New Development on Hessler Road, Tenant Displacement on Ford Drive
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The Story: On February 10th, 2021, University Circle Incorporated (UCI) hosted a virtual “public” meeting announcing the new development project coming to Hessler and Ford, including construction of a four story, 23 micro-unit apartment building on Hessler Road in the backyard of the historic home at 1975 Ford Drive. UCI left the Hessler community out of the planning process and presented the project as a “done deal” telling the community they would break ground that spring. In spite of known community opposition, UCI transferred the land to the developers, Rick Maron (Signet, MRN, Uptown LLC, etc.) and Russell Berusch (Berusch Development Partners LLC, Hessler 113 Townhomes) on March 3rd, 2021.
The Hessler community fought hard for time to organize meetings, and were barely given time to host one meeting each with the Councilman, UCI, and the developers. The community also invited all parties to walk around Hessler together, in hopes that the inappropriateness of the development would be obvious for many reasons. The community was told during these meetings that they could comment on the details of the design rather than the overall appropriateness of the development in the historic district. It quickly became clear that there would be no respect for the fragile historic district, its cultural heritage, and the community that stewarded it for decades. Requests to leave the back yard of 1975 Ford Drive undeveloped or build a home that fits within the architectural character and residential style of the district were ignored and the developers came back to the community with concessions: a 12 micro-unit apartment. Another concession involved Maron abandoning the plan to pave a large area behind three houses, on land that he previously clear-cut and excavated for the building of Uptown in 2012. Maron was supposed to have installed a landscape on that land to provide a buffer for the homes there. The landscape was never installed.
Threat of demolition and development is nothing new to the Hessler community. In fact, Cleveland’s Landmarks Commission originated in 1971 out of the work done to protect Hessler by Hessler community members, inlcuding Case Architecture students and a dedicated Hesslerite: Donna Lee “Pitter” Pratt. In 1974 they worked to get Hessler Court, the last remaining wood-block paved road in Cleveland, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1975, they organized at City Hall to designate Cleveland’s first Historic District: The Hessler Court and Hessler Road Historic District. The Hessler community has been fighting to preserve their homes and quality of life ever since!
The long-term Hessler community feels strongly that UCI’s and the developers’ plans will threaten the already fragile infrastructure of the Hessler Court and Hessler Road Historic District, with its century old water-sewer lines, its fragile stone curbs and sidewalks, its sinking brick and crumbling wood block roads and disappearing tree canopy. The community has witnessed damage by various forces including construction impact by Berusch and Maron’s developments, decreased permeable surface areas contributing to water runoff issues and the devastating effects of negligent landlords in the district. The Hessler community knows that the new development will ruin the aesthetic of the historic district, set a precedent for unappealing new construction, and wipe out the last remaining gathering space and historic garage in 1975 Ford Drive’s backyard, on Hessler Road. The space is used annually as the food court and the garage serves as the Hessler Road Hall of Fame and Museum during Cleveland’s premier festival, the Hessler Street Fair.
The development project includes renovating 1975 and 1981 Ford Drive, which will displace tenants there due to rent more than doubling. The new 12 micro-unit building will be shoe-horned in between two two-story woodframe houses on Hessler Road in the backyard of 1975 Ford Drive. Each 465 square foot micro-unit will rent for $1600/month. The project will bring more transience to Hessler, while decreasing access to affordable and owner-occupied housing. The developers will take advantage of Cleveland’s property tax abatement, which, in the University Circle neighborhood, is unwarranted and robs the Cleveland public schools, the City and its citizens of much needed revenue and programs.
These developers have proven to be bad managers and the trail of damage they’ve left on and around Hessler Road still has yet to be mitigated. UCI and the developers are calling the project “an infill on a vacant lot” and “a missing tooth,” when in actuality, it is a development in the backyard of an historic home. This development and tenant displacement is an affront to Hessler, it’s historic landmark status and all that it stands for culturally.
*Update, August 24, 2021: Councilman Griffin informed the Hessler community that Rick Maron withdrew from the partnership because, according to Councilman Griffin “He didn’t want to put up with you.”
*Update, September 8, 2021: Without having the financials in place and without final approval for the new construction in the City processes, Berusch senselessly demolished the 115 year old garage at 1975 Ford. The demolition was the first within the historic district and at the present time, Berusch has posted notices in the neighborhood advertising parking spaces for lease there.
*Update, January 16, 2023: Please see our most recent blog post for information about the new INAPPROPRIATE development proposal approved by The Cleveland Landmarks Commission on January 12, 2023.
