stockyards employs goats as nature’s lawnmower for vacant lots

Lee Chilcote Thursday, June 07, 2012
Megan Meister chuckles as she thinks of the unlikely collision of worlds involved in planting four eat-everything-in-sight goats in the midst of Stockyards — a neighborhood that long ago shed its past as the home of the city’s slaughterhouses.

Yet to Meister, the ebullient director of the Stockyards, Clark Fulton and Brooklyn Centre Community Development Organization, the area’s new “Mow Goats” program is about the re-greening of the neighborhood, teaching kids and families about urban agriculture, and possibly even saving the city some money.

“Kids in urban areas don’t get the opportunity to be around farm animals very often,” says Meister, who worked with residents, The County Line Farm in Geneva, Ohio and the City of Cleveland to pioneer the 25-day program. “This is a creative way to address the problem of vacant lots in our neighborhood.”

The “ladies,” as they’re known at the office, have a regular 9-to-5 job mowing a lot at W. 61st and Frontier Avenue. When they’re done with that — soon, based on their seemingly unstoppable appetite for anything leafy and green — they’ll be rotated to another lot. Meister hired a full-time goat herder for the project.

The Stockyards office receives a slew of calls every season about mowing lots. The City of Cleveland mows lots a few times per year and attempts to collect from property owners, but lacks the resources to mow them more regularly.

Meister hopes the project can be replicated elsewhere. She estimates that it would cost about $9,000 to $10,000 per six-month season to rent four goats, which is actually cheaper than what the city typically charges property owners to mow lots. The excess goat poop is being used to fertilize neighborhood gardens.

Source: Megan Meister
Writer: Lee Chilcote

rising star coffee roasters now open in ohio city firehouse

Lee Chilcote Thursday, June 07, 2012
Kim Jenkins of Rising Star Coffee traded his job overseeing 110 scientists and engineers at Lockheed Martin in Florida to move to Spencer, Ohio, and launch a new coffee roaster in Cleveland.

Given his background in driving technological innovation, it comes as no surprise that his approach to roasting the best possible coffee beans is, well, innovative.

“Specialty grade coffee is the top half to one percent of coffee beans on the market, and that’s all we do,” says Jenkins, who recently set up shop in the Ohio City Firehouse building on W. 29th Street. “Coffee is the second largest commodity trade after crude oil, and there’s plenty of room for growth in Northeast Ohio.”

Jenkins’ plan is to sell beans wholesale while also marketing to individual consumers and selling coffee by the cup. He’s capitalizing on rising consumer interest in the highest-grade coffee, he says. His model appears to be working, as his fledgling company is gaining at least one wholesale customer per week. (The retail operation is still in the works.)

Rising Star’s coffee retails for about $14 to $18 per pound, with the higher end reserved for small batch beans produced on micro-lots in Brazil and other places he’s visited. He has hired four young workers to assist him with his growing roster of accounts.

“The goal of Rising Star is to create a sustainable business model, make a little money and give opportunities to the young people who work here,” he says.

Jenkins says the main difference between his coffee and others is flavor. “You’ll be able to taste the coffee like it’s supposed to taste, instead of it being weak, burnt or bitter,” he says. “People describe it as sweet, nutty, fruity or tasting of cocoa. Most of the world drinks coffee that tastes like that. It doesn’t even need sugar.”

Source: Kim Jenkins
Writer: Lee Chilcote

urban sheep grazing could be coming to a vacant lot near you

Lee Chilcote Thursday, June 07, 2012
Drivers traveling along I-90 near E. 55th could experience mild whiplash as they crane their necks to see the sheep grazing on the roadside this summer. It’s not the most common sight along the lakefront, and the story behind it is no less unusual.

Michael Fleming first heard of the idea when he was studying Urban Planning at the Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University. The mayor of Curitiba, Brazil had used sheep to mow the city’s vast parkland, he found out.

“They brought in shepherds for parkland because it was cheaper than using machines,” says Fleming. “With large amounts of land, it just makes sense.”

A few months ago, when Fleming was hired as Executive Director of the St. Clair Superior Development Corporation, he finally had a chance to import the idea from South America to Cleveland. A flock of 12 sheep are now grazing along North Marginal Road just west of the Quay 55 apartment building. They are tended by volunteers and students from nearby St. Martin De Porres High School.

“About 95 percent of our neighbors think it’s cool, and five percent are afraid they’ll get picked off by teenagers or coyotes,” says Fleming, who has fielded calls from as far away as Detroit about the program. “We wanted to see how it would work on large vacant parcels, and if we could save the city any money on mowing costs.”

So far, the Urban Sheep Grazing program has worked out well, with the sheep, guarded by a feisty llama, seemingly content to graze all day in their shaggy lakefront field. Visitors regularly stop by to take pictures and show their kids.

The sheep are loaned from the Spicy Lamb Farm in the Cuyahoga Valley through a new entity called Urban Shepherds. Fleming thinks expanding the program could bring down costs and make it feasible as a mowing alternative; he hopes to have the numbers to back his hypothesis up by the end of the summer.

Source: Michael Fleming
Writer: Lee Chilcote

lucy’s sweet surrender opens new bakery and bakeshop in shaker heights

Lee Chilcote Thursday, June 07, 2012
Cleveland’s original artisan bakery, Lucy’s Sweet Surrender, has finished its move from Buckeye Road to a larger, better situated space in the former Chandler and Rudd building in Shaker Heights.

The new, 3,500-square-foot space features a small retail storefront that opens up to a bakery where visitors can watch the scratch baking process. The traditional Hungarian bakery, a dying breed that once thrived in Cleveland neighborhoods, intends to ramp up its retail business. It will also continue to pop up at area farmers markets, make deliveries in Cleveland and ship orders by mail.

Owner Michael Feigenbaum says Lucy’s is busy at its new, well-trafficked location. “This week, we’ll be at four farmers markets and we’re already well into wedding cake season,” he says. “The growth of new, artisan bakeries in Cleveland has helped us by raising the bar on what our customers are looking for.”

Feigenbaum is already dreaming of Phase II of his expansion plans, which may include re-launching a prepared foods business, creating a small cafe, or partnering with other vendors. The Chandler and Rudd building has an additional 3,500 square feet that offer a blank canvas for the owner’s next creation.

The long-awaited reconfiguration of the Warrensville/Van Aken/Chagrin intersection will only help him by creating a more vibrant urban district that can compete with Legacy Village and other lifestyle malls, says Feigenbaum.

Source: Michael Feigenbaum
Writer: Lee Chilcote

port authority to build new boats to help clean up river debris

Lee Chilcote Thursday, May 24, 2012
Although the environmental health of the Cuyahoga River has dramatically improved in recent decades, ugly mats of hazardous floating debris and litter still accumulate in the bends of the famously crooked river.

If a violent storm rolls in off Lake Erie, or strong winds spring up, the mats can easily break apart and float into the shipping channel. The sudden presence of fallen logs and other debris can create a dangerous obstacle course for boaters and rowers traversing the river.

Later this summer, the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority will begin using two specialized aluminum work boats to remove floating debris from the river and the Lake Erie shoreline. The new boats, called Flotsam and Jetsam, are being paid for by a $425,160 grant from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The river cleanup initiative is the first comprehensive initiative of its kind.

“The river is a lot cleaner than it looks and now has 40 species of fish, but this program will demonstrate stewardship to the community,” says Jim White, Director of Sustainable Infrastructure Programs for the Port Authority. “This is one of the pieces of the puzzle in terms of restoring the health of the river.”

Source: Jim White
Writer: Lee Chilcote

pink public art display brightens eastman reading garden at downtown library

Lee Chilcote Thursday, May 24, 2012
The ordinary spaces that we walk through every day without noticing form, details or color can very often be transformed with simple changes that cause us to stop and look more closely at our surroundings.

Like pink. And lots of it.

A new art installation in the Eastman Reading Garden of the downtown Cleveland Public Library aims to transform viewers’ perception of this quiet, reflective space by adding bold pink chairs and pink window coverings throughout the space. The art project was designed by Cleveland artist Scott Stibich and funded by the Lockwood Thompson Endowment Fund of the Cleveland Public Library.

The 100 moveable pink chairs are part of the See Also program, which brings temporary works of public art to the Eastman Reading Garden. See Also is a partnership between Cleveland Public Library and LAND Studio. Visitors will interact with and become a part of Stibich’s artwork as they move the painted chairs around to find their own comfortable place to sit, read and eat lunch.

“My goal was to disrupt the architecture just enough to displace the viewer,” says Stibich. “The garden is a space where everyone comes to talk or just reflect and get lost in their day. I carried the pop-up color into the architecture, too.”

The colorful window banners were assembled by designer Katie Parland.

Source: LAND Studio, Cleveland Public Library, Scott Stibich
Writer: Lee Chilcote

ohio city’s great lakes brewing adds two 300-barrel fermentation tanks

Lee Chilcote Thursday, May 24, 2012
Great Lakes Brewing Company is now the 18th largest craft brewery in the U.S. and the 27th largest overall. The company brews more than 110,000 barrels of handcrafted beer every year.

The brewing process takes place in a warehouse at Carroll Avenue and West 28th Street near the West Side Market. Visitors to Great Lakes Brewing Company’s flagship bar and restaurant on Market Avenue often can catch a whiff of the beer brewing and fermenting as they walk in to grab a pint.

Recently, Great Lakes purchased and installed two new 300-barrel fermentation tanks to further expand its brewing capacity. The new equipment, which was hoisted in by crane through the roof of its Carroll Avenue tank farm, is on top of $7 million in capital improvements completed in 2010 to expand capacity.

Great Lakes beer is now available in 13 states and Washington D.C., and the company has a philosophy of supporting sustainability and natural, locally grown food. Owners Patrick and Daniel Conway have plans to deepen Great Lakes’ presence in existing markets as they celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2013.

Source: Great Lakes Brewing Company
Writer: Lee Chilcote

orlando baking company will expand its operations, add 15 workers

Lee Chilcote Thursday, May 24, 2012
The Orlando Baking Company, which was founded in 1872 in Castel di Sangro, Italy and came to Cleveland in 1904, has received a $1.3 million Clean Ohio grant to clean up a brownfield adjacent to its facility at E. 79th and Woodland Avenue. Orlando plans to expand onto the property, retaining about 40 jobs and creating 15 new jobs.

The funds will be used to demolish and remediate the former Van Dorn property at 2700 E. 79th Street. The City of Cleveland is a partner in the cleanup project.

Orlando Baking sells bread throughout Northeast Ohio and around the country. Orlando recently introduced a probiotic bread that contains the same healthy microbes that exist in foods such as yogurt. The company has expanded several times in its Cleveland location, and currently employs about 300 workers.

Clean Ohio grants are provided through a competitive application process to allow for the reuse of commercial and industrial properties that are currently underutilized. Since its inception, 150 Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund projects have been awarded more than $295 million, leveraging $2.5 billion in private sector investment and creating and retaining more than 12,500 jobs.

Source: Ohio Department of Development, Orlando Baking Company
Writer: Lee Chilcote

sculptures, 40-foot mural will celebrate year of the dragon in asiatown

Lee Chilcote Thursday, May 17, 2012
This weekend, tens of thousands of visitors will descend on the St. Clair Superior neighborhood for the Cleveland Asian Festival. During their visit, they will be delighted by 25 colorful dragon sculptures painted by local artists and installed outside businesses to beautify the area and celebrate the arts and Asian culture.

The public art project commemorates the Chinese Year of the Dragon, which began with the new moon in January and continues for a full 12 months.

Each one of these fantastic creatures will be completely unique. For example, Cleveland tattoo artist Sean Kelly painted a dragon featuring butterflies flying out of its chest, the kind of glittering eyes used in stuffed animals, and real antlers.

The dragons will be displayed through the end of August. They will be auctioned off at a special benefit on Saturday, September 29th, the proceeds of which will support arts and culture programming in the St. Clair Superior neighborhood.

On Thursday, May 31st, the St. Clair Superior Development Corporation and artist Anna Arnold will also unveil a huge, 40- foot mural on the side of the Consolidated Graphics building at E. 39th and Payne Avenue. The project was created with the help of neighborhood schoolchildren and Asian seniors.

Source: Becca Britton
Writer: Lee Chilcote

tremont’s new miranda’s vintage bridal upcycles classic gowns

Lee Chilcote Thursday, May 17, 2012
Miranda Park has always loved vintage ball gowns from the ’40s and ’50s, whose intricate, hand-sewn details and figure-flattering designs are often imitated, but nearly impossible to replicate.

Last month, Park traded her job as a seamstress at a bridal store in Rocky River to launch Miranda’s Vintage Bridal and Alterations on W. 14th Street in Tremont. She’s turned her passion for classic gowns into a business that can help modern brides go green — and look great doing it.

“They just don’t make dresses like that anymore,” says Park, who majored in fashion design at Kent State University and says that artsy, historic Tremont is the perfect spot for her destination business. “I find them on eBay or at vintage stores, then use my skills as a seamstress to remake, redesign and restore them.”

Park invites her customers to bring in their favorite vintage gowns for custom alterations. Since most new wedding dresses are expensive and used once, she says she’s tapping into a national trend towards green, sustainable weddings.

Source: Miranda Park
Writer: Lee Chilcote

growing software company to relocate offices, 150 staffers from beachwood to downtown

Lee Chilcote Thursday, May 17, 2012
Brand Muscle CEO Philip Alexander freely admits that he was initially opposed to moving his firm to downtown Cleveland because he didn’t want to give up his breezy, 17-minute commute to the office.

Research studies have shown that the most powerful predictor of a firm’s location is where the top executives live. For Brand Muscle’s leadership, it was convenient to commute from the east-side suburbs to their offices in Beachwood, where the software firm has grown to 150 employees.

But as the firm outgrew its suburban offices and launched a search for a location that would facilitate its expansion, what happened next was not quite according to script. Brand Muscle’s younger employees launched a campaign to encourage Alexander and other leaders to consider downtown Cleveland.

