Project 29 Joining Westside's High-End Apartment Boom, Stoking Neighborhood 'Growing Pains'

click to enlarge The proposed Project 29 site, with Saucy Brew Works' building on the right. The site is situated on Detroit Avenue, between West 29th and West 28th. - ERIC SANDY / SCENE
The proposed Project 29 site, with Saucy Brew Works' building on the right. The site is situated on Detroit Avenue, between West 29th and West 28th.
The growing pains of Ohio City's commercial-residential interface are well worn territory for Cleveland's civic-minded base — and especially for those who actually live and work in the area. In the corner of Ohio City that some call "Hingetown," the question of how to negotiate neighborhood development is crystallized in the newest big-ticket project.

The development team behind Project 29 landed before the Cleveland Planning Commission this morning, and, by most accounts, they're well on their way to securing approval for an 11-story, 163-unit mixed-use site on Detroit Avenue between West 29th and West 28th. The project proposes two buildings ("The Church" and "The State"), split by a walkway that would be used for anything from concerts to wedding receptions. It's backed by westside power couple Graham Veysey and Marika Shioiri-Clark.

But despite an apparent "thumbs up" from the neighborhood block club earlier this year, some Ohio City residents are saying that Project 29 doesn't jibe with the tone and character of the neighborhood. It's a precedent-setting step in the wrong direction, according to Church Avenue resident Bill Merriman.

"We don't want to live on West 25th Street," he said this morning. "We want to maintain the village atmosphere that Ohio City is so well known for." He prefaced his remarks on Project 29 with a lengthy soliloquy on the generations of trust built up among neighbors — both longtime residents and newer business owners alike. "This is a very vital thing," Merriman said, referencing the ongoing dialogue that keeps issues like parking, noise and late-night hours in a transparent spotlight for everyone in the neighborhood to discuss. This is, Merriman insisted, how you foster a neighborhood.

With all that said, the antecedent of Project 29 is developer Brent Zimmerman's Saucy Brew Works, a massive self-serve brewery and pizza joint on the corner of West 29th Street and Detroit Avenue. Based on sheer scope alone, the brewery will no doubt bring the craft beer fan base to "Hingetown." Originally, Zimmerman promised 44 off-street parking spaces (just east of the Saucy building), ameliorating traffic congestion concerns from the neighbors and, generally, keeping with the transparency that Merriman mentioned today.

Project 29 would erase Zimmerman's parking lot plan, building an 11-story tower right next to Saucy. The residential project would include parking garages for tenants, yes, but that doesn't address the inevitable increase in demand for parking spaces as "Hingetown" more fully embraces its "entertainment and retail opportunities." Developers hinted this morning that they may fund a traffic study on West 25th (between Bridge and Detroit) to see if there's a way to install parallel public parking spaces there. The phrase "working with the neighborhood to explore options" was used. It's unclear how that will manifest.

The Planning Commission meeting concluded with member David Bowen pointing out that "parking is going to change in the next five years." Scene inferred that he was talking about a general trend toward more cycling, more public transit use, more walkability in Cleveland. One supposes that that's a good point, and Merriman's exposition of neighborhood dynamics seemed to track with that.

But the actual thesis of Merriman's comments had less to do with parking lots and more to do with that word that he kept returning to: "trust." Scene has spoken with other "Hingetown" residents in the past, and they've echoed that sentiment, that idea that developers would do well to keep their promises and engage the character and tone of a neighborhood. (We would encourage you to read Belt's landmark essay on the place.) Merriman has been an active participant in that part of town for years, and he's not alone in his concern for where these "growing pains" are taking Cleveland's westside hamlets. So far, though, the incoming businesses have worked hand in hand with his block club's hopes.

"And then suddenly there's an 11-story building right there!" Merriman exclaimed before the rapt Planning Commission today. "I felt like somebody pulled the rug out from under us."

If all goes according to plan and process, the Church and State properties would be open by spring or summer 2019. Project 29 would join similarly styled outfits at the Snavely Group site (194 units at West 25th and Detroit) and Mariner's Watch (62 units at West 32nd and Detroit). Also discussed at this morning's Planning Commission meeting was a high-end townhouse project at West 70th Street and Father Caruso Drive, which joins a battery of luxury residences in Battery Park and the new Edison project (306 units and "an entertainment/club space" at the northern terminus of West 65th Street).

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Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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