CLEVELAND — If you haven’t been round West Side Market during the pandemic, the corner of Lorain and West 25th Street looks a lot different.
The old strip mall is gone and it’s been replaced by a massive construction site, building the largest timber-frame building in the United States. Intro Cleveland is a $150 million project that will bring almost 300 apartments (10 penthouses) to Ohio City, along with 36,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space and a 12,000 square foot entertainment venue on the top floor.
Ironically, Dan Whalen at Harbor Bay Real Estate Advisors expects it to hold that title for only a few weeks, because a similar project in Milwaukee has already started construction and will be taller than Intro soon after.
Regardless, the impact local residents and leaders say it’ll have on Ohio City won’t be topped.
“A sight for sore eyes, it’s beautiful,” said Ricky Moore, who takes public transit to Ohio City a few times a week. “I used to go over to the Chinese restaurant and eat sometimes but this looks ten times better.”
The developers agree, but they also say the building is better for the environment. It will be LEED Gold Certified and will be the largest mass-timber building in the country (for a few weeks.) The mass-timber aspect cut down on construction time and means that it’s been made out of a renewable resource.
“This is the A-plus location because you’ve got so much right here,” said Whalen, referring to the Greater Cleveland RTA station behind Intro, West Side Market, the recently-completed Red Line Greenway, and other west side attractions.
The key is that Whalen says 80% of the 36,000 square feet of ground-level retail already has tenants committed, between attractions that Harbor Bay will own and operate and other businesses.
The top-floor venue already has weddings on the calendar with a promise to be ready in February.
“We’re gearing up to have this building ready to deliver by NBA All-Star Weekend,” said Whalen, referring to the festivities that will run from Friday, February 18, 2022 through Sunday, February 20, 2022. “In fact, we’re committed to do so.”
Part of the All-Star Weekend will be hosted at Intro, with residents moving into some of the almost 300 apartments soon after.
The plan is “to make this stretch here not feel like the end zone of the neighborhood, but really start to feel like the 50-yard-line,” said Whalen, who can comfortably make that analogy, having played Quarterback at Case Western Reserve University and for the Cleveland Gladiators in the Arena League.
That’s good news for Ohio City Incorporated, where Executive Director Tom McNair says his organization has been trying to help lay “breadcrumbs” to draw pedestrians farther south on West 25th.
“Intro is going to fundamentally change the way that Ohio City functions,” said McNair.
McNair says Intro’s location south of Lorain Avenue will help more people find the other businesses that are there.
“Citizen Pie, God bless them, has hung on being on an island for the last few months,” said Whalen.
“It is again putting the West Side Market at the heart of that and I think it really starts to wrench people further south along West 25th Street,” said McNair. “Even from the perspective of welcoming people coming out of the RTA station and making you feel like you’re in the middle of a vibrant neighborhood, we think that is critically important.”
Whalen says the parking lots south of Intro could eventually be developed into a Phase 2 of the project, playing off the existing building and stretching visitors even farther down West 25th Street.
“This is really one of those capstone projects that I think really kind of sets the direction for where we’re heading in the future,” said McNair.
“It’s just something new and when you build something new, it just makes the place look beautiful,” said Moore.”
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