“There was quite a bit of lobbying, actually — many of our employees are younger, and I was surprised by how many of them wanted us to move downtown,” says Alexander. “The increased vibrancy of downtown made us take a look.”

In November, Brand Muscle expects to move to freshly leased offices at 11000 Superior Avenue in the Nine-Twelve District. Initially, the firm will lease about 40,000 square feet, but it has the option to continuously expand as needed.

Alexander says that Brand Muscle’s new downtown location will allow the firm to better attract younger employees, facilitate networking with other software companies, and provide entertainment options when clients are in town.

Brand Muscle sells software that helps businesses customize marketing materials for local audiences in order to optimize their sales and improve revenue growth.

Source: Philip Alexander
Writer: Lee Chilcote

metalwork artist opens showroom in tremont, sells almost everything in stock

Lee Chilcote Thursday, May 17, 2012
Kevin Busta‘s trendy, neo-industrial furnishings have been written up in the New York Times and grace sleek lofts and posh living rooms all the way from New York City to Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Yet the metalworking artist, who grew up in Medina, chose W. 14th Street in Tremont to locate his showroom. Last week, he sold out of nearly all his furnishings in a single week as eight new businesses opened in the neighborhood and the monthly Art Walk kicked off the summer season.

“Cleveland is so full of everything that I really need,” says Busta, a former boilermaker who was once arrested for dumpster diving at an industrial park in Medina (he got off after showing the judge photos of his high-end furniture). “New York doesn’t have what Cleveland has in terms of surplus scrap metal.”

Busta makes his lamps, tables and chairs out of metal that he buys at scrap yards and auctions. His tables typically sell for $4,000 and up, while a table lamp might sell for $300 to $500. Busta stresses that he does not simply repurpose scrap materials, but rather transforms the raw materials into something new.

“It’s glorifying the old with a modern twist to it,” he says. “It’s taking what a lot of people see every day driving through industrial parks and changing the way people look at these old, industrial remnants by glorifying rust.”

Source: Kevin Busta
Writer: Lee Chilcote

home repair resource ’empowers people to fix own homes’

Lee Chilcote Thursday, May 10, 2012
Fixing up an older home can be a daunting task. These days, many homeowners don’t know a wrench from a pair of pliers, and even if they are handy, both their tools and their skills may be a little bit rusty.

That’s where the Home Repair Resource Center (HRRC), a 40-year-old nonprofit organization based in Cleveland Heights, can help. HRRC offers how-to classes for residents throughout Cuyahoga County and a tool-loan program geared to residents of Cleveland Heights.

“We want to empower people to fix their own homes, especially now because there’s such a need,” says Kathryn Lad, Executive Director of the HRRC. “We teach people how to do it themselves or to hire the right person for the job.”

Since the HRRC was founded out of a church in Cleveland Heights, the group has facilitated over $14 million in home improvements. Lad recalls with pride a class geared towards women that spurred a group of friends to build their own garage. The group also offers foreclosure intervention services, financial education and financial assistance programs for low-income homebuyers.

“Everybody is having a tough time right now, and money is tight,” says Lad. “People tend to be doing more repairs in reaction to emergencies than remodeling projects. We help people take care of things they have to take care of.”

The HRRC has an ongoing series of Tuesday night classes and is also offering a new series entitled “Practical Sustainability: New Thinking for Older Homes.”

Source: Kathryn Lad
Writer: Lee Chilcote

vitamix breaks ground on $10m expansion to feed global appetite for healthy foods

Lee Chilcote Thursday, May 10, 2012
Although Vitamix‘s commercial-grade blenders and mixers eat up a good chunk of change — around $500 on average — that hasn’t stopped consumers in the U.S. and more than 80 countries abroad from snatching them up at record rates.

They don’t call it a “super blender” for nothing — Vitamix is the iconic company that brought us the smoothie, yet its machines are now used by chefs and health-conscious consumers to make everything from soups to soy milk. In Taiwan and many other countries, sales are up 80 percent over the past three years as the growing middle-class becomes increasingly health-conscious.

Bolstered by demand, the company recently broke ground on a $10-million, 51,000-square-foot expansion to its Northeast Ohio headquarters. This development is on top of a $6-million, 40,000-square-foot expansion in 2010. Overall, sales have doubled in the past three years, the company says.

Vitamix manufactures all of its products at its Olmsted Falls headquarters, and sources parts locally, as well.

“Our product helps people to eat more whole foods and choose a healthier lifestyle all over the world,” says Jodi Berg, the great-granddaughter of W.G. Barnard, who founded the company in 1921. “A lot of Western diseases and ailments can be controlled and prevented by the fuel and food we put into our bodies.”

“Vitamix allows you to take whole healthy foods and turn them into what Martha Stewart calls ‘velvet on your tongue.’ Healthy, wholesome and easy to make.”

Source: Jodi Berg
Writer: Lee Chilcote

tremont celebrates 8 new businesses that add to retail mix

Lee Chilcote Thursday, May 10, 2012
This Friday night, Tremont is hosting the grand opening for a new business, Tremont Tails, as well as a Preview Night that will welcome eight new businesses that opened in the past year.

This diverse roster of new businesses is adding to the vibrancy of the neighborhood’s growing retail mix, says Cory Riordon, Executive Director of Tremont West Development Corporation.

“We’re creating new retail options so that residents don’t have to travel outside of the neighborhood to buy things, and that also will appeal to people visiting the neighborhood,” he says. “It shows that the neighborhood is desirable.”

The new businesses that will be featured during the Preview Night event are Churned Ice Cream Shop, Miranda’s Vintage Bridal, Chard Gallery, Ginko Restaurant, Kevin Busta Industrial Furnishings, The Nest and Bozalodz.

The Tremont Art Walk will also take place on Friday, May 12th from 6-10 pm.

Source: Cory Riordan
Writer: Lee Chilcote

iter: Lee Chilcote

tremont tails will service dog and cat owners in growing pet-friendly ‘hood

Lee Chilcote Thursday, May 10, 2012
Tremont has always been a popular neighborhood for animal lovers, with amenities like Lincoln Park, the Clark Field dog park and pet-friendly restaurants and bars adding to the appeal. The neighborhood also has two shelters, a doggie day care and an active community of animal rescue advocates.

Now a new business, Tremont Tails, will allow dog and cat lovers to buy basic goods for their pets without traveling outside of the neighborhood. It also will promote rescue and adoption programs in Cleveland, carry art and gift items, and even allow owners to indulge their pets with massage sessions on special occasions.

“You go out at five o’clock and there’s dogs everywhere, and many are rescued,” says Lisa Turner, a court reporter who is launching her business based on her passion for animals. “Now they can walk to a retail store with their animals.”

Turner, who is originally from the Tremont neighborhood, recently won the Tremont Storefront Incubator competition. She will open Tremont Tails in a 378-square-foot storefront owned by the Tremont West Development Corporation, which is using the space to spur new businesses that fill an unmet need.

“I would never be able to open my store without this program,” says Turner, who will receive three months of free rent and six months of reduced rent as part of the special program. “They’re also helping me to market my business.”

After Tremont Tails “hatches” from its incubation period, Turner hopes to find a larger storefront and finally turn her passion for animals into a full-time day job.

Source: Lisa Turner
Writer: Lee Chilcote

neoscc asks young pros to help envision a vibrant, sustainable future for region

Lee Chilcote Thursday, May 03, 2012
The population of Northeast Ohio’s 12 most populous counties fell by seven percent from 4.1 million in 1970 to 3.8 million in 2010. Yet at the same time, suburban areas added 400 square miles of roads, shopping centers, housing developments and office parks.

That unabated trend towards urban sprawl is not sustainable, argues the Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium, a new initiative that won a $4.25 million grant from the federal government in 2010 to plan for more sustainable land use patterns across the region. It also wastes resources, harms cities and makes the region less competitive.

So what would a truly vibrant future look like for Northeast Ohio? The NEOSCC hopes to engage young professionals in answering that question at a series of public engagement meetings. The next event is scheduled for Wednesday, May 16th at Brothers Lounge in Cleveland.

“A lot of times, decisions are made without involving young people, and we wanted them at the forefront,” says Jeff Anderle, Director of Communications with the NEOSCC. “We keep hearing that they want a competitive economy in the region so that there are more job opportunities. They also want walkable communities and more vibrant downtowns throughout the 12-county area.”

Anderle stresses that the NEOSCC is not dictating people’s choices — “We want to educate people so that they understand the big picture infrastructure costs and how they affect everyone,” he says — yet the initiative’s impact will come down to how communities throughout the region adopt the NEOSCC’s recommendations. The group plans to release an initial report on existing conditions in June.

Source: Jeff Anderle
Writer: Lee Chilcote

artist sells everything to launch DIY gallery in midtown

Lee Chilcote Thursday, May 03, 2012
For Dan Miller, making a living as a visual artist in Cleveland meant selling his motorcycle, emptying his savings account and finding a warehouse where he could build his own walls and hang lights. The owner of the new Rotten Meat Gallery on East 40th Street between Payne and Perkins says it’s all worth it to showcase the city’s underrecognized art scene.

“I really wanted to do my part to encourage people to stay here and grow Cleveland as an art market,” says Miller, a painter who also uses the building as his own studio. “Markets like Chicago and New York are saturated, and there’s a lack of pretension here. We’re an industrious city, yet we also have a strong history of culture in places like the Cleveland Museum of Art.”

Rotten Meat Gallery is a launchpad for new, emerging artists as well as a place that celebrates established local talent, Miller says. The formerly industrial space is an artist’s haven that boasts exposed brick walls and fourteen foot ceilings.

Although Cleveland’s art scene is small and tight-knit, Miller hopes that others will follow his lead and establish DIY art spaces that help the city’s art scene thrive and grow. “One of the best ways to revitalize an area is to get artists there.”

Rotten Meat’s next show, “Tab A, Slot B,” features Rust Belt Welding artisans Grant Smrekar and Lou Erste, who will showcase their functional sculpture and furniture that is built out of reclaimed wood and steel. The opening reception takes place this Friday, May 4th from 6-10 pm at 1814 East 40th Street, Suite B.

Source: Dan Miller
Writer: Lee Chilcote

bottlehouse brewery brings community-centered tasting room to the heights

Lee Chilcote Thursday, May 03, 2012
This week, a pair of Cleveland Heights residents and avid home brewers launched BottleHouse Brewery in a 6,200-square-foot storefront on Lee Road that had been sitting vacant for more than a decade. The new venue, which will feature craft beers, original brews and a brew-on-premise facility that will open this summer, celebrated its grand opening Tuesday after a year and a half of work.

“It all ties in with bringing craft beer to the community,” says Brian Benchek, a former glass-blowing artist. His business partner, Dave Schubert, previously worked as a fuel cell technician. “It’s a place for the community to gather.”

BottleHouse Brewery opened its tasting room this week. In a month, the venue will begin serving its own original beers. A selection of bourbons, meads and wines also are sold, as are pierogis and Bavarian sausages from local purveyors. The brew-on-premise option will be rolled out this summer. Eventually, the duo plans to sell home brewing equipment, as well.

Benchek and Schubert began talking about the idea for their dream pub during long, painfully sober drives home from the Brew Kettle, a popular brew-on-premise facility located in Strongsville. “There’s a one-year wait there currently,” Benchek says. “A lot of their customers are from the East Side. When we went, one of us would always be drinking less because we’d have to drive home.”

Eventually, Benchek and Schubert plan to manufacture and distribute their own beers. Benchek says that the BottleHouse will tap into unmet demand, and cites the large home brewing community as one reason why they’ll be successful.

Source: Dave Benchek
Writer: Lee Chilcote

recent college grads open collaborative art space in ohio city

Lee Chilcote Thursday, May 03, 2012
Is 2012 the year of the collective? Based on the DIY art spaces that are springing up across the city, it would certainly seem like a trend-in-the-making.

BuckBuck, a new collaborative art space that is located in a former auction house, is the latest creative hotspot to join the list. Founders Joe Lanzilotta and Derek Maxfield are recent college graduates who started the gallery and co-op style workspace after obtaining fine arts and graphic design degrees from Ohio University and being faced with a tight job market.

Yet the founders’ desire to start their own creative space went beyond their dim job prospects, Lanzilotta says. They began hunting for cool, affordable space because they wanted to do their own thing and shape their own destiny.

“We wanted a spot we could build our own reputation from,” says Lanzilotta, who seized the 5,700-square-foot space at 3910 Lorain Avenue after the sympathetic landlord enticed them with a couple months free rent and an affordable lease rate. “After I completed an internship in Chicago, I had the feeling that I really wanted to come back to Cleveland and create something on my own.”

BuckBuck recently hosted its first art show in the newly-created gallery — its founders literally erected walls and hung artwork with only a few weeks notice — during this year’s Palookafest event. The annual chili cook-off and competition was created by Ian P.E., the owner of Palookaville Chili, which opened in an adjacent storefront in early 2011.

Thanks to a proliferation of cheap, available storefronts on Lorain, Lanzilotta says that a small creative community is springing up. Recently, a furniture maker moved in next door, and there is also a new tattoo shop across the street.

Source: Joe Lanzilotta
Writer: Lee Chilcote

glenville high school students organize sustainability awareness day

Lee Chilcote Thursday, April 26, 2012
Recently, an artistically-minded student at Glenville High School was so inspired by his school’s first-ever Sustainability Awareness Day that he painted a rain barrel with the school’s signature “G” logo and displayed it at last week’s inaugural event.

“It was kind of like a small-scale science fair,” says Anthony Body, Community Organizer with the Famicos Foundation, a nonprofit community development organization that serves the neighborhood and hosted the event at its Community Service Center on Ansel Rd. “Each student created a display,” which included hydroponics, aeroponics and rain barrel displays.

The program is part of an effort to imbue sustainability practices into Glenville in partnership with residents. The goal is to teach people about sustainability, help them grow and access healthy, local food and make them more self-sufficient. Famicos has partnered with the NEO Restoration Alliance, a nonprofit that promotes community gardening and green jobs, to create the program.

