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Shaker Heights looks to add a downtown feel with new Van Aken District

Posted at 7:53 AM, Dec 05, 2017
and last updated 2018-03-16 11:46:04-04

Once a city is built out, there are rarely chances for do-overs, that’s not the case though in Shaker Heights where the city’s new Van Aken District development project gives the eastern Cuyahoga County suburb a chance to build a new downtown.

Call the $90 million mixed-use development rising at the eastern end of the RTA’s Blue line off Warrensville Center Road and Chagrin Boulevard Shaker’s second act.

"This is an opportunity to really re-create a suburb and create that commercial area for Shaker Heights so that residents can walk to grab a bite to eat to shop and also to recreate and come together as a community," said Van Aken Neighborhood General Manager Jason Russell. 

“We have 103 apartments, about 64-thousand square feet of office and almost 100,000 square feet of retail, we’ve got something for everyone here.”

Shaker is a city rich in history Russell said but that history has left it lacking in amenities that many have grown accustomed to having at their disposal.

“Shaker was built as that oasis away from the city,” said Russell. “It was the garden suburb that was built to get away from the nit and the grit of the commercial industrial Cleveland and so for that reason Shaker Heights really hasn’t had commercial areas in their city. So this is a great opportunity for us to create that downtown sort of speak for Shaker Heights.”

The project fits neatly next to the RTA line on what was the site of a 1950s shopping center and it’s parking lot and will feature among other options a restaurant operated by local James Beard Award Winning Chef Jonathan Sawyer whose early commitment sent a message.

“He’s helped us connect with other chefs around the country. Michael Schwartz who is a James Beard Award-winning chef out of Miami Florida is opening ‘Genuine Pizza’ here in the district. So we’ve been able to bring that very quality restaurant experience that us Clevelanders have frankly come to love and bring new talent that hasn’t been seen in Northeast Ohio to the district and to the community,” Russell said.

In addition, the old Fresh Market Supermarket building is being converted into what’s being called the Market Hall. “It's very similar to what you see in cities in New York City, Atlanta, Denver,” he said. 

The hall will feature around 21,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space where they will have small stalls for individuals to have retail space a lot like the West Side Market but also food tenants where you can sit, have a beer, have a dinner.

“Then there’s also leisure space where you can just come, work on your paper, have a meeting and be a part of a larger space and really be a part of the retail experience and people watch and have demonstrations we have a number of tenants who will be doing demonstrations of the products they create right there so you can be a part of that process as well,” Russell said.

As for the retail options don’t look for the national chains that are staples of similar developments. “We’re focusing on local and cultivating new retail talent from our own local residents here in Shaker or Northeast Ohio at large.”

The office space at the site is scheduled to open around June, 2018 with the residential space to be move in ready in late August.