Carnegie Avenue wins Friends, Influences Development

By government reporter Jay Miller, Crain's Cleveland Business

Carnegie Avenue in Cleveland's Midtown neighborhood may finally become something more than a way for East Side commuters to get to and from work downtown.

The city of Cleveland and MidTown Cleveland Inc., the community development corporation that serves Midtown, have commissioned a study, called "re-incarnegie," to figure out how to make the hodgepodge corridor of vacant land and empty or underused commercial buildings along the 2-mile stretch between the Innerbelt Freeway and East 79th Street an attractive option for commercial or residential development as the parallel Euclid Avenue corridor has gotten crowded.

At the same time, the city of Cleveland is working with a developer, Pennrose Properties LLC of Philadelphia, to take over the long-vacant Warner & Swasey Co. complex at East 55th Street and Carnegie, for either redevelopment or demolition.

"Our vision and strategy, clearly, is to not just have Carnegie be a pass-through neighborhood," said MidTown Cleveland chair Stephanie McHenry. "There is a big opportunity to create some north-south flow and create the look and feel of a neighborhood, especially for the residential area" to the south along Cedar Avenue.

Rico Pietro, managing principal of the local Cushman & Wakefield/Cresco real estate brokerage, said he believes that developers can put together 3-acre parcels for new construction — along Carnegie and even along Cedar — that don't exist elsewhere in Cleveland today and that can be attractive for biomedical or laboratory uses. The success of development along Euclid, made possible by the willingness of the city and the nonprofit community and economic development organizations to assist developers, will make Carnegie attractive to national developers and their biomedical or biotechnology clients looking for new sites to move to or expand in Cleveland, he said.

"All these (clients) want to be in Cleveland, to be in close proximity to the major institutions, and they're willing to spend the money to do ground-up construction," Pietro said. "It's important that they can see success stories (along the Euclid Corridor)."

The community development corporation has commissioned an $80,000 study by a team of planners led by Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates, a San Francisco planning firm that has worked on Public Square and University Circle. The team also includes two Cleveland firms, City Architecture and Guide Studio Inc. Epstein said the study should be complete by the end of the summer.

The planners are charged with figuring out how to identify economically viable land uses that complement the residential uses to the north, on Euclid and Chester Avenue, and south, along Cedar Avenue, that will promote walkability and transit use; identify needed infrastructure improvements; and project how the traffic flow will change once the Opportunity Corridor — expected to attract traffic headed to University Circle from the west and south that now dumps off the Innerbelt's Carnegie ramp — is completed in 2022.

Midtown, mostly along the Euclid Corridor, has exploded in the decade since the stretch of Euclid between Cleveland State University and Case Western Reserve University — which importantly includes the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals — was dubbed for marketing purposes the Health-Tech Corridor (HTC). Since 2008, according to the HTC website, the corridor has added 1,800 new jobs, 500,000 square feet of new or renovated office and lab space, and more than $4 billion of investment.

In addition, with new residential developments, Midtown now has more than 2,000 residents. Last summer, Boston-based Vazza Real Estate Group opened One Midtown, a 23-unit townhome condominium development at East 73rd Street and Euclid, where units start at $409,000.

Last week, a supermarket, Dave's Market and Eatery, opened at East 61st Street and Chester Avenue, adjacent to the new University Hospital UH Rainbow Center for Women & Children that faces Euclid. Both of those neighborhood attractions mean increased foot and car traffic will be moving north and south across Carnegie.

"With all the activity on Euclid — and feeling like we can almost see the end in terms of getting Euclid developed — it makes sense to look at Carnegie from a couple different perspectives," said Jeff Epstein, executive director of MidTown Cleveland. "We want to be planful of what we want Carnegie to look and feel like in the future and to really have an inclusive effort that really brings out the community's voice and vision. We want to have a Carnegie that works better for the community and that we're really proud of."

Carnegie’s nascent food scene, including the recently opened Cleveland Bagel Co., has MidTown Cleveland officials considering the return of on-street parking to the avenue.

Warner & Swasey complex is crucial component

A key to reinvigorating Carnegie is a decision on the fate of the property that was once the headquarters and manufacturing center of the Warner & Swasey Co., a maker of machine tools, telescopes and other precision instruments. The company occupied the site from the 1880s and from 1904 to 1910 built the 221,727 square feet of one- to five-story buildings that served the company until it shut its doors in 1991.

The city of Cleveland has owned the buildings ever since and in January 2018 sought proposals from developers to either renovate the buildings or tear them down and build something new. Vacant, the property has been vandalized and deteriorated significantly.

The city received several responses to its request for proposals but has not announced a decision. However, the annual report of the city's economic development department notes that Cleveland has selected Pennrose "to pursue development."

An emailed statement from David Ebersole, Cleveland's economic development director, said negotiations with Pennrose are continuing.

"The city is working with Pennrose for a mixed-use redevelopment of the property," the statement said. "The project is currently in the due-diligence phase to determine the costs required to repair the structure and to assemble the necessary project financing."

Pennrose is a subsidiary of the Hunt Cos. Both are known across the country for their multifamily affordable housing and mixed-use development projects developed in partnership with public agencies.

At the eastern end of the Carnegie district, Epstein and others are seeing signs that Carnegie may be able to support some retail operations.

The Cleveland Culinary Launch and Kitchen, a food hub, has been at East 75th Street and Carnegie for more than four years. It's home to a number of food-processing startups and one of them, Souper Market, has had a retail operation. Now, another of those processors, Cleveland Bagel Co., has carved out a retail space along Carnegie.

Down the street, at the intersection of Carnegie and East 79th Street, Angie's Soul Food Café will soon open in the former Hot Sauce Williams space at the northwest corner, and Dunkin' Donuts is building a new shop on what had been a vacant lot on the southeast corner.

Epstein said the opening of Souper Market and Cleveland Bagel, and the future potential to expand retail there, has his organization even thinking about bringing back on-street parking, which has been absent from the roadway for decades.

For 45 years, until 2005, signs hung at intervals over each of the six lanes of Carnegie. Depending on when and in what direction you were traveling, the signs showed either a green upward-pointing arrow or a red X. That's because the traffic pattern changed depending on the time of day.

In the morning, four lanes had green arrows indicating they were for westbound traffic between University Circle and East 55th Street. In the evening, though, commuters dashing home to the east had green arrows in all six lanes. And, of course, there was no parking.

"The food hub is creating more interest than we thought," said Gordon Priemer, a real estate developer and one of the culinary kitchen's sponsors. "I never though that Carnegie was ready yet for retail, but there is good traffic. It could present some opportunities."

However, Priemer acknowledged, "It really depends on what happens to Warner & Swasey."

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