“At first, it was like pulling teeth,” says Body of his experience working with high school students. “Then they bit into it more and had more hands-on experiences. We went on field trips to the Rockefeller Greenhouse and Galleria and they learned vermicomposting. They saw how it could relate to their homes.”

Although most of the students do not have gardens at home, Body says that two students have started gardens at their homes and one actually now has a hydroponics system. “It opened their eyes,” he says.

Body says the area is a “food desert,” and that most of the local corner stores do not sell fresh produce. He touts the Circle105 Farmers Market, which is now in its second year and kicks off June 15th, as a viable alternative. The farmers market will accept food stamps and offer additional specials for residents this year.

“I see a lot of people who leave Glenville and never come back and engage the youth,” says Body, a graduate of Glenville High School as well as Malone University in Canton, Ohio. “The youth need to be educated on how to do this.”

Source: Anthony Body
Writer: Lee Chilcote

nearing completion, circle east townhomes are 60 percent preleased

Lee Chilcote Thursday, April 26, 2012
As the Circle East Townhomes near completion, 60 percent of the units are pre-leased, and eight of the 12 leased units have been snatched up by University Circle area employees. This proves the viability of new housing options in the area, says Chris Ronayne, Executive Director of University Circle Inc. (UCI).

“This is a great moment in time where the Circle is meeting East Cleveland,” says Ronayne of the project, which features 20 townhouse-style apartments that are being developed on a former parking lot on Euclid Avenue in East Cleveland. “The fact that Circle area employees are leasing the apartments means that our Greater Circle Living program is working. Employees can get one month’s free rent through this effort, and institutions and foundations are putting money into it.”

Circle East Townhomes are being built on 1.5 acres of land along Euclid between Lakeview Road and Auburndale Avenue. The $5 million project is being co-developed by UCI and the Finch Group, and partial funding comes from federal Neighborhood Stabilization Funds. The three-story units have 2 bedrooms, 2.5 baths and two car garages. Rental rates are $930 per month, and tenants can earn up to 120 percent of area median income (about $60,000) and still qualify.

“Circle East is really a new neighborhood where University Circle meets East Cleveland,” says Ronayne, who adds that the project would have remained on the drawing board without the leadership of East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton and support from Cuyahoga County and the Cuyahoga Land Bank. “We’ve been planning this for a while, and now we’re starting to see development.”

UCI and East Cleveland are now seeking planning grants for Phase II of the project, which would bring an additional 20 units to the site. Ronayne ultimately envisions a mixed-use housing and office development, including technology companies or services related to University Circle’s anchor institutions.

The first residents are expected to move into Circle East Townhomes by June 15th.

Source: Chris Ronayne
Writer: Lee Chilcote

providence house breaks ground on expansion to better serve families in crisis

Lee Chilcote Thursday, April 26, 2012
Providence House, the first crisis nursery in Ohio and one of only 70 similar facilities in the U.S., recently broke ground on a $2 million, three-phase project in Ohio City that will allow the nonprofit agency to better serve Northeast Ohio families in crisis.

“We have a waiting list that is 20 to 30 kids long right now,” explains Natalie Leek-Nelson, Executive Director of Providence House, which is expanding its current location at W. 32nd Street and Lorain Avenue. “Phase I of the expansion will allow us to have 250 kids per year in our crisis nursery, and it will also increase the ages of the kids so that we can take older siblings.”

Providence House provides short-term housing for kids who are unsafe in their homes because they’re at risk of abuse, neglect or generally unsafe conditions. The agency is unique because it offers intensive therapy to help families stay together. More than 95 percent of families whose children end up at Providence House are eventually reunified. The facility also offers housing to kids whose parents are unable to care for them (for instance, because they’ve suddenly gotten sick).

“Parents don’t want to give up their kids, so things often escalate until they’re out of control,” says Leek-Nelson. “Providence House is an alternative to the emergency foster system. We let families know it’s okay to get help.”

When asked why Providence House’s work is important, Leek-Nelson cites a statistic that 75 percent of high school dropouts are abused kids. “Is it the school system or something at home that keeps them from succeeding?” she asks.

Providence House has already raised about 75 percent of the funds that are needed to complete Phase I of its expansion plans. “It’s been a big challenge, but the community has really stepped up,” says Leek-Nelson. “We have more than 300 individuals, foundations and businesses that have donated.”

Source: Natalie Leek-Nelson
Writer: Lee Chilcote

cleveland and other cities should develop agricultural land use plans, speaker says

Lee Chilcote Thursday, April 26, 2012
Now that the urban farming movement is becoming steadily more mature, cities are looking beyond backyard hens and market gardens to longer-term agricultural land use policies. They can and should learn from what works in other places while also advocating for better public policy at every level.

These were the messages conveyed at a forum on urban agriculture that was held last week at Cleveland State University. Kimberly Hodgson, a planner and public health advocate from Vancouver, Canada, said that Cleveland is considered a leader in the new agrarian movement, but that U.S. and Canadian cities have much to learn from each other.

Baltimore completed a study to prioritize and focus urban agriculture in needed areas, Hodgson told an audience of 100-plus planners, farmers, students and lawyers. Minneapolis conducted an analysis to determine which parcels of land have low value for development and would thus be appropriate for urban farming.

The goal of such plans, Hodgson said, is generally to promote and support equal access to urban farming and gardening, create economic opportunity for residents, reduce regulatory barriers to farming and expand agricultural production.

Other examples Hodgson cited included Vancouver, which has developed urban agriculture design guidelines, and Baltimore, which hired a Food Policy Director using money raised from area foundations. Within six months, the new Director had leveraged enough money on her own to fund the position without subsidy.

Source: Kimberly Hodgson
Writer: Lee Chilcote

cleveland heights poised to allow backyard chickens, lakewood may follow

Lee Chilcote Thursday, April 19, 2012
You know the old saying: Once you start allowing chickens in your neighborhood, any four-legged creature can walk right in off the street.

Well, there goes the neighborhood!

Despite cries of fowl play, it appears that the City of Cleveland Heights is poised to allow residents to raise up to four chickens in their backyards. A group called Hens in Lakewood is lobbying their city to allow chicken-rearing too, yet the group is battling resistance from other residents and skeptical city council members.

The City of Cleveland Heights, once the pristine province of those fleeing the city for greener (yet livestock-free) pastures, may soon return to its roots. A century ago, many small farms flourished here. Although the proposed changes will not allow market gardening (where gardeners sell their wares), they will allow residents to raise their own eggs.

In a few weeks, the Cleveland Heights Planning Commission will consider new, sustainable zoning code recommendations that include allowing up to four chickens. If the board accepts the Planning Department’s recommendations, the city will become one of the first suburbs in Northeast Ohio to allow chickens.

“We received a lot of phone calls about this issue, but the pro-chicken people were more vocal,” says Karen Knittel, a City Planner with the City of Cleveland Heights. “Concerns were raised around chickens not being well-kept and attracting rats. We’re easing into this to make sure people don’t disturb their neighbors.”

The proposals require chicken coops to be at least 10 feet from a resident’s property line, and would-be chicken keepers will have to apply for a conditional use permit from the city that can be revoked if health or safety issues arise.

Despite the widespread flaps about backyard chickens, Jaime Bouvier, a Visiting Legal Writing Professor at the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law at Cleveland State University, says that genuine problems are actually quite uncommon.

“In cities across the country, backyard chickens are always very contentious,” she says. “Yet the issue causes more concern than warranted. Typically, there aren’t huge amounts of people that do it, and it doesn’t get out of control.”

Bouvier has written extensively about the legal issues surrounding backyard chickens and aggregated model practices around the country. She has organized an Urban Agriculture Symposium that takes place at CSU this Friday.

Source: Karen Knittell, Jaime Bouvier
Writer: Lee Chilcote

local chef opens gourmet sandwich shop downtown

Lee Chilcote Thursday, April 19, 2012
Former Reddstone chef Josh Kabat and his fiance and business partner, Kiaran Daily, have opened Cleveland Pickle, a gourmet downtown sandwich shop. The venue specializes in eclectic sandwiches made from fresh, often local ingredients. Many of the sandwiches are also creatively named after local Cleveland landmarks.

For instance, the Terminal is a savory and sweet sandwich featuring black forest ham, brie, spinach, roasted tomato pesto and apricot jam. The Payne Avenue panini is a twist on the Vietnamese banh mi sandwich, with a touch of chipotle for extra zest.

“Everyone loves sandwiches, and these are sandwiches that people have never seen before,” says Kabat. “We use all top of the line ingredients, similar to what you’d find in a fine dining restaurant. Kiaran and I wanted to take our experiences working in chef-driven restaurants as well as bars and bring it all together.”

Kabat and Daily make pickles out of their home, adding fresh, delicious chunks of pickle to many of their signature sandwiches. “Love is what sets us apart,” says Kabat. “We pour our blood, sweat and tears into this meticulous process.”

Cleveland Pickle joins a host of new restaurants and eateries that have opened on Euclid Avenue, including Hodge’s, Colossal Cupcakes, Nexus Cafe and Potbelly.

Cleveland Pickle is open Monday to Friday from 9 am until 4 pm. After Memorial Day, the owners plan to stay open Saturdays and until 8 pm during the week.

Source: Josh Kabat
Writer: Lee Chilcote

emerald cities aims to bring green jobs, energy efficient buildings to cuyahoga county

Lee Chilcote Thursday, April 19, 2012
A new initiative being pioneered by Cuyahoga County, Policy Matters Ohio and a bevy of partners aims to create more energy-efficient municipal buildings and catalyze the creation of green, living wage jobs.

Now that advocacy within the green jobs movement has shifted away from the state and federal level — where activity is slow or nonexistent — organizers are counting on this new initiative to help create a new model for energy-efficient construction as well as stimulate good, union jobs in Cuyahoga County.

“We were pushing on the national level, but when the cap and trade legislation fell apart, we still lacked a comprehensive energy strategy,” says Shanelle Smith, local organizer for the Emerald Cities Cleveland-Cuyahoga County project. “We had the economic stimulus, but now that the money is on the ground, it’s about organizing locally so it benefits all of us.”

Emerald Cities, which was approved last week by Cuyahoga County Council, aims to “create a clean energy economy by developing community workforce opportunities, enhancing environmentally sustainable practices and working to make government buildings more energy efficient,” according to a release.

The initiative aims to make municipal buildings in Cuyahoga County 20 percent more energy-efficient by 2020. Emerald Cities will achieve this by seeking financing mechanisms to help local governments pay for projects, creating community workforce agreements to help foster union jobs, and participating in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge.

“We want to build a pipeline to unionized apprenticeships for underrepresented communities,” says Smith. “Our goal is to help create family-sustaining jobs.”

Now that the initiative has been approved by Cuyahoga County, Emerald Cities partners are working together to assemble a strategic plan for implementation.

Source: Shanelle Smith
Writer: Lee Chilcote

flats east bank project lands five new restaurant tenants

Lee Chilcote Thursday, April 19, 2012
Developers of the long-awaited Flats East Bank development broke ground in the worst economy in generations by hook or crook, breaking the project into phases and layering public-private financing together in a deal that was dizzyingly complex.

This week, they’re singing a different tune as they celebrate new leases from five high-profile restaurant tenants, including well-known Akron restaurateur Ken Stewart and national country music venue chain Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill.

Four new restaurants will open as part of Phase I, which is expected to be complete in 2013. I Love This Bar and Grill will open as part of Phase II, which the developers hope to break ground on next year if they can assemble financing.

Ken Stewart’s, well-known for steak and seafood, will add a new name to the downtown restaurant scene. Lago will move its successful Tremont location to a new, larger space in the Flats East Bank. Flip Side is a gourmet burger bar with two locations in Hudson and Columbus, while Dos Tequilas will be a high-end, urban taqueria.

Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill will add a new element to the downtown music scene. The developers hope the venue, a barbeque joint that will be shaped like a guitar, will tap into an unmet demand for live country music in Cleveland.

“We had interested operators from the beginning, but we took our time to select those that were most exciting,” says Randy Ruttenberg with Fairmount Properties. “We’re currently working on the capital stack for Phase II, which will feature around 150 residential units, waterfront retail and entertainment.”

Source: Randy Ruttenberg
Writer: Lee Chilcote

italian cultural garden to celebrate installation of new dante statue in june

Lee Chilcote Thursday, April 12, 2012
After three years of fundraising — and a generous last-minute gift from an anonymous donor — a bronze statue of Dante Alighieri is now being crafted at Studio Foundry in Cleveland. It will be installed in the Italian Cultural Gardens in Rockefeller Park in June.

“I view this as a Cleveland project,” says Joyce Mariani, Executive Director of the Italian Cultural Gardens Foundation, who championed the project after discovering unfinished plans for the Italian Garden that included the Dante sculpture. “It brings back an urban space, and reflects the greatness of what Italy has given the world. We’re all beneficiaries of what the Italians have done.”

The statue, which costs $135,000, was designed by Italian sculptor Sandro Bonaiuto, who was originally born in Cleveland. It presents Dante in his 30s, around the time he wrote the Divine Comedy.

In the statue, Dante gazes out from where he sits in a Renaissance chair with the Divine Comedy in one hand and a pen in the other. The base of the statue portrays heaven, hell and purgatory, and a scroll located beside the statue includes the epic poem’s most famous canto in Italian and English.

The Dante statue will be dedicated on June 29th, and Mariani will host Opera in the Garden, a free performance, on Sunday, July 29th beginning at 6 pm.

Source: Joyce Mariani
Writer: Lee Chilcote

metroparks to present emerald necklace centennial plan at public meetings

Lee Chilcote Thursday, April 12, 2012
Do you want to see more mountain bike trails in the Metroparks? Or spur trails that lead visitors through secluded, natural landscapes? Could the Metroparks take over the city’s ailing, neglected lakefront park system, which suffers from millions in deferred maintenance from the cash-strapped State of Ohio?

