A ‘skinny-tall’ may rise in University Circle

Behind the historic Monmouth Building, seen here at center along Euclid Avenue and East 116th Street in University Circle, a skinny but taller apartment building may rise. WXZ Development of Fairview Park is planning to invest nearly $15 million in the project (Google). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM.

Monmouth Building on Euclid to be renovated

A local company with much development experience intends to deliver 52 apartments and multiple retail spaces among two buildings — an historic structure and a new building up to nine stories high at 11619 Euclid Ave. in Cleveland’s University Circle. WXZ Development Inc. of Fairview Park intends to build the new mixed-use structure on a tiny parking lot behind a renovated, landmark Monmouth Building.

Weber Engineering Services of Rootstown, OH in Portage County submitted plans to Cleveland’s Building Department for approximately $200,000 worth of site development and sewer work for WXZ’s project. WXZ is pursuing under the name of an affiliate 11619 Euclid Monmouth LLC. While plans for the two buildings have yet to be submitted to the city, last week’s filing with the Building Department and prior public financing awards provide more insight into the project.

In Weber’s filing with the city, the new building shows a footprint of only 4,320 square feet while the neighboring Monmouth Building has an even smaller footprint of 3,500 square feet with about 14,000 square feet among four floors. In a renovated Monmouth, WXZ plans 12 apartments on three floors above ground-floor retail/commercial spaces.

Constructed in 1914-15 of steel and concrete, then faced with pressed brick, stone and terra cotta, the Monmouth’s apartments and retail spaces have been vacant since 2019. In December 2022, WXZ’s affiliate was awarded $1,391,788 from the Ohio Department of Development’s Brownfield Remediation Program for cleanup/remediation of the historic building. No building permits have yet been sought for such work.

This site plan for The Monmouth shows the proposed 4,320-square-foot footprint for a newly constructed building with 40 apartments over ground-floor commercial space at left, or north in this view. Euclid Avenue is at right and East 116th Street is along the bottom. At the corner of Euclid and East 116th is the Monmouth Building that will be renovated with 12 apartments over several retail spaces (Weber).

Unless WXZ has scaled back its plans since it won $1,457,710 in state historic tax credits in June 2023, the developer plans 40 apartments over ground-floor commercial space in the new building. The scale of the project was described in the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program (OHPTC) application as having a total project cost of $14,770,521.

Matthew Wymer, a principal at WXZ Development, opened an e-mail from NEOtrans seeking more information about the project but otherwise didn’t respond to it prior to publication of this article. WXZ has developed multiple projects in the University Circle area, Cleveland Heights and elsewhere.

“Constructed in 1915 as a commercial apartment block, the Monmouth Building is located in Cleveland’s University Circle,” OHPTC staff wrote last year. “Now vacant, the building will be rehabilitated by WXZ Development, Inc. to house three commercial spaces on the first floor with 12 apartments on the upper floors and contribute to retail, restaurant and housing options in the growing neighborhood. A new, mixed-use building will be constructed on an adjacent parcel.”

Recent residential-heavy historic renovation projects have cost up to $200 per square foot. At that price, a renovation of the Monmouth Building could cost about $2.8 million. New multi-family construction typically costs $300-$350 per foot in secondary markets like Cleveland. At that rate, the remaining cost of the project, $12 million, could deliver a building of 32,286 to 40,000 square feet.

Looking generally southeastward along East 116th Street toward Euclid Avenue, the back of the Monmouth Building is barely visible behind the tree. A nine-space parking lot protected by a gate is where WXZ Development Inc. plans to build a mixed-use structure with 40 apartments over ground-floor commercial space (Google).

Based on that information, the footprint of the new building and the average apartment size of 875 square feet including common areas in the Monmouth Building, the new building appears as if it will be about eight or nine stories tall. The new building could be significantly smaller if many studios or micro-units are pursued, but the estimated project cost doesn’t indicate that. It also appears that no new off-street parking is proposed; a Transportation Demand Management strategy may be pursued.

To build a structure of that height, which might equate to an 80- to 95-foot-tall structure, the city’s zoning map has to be changed by City Council, or a variance to it has to be granted by the Board of Zoning Appeals. A little of both may be sought. The zoning for that location is multifamily, allows buildings with a maximum gross floor area that’s one-and-a-half times the size of the lot, and permits a structure to be built only 60 feet high.

The Monmouth Building is within a strip of zoning along Euclid that allows for general retail business or less (like multifamily), a maximum gross floor area that’s half the size of the lot, and buildings up to 115 feet or about 11 stories high. The street frontage also has an active setback use overlay which requires ground-floor uses that generate customer or visitor traffic such as retail, restaurants, personal services, offices, residential uses and building lobbies.

WXZ’s affiliate 11619 Euclid Monmouth bought the Monmouth property in 2016, county records show. Behind it, the affiliate in June 2023 acquired a 0.09-acre portion of a parcel belonging to Case Western Reserve University and combined it with the Monmouth Building parcel. That expanded the lot to just over 0.243 acres or 10,598 square feet, according to public records. Dollar amounts for the property acquisitions were not publicly listed.

Zoning map for the area of the property owned by 11619 Euclid Monmouth LLC, an affiliate of WXZ Development Inc., outlined in blue. WXZ plans to develop 52 apartments and multiple retail spaces among two buildings — one historic structure and one new building up to nine stories high (Cleveland GIS).

Considering that information, that the city doesn’t like to split a single parcel among two zoning categories, and that the new building is proposed to have a ground-floor commercial use, WXZ may seek a zoning map change. That proposed change would probably expand the zoning, area district, setback overlay and height limit of the Monmouth Building to include the entirety of WXZ’s property. A variance may be sought for the area district.

The Monmouth Building was added to the National Register of Historic Places on June 27, 2022. It was named by its builder, Margaret Duer who was one of the earliest members of the Alpha chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma, founded at Monmouth College in 1870, wrote Jeff Rankin, editor and historian at the college in its namesake town of Monmouth, IL, located in Central Illinois.

“She became a teacher in Monmouth’s North Ward school in 1879 and spent the summer of 1881 in Cleveland, where she met William Fairchild Bulkeley, an up-and-coming young bookkeeper for the Cleveland Daily Leader newspaper,” Rankin wrote in the Monmouth Daily Review Atlas. “The couple was married in Monmouth that fall by Monmouth College President J. B. McMichael, and immediately left for Cleveland where they made their home.”

Margaret Duer Bulkeley died in Florida in 1922 and is buried in Cleveland’s Lake View Cemetery next to her husband who died in 1899. The apartment building was built a mile and a half from her own apartment in Cleveland Heights. The Monmouth Building was designed by Cleveland architects Steffens & Steffens. It cost $30,000 to construct, or more than $800,000 in today’s dollars.


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