The City of Cleveland Heights sent requests for proposals to developers and architects in November, asking for their ideas for the vacant, grassy space on the corner of Meadowbrook Boulevard and Lee Road.
The city has selected The Orlean Company’s vision for what they said will be a luxury building with modern apartments and retail or commercial space. Mayor Ed Kelley said his dream is to have construction on the project start in the fall.
But a few things need to happen first.
Kelley, Vice Mayor Dennis Wilcox, Orlean Company president David Orlean and City Architecture president and founding principal Paul Volpe presented some details about the development idea for the one acre lot to the Cleveland Heights-University Heights School Board at its meeting July 17. Orlean asked the board for an 11-year, 80 percent tax abatement.
The more than $11.4 million project would bring in about $300,000 annually in property taxes abatement-free. If the school board approves the abatement, that number would go down to an average of $70,000 per year.
“Right now it’s netting zero for everybody involved, including ourselves, you guys and the library,” Kelley said, explaining that the city owns the land. The city aquired all rights to the space for $60,000 last year.
After the 11 years is up, the building would bring in an average of $440,000 in property taxes each year. The developer also said more residents would help the local economy and presented figures about how much revenue they'd bring in through income taxes, parking fees and other means.
Though The Orlean Company’s plans are not finalized, it proposes a four-story building with apartment units on the top three floors and commercial or retail space on the first floor.
There would be about 76 units of studio, one and two bedroom apartments ranging from 513 square feet to 1,138 square feet, and the developer estimates that 120 to 130 residents would live there.
The drawings include a bike storage area, fitness room, theatre and a courtyard with green space. Photos of other Orlean Company projects show kitchens opening out to living room and dining room spaces, hardwood floors, tear drop and spotlight fixtures and stainless steel appliances.
The board asked how this would impact other property owners in the area trying to lease space to tenants.
They said that these housing units would likely attract residents who would not normally choose to live in one of the older Cleveland Heights apartment buildings.
“Quite frankly this offers something that’s not on the market right now,” Wilcox said.
Wilcox said that the school board approved an 11-year, 80 percent abatement in 2003 when the city thought it had secured a developer. The city also had a deal fall through in 2008.
“Since that time we’ve invested in building a parking garage adjacent to that property. The city has made a substantial investment in this property and that’s why it’s a unique site,” Wilcox said. “Even with all of those attributes, to get the quality project, the project that we want in our city that we think will really benefit our community and city, we still need some subsidy as was said. You could put up a project quite frankly that we probably wouldn’t be that excited about and that’s really not what we want to do.”
The Orlean Company manages 4,000 units of housing and partnered with Ken Lurie to build The Bluestone Community, a residential development across from Severance Town Center on Mayfield Road. They also manage Kenilworth MEWS.
Near the end of the meeting, Kelley asked how the board would like to proceed.
“We either have to move forward, or unfortunately this land will probably be vacant for another three to five to seven years," Kelley said. "Because we went through the process, we got three good things, but this was the one that had the young energy, the young professionals here that will eventually get married, raise their family, have their kids and buy another house in Cleveland Heights."
At the end of the presentation to the school board, members agreed that they would be interested in hearing more and will have their lawyers meet with the city's law department.
The city still needs to formulate a development agreement, Kelley said. The project also needs to be reviewed by the Planning Commission, Architectural Board of Review and possibly the Board of Zoning Appeals. Before being approved, City Council also needs to pass legislation on the project, and the CH-UH School Board has approve the abatement. It is already zoned for mixed-use development, said Howard Thompson, economic development director.
Declan Synnott, owner of Parnell's Pub, hopes the project is approved and gets underway soon.
"Honestly, I think it’s great. The more people, the more action going on on Lee Road, the better it is for everyone," said Synnott, who is also on the Cedar Lee Special Improvement District Board. "I’m looking forward to it. I was looking forward to it when they were supposed to do it the first time."
Adam Fleischer, who is also on the special improvement district board and owns The Wine Spot, said the development would help attract more people to the area.
"The idea is we want people to be aware that Cleveland Heights has a lot to offer," Fleischer said. "Maybe an old apartment building is not for them, and any option that would prevent them from going elsewhere ... is a good thing."
Kelley said he was "pumped" about the project.
"When you drive up and down the Lee Road area, you see this vacant piece of property. It’s like a missing tooth," he said. "It’s an over $11 million project ... This is just a financial win for everyone involved."
What do you think about the idea for a mix of housing and retail or commercial space on the land? Tell us in the comments.