These issues and many others will be the focus of public meetings scheduled in April and May by the Cleveland Metroparks. The Metroparks is seeking to present and gather feedback on its Emerald Necklace Centennial Plan, a document that has been in the works for more than two years and will guide the park system for the next decade.

The focus of the Metroparks over the past 10 years has been on preserving a well-maintained park system while also completing a loop trail through the Emerald Necklace. The new Master Plan will address basic maintenance needs like roads and bridges, while also planning for new projects, such as completing more spur trails. The plan comes at a crucial time, as the park system is dealing with a decline in state funding and the need to pass a new operating levy in 2013.

There has also been discussion about the Metroparks taking over lakefront parks in Cleveland, as well as Wendy Park at Whisky Island and, ultimately, the newly-created Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve. According to Jim Kastelic, Senior Park Planner at the Metroparks, the Master Plan directly addresses these opportunities.

“When we surveyed Northeast Ohioans about whether Cleveland’s lakefront parks should be operated by the same organization, 47 percent said  yes and 37 percent said they weren’t sure,” says Kastelic, who cites the Metroparks’ recent acquisition of two acres at Rivergate Park in the Flats and its agreement to manage the Towpath Trail in Cleveland as evidence of its commitment to urban parks and recreation. “That tells us that it’s something that we need to look at.”

Kastelic says the Centennial Plan will also focus on such key areas as green infrastructure, health of surrounding watersheds, strengthening the Metroparks’ role in urban areas and creating a regional greenway system.

Additional meetings slated for April and May will largely focus on plans for individual Metroparks. Once the plan is finalized, the Metroparks will develop a list of strategic priorities and seek a levy in November of 2013.

Source: Cleveland Metroparks
Writer: Lee Chilcote

affordable church square commons now open in midtown, dedication ceremony to follow

Lee Chilcote Thursday, April 12, 2012
There was good news and bad news when David Uram and David Burg learned in June of 2009 about their application for Low Income Housing Tax Credits from the State of Ohio. The owners of PIRHL, an affordable housing development firm, were seeking to develop a 44-unit housing project on Euclid Avenue in MidTown called Church Square Commons.

The good news was that they’d been awarded tax credits for the project. PIRHL has completed 24 successful projects in five states in the past seven years.

The bad news was that the tax credits were worth at least 20 percent less than they had been before the recession, ripping a giant hole in the project proforma and making it impossible to continue without securing additional funding.

That funding came in the form of about $1.8 million in federal stimulus dollars and $600,000 in Housing Trust Fund dollars from the City of Cleveland. The developers broke ground on Church Square Commons in November 2010 and completed it a year later. PIRHL is hosting a dedication ceremony with Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and other dignitaries and community partners on April 20th.

“This project provides much-needed affordable housing development in the City of Cleveland,” says Uram. “Many low-income seniors fall behind in maintaining their homes and can’t keep up. The project has also removed significant blight along Euclid Avenue, and helped facilitate redevelopment of the area.”

The 44-unit project contains many green, sustainable features, including high-efficiency insulation that cuts down on heating bills for tenants. It also contains 4,000 square feet of common areas, including a hair salon, fitness center and community rooms, some of which are accessible to non-residents.

Uram, who helped found the company in his partner’s basement and has a background in nonprofit community development, says affordable housing is a critical piece of redeveloping neighborhoods. “As we gentrify neighborhoods, folks in Cleveland need a place to live,” he says. “It’s a critical piece of the urban fabric.”

Source: David Uram
Writer: Lee Chilcote

pop-up store set to open in cuyahoga valley railroad car

Lee Chilcote Thursday, April 12, 2012
Later this month, a pop-up store for visitors will open inside of an historic railroad car in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The store, called Trail Mix, will be housed on a spur track along the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad in the town of Peninsula. It will feature snacks, refreshments, books, souvenirs and other items.

Then, later this year, Trail Mix will move into its permanent location at 1600 West Mill Street, adjacent to the Winking Lizard and the tracks where visitors hop aboard the Scenic Railroad. Peninsula has become a hub for visitors to the 33,000 acre national park, which draws more than three million visitors annually and is considered to be one of the most popular national parks in the country.

The store will be operated by the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help educate the general public about the park, protect and conserve its national resources, market the park to visitors, and promote the activities and amenities that exist within the park.

“This is an opportunity for us to really introduce people to all the wonderful things that exist within the 33,000 acres of the park,” says Janice Matteucci, Chief Operations Officer for the Conservancy. “We’re also partnering with the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad so that people can buy their tickets here.”

The new, 3,000 square foot store will provide a larger storefront space for both organizations and add to the retail offerings in downtown Peninsula. Trail Mix will have outdoor seating and serve local foods such as cookies baked at the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center and Mitchell’s Ice Cream.

Source: Janice Matteucci
Writer: Lee Chilcote

on opening day, indians harness wind power to fuel ballpark operations

Lee Chilcote Thursday, April 05, 2012
When Cleveland Indians fans catch their first game at Progressive Field this season, they’ll be able to check out not only the power hitters in the batting lineup, but also a giant, new wind turbine that harnesses wind power to fuel the ballpark’s operations.

The recently constructed turbine, which is the latest in the team’s efforts to green-up its ballpark operations, was designed by Cleveland State University engineering professor Majid Rashidi. It weighs 10 tons and generates 40,000 kilowatt hours per year, which is enough to power about 2.5 households. Progressive Field uses about 17 million kilowatt hours per year.

“As our fans know, it’s very windy at the ballpark. We’ve always wanted to do a turbine, but the technology just wasn’t there,” says Brad Mohr, Assistant Director of Ballpark Operations. “I gave a talk to the Corporate Sustainability Network organized by CSU in 2008, and that’s when I got connected to Dr. Rashidi.”

Rashidi had designed a vented wind turbine design, which fits into a more compact space than a traditional turbine and pivots with the wind. “It works in cities where there’s turbulent wind,” explains Mohr. “Much like a rock in a river, it pushes the air molecules at a faster speed through the turbine and generates power.”

Mohr, who says he is proud that this is an all-Cleveland project, is working on efforts to educate fans. The Indians will install an interpretive area in the ballpark where people can learn about the park’s sustainability efforts, which include solar arrays, energy reduction initiatives, recycling and food composting.

“Without a doubt, teams are looking hard at sustainability,” says Mohr. “Through the Green Sports Alliance, we’re sharing what’s next with each other. For the Indians to influence others in the industry, that makes us very proud.”

Source: Brad Mohr
Writer: Lee Chilcote
Photo: Bob Perkoski

constantino’s market set to open at uptown in university circle

Lee Chilcote Thursday, April 05, 2012
When Costas Mavromichaelis opened Constantino’s Market in downtown Cleveland, he knew that he was an urban pioneer. Downtown residents and businesses had been crying out for a small, full-service grocery store for years, yet no entrepreneur had been willing to take the plunge.

Eight years later, Constantino’s Market on W. 9th Street is still going strong, and Mavromichaelis is hoping for another shot in the arm when the Horseshoe Casino opens this year and the Medical Mart and Convention Center open next year. The growing demand for downtown apartments also bodes well, he says.

The entrepreneur is now set to open a 16,000-square-foot branch of Constantino’s in University Circle. City leaders contacted him after failing to secure leases from Dave’s Market or Heinen’s. Mavromichaelis says that the urban market isn’t an easy or simple place to do business, but that he’s addressing unmet demand.

“This is an important and developing area of Cleveland, and the density of and demand for housing because of the university and hospitals make it attractive,” he says. “There’s been a lack of shopping amenities in University Circle, but that’s changing, and the Uptown project will make the area even more attractive.”

Mavromichaelis says the new Constantino’s will be very similar to the downtown store, and will be geared towards young professionals, students, small families and empty nesters. It will offer a full selection of groceries as well as a salad and hot foods bar, prepared foods, pizza and an impressive wine selection.

To make the deal work, the developer, MRN Ltd., leased the space to Case Western Reserve University, who in turn subleased it to Mavromichaelis. Uptown is a large, new retail and apartment development along Euclid Avenue in University Circle. The new Constantino’s will be located at E. 115th and Euclid.

Mavromichaelis has also recruited his daughter and son-in-law, Anna Mavromichaelis and Andrew Revy, to move from Chicago to Cleveland to work in the business. His daughter has helped him to run the business and open new locations, while Revy will soon manage the University Circle location.

“My daughter was working as an accountant in Chicago, but she grew up in the business, coming to the Clifton store from the time she was seven or eight years old,” says Mavromichaelis. “I guess she never got it out of her system.”

Source: Costas Mavromichaelis
Writer: Lee Chilcote

peace, love and little donuts now open in kamm’s corners

Lee Chilcote Thursday, April 05, 2012
A trio of local entrepreneurs have recently opened Peace, Love and Little Donuts, a hippie-themed, gourmet donut shop in Kamm’s Corners. The purple walls of the 40-seat venue are lined with Cleveland concert posters from the 60s through the 80s.

Now, donuts get a bad rap in today’s health-conscious foodie scene. Yet founder Patrick Campbell says he’s got that covered. The hot, fresh donuts are made right in the shop, and the coffee comes from Caruso’s in Brecksville. And even if they’re not exactly healthy, well, who can resist a maple and bacon donut?

Peace, Love and Little Donuts offers three different types of donuts. The “groovy” donuts are plain or sprinkled with powdered sugar or cinnamon. “Far out” donuts are frosted with chocolate, maple syrup or other goodies. “And the Funkadelic is where it gets really interesting,” explains Campbell, who also owns P.J. McIntyre’s Pub. “We’ve got a strawberry cheesecake, samoa and s’mores donut.”

Peace, Love and Little Donuts also boasts a state-of-the-art espresso and latte machine that reportedly cost $10,000. “Coffee is the new pint,” quips Campbell.

Campbell and his partners, Pete Campbell and James Crawford, first discovered the donut franchise on a visit to Pittsburgh last year. They were walking around the popular neighborhood The Strip and were overcome by a delicious odor.

“We just followed the smell,” says Campbell. “And lo and behold, we found this small, 300 square foot, unique coffee shop. They were making fresh donuts right there in front of you, and there was a line out the door.”

Source: Patrick Campbell
Writer: Lee Chilcote

to improve state of downtown, look to next generation of leaders

Lee Chilcote Thursday, April 05, 2012
With cranes in the sky and construction workers swarming everywhere, downtown Cleveland is witnessing an impressive construction boom. Yet beneath the clouds of dust, a not-so-subtle changing of the guard is also taking place, as baby boomers retire and young people step into leadership posts.

The generational handing off of the baton appeared to be in display last week at the annual “State of Downtown” address, an event that is sponsored by the Downtown Cleveland Alliance. The sold out crowd included a diverse, intergenerational group of business and nonprofit leaders.

To further enhance downtown Cleveland’s vibrancy, civic and business leaders must engage young people from across different sectors to make it a better, more innovative place, said Lee Fisher, President of CEOs for Cities and a panelist at the City Club forum. “Cross-sector, cross-generational urban leaders are the greatest area of growth in cities, but we don’t always walk the walk,” he said. “It’s not enough to have talent; we must also harness it and connect it.”

Jeffrey Finkel, CEO of the International Economic Development Council, bemoaned the lack of corporate leadership in downtown Cleveland, yet said this is unsurprising given today’s economy. He cited Eaton leaving downtown for the suburbs as one example. “You need to look at family-owned, growing companies for leadership,” he said. “When they hire a Harvard MBA, you’ve lost.”

Joe Marinucci, President of DCA, suggested the need to look beyond corporate leaders to young entrepreneurs. “Look at new businesses such as Nexus Cafe, Hodge’s and Cleveland Pickle,” he said. “These are homegrown entrepreneurs.”

Source: Lee Fisher, Joe Marinucci, Jeffrey Finkel
Writer: Lee Chilcote

shaker square bookseller returns to his roots to sell off private collection

Lee Chilcote Thursday, March 29, 2012
Noted Cleveland bookseller Richard Gildenmeister, who first began selling books at Higbees in 1955, opened Richard Gildenmeister at Shaker Square in the 1970s and worked at Joseph-Beth Booksellers until two years ago, is returning to Shaker Square to open a pop up store in a vacant storefront and sell off his private collection.

“We all have dreams and nightmares,” says Gildenmeister, who turns 80 this year. “Well, one night I had a dream with all these books moving around in my brain. I woke up and thought, ‘Maybe this is a message. I’ve lived in this apartment 42 years and haven’t thrown a scrap away. It’s time to get moving.'”

Gildenmeister, who lives in a three-bedroom suite on North Moreland by Shaker Square, soon got on the phone with Peter Rubin, CEO of the Coral Company, which owns Shaker Square. He readily agreed to lease Gildenmeister a vacant space beside Dewey’s Coffee Shop, jumping at the chance to bring the beloved bookseller back to the Square, even just for a few weeks.

The near-octogenerian bookseller, whose sale starts April 18th and lasts until the books are all sold, has a collection of 2,000+ volumes that he’s held onto for many years. They include signed editions, coffee table books, Cleveland books and poetry, all of which will be sold at deeply discounted rates in this final sale.

Although Gildenmeister is generally gloomy about the future of large bookstores, he believes we are entering a new era in which smaller, independent bookstores will thrive. “The city had a lot of independent bookstores in 1955, and one by one they were knocked off, and then came the big guys. Now they’re getting knocked off. I believe many more independent stores will open in niche markets.”

Although witnessing the closure of Joseph-Beth was no fun, Gildenmeister says he “never regretted a moment of his career and had a blast.” As someone who organized thousands of book signings, Cleveland’s book czar hobnobbed with the likes of Lauren Bacall, Barbara Walters and James Baldwin in his time.

Through it all, Shaker Square has remained his home. “I fell in love with Shaker Square when I was a small child. I saw the lights when I was nine years old at Christmastime. Although I live by myself, I never feel alone and always feel connected. When I open my windows, I see the neighborhood going by.”

