Stark and J-Dek leaning toward NBBJ of Columbus and Bialosky of Cleveland as architects of nuCLEus project


CLEVELAND, Ohio – Developer Robert Stark promised the city’s planning commission that his proposed nuCLEus development downtown would provide “brand new iconic architecture that lets the world know we are competing at the highest level in global economy.”

Stark didn’t give specifics in the meeting, but said in an interview afterwards that he’s negotiating with the Columbus office of NBBJ to hire two architects he considered the best in the international firm.

He declined to name the architects, but he said he’d like to combine NBBJ with Bialosky + Partners Architects of Cleveland, which has designed local projects including Stark’s Crocker Park development in Westlake.

Jack Bialosky Jr., a principal of the firm, serves on the city’s Downtown/Flats Design Review Committee.

Stark said he plans to announce the choice of architects “within a week,” and that his Stark Enterprises and J-Dek Investments Ltd., of Solon, the firm partnering in the $250 million to $350 million downtown development, plan to be back at City Hall within six to eight weeks with conceptual designs for the large development.

On Friday, the planning commission voted 6-0 to approve an early diagrammatic plan for nuCLEus and a proposal for tax increment financing in which the city would allow the non-school portion of increased real estate tax revenue from the project to help finance project debt.

The project, to be located on two blocks south of Prospect Avenue and north of Huron Road east of East 4th Street, will include 120,000 to 140,000 square feet of retail, a 150- to 200-room hotel, 200,000 square feet of office space, 500 residential units and 1,500 to 1,600 parking spaces in garage levels stacked above street-level restaurants and stores.

On the way toward formulating a design team, Stark said he interviewed three of the hottest firms in the U.S. and the world – Studio Gang Architects of Chicago; BIG of New York and Copenhagen; and SHoP Architects of New York.

But he said the firms were in such heavy demand that they were unable to move as quickly on the Cleveland project as he and J-Dek wanted.

Stark said that speed is essential on nuCLEus in order to make the project’s financing work.

“The great thing was that they all recognized how spectacular the [nuCLEus] development is,” Stark said of the firms he and J-Dek considered.

But he said he also learned that architects whose work is in global demand could be choosy about their clients, which reverses the usual relationship in an interview.

“You don’t get to pick them,” Stark said. “When they’re rock stars, they pick you. It was first time in my experience I was being interviewed. I had to sell the city, the time we’re at in the city, and the importance of the city.”

Stark said he was especially impressed with the Gang firm, headed by architect Jeanne Gang, who designed the 82-story Aqua residential tower near Grant Park in Chicago’s Loop with undulating terraces that mimic waves.

But he said the firm couldn’t provide a design team until the summer of 2015 for the Cleveland project.

Stark said the New York office of BIG also “turned my head,” but he that the firm also couldn’t meet his schedule.

BIG, known for projects including a waste-to-energy plant in Copenhagen with a ski slope on the roof, couldn’t provide designers from its New York office who could meet Stark’s timetable, he said.

The firm then later offered and withdrew its Copenhagen office when that office became too busy on prior commitments, Stark said.

Stark next turned to NBBJ, which also responded to a request for proposals from Stark Enterprises and J-Dek. The credits of the Columbus office include the Cleveland Clinic’s recently completed Sydell & Arnold Miller Pavilion on Euclid Avenue at East 93rd Street.

Stark said he’s fully confident that NBBJ can meet the standards he wants to set.

“They have done this type of architecture around the world,” he said.

During Friday’s meeting, Stark displayed a slide of three unnamed contemporary urban towers with highly articulated glass skins as an example of the direction he’d like to pursue for nuCLEus.

One of the towers looked like a stack of blocks slightly offset from one another; another twisted as it rose, producing a subtle series of asymmetrical outcrops. The towers were distinctive, and unlike anything on the Cleveland skyline.

Stark reiterated that he wants a design team with proven experience in designing tall office and residential buildings – something that he said doesn’t exist in Cleveland.

“I don’t want to do this for the first time with somebody,” he said.

But he said he also wants a local firm collaborating with a non-Cleveland design firm to provide a strong understanding of the city, and to give the local firm a chance to gain new experience.

“You can do architecture like you have seen in New York Chicago and other cities, and you can make an impact,” he said. “It can be transformational. You can start a movement and be transformational in the city.”

source: Plain Dealer

Stark Enterprises seeks early approvals for ‘nuCLEus,’ large mixed-use project near The Q


CLEVELAND, Ohio — Stark Enterprises is seeking early approvals and financing help from the city of Cleveland for a project that could change the downtown skyline, with 500 apartments, offices, stores, restaurants, a hotel and structured parking.

Representatives for the developer expect to appear at a city design review committee meeting Thursday and the Cleveland City Planning Commission on Friday. Both bodies will consider conceptual plans for a project called nuCLEus, slated for a large parking lot and other property north of Quicken Loans Arena.

The Plain Dealer first reported on the project, a joint venture between Cleveland-based Stark and J-Dek Investments Ltd. of Solon, in August. The companies paid $26 million in September for most of the development site and other downtown real estate formerly owned by the L&R Group of Companies of California.

“We’re going to announce our lead architect, our design architect shortly, within the next few weeks,” said Ezra Stark, chief operating officer for Stark Enterprises.

