Euclid Avenue in Midtown was completely transformed by the Health Line more than a decade ago, yet despite more than 18,000 people now working here, the area has always been starved of residents. Only about 2,000 people live in Midtown between the Innerbelt and E. 79th St. That’s about to change as Akron-based Signet Real Estate Group prepares to add more than 160 market-rate apartments to a long-vacant parcel on Euclid Ave. near East 73rd Street.
In addition to the apartment, Signet is planning 2,000 square feet of active retail space along Euclid Ave. On a recent site visit, birds chirped in the branches of trees the city planted in 2008, yet the street itself was eerily quiet. The area could become more active with the addition of a fitness room, common area, and possible cafe, coffee shop or restaurant along Euclid. Additionally, the developers envision a future phase along Carnegie Avenue featuring apartments or for-sale town homes, but nothing is set in stone yet.
“This is the first apartment project like this of any scale to happen in Midtown,” said Kevin Belt, Senior Vice President and Managing Director of Signet Real Estate Group. “There’s something like 20,000 employees in Midtown, yet all the housing seems to be in University Circle and downtown, and we’re certainly hoping to offer something that’s more affordable than that.”
Removing a piece of history
Although Signet acquired the property in October 2020 for $2.4 million, according to Cuyahoga County property records, it was not a vacant parcel. At the time, it included three large, empty warehouse buildings and the historic Allen-Sullivan house, considered one of the last remaining original homes on Euclid. The warehouses have now been torn down, and the house will soon suffer the same fate.
The house, which has been badly neglected for decades, stripped and exposed to water damage, sits smack dab in the middle of the development site on Euclid. Trying to quell neighborhood concerns about the loss of yet another significant historic asset, Signet and Midtown Cleveland Inc. went to some lengths to try to find a buyer who would relocate it, but it was a long shot that didn’t pan out.
“It awkwardly sits in the middle of the Euclid Avenue frontage, making it difficult for things to happen on either side of it,” said John Wagner, a principal with City Architecture, during a presentation before the Cleveland City Planning Commission meeting on Friday, June 4. “It’s a missing tooth sitting in the middle of the Midtown master plan, which is creating investment in the neighborhood.”
“It’s been virtually vacant for nearly two decades, except for a lone caretaker, who I would submit did a little more taking and a little less care,” Wagner wryly added. “The infamous lion [which sat atop the Coliseum Entertainment Center signage] and stained-glass windows have gone missing. There’s a fireplace that has been removed since we last presented before this commission.”
Additionally, Wagner stated, the developer estimated that it would cost over $2 million to rehab the home, and some $400-500,000 to relocate it to another street. “Ideally we would have loved to find a way to preserve it and move it,” said Jeff Epstein, executive director of Midtown Cleveland. “But after extensive networking, calling, touring and walking through the house, no one was interested in taking it on. We’re not supportive of moving it to a side street where it continues to be a negative drag on the neighborhood.”
Connecting the community
The new apartment project will be divided among three buildings along Euclid Avenue. A new, private street will run through the middle of the community, connecting Euclid and Carnegie. There will be a sizeable green space in the middle of the development.
At the planning meeting, Wagner cited the design’s brick and corrugated metal exteriors, whose “saw-tooth style bays” aim to evoke the manufacturing heritage of the Midtown neighborhood. “These are not flat lifeless facades,” he said, seeming to respond to complaints about new development in Cleveland. “The rusty brick is reminiscent of manufacturing buildings.”
Belt said that Signet’s intention is to create a “walkable community” at a neighborhood scale. “We wanted the buildings to look like they’d been there a while,” he said. “They have an industrial loft feel, but we wanted them to blend into the neighborhood.”
To keep the units moderately priced, they purposely designed them without elevators or a parking garage. Instead, there is plenty of surface parking. “Structured parking is very expensive, and it’s hard to recoup the cost except by having to raise the rents,” he said.
The prices will be more modest than surrounding properties: Studios will go for $750-800; one-bedrooms will range from $1,150-1,250; and two bedrooms will start in the $1,600’s. Overall, that equates to less than $2 per square foot, well below University Circle rents. “You can’t find land like this in Ohio City or Tremont,” said Belt of their decision to spread out the project across the six-acre site.
Although a local design review committee deadlocked on the house demolition, leaving it unresolved with a 4-4 vote, the planning commission approved it without hesitation, taking the view that the project could not move forward without removal of the house, and it wasn’t practical to relocate it.
Planning commission member Lillian Kuri praised the design, especially how it interacted with the surrounding neighborhood and seemed to welcome the public and connect the neighborhood. “It’s a really handsome design,” she said. “The architecture is really, really wonderful. I think it also kind of raises the bar. I was concerned that it would feel suburban, because it has lots of parking, but I think it’s actually a breakthrough. The street feels public, tree-lined, it starts to stretch the neighborhood together.”
To access Cleveland Planning Commission agendas and presentations, visit their website.
Lee Chilcote is a freelance writer and editor of The Land.