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Breathing new life into the old Sokolowski’s restaurant site in Cleveland

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Posted at 6:28 AM, May 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-18 06:28:03-04

CLEVELAND — Even on a Tuesday night, Tremont is full of life.

“I love the atmosphere, the people, the restaurants, the bars. It’s just a great place to be,” said Becca Phillipson, a longtime resident.

However, that hustle and bustle die down a bit near 1201 University Road, the spot of Sokolowski’s University Inn.

“I was really sad when it closed,” said Phillipson.

Sokolowski’s was a beloved and historic restaurant in Cleveland, known for its pierogis and Polish menu. After nearly 100 years of business, the restaurant couldn’t weather the storm that 2020 brought with it. It closed in October of that year.

But last November, Giancarlo Calicchia and Michael Nance entered the picture and became the newest owners of 1201 University Road.

“I’ve known the Sokowloski family since the 1980s,” said Calicchia.

They plan to bring new life into the land and Tuesday they presented their plan for it to the Tremont neighborhood at the Polish Veterans Alliance.

“We received a lot of support,” said Calicchia.

The plan is to get rid of the former restaurant and build, in its place, a 6-story apartment complex that has a public 2nd-story terrace overlooking the Towpath.

“We are creating a cascading terrace that includes and enhances that aspect that will allow for small,160-square-foot small retail and restaurants so that you can kind of have a modern-day cafeteria, modern-day food truck but it’s stationary. Sokowloski’s, the history there, it transformed to being a cafeteria-style restaurant in 1950. This is a modern play of a cafeteria in an outdoor environment,” said Brandon Kline.

Kline is the design director for Geis Companies and is the architect for the new project.

It’s a preliminary plan and nothing is set in stone, but Nance said it will be an inclusive and open area that enhances the Tremont neighborhood.

“Unifying this with the Towpath, the raised platform, the availability to accessible, small, cost-effective pods for local purveyors of goods of all sorts. It’s exciting you can stop at the Towpath and get off your bike, or stop from your walk and have a coffee, pastry, a drink, a bite to eat and continue on your journey,” he said.

Calicchia said they could break ground this fall if all goes as planned and anticipate it taking 18 months to build.

“We are trying to integrate some of the history of the roots, the heritage of the site and breathe new life into it, kind of honor the past but enjoy the future,” said Kline.