Hawthorne School conversion starts Monday

A rebirth of Hawthorne Elementary School starts Nov. 13 as construction workers will descend upon the site on that date following the closing this past week of financing to convert the 106-year-old building into apartments (Bialosky). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM.

Experienced SCA graduates to school renovations

While classes aren’t starting on Monday morning at Hawthorne Elementary School, 3575 W. 130th St., in Cleveland Jefferson neighborhood, that is when Sustainable Community Associates (SCA) is going to school. The Cleveland-based real estate development firm has repurposed many an old Cleveland building into apartments, some with shops or restaurants. But this is SCA’s first lesson in converting a school to apartments.

Financing closed this week for the $14.9 million historic renovation of the former Nathaniel Hawthorne School Elementary School into 37 reasonably priced market-rate one- to four-bedroom apartments. The capital stack included 10 sources of financing for the project including a $5.5 million loan from the Cleveland Development Advisors (CDA) and $2 million in Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credits.

“CDA has been with us through some incredibly complicated projects that would not have happened without their creativity and commitment to getting transformative projects over the finish line. Hawthorne was no exception,” said SCA Principal Josh Rosen. He told NEOtrans that he expects construction work on the school to take about 12-14 months to complete.

“This mixed-income project will be catalytic in that it will be adding high-quality, reasonably priced apartments to the neighborhood to diversify the area’s housing mix and build market confidence,’’ added CDA President and CEO Yvette Ittu in a written statement.

Hawthorne School Apartments is just off the Lorain Avenue corridor, home to many great restaurants and shops, especially in the heart of Cleveland’s Little Arabia, and just one block away from Jefferson Park (Google).

Rosen said the proximity of Jefferson Park, shops and great restaurants in a strong, immigrant community called Little Arabia makes this an attractive site for more housing. In fact, his original plan called for building another 57 homes on the 2.5-acre school site, costing about $10 million more. Those remain in Rosen’s plans. The greenspace on the site will be preserved for use by Hawthorne residents and others living nearby. Residents attended an open house at the school this morning and expressed their excitement for the project.

“We are equally as excited to hopefully become part of the fabric of the neighborhood,” Rosen noted. “We see this project as a perfect example of what an investment in a Cleveland middle neighborhood could look like.”

He told NEOtrans that many of the school’s features will be retained that identify it as a former school, including the chalkboards as was done at North Collinwood’s Longfellow School Apartments which opened in late last month. But the Longfellow School Apartments is a senior housing complex with a significant new-build component while the Hawthorne School Apartments will have a wider market.

Jefferson is considered a “middle neighborhood” in Cleveland, between the higher-income neighborhoods like Downtown and Ohio City and its lower-income neighborhoods, especially on the East Side. With a range of pricing and unit sizes, the Hawthorne School Apartments are expected to draw residents from a variety of walks of life. That’s why the Jefferson-Puritas West Park Community Development Corp. is supporting the project.

Hawthorne Elementary School as seen in August 2019 from West 130th Street. The school had already been closed for more than six years by that time and left vacant since (Google).

“This will help the neighborhood stabilize and grow by providing a different type of housing in the community and increasing the number of people living in the neighborhood,” said Bryan Gillooly, executive director at the CDC. “The project addresses our middle neighborhood plan by spurring investment in the Lorain Avenue commercial corridor.”

SCA has its offices in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland. Over the years, it built numerous high-profile apartment communities in the city either by renovating existing buildings or constructing new ones from scratch. In total, those projects have exceeded $100 million in investments in existing neighborhoods. Historic renovations include Fairmount Creamery, Mueller Lofts and Wagner Awning to name a few. SCA is in the midst of pursuing its largest project yet — a $144 million redevelopment of the Park Synagogue in Cleveland Heights.

In late 2021, a redevelopment proposal submitted by SCA to acquired Hawthorne School for $45,000 was approved by the city and the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD). It was one of 10 surplus school properties to be awarded to private developers in that offering, but was the only West Side school offered. The schools were considered surplus due to declining enrollment. Hawthorne School was built in 1917, with additions in 1920 and 1927. It was closed in 2013.


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