As my buddy, Seymour from Leroy, wrote me last week, “It’s not every day when a bridge goes floating past your porch.”

The story of the reconstruction of the Columbus Road Lift Bridge has been nothing short of remarkable.  Here at my perch in Duck Island, I’ve had a birds-eye view of this $32 million project immediately below us — where Columbus Road crosses the Cuyahoga River.

As Alison Grant of The Plain Dealer has writtenin her terrific coverage, “American Bridge Co. crews have worked on the span — the lift part of the Columbus Road bridge — at a site just west of the Carter Road Bridge in the Flats since mid-2013.

“The finished product (was) shipped down the river to the towers it will be connected to.  The bridge is the fifth rendition of a permanent crossing over the Cuyahoga at Columbus Road. The first, horse-and-buggy, version was built in 1836.

“The fourth Columbus Road bridge, built in 1940, was closed last year and its span torn out and scrapped, after inspections determined it was in serious condition.  Some floor beams and gusset plates were rated critical, meaning they were no longer functioning as designed. Lifting components were rated poor.”

The 2.2 million-pound bridge was moved onto its barge Monday last (July 28th) at a rate of 15 feet per 40 minutes.  The next morning, it was shipped about 0.5-mile downriver to its two restored towers.  By Friday, it was hoisted up in the air about 70 feet — and the ship channel was reopened to riverborne traffic.

For a civil engineer, this was a real treat!

Rollin down a river…


The new $73 million Westin Hotel that opened last week is a triumph for local artists.  Across the street from Cleveland’s new Convention Center, the project is a joint venture of Optima Ventures of Miami, FL; and, Sage Hospitality of Denver, CO.

The developers have an extraordinary commitment to local art.  Fortunately, my firm, The Project Group, was part of a team retained by the developer to procure and install over 1,500 pieces of art by local artists.  Other teammembers included Greg Peckham, Lora DiFranco and Erin Guido of LAND studio in Ohio City; and, Brian Jasinski of Epstein Design Partners near Shaker Square.

The exterior of the hotel features a 30-foot tall mural of the Cuyahoga River Valley — a work of public art by SarahKabot that can be enjoyed by both visitors and passersby.  At nite, the stainless steel skin of the building is washed in a stunning show of color provided by a state-of-the-art array of LED lighting.

Scattered throughout the hotel are more than 1,500 works by local artists, including Liz Maugans, Michael Loderstedt, Dana Oldfather, Jen Craun, Olga Ziemska and Anne Kibbe, to name a few.  Sage Hospitality worked with our team to select and feature artists in the lobby, public spaces and 484 guest rooms.

The guest-room art demanded a logistical effort worthy of a computer scientist.  Here, 29 original pieces were configured into 18 different sets of work for the 480 regular guest rooms (the 4 penthouse suites received unique treatments).

Each piece was reproduced between 48 and 56 times — so more than 1,500 pieces of artwork are hanging in the 12 different types of guest rooms.  As a result, a guest has less than a 1% chance of seeing the artwork if they come and stay for a second visit!

In last week’s FreshWater Cleveland, LAND studio’s Peckham stated that,

“This is kind of an incredible investment for a group from outside of Cleveland to make, and they did it because this was a way to make this project truly local… It generates a tremendous amount of goodwill, but also a true investment in the local arts economy.  This project put a job on the table for three local framers for a year.  There’s a lot of spinoff effect and benefit of this one small aspect of a $73 million project.  It also feels distinctively Cleveland; it’s not something you could find in another city.” 

The Plain Dealer reported that early bookings put occupancy in the 60% range — with occupancy expected to reach the high 60s or low 70s as business ramps up and word circulates that the hotel is open.  In particular, the Westin is banking on traffic from loyal customers of the Starwood Hotels & Resorts family, which has only one other brand — the Aloft – in downtown Cleveland’s Flats East Bank project.

Marous Brothers Construction was the design/build contractor for the project, with Colum McCartan of New York City the interior designer.

This was one cool project to work on. Do yourself a favor and check it out!


My firm, The Project Group, is serving as the Owner’s Representative for the restoration of the Templin-Bradley Building at the eastern gateway of the Gordon Square Arts District. The project’s groundbreaking took place Thursday, 29 May at 10AM — onsite at 5700 Detroit Avenue.

Our client, the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization (DSCDO), is planning an $8.0 transformation of this currently-vacant property. The 45,000 SF building is set to be adaptively reused and converted into 30 units of mixed-income rental apartments geared toward providing creative living space for artists and families.

The building was originally constructed in 1916 as the headquarters of the Templin-Bradley Co. — at one time, the country’s largest distributor of seeds, plants and bulbs.  Its rehabilitation will carefully respect the historic nature and architectural details of the building — which has recently been approved as a Nationally Registered Historic Landmark.

