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Trulia Study Ranks Ohio Cities High for Affordable Housing

18 May 2014, 4:46 am

By Adrian Maties, Associate Editor

Are you a middle-class American looking to buy a home? Head to the Midwestern United States — and make sure you stay away from California. That was a recommendation of real estate research firm Trulia’s list of the least and most expensive U.S. housing markets for today’s middle class.

According to Trulia, affordability has worsened in the past year. Home prices have climbed faster than incomes and mortgage rates have risen. As the nation recovers from the last housing crash, homes are still relatively affordable. And even though prices continue to rise, they are still below pre-recession levels. But homeownership is out of the reach of the middle class in many markets, especially along the coasts.

If you really want to buy a home, you should definitely start your search in Ohio. Last year, Coldwell Banker named Cleveland the most affordable city in the United States. Second on that list was Garfield Heights, a city in the Cleveland metro area. Now, Trulia reports that five of the top 10 most affordable housing markets for the middle class are located in the Buckeye State.

Akron tops the list, with 86 percent of the homes in the area affordable for the middle class. It shares the podium with two other Ohio cities, Toledo (with 84 percent) and Dayton (with 83 percent). The top 10 also includes Columbus, in sixth place, and Cleveland, in eighth place. In both areas, 81 percent of the homes are affordable for the middle class. The remaining markets in the top 10 are Gary, Ind.; Columbia, S.C.; Detroit; Little Rock, Ark.; and Rochester, N.Y.

The Cincinnati area came close to making the top 10. It occupied 13th place, out of 100, with 80 percent of the homes affordable to the middle class.

But if Ohio is the hero, then the villain is definitely California. Seven of the 10 least affordable markets are located in the Golden State. San Francisco occupies first place with only 14 percent of its homes affordable for the middle class. It is followed by Los Angeles (23 percent) and Orange County (24 percent). San Diego, Ventura County, San Jose and Oakland are the other California markets on the list. That list also includes two East Coast markets, New York and Fairfield County, Conn., as well as Honolulu.

According to Trulia, middle-class affordability will continue to worsen in the nation’s most expensive markets.  It’s not expected to improve in the long term without any new construction.

Chart: Trulia

Developers Plan to Break Ground This Fall of Phase I of Intesa

10 May 2014, 4:04 am

By Adrian Maties, Associate Editor

In March 2012, University Circle Inc., a nonprofit corporation established in 1957, announced it had hired the Coral Co. of Cleveland and Panzica Construction Co. of Mayfield Village to develop the mixed-use Intesa, one of the largest such projects to be constructed in Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood. Groundbreaking was scheduled for early 2013, but the project was delayed and many people started to wonder if it would ever happen. But its time has come.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer recently reported that after spending the past year renegotiating its deal with University Circle Inc. and redesigning the buildings, the development team plans to start work this autumn on the first phase of the project.

The Intesa will be developed on Lot 45, a surface parking lot with 200 spaces at the edge of University Circle and Little Italy, a crucial piece of real estate in University Circle. Originally, the project called for the construction of buildings ranging from eight to 12 stories, more than 100,000 square feet of offices, 96 apartments, retail, a 700-car garage and even student housing.

The reconfigured project features all the same elements, but the buildings have changed location on the site. The apartments will sit at Mayfield and Circle, the offices will move to the east and the parking garage to the north to make it more accessible from Euclid Avenue.

This fall, Coral and Panzica plan to start construction on almost 200 apartments as well as the 700-space parking garage. There will be a single residential tower, with three types of apartments: traditional apartments, micro-suites and 13 two-story, townhouse-style penthouses. Units will range in size from less than 300 square feet to 1,900 square feet, with rents going from $600 to $3,000 per month. The apartments and the parking garage are expected to open in the spring or summer of 2016. The 11-story office building will be constructed in the second phase of the project, once it has tenants lined up.

The award-winning Bialosky + Partners Architects designed the Intesa. The entire project is expected to cost between $100 million and $110 million.

Photo credit: Bialosky + Partners Architects.

Developers Break Ground on $272M, 600-Room Hilton Cleveland/Downtown Convention Center Hotel

2 May 2014, 6:28 pm

By Adrian Maties, Associate Editor

Cleveland is getting ready to say hello to a new skyscraper. On April 28, ground was broken on the new Hilton Cleveland/Downtown Convention Center Hotel, a massive structure standing 32 stories tall. Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald and Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson joined Ted Ratcliff, senior vice president of operations for Hilton Worldwide, for the groundbreaking ceremony.

The new hotel will feature a 28-story tower with 600 hotel rooms, positioned atop a four-story podium of ballrooms, meeting space, retail and the hotel’s lobby. Amenities include approximately 55,000 square feet of meeting space, a restaurant, a lobby bar, a rooftop bar, an indoor pool and a fitness center. The hotel will also have underground connections to both the Cleveland Convention Center and the Global Center for Health Innovation.

