CLEVELAND — Before many people in Greater Cleveland ever had the chance to visit the newly-constructed Wendy Park Bridge and Whiskey Island Connector trail, five acres of land right next to those projects is hitting the real estate market.
The land sticks out into the Cuyahoga River across from Shooters and the East Bank of the Flats, providing an incredible view of downtown Cleveland and the Flats that few people have been able to enjoy.
The company approached real estate broker Rico Pietro and his partner Joe Barna to figure out if now was the time to put the land on the market. Barna says the company is realizing that the area around their land is changing, now that Wendy Park is considerably easier for pedestrians and cyclists to access.
“I’m a firm believer that activity breeds activity and at one time, the West Bank of the Flats was more popular than the East Bank and then the East Bank redeveloped,” said Barna.
Flats Forward Executive Director Jim Haviland says that connectivity is not only good for getting residents outside, but it makes it more likely that they will travel and spend money at local establishments.
“This is something that certainly would help drive development over here,” said Haviland.
New development at the mouth of the river could also spark development farther south on the West Bank to help it catch up to everything that has happened on the East Bank in the last few years.
To push the project along, Dimit Architects drew up renderings showing a 26-story apartment building, towering over what’s now flat land, that would be tall enough to mirror the Ernst & Young building on the other side of the Flats.
“It’s such a unique site, it’s such a gateway,” said Dimit Architects’ Scott Dimit.
Those early pictures show greenspace and walking paths along the water, with a parking garage along the tracks to block out the sound. It drives home the point that the Flats could eventually be considered more of a residential community and not just an entertainment district.
Any development would still have to go through the neighborhood and city design review process.
“Very much kind of a waterfront neighborhood where [the East Bank] is sort of a banked neighborhood, but if you build up the other side, it’ll make it not like Venice, but you’ll be going back and forth across the water,” said Dimit.
The project site still isn’t connected directly to the East Bank of the Flats, but there are plans to extend the Cleveland Metroparks Water Taxi with an additional stop in Heritage Park to the south. A similar extension to the north would be one possible solution cutting down on the time it would take to get from West Bank to the East Bank.
“If you talk to anyone that’s a boater, anybody who’s spent any time out on the river, they look at this site and say, “Man, something special could go there,” said Pietro.
“Cleveland, we really don’t take advantage of our waterfront so I see nothing but opportunity,” said Barna.
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