By Kevin Kelley
The administration of Mayor Eileen Patton is hoping the Cleveland Metroparks board of trustees can see the forest for the trees when it comes to an upscale condominium project proposed for Lorain Road.
Abode Living, the development company behind the 11 River residences in Rocky River, has an option to purchase the Mandley-Vetrovsky Funeral Home property at 18871 Lorain Road, at the eastern end of Fairview Park. Andrew Brickman, Abode’s managing partner, wants to build 19 upscale condominiums on the property, which overlooks the Rocky River Reservation of the Cleveland Metroparks.
But an easement dating to the 1920s prohibits construction on about 36,000 square feet of the roughly 2.1 acres on which Brickman intends to build. Patton and Jim Kennedy, the city’s development director, plan to attend a November meeting of the Metroparks board of trustees to lobby for a modification of the easement.
“Being inner-ring suburb, a development like this is one worth fighting for,” Patton said during an Oct. 17 meeting of the city’s Planning and Design Commission. “We think the value of the property will skyrocket.”
According to Kennedy, Brickman has modified his building plans so that his upscale condos encroach only 800 square feet into the easement area and require the cutting down of a dozen trees.
Brickman is simultaneously proceeding with a fall-back plan to build an office building on the site if the Metroparks refuses to modify the easement. Constructing an office building on the funeral home property would require rezoning the property from its current multifamily status to office building status, and that requires voter approval. Legislation placing the rezoning measure before voters in February is now before City Council.
Planning and Design Commission Chairman Bruce Danko questioned why the city is proceeding with the rezoning before the easement question is settled.
Kennedy explained that Brinkman intends to move on to the office building plan if the Metroparks enforces the current easement. The question will likely be settled definitively by Dec. 1, he added.
Issues for the February ballot must be filed with the county Board of Elections by early next month, he said. The rezoning question can be pulled if it turns out to be unneeded, Kennedy added.
The office building category the property would be rezoned to limits buildings to fewer than three stories in height. Danko asked why not rezone to the general business category, which would allow taller buildings. Patton and Kennedy said they do not want something like a strip mall at that location, which would be allowed under the general business category.
The mayor said she would prefer to see the condominiums built on the property. “We think it would fit in very nicely with the eastern gateway to our city,” she said.
City officials are eager to see redevelopment that will bring increased property and income tax revenue. Kennedy said this is a chance for such redevelopment.
Patton added that redevelopment in inner-ring suburbs usually requires demolition of existing buildings, something that many developers are reluctant to do because of the associated costs. The city needs to take advantage of Brickman’s willingness to rebuild on the site, she said.
A public hearing on the proposed rezoning will take place in City Council chambers at 6:30 p.m. Monday. Members will vote on putting the measure on the February ballot at their regular Nov. 5 meeting. There had been talk of scheduling the vote for a special council meeting on Monday. However, at-large Councilwoman Peggy Cleary wants a definitive answer on whether Abode will contribute to the costs of a special election.
UPDATE (5 p.m. Oct. 24): Council members may in fact hold a special meeting Monday to vote on placing the rezoning measure on the Feb. 5 ballot, according to Clerk of Council Traci Waldron. The reason, she said, it to ensure the paperwork if filed with the Board of Elections before the havoc of Election Day. Call the clerk’s office at 440-356-4414 or check the calendar on the city’s website at www.fairviewpark.org for the latest on Monday’s meeting schedule.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article, reflecting information current at the time, stated that the mayor and development director would speak at the Oct. 25 meeting of the Cleveland Metroparks Board of Trustees. The condo easement issue is, in fact, not on the agenda of the Metroparks trustees’ Oct. 25 meeting. The easement issue will likely be on the agenda of a Metroparks board meeting in November, Patton said.