To ensure adherence to these rehab standards, all plans for rehabilitation and building alterations have been approved by both the City of Cleveland Landmarks Commission and the Ohio Historic Preservation Office.

“This project will significantly enhance the livability of the neighborhood and it will bring an additional 30 individuals/families into the neighborhood — further strengthening the resident base and quality of life,” said Ward 15 Councilman Matt Zone.  “Furthermore, this project continues to expand on the growth of the Arts District making Gordon Square truly one of Cleveland’s premiere neighborhoods.”

The project is being developed by DSCDO in partnership — with The Ohio Housing Finance Agency, Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing, Ohio Development Services Agency, Huntington National Bank, City of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, The National Endowment for the Arts and Marous Brothers Construction.


Last Friday, The Plain Dealer and published my Letter to the Editor.  I’m using this week’s edition of “The Z-Notes to repeat it in full:  

As an Near West Side resident, I am writing in response to recent articles and an editorial detailing the ongoing friction over parking for the West Side Market and other existing and emerging Ohio City businesses.

The Market has historically been one of the signature attractions in the City of Cleveland, and it has anchored the neighborhood for over a century.  

 But out of this synergistic history has developed a current and future reality — that the Market’s continued health and that of the surrounding businesses have become inextricably linked. Now, the Market and Ohio City both offer a host of popular venues — and we should not have to choose between the Market and the neighborhood. 

Ohio City Inc. is the neighborhood’s community development corporation. In this capacity, it has developed a comprehensive plan that accomplishes the following: 

  • Ensures ample parking for visitors by consolidating and rationalizing current rights-of-way and existing lots — thereby adding 145 parking spaces;
  • Proposes modest parking fees — with the following objectives:
    •  Provides affordable parking for all users;
    • Ensures that the lot is properly managed; and
    • Provides that the lot is safe, clean and well-lit. 

Finally, in conducting its research, OCI found that 1 available space can turn over up to 9 times on a busy day. As a result, the plan seeks to identify additional locations for employee parking — so that otherwise available spaces are not occupied all day by employees.

The growing number of people choosing to visit, work, and shop in Ohio City is a wonderful problem to have.

 Finding solutions to accommodate this growth will require a productive dialogue between the West Side Market and its neighbors to craft a mutually satisfactory and beneficial resolution to this issue. 



Last week’s edition of “The Z-Notes” cited a CSU housing expert who described booming Ohio City’s housing market in one word:  “Enormous.”

After I clicked “Send,” about 2 minutes later I received an email from This Old House calling Ohio City one of the nation’s 10 “Best Old Neighborhoods” in 2013.

The article noted that “with its link to Cleveland’s light-rail system, this neighborhood offers both convenience and all the amenities of an independent, thriving community.

 ”Today the young professionals and artisan-entrepreneurs who live in Ohio City cite its period houses, diversity, and pedestrian- and bike-friendly streets as major draws.”

 Talk about synchronicity!


In an article in last week’s Crain’s Cleveland Business (click here), CSU housing expert Tom Bier described the booming Ohio City’s housing market in one word:  “Enormous.”


Ohio City is to the immediate west of our little paradise here at Duck Island, separated only by the West Side Market.  A recent study of its housing market by Re/Max Beyond 2000 shared statistics that Crain’s described as “jaw-dropping to many long-time Clevelanders”:

  • On average, more than once every two weeks, there is a buyer paying more than $200,000 for a home or condominium in Ohio City — and it has picked up recently;
  • The number of $200,000 sales has increased 50% over the last three years; and
  • Ninety-one (that’s 91!) homes in Ohio City have sold over the past three years for prices ranging from $200,000 to $580,000.
Another agent from Keller Williams was quoted as saying that “in terms of new homes, I can sell you anything you want in the suburbs.  Now at West 57th and Bridge (Avenue), I have nothing for you.”


The boom in housing has tracked closely with a parallel boom in retail.  Crain’s also reports that storefront vacancies have from 30% to only 3% in just the last three years — adding 53 new businesses in the neighborhood.

People seem to crave the neighborhood scale – citing walkability and bikability, the avoidance of dependence on cars, the urban gritty churn charm, the density of people and business, and the proximity of downtown.



Senior Outreach Services (SOS) in Cleveland’s Fairfax neighborhood is a client of my firm, The Project Group – and they have asked me to help them out in this edition of “The Z-Notes.”

SOS is in a national challenge-grant competition for online fundraising.  As it turns out, it is the ONLY Cleveland nonprofit competing; the ONLY nonprofit focused on senior health and independence; AND, is currently in the top 10 of the 130 participating nonprofits!