The cost of the project is $272 million. The Hilton Cleveland/Downtown Convention Center Hotel will be constructed on the site of the demolished Cuyahoga County Administration Building, right in the heart of downtown. Cooper Cary, an Atlanta-based architectural firm, designed the project. It is being constructed by Turner Construction Co., Ozanne Construction Co. and Van Aukin Akins Architects. Hilton Hotels & Resorts will operate the hotel.

According to Cuyahoga County, the hotel’s construction will employ 25 percent small businesses, 7 percent female-owned businesses and 15 percent minority-owned businesses. Cuyahoga County and Turner Construction also plan to meet or even exceed residency goals for employees hired during the construction project, including 40 percent Cuyahoga County residency and 20 percent city of Cleveland residency.

Scheduled to open in 2016, the new hotel is expected to create 2,800 jobs construction jobs and 450 full-time jobs.

Photo credits: Cuyahoga County

Local Investors Buy Historic Aurora Inn, Plan Full Renovation

25 Apr 2014, 4:36 pm

By Adrian Maties, Associate Editor

A group of local investors has acquired the historic Aurora Inn. Led by Dan Bliss, Stephen Mansfield and Matt Lopatin, Aurora Hotel Partners LLC plans to invest into this well-known fixture in the center of Aurora’s historic district and give it a full makeover.

The Aurora Inn was built in 1927, on a site that was a stagecoach stop in the 1800s. A fire burned the hotel down in 1963, and it was rebuilt and reopened the following year. Nowadays, the Aurora Inn includes 69 rooms, a restaurant, indoor and outdoor pools, and conference facilities.

The current ownership plans to breathe new life into the historic property at the intersection of Routes 82 and 306 through a renovation of its rooms, restaurant, bar, lobby, ballroom and pools. The renovated Aurora Inn will feature 67 rooms, including three suites, a restaurant, patio dining, a bar, an indoor pool, an outdoor pool, a spa, a fitness center and an outdoor event/wedding space.

HGTV celebrity designer Genevieve Gorder has been hired to oversee the design of the hotel. She will work closely on the project with Cleveland-based architect David Krebs of AODK. The new owners have also retained the Riley Hotel Group, an award-winning management company based in Medina, to manage the hotel.

Bliss, CEO of the Bliss Venture Group, was born in Aurora. He believes the historic hotel can can serve the region’s unmet demand for quality food, atmosphere and event spaces. “For many years, the Aurora Inn was known as a destination for great food and a vibrant bar. Sadly, that was lost over the years. We expect to turn that around and restore the hotel’s stature in Northeast Ohio,” Bliss said in a statement for the press.

“Thousands of people have attended weddings and events at the Aurora Inn, or they’ve dined with their families, or they’ve been members at the pools. There are so many memories here. Our team will restore the Aurora Inn in a way that pays respect to its long history, while also providing guests with the modern amenities of a luxury hotel,” Mansfield added.

Photo credits: AuroraInnOhio.com

Akron’s Newest Luxury Student Housing Community to Open in August

19 Apr 2014, 4:13 am

By Adrian Maties, Associate Editor

In May 2013, the Cleveland-based NRP Group, one of the largest multifamily developers in the nation, started work on a 624-bed, four-story luxury student housing community in Akron. Called the Depot, the project is now nearing completion. It is scheduled to open for residents this August.

The Depot is located at 80 East Exchange St., just across the street from the campus of the University of Akron. It offers 624 one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom units, as well as a host of amenities including a resort-style heated pool, lounge areas, an on-site concierge, a modern clubroom, an on-site mini market, an indoor gas fireplace, a game room, a media lab, a conference room, group study areas, a large group fitness classroom and two state-of-the-art fitness facilities.

Units range in size from 592 to 1,386 square feet. They come equipped with granite countertops, in-unit washer and dryer, walk-in closets, contemporary furnishings and a 42-inch flat screen television. The units are all leased by-the-bed. This means each resident will only be responsible for his or her individual rent.

The Depot is managed by Asset Campus Housing, a leader in the management and development of student housing facilities nationwide. The Houston-based company is also in charge of finding residents. Leasing started last August, and since then the Depot has generated significant interest. The one-bedroom units are completely sold out.

The NRP Group is developing the Depot on the site of the old Akron Beacon Journal newspaper storage and sorting facility. It invested $30 million in the project. Together with other important projects, such as the $200 million expansion of the Akron Children’s Hospital campus, it has significantly improved downtown Akron.