Source: Richard Gildenmeister
Writer: Lee Chilcote

long-awaited makeover of mlk jr. drive and ‘suicide circle’ to begin shortly

Lee Chilcote Thursday, March 29, 2012
The City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County are preparing to break ground on two major roadway improvement projects in University Circle and surrounding neighborhoods that will improve vehicular, pedestrian and bicycle access to the area while making it safer and easier to navigate.

First, the City of Cleveland plans to break ground in the next few months on the rebuilding of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. The scenic roadway wends its way 2.63 miles from University Circle through Rockefeller Park to the lakefront. The work includes repairing curbs, adding new ADA ramps, drainage improvements and new parking areas. The latter is the biggest change for those accessing the park by car, as there will finally be a (legal) place to park along MLK Drive.

Second, Cuyahoga County will start this fall on the reconfiguration of the much-maligned traffic circle at East 105th Street and MLK. The new intersection will be a traditional, four-way stoplight. The project will not only make the area safer for drivers, but will also enhance access for cyclists and pedestrians.

“This traffic circle has one of the highest rates of vehicular accidents in the region — they’re mostly fender benders, because people are just confused by it,” says Chris Bongorno, Director of Planning with University Circle Incorporated (UCI). “The new configuration will definitely be more pedestrian and bike friendly, and will also help to connect people to Rockefeller Park and University Circle.”

The reconfiguration of the traffic circle will create sidewalks on both sides of the street and better connect the Harrison Dillard bikeway to University Circle. A new boardwalk will be constructed on land freed up by the project, and pedestrians and cyclists will be able to cross the intersection at one, signalized location.

The City of Cleveland has scheduled a public meeting to discuss the MLK rebuild project on Tuesday, April 3rd at 5:30 p.m. at the Martin Luther King Jr. branch of the Cleveland Public Library (1962 Stokes Blvd.). City officials will be on hand to discuss the project timeline and specifics and to answer questions.

Bongorno says the two projects are evidence of University Circle’s commitment to enhancing access to the area’s cultural amenities for all users. He also says University Circle employees are biking to work in greater numbers with each passing year, and these types of improvements will better serve them.

Source: Chris Bongorno
Writer: Lee Chilcote

butanese refugees to become lakewood homeowners thanks to land bank partnership

Lee Chilcote Thursday, March 29, 2012
It was exciting enough for Ruk and Leela, Butanese refugees who settled in Cleveland a few years ago without knowing a soul, to press their garage opener and watch the door magically lift open. So imagine their surprise and joy when they found a shiny new tricycle also waiting inside for their toddler son.

Thanks to the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s Discover Home program, a new partnership with the International Services Center, this immigrant couple will soon become proud homeowners. The Land Bank partnered with the ISC to renovate a three bedroom home on Hopkins Ave. in Lakewood and sign a lease-purchase agreement with this young family.

“We’re helping to repopulate the city with immigrants, and they’re contributing to the neighborhood, just as my relatives did when they came here from Greece,” says Gus Frangos, President of the Land Bank. “We have such a surplus of vacant properties that we need to collaborate with everyone that we can.”

The yellow, cottage-like house feels like “some kind” of home, adds Ruk Rai. He now works at ParkOhio and his wife works at Mold Masters. The couple spent 18 years in a refugee camp after they were forced from their country following a violent revolution because of their Nepali ancestry. They eventually won the immigrant “lottery” and became one of 40,000-75,000 refugees who are allowed into the U.S. each year. They resettled in Cleveland because of the ISC.

“The program came out of a need,” says Karen Wishner, Executive Director of the ISC. “It was a way to solve two problems — vacant properties and people in need of housing.”

The house, which was previously bank owned, was renovated using a $20,000 grant from Fannie Mae. An additional $20,000 was invested by the ISC, and donations and sweat equity from the new owners covered the rest. The Land Bank and ISC hope to renovate 5-7 more dwellings like this by the end of the year.

The Land Bank is also pioneering additional partnerships, including efforts to work with veterans’ groups and disability organizations. “The nonprofits bring the capacity and possibly the funding, and we have the properties,” says Frangos.

Source: Gus Frangos, Rook, Karen Wishner
Writer: Lee Chilcote

demolition of old cleveland school of the arts makes way for new, state-of-the-art campus

Lee Chilcote Thursday, March 29, 2012
Many teachers and graduates of Cleveland School of the Arts, the acclaimed, arts-focused school that sits at the edge of University Circle, have been patiently waiting for more than 30 years for a new school.

“We’ve had a makeshift arts school for 30 years,” says Christine Bluso, Executive Director of Friends of Cleveland School of the Arts. The historic school building was built atop the culverted Doan Brook and does not have a cafeteria or facilities suitable to teaching the arts. “Now they’re building us a real arts school. This is part of a premier arts specialty system that’s being put into place in the district, and our goal is to write the curriculum to create a conservatory-level 9th-12th grade school.”

The demolition of the former Cleveland School of the Arts began earlier this month. Current CSA students are housed at another district school until the new campus is ready. Bluso says that the district plans to break ground on the new, state-of-the-art school in June and open it to students in August 2014. The green-built facility will feature an outdoor plaza and new interior spaces such as art galleries and music rooms that are specially built for arts classes.

“Each arts program will have an area of the building,” says Bluso. “We plan to serve 775 students in grades 6-12, and our goal is to be very competitive district-wide. We want students from all over the city to apply.”

Bluso says the new school is part of a renewed emphasis on arts education that is flourishing under CEO Eric Gordon. “He’s really made arts education a priority,” she says. “This is a critical component of the Transformation Plan.”

Friends of CSA raises $650-750,000 to support arts programs at the school each year. Bluso says that arts-based education teaches students to think creatively and keeps them motivated in school. CSA has a high graduation rate and many of its students go on to graduate from college and pursue careers in the arts.

Source: Christine Bluso
Writer: Lee Chilcote

bipartisan bill would provide funding to demolish vacant and blighted homes

Lee Chilcote Thursday, March 22, 2012
Against a backdrop of vacant, foreclosed homes and empty lots, U.S. Representatives Steve LaTourette and Marcia Fudge this week unveiled the bipartisan Restore Our Neighborhoods Act of 2012. The new legislation seeks to provide $4 billion to states and land banks to issue 30-year demolition bonds to demolish vacant, blighted homes across the country.

“This country needs to come to the realization that sometimes you just need to tear it down and start over,” LaTourette told an audience of city leaders and community development professionals outside of a vacant home on E. 69th Street in Slavic Village. LaTourette stressed that the foreclosure crisis is not just an urban problem; it affects the Lake County communities he represents, too. “Vacant homes drag down property values and can lead to crime.”

Congresswoman Marcia Fudge noted that more than 40 percent of the homes on E. 69th Street off Union Avenue were either vacant or foreclosed. A block away, a woman was recently dragged into a vacant property and raped.

Currently, only 10 percent of funds from the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) can be used for demolition. The bill would change that by allowing greater flexibility in how NSP funds can be used. It would also provide more than $40 million in Qualified Urban Demolition Bonds to every state, with additional funding flowing to states like Ohio that are considered “hardest hit” by the foreclosure crisis. Any unused allocation would be redistributed by the Secretary of the Treasury after two years to “qualified” states (including Ohio).

Fudge and LaTourette stressed that the legislation would be budget neutral, as there are at least two possible offsets under consideration for the $4 billion cost.

City and county leaders said the legislation is not only about removing blight, but also clearing the way for future redevelopment of neighborhoods. “We want to see a city that’s thriving and bustling,” said Gus Frangos, President of the Cuyahoga Land Bank. “This is about creating a new vision for our neighborhoods.”

Although more than 6,000 vacant homes in Cleveland have been demolished in the past five to seven years, there are still more than 12,000 condemned or blighted homes throughout the city. Throughout Cuyahoga County, there are estimated to be 25,000 to 30,000 blighted or condemned properties in need of demolition.

“This is a $250-million problem,” said Frangos. “That number is much greater than we can handle, no matter how strategic we are with our resources.”

Source: Steve LaTourette, Marcia Fudge, Gus Frangos
Writer: Lee Chilcote

new ‘lake to lakes trail’ will help cyclists safely travel from the heights to downtown

Lee Chilcote Thursday, March 22, 2012
Thanks to roadway improvements and striking new signage, University Circle is becoming easier to navigate all the time. Yet it’s a grim joke among cyclists that navigating the spaghetti intersection at Stokes, Martin Luther King Jr. and Cedar is akin to taking your life into your hands.

This issue affects more than a small, insignificant sliver of the population: According to City of Cleveland Bike Planner Marty Cader, the number of bike commuters continues to rise each year. In fact, he says, the parking garages at the Cleveland Clinic are filled with bikes these days, many of which originate from points further east.

The City of Cleveland recently broke ground on a new trail which is expected to ease this life-threatening commute. The so-called Lake to Lakes Trail consists of a new 10-foot-wide trail and improved intersections that should be complete by the end of summer. The trail will better connect the Harrison Dillard Bikeway in Rockefeller Park with the bike paths at Shaker Lakes in Shaker Heights.

The project overcame huge design challenges by funneling bike traffic through existing public land in University Circle. The City of Cleveland is reconstructing several traffic islands and adding ADA ramps and pedestrian signals to help make road crossings safer. The trail will meander through the hidden gem of Rudy Rogers Park, where Doan Brook flows into a culvert before emerging in Rockefeller Park, and then head up Fairhill Boulevard into the Heights.

The project is being funded by the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Department of Energy through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The trail also adds another leg to the city’s Bikeway Master Plan, which is beginning to form vital connections between city neighborhoods. With the help of the Lake to Lakes Trail, cyclists will be able to easily and safely bike from Shaker Heights to downtown Cleveland along Euclid Ave., or out to the lakefront.

Source: Marty Cader
Writer: Lee Chilcote

positively cleveland to unveil plans to strengthen city as a tourism destination

Lee Chilcote Thursday, March 22, 2012
To conduct an authentic test of what it’s like to be a tourist in Cleveland, Positively Cleveland recently sent several Northeast Ohioans on all-expenses-paid trips to parts of the city with which they were unfamiliar. The outcomes of this “mystery shopper” test were revealing, if not exactly surprising: Safety, wayfinding signage and public transportation ranked among participants’ top concerns.

Lexi Hotchkiss, Communications Manager with Positively Cleveland, says the “Tourist for a Day” effort was part of a larger, regional initiative to make Cleveland a more visitor-friendly destination. The “Destination Cleveland” project has been launched by Positively Cleveland and other civic-minded partners in anticipation of $2 billion in tourism-related development that is currently being invested in downtown Cleveland.

“Our new President and CEO, David Gilbert, started the process when he joined the organization,” explains Hotchkiss. “We knew it was time to look at Cleveland in a different way, and really examine how we look, act and feel as a destination.”

In November, Positively Cleveland held a summit with over 200 community ambassadors, ranging from government officials to hotel managers. This unprecedented, collaborative effort to take Cleveland’s tourism economy to the next level resulted in 11 focus areas. Top government officials also signed a memorandum of understanding agreeing to work together on this effort.

In a few days, tourism leaders are set to unveil and begin implementing a new, five year plan to improve Cleveland as a travel destination. Positively Cleveland and its partners are holding the Destination Cleveland Travel and Tourism Outcomes Launch on Tuesday, March 27th from 7:30 to 10 a.m. at the House of Blues. The event is free and open to the public.

“Tourism is the fourth largest private sector economy in Ohio,” says Hotchkiss. “One of the things we really want to do is engage locals as ambassadors of our city.”

Source: Lexi Hotchkiss
Writer: Lee Chilcote

new ch-uh school facilities plan blends historic preservation with modern learning environments

Lee Chilcote Thursday, March 22, 2012
A newly unveiled school facilities plan in the Cleveland Heights-University Heights School District (CH-UH) has the potential to blend historic preservation and neighborhood schools with cutting edge, 21st century learning environments, school leaders say.

The plan calls for eliminating several schools, tearing down 70s-era additions to older, historic buildings that will be preserved, and creating new interiors and additions to facilitate a technology-oriented, interest-based curriculum. Additionally, Wiley Middle School will be torn down and rebuilt.

The plan also retains neighborhood-based schools that are highly valued by the community. It calls for converting several primary schools to K-3rd grade buildings and converting three middle schools to 4th-8th grade buildings.

School leaders arrived at the new plan after presenting an earlier plan that was harshly received at community meetings. The earlier plan called for closing a larger number of buildings and effectively eliminating neighborhood schools. It would have created several large K-8 campuses in addition to the high school.

To gain additional input, CH-UH school leaders will host a series of community meetings at elementary schools in the coming weeks. Then the final plan is expected to be rolled out at a meeting at the high school on April 18th.

“As we move forward in the master facilities planning process, we want to assure our community that we are hearing and respecting all of the input we are receiving,” said Superintendent Doug Heuer in a news release. Heuer also noted that the plan is not yet final and additional refinements can still be made.

Source: Doug Heuer, CH-UH School District
Writer: Lee Chilcote

cleveland boomerang opens colossal cupcakes bakeshop and cafe downtown

Lee Chilcote Thursday, March 15, 2012
When Kelly Kandah walked to her job each morning at ABC News in Manhattan, she found herself gaping at the long lines outside of trendy cupcake shops like Crumbs and Magnolia Bakery.

It wasn’t because she was hungry — Kandah simply has cupcakes in her blood. Baking is a family tradition, and her mom has been baking cakes featuring Grandma Kandah’s “famous” frosting recipe for years for family friends.

So, when the 25-year-old Kandah moved back to her hometown, it was natural for her to start baking with her mom again. She quickly realized that she’d found her life’s calling — baking delicious, king-sized cupcakes. Yet, within a few short months of taking orders, her four KitchenAid mixers weren’t enough to get the job done.

Following the tried-and-true path of many successful entrepreneurs, Kandah decided to move the business she launched out of her house into a retail storefront. Her new shop, called Colossal Cupcakes, is set to open this Friday, March 16th — just in time for an onslaught of hungry downtown visitors on St. Patty’s Day.