SOS has asked that I help spread the word about its campaign.  Some of you may be willing to contribute $10 or $20 just to see a Cleveland team win — so click here if you’re so inclined.

By way of background, in 2007 thru 2009, The Project Group was the Project Manager for SOS’s new (and very complex) $5.5 million headquarters facility.

In early 2009, SOS moved into the 21,750 SF facility — including 9,500 SF of renovated space in the historic Langston Hughes Library at East 79th Street and Quincy Avenue; and, an attached 12,250 SF of new space.

On the construction side, The Project Group reviewed proposed spatial needs and associated architectural plans and specifications; analyzed operating costs in the proposed location and modeled the financial consequences; reviewed the project budget for its lease consequences to SOS; and, provided ongoing reviews of construction work at the new site.

On the financial side, Betsy Figgie of Your CFO Resource developed a 7-year financial roadmap to quantify annual occupancy expense in the proposed facility and to examine options for revenue diversification and philanthropic support.

SOS is a Cleveland-based organization whose mission is to help older adults and their families improve their health, independence, and quality of life thru community outreach and support.

SOS’s services include comprehensive health, social and functional level assessments, respite care for caregivers, companionship for isolated elders, telephone reassurance calls, homemaker and personal care services to community residents — and providing over 90,000 meals annually to local seniors.

They do great work — and I’d appreciate the kind gesture if you could help them out.



Bikers 2 Overlook
Some of you know about Duck Island — our little paradise nestled between Ohio City and Tremont, and looking directly across the Cuyahoga River at Downtown Cleveland’s skyline. 

It can also be described as “Scranton Heights” — perched on the bluff overlooking the Scranton Road Peninsula, itself a 44-acre oxbow wrapped by the Cuyahoga River.  By way of orientation, the eastern end of the peninsula is also known as “Collision Bend” — the notorious 180-degree bend in the river immediately below the Tower City complex. 

Collision Bend  

The 110-mile Towpath Trail will link Downtown Cleveland with New Philadelphia, generally along the pathway of the old Ohio & Erie Canal.  Many years in development and construction, it has reached as far north as Harvard Avenue in Cleveland’s upper industrial Flats. 

Only 5 segments remain to be built to realize this incredible dream.  One, along Steelyard Commons is already constructed. 

A second, along the southern edge of Scranton Road Peninsula is under construction.  It is this segment that touches the base of Duck Island, directly below my perch up here!

Scranton Park  

Work started in the Summer 2013 on this $9.1 million, 1-mile long segment — and is expected to open to the public this November.  Check out this video for an update on this incredible project: 


All paths lead to Duck Island!



Last week, D’Arcy Egan of The Plain Dealerpublished an article entitled “Green Scum Coming to Lake Erie, But it has Been Worse.” 

In it, he writes that Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) will return to the Western Basin of Lake Erie — but they won’t be as bad “as the devastating 2011 blooms provoked by a steady parade of severe rainstorms rolling through the region in spring and early summer.” 

In short, water quality is deteriorating in Lake Erie’s western basin due to huge industrialized farming practices in Northwestern Ohio’s Maumee River watershed.  Now that deterioration is now starting to affect Cuyahoga County. 

Dr. Jeffery Reutter is the Director of Ohio’s Sea Grant program and also the Director of Stone Laboratory, just north of Put-in-Bay. He is an expert on Lake Erie’s water quality — having studied it from 1966. 

He’s seen it go from polluted (due to urban and industrial causes) to “clean” to polluted again (this time predominantly due to agricultural runoff).  This runoff is creating the HABs — and the resulting plume has been captured by NASA from outer space; the images are spectacular and frightening, as you can see below:

HABs Sequence

This sequence of satellite photos of Lake Erie’s western basin shows the progress of the 2011 HAB:

  • A – June 1, soon after a surge of fertilizer-loaded storm runoff from the Maumee River has flowed into the lake basin;
  • B – July 19, as the bloom begins to grow;
  • C – July 31, about two weeks after the bloom’s start;
  • D – August 11, as the bloom spreads east toward the central basin;
  • E – Sept. 3, as the bloom reaches the central basin and a second phase forms on the basin’s north shore; and
  • F – Oct. 9, as the bloom begins to decline in the western basin.  (Courtesy of University of Wisconsin-Madison Space Science and Engineering Center)




Last week’s ThursdayStyles in the New York Times had a terrific piece entitled “Will.i.amsburg: How I Became a Hipster” — about hip life in the new Center of the Universe of Brooklyn, NY.

I thought it was hilarious.  Or, as the bohemians (“bohos” in Will dialect) would say, “ridic” (ridiculous).

The piece is long, and probably not for everyone.  But the writer is way funny, and the subject all the funnier for its preening pretention.