Ohio City apartments win Landmarks Commission approval, despite some neighbors’ protests

By Michelle Jarboe McFee, The Plain Dealer 
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on February 13, 2015 at 4:38 PM, updated February 13, 2015 at 4:50 PM

CLEVELAND, Ohio — An Ohio City apartment project edged closer to realization Thursday, despite protests from neighbors opposed to the size of the 67-unit building.

The Cleveland Landmarks Commission heard from a handful of detractors, and some key supporters, before unanimously signing off on designs for a four-story, U-shaped building at 3007 Clinton Ave. The apartments, part of a rental wave sweeping hot city neighborhoods, would replace a meat distribution facility that has clashed with its residential surroundings for decades.

Thursday’s vote marked a victory for developers Chad Kertesz and Fred and Ethan Geis, who have a deal to buy and raze the Storer Meat Co. building. But the project is still far from a sure thing.

The developers need to meet later this month with a neighborhood block club. And they’ll have to seek special approvals from the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals. A public hearing on the zoning variances could occur next month.

In December, the Landmarks Commission pushed off a vote on the Clinton Avenue apartments, which would rise on property flanked by historic homes. Owners of those homes objected to the project late last year and reiterated their concerns Thursday.

This time around, the commission was less sympathetic, after reviewing the developer’s recent design modifications and hearing from City Councilman Joe Cimperman and leaders at Ohio City Inc., a nonprofit neighborhood group.

“The vast majority of people we’re talking to are generally supportive of this,” said Tom McNair, executive director of Ohio City Inc.

Cimperman, who didn’t attend the December meeting, spoke in favor of the project Thursday. “If you set this design side-by-side to the previous design,” he said, “you will see that a lot of work has gone into making this more sensitive.”

Working with LDA Architects, the developers trimmed the building. They cut out three apartments, bringing the total number of units down from 70. They pulled the structure back from the sidewalk on Clinton and gave the neighboring houses a few extra feet of breathing room. They added six parking spaces, for a total of 76. And they shaved 1.5 feet off the building’s height.

Those modifications didn’t do much for homeowners including Alex Frondorf, who said he still thinks the building would be a perfect fit on a major road like Detroit Avenue – but not a smaller street like Clinton.

“Our objection is not to apartments,” Frondorf stressed. “Our objection is to the mass and the scale. This is a very, very large structure in a very important historic district.”

In a separate vote, the Landmarks Commission signed off on demolition of the Storer distribution facility. The building is not a city landmark, but it sits in a historic district – giving the commission oversight.

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