“I wanted to bring Clevelanders the same thing I saw in New York — an actual specialty cupcake store, always stocked with a large variety of cupcakes, that never closes early or sells out,” says Kandah. “I thought, why not Cleveland?”

Colossal Cupcakes will offer generous-sized cupcakes — twice as big as ones you’d find at a typical bakery, Kandah promises — for $3.75. Visitors will have 40-plus varieties to choose from, including the Colossal Classic, a milk chocolate cupcake that has raspberry filling and is topped with almond butter cream frosting. Guilt-inducing drinks such as Red Velvet Hot Cocoa will also be available.

Other offerings include coffee, tea, cupcake shakes made out of homemade vanilla ice cream and cream cheese whipped cream to top off your steaming cup of hot chocolate. Looking for a low-cal option? Try the tasty vegan cupcakes.

Kandah built out her retail storefront at 530 Euclid Avenue to feature a French cottage-style theme. It also features reclaimed wood countertops.

Colossal Cupcakes will be open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday until 9 p.m.

Source: Kelly Kandah
Writer: Lee Chilcote

ebook leader overdrive breaks ground on world headquarters in garfield heights

Lee Chilcote Thursday, March 15, 2012
Garfield Heights historically has been known as the “City of Homes,” yet Mayor Vic Collova wants to update that quaint image. The time is right to attract new businesses and development, he says, and the city’s infrastructure, proximity to highways and business-friendly approach make it competitive.

“We haven’t had a lot of new businesses moving here, and we’re really trying to change our mindset,” he says. “What we’re doing is aggressive for Garfield Heights, but not for other areas that are more business-minded.”

Like many inner ring suburbs that have a flat or declining residential tax base, Garfield Heights is now trying to diversify its tax rolls by attracting new economic development. The city has cause to celebrate a major victory this month, as the rapidly growing ebook and audio book distributor Overdrive recently broke ground on a new, $10 million world headquarters. The facility will immediate employ nearly 200 people, and could eventually employ up to 300 people.

Collova says former Governor Ted Strickland’s administration was instrumental in keeping Overdrive in Ohio (the current facility is located in Valley View), and a package of incentives that included a 10-year, 100-percent tax abatement helped lure the firm to Garfield Heights. The Ohio Department of Development also provided a $200,000 grant to build a new road to service the facility.

In a competitive economic landscape in which cities and states are, for better or worse, bidding against one another to land new development projects, Collova says Garfield Heights “offered a package to meet Overdrive’s needs.” He adds that Economic Development Director Noreen Kupan “did a great job negotiating.”

Yet Collova says regardless of incentives, the location near I-480 is becoming “one of the most sought after locations in the city” because it offers great highway access and more than 180,000 cars per day drive through the area.

The location once was home to Nestaway, a company that closed years ago and left behind a vacant building. When Overdrive moves into its new headquarters later this year, it will be one of the largest employers in the City of Garfield Heights.

Source: Vic Collova
Writer: Lee Chilcote

heights school leaders plan additional meetings after facilities plan fails to win support

Lee Chilcote Thursday, March 15, 2012
When Plans A and B don’t go over so well, there’s always Plan C. That’s what Cleveland Heights-University Heights School District leaders are finding out following a contentious community meeting in which residents voiced concerns about a facilities plan that could shutter up to six elementary schools.

The meeting, held March 1 and organized by FutureHeights and the Sustainable Heights Network, brought out a crowd of over 100 people. Since then, the school district has announced that it is postponing a final meeting scheduled for March 21 and will be holding meetings in all seven elementary schools. School leaders say that they want to garner additional community input before moving forward.

The facilities plan was spurred in part by an April 2010 report from the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC). The report determined that the CH-UH district has declining enrollment and excess building capacity. To address this inefficiency and win state support for improvements, the OSFC said it was necessary for the district to complete a facilities plan and raise matching funds. The district has planned to put a bond issue before voters in November.

Yet Deanna Bremer-Fisher, Executive Director of FutureHeights, says that the district’s plan was too drastic and did not include enough community involvement. “Don’t sell the public on a plan; get their input first,” she says. “Our schools are the anchors of our community. The plan should take into account the need to close buildings, but we should also keep a sense of neighborhood schools.”

Bremer-Fisher points to Lakewood as a model of community involvement. The Lakewood School District organized meetings in 14 different school buildings and came up with a list of values with the aid of community members. Residents identified neighborhood schools and “no busing” as non-negotiable items. They also identified teaching and learning priorities. Lakewood has subsequently reduced its total number of school buildings from fourteen to nine.

Bremer-Fisher adds that the issues facing the CH-UH Schools are similar to those affecting many inner suburban districts with declining enrollment and excess capacity. She points out that the community has expressed significant support for the schools — a recent school levy passed on the first attempt — and that Superintendent Douglas Heuer is moving the needle on student achievement.

“People recognize that you can’t have a strong community without strong public schools — regardless of whether or not you send your kids there,” she says.

Source: Deanna Bremer-Fisher
Writer: Lee Chilcote

heights wellness center in south euclid aims to create wellness-focused community

Lee Chilcote Thursday, March 15, 2012
A new business in South Euclid aims to take advantage of Cleveland’s growing reputation as a healthcare leader while also capitalizing on rising consumer interest in alternative medicine. The Heights Wellness Center, which is located at Cedar and Warrensville roads, employs chiropractors, herbalists, acupuncturists, Reiki healers and yoga instructors to create customized wellness programs for its customers.

Founder Sandy Lawrence points to the fact that the Center is located in a former internist’s office as a sign of the changing times. Although she gutted the interior of the building during the custom build-out, she was able to reuse patient rooms for massage.

“Holistic medicine and wellness are in a growth spurt,” Lawrence says. “This is something to help, not replace, traditional medicine.”

The Center aims to create a wellness-focused community in the Heights area, a part of Cleveland’s east side that is already rich in healthcare amenities. Lawrence, who previously ran her husband’s medical practice for more than two decades, chose the Heights because of its rich diversity and interest in wellness.

Lawrence describes the Center’s intake process as one that seeks to build a comprehensive program to help patients become well. The RN on staff can refer patients to doctors and hospitals for issues requiring medical attention.

The Center’s practitioners believe that alternative and traditional forms of medicine can complement and aid one another. For instance, alternative medicine can help patients to heal after a traumatic event, and it can also keep patients from getting sick in the first place. The Center’s ultimate goal is to empower clients to seek true health through nurturing their mind, body, spirit and emotions.

As insurance companies have become more accepting of alternative medicine, clients can often submit for reimbursement to their healthcare providers, too.

Source: Sandy Lawrence
Writer: Lee Chilcote

csu creates arts campus in playhousesquare’s redeveloped middough building

Lee Chilcote Thursday, March 08, 2012
Cleveland State University (CSU) recently relocated its Department of Theatre and Dance to the Middough Building at PlayhouseSquare, a critical step in creating a multidisciplinary Arts Campus in the heart of Cleveland’s growing theater district.

“The university’s master plan is to move the majority of CSU’s arts programs into PlayhouseSquare,” says Joe Mosbrook, Director of Strategic Communications with CSU. “Our theatre majors will take classes 20 feet from the Allen Theatre. They’ll build sets in the building, and then perform in one of the top college venues in the country. We’re excited to be a part of one of Cleveland’s largest arts centers.”

Mosbrook says CSU is the only undergraduate theatre program in the country where students have the opportunity to work alongside a professional theatre company. CSU has formed an ongoing partnership with Cleveland Play House, and its productions are being staged in the new Allen Theatre complex.

CSU now occupies approximately 160,000 square feet on the second and fifth floors of the Middough Building. The refurbished space includes art studios, rehearsal space, photography studios, costume design studios and other facilities. CSU’s Fine Arts programs also are now housed in the Middough Building.

In September, CSU plans to open an art gallery in the Cowell and Hubbard building on Euclid Avenue. The gallery will showcase student work, traveling shows, and work by alumni and faculty. The location was chosen to capitalize on PlayhouseSquare’s foot traffic while adding to the revitalization of the area.

Over the long term, CSU also plans to move its digital and broadcast media programs, including its student radio station, into the Ideastream building. “There’s a symbiotic relationship that occurs when students and professors work together with professionals in their field,” says Mosbrook.

Source: Joe Mosbrook
Writer: Lee Chilcote

$4.25m sustainable communities consortium begins outreach process

Lee Chilcote Thursday, March 08, 2012
The Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium, a major public initiative to help move Northeast Ohio towards a more sustainable, resilient future, will launch a public engagement process in the next few months. Young professionals are among the first constituencies being targeted in this effort to create a sustainability plan for the region.

“We’re looking at how we are using land through the lens of sustainability,” explains Jeff Anderle, Communications and Engagement Manager for the NEOSCC, which received a $4.25 million grant from the Obama administration’s Partnership for Sustainable Communities initiative and launched in January 2011. “We want to make Northeast Ohio more resilient to change, help our governments to be more collaborative and provide the tools for communities to engage in more sustainable planning.”

The NEOSCC has five different work study areas: economic development, environment, communities, connections, and quality, connected places. Consortium members include city governments, planning agencies and other public entities throughout the 12-county planning area. According to Anderle, NEOSCC’s members are working together because they realize it is in their self-interest to help ensure that the region’s resources are used more sustainably.

“We’re starting to see collaboration happening in government because resources are getting tight, and moving forward, we believe collaboration will become essential,” he says. “People are waking up and coming to the table.”

Over the next few months, the NEOSCC will publish an existing conditions report and begin public engagement. “We’re partnering with the Civic Commons,” says Anderle. “We want to empower people to become a part of the process.”

Source: Jeff Anderle
Writer: Lee Chilcote

tremco earns coveted leed gold cert for renovation of its 40-year-old hq

Frank Lewis Thursday, March 08, 2012
Cleveland-based Tremco Inc. recently earned the sustainable-construction industry’s equivalent of an Oscar: LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design ) Gold certification. The coveted prize, awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council, recognizes Tremco’s outstanding performance in the 2010 renovation of its 40-year-old, 46,000-square-foot headquarters on (appropriately enough) Green Road.

Cindy Cicigoi, Tremco’s vice president of sustainable initiatives and facilities, acknowledges that traditional construction methods — or simply relocating — would have been less expensive. But Tremco never viewed the project so narrowly. “We did this, number one, because it’s the right thing to do,” Cicigoi says. Tremco specializes in the development of high-performance, low-impact buildings.

But it was also the smart thing to do. After “buttoning up the exterior” of the building, as Cicigoi puts it, Tremco used about 55 percent less natural gas over the past year compared to the average of the previous three years. Solar panels and a wind turbine helped cut the electric bill by about 24 percent.

And the rehab project itself met its zero-landfill goal. Nearly all of the two million pounds of demolition debris was reused; for example, gravel from the old roof became the base for the new sidewalks. Blinds, plumping fixtures and other reusable items were donated to Habitat for Humanity. What couldn’t be reused or recycled was burned for energy. Tremco even recycled materials from the I-90 resurfacing project to resurface its own parking lot after installing an underground cistern to store rainwater runoff.

That water is then used in Cicigoi’s favorite part of the building upgrade: the vegetated roof. In addition  to being “gorgeous” in the summer, the roof is home to 40-plus species of native Ohio plants –16,000 in all — including herbs that are used in the cafeteria.

The result of all this effort, Cicigoi notes, is a “showcase” for what Tremco, and other companies owned by parent RPM International, can do.

According to the USGBC web site, “LEED certification provides independent, third-party verification that a building, home or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.”

Source: Cindy Cicigoi
Writer: Frank W. Lewis

home decor business metheny weir expands to larger space on larchmere

Lee Chilcote Thursday, March 01, 2012
Metheny Weir, a home remodeling business which was originally launched out of a Shaker Heights basement, recently expanded to a spacious storefront on Larchmere. The growth spurt is the result of the company inking last year a deal to become Cleveland’s only licensed retailer of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, a hot new product that’s generating a buzz in the interior design world.

Metheny Weir co-owner Sue Weir says that the innovative product allows home remodelers to paint furniture and other surfaces without cleaning, sanding or priming — you just put your brush in the can and start painting.

“Our customers like it because they don’t have to move their armoire out of the living room to paint it,” says Weir, who co-founded the company with her friend, Kim Metheny. “It’s not a big production to change the look of their furniture.”

Chalk Paint is low in volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) and considered green. Weir says that she recently sold $700 of the new product in a single week.

The paint has also attracted new business for Metheny Weir, which specializes in custom painted finishes and has become known for stylish makeovers of older homes and furniture. “We’re redoing a kitchen for someone that fell in love with the Annie Sloan product but didn’t want to do the work herself,” says Weir.

Weir and Metheny are hosting workshops out of their Larchmere storefront to educate homeowners on how to use the paint. The uptick in interest in home remodeling is partially due to the stalled housing market, Weir says, a trend that has spurred many homeowners to reinvest in their homes and furnishings.

In the next several months, Weir and Metheny will also travel to Chicago and New Orleans to meet Sloan in person and to participate in product demonstrations.

Source: Sue Weir
Writer: Lee Chilcote

tremont launches incubator space to help pops-ups grow roots

Lee Chilcote Thursday, March 01, 2012
Tremont West Development Corporation has launched a new Storefront Incubator program that aims to help pop-up shops and startup businesses grow into permanent, bricks-and-mortar retailers, ideally right in the heart of historic Tremont.

Through a competitive process, Tremont West will select a fledgling retailer to occupy the 370-square-foot storefront it owns at 2406 Professor. The retailer will be offered three months of free rent as a sweetener. After the nine month lease term, the startup may renew for an additional three months, yet the goal is to help that business establish a permanent space elsewhere in the neighborhood.

“We’ve used our storefront successfully for pop-up shops, so this is really for someone of that quality who wants a longer-term run to see if their business is actually viable,” says Cory Riordan, Executive Director of Tremont West.

As part of the lease agreement, Tremont West plans to work with the startup to help them grow their business. The nonprofit will links entrepreneurs with available financing, vacant space and other businesses in the community.

