By Kevin Kelley
Office building or luxury townhouses?
For the past year, that’s been the question regarding what will be built on the site of the Mandley-Vetrovsky Funeral Home property at the eastern end of Fairview Park.
As of today, the answer appears to be luxury townhouses.
Developer Andrew Brickman, whose Abode Living owns the property, wrote city officials earlier this month to request that a measure to rezone the site for an office building be withdrawn from the Nov. 5 ballot. The property is currently zoned as multifamily garden residential.
City Council will need to pass legislation to remove the rezoning measure from the ballot. Such legislation will likely be placed before council at its Sept. 3 meeting for passage without the ordinary three readings, said Rob Berner, the city’s director of development.
The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections’ deadline for printing ballots for the Nov. 5 election is Sept. 6. However, the rezoning measure could be withdrawn as late as Nov. 4 and the votes would not be counted, a election board spokesman told West Life.
Brickman told West Life his company was running out of time to finalize a contract with the prospective user of an office building. He said Abode would return to its original plan of building townhouses on the site.
“At this point, that’s the direction we’re going to go in,” he said.
One reason for the switch may be that the Cleveland Clinic, thought to be Abode’s primary potential tenant, decided against placing an office building on the funeral home property. Fairview Hospital President Jan Murphy said the Cleveland Clinic did hold preliminary discussions with Brickman, but that the project was now “off the table.”
Brickman confirmed his firm held discussions with the Cleveland Clinic. But he said several other entities were also interested in constructing an office building at the site. Brickman also said he would not close the door entirely on constructing an office building if a suitable tenant was found.
The proposed townhouse development on Lorain Road, which Brickman said will be called River South, would consist of 32 townhouses similar in design and quality to Abode’s two other residential projects that overlook the Rocky River Valley – Eleven River, in Rocky River, and Clifton Pointe, in Lakewood.
“We think the site makes a phenomenal location for townhouses,” Brickman said of the property, which is at the western end of the Lorain Road bridge that connects Cleveland and Fairview Park.
Brickman said Abode would apply for the seven years of tax abatement that Fairview Park offers to new, eligible developments.
The city’s Planning and Design Commission, as well as City Council, spent a considerable amount of time this summer considering Brickman’s proposal to construct an office building at the funeral home property. City officials backed Brickman’s bid to obtain from the Cleveland Metroparks a modification of an easement that prohibited construction on a portion of the funeral home property. Metroparks officials later said the modification would apply only to the townhouse project, not an office building project.
Income tax payments from workers in an office building, particularly a medical building with highly paid physicians, nurses and technicians, would bring the city more annual revenue than property taxes from a luxury residential complex. However, city officials have said they are eager to see the location redeveloped, whether as an office complex or as luxury townhouses.