Northeast Ohio Properties (February 2024)

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Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association of Cleveland

CONGRATULATES The Newly Elected Board of Directors 2024-2026

President Michael Steidel Castle Heating & Air, Inc.

Director Don Skala Franck & Fric, Inc.

Vice President Craig Berman Geauga Mechanical Co.

Secretary Rob Schimmelpfennig HAVE, Inc.

Treasurer John E. Sickle, Jr. Duct Fabricators, Inc.

Director Director Jack May Joe Ziska Aberdeen Mechanical, Inc. Brewer-Garrett Company

Immediate Past Pres. Thomas E. Martin T.H. Martin, Inc.

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February 2024, Volume 78, Number 2


EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Mark Watt 216.251.2655 OFFICE MANAGER Lisa Larissey 440.429.6153

MEDIA CONSULTANTS Matt Lehnert 216.251.6753 Larry Overbey 216.251.6649 OWNER Real Estate Publishing Corporation Jeff Johnson, CEO Cover photo: Fairfax Market + Medley, by Cheryl DeBono (Michaelangelo’s Photography)

Photo by Daniel Prucey

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Doug Bardwell, Scott Esterly, Dan Holland, Christopher Johnston, Alec Pacella


Cornering the Market


Rising to Greater Heights


Sparkle + Shine


Special Section: Legal Services + Risk Management

Meijer grocery, Medley apartments bring refreshing change near Cleveland Clinic campus Benesch meets growing needs with new offices at Key Tower Radiant Bride moves into elegant new, Parisian-style home in Rocky River 50 One-Sided Contracts: Risk protection or false security from hidden costs? 54 Property Tax Appeals: Examining the fight between taxpayers & school districts 56 Financial Strategies: Giddy Up 58 Legal Perspectives: Correcting the Past, Securing the Future 62 NAIOP News: All Ohio Future Fund Ready to Roll Out 64 It’s More Than Just Office... A look at the impact of price declines & their potential effect on property tax assessments

Properties (ISSN 033-1287) is published monthly for architects, engineers, building owners and managers, general contractors, home builders, mortgage bankers, savings and loans, real estate agents, appraisers, servicers and suppliers in Northern Ohio by Properties, Inc., 8305 Chesterfield Ave., Parma, OH 44129-1813. Copyright © 2024 by Properties, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction or use, without written permission, of editorial or pictorial content is strictly prohibited. Periodicals postage paid in Cleveland, Ohio and additional offices. Subscription rates: one year $30, single copy $9, back issues $12 when available. Postmaster: send change of address notices to Properties, 8305 Chesterfield Ave., Parma, OH 44129-1813.

DEPARTMENTS 6 32 36 40 56 58 62 66


PROPERTIES PEOPLE Highlighting notable industry events

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1 2024 ACAR President Mark Vittardi (Century 21 DePiero & Assoc., Inc.) and wife Sarah Vittardi 2 Executive Committee: Immediate Past President Akil Hameed (FASS Management & Real Estate Svc.), Treasurer Gary Post (RE/MAX Crossroads Properties), President-Elect Drew Gaebelien (eXp Realty), President Mark Vittardi (Century 21 DePiero & Assoc., Inc.) and ACAR CEO Mike Valerino 3 Beth Dzurilla (Mutual Title Agency Inc.), Gary Post (RE/ MAX Crossroads Properties) and Jeannet Wright (FASS Management & Real Estate Svc.) 4 2024 ACAR Influencers Casie Crawford (Howard Hanna), Courtney DeMarco (Fairway Independent Mortgage), Amber Lewis (New Era Real Estate Group, Inc.) and Alex Cruz (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Professional Realty) 5 Past Presidents Jim Fox (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices), Sally Johnson (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Stouffer Realty), Seth Task (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Professional Realty) and Joanne Zettl (Elite Sotheby’s International Realty) 6 ACAR President Mark Vittardi and Ohio REALTORS 2024 President Ali Whitley

The Akron Cleveland Association of REALTORS (ACAR) recently held its annual Inaugural at St. Michael’s Woodside Events Center in Broadview Heights. ACAR’s 2024 President Mark Vittardi took his oath of office, along with the members of the 2024 board of directors. Over 140 people were in attendance, including many of ACAR’s past presidents, local dignitaries and special guests.

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The Greater Cleveland chapter of Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) recently hosted a happy hour at Collision Bend Brewing Company in Cleveland. Sponsored by JSI Janitorial, the event allowed attendees to network while celebrating the start of a new year.