The long-term goal is not to compete with existing property owners, but to support new types of businesses, says Riordan. He cites service-oriented businesses as one gap within the neighborhood’s retail mix.

Riordan says that supporting small startup retailers is one positive way forward for neighborhoods that are slowly emerging from the recession. “We can help create niche businesses that lead to neighborhood recovery.”

Responses to the Storefront Incubator RFP are due by Friday, March 16th.

Source: Cory Riordan
Writer: Lee Chilcote

shaker square area development members vote down proposed merger with buckeye

Lee Chilcote Thursday, March 01, 2012
A proposed merger between two nonprofit community development organizations appears to be dead on arrival following a contentious vote held last weekend. In a narrow decision swayed by a mere four votes, one group’s membership shot down the long-planned consolidation.

If the merger had passed, it would have combined the Shaker Square Area Development Corporation (SHAD) and the Buckeye Area Development Corporation (BADC) into a new organization called the Buckeye-Shaker Square Community Alliance. The merger was first proposed two years ago due to cuts in the City of Cleveland’s Community Development Block Grant funding as well as foundation funding. The CDC intermediary Neighborhood Progress (NPI) encouraged the merger and provided grant funding to assist with the process.

For the merger to take place,  a majority “yes” vote was needed from SHAD’s individual and business membership. The final vote tally was 57-53 against it.

The upset vote effectively means that SHAD must lay off its five staff people and close its doors within a few weeks. It also leaves the area without a CDC.

“I was very disappointed by the vote, and disgusted by the active campaign by some of our own board members and people in the community to encourage SHAD members to vote no,” says Kenisha Pierce, Board President of SHAD and Manager of the Shaker Square branch of PNC Bank. “After two years of planning, we don’t have funding for salaries or even to keep the lights on.”

At the meeting, some SHAD members asked for changes to the merger documents that would have added greater board representation from their neighborhood and placed more decision-making power in the hands of community members. They also stated that there was not enough community input into the process.

Pierce says that several community meetings were held, and that any changes to the merger documents would have required going back to the negotiation table. The boards of both organizations had already voted to support the merger.

“These same people who wanted a voice never exercised their rights,” says Pierce, who cites poor turnout at meetings. “We were trying to build a new organization.”

SHAD members and trustees in opposition stated that amendments to the merger documents should have been considered. Among those opposed were SHAD Trustee and retired judge Diane Karpinski and former board president and attorney George Palda. These concerns were expressed vocally at the meeting, but Pierce ended the meeting and called for a vote without discussion.

Pierce has not given up hope that the Shaker Square-Larchmere neighborhood will continue to be served by a CDC. She says that it is possible that merger talks could be revived, or that another way could be found to create the new organization. John Hopkins, Executive Director of BADC, stated that he could not comment on next steps until he met with his board of directors.

Community members opposed to the merger also vowed to save SHAD. As the meeting concluded, some could be heard saying, “We’re not done yet.”

Shaker Square Area Development Corporation was originally formed in 1976 as Friends of Shaker Square. The organization now has approximately 1,000 members. Shaker Square is the oldest shopping district in Ohio and the second oldest in the nation, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Source: Kenisha Pierce
Writer: Lee Chilcote

hedalloy expands in slavic village to accommodate increased demand

Lee Chilcote Thursday, March 01, 2012
Business leaders who say that the resurgence of manufacturing is helping to lead Northeast Ohio out of the recession will find cause for optimism in Hedalloy Die Corporation. The tool and die maker in Cleveland’s Slavic Village neighborhood is currently doubling the size of its 3,500-square-foot production facility to accommodate increased demand.

“We are seeing a shift back to U.S. manufactured products,” said Joe Susa, Hedalloy’s General Manager, in a release. “Customers are paying more attention to quality rather than bottom line prices. American made tools are getting noticed for their higher quality and longer life span. ”

Hedalloy has doubled its sales since 2009 and hired additional employees. Its expansion on E. 49th Street is expected to be complete next month.

In an era of global competition, Hedalloy’s ability to deliver its products in half the time of some of its competitors has also helped to boost sales. The company has clients in the automotive, military, medical, and aerospace industries.

Established in 1947, Hedalloy has been at its Slavic Village location since the early 1950s. The company had considered relocating to the eastern suburbs to expand. Support from Slavic Village Development and Councilwoman Phyllis Cleveland, as well as a zoning permit granted by Cleveland, aided its decision to stay.

Hedalloy is a family-owned company. John Susa, Sr. began working at the company in 1960 and bought the firm in 1991. In addition to his son Joe, Mr. Susa‘s wife Eleanor is the bookkeeper and his son John, Jr. is the Vice President.

Source: Joe Susa
Writer: Lee Chilcote

broadway cyclery rolls into historic downtown bedford building

Lee Chilcote Thursday, February 23, 2012
Two years ago, cyclist Mike Hulett traded legal briefs and billable hours for bike stands and Allen wrenches when he opened the Broadway Cyclery, a utility-focused bike shop in downtown Bedford.

Recently, he purchased the historic Marshall Building and moved his business into a larger, renovated storefront. He’s slowly restoring the structure, originally built to house a drugstore and boasting Terrazzo floors and 15-foot ceilings, to its original beauty.

Hulett says that his business is unique because he carries niche products that aren’t available at other shops. “We’re a Brooks Dealer of Excellence; we sell leather bike seats from a company that’s been around since 1866,” he says. “When you see people riding around the country, usually they have a Brooks seat.”

The Broadway Cyclery also carries a wide assortment of cargo, touring and commuter bikes, kickstands and bags for the practical, commuting cyclist.

Hulett chose downtown Bedford because of its unique, local businesses and central location near highways and bike trails. “We’re right by the Bedford Metroparks,” he says. “From here, you can bike to Chagrin Falls, Rocky River or Akron. All trails intersect in the area and that makes it a fantastic resource for cyclists.”

Source: Mike Hulett
Writer: Lee Chilcote

rta warns against possible funding cuts in federal transportation bill

Lee Chilcote Thursday, February 23, 2012
The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) has seen increases in bus and transit ridership for nine months straight, and the number of riders on the Red Line in January was the highest since 1988.

Yet this month, the U.S. House of Representatives is considering a surface transportation bill known as H.R. 7 that would eliminate dedicated federal funds for public transit across the country.

RTA is advocating against the cuts by working with Representative Steven LaTourette and other members of Congress to promote an amendment that would restore federally guaranteed funding.

“If you leave it up to chance that public transit gets funded, that’s a big chance to take,” says Mary McCahon, RTA’s Media Relations Manager. The change would require agencies to lobby for federal funding each year, she says. “We provide 200,000 rides per day, and federal funding is our third biggest revenue source.”

McCahon says that while the bill has been tabled, it is scheduled to come back to the floor of the House of Representatives for further discussion this week.

RTA’s increased ridership is due in part to higher gas prices and ongoing Innerbelt construction, McCahon says. Improved marketing efforts, partnerships with businesses and the popularity of the Health Line are also factors.

For more information about H.R. 7 and the ongoing federal transportation bill debate, visit the RTA newsroom or American Public Transit Association website.

Source: Mary McCahon
Writer: Lee Chilcote

csu awarded $12.7m to renovate building, pilot new engineering program

Lee Chilcote Thursday, February 23, 2012
A seven-member higher education commission that was created by Governor Kasich recently voted to award $12.7 million in capital funding to Cleveland State University. The money will be used to renovate an older building for a new engineering program.

CSU plans to renovate Stillwell Hall, adding state-of-the-art laboratories and to partner with Parker Hannifin Corporation (Parker) of Mayfield Heights to pioneer a new, hands-on program. Parker is a $12 billion company that is the world’s leading diversified manufacturer of motion and control technologies and systems.

CSU’s Fenn College of Engineering was established in 1923 and is now the ninth largest cooperative education program in the country. Fenn Engineering students “use state-of-the-art equipment to tackle real world challenges, participate in state and national engineering competitions and work closely with corporate partners to create and design new products,” the college website states.

The innovative, new partnership with Parker Hannifin will allow CSU to take its engineering program to the next level, university leaders say. The curriculum is being revised and Parker is funding an endowed chair. Stillwell Hall will be transformed into a practical learning environment in which scientists and engineers collaborate with students and faculty on real world projects.

$350 million was available statewide for capital improvement projects. Kasich had tasked the committee with identifying new, innovative projects that leaders believe will move higher education forward in Ohio. The timeline for Stillwell Hall renovations has not been established yet, according to CSU officials.

Source: Cleveland State University
Writer: Lee Chilcote

couple to restore mahalls lanes to its former glory

Lee Chilcote Thursday, February 23, 2012
Mahalls 20 Lanes, a vintage Lakewood bowling alley that’s been owned by the same family since it was built in 1924, is being fixed up by new owners. Joe Pavlick and Kelly Flamos are renovating the historic venue, which features two 10-lane bowling alleys, a billiard room, several bars and a kitchen, and also plan to add live music.

“We’re still working out the specifics of our plan, but we want to restore Mahalls to its former glory,” says Pavlick, a former corporate attorney who bought the building with Flamos, his sister-in-law, and other family members. “Essentially, this is one big family turning it over to another big family, 80 years later.”

John Mahall was the first owner of Mahalls, which was originally two buildings and featured an upstairs dance hall. In the 1950s, he annexed the adjacent building and turned into a billiards hall. Until a few months ago, Mahalls was owned by John’s son Arthur Mahall and managed by John’s grandson Tom Mahall.

Although Mahalls struggled financially for several years before Pavlick and Flamos bought it, the new owners say they’ll add fresh appeal to the venue by revamping the menu and adding live music. They hardly plan to touch the historic, vintage character of the interior, however. Unlike newer bowling alleys, Mahalls still requires scoring by hand and is noticeably devoid of overhead televisions.

In another nod to tradition, Pavlick and his wife Emily plan to move into the upstairs apartment — just as three generations of Mahalls did before them.

Source: Joe Pavlick
Writer: Lee Chilcote

port’s ceo makes planning parks, green space a top priority

Lee Chilcote Thursday, February 16, 2012
When Will Friedman took the helm of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority in June 2010, he soon learned about Dike 14, an outcropping of land on Cleveland’s east side that had been a dredging facility from 1979 until 1999. Friedman quickly realized that the Port could do more to transform this burgeoning wildlife paradise — which was closed to the public due to environmental concerns — into a world-class nature preserve.

“I saw it as a potentially great addition to the lakefront,” says Friedman. “Previously, the Port had not been all that interested in retaining it, but I didn’t see it that way. I told our board this was an asset we’d inherited, there was nothing preventing us from opening it, and that we should get on with it.”

So get on with it he did. Working in collaboration with environmental groups that had lobbied for a park, the Port spearheaded efforts to move the project forward. A year and a half later, the Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve is now open to the public.

That kind of leadership and gumption not only has earned Friedman high marks from environmental groups, it also has set the Port sailing in a new direction — creating new waterfront parks and green space. Although that might sound like an unusual role for a Port Authority to play, it’s actually not, Friedman says.

“I came from the Port of Seattle, which has 15 parks and green spaces,” he says. “Port authorities are typically front and center in environmental projects, and helping to plan for and create green spaces is definitely in our wheelhouse.”

Friedman also led the creation of the Port Authority’s new strategic plan, which makes creating public green spaces a part of the organization’s ongoing work.

Next, Friedman and his staff are working on the future of the Preserve, including enhancing habitat value, creating additional trails and adding an observation deck to maximize the stunning views of downtown Cleveland and Lake Erie.

The Port also is working closely with partners to plan the future of the Flats, including creating better riverfront access for city residents and visitors.

Source: Will Friedman
Writer: Lee Chilcote

shaker heights assembles $18m to reconfigure confusing intersection

Lee Chilcote Thursday, February 16, 2012
A final, critical piece of funding has now fallen into place for the City of Shaker Heights’ long-awaited Van Aken District plan. The city recently announced that it had been awarded $4.4 million from the Ohio Department of Public Works (ODPW). That, on top of $14 million the city already has assembled, will allow Shaker to proceed with Phase I late next year.

Phase I of the project will reconfigure the confusing, much-maligned junction of Van Aken, Warrensville and Chagrin roads into a traditional, four-way intersection. The road reconfiguration is just the first step in a larger plan to redevelop this prominent space as a vibrant, mixed-use downtown for the city.

“This vision was shaped by residents,” says Joyce Braverman, Planning Director for the City of Shaker Heights. “One of our planning meetings was held during a snowstorm, and we had 120 people show up. They didn’t just sit and listen, they sat at tables and helped us to design what the streets would look like.”

In addition to the ODPW award, Phase I is being funded by $2.3 million from the City of Shaker Heights, $4 million from the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), $7 million from the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, a $500,000 federal appropriation, $500,000 from the Federal Highway Administration and $500,000 from the Cuyahoga County Department of Public Works. In addition to the reconfiguration, there will also be improvements to transit access, pedestrian facilities and streetscapes, including tree planting. Prominent, new crosswalks will improve the pedestrian experience while reducing wait times and making the district easier and safer to navigate.

As Phase I is being completed, the city will continue to move forward on later phases of the plan, including working with RTA to extend the Blue Line rapid transit and seeking a master developer for parcels of land owned by the city and private developers. Shaker Heights ultimately envisions a mixed-use district comprised of 500 new housing units, 160,000 square feet of new retail space and 250,000 square feet of office space and community green space.

Source: Joyce Braverman
Writer: Lee Chilcote

grace brothers to open garden store in urban neighborhood of detroit shoreway

Lee Chilcote Thursday, February 16, 2012
Grace Brothers, a seven-acre nursery and garden store in Broadview Heights that previously relied upon the suburban market, is vying for a new, urban market. This month, the family-owned company will open a gardening, farming and pet store in the growing Detroit Shoreway neighborhood on Cleveland’s west side.

“We were selling to the new home market and kind of living the bubble, but then it evaporated over the last four years and things came to a standstill,” says Kevin Grace, who co-owns the company with his brother, Don Grace. “We saw the revitalization happening on the near west side, and attended the GardenWalk Cleveland and saw how people take an interest in their yard. We definitely believe there’s an underserved market here that’s grown in the last few years.”

