New Downtown Lakewood plan, grocery store announced

Downtown Lakewood’s redevelopment of the 6-acre site of a former hospital complex has gone through multiple iterations since Lakewood Hospital closed eight years ago. The latest plan proposes a sequence of construction like what was announced last fall but with a new boutique grocery store tenant that may hopefully make this project move forward. This view is looking southwest with Detroit Avenue and the historic Curtis Block in the foreground, Marlowe Avenue is on the left and Belle Avenue on the right of the site (Dimit). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM.

Ex-Hospital site may see construction by year’s end

Sitting dormant since Lakewood Hospital was closed in 2016 and demolished in 2019, a 6-acre city-owned site in Downtown Lakewood has a fresh strategy and a new tenant to potentially and finally reactivate it. While that strategy and a new tenant, a neighborhood grocery store, was enthusiastically received by City Council members at a committee meeting tonight, it remains to be seen whether it can overcome financing hurdles affecting it and all other projects nationwide.

Downtown Lakewood developers Casto Communities of Columbus and North Pointe Realty of Mayfield Heights announced that they have reached a letter of intent with a “boutique grocery store” chain that will allow them to seek city approvals for a revised development plan for the site. Tonight, only conceptual renderings showing the scale and uses within the site were presented. More detailed drawings will be developed through public input, they said.

Those conceptual plans offer a slight increase from prior plans in the number of housing units, from about 310 units to 329, with apartments for rent on five floors above the grocery store fronting Detroit Avenue. In the middle would be a parking garage off Belle Avenue providing most of the development’s 607 parking spaces plus a four-story apartment building along Marlowe Avenue. At the south end of the site, for-sale homes and a public pocket park are planned.

The developers told City Council members that, with timely city reviews and approvals, they believe they can get shovels in the ground on this revised plan by the end of this year or early next year. However the store remains unnamed pending the signing of a lease agreement which the developers said was still about 30-60 days away.

Revised site plan for the Downtown Lakewood development with north at the top. NEOtrans will seek a higher-resolution version of the images shared in this article. Check back for updates (Dimit).

Lakewood’s Director of Planning & Development Shawn Leininger described the tenant for council members and the public present at tonight’s meeting. He said that the tenant has requested that it not be identified until the lease agreement is finalized.

“Along the way we were re-engaged with a potential tenant that had expressed interest previously but couldn’t be accommodated because of the office user (Roundstone Insurance, which left the development and is leaving Lakewood for Rocky River),” Leininger said. “We started getting really excited about this tenant, a grocer that tends to locate in mixed-use neighborhood markets.”

He further described the tenant with proposed hours of business every day from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Its stores typically occupy a 30,000- to 40,000-square-foot footprint. At Lakewood, its store would be at the upper end of that range. That’s half as big as many suburban grocery stores and far smaller than superstores which max out at 200,000 square feet, he pointed out.

“It’s a boutique grocer,” Leininger continued. “They’re a neighborhood market offering fresh meat, fresh produce, a bakery. They’re renowned for carrying locally sourced items from Ohio and nearby. They offer education and community events and a café with local products, sandwiches, coffee, beer and wine. We (Mayor Meghan George’s administration) are really excited about what this means. It fulfills a market need, a retail need. This helps complement our independent downtown businesses.”

Views of the Downtown Lakewood development’s revised Detroit Avenue plaza concept. The ground-floor use facing Detroit here is the proposed boutique grocery store and a five-story apartment building above it. The roof of the store is proposed as an amenity deck for residents of the new development (Dimit).

The developers first advanced a new development strategy in September 2023 in which the $100-plus-million-dollar Downtown Lakewood development would be pursued in several phases. Each of those phases would carry construction costs of about $30 million to respect realities in the national debt and equity markets which have been constrained since the COVID pandemic, said CASTO President Brent Sobczak.

“It’s been quite a bit effort,” Sobczak said. “They (the grocer’s representatives) have been involved in this (effort) and provided good feedback to us. The new user (grocer) gave us direction on what they needed, which is a desired amount of parking, a new (concrete) podium, a foundation for a U-shaped (apartment) building above.”

On the roof of that grocery store would be a residential amenity deck for all residents in the development, not just those living in the apartments proposed to face Detroit, Sobczak said. He also noted that the parking garage would be a half-level higher than the 3.5-level structure that was previously proposed and, while the public plaza facing Detroit would be a little smaller, it would be compensated for by making the greenspace bigger at the south end by providing the pocket park.

“We’re having the density up on Detroit and scaling back as we go from north to south,” he added.

While other graphics shown here are revised from earlier plans, this one is new. It shows a new-concept pocket park at the south end of the development site, off a previous-planned alley linking Belle and Marlowe avenues, and separating the proposed parking garage from the planned garden apartments and for-sale townhomes (Dimit).

“We’re now gaining a ground-floor public space (with the grocery store) whereas before it was a closed off in a commercial building (with Roundstone Insurance),” said Ward 1 Councilman Kyle Baker.

The grocer would likely be the only retailer in the revised development plan, pending further refinement of planning for the historic, city-owned Curtis Block at the corner of Detroit and Marlowe. In this plan, the Curtis Block is proposed to be renovated as a lobby for the apartment building above the grocery store. But it could be partially or wholly redesigned to accommodate a retail use.

Ward 3 Councilwoman Cindy Strebig expressed her concerns about truck traffic and delivery schedules to the grocery store. She requested more information from the developer. “We don’t want to hear the beep-beep-beep of a truck backing up at 3 in the morning.”

“We get a downtown use that’s open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week,” said Leininger. “We’re getting that activation, fresh quality food, reorients the plaza a little bit, offers new greenspace at the southern end of site to support the residential, and we are still accomplishing all of those development objectives that were laid out many years ago.”


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