Hessler proposal takes beating from architect; loses Euclid Corridor Design Review committee endorsement on May 6th
By Lee Batdorff
“The (Hessler) community has expressed with a very strong voice their position and desire, (which is not for the proposal),” said City of Cleveland chief city planner Kim Scott at the outset of the meeting.
She introduced Mark Fremont. He is an architect and owner-manager of a 15 suit apartment building at the northeast stub end of Hessler Road. He proved a strong voice against the proposed 12 micro-unit building in the back yard of 1975 Ford Drive.
“We’ve had a hard time getting our voice heard to be honest with you, over this process,” said Mr. Fremont. He explained that Hessler Road has a, “rhythm setup by how the architecture plays out along Hessler. The proposed building site has always been the backyard of 1975 Ford Drive.
“The buildings on Hessler are fighting for light, (with windows on all sides). This provides many eyes on the street (from inside the structures). The proposed building is almost twice the size of the buildings adjacent to it.
“Why is this building bigger than the building in whose backyard it is in? This alone causes a problem for Historic Preservation. This proposal breaks the (architectural) rhythm of the street.
“This exasperates a huge problem of parking on the street, just so you know as a landlord.” City code is that there is one parking space per suite. With suites being rented out by the room, and each tenant has a car, then there are more cars than available parking spaces.
“This is building with unusual suites,” said Fremont. “There is nothing else like it on Hessler. The suites are long and narrow, and causes a lot of architecture issues. Inside suites have a lack of windows. Instead of eyes on the street we have an eye on the street (from each suite). “These are deep units. Honestly are people really going to see out of those suites? The first floors will have blinds and screening.
“The blank wall, (with no windows), is what you see on the west side (and it is) inappropriate. This is the result of poor planning. The developer told you that the code says this or that about not being able to add windows.
‘Shoe boxes with end cut off…and you just cheap it out’
“It is a problem of concept that happened from the beginning…not necessarily compatible with Hessler. The suites are shoe boxes with one end cut off. Does this feel like a hotel?
“The partially brick façade treatment is a hotel style. Like buildings at a shopping mall. Deal with the frontal condition with brick façade and the back of the building you just cheap it out. The windows are inconsistent with (the other) windows on the street. Lack of detailing of (porch) railing doesn’t respect the other elements on Hessler.”
Hessler: a street of pedestrians who walk all around the buildings
“The design of the building is that it is approached frontally,” said Fremont. “The buildings on Hessler are approach at all angles. Few times you see a building frontally on Hessler.
“They, (pedestrians walking around), are going every which way around buildings, (and will do so around any new building).”
A direct comparison of the proposed building and existing building on Hessler
Fremont then presented a graphic comparing the floor plan of the proposed building’s design and the floor plan of a slightly larger apartment building down the street. The proposal has four long narrow suites and the existing building has four suites each taking a square quadrant.
The two center suites (per floor) have no opportunity of windows on either sides of their suite while the two outer suites have this opportunity.
The floor plan of the existing building has four suites arranged one in each corner of the square over all building. The building can be entered through the front and the back. Windows look out on all sides of the existing building.
Unlike the developer and UCI, “we don’t feel this is a hole in the urban fabric. It’s the backyard of a house in a historic district,” said Fremont. You can continue the fabric through here if this building were properly planned. This building’s mass remains large, kind of gigantic. The buildings on both sides of it are the appropriate buildings to compare it to.”
Fremont has not taken a stand against the proposed building that aligns directly with what the Hessler Coalition advocates. While they do not want any building on that site, Fremont’s position is that appropriate buildings could be erected there, (though parking could be a problem with new buildings), and this proposal is not for an appropriate building.
Developer Maron: Fremont doesn’t understand micro-units
Developer Rick Maron said, “He (Fremont) doesn’t understand the concept of micro-units…It’s were society is going, more individuals and less families.” The suites have movable walls, movable beds making flexible rooms. “You have to see it.
“The first floor entrances are taken care of like the rest of the street… we could put a flat roof on this. With flat roof it’ll be exactly the height of the buildings next to it. The gables are there to match the architecture of the rest of the street.
