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The Centennial pays homage to Cleveland’s past while making it easier to live downtown in the future

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Posted at 10:38 AM, Sep 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-28 18:33:37-04

CLEVELAND — There’s a certain paradox to the work that janitors like Brian Yarbrough do day in and day out in Downtown Cleveland.

Before and during the pandemic, they’ve kept office buildings clean, and yet with an income around $25,000 a year (maybe a little higher with seniority) there’s no way workers like him can live in the neighborhood in which they work.

“It’s very expensive to live downtown,” said Yarbrough. “The closest member who lives closest is like 59th and St. Clair.”

Downtown Cleveland has seen roughly 700 new apartments become available in the last year and there are more than 1,000 more under construction right now. The overwhelming majority of them are in the luxury market with rent to match.

That’s where The Centennial comes in.

The Centennial

In what used to be a massive bank building, developers are planning what it calls “workforce housing” with people like Yarbrough in mind.

“It makes downtown more inclusive, which is important to everybody,” said Millennia Companies Senior Tax Credit Developer Tom Mignogna.

Millennia owns the building and plans to install 868 apartment units available based on an applicant’s income. There will also be 20,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space with 95,000 square feet of office space. The total cost for the project is estimated to be around $450 million and is counting on a change in Ohio law to allow for “transformational mixed-use developments” (TMUD) funding.

“Price points will be much lower and much more affordable and our rents will be capped,” said Mignogna.

He says the 480 apartments included in Phase 1 of the project could be available in 2023.

50% Area Median Income Restrictions

Size of HouseholdIncome LimitUnitRent limit
1 person$26,600Efficiency $665
2 people$30,4001 bedroom$712
3 people$34,2002 bedroom$855
4 people $38,0003 bedroom$988

60% Area Median Income Restrictions

Size of HouseholdIncome LimitUnitRent Limit
1 person$31,920Efficiency $798
2 people $36,480 1 bedroom$855
3 people$41,040 2 bedroom$1,026
4 people$45,6003 bedroom$1,460

80% Area Median Income Restrictions

Size of HouseholdIncome LimitUnitRent Limit
1 person$42,560Efficiency $1,064
2 people $48,6401 bedroom$1,140
3 people$54,7202 bedroom$1,368
4 people$60,8003 bedroom $1,581

The Centennial Phase 1 Rental Breakdown

UnitAMI RestrctionNumber of Units
1 bedroom50%209
1 bedroom60%84
1 bedroom80%108
2 bedroom50%47
2 bedroom60%13
2 bedroom80%19

Those rents are much lower than what apartments are renting for just a few feet away along Euclid Avenue.

The original plan for The Centennial was to create luxury housing as well, joining downtown Cleveland’s long list of luxury projects mostly along Euclid Avenue.

See News 5's previous coverage of the impact rising rents is having on tenants here.

This 1958 picture shows the huge amount off office space above the bank halls that will be used for workforce housing.

But Mignogna says the coronavirus made Millennia think Cleveland needed something more affordable downtown.

“We revamped the program altogether for this project,” said Mignogna.

See News 5’s previous coverage on how rising rents have driven some to the suburbs here.

Prospect Yard

One of the only other options for more affordable housing in downtown is a few blocks away from The Centennial.

On Prospect Avenue across from the Wolstein Center, Prospect Yard has 42 units with rent also tied to income that were spoken for as soon as they were finished in February. The building was built and renovated by Woda Cooper Companies.

Seven months later, the wait list is 85 families long for 42 apartments.

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Woda Cooper Companies' Prospect Yard apartments allows renters to lock in their rent based on what they make compared to the area median income.

“The demand here is that we could have built four or five of these buildings,” said Woda Cooper Vice President Joe McCabe.

McCabe says Woda Cooper plans to build more projects in the Cleveland market because he says there is always going to be a need for workforce housing and a good reason to fill it, making downtown an easier place to live.

“[Workforce housing is] crucial to actually seeking and securing new companies to move into a city or to get some major growth to have the adequate housing to come with it,” said McCabe.

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The larger of the two bank halls is slated to become a historical showcase focusing on Cleveland's history.

Yarbrough says one concern he has is that even after more affordable housing becomes available, he’s still concerned that the cost of living will be too high for many of his colleagues. He says the cost of groceries and parking will make it a challenge to live downtown.

Developers say as more people move downtown, more stores to meet those basic needs will follow, bringing prices down.

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