Developers can forge ahead on plans to build more than 600 apartments on Scranton Peninsula, after securing key city approvals.
On Friday, Feb. 4, the Cleveland City Planning Commission gave final OKs to two projects that promise to change the face of a long-dormant peninsula on the west bank of the Flats. Legislation still is pending before Cleveland City Council to tweak zoning on the peninsula to more easily accommodate new housing, cut parking requirements and put a focus on pedestrians.
The NRP Group plans to build 316 apartments on the east side of Carter Road. Across the street, along the Cuyahoga River, Silver Hills Development and Edwards Communities expect to erect 304 apartments.
Both projects are part of the larger, master-planned Thunderbird district, spanning 25 acres on the west side of the peninsula. Scottish craft brewer BrewDog recently opened a brewpub near the water. Great Lakes Brewing Co. is weighing development prospects for 8 acres it bought in 2018.
And a broader site plan shows trails, pockets of greenery and a riverfront boardwalk.
On Friday, commission members offered largely positive feedback on the apartment-building designs. But they asked both developers to come back for more review of their site plans, including landscaping and connections between the neighboring sites.
“Both of these projects have the ability to now frame a brand-new vista to the river and to create a kind of sequence of experiences,” Lillian Kuri, the commission’s chairwoman, told the NRP team. “That is what we want you to explore.”
City Councilman Kerry McCormack, who represents the area, agreed. He said it will be “a horrific, blatant failure” if the city and the developers don’t link the projects to a growing regional trail network, including the Towpath Trail, and create welcoming environments for many modes of transit.
McCormack said he has no interest in holding up projects, particularly at a volatile moment for construction supplies and pricing. He encouraged commissioners to approve both deals, while putting conditions in place to push the developers on pedestrian and bicycle connections.
“The city needs to drive and own this,” said commission member Diane Downing, as the body voted on the Edwards-Silver Hills proposal.
“And bring everyone together quickly so that we’re efficient and we don’t hold them up, too,” Kuri interjected.
The Edwards-Silver Hills plan surfaced in October.
The iteration approved Friday shows a 270-unit building near BrewDog, with a 34-unit building to the south. The project also includes 355 parking spaces, most of them in a garage; a private courtyard with a swimming pool; and a pedestrian path from Carter to the river.
NRP was pursuing a land deal on Scranton Peninsula in 2019 but dropped its purchase option in 2020. Scott Skinner, the company’s vice president of development, confirmed in an interview with Crain’s this week that NRP once again has a deal with Thunderbird master developers Fred Geis, Jesse Grant of J Roc Development and Matthew Weiner of the East West Alliance group of companies.
The NRP project calls for a pair of five-story buildings and 15 townhouses, which also will be rentals. The site will include garage and surface parking for 458 cars, along with an outdoor pool and a landscaped courtyard.
Plans show a corridor called a woonerf — a Dutch term that means “living street” — between the two large apartment buildings. That area will be used for parking but can easily be closed off to traffic for events. The designs call for decorative pavers, benches and landscaping.
Commission members encouraged NRP and its designers to reconsider that parking, or to at least prioritize pedestrians.
“Let it be the public space first. That’s how I would handle it,” said August Fluker, the commission’s vice chairman. “Again, I know you need parking, but, honestly, I think we’re going to miss an opportunity if we don’t make that a priority.”
Kuri concurred. “If what August asked is possible, this could be one of the most important new public spaces in the Flats,” she said.
Jim Haviland, executive director of Flats Forward, said that NRP and the Edwards-Silver Hills team talk frequently to the nonprofit advocacy group, the city and other stakeholders in the Vision for the Valley plan, a sweeping framework adopted last year to guide investments along the river.
“I think that we have the ability, with everyone involved, to address the concerns,” Haviland told the commission.