By Marc Lefkowitz
ML: What are
the positive developments in Glenville that most people haven’t
heard about on the evening news?
We’ll reach 500 new residential units this year, which
includes market rate, affordable, elderly and rehab, and we’ve
seen the first $200K unit.
It’s a new era for us. We’re trying
to stabilize some of the pockets where we have high rental
rates and provide homeownership opportunities. We have a great
example of this on E. 99th St. north of St. Clair. It used
to look like jack-o-lantern teeth with all the vacant lots.
We did six (housing) units with the Low Income Tax Credit
and that attracted developers who built five homes (on speculation)
in the range of $160K.
ML: Do you have
a larger goal for Glenville in sight?
TK: I hope we’re
going back to the days when Glenville was the Gold Coast.
When people walked down the street, into shops, could catch
a Motown act. There’s a new generation and a lot of
cheerleaders who want that too.
ML: What are
the biggest challenges and opportunities for community development
TK: Great housing
stock, proximity to University Circle, parks, the lake –
it’s such a jewel. But it’s also an old community
so you have problems with infrastructure, keeping homes up
to code, and issues with youth and job training needs. We
have historic districts and it’s challenging to find
a bridge for the longtime residents who deserve to stay in
these family homes and new residents who are preservation
ML: Where are
the areas that you are particularly interested in focusing
intense community development around?
excited about the Parkside Townhomes being built on Superior
Ave between E. 101 and E. 103 close to East Blvd. We assembled
the land, got some housing trust fund money for infrastructure,
and even asked the Rockefeller trust for some green space
for 20 units that are selling in the mid to high 200s. And
just north (between E. 100 and E. 101) of that is the site
for 2005 Citirama (where 11 different builders will build
new model homes).
At the Northeast corner of Superior and E. 105th
we’re trying to convince the owner of an abandoned Burger
King to sell. We’re speaking with a developer to build
a five-story mixed-use project with a ground floor tenant
and four levels of residential on top. Five years ago, I couldn’t
say to the developer we have $10 million in new residential
development just down the street and 300 to 500 new units
within a half-mile.
ML: Will the
developers receive a tax abatement?
TK: All new construction
in the city of Cleveland gets a tax abatement.
ML: When you
look at the retail and commercial situation on E. 105th, you
think this community is in a state of disrepair—how
do you address the issue of so many vacancies and blight on
TK: I do a lot
of negotiating. We have owners asking $500K when their property’s
valued at $40K. We’ve even considered buying retail
franchises as a way of getting the national retailers there
and then recruit locals to take them over, create an entrepreneur.
ML: You have
the resources to do that?
TK: It depends
on where and what day you ask me…if someone called me
up and said we have a property to sell on E. 105th…
ML: What national
chains are you finding that are interested in locating to
a zero setback environment in Glenville?
TK: One of the
big issues here is changing the perceptions for national retailers.
We only seem to be able to attract the same ones. Doesn’t
Starbucks think we drink coffee, or why won’t Bath and
Bodyworks consider an urban area? It’s offensive. You
have a few retail pioneers who see the value. I had an argument
with (a big real estate broker) about how this is the same
as a lifestyle center. I told him, ‘haven’t you
heard of New Urbanism, dude?’ Look at Zagara’s
and Giant Eagle in Cleveland Heights.
ML: So, are you
insisting that the project at Superior and 105th get built
to the street?
TK: Yeah, we’re
trying to drive the bus on that. But, it will need a parking
deck in back and that costs a lot of money.
ML: After Tops
pulled out of its location on St. Clair and E. 72nd, how did
that affect the neighborhood and your prospects of getting
a grocery store to anchor a development?
TK: A lot of
our residents are hostage to the lower quality corner stores
because they don’t have cars. We learned about Tops
closing just like everyone else—on the news. They were
at the table on the First Interstate (proposed development
at the old White Motors Co.), but then Legacy Village happened
and Tops pulled out of their store…
Steelyard Commons blew up. Anyway, let me ask you about all
the churches on E. 105th and the land they lock up with surface
parking for weekend parishioners?
TK: I suggested
to these church leaders that instead of knocking down all
of these storefronts for parking, why not buy a bus and bring
them in from one lot. It didn’t get a very warm reception.
It saddens me to see all this empty asphalt for one day a
ML: Last year,
there was talk that the school district made a verbal commitment
to make Charles H. Lake Elementary in Glenville a showcase
for green building design and technology—have you spoken
to anyone at the district about their plans?
TK: We were working with the
city…I mean, doesn’t it make sense to have this
be the first green school? Wouldn’t it be awesome? They
could have Doan Brook and Dike 14 as their learning labs.
ML: Where has
the discussion gone since the city’s budget crises worsened?
it’s been overshadowed (by the budget).
ML: Are you in
favor of having Dike 14 as a nature preserve?
a delicate discussion to have because many old-time (Glenville)
residents look at Dike 14 as something that was chained off
and excluded from them. Some look at these birders as outsiders.
It goes back to the new identity of Glenville. Should it be
the Spiritual Corridor, the Nature Destination or the Gold
Coast? Integrating all of it is our hope.