Monday, March 31, 2014

High-speed fiber in the Cleveland area

Several years ago, when I lived in a cozy one-bedroom on Coventry Road, I didn't pay for internet. It wasn't a careless neighbor who didn't password-protect the router. I was able to access the internet through OneCommunity, who offered free wireless coverage throughout the greater University Circle area and beyond.

OneCommunity started as a nonprofit organization with a big vision, back in 2006--working toward turning the greater Northeast Ohio area into a "smart region," one dedicated to the growing community of technological innovators in the area. 

OneCommunity now services over 2,000 miles of fiber across 24 counties throughout the region, a $100 million investment. It has connected over 2,300 public institutions to its network over the last eight years. OneCommunity delivers up to 40gb/s in speed with an extremely robust infrastructure and 24/7 network service.

Now it has bigger plans to serve the region by offering service to private businesses. It has launched a component called Everstream to service local businesses at competitive rates, and even offers tenant in multi-office buildings the ability to share the service and split the bill. 

Soon, also, local residents may be able to purchase the service. A pilot program in Shaker Heights is being launched near Shaker LaunchHouse, a highly successful business incubator, venture capital resource, and entrepreneur support shop. Back in September, OneCommunity announced that it was endeavoring to create the state's first "fiberhood" on nearby Chelton Road, whose lots are adjacent to the LaunchHouse headquarters. 

Chelton Road is a depressed area of Shaker Heights with many sub-50k home values, so it is going to be a very interesting case study for determining how technological upgrades can impact a community. We may have to wait a few years for this, but I am optimistic that this neighborhood will change dramatically over time.

Read more about the fiberhood at

Thursday, March 27, 2014

How much house will $1,000,000 buy you?

Business Insider/Andy Kiersz,
data from Movoto and Zillow
Recently, a blog article on published a uniquely shaped chart illustrating how far your dollar goes in each of the top 40 major markets, pictured to the right. The full text of the article may be found here.

The cities in this chart can be categorized and split into three general categories: the coastal cities (San Francisco-Seattle), "middle America" (Denver-Cleveland) and Detroit.

Arguably, the two second-bottom cities, Memphis and Cleveland, tend to break away from the "rest of America" trend--$1mm might buy you four Denver-size houses in Cleveland, which is a bit of a contrast. But the graph does illustrate a concept that I've been espousing for years: Cleveland and Detroit are utterly incomparable when it comes to discussing urban decline and poverty. We don't shut the streetlights off or fail to respond to fires in the City of Cleveland. We're functional and they're dysfunctional. It's so infuriating that we ought to have a law on the books that makes Cleveland-to-Detroit comparison a misdemeanor.

I don't mean to jump on the dump-on-Detroit bandwagon because I think they've got their hands full over there with detractors. There are many other cities and parts of the country out there that are far more worthy of criticism, such as Washington, D.C., or the entire state of Florida. Detroit's shortcomings are obvious, and they're working on fixing them. There are other parts of the country that people seem to accept unquestioningly as "a nice place to live" or a "booming metropolis" despite the cracks beginning to appear in their foundations (see also, Chicago's looming financial crisis).

I digress. Back to the chart. Important to note here is the fatal flaw of many statistical city comparisons, especially those Forbes city comparisons (remember who won "America's Most Miserable City" a few times while its suburbs continually win "best places to live in the US" awards). How can the best place to live in the United States be located just four miles from the worst place to live in the US? Focusing on the Greater Cleveland area, the population generally regards the center city as an undesirable address, and prefer the more substantial city services, perceptions of lower crime, and the feeling of community that its 53+ incorporated suburbs offers. The city has a "donut hole" of poverty surrounding the relatively robust central business district, and the overwhelming majority of those 300,000 souls who work downtown live beyond the donut, 6 or more miles from the city center.

Unfair as the comparison may be, I'll point out anyway that this "donut hole," "inner-city dilapidation," "concentration of poverty," or whatever you may want to call this phenomenon, is the very problem that is holding the metro area back from becoming the next Chicago, or, ahem, Pittsburgh, or wherever the next media darling "Best Place to Live in America" might be.

Nonetheless, it is still useful to compare apples-to-apples data. Some of the cities in this list contain nearly their entire metro areas, like Las Vegas, Charlotte, Denver, or Seattle. These cities became established major cities at a time when annexation of surrounding land was popular, and do not have nearly as elaborate of a suburb structure like Cleveland or Pittsburgh does. Local politics are kept to a low roar in the former cities, and the populated area is able to grow and plan in a more cohesive manner rather than in fits and starts involving kickbacks and "anti-poaching" deals like what happens here at home all the time.

So, to satisfy my curiosity, I reorganized the data by metro area. According to the original blog article, the city data was sourced from Zillow and Movoto, so I decided to use Zillow to source metro area per-square-foot area. In cases where Zillow did not display metro area data, like Austin, I assumed that an average home was 1,500 square feet and used the median home sale price to calculate a dollars-per-square-foot price. The results do not make the Detroit metro area look nearly as bad as the above graph, so kudos to them!