Aaron Pechota, vice president of development at The NRP Group, gave assurances that the new community will open on time. “We look forward to welcoming The Depot residents into their new home come August,” he added.

Photo credit: The Depot

Developers Plan $130M, 28-Story Apartment Tower in University Circle

14 Apr 2014, 6:14 am

By Adrian Maties, Associate Editor

Cleveland is getting ready to say hello to a new residential tower, the first to be developed in the city in more than 40 years. The new high-rise will cost $130 million and will be located in the city’s University Circle neighborhood.

University Circle Inc. has partnered with two local developers, Mitchell Schneider of First Interstate Properties and Sam Petros of Petros Development, for the project, called One University Circle. Their plans call for the construction of a 25- to 28-story building, with about 280 units. Work is expected to start in the summer of 2015, with the first units ready for occupancy in mid-2017.

The apartments will range in size from 720 to 4,200 square feet. They will feature floor-to-ceiling windows and will offer residents views of the city skyline and Lake Erie. One University Circle will include such amenities as concierge services, a fitness center, an indoor pool, a green rooftop, an entertainment theater/gaming room and lounges.

Councilwoman Mamie Mitchell described the project as ”good news for University Circle and good news for Cleveland.” In a news release, she said One University Circle “will generate multiple benefits for University Circle and Cleveland. It’s going to add a new component to the neighborhood, offering residents a new housing option and bringing additional economic diversity and benefits to the neighborhood. This is going to be another gem in this jewel-filled neighborhood that helps to define Cleveland.”

“One University Circle will provide a quality urban design solution that meets a market demand, brings greater density to University Circle and supports neighborhood businesses with new residents. We believe this project will continue the momentum of University Circle and the renaissance underway in Cleveland – from downtown to University Circle along the Euclid HealthLine. One University Circle will be a welcoming gateway to the institutions of University Circle and a home for their employees coming from all over the world,” Chris Ronayne, president of University Circle Inc., added.

The project will feature green-building principles. One University Circle will be constructed on a site mostly owned by University Circle Inc. However, a portion of it is occupied by the Children’s Museum of Cleveland. University Circle Inc. has been working together with the museum to find it a new location in Cleveland, one that will better accommodate its plans to expand.

Photo credits: Google Maps

Akron Children’s Hospital Celebrates Topping Out of New Critical Care Tower

7 Apr 2014, 4:36 am

By Adrian Maties, Associate Editor

Akron Children’s Hospital first announced plans to build a $200 million expansion of its downtown Akron campus in the summer of 2012. Called Building on the Promise, the project broke ground on May 30, 2013. Just a few days ago, it reached another important milestone.

On April 2, Akron Children’s Hospital held a topping-out ceremony to celebrate the project reaching its highest point without loss of life or serious injury. Construction crews hoisted the traditional evergreen tree and American flag to the top of the new seven-story building to symbolize growth and to bring good luck.

Building on the Promise is Akron Children’s first major project in more than two decades and will help the hospital keep up with an increase in patients and services. The centerpiece of the project is the 300,000-square-foot critical-care tower. Located on the west side of the campus, at the intersection of Locus and Exchange streets, it will feature a new 100-bed neonatal intensive care unit, new emergency department, outpatient surgical suites and an enclosed concourse that takes patients and staff from the new six-level, 1,250-space parking garage to the new building and beyond into the existing hospital.

Plans also call for the renovation of the Ronald McDonald House on the hospital’s campus. It will expand from 20 to 60 rooms for families receiving treatment at the hospital.

The new building is expected to open as early as March 2015. It will have a LEED for Healthcare Silver certification, reflecting its environmentally responsible and resource-efficient status. Between 175 and 200 people will be employed in the new critical care tower.

The project is funded through donations and a combination of public financing and the use of the hospital’s internal reserves. Akron Children’s is looking to raise $50 million for the critical care tower and $10 million for the Ronald McDonald House expansion. At the start of March, the hospital announced that more than $25.2 million has been raised so far. A public fundraising campaign will launch this fall.

Photo credits: Akron Children’s Hospital


American Greetings Prepares to Start Construction on New HQ, Crocker Park’s Third Phase

1 Apr 2014, 4:21 am

By Adrian Maties, Associate Editor

American Greetings Corp. has taken another important step toward moving from Brooklyn, Ohio, to Westlake’s Crocker Park. Along with Stark Enterprises and the city of Westlake, the greeting card company last week finalized the transaction to relocate its world headquarters.

American Greetings announced its intention to move to Westlake in May 2011. Work on the new building was scheduled to start by 2012, with the company expecting to move in this year. However, the project encountered some problems along the way. American Greetings put its plans to move on hold in November 2012 while it considered a buyout offer from the Weiss family.