1 Oliver Mahnke (RWK) and Zac Burgess (Ketchum & Walton) 2 Katy Garbrandt (JSI Janitorial, LLC) and Heather Thompson (BOMA Greater Cleveland) 3 Jason Eichler (The Brewer-Garrett Company) and Ryan West (JSI Janitorial)

Properties | February 2024

Photos courtesy of BOMA Greater Cleveland

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Cornering the Market

Meijer grocery, Medley apartments bring refreshing change near Cleveland Clinic campus By Dan Holland | Photos by Cheryl DeBono (Michaelangelo’s Photography) & Mark Watt


or years, food insecurity has challenged Cleveland’s Fairfax neighborhood, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture has identified as an “urban food desert” for a lack of nearby supermarkets. Access to healthy, nutritious grocery options, such as fresh produce and meat, was severely lacking for residents. Change has arrived with the grand opening of Fairfax Market by Meijer at 2190 E. 105th St. on January 16. The 40,000-square-foot grocery is part of a larger $52.8 million mixed-use development situated along the southern edge of the sprawling Cleveland Clinic campus, which is poised to help revitalize and transform the neighborhood. Atop Meijer Fairfax Market rises the 160,000-square-foot, five-story, 199-unit Medley apartment complex, offering seven floor plans ranging from 441-square-foot studios to 1,034-squarefoot, two-bedroom apartments. A three-level structural concrete parking garage, adjacent to the complex on the south end of the lot, provides 90 minutes of free parking for shoppers in 100 ground-level spaces, along with additional parking for residents. Designed by Bialosky with John G. Johnson Construction as construction 8

manager at risk, the entire complex brings more than 200,000 square feet of modern shopping and living space to the heart of the Fairfax neighborhood. Fairmount Properties is the owner/developer for the project, working in tandem with Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation and Cleveland Clinic, who co-own the three-acre site. Last September, apartment tenants, many of which are employed by Cleveland Clinic, began moving into Medley as floors were finished. Final completion of the complex is expected early this year.

Key partners

“We embrace the fact that we are an anchor institution,” says Vickie Johnson, chief community officer for Cleveland

Clinic. “Our role is to collaborate with other community stakeholders to leverage the economic impact of our main campus employees and our purchasing power to attract businesses to create jobs, and retailers to provide neighborhoodlevel goods and services for the benefit of the community.” “The need was two-fold,” says Brice Hamill, vice president of design and planning for Fairmount Properties. “One was to solve a real, social issue, which was the food desert located in this neighborhood, and the other was Cleveland Clinic’s proactive nature to really want to turn their campus outward to the residential neighborhood.” The larger vision for the neighborhood is captured in the Innovation Square Plan, notes Denise VanLeer, Properties | February 2024

AROUND THE CORNER In addition to Fairfax Market by Meijer at street level, the new $52.8 mixed-use development includes the five-story Medley apartment complex with a dedicated entry on the building’s northeast corner.

executive director of Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation. “The plan envisions a walkable, dense, mixed-use, mixed-income district with access to jobs, opportunities for area businesses, amenities residents want, opportunities for community building and housing options at every price point, market rate, workforce and affordable housing options,” she explains. “You always hear about urban food deserts, says Aaron Hill, co-CEO of Bialosky. “Living and working throughout Cleveland, you see it. The need was there and thankfully, Cleveland Councilman Blaine Griffin and Cleveland Clinic came together and committed to that goal.”

president. “We talked to seniors on their porches, children and teens playing at the park and several residents just walking down the street.” The pair then hosted a community conversation at the Karamu House

From there, Cleveland Clinic and Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation teamed with Meijer and Fairmount Properties to initiate plans for the development. According to Griffin, the City of Cleveland contributed more than $11 million for the project, along with $200,000 of Ward 6 Discretionary Funding. “Fairmount Properties reached out to Bialosky in 2021,” Hill says. “We had worked with them previously on some of these more complex mixed-use projects, so they had confidence in us, and we were fortunate enough to implement the project with them.” G. Johnson Construction, Brice Hamill of John Cleveland, was brought on in Fairmount Properties 2021, with site work beginning in January 2022. “Our preconstrucwith residents and 18 executives from tion team worked hand-in-hand with the Cleveland Clinic, seeking to better Bialosky on some of the value-engiunderstand the neighborhood’s needs and neered routines to get things started,” how Cleveland Clinic could contribute. explains Grant Schwede, project man“The overwhelming response was that ager for John G. Johnson. the community wanted a neighborhood “When we started, the need was gathering place that old and new resi- for a full-service grocery store,” says dents could benefit from, like a grocery Hill. “After further market research, store,” Griffin says. Fairmount Properties determined that


Conversations between Cleveland Clinic CEO and President Tom Mihaljevic and Ward 6 Councilperson Blaine Griffin began in 2018. “Tom and I walked the neighborhood and talked to several community members,” says Griffin, who currently also serves as Cleveland City Council 10

Properties | February 2024

Photo by Mark Watt

“The need was two-fold. One was to solve a real, social issue, which was the food desert located in this neighborhood, and the other was Cleveland Clinic’s proactive nature to really want to turn their campus outward to the residential neighborhood.”

Photo by Mark Watt

Proud to have served as the Architect and MEP Engineer for Fairfax Market and Medley

LOCAL COLOR A vibrant, fresh producethemed mural adorns the south-facing exterior wall, which includes employee entrances and a secondary entry for residents.

200 apartment units would be ideal in making this project a reality.”

