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Townhouse project in Cleveland's University Circle bucks recent trend toward apartments

Posted May 15, 2013 in Articles

Author: Michelle Jarboe McFee

Bucking the apartment-building blitz, a Cleveland real estate investment group plans to construct and sell 20 townhouses on the eastern rim of University Circle.

Between November and April, Bluewater Capital Partners LLC quietly bought 0.7 acres along East 118th Street. Now the investment group, led by executives at Allegro Realty Advisors of Cleveland, is preparing to clear the land and hopes to start construction this summer.

The project, called the University Place Townhomes, would be the fifth new residential development on the street since 2007.

"University Circle is a unique place on the globe," said Michael Cantor, a Bluewater principal. "The walk-ability is a huge attraction for people coming from other urban areas. ... It's a neighborhood that's built to last."

By focusing on for-sale housing, the leaders of Bluewater are taking a contrarian stance. The schools and hospitals in University Circle drive steady demand for apartments for researchers, doctors and students on several-years stints in the city. And apartments are easier to finance.

With the housing market improving, a few developers are speculating about condominiums. Still, everything under construction in University Circle, including two East 118th projects set to open in August and early 2014, is aimed at renters.

But the most recent townhouse projects in the district are sold out. The last available home at Circle 118, at East 118th and Euclid Avenue, changed hands for $331,000 on May 1, according to property records. At the nearby 27 Coltman development, two April re-sales fetched $370,000 and $380,000, up slightly from what the original buyers paid in 2011 and 2010.

"There's a market there that's not being served," said Russell Lamb, another Bluewater principal. "There is no supply."

Plans for University Place show three-story townhouses with garages, rooftop decks and one-to-three bedrooms. The homes along East 118th will face Case Western Reserve University's ballpark, with the units to the east overlooking a historic cemetery.

The townhouses will be priced in the mid-$200,000s to mid-$300,000s -- a notch below what other projects, built a few years ago, sought. Lamb and Cantor said they are in "advanced discussions" with a construction lender and have a potential buyer for the first townhouse, which would be used as a model.

"A project like this demonstrates that you can bring new housing construction into existing urban streets in a way that's integrated - in every way, people, income and product," said Chris Ronayne, president ofUniversity Circle Inc., a nonprofit development group.

"There may be a few more opportunities on streets like East 118th, but the reality is that the future is beyond," he added, pointing to vacant or blighted properties in the Glenville, Hough, Little Italy and Fairfax neighborhoods. "As we create a walk-able, sustainable, dynamic district, those boundaries should expand."

Cleveland City Councilman Kevin Conwell and University Circle Inc. will hold a community meeting to share the plans for University Place at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Constantino's Market on Euclid.

Original Article: http://www.cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2013/05/townhouse_project_in_cleveland.html

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