Note in this configuration of data, Memphis actually clocks in last (or first, depending on how you view it), and Detroit is more expensive than Cleveland. Note that some cities in these rankings are actually in the same metro area (Phoenix and Mesa, Dallas, Fort Worth and Arlington, etc) and will have the same numbers, appearing to create plateaus in the data. In any case, $1 million for a 12,000 square foot house in Cleveland ($83/sqft) appears to be a lot more reasonable than 21,000 square feet ($46). See what $1.65 million will buy you if you're in the right place in the right time in the outer suburbs (exurbs?).

Pool maintenance is a major PITA, but at least you've got room to store the tools in the 14-car garage.
I took the liberty of comparing my metro-area dataset with the original data in the graph below. Note that Detroit, as we probably expected, is off the charts while most other cities are roughly equally expensive between city and metro. Interestingly enough, it's far more expensive to live in Dallas or Atlanta cities proper than the suburbs, which probably can be accounted for by less stringent building standards in the outlying unincorporated regions, which are very far away from the city center.

To recap, the lesson to be learned here is not to arbitrarily stop an examination of two cities at the city borders. Given that less than a third of the population of Cuyahoga County calls Cleveland home, it's especially important when comparing Northeast Ohio with other regions. All we have to do is merge the city and county, and Cleveland is the 9th largest city in the country!

Beachwood has the second-highest Jewish population per capita outside Isreal

Here's some unique claim to fame, but none too surprising for Greater Cleveland residents. Beachwood clocks in with the second-highest concentration of Jewish people outside of Isreal, and the highest per-capita population outside New York.

1Kiryas Joel, New York[1] United States9922,000
2Beachwood, Ohio[2] United States90.210,700
3Hampstead, Quebec[3] Canada74.25,170
4Côte Saint-LucQuebec[4] Canada69.120,145
5Dover Heights, New South Wales[5] Australia53.32,101
6Caulfield, Victoria[6] Australia45.62,351
7Caulfield North, Victoria[7] Australia44.86,522
8Squirrel HillPittsburgh United States40.010,000
9Caulfield South, Victoria[8] Australia38.64,349
10Thornhill, Ontario Canada36.638,940

Source: and

Greater Cleveland has the 16th-largest Jewish population in the world, having been beaten out by three cities in Israel as well as some of the largest cities in the United States.

1Tel Aviv[23] Israel3,214,800
2New York[24] United States2,028,200[25]
3Haifa[23] Israel708,000
4Jerusalem[23] Israel687,000
5Los Angeles United States662,450[26]
6Southern Florida (Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano)[27][28][29] United States535,000
7Philadelphia United States285,950[30]
8Baltimore/Washington, D.C. United States276,445[31]
9Chicago United States265,400[32]
10Boston United States261,100[33]
11Atlanta[21] United States260,300
12San Francisco Bay Area (San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose)[34] United States228,000
13Toronto[35] Canada164,510
14San Diego[36] United States89,000
15Montreal[37] Canada88,765
16Cleveland-Akron-Canton[38][39][40][41] United States86,600

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

News from "The 9"

By NorthCoastReader (Own work)
[CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Geis Companies is rapidly approaching the fulfillment of its goals to transform the abandoned Ameritrust Tower into an urban oasis known as "The 9."

"We haven't missed a date in 46 years," said Greg Geis as quoted in the most recent coverage by's Michelle Jarboe McFee. Apparently, they don't mean to miss one anytime soon, as they add a third shift to the construction crews as they ready the 1970s-era, 29-story complex for luxury apartments, a hotel, rooftop bars, restaurants, and an urban grocery store. Their completion and grand opening target date is in September of this year.

The first open house giving the public a sneak-peak at Geis' product happened today, March 25. According to the latest article from Crain's Cleveland Business, about six out of the 194 planned apartments were leased the date of the open house. Two of these suites are palatial 3,000 square foot penthouses, renting at an astonishing $5,995 per month--a number scant seen in most cities in America, much less downtown Cleveland where residential rents tend to stay around the benchmark $1/square foot/year area. The smallest luxury apartment clocks in at 318 square feet and a $1,500 price tag, or $56/sf/year!

Apartment dwellers may avail themselves of the onsite concierge, valet parking, laundry, room service, and housekeeping, provided by the hotel staff. Also on premises is an indoor dog park and a Heinen's boutique supermarket in the historic Cleveland Trust Rotunda, adjacent to the tower.

Cleveland Trust stained-glass rotunda.
By Chewy734 (Flickr: Cleveland Trust rotunda)
[CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
In all, Geis will have invested over $170 million into this project, financed by a checkerboard of sources including the owners' personal credit. The result will be 194 apartments, a 156-room Metropolitan hotel, a Heinen's supermarket, three bars including one on the roof and one in a bank vault, a movie theatre, office space, and a dog park, all in center of the city's financial district and the crossroads between Public Square, the Gateway sports and entertainment district, and Playhouse Square. This sparkle of life in an office-dominated district will do wonders to stitch together the downtown area, whose residential and entertainment areas are very much balkanized.