Site management

The three-acre site on the southwest corner of E. 105th Street and Cedar Avenue consisted mainly of a parking lot, fencing and trees, according to Schwede. Two original homes, each occupied by lifelong residents of the neighborhood, remained until the final construction phase. “Two ladies, who grew up and lived in the houses on the site, remained living there until six months ago when we built the parking garage,” Hill explains. “As part of this project, Fairmount Properties worked with those ladies to build each one a new home on East 101st Street – two streets over – where they still live side-by-side as they have for all those years.”

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Exterior considerations

The exterior appearance of the complex received input from a number of different stakeholders before arriving at a design consensus, explains Hill. “Since Fairmount Properties is the owner, we had to first make sure the design matched their vision and budget,” he says. “Then, Meijer had the expectation of it matching up with their brand identity. Brick and steel worked within the design aesthetic. As it’s part of the Cleveland Clinic campus, we met with them weekly. They wanted this building to be cohesive with the aesthetic of the

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Photo by Cheryl DeBono

WIDE ARRAY The new 40,000-square-foot Fairfax Market features more than 2,000 local products from 150 local vendors, along with fresh produce and prepared food options. A north entrance, directly across from the Cleveland Clinic campus, leads to the 54-seat Saucy Brew Works Coffee and Café, a sushi station and open dining space with grab-and-go offerings.

Clinic, as a clean, modern design with a nonchromatic palette.” Bialosky also worked with Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation to align the aesthetics of the development so it would have a residential-scale presence, he explains. “That was when we decided to step back the residential part of the building 15 feet from the podium to break up the scale,” Hill says. Fairfax Market, which has both north and south entrances, as well as a resident-only entrance from Medley, features full-height glazing on three sides. “As you walk around this block, it’s a huge building, but it doesn’t feel overwhelming because we worked so hard to get full glazing on all of those walls by strategically placing the coolers and shelving,” explains Hill. “You have the scale of a market, and then it steps back up to the five stories of residential above.” In addition to a full-height storefront system, the exterior of the market features concrete block, gray Manganese iron-spot brick, dark metal panels and metal scaffolding above. Operable overhead garage doors near the Cedar Avenue entrance can be opened during the summer months. A large metal canopy with wood-planking extends above the south entrance, while a colorful, fresh produce-themed mural adorns the south-facing exterior wall.

A 15-foot-wide composite wood terrace atop the market podium extends around three sides of Medley, with glass sliding doors on the lowest level offering resident access to the terrace. Exterior street-side walls consist of a coordinated pattern of metal panels, brick, metal louvres and tinted Pella windows. “One of the things I’m most excited that we accomplished was taking notes from the Clinic architecture and the

material palette, color and scale, and also introducing more residential and textured materials to break down the scale,” says Hamill. Medley follows a block-U shape with exterior inward facing walls outlining a 20,000-square-foot, lower-level amenity deck, which provides open views to the west. Walls rising five stories above the all-weather turf deck consist of variated patterns and shades of gray metal panels



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CREATING SPACE Vast expanses of glass along the building’s perimeter and 21-foot-high ceilings provide a sense of openness throughout the market (top), while reclaimed hand-hewn wood posts and beams in the café (middle) and brickwork near the resident entry (bottom) add to the urban grit motif.

that draw the eye upward. Sliding glass doors on the lower-level interior units provide access to the amenity deck.

Inside Fairfax Market

Photo by Cheryl DeBono

The new Meijer location is the first small-format neighborhood market constructed outside of Michigan by the Grand Rapids-based retailer, versus its more common one-stop-shop supercenters found throughout the region. Fairfax Market is focused on providing fresh, local and convenient food at affordable prices, explains Alan Jordan, store director. “We’ve spent the last year connecting with local vendors and asking

Photo by Cheryl DeBono

“We’ve spent the last year connecting with local vendors and asking neighbors what they’d like to see in the market, and as a result we have curated more than 2,000 local products from 150 local vendors, and developed services that will benefit our neighbors.” Alan Jordan Fairfax Market

Photo by Mark Watt

neighbors what they’d like to see in the market, and as a result we have curated more than 2,000 local products from 150 local vendors, and developed services that will benefit our neighbors, such as multiple delivery options and on-site grocery pick-up,” he says. The market’s main entry is situated along the south side of the building near the parking garage. On the opposite side of the building, a north entrance leads to a 54-seat Saucy Brew Works that offers coffee, plus an array of food options, including sushi from Hissho Sushi. Reclaimed hand-hewn wood posts and beams outline the café space, adding to the urban grit motif alongside 15

RESIDENT AMENITIES A grand lobby (top) for the Medley apartment complex includes a communal seating area and kitchenette space (middle). Nearby is a fitness center (bottom), as well as a mail room and leasing office.

Photo by Cheryl DeBono

industrial-themed materials including concrete, brick and steel. The market offers a 52-foot wet rack for fresh fruits and vegetables, a large assortment of beers and wines, a floral and gift shop, health and beauty care products and an international section. Bialosky designed the shell of the market space, explains Hill. “We worked closely with Meijer initially to lay out how all of this was going to work,” he says. “Once that was set, Meijer had their own design team work on the aesthetics of what it would look like to follow their market model.”

