CLEVELAND — The architectural gem at the corner of Scranton Road and Prame Avenue has looked out over Tremont for more than a century. Its next chapter will allow some of the community’s oldest residents to move inside, continuing the watch.
Afer the first 100 years of being used for education, it was converted into office space for the Community Care Network.
Since that organization moved out, current owner Eric Lutzo says it sat vacant for years waiting for what’s next.
“St. Michael’s is a beautiful building,” said Lutzo in the former school’s gym and auditorium. “An architect put thought into every one of those cherubs that you see on the outside and every spire.”
Lutzo owns SoTre Properties, which buys and fixes up aging homes around Tremont to rent them out again, providing new places to live while helping maintain the neighborhood’s aging housing stock.
The school’s history and prominence in the community drew Lutzo to buy the building at auction with the idea that it would eventually be turned into housing.
It eventually became clear that the best way to do that would be to sell the building to CHN Housing Partners to best take advantage of tax credits available at the state level. Lutzo says that sale is expected to be finalized in 2021.
“The city of Cleveland has a lot of issues in terms of affordability,” said CHN Housing Partners Real Estate Development Director Lisa McGovern. “Especially for seniors, places that are appropriate to age in place and places that they can afford is a big challenge.”
That’s especially true in a place like Greater Cleveland where much of the housing stock is about 100 years old and often needs maintenance.
“You have people on fixed incomes that as the real estate taxes increase, or as the maintenance required on these 100-year-old homes comes due, they have to let the house fall apart around them,” said McGovern.
So, CHN Housing Partners is turning the classrooms converted to offices in the early 2000s into 47 one and two-bedroom units in the school building and the convent behind it, with the first seniors expected to move in Fall 2022. The project is expected to cost about $13 million, with much of the financing coming from low-income housing tax credits, city resources, and historic tax credits.
The project will feature multiple common areas and support spaces including a community room, a wellness center, on site property management, service coordinator and dedicated maintenance and janitorial staff. The Arch at St. Michaels represents the preservation and revitalization of a community icon that has been decaying and at risk of being lost.
Cleveland City Councilwoman Jasmin Santana represents the neighborhood and tells News 5 Cleveland:
St. Michael's School is truly an architectural gem in the Clark-Scranton neighborhood. To think that only a few years ago this historic structure was slated for demolition gives me chills.
We will soon see St. Michael's transformed into 47 units of affordable housing for seniors. Building permits are in the works and a restoration team -- comprised of non-profit and private developers -- is ready to break ground. This is very exciting. It complements the major expansion of nearby Metro hospital, bringing yet more capital into the community. The St Michaels project is a sign that its never too late to revitalize a neighborhood and restore distressed historic structures.
At a time when rent all over Cleveland can easily be around $1,500 or more, seniors can get a one-bedroom unit for around $600-700.
That range, “to seniors on a fixed income is significant, but when compared to market-rate developments nearby, it’s incredibly affordable,” said McGovern.
The large areas you’d expect to find inside a school like gyms and auditoriums will be a big part of the new senior living facility, allowing residents large spaces to congregate that are easy to move around in.
“It preserves this historic, amazing, beautiful building and gives people an affordable place to stay in their community,” said McGovern.
Lutzo says his Tremont neighbors are already asking how to apply so they can keep an eye on the neighborhood they helped shape.
“The neighborhood really needs more opportunity for people who helped build these neighborhoods,” said Lutzo. “We don’t want to force them out.”
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