Ohio City office building to be restored to its apartment roots

Photo by STAN BULLARD After a decade in the dark, the lights are back on at the Heyse Building in Cleveland. Construction contractors are starting to install apartments in one of the city's first apartment buldings.IT was last used as offices.

 

A cyclone fence has gone up and the lights are back on at the three-floor Heyse Building in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood.

Construction crews are starting what’s estimated by the state of Ohio as a $5 million project to install apartments in the building on Franklin Circle.

In a switch from other adaptive reuse projects in Cleveland that are turning office buildings into apartments, the structure at 1702 W. 28th St. is being converted back to rental residences. State records show the building was one of the first recorded apartment buildings in Cleveland when it went up in 1897. But it was converted to offices in 1982.

Kirt Montlack, the owner of Cleveland Shaker Heights-based Montlack Realty, said that when he bought the empty building at an auction in 2006, he thought he could rent it out as offices. That didn’t prove to be the case.

So he switched direction to apartments.

“It’s really just a shell,” Montlack said of the building with intricate designs in its brick exterior. “Vandals tore out the electrical wiring and plumbing years ago. But it’s a solid building and the masonry is in good shape.”

Plans call for installing 31 apartments ranging in size from 400 square feet to a two-story penthouse with 2,400 square feet of space.

Rents will be about $1.75 a square foot when the structure opens in a year, ranging upwards from $700 monthly based on the suite’s size.

Cuyahoga County land records show that Nyman Construction of Warrensville Heights is the general contractor and First Federal of Lakewood the lender.

Montlack declined to say how much the loan is for or to disclose a budget for the project. However, the Ohio Development Services reported it would be a $5 million project when it awarded a $570,000 state historic preservation tax credit to the project in December 2015.

The apartment will be Montlack Realty’s first in Ohio City. The third-generation realty firm owns 34 other apartment buildings between Cleveland Heights, Shaker Heights and Lakewood, according to its website.

Montlack said he originally hoped to do the project in 2008, but financing was not available.

“So far, it’s been the worst deal I’ve ever made,” Montlack said. “Architecturally, it is a beautiful building. I think that the location is a good one. It’s on a quieter street than West 25th Street or Lorain Avenue, but within walking distance of the bars and restaurants. That’s why I kept it. The land is valuable.”

Montlack said his father, Malcolm Montlack, who died last April, had advocated for property in Ohio City for years because he felt the market there was improving. Now, with new apartment buildings rising nearby commanding rents of more than $1,000 monthly and single-family homes with similar asking rental rates, his dad has proven to be right.

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