Moving up to Medley

Photo by Mark Watt

The main entry into Medley, located on the northwest corner of the building, opens into a 21-foot-high grand lobby with several seating options, a kitchenette space, fitness center, offices, restrooms, a bike rack area, mail room, package pickup, storage and maintenance rooms. Stairs and an elevator in the main lobby area and south entrance lobby provide access to the apartment units, located on floors two through six. Units consist of micro, studio, onebedroom/one-bath and two-bedroom/ two-bath options, all with nine-foothigh ceilings. All units include a kitchen with stainless steel appliances and a washer-dryer combo. Select units feature a den, dining room, kitchen island and walk-in closets. All units feature a number of operable windows and manual window shades.

Design considerations

Photo by Cheryl DeBono

Although not specifically marketed as such, Medley tenants largely consist of Cleveland Clinic workers, according to Hill. Discussions with the Clinic directly influenced unit design. “They had two concerns of what they wanted these units to be,” says Hill. “They wanted apartments to be as quiet as possible, which meant the highest quality windows to maximize quality of sleep. They also wanted these rooms to be able to be darkened. There was 16

Properties | February 2024

Photos by Cheryl DeBono

OUT IN THE OPEN Apartment units are arranged in a U shape (left) with exterior inward-facing walls outlining a 20,000-square-foot amenity deck with open views to the west. Sliding glass doors on lower-level interior units provide access to the shared outdoor space (right).

careful placement of where the bedrooms were set back from the windows along with dark black-out shades.” The Bialosky design team omitted penetrations through the floor of the amenity deck. “That is all unobstructed space for the residents to enjoy, and it is completely over the mechanical space and Meijer space,” explains Hill. “We worked very hard to successfully tuck all the mechan-

ical systems for Meijer into a mezzanine without penetrating the roof.”

changed in the wake of pandemic-related pricing spikes, explains Hill. “The cost of lumber skyrocketed,” he says. “Midway Building systems through the project, we switched from The concrete and cold-formed metal wood to steel. That’s a monumental shift framing of Fairfax Market and Medley to make in building design when you’re began with caisson foundations, grade already into design documents.” beams and concrete columns to support Hill credits the success of that adjustthe 21-foot-high podium and residential ment to a team effort between all structure above. An original plan to con- stakeholders. “It was a true collabostruct Medley using wood framing hand-in-hand with Fairmount Pro uwas d to b ration, e th e mech a nica l contra ctor For

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LIVING OPTIONS Medley offers seven floor plans, ranging from 441-square-foot studios to 1,034-square-foot, two-bedroom apartments.

Properties, John G. Johnson and Bialosky meeting every week to address every possible detail and what we could be doing better,” he explains. Exterior and interior walls of Medley consist of prefabricated wall units. “All of the apartment walls, from the concrete podium up, were all panelized and built off-site,” explains Schwede.

“When you prefabricate, you make significant gains. You know exactly what you’re getting. You have clear expectations and consistent quality.” Aaron Hill Bialosky “They were brought in by truckload, and large cranes would just set in the panelized walls. They came complete with the exterior sheathing and windows installed.” “Even the interior partitions are all prefabbed panels,” adds Ray Corby, project manager for Bialosky. “They come with the frame to put in all the wiring and piping in, and they came as sections of interior walls – all the exterior walls and all the bearing walls in between.” The process, which is relatively new in multi-story projects, saves labor costs, time and construction material waste, according to Hill. 18

Properties | February 2024

Photo by Cheryl DeBono

SERVING NEEDS Kitchens are designed with quartz countertops, wood-inspired flooring, stainless steel appliances and two-tone cabinetry.

“When you prefabricate, you make significant gains. You know exactly what you’re getting,” he says. “You have clear expectations and consistent quality.” Two large HVAC units and a pair of chillers in the mechanical suite service Fairfax Market. Rooftop units service the corridors of Medley, while each apartment unit contains an individual VTAC system. A separate HVAC unit heats and cools the Medley lobby. Polished concrete floors spread through Fairfax Market, while flooring

throughout Medley consists of ceramic tile, carpet tile and LVT. A TPO roofing membrane system tops Medley. The building is pursuing LEED Silver certification, Hill adds. “It reinforces the smart material decisions and the HVAC systems approach,” he says. “It’s designed with the best intentions in a sustainable building.”

New connections

A delivery scheme for Meijer that did not involve semi-trailer trucks backing in at a 90-degree angle to docks neces-

sitated the transformation of Wain Court from a one-way alley to a twoway street. The plan also required a curb cut to allow a left-hand turn from East 105th Street northbound into Wain Court to access the site. “The initial challenge for this project was how to service a full-scale grocery market with heavy truck traffic without disrupting the neighborhoods,” says Hill. “We worked through that with the city to turn that into a real street from an alley to provide access by changing Opportunity Corridor. Turning imme-

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MAKING WAY The residential portion of the building is tucked back 15 feet from the podium, which helps reduce the scale of the building from the sidewalk below (left). It also allowed the inclusion of a unique, boardwalk-style outdoor space for tenants to enjoy (right).

diately into our site and backing in at an angle on E. 103rd, then pulling right back out, was [the best solution] on this constrained site.” Upgrading to commercial power in a neighborhood locale posed additional challenges. “Being in a neighborhood ended up working out, because with the Cleveland Clinic, they have a whole loop for their power, and it ended up with Cleveland Public Power having dead-ended at the end of the street, which we were able to extend to our project,” says Schwede. “Going through all the motions to get that designed and installed was a challenge. We did the majority of the project on temporary power.”

