Built in 1927, Saint Luke’s was a neighborhood fixture and major employer in the Buckeye-Shaker Heights community for nearly 70 years. Its closure in 1999 was a blow to the community. But then a joint venture of University Hospitals and Sisters of Charity at St. Augustine hired Neighborhood Progress, Inc. (NPI) to work with the local community development corporation to engage the community and develop a plan to breathe new life into the 26-acre campus.
The solution wasn’t clear when Russell Berusch, then NPI’s senior vice president of real estate, began the strategic and physical planning work. The site was in a weak market, any renovation or new development on the vacant land surrounding the hospital would be expensive, and the overall redevelopment plan had to meet a triple test: be acceptable to the seller, worthy of a community with high expectations, and financially feasible without too hefty an infusion of subsidies.
Berusch and NPI wanted to do more than save a historic building from the wrecking ball. They wanted to craft a solution that would effectively raise the bar for what was possible in an inner-city neighborhood hard hit by disinvestment. Their goal was to secure value-adding anchors.
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Berusch negotiated a purchase agreement of the entire campus and managed a team that built a new residential subdivision with roads, utilities, and a dozen houses opposite the old hospital building. After Berusch left NPI in 2004, the nonprofit continued to refine and implement the redevelopment plan he had crafted, building affordable apartments and working with a local school and library to construct new on-campus facilities.