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What’s going on in the Flats East Bank?

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Posted at 11:55 AM, Dec 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-19 13:03:48-05

CLEVELAND — When warmer weather rolls back into Cleveland, visitors to the Flats East Bank could find an entertainment district that looks substantially different.

What’s being built

The first part of Phase 3 of construction is already well underway, building two new buildings in what used to be a grass field between Alley Cat Oyster Bar and Forward.

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New buildings in Flats East Bank will become new entertainment space in what used to be an open grass field.

Developer Scott Wolstein told the Downtown Cleveland Alliance on Oct. 8 that the new construction is part of an effort to bring a wider audience to The Flats. So far, he says the development has done a good job attracting younger people who go to venues like Forward for the genre of music it plays. Wolstein didn’t return multiple attempts to contact him for this article.

The new building will have a live country music venue with a rooftop cigar and whiskey bar.

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From the west bank of the flats, the new buildings (left) fill in the space between the current mixed-use building and Forward Night Club.

“Cleveland’s a huge country music market and we haven’t really had a country music venue downtown,” said Wolstein.

A second building at that site will have two restaurants: an asian fusion dining location and a nightclub with a restaurant below it. Across the roundabout, Wolstein says Magnolia is being converted into a 1970’s disco, paying homage to New York’s Studio 54.

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Screenshots from DCA's conversation with Wolstein show how future development could add a lot of apartments to what are now open lots.

Schematic drawings show future development could turn parking lots bordering the railroad tracks to the north of the 23-acre site into more apartments, townhomes, and retail space.

Across the street from Punch Bowl Social, future plans include a large retail and apartment complex on what’s now a large surface lot, making West 11th Street in the Flats a street with “double sided retail” similar to East 4th Street, according to Wolstein.

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This could be what future development in the open lot along West 11th Street in the Flats could look like.

“We believe the Cleveland market is a Field of Dreams market,” Wolstein told DCA. “If you build it, they will come.”

While DCA states that it’s goal is to have 30,000 people living in Downtown Cleveland by 2030, Wolstein says there’s no reason there shouldn’t be 50,000 downtown residents by then.

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This screenshot shows what's been built, what's still to come, and roughly what it costs.

Cleveland TIF Extension

Two months after Wolstein laid out the future of the Flats East Bank to DCA, the Cleveland City Council voted to double the site’s 30-year tax-increment financing arrangement (TIF).

The National Housing Conference explains, “TIFs are used to finance redevelopment projects or other investments using the anticipation of future tax revenue resulting from new development.”

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A large parking lot within the complex is slated for future development but likely wouldn't have been possible without the TIF extension.

Since it opened 10 years ago, the Flats East Bank fell roughly $6.5 million behind in what it owes to the City of Cleveland.

The Cleveland’s Director of Economic Development David Ebersole sold the City Council that the city had been staying current on payments it owed related to the project despite the late payments from Flats East Bank, but that the reserves to make those payments had run dry.

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The new buildings would fill in a big piece of the boardwalk that connects Flats East Bank to the river.

Ebersole told Council members that extending the 30-year TIF to 60 years would be the only way to make the financing work out.

Ward 17 Cleveland City Council member Charles Slife asked Ebersole why litigation to recover the outstanding debt wasn’t an option for the city.

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Future phases of the development could add much more height to the northern part of the Flats East Bank 23-acre site.

“I need to understand why suing the developer who offered a personal guarantee is not a viable option,” said Slife. “If we’re not willing to act on that, what is the value.”

Ebersole pointed out that kind of litigation would likely not only be an additional barrier to developing the rest of the 23 acres in Flats East Bank but also might have a chilling effect in new building around other neighborhoods in Cleveland. Slife said he was concerned it sends a bad message.

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Signs show that ESPN Cleveland intends to move to Flats East Bank in 2021.

“When you’re behind in your car payment, you can’t go to the bank and ask to double the length of your car payment,” said Slife.

Council later approved the extension in a 14-2 vote.

INTRO Cle Timber starts going up

The timber that will make up the tallest Timber building in the United States started to arrive and be put in place at INTRO Cleveland in Ohio City.

The $150 million project will bring 298 apartments with 10 “ultra-luxury” units right across the street from the West Side Market. The 36,000 square feet of retail space along with a wedding venue on the top of the building will bring new life and much more density to Ohio City.

See News 5 Cleveland's previous coverage of INTRO Cle here and here..

Lake Avenue Feedback

You can give feedback on planned improvements to Lake Avenue between West 117th Street and Detroit Avenue.

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A sign along Lake Avenue encourages passersby to give their input.

The more than $3.5 million project is expected to be designed by March 2021 with construction starting next summer and wrapping up by November 2021.

A rendering shows what the future of Lake Avenue and West 78th Street could look like with the planned updates.

The work will resurface the street, update sidewalks and curb ramps, while including additional upgrades for cyclists and pedestrians.

Pedestrian refuge islands and dedicated crosswalks could make the intersection more safe.

Lake Avenue between West 117th and Clifton Boulevard isn’t expected to change much, with current lane use and parking slated to stay in place.

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The corner of West 78th and Lake Avenue today.

Lake Avenue between Clifton Boulevard and Detroit could change much more, with painted bike lanes and pedestrian refuge islands.

New street design would created painted bike lanes in both directions on Lake Avenue between Clifton Boulevard and Detroit Avenue.

You can view all the planned improvements here and provide your feedback here.

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This stretch of Lake Avenue between Clifton Boulevard and Detroit Avenue is expected to be resurfaced and have upgrades for pedestrians and cyclists.

Pedestrian Improvement Public Comment

The city of Cleveland and the Ohio Department of Transportation are working together to bring pedestrian safety improvements to 62 locations across Cleveland.

You can see a full list and map of the improvements here.

To help navigate the acronyms on the map, Cleveland City Planning explains:

"RRFB stands for rectangular rapid flashing beacon. These are the bright neon yellow flashers that have a pedestrian-activated push button at mid-block crosswalks to increase yielding behavior by drivers. The crosswalks aligned with the malls on Lakeside and St. Clair have RRFBs, as a local reference."

"PHB stands for pedestrian hybrid beacon, also sometimes called a HAWK (High-intensity Activated Crosswalk beacon), and is made up of red-light flashers activated when a pedestrian pushes the button to cross the street. These are used in the same way as RRFBs, but are typically reserved for roadways with higher speeds and traffic volumes."

Public Comment will be accepted through Dec. 30.

You can contact the City’s Project Engineer, Ron Mason, P.E., at (216) 664-3705 or through e-mail at rmason@city.cleveland.oh.us.

Have you ever noticed something interesting in Northeast Ohio and wondered, “Hey…what’s going on there?”

Us, too. We love learning more about what shapes the world around us -- the buildings, the spaces and the ways we move between them.

Next time you're wondering about some building, project or piece of land, send me an email at Kevin.Barry@wews.comand I'll look into it for a possible story.

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