“We also want windows if we get through these committees, we’ll be dealing with the zoning department, (to secure a zoning variance) ” Maron said. “We totally endorse having the street fair. A tent could be put up on the side yard of 1975 Ford Drive for the (Hessler Hall of Fame and) Museum,” Maron said.
Daniel Sirk, architect of the proposed building said that, “while we would like to put windows in the west side of the building I will not show an element (in a design) that may have to be removed later.”
What about the Hessler design review committee once in existence?
Pat Holland, a committee member who owns property on Hessler Road said, “One of the complaints the neighborhood folks have is that there should be a local review committee. They’ve been attempting to get Landmarks to set up this local committee…This process, (for the proposed building), is not flowing well.”
Karl Brunjes, city planner representing the Landmarks Commission said, “There’s never been, as far as we can find, a local design review committee for Hessler. Euclid Corridor has acted as local design review.”
“Sorry to interrupt you,” Mr. Holland broke into what Mr. Brunjes was saying.
“I can fully attest that there was a local design review committee. My wife was on it. Your records therefore are really incomplete. That’s simply not true.”
Brunjes responded, “The need for an additional design review committee is not needed at this time.”
Hanging strings for development in lighting and landscaping
It was noted by the committee that the proposal still lacked a lighting and landscaping plan. Maron said, “We’ll make a lighting and landscaping plan by Monday and present it to the Landmarks Commission.” Since then the review of this proposal by the Landmarks Commission was postponed two weeks until May 27th.
The vote taken by chief planner Kim Scott
At 1:47:02 (hour/minute/second) of this meeting—the vote started. Committee member Jerry Rothenberg said, “I vote no for two reasons. Having gone down to the site I realize the scale of this is too large for the space. I’m concerned about safety at the rear of the building. I’m doubtful that it’s going to work well.”
While Mr. Rothenberg made his statement, Rick Maron slumped his head on to his hand shown in a screen capture ‘Cisco Webex’ portrait.
The vote was: Four against; two for; and four absentees
Pat Holland – no
Dick Pace – no
Jerry Rothenberg – no
Christopher Trotta – no
Joanne Brown – yes
Jeffrey Strean – yes
Ron Calhoun -absent
Sandra Madison – absent
Richard Van Petten – absent
John Wagner – absent
Kim Scott, moderating the meeting announced, “The project has been disapproved.”
The members of the upcoming Cleveland Landmarks Commission will have to take this disapproval by the Euclid Corridor Design Review committee “under advisement,” when they decide how to vote on the project.
That meeting was postponed from May 13th to May 27th. No reason was given though the developers (Rick Maron and Russell Berusch), may be using the additional time to make adjustments to the proposal to counter the loss at the design review committee.
Questions at a Hessler Housing Co-op owners’ after party
There was discussion among the Hessler Coalition members early the evening after this decision was made. They and I sat on the second floor porch of the furthest south west of the properties owned by the Hessler Housing Co-op, an organization unique in Ohio.
HHC is a non-profit, non-equity cooperative. When the ‘owners’ relinquish their ‘ownership,’ of the property they receive no equity dividends. In return, for paying the ‘rent’ or monthly ‘ownership fee’ the Co-op is a most affordable place to live in Cleveland.
We looked out at the backyard of 1975 Ford Drive across the street where a rental truck being loaded up by tenants moving their things from suites lived in for a decade or two—gentrified out of their homes.
The discussion among the Hessler Housing Co-op members was about why four of the members of the Euclid Corridor Design Review committee of the City of Cleveland Planning Commission did not attend this meeting. This was after the four non-shows all attend an earlier meeting. It’s not like attending a Zoom meeting, once you’ve been set up to do so, it is easy to do and requires no traveling to attend.
And the Co-op owners went on. “Where was Chris Ronayne? UCI’s planning director was there. Why didn’t they speak up for the proposal (as had been done before)?”
To help the Hessler neighbors make their case against this development click on the link here.
For ongoing discussion of the proposal click on this link here.
For more about the history and construction of wood block Hessler Court click on this link here.