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December 5, 2013

Cleveland looks to develop the lakefront

By Mara Biggs

In an attempt to make downtown Cleveland a more viable community of at least 20,000 residents and raise the district’s revenue, the city of Cleveland will embark on lakefront development projects.

The city has released information on a few proposals for lakefront development in the Harbor West and North Coast Harbor areas. The city of Cleveland is stressing the importance of continuous public access to water, a waterfront park and pedestrian access to wind-blown property to potential developers.

Harbor West, north of FirstEnergy Stadium and the Great Lakes Science Center, is currently mostly surface parking and warehouses and stretches over 18.6 acres of land. North Coast Harbor is a 9.7-acre district that already contains the Great Lakes Science Center and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Mark Munsell, a Beachwood real estate investor and developer, and John Goodman, senior managing director of the McDonald Partners investment-advisory firm, formed their own company called Northcoast Harbor LLC to try and bring a film studio and theater college to part of Harbor West. Their team of developers also includes NRP Group, an apartment developer, Vocon, an architecture and design firm based in Cleveland, Turner Construction, the Kohrman, Jackson & Krantz law firm, Bastien and Associates, Inc., an architecture and planning firm that’s worked on major film studio projects, and MBS Media Campus, a California film production center whose president may help manage the studio in Cleveland.

Trammell Crow Co., a real estate developer and investor, and Cumberland Lakefront LLC, a company that focuses on lakefront projects, have together proposed a concept that would involve a high-performing public school or charter school, but they have not divulged details. Their team includes construction managers Gilbane Inc. and Coleman Spohn Corp., HKS, a Dallas architectural firm, URS Corp., which provides engineering services, the SWA Group, a landscape architectural firm, Bellwether Enterprise, a Cleveland mortgage-banking company, and the Tucker Ellis law firm.

KUD International and their team of Van Auken Akins Architects and EE&K, another architectural firm, are interested in pursuing multidimensional, multiphase projects in Harbor West and North Coast Harbor and have discussed the sites with hotel developers.
Executive Caterers proposed to redevelop and relocate the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’s café on North Coast Harbor. Robert P. Madison International, Inc., a Cleveland architecture firm, has teamed up with Executive Caterers.

Wendy Kellogg, an associate dean and professor of urban studies at Cleveland State University, said the developers for Harbor West and North Coast Harbor would need to draw significant numbers of people to the waterfront for hotels, restaurants and other amenities. She said that to bring new dollars to the area, a public space must be created with private supporting amenities that will make people from outside the region want to come and stay a day or more, and that existing attractions must be tied together physically with new attractions.

Kellogg said another thing to think about with proposed developments is how they could build the livability and social and human capital of Cleveland.

“We are in need of more apartments and condominiums to grow downtown to 20,000 residents,” said Kellogg. “However, I am not convinced that people would want to live right on the lake in the winter. The design would have to be very, very good because we get direct wind, making Cleveland different than Chicago or Toronto, where the city itself tends to shield the lakefront from the worst winds.”

Kellogg said she believes that downtown Cleveland’s strength is the water itself and that “anything that gets planned and built along the water should connect directly to the water theme.” She said that she thinks the city “goofed” on the Rock Hall location because it isn’t related to the lake and is therefore concerned about building a film studio and theater college on the waterfront. Cleveland has many vacant areas of land that would be better suited for a film studio and theater college – even building them near local colleges like Cleveland State, the Cleveland Institute of Art or Cuyahoga Community College would be more practical, according to Kellogg.

“[Lakefront developments] should be there to leverage the water for its economic, social and spiritual value,” Kellogg said.