“We know that food is one of the cornerstones of good health, and we are proud to partner with Meijer to offer Fairfax and the Greater Cleveland community fresh, affordable food close to home,” Johnson concludes. “Fairfax Market is a testament to the positive changes a shared vision and coalition of community-minded organizations can bring to a neighborhood.”

how homey, bright and welcoming the market is.” “It was imperative to have the community buy in and support this to move the project forward,” Griffin says. “So, in order for us to do some of the other things we want to improve – housing stock, employment opportunities, health outcomes and more – we had to make this project successful.”

Fairfax Market & Medley Apartments (Cleveland, OH)

Collaborative effort

“The project is a win, not only for the neighborhood but for the Cleveland area in general,” VanLeer says. “Many persons that work in Cleveland and drive through the neighborhood daily look forward to shopping at the store. This project is an example of how many partners working together with the same goals can make a difference.” Rebecca Molyneaux, executive vice president of Fairmount Properties, notes that a major achievement of the project is providing access to fresh food for residents of the Fairfax neighborhood and Cleveland Clinic employees alike. “It really becomes a meeting place between the two, and it’s a really interesting location that was tastefully and beautifully done,” she says. “I am beyond impressed with the design and

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Rising to Greater Heights

Benesch meets growing needs with new offices at Key Tower Story by Scott Esterly | Photos by Scott Esterly and Daniel Prucey


uring the time that Gregg Eisenberg has been Benesch’s managing partner, the law firm continuously outgrew its space at 200 Public Square in downtown Cleveland. It turned out that its long-term solution to office space was just across Public Square at Key Tower. Benesch’s growth was so significant that the availability of eight contiguous floors and 164,828 square feet was too good to pass up. Floors 42 to 49 in Key Tower comprise the new Benesch offices.

When Eisenberg became managing partner in 2015, the firm was already beginning to consider scenarios for when their lease at 200 Public Square ended in 2019. Initial plans to move were curtailed in the fall of 2020, which necessitated a reset. Throughout this process, Benesch had to account for its continued growth and success, and built-out more space as needed. Benesch also signed several shortterm lease extensions as it continued its search process for a permanent home. “We did our due diligence and decided to come to Key Tower,” says John Banks, Benesch’s chief administrative officer. “Millennia is a great owner. Frank Sinito and his team do a great job running the building. The amenities are awesome. We were fortunate that they had eight contiguous floors available at the time we needed it.” The last round of employees officially moved into the new office at the begin22

ning of August 2023. Final construction of the Benesch offices in Key Tower was complete towards the end of 2023. “We made the right choice,” says Eisenberg. “I think Key Tower is phenomenal for us in many ways. Having the opportunity to design space like this that is built for today and the future was very important for us.”

Staying downtown

Benesch’s commitment to downtown Cleveland was paramount as options were considered. “We were always committed to downtown,” says Eisenberg. “It’s been our home for 85 years. We wanted to be in Cleveland.” Banks concurs. “We definitely wanted to stay downtown,” he says. “We think we belong here. We felt we owed it to the community and to the city” The combination of a brand-new, cutting-edge office and Key Tower’s

own amenities were the perfect match. Benesch’s new home was built to be a haven for its attorneys, professional staff and clients. “It’s going to help our firm in terms of collaboration and make our work more productive,” says Eisenberg.

Built for growth

Since Eisenberg became managing partner, he has worked tirelessly on a vision for Benesch to grow laterally, Banks notes. “He’s not only our managing partner, but he’s also our primary recruiter,” he says. “We wouldn’t be sitting here today had he not become managing partner in 2015.” That year, Benesch had offices in Cleveland, Columbus and Wilmington, Delaware. The first new office added was in Chicago, which started with two attorneys in April 2016. Today, the Chicago office has more than 120 attorneys. Subsequently, Benesch added offices in Properties | February 2024

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MOVING UP Benesch’s new offices occupy eight contiguous floors within Cleveland’s Key Tower, totaling 164,828 square feet.

San Francisco and, most recently, New York. Both of those offices have grown significantly, as have the Cleveland and Columbus locations. Currently, the Cleveland office has a total of 359 employees, 176 of which are attorneys. When designing its offices in Key Tower, Benesch accounted for expected continued growth. “We built in 25-30% incremental seats here, knowing that over time we are going to grow,” says Banks.

