Cross Country Mortgage, a fast-growing mortgage lender with nearly 6,800 employees nationwide, recently broke ground on its new headquarters in the Superior Arts District near downtown Cleveland. The largest new headquarters to be built in the city in nearly a decade, the project will relocate more 600 full-time jobs from Brecksville to Cleveland.
At a groundbreaking ceremony last week, the company announced that it will offer “a yearlong artist competition that will award the winner an opportunity to showcase their work in the new headquarters.” The competition will accept proposals on a quarterly basis and select three artists per round, according to the release. The public will be invited to vote for their favorite artist in each round at PainttheDistrict.com.
Laura Soave, the company’s chief brand officer, said the passion behind the project came from founder and CEO Ron Leonhardt Jr., a Cleveland native who aims to help revitalize the city. “He loves taking iconic buildings and kind of repurposing them,” she said. “If it’s got a Cleveland angle and it’s historic and iconic, he wants to be part of it. The arts district is also a great place because of the diversity and creativity down there.”
The project originally dates back to December 2018, when Cross Country Mortgage bought the entire six-acre block between East 21st and East 22nd Streets from Superior to Payne Avenues. It included the former headquarters, packaging and warehouse facility for TAP Packaging + Design along with properties owned by developer GBX Inc. TAP Packaging + Design was formerly known as The Chilcote Company, a manufacturer of paperboard products.
(Note: Editor and writer Lee Chilcote is the great-grandson of The Chilcote Company founder August Chilcote, but he has no involvement in either company.)
Soave said that while Cross Country had already become a top 10 mortgage lender prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the events of the past year have accelerated their growth. “During Covid, we were deemed an essential industry,” she said. “Last year was one of the busiest home purchase years. People were stuck in their houses, forced to work from home, and as a result, it was a tremendously busy time for us. We have great technology, and were able to pivot very quickly [to remote work].”
According to the release, the $46 million project is made possible in part through tax credits and incentives from the city of Cleveland, Team NEO, Jobs Ohio and the Ohio Development Services Agency.
The swank new HQ will include a 4,600 square foot training center that will train people for jobs in the mortgage industry, an 8,600 square foot gym, a coffee shop, and a commercial kitchen featuring rotating local restaurateurs. “You can become an originator, a closer, right here,” she said. “We can take people right out of high school and offer them an amazing career path. Or, if you’re a parent who wants to get back in the work force, or want a change of career, now we’ll have an awesome state of the art training facility.”
The improvements include swapping out the old factory windows for new ones, replacing the roof, and upgrading all of the utilities. While the company will move into the former TAP headquarters, Cross County is also planning a future, second phase of the project that will feature multifamily apartment development and a new restaurant.
Soave said the company’s leaders are optimistic about the future of the area but hope to catalyze additional investment, adding more vibrancy and street life to the district. “We’re hoping we’ll inspire them to bring more biz down there,” she said. “When companies move down there, allows for more restaurants, cafes and bars because we have the community to support it.”
Lee Chilcote is a freelance writer and editor of The Land.