heres another update on the Stonebridge development.
Lot purchases set K&D Flats plan in motion
Apartment developer, Nautica officials in talks to execute West Bank improvement
By STAN BULLARD
6:00 am, July 24, 2006
Apartment and condo developer K&D Group is snatching up property and is talking with Nautica entertainment complex owner Jeff Jacobs to map out steps the two largest landowners on the West Bank of the Flats can take to prepare the area for more redevelopment.
K&D already has opened its wallet to buy a ¾-acre parking lot at River, Center and Elm streets in order to extend its reach along the West Bank. The lot K&D bought June 21 from Riverfront West Partners for $320,000 is more than a quarter-mile north toward Lake Erie from its 500-unit Stonebridge Apartments and Condominium complex, which hugs the Cuyahoga River.
K&D also has agreed to buy an 80-car parking lot at Main Avenue near Mulberry Street and an old industrial building at 2505 Center St. formerly occupied by Bardons & Oliver Inc. of Solon, said Doug Price, who co-owns the 10,000-suite K&D apartment empire with partner Karen Harrison. Both purchases are set to close in a few weeks, he said.
“If it’s available, we’ve bought or optioned it,” Mr. Price said.
K&D doesn’t have specific plans or timetables for development of the properties but is working with architect Bob Corna on concepts to extend the Stonebridge project in step-by-step phases north on Center Street.
The general idea is to develop parcels K&D buys with a mix of housing, office and retail uses that complement Stonebridge and maintain the fabric of the West Bank in a five-year plan, Mr. Price said.
As part of his development push, Mr. Price said he has discussed with Nautica’s owners steps the two can take to prepare a master plan for improvements to the West Bank.
Mr. Corna said the master plan would include elements such as replacing telephone poles with underground lines to enhance the views, adding lighting to improve safety, and connecting the West Bank more directly with the lakefront and Wendy Park.
David Grunenwald, a vice president of Jacobs Entertainment, which owns Nautica, confirmed he has talked with K&D about ways to deal with traffic and infrastructure to improve the West Bank.
“We’re the largest property owners on the West Bank, and we’d like to see it developed differently,” said Mr. Grunenwald, who returned calls placed to Nautica’s principal, Mr. Jacobs.
Mr. Grunenwald said Mr. Price already “has done a lot without a lot of fanfare that’s changing the face of the Flats and downtown.” As far as Nautica goes, Mr. Grunenwald said, “We’re really in a holding pattern to see what the future brings. Our focus is on the Learn and Earn campaign.”
Learn and Earn is the drive to bring legalized casino gambling to Ohio through a constitutional amendment that business and pro-gambling groups are scrambling to get on November’s ballot.
Under the Learn and Earn proposal, Nautica and Tower City Center would be allowed to establish slots-only casinos, as would seven horse racing tracks in the state. The amendment takes its name from plans to apply some of the state’s share of the gambling take to college scholarships.
Councilman Joe Cimperman, whose Ward 13 includes the Flats, said the concept K&D has discussed for local improvements is expensive but credible. He said he expects K&D to execute its plan on a building-by-building or block-by-block basis the way it has built Stonebridge.
However, bringing retail and residential development farther north along the West Bank is nearly as controversial an idea among some longtime Flats business operators as legalized gambling in Ohio, which voters have spurned three times.
K&D and other developers at a minimum would need to have condo buyers or apartment tenants sign agreements similar to those that residents of the newly developed apartments already sign to acknowledge they are knowingly moving into a working industrial and shipping area, said Jim Plotz, president of century-old William Plotz Machine & Forge Co. The job shop is across the street from K&D’s recently purchased parking lot.
“It would be hard” to co-exist, said Mr. Plotz, who quickly added, “I’m not sure I want to hear this” when he was told about K&D’s parking lot purchase.
Mr. Plotz said his family-owned company, which employs 12, likely couldn’t get enough money from Mr. Price to afford to move itself and all its equipment from the 21,000-square-foot building it now occupies on a two-acre site. Moreover, the Flats location is crucial to Plotz Machine to serve nearby customers, among them the Cargill salt mine along Lake Erie.
Still, at least one business occupant is willing to sell — for the right price.
Keith Colton, president of Deck Crafters, said he has rejected as too low an offer from Nautica to buy his building at 2313 Elm Ave. He can run the deck installation company from anywhere, but moved to the Flats 12 years ago because he hoped the area would appreciate. If nothing else, Mr. Colton might add a restaurant or bar to the building, he said, though he added that people in the Flats need to “stop talking and do something.”
Carl Barricelli, president of Ontario Stone, greeted his new neighbor, Mr. Price, with the phrase, “Let the buyers beware.” Although the streets seem abandoned during the day, Mr. Barricelli said, there’s “tremendous foot traffic and gridlock” when Mirage and other nightclubs on the West Bank are busy at night from Thursday to Sunday.
“It’s pretty intense down here,” he said.
Indeed, Ontario Stone alone trucks 85,000 loads a year from its three Flats locations, which need access to the river for ship unloading.
“We’re now talking about where industry is in the Flats,” Mr. Barricelli said, referring to the area where Mr. Price has extended his reach. “We’re not going anywhere.”
To which Mr. Corna counters: “The residents come down here for the excitement of the Flats, from trains to ship whistles."