Circle East improvements continue, more due

This occupied home on Brightwood Avenue in East Cleveland was renovated by the Cuyahoga Land Bank as part of its Circle East redevelopment. Circle East is a 30-acre district that’s closest to University Circle, one of the largest and fastest-growing employment hubs in Ohio (CCLRC). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM.

East Cleveland homes revived near University Circle

In a 30-acre area of targeted investment called the Circle East District, located in East Cleveland, the Cuyahoga Land Bank announced it has completed major features of its first phase to revive the neighborhood. The multi-phase $95 million effort led by the Cuyahoga Land Bank to rebuild the neighborhood from the sewers up began two years ago. However, a commercial component to the redevelopment has hit a legal snag.

The latest work to be completed is the renovation of 10 homes in mostly in East Cleveland but a few in Cleveland, just east of University Circle and the Lakeview Cemetery. The Circle East District is along both sides of Euclid Avenue, from the Red Line tracks south to Forest Hill Avenue.

The newly renovated properties are all owned and occupied by long-time homeowners, with some residents having been there for more than 40 years. Renovations and repairs averaged $19,000 per home and included the installation of new roofs, siding, porches, doors and windows, according to the land bank.

“I’ve lived here for over 50 years and what’s going on now is quite exciting,” said East Cleveland resident Lela Eskridge via a lank bank press release. “I look forward to being here to see it completed.”

Improvements were designed to keep each home safe and sanitary. Not only have the improvements raised the value of each home, land bank officials said, but they also increased the homeowners’ opportunity to build equity, which helps to create wealth. East Cleveland is a predominantly African-American community.

Grant funds to complete this round of renovations come from various sources, including Ohio’s Housing Assistance Program, the McGregor Foundation, Carol M. Peterson Housing Fund and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati. An additional $1 million in grant funding will be used for repairs on other owner-occupied homes in the neighborhood.

Map of the 33-acre Circle East District in East Cleveland along with the 4.25-acre Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities property at the upper left. The area east of Farmington Road was not included in the district because there are few vacant lots and housing there (KUA).

“Watching residents fall back in love with their homes and neighborhoods is truly rewarding work,” said Dennis Roberts, Cuyahoga Land Bank’s director of real estate development, in a written statement. “Our mission is to return abandoned and vacant land to productive use, but the renewed sense of pride is what makes our efforts worthwhile.”

Home renovations are key in the first of five phases laid out in Circle East revitalization plan. The city is installing new waterlines, sewers and a streetscape on Euclid plus Woodlawn and Penrose avenues. And it is creating a community park that will provide more greenspace and recreational opportunities for neighborhood residents

The land bank, formally known as the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corp. (CCLRC), is building 12 new townhomes and 22 new market-rate, single-family homes on vacant lots in the designated Circle East area to start bringing new residents back into the neighborhood.

Another phase-one initiative includes the renovation of the 25,000-square-foot Mickey’s commercial building,12550 Euclid, to create new employment opportunities and tax revenue for the city. However this has hit a legal snag.

Loiter Cafe and Marketplace, the first new commercial tenant in the district, was to open last month on the ground floor of the former car dealership that later became Mickey’s Rustproofing. But the representatives of the nonprofit café filed a lawsuit against the land bank after it received two notices of default on its two-year lease.

The Mickey’s Building, 12550 Euclid Ave., was renovated for about $3.5 million in 2023. A biotech company reportedly will occupy the second floor and Loiter Cafe and Marketplace was set to open last month on the first floor. But the building’s owner Cuyahoga Land Bank sent loiter two notices of default on its lease and now Loiter is suing (RDL).

According to Loiter’s representatives including principal Ismail Samad, land bank officials apparently didn’t like the name “Loiter” or that they planned to put the name “East Cleveland” on the building’s façade, according to the complaint filed by Loiter with the Cuyahoga County Common Please Court.

The name Loiter is an acronym for Love Opportunity Investment Transformation Equity Reparations/Restitutions, said the proprietors who secured the lease from the land bank to open at the property. The café is intended to be a launchpad to aspiring food entrepreneurs in East Cleveland for the long-term.

But in making more than $150,000 worth of renovations to the space, a table was bolted to the floor, cracking the terrazzo tile. The land bank in January sent a notice to Loiter advising it to “immediately cease and desist all alterations or improvements to the premises that have not been pre-approved by Landlord.” It followed with a notice of default followed by a second notice in May.

In a recent summary by the land bank describing its progress in Circle East, it discussed the Mickey’s building future including a new user, other than Loiter. “Work is finally completed and we are in the process of finalizing the sale of the building to an exciting company that will bring jobs to the city and taxes that will help fund city services,” the summary read.

In its response filed yesterday with the court, the Cuyahoga Land Bank denied nearly all of the allegations made by Loiter. The land bank also said in its reply that it “only admits to having an agreement in principle for the sale of the (Mickey’s) property to a third-party.”


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