By Jeff Gallatin
City officials and project developers believe three is better than one when it comes developing an Aloft Hotel, restaurant and office building project near the Moen headquarters in North Olmsted.
Members of the Building, Zoning and Development Committee as well as administration officials commended plans presented at the committee’s Jan. 28 meeting by Heritage Development Corp. for placing the three new businesses by the Moen headquarters on Great Northern Boulevard and a few hundred feet from an Interstate 480 entrance and exit.
“It’s a pretty unique situation compared to a lot of development projects,” Paul Schumann, chairman of the BZD committee, said afterward. “With a lot of them, we don’t hear a lot about (them) or get to say much until it’s near the end of putting it together. With this one, we’re getting in near the beginning, so we get to put a little bit of an imprint on it.”
Mayor Kevin Kennedy also endorsed the project.
“It’s a great fit for North Olmsted and that area of the city,” he said.
Rob Benjamin, vice president for real estate development, and George Kimson, chief operating officer for Heritage, said the company’s success with placing the Moen headquarters at the site ultimately led to considering further development of the property.
“We’ve been looking for the right opportunity for several years,” Benjamin said.
Kimson outlined how placing a restaurant on the project site as well as an office building would further enhance the development. He said the company would like to place a strong local or regional restaurant at the site, noting that has been done successfully at other Aloft projects, which are part of the Starwood Hotel line. Benjamin said there are only around 50 such projects in the entire country.
Having the restaurant by the hotel would not only enhance the area for the business and other travelers the hotel is designed to attract. It also would include features like a modern lobby and entrance area, grab-and-go food and other items designed to make it as pleasant as possible for the guests.
“We’re very aware it’s near the exit and the (Cleveland Hopkins International) airport,” Benjamin said, noting the formal name of the hotel likely would note the airport to emphasize the proximity.
Both Heritage officials noted adding the office building into the project was a late development, but said the site could handle its addition.
They cited the possibility of the building being a Progressive Auto Insurance Claims Center, but said they “weren’t married” to the idea. They said repairs would not be done at the site and that vehicles wouldn’t be stored overnight or build up numbers in the parking area.
All the city officials like the concept of an additional office building to further broaden the scope of the project; however, some expressed reservations about having an auto claims center there.
Planning and development Director Kim Wenger said the city welcomed Progressive wanting to bring another business center into the community, but said other locations such as on Lorain Road might be more desirable. She also questioned whether there would be sufficient parking to handle the vehicles coming to a claims center as well the other businesses going onto the site. She said it doesn’t fit the exact definition of an office building for the site.
Committee member Paul Barker said he stayed at an Aloft hotel in Oregon and found it a very good experience, saying it would be a strong addition to North Olmsted. He said the office concept is good, but questioned whether an auto claims area would be best.
Ward 1 Councilman Lou Brossard noted he had recently been at a Progressive claims center and said it might fit the area, and that the city shouldn’t entirely discount the possibility of it on the site.
Wenger noted that a late 1980s Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court decision defined development of the property area for office only, but she and law Director Michael Gareau Jr. noted that the city could seek having the decision modified to allow for the development of the hotel at the property. Schumann said there is support among city officials for taking that action.
“It’s something we’d like to see here,” he said. “Getting three new businesses onto one of the undeveloped parts of the city is a good thing – especially when it’s in area which seems set for that kind of development.”