Working together

This past decade has seen open, plugand-play office arrangements become the trendy norm, which means employees are coming into the office with no permanent office or desk. Benesch’s new office embraces the open concept fully on its top floor. The seven floors below are a mix of more traditional office space, where associates and partners and some professional staff have their own offices and some collaborative breakout areas and small conference rooms. “Long before finalizing the overall design, we knew we wanted everyone to have a seat,” says Banks. Generally, the concept of every attorney having his or her own office makes a lot of sense considering the sensitive nature of legal work. Still, Eisenberg acknowledges that many corporate offices are trending away from the individual office concept. “A lot of people think this move was sort of contrarian, to be honest. We still believe in office space. We still believe in getting together. We still believe in trainProperties | February 2024

DESIGNED TO DAZZLE A grand staircase leads to the reception area on the 49th floor, which features a jumbotron wall with an eyecatching 23- by nine-foot display.

Team + timeline

Benesch’s final lease extension required the firm to vacate its 200 Public Square offices by the end of July 2023. Given the definitive deadline, the design and construction teams worked tirelessly from the beginning to bring it all together. Mark Biddlestone, Benesch’s director of facilities, and Banks ran the point position for the build-out and move. Their first steps were to reach out to their trusted architecture partner, Vocon. “Vocon has been a partner of ours for 30 years,” says Banks. “They are our go-to firm. We first contacted them to get a layout and do the planning.” Bob Porter, senior associate and design director, and Kate Mills, senior project designer, represented Vocon on the design team. With Vocon in place, Benesch released an RFP that led to the selection of AMHigley as construction manager at-risk. Rob Garuccio, senior project manager, led the AMHigley team. Other design and construction partners included American Interiors for furniture,

Infinium for all the glass office fronts and Root Integrated Systems for technology. “The reason this project got done in such a tight timeline is because we worked as a team,” says Banks. “In construction, things aren’t always going to go the way you expect them to, but we had the right partners in place and that’s what helped us bring it in on time.” Demolition began in August 2022, with construction beginning in earnest in January 2023. Benesch moved the first

lease at 200 Public Square, the previous tenant in Benesch’s new Key Tower space was moving out in phases. Demolition crews went to work immediately once the vacancy became official. This added layers of logistical complexity to ensure timely demolition and construction. Construction worker availability was scarce at times, further exacerbating the timeline issue. “It’s no secret that construction in town was very busy and the trades partners were stretched thin,” says Garuccio. Furthermore, massive construction projects in existing office buildings, let alone iconic, Class A space like Key Tower, come with their own inherent issues. “Welding inside office buildings poses challenges. We have to use air scrubbers because you can’t vent Gregg Eisenberg or open windows,” says Garuccio. “As Benesch working in an occupied building goes, a lot of loud demo work went on at night 190 employees into floors 42 to 44 in Key or Saturdays or very early in the morning.” Tower in June 2023, 60 more employees The work schedule was so intense that into floors 45 to 47 in July 2023, and the the entire construction team eventually final round of employees moved into the held daily 2 p.m. meetings to coordinate building in early August 2023. Floor 49, all the various ongoing details. Among which contains common areas and con- those details was the decision to get in ference rooms, was finished in October. front of lengthy lead times on purchasing key components, like light fixtures. Construction “We pre-purchased about half of the In addition to the tight construction light fixtures before we ever had an electimeline to accommodate the expiring trician onboard,” says Garuccio.

“We still believe in office space. We still believe in getting together.... We are an apprenticeship model and it’s great for our associates to be here and learn.” 25

Photo by Scott Esterly

ing. Video is great, but it can never replace in-person interaction,” he explains. “We are an apprenticeship model and it’s great for our associates to be here and learn. If you talk about Benesch and what is special about it, it’s very much a family, and people like to be together.”


in the cutting-edge technology innovations at the Benesch offices in Key Tower

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2 1 6 . 5 3 1 .6 9 8 2 R E S E R V E M I L LWO R K . CO M


Properties | February 2024

Photo by Daniel Prucey

ACCOMMODATING OPTIONS A spacious café, featuring comfortable, restaurant-style booths and several other seating offerings, is designed to serve as flex space and can easily be reconfigured to host bigger events.

A primary feature on the 49th floor is a massive bar where employees, clients and visitors can grab a latte before heading to a meeting or back to their office. “We dedicated two of our own carpenters to framing the bar,” says Garuccio. “It took substantially longer than we thought it would, due to the amount of detail, the lighting, the paneling, all the millwork and coordination with the audio-visual.” The wood ribbings on the bar were individually cut and put in place by the carpenters.

Internal stairs

“When we received this space, it had an internal stairwell that went from floor 42 to floor 49, which is fantastic on its own. But where it landed on 49, it messed with our design. We filled that in, then we re-cut the floor on 49 to what is now our grand staircase,” says Banks. “The internal staircase still runs from floor 42 to 48 as it did originally.” The first thing to do was fill in where the staircase was removed, which is easier said than done, Garuccio notes. “Then you have to re-frame it with structural steel,” he says. “You’re going from beam to beam, essentially checkerboarding it. A steel deck is then set and doweled in with rebar to the slab around it.” “Removing the existing stairwell to the 49th floor cleared the way for Benesch to incorporate its own brand in a positive

way,” Porter adds. By creating a new grand staircase for Benesch, the space would now have a completely new identity.


“When you visit someone’s home, you learn a lot about them instantly,” says Biddlestone. “This is our home. When you come here, you really get a feel for what is important to us with regards to collaboration, client care, being together and growing teams.”

