MRN worked intensively with Russell Berusch for seven years, first when he was a vice president with Case Western Reserve University, and later when he was a consultant to the university. We worked with Russell to refine the vision for the $150 million Uptown mixed-use development project and carry it out. He is extraordinarily creative and tenacious, a tireless problem-solver, and a valuable partner. The truth is, without Russell, Uptown would not exist in its current form, if at all.”
Partner, MRN, Ltd.
Case Western Reserve University is located in an area of sharp contrasts. The University Circle district has long been home to a remarkable collection of world-class hospitals and arts organizations. But one edge of the CWRU campus was marred by a large semi-blighted area of vacant store fronts, fast-food outlets, surface parking, and a tired apartment complex. University-owned graduate housing was scare. And while students could visit an art museum or see the renowned Cleveland Orchestra, they simply didn’t have a central “college town” district lined with restaurants, stores, entertainment venues and places to hang out.
The lack of that district also meant that employees, arts patrons, and other visitors to the area had limited options for shopping, eating and simply strolling or relaxing in lively public spaces before work, after a concert, or in the midst of a sunny summer day.
CWRU knew it needed a transformative plan to vastly improve the quality of life in the district. And it needed a way to turn the blueprints into reality. In 2004, CWRU hired Russell Berusch to be its vice president for commercial development.
Creating a realistic and compelling vision to turn a drab area that was in a prime location into one of Cleveland’s most alluring destinations – and then methodically executing on that vision.
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Working closely with CWRU’s leadership and other civic leaders, Mr. Berusch conceived of the college town – now known as Uptown – crafted the development plan, and then lead the implementation of that plan.
As the University’s lead project manager and negotiator he did the following: hired market research and urban design professionals; selected and negotiated an agreement with the developer team; facilitated collaboration among the university community, local government, nonprofits, and foundations; convened working groups of key stakeholders; structured a portion of the financing; negotiated the acquisition of five buildings collectively valued at $30 million; repositioned two apartment towers so they could be upgraded and repurposed; and negotiated agreements to move the Museum of Contemporary Art into its first standalone home where it could be a prime anchor in the Uptown district.
Uptown’s tenants now include Barnes & Noble, Constantino’s grocery store, ABC The Tavern, Mitchell’s Ice Cream, and Huntington National Bank, among others.