The buildings lit up now by construction lights and blowtorches caught Alto Partners C.E.O. and managing partner Michael Sabracos' eye because they used to be the only buildings on Euclid Avenue not lit up at all.
Construction workers prepare to remove part of the building while cleaning out the basement. Workers say there was material left over from the last time the space was used as a bank and retail location, but also from years of people sneaking into the structure.
"It was just screaming for someone to bring it back to life," said Sabracos.
The buildings are hard to miss. They're on Euclid between East 4th Street and Playhouse Square, across the street from the Heinen's downtown.
This rendering from directly across Euclid Avenue shows The Statler apartments to the right and Huntington Bank to the left.
Alto Partners focuses on redeveloping large historic properties and realized the walls that have been vacant for roughly a decade still have a lot to offer.
The space inside has been used as a bank and retail locations in the past. Some markings on the walls reveal past decorations, wallpaper and paint that was covered over throughout the years.
"We looked at it as the missing tooth in Cleveland," said Sabracos.
To fill the space, Alto Partners has come up with a $77 million project, including nearly 240 apartments with parking in the basement and plenty of amenities to keep the new renters happy.
"Euclid Grand" plans to combine new retail locations along much of the sidewalk, with the lobby for apartments located in between.
It's supposed to be finished in early 2020, with the help of roughly $18 million in Historic Tax Credits, which have already sparked millions of dollars in development just downtown.
"Without that little piece, there's not enough money to do the development," said Sabracos. "We would be losing money."
Former retail space is expected to be turned into a lobby for residents who live in the nearly 240 apartments above.
The project joins a handful of other Historic Tax Credit projects connecting Public Square to Playhouse Square, making an unbroken path for pedestrians that will soon have no empty buildings.
"It's a sense of mental security knowing that there's not a dead building," said Downtown Cleveland Residents Association President Jonathan Whigham. "If I'm walking by, I feel safe."
The renovation also has the chance to bring in plenty of new residents, which Whigham says are badly needed.
A rendering from the downtown Heinen's shows the developments' proximity to an RTA stop along Euclid Avenue.
"We've got to get to that 20,000 mark before major retailers really look at us and really take us seriously as a full neighborhood," said Whigham.
He estimates that about 18,000 people live downtown right now, but he's been told that the bigger stores shoppers go to malls for won't open up downtown until there's a bigger potential customer base.
Old decorations are revealed from what might have been retail advertisements or decorations in a former bank.
"Some of those suburban expectations, you don't get downtown yet," said Whigham.
The 20,000 square feet of retail included in the plans in Alto Partners' building will help provide a new place for those major retailers to land when the time is right.
Sabracos says the ironwork on the back of the building dates to the early 1900s, when the back of the building was on a street that was later made into an alley.
"Cleveland's not on their radar, and we need to put it on their radar because it's a great city to be in," said Sabracos.
Stairs lead from a former retail space into the entrance to the garage next to The Statler apartments.
Sabracos says Alto Partners is helping to set the example. Since jumping into the Cleveland market, they already control 700,000 square feet, including office space, and they plan to more than triple that amount.