12-story hotel atop a Cleveland Cavaliers practice facility relocated from suburban Independence, sources say. It’s next to a roughly 20-story office tower may be for Rocket Mortgage’s large Cleveland presence, atop a multi-story parking garage. Between the office tower and the river is a skinny residential building of about eight to 11 stories. It isn’t clear yet if the residential building will be apartments or condominiums. Bedrock reportedly has tapped Whiting-Turner of Cleveland as the first phase’s construction management firm. Bedrock has not officially confirmed this information.

Later phases of Bedrock’s riverfront masterplan by Adjaye Associates of New York City show additional high-rises proposed, but are too long range at this point and not counted in this article’s inventory of potential high-rises. However, sources involved in the project say requests for proposals have been issued to hire sub-contractors to conduct significant infrastructure work needed before construction on the high-rises can begin. Infrastructure work includes riverfront bulkheads, new sewers, relocation of Canal Road, restoration of the Eagle Avenue ramp and public spaces.

Another waterfront development whose masterplan promises multiple high-rises was put forth along the lakefront by the Haslam Sports Group, owners of the Cleveland Browns. Like the riverfront development, the scale of the lakefront vision depends on major infrastructure improvements and pursuing it in phases. CEO and Chairman Jimmy Haslam has said building the North Coast Connector land bridge across the lakefront railroad tracks and converting the Shoreway highway into a boulevard with intersections must happen before his sports group can develop the first phase of its lakefront vision. Plans for both are moving forward with some funding in hand, but may not start construction until after final design is done and funding is secured a couple of years from now.

The grouping of buildings to the right of and below Terminal Tower’s spire represent a conceptual phase one of Bedrock’s riverfront development plans. They include, from right, a new hotel atop the Cleveland Cavaliers’ practice facility, an office tower likely for Rocket Mortgage and, in front of it by the river is a residential building (Adjaye Associates).

Timing of those infrastructure projects is critical to get the first phase of the lakefront underway. According to two sources who spoke off the record, that first phase will be two high-rises on East 9th Street, atop a new parking garage between the railroad tracks and a relocated Shoreway. At least one if not both of the high-rises will predominantly be residential, possibly with hotel rooms on multiple floors plus ground-floor retail or other commercial uses. Because the site is far enough south, it is not affected by aircraft clearance issues involving Burke Lakefront Airport, the sources said.

Those same sources said Haslam Sports Group has engaged M. A. Mortenson Co. of Minneapolis and Independence Construction LLC of Cleveland as its developer and general contractor, respectively. Haslam wants to get the first phase constructed as soon as possible, reportedly via tax-increment financing, so it can start generating revenue and eventually be used as part of the financing for the reconstruction of Cleveland Browns Stadium into more of a multi-purpose facility. Stadium work would have to start by 2027 so that it can be completed before the Browns’ start playing the 2029 season under a new lease at a rebuilt stadium.

Not only does that mean moving the Shoreway out of the way, it also means getting a new nonprofit corporation called the North Coast Development Corp. (NCDC) up and running to help with the financing of the Haslam’s first phase of development in what is called the NCDC’s Initial Development Area. That area surrounds North Coast Harbor and its approaches, including East 9th, the North Coast Connector, West 3rd Street and the Shoreway boulevard.

On May 22, Cleveland City Council passed an ordinance to support the creation of NCDC and awarded it $3 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to support its initial operations. Mayor Justin Bibb will appoint NCDC’s board of trustees so it can begin raising revenue from a special investment district north of St. Clair Avenue, from West 6th Street east to East 18th Street north to the lake plus some wider coverage along and near the Shoreway, from West 9th to East 22nd streets. NCDC would also be able to obtain government grants and issue bonds serviced by revenues from the special improvement district.

Outlined in red, the site for the first phase of lakefront development is on East 9th Street, between the lakefront railroad tracks and the Shoreway. However the Shoreway must at least be in the process of being relocated as a boulevard with intersections so construction can begin on the first phase, reportedly to include two mostly residential towers (CPC).

But that district is dominated by publicly owned land and buildings that don’t generate property taxes. They do generate income taxes and parking revenues which could be captured by NCDC. But privately owned land and buildings would generate even more revenues for NCDC to help finance the reconstruction of Cleveland Browns Stadium, so that’s why new buildings in NCDC’s district need to be constructed soon.

It is interesting to note that the district goes as far east and south as the corner of East 18th and St. Clair, near where multiple sources said the Haslams wanted to build a new stadium but so far haven’t been able to get support from the Bibb administration. Peter John-Baptiste, senior vice president of communications for the Browns and Haslam Sports Group didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking more information about the Haslams’ development plans.

