Watterson-Lake development awarded financing

Public financing was awarded by the state for the Watterson-Lake development, a five-story apartment building over a large ground-floor community-service space plus a dozen townhomes between West 74th and 75th streets, south of Detroit Avenue at the Lake Avenue intersection. This evolving design shows the building expanded up to the corner of Detroit and West 74th (Stantec). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM.

State loan, credits go to Detroit-Shoreway project

Key pieces of financing were awarded this week to a significant development planned on the south side of the intersection of Detroit and Lake avenues in Cleveland’s Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood. There, a 136-unit affordable housing project could see construction start by early next year on the site of the former Watterson-Lake Elementary School, 7407 Detroit Ave.

The Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA) on Wednesday announced in an e-mailed press release that it had awarded financing to the co-developers of the five-story Watterson-Lake development, Bridging The Gap Development, LLC of Pittsburgh and Western Reserve Revitalization and Management Company, Inc. of Cleveland. Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority will manage the property.

Funding awarded to the $50.8 million, 202,633-square-foot Watterson-Lake development included a $2.5 million Housing Development Loan and $10 million in 4-percent Ohio Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC), said OFHA Director of Public Affairs Penny Martin. It was one of 11 affordable housing developments statewide to receive funding from OHFA in last week’s awards.

The funding will allow all 124 residential units in the apartment building to be rent-restricted so they are affordable at 30-80 percent of the area’s median income. They will be offered in studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom configurations. There also will be 12 rental townhomes in two buildings of six units each. Seven of the townhomes will have three bedrooms and five will have four bedrooms.

One other housing initiative in Northeast Ohio won an OHFA award on Wednesday. CHN Housing Partners of Cleveland received approval for a $2 million Housing Development Loan and $10 million in Ohio Low-Income Housing Tax Credits. CHN will construct 55 new single-family, lease-to-purchase homes for families at various locations in Cleveland.

A Watterson-Lake’s conceptual site plan is shown here, including ground-floor uses in each building. A variation of this plan has the mid-lot building with the six townhomes moved down, or east, next to West 74th Street. A parking lot would be added to the middle of the property. Detroit Avenue, or north, is at right (Stantec).

The Watterson-Lake development has moved forward relatively quickly. In September 2023, the city picked Bridging The Gap after conducting a request for proposals (RFP) process. Even though the 2-acre property was used as a school and is still owned by the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, it will be transferred to the city and then leased to the developers.

“The project will include a large community-service facility requested by the neighborhood as part of an RFP process,” said the developers in their OHFA application. “The city will continue to own the real estate, providing a no-cost lease to the developers, as well as significant soft funding.”

“Located just a few blocks west of the Gordon Square Arts District, Waterson Lake will provide much-needed affordable housing at a range of rents and unit types in a gentrifying neighborhood,” the developers added.

The original, historic Watterson-Lake School was built in 1912 on Detroit at West 74th. In 2015, the historic building was abated and demolished by the school district as it was in severe disrepair and had asbestos present. The modern elementary school building behind it, built in 1970 and closed in 2019, was demolished in August 2023.

Another proposed design change for the Watterson-Lake development is the increased number of balconies with larger balconies at the apartment building’s southeast corner, seen here from the intersection of West Clinton Avenue and West 74th Street. Public spaces fronting West 74th with townhouses behind are seen at left (Stantec).

Developers of the proposed 124-unit apartment building and 12 rental townhomes just south of it have been refining their designs for the project, including through public meetings organized by Ward 15 Councilwoman Jenny Spencer and the Northwest Neighborhoods Community Development Corp. It also was reviewed by the city’s Landmarks Commission in April. Final design approval rests with the City Planning Commission.

A public meeting held in early May revealed changes to the design including expanding the building closer to the sidewalk at the southwest corner of Detroit and West 74th Street. The large, 26,219-square-foot ground-floor community-service area, including a potential business incubator space, is proposed fronting Detroit and West 74th.

There also was a design option which moved six of the townhomes to front West 74th south of the apartment building. It also proposed reducing the outdoor public space for tenants, including a playground and gardens, and shrinking them so that 24 surface parking lot spaces could be offered. Another 78 spaces are on the first level of the apartment building and each townhouse has its own garage with two parking spaces.

In March, Watterson-Lake’s prior application to OHFA did not meet all minimum financial and threshold review criteria and had to be resubmitted in whole as a new application. Such criteria includes its project-based rental subsidy contract, capital and operating expenses on a per-unit basis, debt service coverage and more. So the project was reworked a bit and resubmitted.


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