When the dust settles on their renovation work, the pair will open Grace Brothers Farm, Garden and Pet in a vacant storefront at W. 65th Street and Fir Avenue in the Cleveland EcoVillage. The location is a quarter mile from the Gordon Square Arts District, the centerpiece of a multimillion dollar neighborhood redevelopment. It’s also just a few blocks from Zone Recreation Center, whose exterior grounds are being rebuilt into a sustainable, family-friendly park.

Grace Brothers will sell seeds, soils and fertilizers for backyard gardeners (including many organic products). The store will also offer herbs, vegetable plants and fruit trees. Budding urban farmers can purchase chicks here each spring, as well as support products such as chicken and rabbit feed and bird seed. Finally, Grace will market some cost-effective brands of cat and dog food, too.

“We’ll be selling organic mulches and other materials that you can’t find in Home Depot and other big box stores,” says Kevin Grace. “We will also be offering classes in raising chickens, and as part of the fee, you’ll get three chicks.”

Having watched the urban gardening market soar in other cities, Grace believes Cleveland has similar potential. “Can we make any money on it? I’m hopin’.”

Source: Kevin Grace
Writer: Lee Chilcote

house frau record store to open in gordon square arts district

Lee Chilcote Thursday, February 16, 2012
Steven Peffer cannot easily explain why he calls his new record shop House Frau; he just likes the German-sounding name, which reminds him of dark, wood-paneled bars and frothy steins of beer. Yet the entrepreneur has a crystal-clear view of why he’s opening a vinyl record store in a digitally-oriented economy: Shoppers are hungry for tangible shopping experiences, he says, and there’s a viable niche market for new and used records.

“Sure, you can fire up a website, sit around in your boxer shorts and look for music on your computer. But I think people want more of an experience,” says Peffer, a sound engineer at Now That’s Class, a punk club on Detroit Avenue near the Lakewood border. “People took shopping for granted in the past, but now I believe bricks and mortar stores can be successful because they stand out.”

Peffer says House Frau will sell new and used records featuring selections of punk, synth, jazz and blues. The store, which opens this month, will also offer curated records from plenty of other genres. Peffer recently finished building record crates and was amazed at how much good stuff he was able to pack into the cozy, 434-square-foot shop. (You’ll have to bring your own German beer, though.)

The launch of House Frau continues the renaissance of indie shops on Cleveland’s near west side, which has seen dozens of new stores open in the last few years.

Source: Steve Peffer
Writer: Lee Chilcote

dike 14 officially reopens as cleveland lakefront nature preserve

Lee Chilcote Thursday, February 09, 2012
For decades, the east side of Cleveland was almost hopelessly cut off from its lakefront by scars of past planning mistakes — the ugly sutures of highways, concrete barriers, railroads and, of course, industry.

No more. With the opening this week of the Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve, these impoverished neighborhoods — and indeed, all of Greater Cleveland and beyond — have access to a premiere wildlife habitat in the heart of the city.

This new, 88-acre urban preserve is located just north of where Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. meets I-90, and it is accessible from Lakeshore Boulevard before it enters Bratenahl. The park is built upon the former Dike 14, a dredging disposal facility operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from 1979 until 1999.

For more than a decade, a coalition of environmental groups calling themselves the Dike 14 Nature Preservation Committee has been fighting to turn this manmade outcropping into a park. Their vision was simple: no ballfields, just park benches and a loop trail that allow visitors a peaceful retreat among the flora and fauna, as well as stupendous view of downtown Cleveland from the “beak” of the park.

Thanks to the critical leadership of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga Port Authority, this vision finally became a reality. When new CEO Will Friedman took the Port’s helm, he made the Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve an institutional priority. The Port will continue to manage and oversee the Preserve now that it’s open.

Despite the barbed wire fences, birds still stop here on their annual migrations, trees and plants grow in abandon, and many animals call this place home. (Truth is: hikers, birders and wildlife lovers have been slipping through a neglected gap in the fence for more than a decade to enjoy winsome walks along the coast.)

Still — there’s something to be said for the fact that it’s now official.

Source: Earthday Coalition
Writer: Lee Chilcote

entrepreneur ditches corporate job, opens beer and wine shop in the heights

Lee Chilcote Thursday, February 09, 2012
Adam and Susan Fleischer of the Wine Spot in Cleveland Heights have opened a boutique wine and craft beer store at a time when many big box retailers are vying for this same business. Yet, spend a few minutes with them and you’ll realize that their infectious enthusiasm and love of wine is also backed up by creativity and a solid business plan.

Adam Fleischer first developed the store concept as a way to ditch his fast-paced corporate lifestyle, spend more time with his family and do something he loves.

“My wife and I came back to Cleveland from Washington D.C. after our son was born, but my job had me traveling 100 percent of the time,” he explains. “I got burned out on the corporate scene and really began to miss my family. So we decided to take our passion and hobby and turn it into a business.”

Fleischer freely admits that opening a retail wine and beer store is a “high-risk proposition” these days, yet says he’s identified a niche market that is a unique destination. The Wine Spot is more than just a run-of-the-mill beverage store; rather, it’s a place where one comes to learn about wine and beer, sample new favorites, and simply enjoy the company of others in a great atmosphere.

Once patrons discover the gorgeous interior, most won’t want to leave, Fleischer adds. The store is filled with custom-built wine racks, tables built from repurposed wood by A Piece of Cleveland, an authentic tile floor from the days when it housed Bruder’s Dairy, and a large, comfortable bar area. For more than 50 years, the space housed neighborhood favorite Seitz-Agin Hardware.

Fleischer says it’s perfect for his diverse Cleveland Heights clientele, who are all passionate about the history represented in the community. “It still feels like an old Cleveland Heights shop, but with all of the modern conveniences.”

Source: Adam Fleischer
Writer: Lee Chilcote

winking lizard tavern to bring lizardville concept to galleria

Lee Chilcote Thursday, February 09, 2012
In a few months, beer lovers who have conquered the Winking Lizard World Tour of Beers will have another well-stocked venue where they can wet their whistles. When the popular Winking Lizard chain opens Lizardville in the Galleria this summer, as many as 32 draft beers from Ohio and contiguous states will be available on tap. The venue also will serve Ohio-made whiskey and wine, plus a full menu of food crafted from local ingredients.

Winking Lizard owner John Lane announced plans to bring his successful Lizardville concept, which first opened in Bedford Heights last year, to downtown Cleveland. He plans to take over a former art gallery space on the first floor near Dollar Bank, while adding a 1,000- to 2,000-square-foot patio with a bar.

What distinguishes Lizardville from Winking Lizard is the concept of specializing in locally made libations of all stripes.

“I don’t know of another place downtown where you can get all of these Ohio beers on tap,” says Lane. “We’re bullish on the area because it is so close to the new Medical Mart, Convention Center and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. When people come to visit Cleveland from out of town, they ask the bartender, ‘What do you have that’s local?'”

Lane is bringing the Lizardville brand to other cities in Northeast Ohio, including a location in Rocky River that will offer beer and wine to go at retail prices, like the original in Bedford Heights.

Source: The Winking Lizard
Writer: Lee Chilcote

developer breaks ground on 153-room hotel in university circle

Lee Chilcote Thursday, February 09, 2012
Leaders of the institutions that anchor University Circle have long wished for a hotel within walking distance of all of the amenities that the neighborhood has to offer. Now, a public-private partnership, along with $15 million in New Markets Tax Credits and completion of the University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center, have finally brought that idea to life.

This month, The Snavely Group broke ground on an eight-story, 153-room Courtyard by Marriott that is scheduled to open this time next year. The hotel is located on Cornell Drive — just off of Euclid Avenue — and directly across from the new Seidman Cancer Center and the University Hospitals main campus. The $27 million project is expected to create 135 construction jobs and 55 full-time equivalent jobs.

“The anchor of the Seidman Cancer Center has really given us a market,” says Chris Ronayne, President of University Circle Incorporated (UCI), the nonprofit organization that shepherded the project along by assembling the land, securing tax credits and seeking a developer. “Beyond patients and their families, that market is also students, parents, businesspeople and culture-goers.”

The new hotel also adds to the impressive development boom that has occurred in University Circle. “This location is the epicenter of a $2 billion Euclid Avenue transformation from East 105th to Lakeview Cemetery,” says Ronayne.

Source: Chris Ronayne
Writer: Lee Chilcote

cleveland energy $aver aims to make 100 homes energy-efficient by next fall

Lee Chilcote Thursday, February 02, 2012
Inefficient, drafty homes in Cleveland not only are an impediment to attracting savvy urban homebuyers, they’re also a harsh economic reality for those who must swallow high utility bills. Despite the daunting prospect of renovating an old home, there are simple, cost-effective ways to save energy — and money — that don’t involve notching the thermostat down another degree or donning Eskimo-like clothing.

That’s the impetus behind Cleveland Energy $aver, a new program just launched by the City of Cleveland, Cleveland Action to Support Housing (CASH), Cleveland Housing Network (CHN), LAND Studio and the U.S. Department of Energy. The program aims to make 100 homes in Cleveland energy-efficient by fall of this year.

Homeowners who enroll in this program can obtain a complete energy audit for a mere $50, a tidy sum that likely amounts to a fraction of their monthly heating bill. After the audit has been completed, owners will work with program staff to develop a scope of work, seek low-interest financing if needed, and hire a contractor. When the job is completed, professionals will help evaluate the work to make sure it’s been done properly. As an enticement, owners will save 20 percent off the top, and another 20 percent when the work is complete.

“Cleveland Energy $aver will provide homeowners with tools they need to make energy-efficient improvements to their homes,” says Marcia Nolan, Executive Director of Cleveland Action to Support Housing (CASH). “It will also help Cleveland to become more sustainable and competitive to future residents.”

Source: Marcia Nolan
Writer: Lee Chilcote

city of cleveland heights to sell vacant lots for $100 to neighbors

Lee Chilcote Thursday, February 02, 2012
A few weeks ago, Cleveland Heights City Council passed legislation that allows residents to purchase city-owned residential lots for as little as $100. With this move, the inner ring suburb became the latest city in Northeast Ohio to encourage “blotting,” the practice of homeowners absorbing adjacent lots for yard expansion, urban gardening or beautification.

Like many inner ring suburbs, Cleveland Heights has been hard hit by foreclosure and vacancy in recent years, and has pressed hard to demolish homes that it deems beyond saving. As a result, it has acquired vacant lots. City officials deem selling these lots as one way to re-purpose these once-blighted properties.

The city plans to offer these vacant properties to individuals who own the adjacent properties. If both of the neighboring owners are interested, the lot could possibly be split or sold to the highest bidder. Six to 12 properties currently are  available, with more expected to become available later this year.

Although the lots are large enough to accommodate new homes, the city expects most of them to be used for activities like gardening and neighborhood cookouts.

Source: City of Cleveland Heights
Writer: Lee Chilcote

slavic village development holds public meeting to design skate park

Lee Chilcote Thursday, February 02, 2012
Slavic Village, a neighborhood once considered to be the epicenter of the national foreclosure crisis, took another step this week towards remaking itself as a regional hub for urban recreation. A public meeting was held to kick off the design of a new skateboard park that will be located at Broadway and Union Avenue on the site of a former brownfield.

“It all started when a neighborhood resident approached us about creating a skate park,” says Jacob Van Sickle, Active Living Coordinator for Slavic Village Development, the nonprofit community development group that serves the neighborhood. “From there, we worked to build awareness of skateboarding by creating the ‘East Meets West’ competition, offering lessons at Stella Walsh Recreation Center and engaging skateboarders in the neighborhood.”

Van Sickle soon found that skateboarders were leaving the city in droves to pursue their sport elsewhere. The reason is that the City of Cleveland lacked a decent, permanent skatepark. “Many of them are artistic and entrepeneurial; they’re part of the creative class,” he says. “We saw an economic development opportunity to attract people from across the region to our neighborhood.”

Slavic Village Development engaged the nonprofit Public Square Group to help create a new park. Both parties saw it as a way to redevelop the blighted Broadway Avenue corridor. “Skateboarding evolved out of an urban environment, and skaters have always reclaimed less developed public spaces,” says Vince Frantz, President and Executive Director of the Public Square Group.

Van Sickle and Frantz expect the new park to create amenities for skaters and non-skaters alike, as benches and spectator amenities will be incorporated. The design has been funded by Neighborhood Progress Inc., and additional public meetings are scheduled to take place in the coming months. As the design is completed, project leaders will seek sources of funding to build the park.

Source: Jacob Van Sickle, Vince Frantz
Writer: Lee Chilcote

obama’s new foreclosure prevention program may help region, nonprofit leader says

Lee Chilcote Thursday, February 02, 2012
The foreclosure prevention plans that President Obama announced in his recent State of the Union address may help struggling Northeast Ohio homeowners, says Lou Tisler of the nonprofit Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS), but our hard-hit region is not out of the woods yet.

“When lenders and government-sponsored entities such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac look at what keeps people out of foreclosure, they see it’s principal reduction,” says Tisler. “The new program that the Obama administration has proposed offers triple the incentives to lenders to keep people in their homes through principal reduction.”

Although Tisler says that it’s “obscene” that the government must provide lenders with additional help, he adds that it’s crucial that lenders come to the table and negotiate. “Banks continue to say that they can’t reduce principal because that would mean that every homeowner would want a reduction. Yet we’re not seeing people strategically defaulting and trashing their credit ratings. People are coming through our door nonstop, and until they’re gainfully employed, it won’t stop.”

Unfortunately, Tisler does see an end to the steady stream of people calling his office seeking help. Yet he believes that principal reductions, more effective foreclosure relief and an economic uptick that reduces unemployment will eventually reduce foreclosures. Until then, he says, Northeast Ohio can continue to expect the foreclosure problem to be an unwelcome guest on its doorstep.

Source: Lou Tisler
Writer: Lee Chilcote

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