School could be razed for homes

Also see: Reaction to proposal is mixed

Staff Writer

Oct. 28, 1999

Neighborhood leaders have a theory about the high high volume of criminal activity in the area near St. Jerome Church: A lack of homeowners in that area.

If developers have their way, though, there could be 33 new homeowners living near East 152nd Street and Lake Shore Boulevard.

Cleveland Heights architect Dominick Durante, in conjunction with Northeast Shores Development Corporation, is working on a proposal to tear down Memorial School at East 152nd and Lucknow Avenue and erect 33 single-family homes in its place.

Northeast Shores executive director Anne Coan said construction could begin next spring if everything falls into place.

"We still have to investigate further re-use of the school," Coan said. The deadline to finalize the acquisition is Dec. 31, which would also be the last day any serious plans for the renovation of the 90-year-old school would be considered.

Another hurdle to overcome is a funding gap between what the non-profit Northeast Shores has received on the proposal and how much is needed to complete the property acquisition. Coan said the city has committed $500,000 to the project in the form of two Housing Trust Fund grants. Another $250,000 is needed, however, and Coan said the development corporation is looking at a variety of sources to come up with the remaining amount.

Coan said if those obstacles are cleared, demolition of the school could take place between January and April and construction of the first homes in the development, likely the four units planned for East 152nd Street, would begin in April.

Durante said the homes would be between 1,400 and 2,000 square feet in size and come in five different designs to accomodate a range of potential buyers.

"They will be designed for a variety of family styles," Durante said. Some would be targeted to young families and others would be built for older couples whose children have moved out of the house. Additionally, some would be set up for two-buyer households, such as a couple with adult children still living at home, allowing for essentially two separate living quarters.

Some features of the homes would include front porches, basements, master bedroom suites and walk-in closets. A two-car garage, either attached or detached, would be built for each house. Coan said the homes would cost between $140,000 and $180,000.

Most of the homes would be built on a street that would cut through the property at the point where the school building now stands, connecting East 152nd and Lucknow. The rest of the homes would be built along the east side of East 149th Street. The memorial dedicated to the 172 children and three adults who lost their lives in the infamous 1908 Lakeview Elementary School fire would remain on the northeast corner of the property.

Durante said the project is a great chance to inject new life into that area of North Collinwood.

"This will make a big impact on the community," Durante said. "It will act as a catalyst to the surrounding homes."

According to figures provided by Ward 11 Councilman Michael Polensek, 127 of the 168 homes on three nearby streets -- East 147th, East 148th and East 149th -- are two-family structures and half of those are occupied by renters. Polensek said if there were more homeowners in that area, there would be less crime.

Neighborhood planner George Gilliam agreed that home ownership is crucial to any community.

"The goal of that area is to have more home ownership," Gilliam said. "It is important to have home ownership in a neighborhood or else it will go to pieces."

The combination of filling that need plus finding a use for the five-acre property on which the school sits creates a seemingly ideal situation for the proposed development.

"There aren't many opportunities like this left in the city," Durante said. "Northeast Shores was looking for sites to build single-family homes. The school has been abandoned for 20 years and the community is in need of new single-family homes.

Durante has been or is involved with several major housing developments in the city, including Mill Creek, Beacon Place, Central Commons, and Bicentennial Village. He is also working on condominiums and single-family homes in Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights. Locally, he is working with some Waterloo Road businesses on storefront renovations and streetscape improvement projects.

While tearing down Memorial School is the most controversial aspect of the project, Durante said it is a necessary part of the plans.

"The fact that the school has ?

been sitting there under-utilized for 20 years is an indication that there's no use for it in the community any more," Durante said. "It would be nice if it could be redeveloped, but there has been no viable use presented for it."

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