Recent Blog Posts
- City, Developer Russell Berusch, and UCI Team Up for Another Inappropriate Development Proposal in the Hessler Historic DistrictHessler Court and Hessler Road Historic District is a tiny neighborhood in the footprint of a university, a hospital system and multiple cultural institutions. The residents on Hessler are a combination of students, long term tenants and long term owner occupants, including members of a multiple unit non-equity housing cooperative, […]
- Hessler’s Denial of a Rehearing/Reconsideration at BZAOn December 13th, 2021 developer Russell Berusch was granted variances, giving him final approval to move forward with his micro unit apartment building on Hessler. Because Berusch was only able to provide five onsite parking spaces where code required him to provide twenty one, UCI offered him twenty parking spaces […]
Fast, Effective and Easy Way to Help
Compose your own email to:
-Elise Yablonsky, UCI, Vice President of Community Development
-Donald Petit and Karl Brunjes, City of Cleveland Landmarks Commission.
-Kim Scott, Chief City Planner, The Euclid Corridor Design Review Committee
-Joyce Pan Huang, Cleveland City Planning Commission, Director
-Russell Berusch, Developer
-Councilman Blaine Griffin
-Laura Cyrocki, Hessler Neighborhood Association, Hessler Coalition
Feel free to cut and paste these bullet points:
-The City of Cleveland must reconsider the variances granted given the substantial change in circumstances under which the variances were granted on December 13th. In order to secure parking variances for the development, UCI offered Berusch, at his request, twenty parking spaces in its Ford Drive Parking Garage at 1980 Ford Drive. This allowed Berusch to waive the need to provide 16 on-site parking spaces required by Cleveland’s zoning ordinance. UCI assured the BZA and the Hessler community that there would be ample parking for all current permit holders, many who live on Hessler, and Berusch’s tenants.
On February 14th, UCI announced to the Hessler community that its Ford Drive Parking Garage had become structurally unsound and will be torn down summer ‘22. UCI told the community there would not be enough parking permits for all the current residential permit holders and offered no solutions for the twenty spaces reserved for Berusch.
-The Hessler community has a long history with the Cleveland Landmarks Commission which was started in 1971 out of work done to protect Hessler. The Landmarks Commission’s inability to protect and honor Hessler’s history and violate its own ordinance, represents a massive dysfunction within the City Planning Department.
-The proposed micro-unit apartment building is a significant departure architecturally and conceptually from the type of residential units that are found on Hessler. It will ruin the essential character of the district.
-New construction has not undergone sufficient planning studies, such as historic preservation, storm-water management, traffic, light, parking, feasibility and safety studies.
-1975 Ford Drive and its landscape have remained fundamentally unchanged for over a century and contribute to the district. The open space should remain.
-The Hessler Street Fair celebrated its 50th year anniversary in 2019. It is a historic event. Protect the 1975 Ford Drive backyard used annually as Hessler Street Fair’s museum and food court. Force Berusch and UCI to rebuild the historic garage.
-Russell Berusch is at fault for the damage he did to the wood-block court, tree canopy, historic sidewalks and landscaping during his renovations of the 11319-11327 Terrace.
-Can UCI offer Russell Berusch a more appropriate vacant lot for infill in concession for not building in a historic backyard in a fragile and compromised historic district?
-UCI is a publicly funded non-profit community development corporation. UCI did not undertake a transparent planning process that includes the community.
-No development or demolition should take place in a historic neighborhood outside of the context of a neighborhood and preservation plan.
Individual Contact Information:
-Councilman Blaine Griffin Phone: 216-664-4234 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
-Elise Yablonsky, University Circle Incorporated: Phone: 216-707-4662 Email: Elise.Yablonsky@universitycircle.org
-Cleveland City Planning Director Joyce Pan Huang: Phone: 216-664-2210 Email: email@example.com
-Kim Scott, Chief City Planner, Euclid Corridor Design Review Committee: Phone: 216-664-3803 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
-Karl Brunjes, Senior Assistant City Planner, Landmarks Commission Phone: 216-664-7445 Email: email@example.com
-Donald Petit, City Planner, Secretary-Landmarks Commission, Phone:216-664-2532 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
-Developer: Russell Berusch Phone: 216-402-8089 Email: email@example.com
-Hessler Community: firstname.lastname@example.org
Want to Help? Contact Us:
If you’re available to help spread the word on media, or social media, post fliers for our website, offer advice to our organizers, design a website, or help in any other way, please contact Laura C. at Lacbot1974@gmail.com or 216-288-9587. Thank You!
If you are interested and/or have more time, visit these links below:
A virtual “public” development meeting was held on February 10th by University Circle Incorporated (UCI), announcing the new development coming to Hessler and Ford. Community members were not allowed to speak, and UCI did not initially make the Q&A available. Click here to watch this meeting and subsequent meetings, and see records regarding the proposed development.
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“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”
― Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities
Hessler Road looms large in local consciousness. All of us who love the street, whether we’ve called it home or know it from the Hessler Street Fair, want to ensure that it is protected and developed responsibly with the needs of residents in mind.