East 4th Street developer seeks to bring micro-apartments to Larchmere


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By Lee Chilcote

MRN Ltd. is one step closer to realizing plans to develop new micro-unit apartments on Larchmere Boulevard following a city planning commission vote approving conditional uses on Friday, August 7th.

The 30-unit project will be built on the site of a soon-to-be-demolished two-story garage that is set back from the street and was previously used for storage. MRN plans to build 450-square-foot micro-units at 12607 Larchmere Boulevard, similar to the Mikros Smart Suites at 11427 Ashbury Avenue in Glenville Circle North. The project will include first-floor residential units that could be used for live-work or even retail in the post-Covid economy.

The developer made significant changes to the units to ensure that the architecture fit in with the street and addressed resident concerns. The conditional use permits were needed because the driveway and first-floor residential suites do not conform to the pedestrian retail overlay district established to maintain the economic viability of the district.

Now that it’s cleared this hurdle, the project is set to go before the planning commission for design approval on Friday, August 21st.

“We’re excited for this project to happen on Larchmere,” developer Rick Maron said at the meeting. “We added balconies to make it more attractive on Larchmere and we also put all the driving in the back. The street has retail, but it also has residential; it’s a very mixed-use street. We have also added an entranceway off Larchmere and units with an office space right by the front window, so people can use them for live-work.”

“Adding bodies and residential capacity to the street only strengthens the retail fabric and provides a customer base for those retail areas,” added city planning director Freddy Collier, noting that Larchmere is one of the stronger commercial areas in the city of Cleveland. “Although it does not meet all of the characteristics with the district as it relates to zoning, the residential component is actually much less intrusive and more supportive [than the previous design].”

Bianca Butts, neighborhood services coordinator for the Ludlow, Shaker Square and Larchmere area with Burten Bell Carr CDC, said she is supportive but noted that the community has expressed concerns about the appropriateness of the architecture. “I want to echo one thing that I heard loudly from the community, that even with the contemporary design of the project, we still have some of the aesthetics of community,” she said.

Resident Donna Cornett said she would like to see the development incorporate retail space. She pointed out that the adjacent for-sale townhomes built 15 years ago have retail space, although that space has not always been used. She also questioned the amount of traffic that the development would bring when combined with apartments going up at East 121st and Larchmere.

Ward 6 Councilman Blaine Griffin said that Cornett’s concerns are valid and need to be addressed, but the developer made necessary changes and the project will benefit the community. “One thing I want to do is try to keep the businesses strong,” he said, citing the fact that several businesses on Larchmere closed due to Covid-19 and that additional foot traffic will help them. “We’re losing population. We’re losing people.”

Griffin added that he is also concerned about traffic congestion and flow on Larchmere, and that he is working with the city to study additional traffic calming measures.

According to a July 5th article in the blog NeoTrans, MRN is partnering with Russell Berusch on the project, which is similar to Mikros Smart Suites as well as the eight-unit Tremont Oaks that is proposed at 2260 W. 14th St. in Tremont. The units are 436.3 square feet, and “use a fold-away queen-sized bed, fold-away wall-mounted TV, and a stowable table for dining, office work or other uses,” writes Ken Prendergast.

Prendergast goes on to say, “A chain-of-title agreement and 30-year non-school tax financing arrangement were approved by the City Planning Commission on May 15 to aid the previously proposed project. Those incentives would apply to the new project as long as the property doesn’t transfer to a new owner.”

Mikros Smart Suites are touted as “Cleveland’s first micro-apartments” by the developers, and the fully-furnished units near University Circle lease for $1,499 per month with all utilities included, according to the website.

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