Ken Prendergast, from the Sun News, has had the opportunity to sit with Stark and discuss the latest plans for this development that will be larger then Wolstein's East Bank Development and The Avenue District put together.
West Side Sun News
Aug. 30, 2007
Stark setting in motion large downtown plan
By Ken Prendergast
Developer Robert Stark said more pieces are coming together that will allow him to build the largest downtown real estate development in at least the past 15 years. Initially, Robert Stark Enterprises proposes building on 8 acres of mostly surface parking lots in the Warehouse District.
Stark said now is an ideal time for pursuing a significant real estate investment downtown, with up to 10 large and growing firms in the central business district facing the end of their leases by 2011. The downtown office market has improved to such an extent that existing buildings no longer have large enough contiguous vacancies to accommodate the firms’ growth without new construction.
Sometime in the first quarter of 2008, Stark will present a preliminary development plan to the city for building in the Warehouse District 1.2 million to 1.5 million square feet of office space, 1 million square feet of retail, 1 million square feet of residential and 1 million to 2 million square feet of structured parking.
He declined to identify potential office and retail tenants he has signed or with whom he is in negotiations. However, he said he feels pretty good about hitting his pre-lease targets by January or February — 60-70 percent office space and 80 percent retail has been pre-leased.
Cleveland Councilman Joe Cimperman, Ward 13, said he is aware of six companies whose leases are due to expire in the coming years — KeyBank’s System Accounting Division, now in the old May Co.; law firm Baker Hostetler; Eaton Corp.; Huntington Bank; law firm Squire, Sanders & Dempsey; and financial services firm Ernst & Young. He didn’t remember the names of the other four firms.
Competing with Stark to sign those firms to leases are developers Scott Wolstein and the Richard E. Jacobs Group. Wolstein seeks to fill up to 1 million square feet of office space scattered among several proposed buildings in his Flats East Bank Neighborhood that also would have large retail and residential components.
Jacobs is proposing a skyscraper on land he owns between Public Square and Stark’s development, Jacobs Group spokesman William Fullington recently said.
Based on marketing and leasing progress made by his company, Stark said he expects to be ready by March to submit detailed construction plans to the city for one or two blocks in the Warehouse District. Those would be submitted at the same time as the preliminary development plan for the rest of the properties he and his partnership control in the Warehouse District.
One of the two blocks for which construction plans may be submitted is bounded by Superior, West Third, West Sixth and Frankfort Street, he said. The other block is bounded by Frankfort, West Third, West Sixth and St. Clair. Later phases would include residential, primarily west of West Sixth and north of St. Clair.
The offices, in buildings roughly 15-20 stories high along Superior and West Third, would be built over street-level retail with parking sandwiched between the offices and retail. He said such a design will help enhance downtown’s vibrancy.
Too often, Stark said, office workers don’t leave their buildings or even their floors for lunch or shopping. Buildings often don’t have ground-floor features like a variety of major retailers that allow buildings to play off of each other. More than 100,000 people work in downtown Cleveland.
“We haven’t gotten the spin-off benefits from these office towers because they’re too insular,” Stark said. “Companies can’t attract or retain employees in a setting like that.”
He said the demand for new office building construction downtown is a chance to correct that.
“That is the great opportunity of this moment,” he added. “It would be irresponsible of this community not to use those lease holes for creating more mixed use downtown.”
Stark proposes the “Soho of the Midwest” in the Warehouse District, referring to the eclectic neighborhood in New York City. One of the features he looks forward to developing is to turn Frankfort Street into a European-style “close,” an narrow alley paved with cobblestones and lined with shops.
“I can’t wait to walk down that street,” he said. “It would be an unmatched place for corporate headquarters.”
He also said he expects to have a signed purchase agreement in a matter of days for the acquisition of a critical piece of real estate for his Warehouse District development.
The real estate Stark is acquiring is at the corner of Superior and West Sixth. It hosts a 1960-built parking deck surrounding a check-cashing business in a small building dating from the 1830s. Both will be demolished.
The check-cashing property is owned by Ed Kowitt of Kersdale Limited Partnership, while the parking deck is owned by a number of partners, including Kowitt and a family trust. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but appraisers at the Cuyahoga County Auditor’s office said the combined value of the two properties is $3 million.
Once the purchase is finalized, Stark and development partner Tony Asher will control every property bounded by Superior, West Sixth, St. Clair and West Third. Asher’s Weston Property Investments Inc. owns other properties in the Warehouse District that also are eyed for development by Stark.
The area for which Stark will present a preliminary development plan to the city is along St. Clair and southward (see below). The two parcels Stark is purchasing are at the lower left (the parking garage around the small building). There are also a couple of other interesting tidbits in this image. Can you spot what they are?
Here is a present-day view of the Warehouse District, as viewed from the top of Terminal Tower. I'm sure May Day will recognize the picture (I cropped out the surrounding frame that contained the Bialosky Architects/Stark Enterprises logos)...
This massing is what Stark proposes, at this point, to submit as part of his preliminary development plan to the city. Obviously as leasing shakes out, the massing could change. Blue represents office use, yellow is retail, gray is structured parking and red is residential/hotel. And one or two of the blocks nearest to the viewer would likely represent Stark's first phase for which he would submit a detailed development plan to the city early next year...