“We expect a lot of announcements from various public agencies regarding the assistance we’re hoping to receive in order to make this project happen,” he added. “We’re looking to the state, the county and the city in order to bring new construction to this marketplace, because you can’t do it without public assistance.”

Stark wouldn’t discuss the details of the potential financing plan.

But Cleveland is laying groundwork for a tax-increment financing agreement, which would earmark a portion of new property-tax revenues generated by the development to repaying project debt. The TIF would not touch property-tax revenues slated for the schools, which could receive an estimated $60 million from the new construction over 30 years.

Preliminary legislation related to the TIF was introduced at Cleveland City Council last month. Council also will see a request this year for two $180,000 forgivable loans for the project, through a city program focused on vacant or little-used properties. The residential portion of the project will be eligible for property-tax abatement, which is widely available for new housing in Cleveland.

Other potential public incentives include money from Cuyahoga County’s pool of casino revenues meant for downtown projects.

Bob Stark, president and chief executive officer of Stark Enterprises, has said nuCLEus could be a $250 million to $350 million investment. That project could generate new city parking taxes and income-tax revenues of $1.2 million a year, estimated Tracey Nichols, the city’s economic-development director.

“What’s really significant here is the fact that this is a surface parking lot that’s now being developed,” Nichols said. “In downtown, we’ve seen projects that are redevelopments of existing buildings. … With the tools we have, we can now do a new construction project. As we continue to increase demand, increase retail, and all the things that are coming into Cleveland, we anticipate that we will need less public funds to support these projects.”

City Councilman Joe Cimperman, who represents much of downtown, said he supports the project and looks forward to seeing details about the public-financing requests.

“I don’t think that there is a better time for this,” Cimperman said, pointing to heightened attention to the Gateway District thanks to LeBron James’s return to the Cleveland Cavaliers and the 2016 Republican National Convention planned for The Q. “But we’re about to see if time and pressure can make a diamond, because this is a huge endeavor. … This is the cauldron of stress that could facilitate a project like this happening.”

Stark hopes to extend the pedestrian feel of East Fourth Street, which is lined with restaurants between Euclid and Prospect avenues, south to Huron Road near The Q. The developer also wants to transform an existing walkway between Huron and Prospect, near the eastern edge of the site, into a more intimate pedestrian alley, with outdoor dining, small shops and bars on either side.

A presentation compiled for this week’s design review and planning meetings shows that Stark and J-Dek have honed their plans during the last few months. Blocky conceptual studies for the 3-acre Gateway District site feature a handful of towers perched atop parking garages, with retail lining the streets.

The tallest building could stand as tall as 500 feet, though current sketches show roughly 30 floors overlooking the lower, park-like roofs of parking garages. The development is likely to require zoning modifications.

Ezra Stark compared the project to the much larger CityCenter complex on the Las Vegas Strip or the twin-towered Time Warner Center in New York. If the development happens, it will be one of the largest recent real estate investments in downtown Cleveland, ranking with the Flats East Bank neighborhood, the makeover of the former Ameritrust buildings on East Ninth Street and the taxpayer-funded convention center complex where a new Hilton hotel is being built.

Stark aims to open the parking portions of nuCLEus before the mid-2016 RNC. Other parts of the development might open in late 2016 or early 2017.

Source: Plain Dealer

Cleveland City Planning Commission to review Stark Enterprises, J-Dek Investments joint venture ‘nuCLEus’ project


Downtown Cleveland’s next big real estate development — two buildings of 18 and 31 floors called “nuCLEus” — will get its first review by city planning bodies on Thursday, Nov. 6, and Friday, Nov. 7.

The project proposed by a joint venture of Stark Enterprises of Cleveland and J-Dek Investments Ltd. of Solon is on the southeast corner of Prospect Avenue and East Fourth Street. It will use two massive parking lots and the sites of a low-rise commercial building and parking garage between the East 4th Street Neighborhood and Quicken Loans Arena for a mixed-use project consisting of retail, residential office and parking space.

At the sessions, the city review bodies will be asked for conceptual approval of the project. The early look allows developers to benefit from the city’s desires before the developers spend more time and money developing detailed plans needed for win final city OKs.

Documents the Cleveland City Planning Commission has posted online about the project show the building with 31 stories will have 7,000 square feet of ground-level retail space, 200,000 square feet of office space on seven levels and 88 residential units on the structure’s top 11 floors.

The 18-story building, which occupies a larger site, would consist of two floors of retail space totaling 115,000 square feet and 12 floors of dwelling units, according to the drawings. Both structures incorporate parking spaces, with 12 floors devoted to parking in the taller building and five in the shorter one.

All told, the buildings would accommodate more than 1,500 cars.

The city’s Downtown/Flats Design Review Committee will take up the proposal, and other business, at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday. The Cleveland City Planning Commission meets at 9 a.m. on Friday.

A spokeswoman for Stark said CEO Robert Stark was traveling today, Nov. 5, and was not available for comment.

The joint venture between Stark and J-Dek acquired the site in the Historic Gateway Neighborhood that will form “nuCLEus,” along with a parking lot on West Ninth Street in the Warehouse District, in September.

The massive swath of surface parking between Prospect and Huron has been held out as a major development parcel since 1990 during area planning studies conducted by Gateway Economic Development Corp.

Source: Crain’s Cleveland Business