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Lakewood’s former 'BiRite Building' getting a $4 to $5 million transformation into 'The Nest'

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Posted at 5:00 AM, Mar 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-18 18:43:34-04

LAKEWOOD, Ohio — Construction work is expected to start in the next few weeks on “The Nest” in Lakewood’s eastern neighborhood of Birdtown. The project is the latest iteration for the building neighbors remember most for recently housing the BiRite grocery store.

“The building is over 100 years old,” said owner Jim Miketo as he walked through the old grocery space. “The records go back to 1918.”

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This 1960s picture shows the corner entrance of the grocery store that Miketo plans to restore.

Read more about Birdtown’s history dating back to the 1890s here.

Miketo, who also created Forest City Shuffleboard and is working on a project to revitalize the old Hough Bakery near East Cleveland, bought the building in 2019 and is working on the project through his Neighborhood Drummer company, which owns and operates some residential and commercial real estate on Cleveland’s west side.

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Miketo stands in the space that will eventually become a corner coffee shop on Madison Avenue and Robin Street.

The project will restore some historic elements of the building while creating a hair salon on the third floor, office space on the second floor, and a ground-floor coffee shop and entertainment venue/bar.

“It’ll be similar to Forest City [Shuffleboard],” said Miketo. “Great for events, parties, leagues, get-togethers, gatherings.”

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The former banquet hall will become office space. Miketo says there is already a tattoo artists interested in becoming a tenant.

He says the high ceilings and large floor plan allow him to build in some social-distancing because of concerns he expects patrons could have even after the pandemic is over.

One big piece of the project is adding to the Birdtown neighborhood without changing it.

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The upper floors of The Nest provide a unique view of Birdtown and Lakewood because few nearby buildings are as tall.

“There are people in this Birdtown pocket that are super passionate about Birdtown,” said Miketo’s business partner Brian Curran. “There’s kind of a reason why it has its own name.”

Some of those people are Ralph and Mary Piunno, who bought and converted an old bank down the street into a home.

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Mary and Ralph stand outside the commercial building they converted into a private residence.

“Birdtown was always really tinny mom-and-pop shops so in a way, [The Nest] is keeping with that spirit,” said Mary.

“We love the area,” said Ralph. “It was a good location with walkability to almost everything we need.”

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Steven and Dave are part of a small group of local business owners who organize improvements for Birdtown, like having it declared a historic district, installing these signs, installing painted flower boxes, and maintaining the streetscape.

Down the street from the Piunno’s is Stem Handmade Soaps, where Steven Meka and Dave Willett have operated out of a cozy storefront on Madison Avenue for eight years.

“We couldn’t find anything that was small enough and affordable enough throughout most of Lakewood until we found this cute little building in Birdtown,” said Meka.

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Meka says he's excited for The Nest to be completed so that it can offer more options and attractions for visitors to Birdtown.

Since then, they’ve watched restaurants and stores fill neighboring buildings.

“It’s been small business after small business that’s just built upon each other,” said Willett.

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"It's been small business after small business that's just built upon each other," said Willett. "People would be coming in [to Birdtown] because they see the success of somebody else and they build upon that success with their own."

“It’s becoming more of a destination and our traffic count continues to increase year after year,” said Meka.

That sense of community plays into Miketo’s plan to add to the neighborhood that he admits doesn’t “need” his development to thrive.

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Old plumbing is still in place from where the bathrooms used to be for the banquet hall.

Since the building will have so many uses, he says visitors to Birdtown can stumble upon something to do in his building, or vice versa.

Someone could stop by a for a coffee on the first floor on the way to their haircut on the third story before stopping at Stem Handmade Soap down the street.

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Miketo and Curran walk through the top floor of The Nest.

“It’s something that can extend trips to the Birdtown neighborhood,” said Miketo.

“I think it’s going to be the perfect complement,” said Meka. “We’re far from having too much and I think [The Nest] will help us be just enough for the community.”

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Old signs remain from when a dance studio opperated out of the building that will become The Nest.

Construction is expected to start in April with pieces of the building opening in phases as they are completed.

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