Designers needed a starting point for their ideas moving forward and they decided to look at Benesch itself. “It was clear from the beginning that we wanted to use the branding that Benesch already has in place and convey it physically through the space,” says Mills. They looked to classic materials such as walnut veneer, travertine tiles and clean modern design features to emphasize their messaging. “Early on, we designated navy as a neutral,” says Mills. “Instead of

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SETTING A TONE Provided a consistent, warm design touch, walnut veneer is used throughout the offices, such as along the grand stair (top), in cafés on each floor (middle) and in conference rooms (bottom).

Photo by Scott Esterly

Photo by Scott Esterly

thinking of it as an accent color, we used it as reference to the Benesch brand color. You find it on the flooring, on the decorative wall tile in the working café and most notably on the velvet upholstery throughout the custom bar. It serves as a contrast to the rest of the palette, which is composed primarily of soft whites.” A major design aspect was ensuring that amenity spaces are sophisticated enough to be showstopping first-impression opportunities. All workspaces, whether they are private offices or support staff areas, embrace innovation and technology with features like height-adjustable workstations. To give off more of a special, elevated feeling, gold light fixtures and decorative walls were installed. Artwork is noticeable throughout the eight floors. Benesch already had a lot of art in its collection from 200 Public Square, so the firm curated from there and supplemented accordingly. Conference rooms are all named after Cleveland landmarks like Wade Oval and Public Square. There is also a large conference room named after Benesch Senior Partner George Aronoff. A large café is located on floor 49, and every staff floor has its own smaller café and seating area as well. Each floor also has several conference rooms to supplement what is on floor 49. Floors 42 to 48 are home to all associate and partner offices and workspaces. The 42nd floor is dedicated to professional staff, which gives it a higher concentration of people and includes the departments of accounting, finance, marketing, technology and recruiting. Floors 43 to 48 are dedicated to practice areas. Floors 43 and 44 are litigation, floor 45 is labor/employment and intellectual property, floors 46 and 47 are real estate and health care, and floor 48 is corporate. Floor 49 is amenity-filled and home to all the common areas and major conference rooms.

Photo by Daniel Prucey

The 49th floor

“There were two main concepts guiding the design of the 49th floor,” says Porter. “The first was that our design should support the growth of the 28

Properties | February 2024

Photo by Scott Esterly

SOCIAL CENTER A massive bar on the 49th floor serves as a centerpiece of Benesch’s offices. A barista is always on-hand to craft a latte or cup of coffee for anyone entering a meeting or training session on the floor. For after-work events, it can serve whatever libations are called for.

Benesch culture by being more in the background. We wanted to create an open and flexible space that allowed Benesch to have all the necessary interactions that are important to them without the architecture getting in the way. The second was to create outstanding event space. The open floor plan allows Benesch to hold events of various sizes including a social hour around the bar area for 20 to 30 people to hundreds of guests in the main reception area and even more when coupled with the adjacent café area.” “The 49th floor was the most complicated floor I’ve done in my career. It’s also the most beautiful,” adds Garuccio. Floor 49 features 11-foot ceilings and all custom features, like the overhead lights in the café. There are more than

80 individual light fixtures in the café. Each fixture was set by hand. The café also features comfortable, restaurant-style booths that Benesch first installed and fell in love with at its Chicago office. The café on the 49th floor will also be used as flex space and can easily host bigger events. Also located off the café is a large, casual seating area with spectacular views of Public Square. As special as the café area is, it’s only one component of the 49th floor. Guests that arrive to the Benesch offices will exit the elevator on floor 49 and enter the main reception area. The reception area is expansive, and visitors’ eyes will immediately be drawn to the grand staircase to their right and the jumbotron wall just beyond the staircase. The jumbotron is 23 feet long, nine feet high

and wraps around the corner of the main hallway. Local company thunder::tech created all of the aesthetic video content that plays on the screen, which is comprised of many smaller screens that add up to make one large jumbotron. A sleek reception desk featuring Benesch branding on a walnut veneer wall behind it is just to the left upon entering the main reception area. Visitors entering Benesch will also have several different plush, comfortable seating areas to utilize while waiting for their appointments or meetings. “There are good, large open spaces for groups to meet and collaborate and get together, and then there are more intimate spaces where people can step away and have conversations with clients or peers,” says Biddlestone.

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TOP OF THE TOWN Situated just off the 49th floor café is a large, casual seating area offering spectacular views of Public Square.

The room just left of the jumbotron in the main reception area is a caucus room with two distinct sections: comfortable couches in one section and a smaller conference table and smartboard in the other. It was originally envisioned as a larger conference room, but a bump-out had everyone take a step back to rethink the space and they settled on making it a smaller caucus room. Behind the reception desk is the massive bar that is the social center of the Benesch offices. A barista is always on-hand to craft a latte or cup of coffee for anyone entering a meeting or training session in one of the many conference rooms on the floor. For after-work events, the bar can serve whatever libations are called for. Though the office is brand new, Benesch is hosting dozens of meetings a day. “We had 41 meetings scheduled yesterday,” says Biddlestone. “That’s 41 rooms that were booked and scheduled and managed. That gives you an idea of people being with people and the priority Benesch puts on that.” “This 49th floor is just over-the-top amazing,” says Eisenberg. “It fits all our major get-togethers, both internally and externally. We love the bar and community area. It’s a way to see people. That’s

the whole idea. We are going to have a lot of great events here.”