The only other site downtown where more than one high-rise is apparently being considered for it is the Greyhound station, 1465 Chester Ave. That 2.25-acre property along with 32 other Greyhound stations nationwide were acquired earlier this year by Twenty Lake Holdings of Stamford, CT. The sales totaled $140 million; Cleveland’s station sold for $1.72 million, county records show. A Twenty Lake spokesman told NEOtrans that the site would no longer be used as a Greyhound bus station but declined to identify their long-term plans.

A source told NEOtrans to look to Chicago for what Twenty Lake may have in mind for Cleveland. In Chicago, whose downtown Greyhound station also sold to Twenty Lake, the developer plans to demolish the non-descript station and build two residential high-rises. But in Cleveland, its 75-year-old streamline moderne-designed bus station reportedly will be preserved and incorporated into the development. It is not yet publicly known how the station will be redeveloped or with what uses, however. Greyhound was ready to relocate its Cleveland station to the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s Triskett Red Line rapid transit station on the west side but city and council officials intervened. A county source said talks are continuing.

While there’s three construction cranes over downtown Cleveland now — two for Sherwin-Williams’ new headquarters in the distance and one for the City Club Apartments at foreground-left, more may be coming. According to multiple sources, at least a dozen high-rise buildings may be in the works downtown (KJP).

It is possible that another large downtown site could accommodate two high-rises — a row of eight properties along the west side of West 3rd, from St. Clair north to near Lakeside Avenue. And from all indications, it appears that property owner Weston Group of Warrensville Heights is clearing the decks for a development on this 2.24-acre site, nearly equal in size to that of the Greyhound property. Chicago developer Magellan Development Group expressed interest in developing two high-rises on the site in 2020 but walked away from it.

There are only two structures on those eight properties; the seven-story, 110-year-old Marion Building, 1276 W. 3rd, is the larger. Its only occupant was Karl’s Inn of the Barristers — until Weston refused to renew its lease in January, forcing Karl’s to close. Next door is the three-story, 120-year-old Bertsch Building, 1280 W. 3rd, whose sole tenant is ABC Bail Bonds but was once Wohl’s Hungarian Restaurant.

Just south of it is a 190-space lot owned by Weston on which residents of the Standard Building, also owned by Weston, can park. But that lot, or any guaranteed access to parking spaces, wasn’t included in the sale offering of the Standard Building. Sources say it is unlikely that Weston is leading a development of the West 3rd properties because the company is focusing more on industrial development these days and is one of the reasons why it is selling the Standard Building. Edward Asher, president of Weston Development, did not respond to a LinkedIn personal message seeking more information.

Another potential high-rise in the works is a new courthouse tower to replace the overcrowded, poorly built and costly to renovate Justice Center, 1300 Ontario St. Efforts by the 12-member city-county Justice Center Steering Committee to identify a site for a new Cuyahoga County Courthouse were put on hold two years ago but are about to get under way again. A request for proposals will soon be issued for consultants to evaluate the courthouse and current Justice Center complex.

Presented in no particular order are seven sites in downtown Cleveland that might reasonably accommodate a new, mid-rise courthouse complex without demolishing existing structures. The exception is #5, the Wolstein Center, which may be demolished anyway. The sites are #1 Existing Justice Center site; #2 Bedrock’s riverfront development; #3 Stark Enterprises-owned Warehouse District parking lots; #4 Kassouf-owned The Pit parking lots; #5 State-owned Wolstein Center; #6 City-owned former Central Police Station; #7 City-owned municipal parking lots (Google).

“As a part of that process the county will evaluate maintaining and improving the current Justice Center complex and will also explore possible options in Downtown Cleveland for relocation,” according to a written statement issued in April by county Executive Chris Ronayne.

The steering committee estimated that, over the next 30 years the cost of building and maintaining a new courthouse tower would be less than renovating, expanding and maintaining the 46-year-old courthouse. The committee also projected that a courthouse with at least 877,000 square feet of space would be needed, strongly suggesting that an office building with typical floorplates of about 25,000 to 30,000 square feet would rise about 30-35 stories tall unless it could be spread over a larger footprint, possibly with two shorter towers. Downtown sites will be identified and evaluated by the consultant.

Several additional high-rises are reportedly in the works downtown, as well. They are not described here because, either not enough information is available about them, or identifying their locations could compromise those projects. Each is also very early on in their development process, making them far from guarantees at this point. However, all three are led by reputable, experienced development teams, sources said.


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