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Controversial Little Italy apartment project moving forward after important approvals

Posted at 4:10 PM, Feb 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-04 16:00:38-05

CLEVELAND — A controversial but scaled-back version of a proposed apartment building in Little Italy received two important zoning approvals Monday morning despite the objections of several neighbors. The proposed three story, 44-unit apartment building to be constructed near the intersection of Murray Hill and Cornell Roads has been the subject of several community and public meetings over the past 18 months.

The Cleveland Board of Zoning Appeals approved two variances for Hemmingway Development related to the proposed project’s rear yard and square footage requirements. The vote came after lengthy public comment from the packed gallery. In their decision, board members cited Hemmingway Development’s willingness to scale back the project for their approval of the variances.

When the project was initially proposed, it consisted of four stories and 60 total apartment units. The current proposal calls for three stories and 44 apartment units that will either be two or three bedrooms.

“Every step of the way we have adjusted our plan. I would suggest that there is more support than what has been shown today,” said Michael Panzica, the principal at Hemmingway Development. “We have made adjustments every step of the way, including to the variances requested, reduced from five to two.”

In addition to occupying what is now a parking lot, the proposed apartment building would also require the demolition of two homes at 2189 and 2193 Cornell Road. Carmen Patrello, the owner of one of the homes, has agreed to sell his property to developers and is in support of the project.

“As time goes on, things change and I think this is something that is some change that they have to accept,” Patrello said. “There is going to be a lot of memories left behind.”

The concerned neighbors who spoke in opposition of the project repeated many of the same concerns with the proposal, namely over traffic and density. Although the project includes the construction of dozens of spaces, parking was a main concern for many people in the gallery.

“There is no parking on Murray Hill. If you come to Murray Hill at any point in the day, you may find a spot or you may not,” Jerry Keller said. “The area is not something that really lends itself to something of this size.”

Parking and the demolition of homes in historic neighborhoods are things that will be examined and addressed, said Councilman Blaine Griffin, whose ward encompasses the Little Italy area. Hemmingway’s willingness to make changes to the project in order to meet resident concerns was an important factor in the project moving forward, Councilman Griffin said.

“There is not always going to be a happy outcome for everybody but I do believe that with significant community engagement, I do think the community has some wins they can think about because the project was scaled back significantly,” Councilman Griffin said. “I do believe they are going to come up with a product that won’t disproportionately impact the community and preferably something that will only benefit the community.”

The project now moves back to the Little Italy Redevelopment Corp. for a review of proposed building materials. Another meeting has been set up for Feb. 11.