Planning notes: City seeks developer for school site, east side complex approved for demo, downtown boutique hotel on horizon

Three Cleveland development projects made progress this week.
The city of Cleveland is seeking proposals to re-develop the former Watterson Lake School. (Courtesy

The Land braved negative wind chills to attend the Cleveland Planning Commission meeting this week. Here’s what we learned – along with a bit of neighborhood news regarding a large city-owned property on the west side that is likely to get redeveloped as housing. 

West side school site up for grabs

The former Watterson Lake School site in the city’s Detroit Shoreway neighborhood will soon be owned by the city of Cleveland as part of a land swap with the Cleveland schools. The 2.2 acre site, which is “a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reimagine a strategic site in a burgeoning neighborhood,” according to a city press release, will soon be available for redevelopment, most likely as a mixed-use development that will include both housing and commercial space. 

The city is looking for proposals from developers; more info on the RFP can be found here. The RFP scores developer responses based on criteria including providing public amenities such as green space, play space, and public art; providing commercial space; responding to the neighborhood’s architecture and incorporating sustainable features; promoting walkability; and incorporating affordable units and 3 and 4 bedroom units that might be attractive to families. 

Ward 15 council member Jenny Spencer said she and others piloted a new method of community engagement to get residents’ ideas for the future of the site, and city community development director Alyssa Hernandez said residents’ feedback informed the city’s scoring criteria on the RFP. The school is slated to be demolished soon. (Read The Land’s previous coverage here.) 

A 15-building east side GE site is slated for demolition. (Photos from presentation to Cleveland Planning Commission)

East side industrial complex approved for demo

A massive complex of 15 buildings in Cleveland’s St. Clair Superior neighborhood has been approved for demolition by city planning. The GE-owned complex, which covers nearly an entire city block from E. 43rd to 45th Sts. off Commerce Ave., dates back to the late 19th century and is heavily contaminated with mercury. 

The planning commission asked the property owner to develop a landscape plan, study salvaging parts of the building, and carefully consider the future of the site. Commission member and city council member Charles Slife said the 7-acre site could be a unique opportunity to bring commercial development and jobs into the heart of the city. 

Member August Fluker criticized the city and community development corporations for not making sure, in other cases, that developers maintain their sites after demolishing buildings. He stated, “This is an indictment of the process,” and said it shouldn’t be allowed to happen here. 

Marian Whiteman, executive counsel for Brownfields with GE, told the commission, “This is one of the top sites on our list to redevelop with the community. We want to maintain ownership and then transfer the site to a partner with a real and meaningful redevelopment strategy.” 

1900 E. 6th St. is the proposed site of a boutique hotel project by NuovoRE. (Courtesy of Loopnet)

Downtown to get a new boutique hotel

A Denver-based developer is planning to open a boutique hotel downtown at the former Fidelity-Baker building at 1900 E. 6th St. The project went before the planning commission as part of a mandatory referral because the developers, Nuovo RE, are seeking tax increment financing or a TIF – a method of public finance subsidy that diverts future taxes towards the project. Ultimately, the TIF will have to go before the city council to be approved. 

The owners shared their plans to create a 100-room boutique hotel that is estimated to cost $64.2 million and create 105 new jobs. Brendan Ames, director of impact investing with NuovoRE, told the commision that his company specializes in historic and adaptive reuse and they’re committed to local communities. A similar project by NuovoRE in Baltimore, he said, spends dollars locally, hires diverse workers, and pays living wages. At this time, there is no timeline for completion of the Cleveland project. 

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