New Development on Hessler Road, Tenant Displacement on Ford Drive




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The Story: On February 10th, 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 1975 Ford Drive. University Circle Incorporated (UCI) left the Hessler community out of the planning process and presented the project as a “done deal” in the Feb. 10th meeting where they were told ground breaking could start as early as 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.

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, increased density and decreased permeable surface areas contributing to water runoff issues. 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 developers will increase the number of bedrooms in 1981 Ford and rent each bedroom for around $900. 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.

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Fast, Effective and Easy Way to Help

Compose your own email to:

-Donald Petit and Karl Brunjes, City of Cleveland Landmarks Commission.

-Kim Scott, Chief City Planner, The Euclid Corridor Design Review Committee

-Freddie Collier, Director, The City Planning Commission

-Councilman Blaine Griffin

-Laura Cyrocki, Hessler Neighborhood Association, Hessler Coalition

To open a blank email addressed to these City officials, CLICK HERE. Ask that your email be shared with the whole committee.

To access template letters: CLICK HERE

Share your thoughts about protecting Cleveland’s First Historic District, The Hessler Court and Hessler Road Historic District, and its living history, displayed in its present day charm and of course in The Hessler Street Fair. Add a personal message about your connection to Hessler.

If the City of Cleveland can’t protect the birthplace of the Landmarks Commission and its first Historic District, what will it protect? Keep Hessler historic.

Feel free to cut and paste these bullet points which you might find helpful:

-Protect Cleveland’s first historic district by strongly opposing the UCI/Maron/Berusch development proposal. Keep the historic garage and backyard at 1975 Ford Drive undeveloped. 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 community has been working with the City of Cleveland for over half a century to protect Hessler. The Cleveland Landmarks Commission originated out of the work done to protect Hessler in 1971. Hessler Court, the wood-block paved road, is Cleveland’s last remaining wood-block road and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. Hessler Court and Hessler Road Historic District was designated as Cleveland’s first Landmark District in 1975.

-The historic district follows a short, narrow, one-way brick road and dead ends at an even narrower woodblock paved egress. The Hessler Court and Hessler Road Historic District’s stone sidewalks, curbs, century old sewers, brick and wood block paving and tree canopy are compromised. New development will put too much pressure on this fragile 115 year old landmark district and streetscape.

-The Hessler Street Fair celebrated its 50th year anniversary in 2019. It is a historic event. Protect the 1975 Ford Drive garage and backyard used annually as Hessler Street Fair’s museum and food court.

-New construction has not undergone sufficient planning studies, such as historic preservation, storm-water management, traffic, light, parking, feasibility and safety studies.

-The proposed micro-unit apartment building is a significant departure architecturally and conceptually from the type of residential units that are found in the historic district. It is incompatible with the landmark district. Can Maron and Beursch be offered 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.

-UCI, Russell Berusch and Rick Maron need to repair the damage they’ve done to the wood-block road, tree canopy, historic sidewalks and landscaping. Berusch owns the Hessler 113 Townhomes and does not manage the tenants there. Trust needs to be built with these developers before they are allowed to make more impacts.

-The concept doesn’t honor the district’s use and historic significance and contribution to social history, nor does it align with the cultural achievements for fair housing that occurred here. Renovations at 1975 and 1981 Ford Drive should not displace tenants because of rent hikes. The Hessler community demands access to affordable, owner-occupied housing and reasonable rent.

-No development should take place outside of the context of a neighborhood and preservation plan.

-Tax abatements usher in developers who gobble up land and neighborhoods without regard for the fragile web of community that grew there over time. For fifteen years, these developers will not pay property taxes on their buildings, robbing schools and the community of funds.

Individual Contact Information:

-Councilman Blaine Griffin Phone: 216-664-4234 Email: bgriffin@clevelandcitycouncil.org

-Kim Scott, Chief City Planner, Euclid Corridor Design Review Committee: Phone: 216-664-3803 Email: kscott@clevelandohio.gov

-Karl Brunjes, Senior Assistant City Planner, Landmarks Commission Phone: 216-664-7445 Email: kbrunjes@clevelandohio.gov and

-Donald Petit, City Planner, Secretary-Landmarks Commission, Phone:216-664-2532 Email: dpetit@clevelandohio.gov

-Chris Ronayne, President, University Circle Incorporated Phone: 216-791-3905 Email: chris.ronayne@universitycircle.org

-Developers: Rick Maron: Phone: 216-513-3027 Email: rick_maron@hotmail.com and Russell Berusch Phone: 216-402-8089 Email: russell@berusch.com

-Hessler Community: lcyrocki@hotmail.com

Join the Meeting Alert List

Sign up on this Google Group, “hessleralert“, to receive notices about important City meetings. This is a one-way notification list used only for us to alert you. (If you want to reach us via email, you can do so at: Contact Us or Get Involved below.)

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:

Development Meetings

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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Help us build a comprehensive picture of community needs based on your connection to Hessler.

Collecting Hessler Archives on the Box app.

We are also collecting and archiving documents and photos related to Hessler’s historic status. Take a look at what we have and contribute your own.

“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.