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Prospect Yard creating an affordable place to live in downtown Cleveland

Posted at 10:35 AM, Oct 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-24 07:24:08-04

CLEVELAND — In early December, Prospect Yard is expected to make 42 affordable apartments available to residents, walking distance from downtown Cleveland and some of the most expensive apartment projects in the city.

Woda Cooper Companies bought the building in 2014 early in downtown's expansion to the east that brought new apartment complexes like The Althon, Euclid Grand, The Beacon, and The Lumen at Playhouse Square.

But the rents at those luxury locations can be as high as $2,000 or $3,000 per month, much too high for many people pulling in more modest incomes.

"There aren't many people who can live by themselves downtown," said janitor Brian Yarbrough, referring to his co-workers and friends who work downtown. "They're probably working close to downtown but I guarantee you they aren't living downtown because it's too expensive."

The answer to their problem might be found in the old Stuyvesant Motor Company Building at 1937 Prospect Avenue, where Woda Cooper Companies is building the Prospect Yard apartments.

The building was built in 1917 and a stone in the brick at the top of the building still reads "Stuyvesant" after more than a century. Faded paint on the back shows where used car ads used to catch the eye of people passing by.

While the top floors were used for car manufacturing, the bottom floor used to house a car dealership will now serve as part of the building's indoor parking facilities once residents move in.

The whole project is just a few blocks from apartments that rent for triple the price, if not more.

"The demand is unbelievable," said Woda Cooper Regional Manager Russell Brown. "We had 33 phone calls on Friday alone."

The whole building will have 42 apartments, with rent starting at $330 and topping out at $1,247 depending on how large the apartment is.

The building does not fall under the Section 8 program, but tenants have to qualify to live in the building based on how their annual income compares to the Area Median Income, which is a little more than $70,000 for downtown Cleveland. Residents are eligible for rental rates based on how their annual income compares to the Average Median Income.

Woda Cooper Vice President of Development Joseph McCabe says those prices are no mistake.

"A lot of developers have turned away because it is so hard to do affordable housing," said McCabe.

The project, like many others downtown, uses many layers of historic tax credits. Woda Cooper went the extra step to also get affordable housing credits, creating more work but making it possible to keep rents so low.

McCabe says it's a complicated process so other developers instead often build market-rate apartments and shoot for higher profits. Woda Cooper instead is looking to house people with working-class incomes and people needed in the downtown service industry.

"A lot of the time, those lower-income people are actually the people that perform the services that we need and we require," said Brown.

To keep utility bills down, McCabe says Prospect Yard is built to be an energy efficient as an old car factory can be. Special attention to sealing windows and doors might cost more to build but it will help residents in the long run.

"It means that they have less money going out the door or out the windows, literally and figuratively, and less money on heating or lighting and it means more money in their pocket," said McCabe.

"It still gives you that ability to live downtown, and to be able to afford it," said Brown.

Woda Cooper Companies has 300 properties and 12,000 units.

In Ohio, they operate 109 properties with a combined 4,023 units with six other properties with 361 units either in development or under construction.

The apartments are expected to be ready for residents in early December.

Here are some additional historical notes from Woda Cooper Companies about the building:

  • Some additional faded painted signs on the brick exterior can also been seen at the alleyway side, including painted advertisements that read “USED CARS” at the first floor; “HUDSON SUPER SIX” at the fifth floor; and “STUYVESANT” at the roof; also remains of historic painted signs as follows: “THE E.E. STUYVESANT MOTOR CO. SERVICE."
  • The Stuyvesant Motor Company Building is representative of its period in terms of style and function and retains a high degree of historic integrity. In the context of commerce and industry, the building significantly contributed to the manufacturing, service, and support of Cleveland’s early automobile industry.
  • Built as a production plant, service center, garage, and storage facility for Stuyvesant Motor Company in 1917, the building reflects large space requirements in addition to modern fireproof construction techniques. Expansion of the building in 1919 underscores the significance of the automobile manufacturer as many other local brands failed. After the Great Depression, Stuyvesant Motor Company Building became home to various other automobile dealerships and service functions until the late 1930s.
  • Frank E. Stuyvesant began his career with White Company in 1904, and by 1910 he advanced to become a sales manager before beginning his own business ventures. Stuyvesant joined a group of investors to purchase and merge several manufactures that had each began engineering their own automobile design. It is believed that Stuyvesant was merging major car part manufacturers in an attempt to compete with big‐name automotive companies, forming a micro version of the highly successful horizontal production chain utilized by Henry Ford.
  • The 1st floor was used for the new car department where the vehicles would be readied for delivery to dealers and customers. The new car department would also include complementary support facilities and service for people interested in purchasing a new car or had already purchased a Stuyvesant vehicle from any associated dealership. The second and third floors were devoted to service shops including repair, wood‐working, metal‐working, paint and trim.

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This story is part of A Better Land , an ongoing series that investigates Northeast Ohio's deep-seated systemic problems. Additionally, it puts a spotlight on the community heroes fighting for positive change in Cleveland and throughout the region. If you have an idea for A Better Land story, tell us here .