But the project won’t be delayed anymore. Construction on the new, 650,000-square-foot facility is scheduled to begin this September. American Greetings plans to move into the new headquarters in spring 2016.

Called Creative Studios, the new facility is part of the third phase of Crocker Park, along with more than 300 rental apartments, a hotel and over 220,000 square feet of retail and restaurants. According to a statement from American Greetings, Stark Enterprises will start work on Crocker Park’s third phase in early April. New tenants are expected to begin opening in the summer of 2016. The combined project will provide an important economic boost for the city of Westlake. Costing between $350 million and $400 million, it will create thousands of jobs.

“Projects of this magnitude require foresight and tremendous partnership, and we want to thank all of those involved for making this project a reality,” said Elie Weiss, president of American Greetings real estate, in a statement for the press. “We would like to specifically recognize the role that Jobs Ohio and the city of Westlake have played in bringing this project to fruition.”

Robert Stark, president & CEO of Stark Enterprises, said the announcement was “the result of 15 years of doggedly pursuing making Crocker Park the best example of a mixed-use community core development anywhere.”

“The city of Westlake is excited that this important step is complete and looks forward to continuing to work with American Greetings as they establish their new world headquarters,” added Michael Killeen, president of Westlake City Council. “These joint efforts of all parties will also ensure the completion of Crocker Park in becoming an even more outstanding place to live, shop, work and play.”

Photo credit: Stark Enterprises

Value Place Reopens Cleveland-Area Hotels Following $500,000 in Renovations

24 Mar 2014, 4:50 pm

By Adrian Maties, Associate Editor

Value Place, a U.S. extended-stay hotel chain, recently completed the renovation of two of its Cleveland-area hotels, in Akron and Mentor. The hotel brand has spent $500,000 for each of the two renovation projects.

The Akron hotel is located at 3325 Fortuna Drive. The four-story 121-room property is  just a short drive south of downtown Cleveland and is accessible from exit 120 off Interstate 77. The Mentor hotel is located near First Energy Stadium, at 5650 Emerald Court, and features 119 rooms on three stories. Both hotels are located in amenity-rich areas.

Value Place said the renovations were inspired by guest feedback and competitive offerings. The two hotels now feature upgraded lighting, beds and TVs. Also, guests now have high-speed, wireless Internet access. The renovations are part of the company’s national effort to enhance corporate- and franchisee-owned properties.

“Enhancing our current properties is a great way to improve our guest experience,” Value Place COO Kyle Rogg said in a statement for the press. “We already meet the ‘needs’ of budget-conscious guests. These upgrades answer the ‘wants.’”

Value Place was founded by renowned hotelier Jack DeBoer in 2002. It currently operates 10 hotels in the state of Ohio, three of which are located in the Cleveland area, in Mentor, Avon and Akron-Green. Last year, the hotel brand announced plans to build six more extended-stay hotels in Greater Cleveland. They will be constructed over the next three years, with the first hotel expected to cost $6 million.

Photo credits: Value Place

City of Cleveland Selects Lakefront Developers

18 Mar 2014, 3:37 pm

By Adrian Maties, Associate Editor

Cleveland’s lakefront has seen little major construction since the late 1990s. But that’s about to change. Last week, Mayor Frank Jackson’s Lakefront Development Advisory Committee selected a developer for the 28 acres at the water’s edge. The project is expected to breathe new life into the area and provide an economic boost for the city.

After months of interviews and proposals, the committee picked a development team out of the four interested in building up Cleveland’s lakefront. Based on recommendations from the committee, Mayor Jackson will now start negotiations with the development group which includes the Dallas-based Trammell Crow Co. and Cumberland Development LLC, a local commercial real estate company led by Richard Pace.

The Trammell Crow/Cumberland team proposed a mixed-use project to be developed in three phases. It was similar to the Cleveland Downtown Lakefront Development Master Plan passed by the city planning commission in May 2012.

Phase I calls for the construction of an office, retail and residential development on Dock 32, as well as restaurants and retail space between the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Great Lakes Science Center and along the East 9th Street Pier. Phases 2 and 3 include the development of apartments and public waterfront amenities on Docks 30 and 28B.

No timeline for the project or construction costs have been announced so far. Before construction can start, the developers and the city still have to hammer out the finer details of the deal. The developers will also have to sign a long-term lease with the city for the land.

“Development of the lakefront is important for the continuing economic growth of our city as well as providing amenities for residents and visitors to enjoy,” Mayor Jackson said in a statement for the press. “I thank the Lakefront Advisory Committee members for their hard work in reviewing the submissions and their recommendation of Trammell Crow and Cumberland who have exceptional development skills, a willingness to invest, and a shared vision for a lively waterfront and I look forward to taking the next steps in the process.”

Photo credits: www.clecityhall.com

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