Shakertown apartment building makeover starting to take shape

Owner Rakefet Landes, who was a real estate agent and property manager in New York before moving to Cleveland three years ago, plans to move forward with renovations after receiving a $250,000 state historic tax credit last month.

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Rakefet Landes, who was a real estate agent and property manager in New York before moving to Cleveland three years ago, didn’t know anything about the area when she first moved in. After taking some time to get her children acclimated to their new home, she got back into real estate because it allows her the flexibility to make her own schedule. 

She said working in Cleveland has been very pleasant and she really enjoys how involved people are and how enthusiastic they are about making changes and doing good in the world. 

“People here have that Midwestern, welcome feeling to them,” she said. “Anywhere I’ve been, I haven’t had a door shut in my face or a phone hung up on me. I’m very happy I brought my kids here to see the values and how Clevelanders want to become leaders to better the world and not just think about themselves.”

She spent some time exploring Cleveland and said she fell in love with the Shaker Square area, which led her to purchase the Shakertown building at 2804 South Moreland Boulevard at a sheriff’s auction in 2018. 

After purchasing the building, Landes said Jay Westbrook, special projects manager with the Western Reserve Land Conservancy’s Thriving Communities Institute, and others reached out to her about her plans and helped introduce her to people who may be helpful moving forward. 

“I didn’t think that after purchasing this building, I would get this much attention and reaction,” she said. “It is an important landmark…then I learned more about the area and the neighborhood and what people wanted to see happening …Everybody wants to see this building come together, get cleaned up and not be abandoned anymore.”

Landes said the Covid-19 pandemic delayed her plans a bit, but she plans to be on track with construction within the next month or two. The building, which was built in 1923, is a residential space with 23 units. Because she will be using both federal and state historic tax credits to help finance the rehab, many of its historic features will remain. 

Inside the Shakertown building. Photo courtesy of Rakefet Landes.

Inside the Shakertown building. Photo courtesy of Rakefet Landes.

For as old as the building is, Landes said it’s in pretty good condition. It needs a complete rehab, but the layout will remain much the same. “It’s new electric, new plumbing, new sewer system, water lines, roof, heating systems, cooling systems, appliances, cabinets, floors, everything has to be completely redone,” she said. “Again, while keeping historic features. We’ll have the historic element to it while having modern finishes.”

It’s about a $2 million project from purchasing to completion. In addition to state and federal historic tax credits, she’s applying for financing and will use equity to cover the rest. 

Landes said she’d like to see the project completed in a year or less, but has to consider the potential limitations from the pandemic. However, she said she’s ready for any unforeseen circumstance and is excited to execute this project that she believes will be beneficial to the community. 

She sees improvements in the surrounding area, including lighting, cameras and surveillance, and she plans to add similar safety upgrades when her building is operational. “The more building owners that we have coming together and trying to better the neighborhood, the more successful we will be,” she said.

Photo courtesy of Rakefet Landes.

Photo courtesy of Rakefet Landes.

Landes said the community has the Shaker Square Alliance, “an alliance of community leaders and activists committed to addressing issues that matter to neighbors and fellow residents,” to thank for organizing programs to get people involved, share information and open the lines of communication between building and land owners and the city and community. 

“This is how change comes about,” she said. “We’re all part of the same network. And I’m all for working with the neighborhood and providing good, safe housing at affordable prices.”

As she moves forward with her plans for the building, Landes said she is very excited to continue working on what she calls the “biggest project of my life.”

“I see that the community has its heart set on bettering the surroundings and this will be big for everybody,” she said. “It’s big for the city, not as big as other projects, but little Rakefet Landes is putting her foot forward. I’m very excited. I really am and things are looking good and bright.”

Learn more about the Shaker Square Alliance and sign up for their newsletter and meeting notices here.

Maria McGinnis is a senior journalism major at Kent State University and an editorial intern at The Land.

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