Flats East Bank sets the stage for more

A new $500,000 live performance stage was unveiled today at the Flats East Bank in Downtown Cleveland. Construction had advanced on the stage by November 2023 to be able to see its final form. The bandstand-style stage includes metal framing that can add a performer’s lighting as well as electrical outlets for lighting, amplifiers and other equipment and instruments (Ethan Molinar). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM.

More may be in store for Flats East Bank

With construction now complete, Downtown Cleveland, Inc. and Flats East Bank today unveiled a new performance stage on the Flats East Bank boardwalk, adjacent to the Cuyahoga River and The Flats at East Bank Apartments. But that could set the stage for more to come on the Flats East Bank.

The stage was designed by Hengst, Streff, and Bajko (HSB) Architects which is based in Cleveland, a short distance away on Old River Road. A plug-and-play platform with embedded theatrical lighting and power, the stage will provide the Flats East Bank the ability to bring an expanded portfolio of performers and events to the site starting later this year.

The stage is located at a half-round plaza between the Flats East Bank Apartments and the river. This new addition was made possible through a $500,000 capital grant from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission and financial support from Destination Cleveland as well as the Flats East Bank.

Downtown Cleveland, Inc. acted as the fiscal agent for the project and oversaw the construction of the new stage. The project was conceived by the late Scott Wolstein, a principal developer of the Flats East Bank complex. Wolstein died in 2022 at the age of 69. The Flats East Bank development itself was originally conceived by him and his parents Bart and Iris Wolstein.

Locations of the two proposed new stages on Flats East Bank. The completed stage is the one at right (HSB).

“My late husband Bart would be so proud of the continued evolution of his vision for the Flats East Bank,” said Iris Wolstein, principal of the Wolstein Group said in a written statement. “We thank Downtown Cleveland, Inc. for their assistance in bringing this wonderful stage and also the state-of-the-art video boards earlier this year. These additions will enhance the Flats for many years to come. This project has truly been a labor of love for Bart, myself, and our late son, Scott.”

“We are grateful to the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission for their support throughout the entire project, as well as the support of members of the Ohio Legislature, especially Senator Nickie Antonio, Representative Terrence Upchurch, and Senate Finance Committee Chair Matt Dolan for their assistance in securing a state capital bill allocation for this project,” said Downtown Cleveland, Inc. President and CEO Michael Deemer.

He also credited and thanked Destination Cleveland, which is the region’s convention and tourism bureau, and the Flats East Bank for their support. The performance stage will be formally dedicated in the spring of 2024 at the onset of the Flats East Bank event season.

“The project would not have been possible without everyone’s collaboration,” Deemer said. “This stage affords us the opportunity to attract more visitors to enjoy Downtown Cleveland and patronize its businesses.”

Interestingly, design of the first stage as presented to the City Planning Commission in January 2021 is noticeably different than what was ultimately built (HSB).

A second stage was proposed farther north up the boardwalk but it was decided to just do the performance stage, which was the priority, said Chanté Jones, vice president of Falls & Co., a public relations firm for Downtown Cleveland Inc.

“The increased construction costs and the limited project budget did not allow for both,” Jones said. “The second stage was much smaller and actually more of a covered outdoor beer garden.”

The second stage was planned  in middle of the most recently constructed buildings at Flats East Bank. There is a performing platform there now at the end of an alley and beer garden with picnic tables. Planned was a shelter with steel-tube framing with inset lighting and canvas in between the tubes. The framing was to match the shape and pitch of planned new sunshades above the alley, said HSB Principal Ben Gingrich at a January 2021 City Planning Commission presentation.

The larger stage that was unveiled today is intended to replace temporary stages and bandstands that were brought in prior to each live performance and then dismantled and removed afterwards. The new stage is built with curved metal tubes between which a waterproofed fabric is stretched between them. The curved beams allow for stage lighting to be mounted on them and will have internal lighting that will be lit, possibly year round.

The second stage planned at Flats East Bank is smaller and, at least as it was presented to City Planning Commission in January 2021, has a shelter that is quite a bit more angular. This stage is proposed farther north along the boardwalk than the one unveiled today (HSB).

The next phase of development of the Flats East Bank — Kenect Cleveland, most recently planned as a seven-story mixed-use development — is an effort led by Chicago-based Akara Partners. That partnership included Wolstein and when he died, the project was delayed into the current financial environment of high interest rates and low capital liquidity.

But that doesn’t mean the project has faded away, according to real estate insiders who spoke on the condition of anonymity. They say the project is active but may be slightly different than the $84 million development NEOtrans reported about in September 2021.

That version offered 229 market-rate apartments, 229 parking spaces, 10,000 square feet of ground-floor retail, 10,500 square feet of co-working space. plus an outdoor pool and an indoor wet bar/lounge on the third floor. Indoor amenities included a fitness, lounge and gaming room. Details of Kenect Cleveland may be announced later this year, depending on market conditions.


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