'It's Not Vacant': Longtime ArtCraft Building Tenants Given Only Weeks To Leave After Cleveland Police HQ Announcement

Artists, some of whom have been there for decades, say they have until December 16th to clear out

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click to enlarge Artist Wally Kaplan, of Beachwood, stands in her studio at the ArtCraft Building, where she's worked for the past 15 years. - Photo / Mark Oprea
Photo / Mark Oprea
Artist Wally Kaplan, of Beachwood, stands in her studio at the ArtCraft Building, where she's worked for the past 15 years.

For some 15 years, the bulk if not the majority of Wally Kaplan's charcoal or pastel portraits have come to life in a small, 625-square-foot studio she shares with two other painters in the ArtCraft Building on Superior Avenue.

Her neighbors have been there even longer: Across the hall, painter Baila Litton has worked out of her space for 30 years; up on the fourth floor, Jesse Rhinehart's been painting for some 28.

Come December 16, Kaplan and the majority of ArtCraft's artistic milieu will have to find another place to work.

The 102-year-old warehouse at 2570 Superior is set to transition ownership to the city of Cleveland as the new home for the police department come 2025. Two-year-old development conglomerate TurnDev will be aiding the handoff to the city from current owner GBX in 2023 for what a recent press release called an "adaptive re-use of a vacant historic building" via a "gut-rehab renovation."

But there's just one minor problem.

"It's not vacant," Kaplan said. "I'm here. There are a lot of people still here."

click to enlarge The ArtCraft Building at 2570 Superior Avenue. For the past 35 years, the 102-year-old warehouse has hosted an artist's colony that has thrived off dirt cheap rents. - Photo / Mark Oprea
Photo / Mark Oprea
The ArtCraft Building at 2570 Superior Avenue. For the past 35 years, the 102-year-old warehouse has hosted an artist's colony that has thrived off dirt cheap rents.


ArtCraft veterans like Kaplan, who thrived off the building's affordable rents and warehouse window vistas, claim that, due to unreliable communication between the owner, manager and tenants, they're being rushed to disperse a commune they've claimed as home for decades.

"I didn't know anything about it until last week," Kaplan said in her studio on Monday, regarding the city's selection. "Obviously they knew something—they had made this proposal. But we didn't know anything about it."

Like ArtCraft's dozens of other tenants, including Cleveland Offset and Baron Image, Kaplan received a letter on September 30 from TurnDev manager Jon Pinney indicating that her leasing format would be ended due to the ArtCraft's age. Kaplan said that tenants like her had a casual, handshake agreement with manager Hanna CRE for freak buyout scenarios — "At least six months notice," she said.

"Given the deteriorated state of the premises," Pinney wrote in the letter, "in order to facilitate restoration, the best course of action is to terminate month-to-month tenancy."

He added: "This is an unexpected inconvenience to you and we are truly sorry." (Pinney did not respond to a call for comment.)

click to enlarge Artist Jesse Rhinehart, sitting in his studio on the fourth floor of the ArtCraft Building. - Photo / Mark Oprea
Photo / Mark Oprea
Artist Jesse Rhinehart, sitting in his studio on the fourth floor of the ArtCraft Building.

Up on the fifth floor, where Jesse Rhinehart's industrial still-lifes have been created and displayed since 1994, there's a similar situation to Kaplan's.

"I'll never find a place this good again," he said, noting that while he'd assumed for years a time would come when he'd be asked to leave, he's not exactly clear how he'll be able to clear out his 1,200-square-foot space in the next ten days.

"The problem with all of them has been the lack of information," he said from his workbench overlooking I-90. "They act very secretive and very quiet, and they don't really give you much information until, ‘Well, it’s time to go!’"

Like most of ArtCraft's artists-in-exodus, the plan for Kaplan is to reside in the Twist Drill Building at 4700 Lakeside, along with 70 other artist tenants, many of whom were former ArtCraft's tenants until earlier this year.

But Kaplan sighed when talking about the new space,  knowing she will be paying twice as much at Twist, with half the square footage.

"There's no question this was a bargain here for us, for artists," she said. "Nowhere compares rent-wise. Nowhere."

Guitar Riot is one of the few tenants who reached a deal to stay in their spot past Dec. 16. Owner Brent Ferguson told Scene they'll be moving to a standalone building in Ohio City in "late March."

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About The Author

Mark Oprea

Mark Oprea is a staff writer at Scene. For the past seven years, he's covered Cleveland as a freelance journalist, and has contributed to TIME, NPR, the Pacific Standard and the Cleveland Magazine. He's the winner of two Press Club awards.
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