Ohio City megaproject nearly ready for roll-out

The question of how might the largest undeveloped site, its parcels outlined in various colors, in Cleveland’s booming Ohio City neighborhood be developed could be answered starting in April. That’s when a development masterplan may be presented to the community by Ohio City Inc. and others. The site is the Lutheran Hospital parking lots, across West 25th Street from preparatory works for the new Irishtown Bend Park (Google). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM.

Kan Zaman restaurant site to be left out

As early as next month, plans may go public for a significant mixed-use development on the largest undeveloped site in Cleveland’s booming Ohio City neighborhood. Sources familiar with the project said the release of plans for the development, first confirmed by NEOtrans in October 2023, was delayed as the development team attempted to include a well-known property but will instead move forward without it.

The development, called Lutheran Lofts, is proposed by a partnership called I.B. Development LLC, comprised of My Place Group of Cleveland and Weston Group of Warrensville Heights. It is planned to rise on a 5.4-acre site that is dominated by a 4.8-acre, 530-space surface parking lot for employees, patients and visitors of neighboring Lutheran Hospital.

My Place is a very active residential and mixed-use developer in Ohio City. Weston has been active in residential development but now is focusing more on industrial and warehouse projects. Both firms have remained busy despite high interest rates combined with elevated construction costs and material supply constraints.

Prior to going before the City Planning Commission’s Design Review Committee, the development partnership, Ohio City Inc., and affected property owners reportedly intend to hold public meetings where they will unveil a preliminary, conceptual development masterplan for the site. The masterplan will then be refined based on that input, according to two sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

This parcel map shows the locations of smaller properties and who owns them, around the most important property — the 4.8-acre Lutheran Hospital parking lot on West 25th Street. The hospital itself and the Cinecraft Building are immediately south of the Lutheran lots, across Franklin Boulevard (MyPlace.CuyahogaCounty.gov).

The sources said the development masterplan was commissioned last spring by Ohio City Inc. (OCI) from Sasaki Associates Inc. of Boston. OCI’s Interim Executive Director Chris Schmitt had no comment on the masterplan or the timing of its public release.

Also not commenting yet is My Place Group President Chad Kertesz who opened an e-mail from NEOtrans seeking comment but otherwise didn’t respond. Kurt Updegraff, director of development at Weston, referred questions about the Lutheran Lofts development to Kertesz.

The development masterplan was to be unveiled this past winter but delayed while a notable property was sought. NEOtrans has learned from the sources that the development team has so far been unable to acquire a nearly half-acre property leased by Kan Zaman Middle Eastern restaurant, 1616 W. 25th St., from Ojala Properties LLC.

Ojala Properties is owned by Maria Keckan, state records show. Keckan is past president of Cinecraft Productions, 2515 Franklin Blvd., located across that street from Kan Zaman. Sources reported a dollar amount Keckan requested for those properties but Keckan said the amount was not correct. The correct amount was not identified.

This east-looking view at the entrance to the Lutheran lots from West 28th Street shows the skyscrapers of downtown Cleveland in the distance. A residential development built here will offer great views of downtown and the Cuyahoga River valley (Google).

“Our discussions with all developers have been for two properties, not just the one,” Keckan said. “This is because we also depend on the same lot for parking for the building at 2515 Franklin Blvd. So the amount in question was for the two significant properties, and much more than a half acre.”

Kan Zaman’s owner Wael Ayyad confirmed he is adding a second restaurant called Kan Zaman East at 2241 St. Clair Ave. where he investing more than $165,000 to buy and renovate an existing 3,187-square-foot building. The most recent city building permit for the renovation was requested just last week — for sewer work, building department records show. He said Kan Zaman East is an expansion, not a relocation.

One of the sources described Keckan’s negotiations with the Lutheran Lofts development team’s negotiations for the restaurant land as “hardball.” The historic Cinecraft Building is adjacent to Lutheran Hospital. Both sources said the development team believes the development is feasible without the Kan Zaman property included.

Kertesz has worked one of his pending Ohio City developments around other properties whose owners didn’t want to sell, or at least sell for a workable price. My Place’s 45 West on Lorain Avenue at West 44th Street is planned to be built around a Sunoco gas station/convenience store and a used car lot that Kertesz did not obtain.

It remains to be seen if Lutheran Lofts will bear any resemblance to this aspirational transit-oriented development at a proposed Franklin Station on the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s future MetroHealth Line Bus Rapid Transit route. This view looks north along West 25th Street at Franklin Boulevard (GCRTA).

NEOtrans has also learned that the Lutheran Lofts development is conceptually proposed with low- and mid-rise, mostly residential structures with hundreds of apartments around the perimeter of an interior parking area. Sources said the density is necessary to offset the cost of constructing structured parking in order to preserve 500-plus parking spaces for Lutheran Hospital.

The height district for most of the site allows buildings to be constructed as tall as 115 feet, or about 11 stories, with a strip of 60-foot maximum height along and to within about 100 feet north of Franklin, according to the Planning Commission’s online zoning viewer.

Ground-level retail will likely be included in buildings constructed along West 25th Street to comply with the site’s pedestrian-retail zoning overlay along that major thoroughfare and to take advantage of the planned Irishtown Bend Park across West 25th.

Progress on the $45 million, 25-acre park by the Cleveland Metroparks atop a hillside now being stabilized for $60 million by the Cleveland Cuyahoga County Port Authority is, in part, what is making the Lutheran Lofts project move forward. So is a greater willingness by Lutheran Hospital’s owner, the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, to support community redevelopment efforts near their facilities.

Transit oriented development design concepts, showing massings only to demonstrate potential uses and scale of conceptual buildings, were part of the MetroHealth Line Bus Rapid Transit’s planning work. The transit authority is requesting federal funding for the proposed transit corridor enhancement. It remains to be seen if Lutheran Lofts’ masterplan will take cues from this planning work (GCRTA).

“We continually seek opportunities to support the strength and growth of the communities we serve,” said Angela Smith, director of corporate communications at Cleveland Clinic, to NEOtrans last fall. She had nothing to add to that statement at this time. “Early discussions are underway to explore potential development near Lutheran Hospital. We do not have additional information to share at this time.”

The I.B. Development partnership acquired two parcels, at 1532 and 1556 W. 25th St., in 2017 at the fringe of the site in anticipation of being a part of a larger development someday. A tiny parcel on Franklin Circle owned by a Cleveland Clinic financial analyst, Michael Flickinger, may also become part of the development.

Flickinger, a former Cudell Improvement Inc. Board of Trustees member and treasurer, could not be located for comment. Smith said many Clinic employees are out of the office for the Easter weekend and/or spring break and are unable to be reached.


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