A little bit of history

The Ameritrust Tower has a bit of a checkered past. Built in 1971 as the headquarters of the Cleveland Trust Company, it was built adjacent to the iconic 1905 Cleveland Trust Rotunda (pictured below), with its immense stained-glass window dome, intricate brass and wood trimmings, and murals featuring various depictions of American history.

Cleveland Trust Company changed its name to Ameritrust Corp. in 1979 to reflect its growth on its way to becoming the 6th largest bank in the country. In the late 1980s, Ameritrust fell on financial difficulties and was acquired by crosstown rival Society Bank, which later became Key Bank via merger in 1994. The last tenants of the Ameritrust tower moved out in 1996, and the tower has been vacant ever since.

By Ohio Office of Redevelopment (Flickr: Cleveland–
Cleveland Trust Company (OHPTC)) [CC-BY-2.0],
via Wikimedia Commons
In 2005, the county purchased the building for $21.8 million, or about $4.9 million above a commercial appraisal conducted just two years later. At the time the county planned to renovate it for a new county headquarters, but council discord led to the application and approval for the demolition of the tower. Later, the council changed its mind again and decided to try to sell the building to private developers. After six long years of failed agreements and county council turmoil (including several FBI raids that resulted in the conviction of several officials and a complete reorganization of the structure of county government), the county finally struck a deal in 2013 to sell the entire complex to Geis Companies for $27 million, in exchange that they build a new county headquarters adjacent to the tower and lease it back to the county at $6.7 million per year for 26 years.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

#thisiscle promotional video

Check out this new promotional video produced by Positively Cleveland as a part of their new #thisiscle initiative. Hit up their website for more photos and gear.

For those who want a more concise message, the text splashes in the video are as follows:

You may have read the stories, heard the jokes. But this isn't the place for people who follow the herd. The city where rock was born knows a thing or two about passion. freedom. and doing it your way. No matter what. Because what they never understood, is that while they were talking about us, we weren't listening. Under the right conditions, pressure can create diamonds. World-class experiences without the world-class ego. It's what happens when you're not trying to be something you're not. We've never been flashy. trendy. perfect. And for that, you're welcome. Never mainstream. Never meant to be. Always Cleveland

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Freshwater Cleveland: Ground broken on 243-unit apartments in Flats East Bank project

Freshwater Cleveland wrote a small blurb about the now-underway phase II of Flats East Bank project, nestled between downtown, the lake, and the Cuyahoga River. Planned in this phase is a 243-unit apartment building, streetfront retail, and a 1,200 foot long boardwalk along the river to extend the Settler's Landing park northward.

Flats East Development LLC, the partners behind the multi-phase Flats East development, have broken ground on Phase II. The project is expected to be complete in time for residents, visitors and office workers to enjoy the 1,200-foot riverfront boardwalk by summer of 2015. The ambitious project contains a few surprises, including a new office building that's been added to the mix.

"Currently, we've broken ground on Building 4, which is the large residential building with 243 apartments above a parking deck and retail podium," says Brice Hamill, Director of Design with Fairmount Properties. "With Building 4 being the largest of the buildings [in Phase II], we needed to kick it off now to complete it on schedule. We just finished up the auger piles and deep foundation, and now we're coming out of the ground and casting columns for the first floor retail."

Read more at:

You may remember earlier coverage of the now-complete Ernst & Young Tower, which was considered the first phase of this groundbreaking project, which successfully produced the first highrise office tower built in Cleveland for over 20 years. The continued forward push of this project is motivated in part by the astronomically-high $30/square foot/year rents that are being fetched in the new tower, which is about one-third to twice as high as standard class-A or class-B office space brings in other parts of the central business district.

Stay tuned for pictures of the construction site.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Developers selected for downtown lakefront mixed-used development

Recently, rumors circulated that the city and county were planning to develop/redevelop the space between Cleveland Browns Stadium (now "First Energy Field"), the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Burke Lakefront Airport. Finally, something has materialized in the form of a blog post on Cleveland City Hall's website, and a developer has been chosen to carry out the plan.

The land to be developed is now owned by the Port of Cleveland and is used for industrial shipping purposes. The plan is to include housing, a new pedestrian bridge connecting the Great Lakes Science Center with Voinovich Park, and a new permanent marina.
“Development of the Lakefront is important for the continuing economic growth of our city as well as providing amenities for residents and visitors to enjoy,” said Mayor Jackson.  “I thank the Lakefront Advisory Committee members for their hard work in reviewing the submissions and their recommendation of Trammell Crow and Cumberland who have exceptional development skills, a willingness to invest, and a shared vision for a lively waterfront and I look forward to taking the next steps in the process.”
  • Phase 1: Retail and restaurant development between the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Great Lakes Science Center and along the East 9th Street Pier; and an office, retail, and residential development on Dock 32.
  • Phases 2 and 3 would entail mainly apartments and public waterfront amenities on Docks 30 and 28B.

Read more here: