Rezoning recommended for Ohio City project

Facing Lorain Avenue could be a 45 West, a new development by My Place Group, if Cleveland City Council approved a rezoning recommended by City Planning Commission. Among other features, the project includes a new five-story apartment building and a 159-year-old house on Lorain renovated as a proposed retail space (Vocon). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM.

Project advances despite objections of some neighbors

In February 2023, the first of many public meetings were held for a medium-sized development called 45 West proposed by Cleveland-based My Place Group on Lorain Avenue at West 45th Street in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood. More than a year later, a rezoning request was recommended by the City Planning Commission to City Council to allow the project to move forward.

But any construction is still months away in this popular neighborhood with sharply rising rents and a shortage of available housing. Only a handful of apartments can be found in Ohio City with rents below $2 per square foot. Most others are in the $2-$3 per square foot range. For-sale housing can be even more expensive. Today, Zillow shows the cheapest offering is a two-bedroom apartment-style condo listed at $275,000. Most other homes are double that, and go up to $1.2 million.

Seeking to make a dent in that is My Place Group President Chad Kertesz who is planning 45 West. Proposed are 87 apartments in three buildings totaling more than 80,000 square feet on 0.81 acres of land. A five-story apartment building is proposed to front Lorain and include a lobby that opens up to that main street.

Next to it is a tiny, two-story, building dating from 1865 that was part of the Nunn Family Funeral Home. It will be repurposed with a 400-square-foot ground-floor retail space. Most of the land to be developed is vacant. A used car lot at the northeast corner of Lorain and West 45th and a gas station-convenience store at the northwest corner of Lorain and West 44th would remain.

An aerial rendering of the proposed 45 West development showing the three planning buildings — a central, 59-unit apartment building surrounded by a 20-unit building to the west and an eight-unit building to the east (Vocon).

City Council will decide whether to affirm a project-specific rezoning request for 45 West, recommended by the City Planning Commission’s Design Review Committee in a 4-2 vote cast on April 5. Chief City Planner Shannan Leonard said that, unlike a general rezoning or a strategic rezoning to address a larger area, a project-specific rezoning is tied to a city-approved development plan for that project. So its land use cannot be changed without another rezoning.

A detailed project plan approved by the Landmarks Commission in November 2023 will be tied into a zoning ordinance submitted to City Council. Thus no hotel or other use can be provided here. As for units being sub-leased to Airbnb customers, Mayor Justin Bibb’s administration is developing legislation to regulate that here and elsewhere, Leonard said.

As proposed, the rezoning would expand the coverage of a local retail zoning classification and a 60-foot height district along Lorain to cover the 45 West development parcels acquired by My Place Group. Currently, most of the parcels not fronting on Lorain are zoned for two-family residential with a maximum height of 35 feet.

If the Planning Commission had rejected the rezoning and sought a change to the design of 45 West, the matter would have to go back to the Landmarks Commission for it to consider that design change, Leonard explained to commission members last week.

Properties owned by My Place Group, proposed to be combined into a single parcel shown in pink, would be rezoned with the same Local Retail/60-foot-high zoning as the rest of all the parcels fronting Lorain Avenue (CPC).

Leonard also noted that My Place Group plans to combine its properties into a single parcel which, if no rezoning took place, would result in split-zoning of a single property which the city works to avoid. In addition, she said Planning Commission staff supports the rezoning to promote a diversity of housing in alignment with the city’s Connecting Cleveland 2020 plan and to support transit-oriented development which is a goal of the city.

“The neighborhood as a whole is a mixed-use neighborhood,” Kertesz said. “How our building interacts with the two-family zoning code is consistent with everything else. How we treated the 44th side and the 45th side is very much in line with the residential neighborhood. The building that comes off of Lorain, the larger one, frankly barely protrudes into the two-family (area). If you looked at a site map, you’d see the McCafferty (Health) Center goes much deeper.”

The city has done other expanded areas of denser zoning into lower-density neighborhoods to accommodate redevelopment efforts, including for another one of My Place Group’s planned developments — 50 West, on Lorain between West 50th and West 52nd streets.

“It is a tough site, but it’s not uncommon as it relates to infill development,” Leonard said of 45 West. “Obviously Lorain has had a lot of investment and development in the last six to seven years and so there’s not as much vacancy abutting Lorain Avenue as there was maybe three or four years ago.”

View of the proposed 45 West mixed-use development at the northeast corner of Lorain Avenue and West 45th Street, behind an existing used car lot which persist along much of Lorain (Vocon).

Nearby residents opposed the rezoning because it pushes a proposed five-story building farther into a neighborhood of single-family homes and duplexes. They wanted the five-story building to step down toward the neighborhood to the north as it does on the south so that only a four-story wall fronts Lorain.

At the request of Landmarks Commission, the proposed design was reduced in scale from a single, boxy, five-story building covering the entire site to the three-building design with two townhouse-style buildings it ultimately approved.

“What we’ve designed here and put in tons of community feedback — there’s always a balance of finding what’s practical and feasible versus what everyone wants to see,” Kertesz said.

A one-way eastbound alley linking West 45th and West 44th will act as a buffer between the development and the neighborhood to the north, said Leonard. Kertesz added that the new alley was also intended to mimic the historic alleyway system in Ohio City so that garage entrances don’t open up onto thoroughfares or neighborhood streets.

Rendering of the proposed 45 West development at the northwest corner of Lorain and West 44th Street, behind a gas station-convenience store which may become less useful to motorists as Lorain is rebuilt as a cycle track and bus rapid transit corridor (Vocon).

Indeed, in this case, the 30-space parking garage on the ground floor of the main building and the individual garages for each of the townhomes will be accessed from the new alley. Dozens of bike racks will be included, with one at each parking space in all three buildings as well as a 10-bike rack inside the garage next to the lobby and outside the lobby on Lorain.

Starting next year, the Lorain Avenue Cycle Track is planned to be constructed from West 25th Street to West 65th Street. It will offer protected, landscaped bike lanes. A bus rapid transit route also is planned out to North Olmsted. Together, both would make Lorain less of a car-dominated thoroughfare.

NEOtrans reached out to Ward 3 Councilman Kerry McCormack for his stance on the proposed rezoning but has yet to hear back from him.

Julia Mettler-Grove, panning and development associate at Ohio City Inc., read a letter from Interim Director Chris Schmitt that was previously written as input to the Landmarks Commission in 2023. It summarized the public involvement efforts on 45 West but took no pro or con stance on the project. “This (input) isn’t necessarily a positive or a negative,” she said.

A new alley is proposed to be built behind 45 West not only to provide one-way vehicular access to the new development but also to separate it from the neighborhood to the north or right side of this rendering (Vocon).

“Sometimes being neutral is an answer,” Design Review Committee Vice Chair August Fluker responded. “Unfortunately, I wish you (Ohio City Inc.) had the fortitude and just the decency to have an opinion.”

Commission member Ward 17 Councilman Charles Slife questioned what some residents in booming areas of Cleveland, like Ohio City, actually want from from developers, especially developers who are seeking to invest in a major city’s urban community in accordance with all existing laws and regulations.

“There’s been so many instances of projects on the near-West Side where it (a project application) was in compliance with zoning, neighbors were opposed to development,” Slife said. “I’m trying to … understand, when there are concerns, what is acceptable to the neighborhood?”


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