George plans new Flats redevelopment

An aerial view from above the Cuyahoga River looking at the Flats East Bank redevelopment of three Old River Road properties sought by Bobby George’s Ethos Hospitality Group (Bowen). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM.

Cuyahoga riverfront complex features dockside patio

Scheduled to appear before the City Planning Commission’s Design Review Committee this Friday is a proposed redevelopment of several Flats East Bank properties. It’s the latest effort by restauranteur Bobby George and his Cleveland-based firm Ethos Hospitality Group to remake these riverside buildings into a restaurant and entertainment complex. This time it would include a new building, a dockside “river garden” and rehabilitated historic structure.

The three buildings targeted for this redevelopment are 1198, 1204 and 1220 Old River Rd. Only one will not be completely demolished — the Italianate-designed 1220 Old River which was built in 1870 for chandler Hausheer & Son, founded in 1854. It recently held the Roc Bar but will now feature new uses, starting with a 3,860-square-foot, 85-seat ground-floor restaurant.

The second floor will have offices and storage with a second restaurant on the third floor measuring 1,627 square feet and having 76 seats. In its presentation it will give to the planning commission, architect Richard L. Bowen & Associates of Cleveland shows a first-floor opening into the north wall of 1220 Old River for access to a building addition.

Shown here are proposed ground-floor uses, both indoor and outdoor, including landscaping among the three basic operating areas of Ethos Hospitality Group’s planned Flats East Bank redevelopment. North is at the left side of the image and the Cuyahoga River is at the bottom (Bowen).

That addition has a kitchen expanded from inside 1220 Old River, plus a cooler and three outdoor kiosks that extend into and face the river garden outdoor patio area. From the three kiosks, a rendering shows placeholder signage for Chinese food, seafood and sushi offerings but those may ultimately be different in reality and change based on market needs.

The addition will be built where a larger, single-level, 7,000-square-foot restaurant now stands. Built in 1929 and expanded in 1988, according to Cuyahoga County records, the building had many restaurant/bar names and concepts over the years. They included the Exquisite Hookah Lounge Bar & Grill, Scripts Nite Club, KAOS nightclub, among others. Another was Lucic’s, named after hookahmaster Velimir Lucic who died two weeks ago.

This building will be demolished, replaced by a new, decorative brick façade along Old River’s sidewalk. Behind that façade will be the centerpiece of George’s redevelopment — the river garden outdoor dining area. As proposed, it will extend behind the neighboring buildings and measure approximately 11,528 square feet, offering about 395 seats.

This west-looking view from the north end of the proposed development shows the new two-story building below the Shoreway’s Main Avenue Bridge at extreme right. To the left is the entry to the river garden and 1220 Old River Road is far left (Bowen).

The river garden setting will extend to a restored, private boardwalk and dockside dining area, including parking for boats. In total, the river garden is proposed to have three bars, a dessert truck, live performance stage, bathrooms accessible from the outside, fire pits, lounge furniture, several trees, plantings and the three food kiosks as noted before.

To be partially demolished will be 1198 Old River, almost directly below the Shoreway’s Main Avenue high-level bridge. Built in 1910 and renovated in 1988, it famously held the River’s Edge bar for 19 years. Long the home of classic rock bands, deli foods and draft beers, it closed in 2004 due to a decline in the Flats’ fortunes from its peak as an entertainment district in the 1980s and 90s.

The River’s Edge’s closure came several years before the start of construction of the $750 million, multi-phase Flats East Bank redevelopment by the Wolstein Group and Fairmount Properties. Technically, that redevelopment is still continuing with the possibility of an additional phase that was delayed by the death of Scott Wolstein and reduced lending for major projects.

Pedestrian entry through a new decorative brick façade to the proposed river garden from Old River Road during a warm summer evening (Bowen).

Replacing the second floor of the former River’s Edge building will be a modern, angular-looking restaurant structure, as proposed. The nearly 7,000-square-foot building is planned to have two stories and high ceilings with a 5,584-square-foot, 141-seat restaurant on the first floor and a 1,347-square-foot, 46-seat indoor restaurant on the second floor. On the roof of the first level, an outdoor dining area and double bar measuring 2,823 square feet is planned.

An e-mail seeking more information about the Flats project was sent by NEOtrans to Ethos Hospitality’s offices. It was opened but not responded to prior to publication of this article. Ethos owns and/or operates multiple restaurants and event spaces including Barley House, Green Coat Cafe Bar, Lost Social Club, Rebol, Harry Buffalo, Lyv wellness space, Mandrake, Red Space events and Townhall, according to its Web site.

The three-parcel site on Old River was acquired by three separate Ethos affiliates on Aug. 31, 2023 from GBX Group affiliate Flats River Road Properties LLC by quit-claim deed. George was recently in a partnership with GBX to redevelop these parcels and the former Samsel Supply Co. properties across Old River but is pursuing this development on his own. The affiliates’ names include “OZ” in them, suggesting they will be financed in part by federal Opportunity Zone equity, as others have.

Looking at the south wall of the new building in this twilight setting shows a spiderweb of latticework and climbing vegetation on an otherwise blank wall that faces the river garden. In the floor of the garden patio is embedded lighting rather than having overhead illumination. A dessert truck is faintly seen in the background (Bowen).

Separately, the Samsel properties at 1235 and 1285 Old River are proposed to be developed by RHM Real Estate Group along with GBX Group. This portion was recently the first phase of a $41 million redevelopment of the five-story Samsel Supply Co. and adjacent Samsel structures into apartments and ground-floor retail.

Several other properties at 1294-1310, 1316 and 1322 Old River are not part of this development. Details about the latest plan aren’t publicly available. NEOtrans reached out to RHM representatives for more information and is awaiting a reply. RHM of Lyndhurst develops and owns multi-family and mixed-use properties.

RHM, the Krueger Group, Passov Group and others are also planning in Solon to build apartments, a hotel, retail, food hall and public plaza on the former Liberty Ford car dealership on Aurora Road. GBX of Cleveland primarily finances historic rehabilitation projects. Dimit Architects of Lakewood is the designer of the Samsel redevelopment.

Ethos Hospitality Group’s proposed development site begins from the far-left utility pole to the pole on the far right. The portion of Italianate-designed building at left will be renovated and its first-floor windows opened up again. To its right, both buildings will be replaced with new dining venues (Bowen).

Ethos’ owner George was in the news recently for his controversial battle with the city, Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority, Cleveland Metroparks and others for a property next to the planned Irishtown Bend Park. As plans for the 23-acre park were being announced, George acquired the property in 2018 at West 25th Street and the Detroit-Superior Bridge for $248,000.

That tiny piece of land contained a small, decaying, graffiti-covered building topped by a large billboard which apparently generated for George a lot of money. He then reportedly demanded millions from taxpayer-funded agencies for the land, and ultimately was paid $1.25 million, records show. He also won the right of first refusal to construct a new restaurant where his blighted building now stands.


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