Russell Berusch and Neighborhood Progress, Inc. took a chance on me when I dreamt of opening my first brewpub. They leased me space in the historic Fries & Schuele Block building on W.25th Street in Ohio City. My partners and I now own five restaurants and bars in the neighborhood that employ 160 people and that have helped energize Ohio City as a magnet for this region’s incredibly diverse population. Russell was an early believer in the possibilities of Ohio City. Because of his bold vision, commitment and skill, Russell was largely responsible for transforming Ohio City’s Market District into the dynamic entertainment and residential district we enjoy today.”
Owner, McNulty’s Bier Market, Bar Cento,
Speakeasy, Market Garden Brewery,
Nano Brew Cleveland
In 2000 the historic Fries & Schuele building was vacant, deteriorated and one of several drags on W. 25th Street, a key artery that runs through the historic Ohio City neighborhood.
At the time, Russell Berusch was senior vice president of real estate for Neighborhood Progress, Inc., (NPI) and on behalf of that nonprofit had already secured one important anchor tenant for the neighborhood; Dave’s Supermarkets.
NPI and Mr. Berusch wanted to continue the momentum of that store, as well as the famed West Side Market and other private-sector investments by taking on the mixed-use redevelopment of the entire “Fries and Schuele Block.”
As civic-minded and business-oriented developers, they wanted to prove a point whose lessons could resonate across Cleveland’s urban core: That well-designed, high-quality buildings with affordable prices would attract new residents, retailers and investment dollars.
That was the aim, but at the time sections of the block were blighted and remained dotted with vacancies – and NPI didn’t control the land.
Initially NPI and Mr. Berusch attempted to recruit a for-profit developer. But the project was so complex and risky that they got no takers, so NPI’s small undercapitalized real estate subsidiary elected to self-develop the project in partnership with Ohio City Inc., the local community development corporation.
Mr. Berusch took on responsibility for all aspects of this complex and catalytic project on behalf of NPI and Ohio City Inc.
Nearly every step in the process was a challenge because the concept of building new, upscale, for-sale condominiums in a Cleveland neighborhood was an unproven proposition. Mr. Berusch and the NPI-Ohio City partnership worked doggedly to secure both bank financing for the condominiums and public financing for an underground parking garage; to buy property from an initially unwilling seller; and to find condominium buyers willing to become urban pioneers.
|STATUS & RESULTS
The historic conversion and new construction project was completed in 2004. It spurred additional residential and commercial development in Ohio City, and led to substantial increases in property values for many condo owners The area is now a lively destination, teeming with people both day and night.