The latest in a series of luxury, mixed-use developments along the border of Tremont and Ohio City is set to break ground sometime this year, bringing 171 apartment units and new retail space to West 25th Street and Swift Avenue. Additionally, the developer will contribute $65,000 to a new Lincoln Heights Developer’s Fund to support the neighborhood, bringing to fruition a goal of Tremont West Development Corporation’s (TWDC) Reaching Lincoln Heights plan and setting a possible example for new development citywide.
After announcing their decision to contribute to the fund on Monday morning, Mavrek Development Inc., the Chicago-based firm constructing the property, will now bring their concept before the Near West Design Review Committee this Wednesday, Jan. 13 and then the Cleveland City Planning Commission for final approval on Friday, Jan. 15.
Bridging Tremont and Ohio City
“It’s a lot of pull between the two neighborhoods and how we imagine our building being a focal point between those two with proximity to Ohio City, the West Side Market, all the new development in that neighborhood,” explained Mavrek principal Adam Friedberg. “We want to be supportive of neighbors and are happy to kick off the Lincoln Heights Developer’s Fund with our Treo project.”
Located at the corner of West 25th Street and Swift Avenue, nestled between Porco’s Lounge & Tiki Room and the bridge leading to Ohio City, the proposed U-shaped building has been christened Treo, a hybrid between Tremont and Ohio City. The 200,000-square-foot structure’s amenities will include a private outdoor courtyard at the center of the U, an indoor fitness center and the retail space, which Friedberg said could hold a number of different businesses.
The site, where Sass Automotive & Wrecking currently sits, is located a short distance away from another new live-work development, The Tappan on Scranton Road, which was developed by Sustainable Community Associates. SCA is now planning their next project, The Lincoln.
TWDC Housing & Economic Development Director Khalid Hawthorne said the project will serve as a vital piece of infrastructure to open up further development in the area, in keeping with the Lincoln Heights plan which the Cleveland Planning Commission approved in July of last year.
“What we want to see, eventually, is for the community to be integrated physically and also socially,” Hawthorne said. “It’s extremely important to help develop that edge. Part of our strategic plan is corners and corridors. West 25th is an important corridor and we want to make sure it’s a strong corridor.”
Friedberg said the project will also include an extension of the nearby Moltke Court that will serve as an access road linking West 25th and West 20th Streets. This, he added, will benefit the community by providing the necessary access to promote further residential and retail development in the lots behind it. He also said that Mavrek would contribute $6,500 per year to the Lincoln Heights Developer’s Fund over a decade for a total of $65,000.
According to a presentation Mavrek shared with TWDC and the local Lincoln Heights Block Club last week, the anticipated budget for the five-story structure is $38 million and the site will include 150 parking spots between two separate underground levels for its 171 units.
Lincoln Heights Block Club chair Henry Senyak said the city’s zoning code normally requires one parking spot per unit, but Mavrek only needs to provide 65 percent parking capacity since the site sits upon an Urban Form Overlay District, a planning initiative to promote walkability in urban neighborhoods.
The Lincoln Heights Developer’s Fund
Prior to the pandemic, Senyak and the other block club members were working to establish the Lincoln Heights Developer’s Fund, a fiduciary account that would be managed by TWDC and hold contributions from developers like Mavrek to be spent on improving the community. They were eventually successful, and the proposed fund is included in the finalized Reaching Lincoln Heights plan.
Senyak, whose block club only just learned of the Treo project in December 2020, said the fund is important because it would help long-term Lincoln Heights residents remain there while fostering an organic relationship between new developers and old neighbors.
“The goal of it was to keep the lower income property owners in their homes, because with property taxes increasing 200, 300, 400 percent over here, they’re so behind on their taxes,” he said. “And then, all of a sudden, their house is getting to needing porches or roofs and things of that nature.”
Senyak continued that he’s been working with Ward 3 Councilman Kerry McCormack, the council member who represents the area, to ensure developers like SCA and Mavrek commit to a Community Benefits Agreement when entering the area.
If a Lincoln Heights resident needs a new roof or porch, Senyak said the fund would help them pay for up to a third of that cost, factoring in other forms of income like wages or retirement.
As part of the Reaching Lincoln Heights plan, Senyak said developers are obligated to contribute to some sort of community benefits package; for example, about 60 percent of Tappan’s residential units are priced below market value because it was developed by SCA using Opportunity Zone funding and other sources.
Bringing people back to Cleveland
Like the block club’s fund, Councilman McCormack said below-market-rate housing is another form of providing a benefit to the community, and that the intent is for both market-rate and affordable development to work hand in hand to help rebuild and repopulate Cleveland.
“Right now, the City of Cleveland, being a city that has lost half of its population, there’s a lot of interest in seeing investment in the city, whether that be small business or residential development,” McCormack said. “Over the past 50 years the vast majority of investment has been in mostly white suburbs and what we’ve seen is that has caused a withdrawal of resources out of the city of Cleveland, which has devastated our housing stock and school system. And that’s really created segregated communities through sprawl.”
Yet McCormack said there is also a need to preserve middle-income housing and create more affordable housing. Developers seeking approval for projects in his ward receive 15-year, 100% tax abatement on building value from the city, and may seek Tax Increment Financing districts that allocate income taxes towards the costs of construction. In these cases, McCormack said, it’s important for make sure the community sees a return.
“So, if you’re asking me as a council person that you believe you need this economic development tool to make your project work, I believe that there needs to be a community benefits agreement,” McCormack continued. “With Treo, in my mind Henry has done a good job of prescribing what a community benefits agreement could look like with the developers’ fund.”
Mavrek’s decision to contribute to the fund, Senyak said, sets a positive precedent for other developers building in the area to follow suit, and will bring residents who are committed to the community and want to be part of helping to keep their neighborhood socially and economically diverse.
“I think that would actually go very far for supporting the community because not only will it get everybody behind (Mavrek), but I also think if they put this out there and use it for a marketing tool, it would bring a lot more people,” he said. “That is very positive news.”
To tune into the remote meeting of the Near West Design Review on Wednesday, readers can email Cleveland City Planner Matthew Moss at [email protected] to request access. The meeting begins at 8:30 a.m., with the Treo proposal leading the agenda.
Readers can also watch the Cleveland Planning Commission discuss and vote on Treo by tuning into the livestream of this Friday’s 9 a.m. meeting from the planning commission’s YouTube channel, or email [email protected] to request access to the meeting via WebEx.
Collin Cunningham is a freelance journalist who lives in Tremont. When he’s not writing or reporting, Collin likes to read, bike the city and spend time with his two lionhead rabbits, Curtis and Cloud.