“From a strategy perspective, we were all on the same page,” says Jerry Justice, Benesch’s chief information officer. “The challenge was the timeline more than,

Cell phone reception can be less than ideal at times, so Benesch ran its own Verizon line from a satellite that was installed on the top of Key Tower. Millennia was crucial in making that happen for Benesch. “They came through for us,” says Biddlestone. “It was all about Millennia helping us be the best we can be.” “The challenge today is we have to support multiple platforms,” says Justice. “Our clients want to host with Microsoft Teams, Webex or Zoom, so we try to take that philosophy and make it as seamless as possible in any room.”

“When you visit someone’s home, you learn a lot about them instantly... When you come here, you really get a feel for what is important to us with regards to collaboration, client care, being together and growing teams.”


Mark Biddlestone Benesch ‘this might not work.’ All in all, it’s just an amazing project.” Some subtle technological features in the Benesch offices include tapered conference tables that allow video conference cameras to automatically detect speakers, lighting control systems and soundproofing. The design and construction team worked diligently to control sound. Every wall is floor to deck, drywall is double-layered, and all glass is double-paned.

Investing in the future

The vast communal space throughout the main reception areas really sets the tone for visitors, the message being: this is a welcoming space, and comfort is a priority. It also says a lot about Benesch itself. “We are investing in the future of our firm,” says Eisenberg. “We could’ve cut our space down. We could’ve stayed where we were. We could’ve gone anywhere. But we did this for the future and to have a great space for the next generation coming up. It costs a lot of money to do it, but it’s a great investment. We want to create a legacy here.” Properties | February 2024



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BILLBOARD News about people, products, places & plans

Hathaway Brown Achieves O&M LEED Gold Certification

Photo courtesy of Hathaway Brown School


athaway Brown School recently announced it has achieved LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification in operations and maintenance for its commitment to sustainable and environmentally friendly policies and practices. HB is the only school in Ohio to earn the O&M LEED Gold certification level through the U.S. Green Building Council’s green building rating system. “Hathaway Brown earned the operations and Hathaway Brown School maintenance rating which is a performancebased certification for existing structures based on how we run the building, not the actual construction,” says Director of Sustainability Torrey McMillan, who led the 18-month certification process for the all-girls school in Shaker Heights. To achieve certification, HB analyzed and implemented various sustainable strategies and practices on its campus, such as water, waste and energy performance; energy efficiency best management practices; indoor air quality; sustainable cleaning policies; light pollution reduction; and more. Fellowship students served as apprentices in the certification process and assisted in decisions related to green cleaning, renovation and purchasing. Students also helped by measuring outdoor light pollution and indoor air quality. Cleveland-based Emerald Built Environments assisted as well. In 2022, the sustainability/engineering consultancy firm selected HB as its Emerald Gives Partner to receive complementary consulting services.

NBL Honors Hahn Loeser Partner-in-Charge Hahn Loeser’s Cleveland office recently announced that Craig Owen White has been re-selected for membership with The National


Black Lawyers - Top 100 for Ohio. The invitation-only professional development/ networking organization comprises top African American attorneys recognized for outstanding legal representation. White, who secured his

initial NBL membership in 2021, specializes in guiding companies through complex legal matters such as mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, enterprise governance and international financing and licensing issues.

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A key highlight in White’s career includes his appointment to two terms on the Trade Advisory Committee on Africa (TACA) by the U.S. Trade Representative. He provided advice in shaping U.S. trade policy across subSaharan Africa. Additionally, the International Senior Lawyers Project (ISLP) honored him with a Global Impact Volunteer Award.

SBM Announces Promotions, New Hire Scheeser Buckley Mayfield, a consulting engineering firm

Properties | February 2024

BILLBOARD News about people, products, places & plans located between Akron and Canton, recently announced promotions for three engineers to Engineer II. Jonathon Giaquinto is a mechanical engineer and has been with SBM for three and a half years. Electrical Engineer Trevor Leggett has been with SBM for two and a half years. Erica Ferguson, a mechanical engineer, has been with the firm for one and a half years. These promotions were based on the hard work, professional growth and dedication of these staff members. Additionally, SBM has added a full-time mechanical engineer to its staff. Bryce Schneider recently graduated from The University of Akron. He was a co-op student with SBM for two

Jonathon Giaquinto

rotations, then worked there part time while he finished his classes.

I.A. Lewin, P.E. and Associates Announces New Leadership South Euclid-based engineering firm I.A. Lewin,

Your Team + Our Team

P.E. and Associates (IALPE) recently announced the addition of three engineers to principal positions, including Gayle Lewin, P.E., Alek Babel, P.E., S.E. and Brian Tomcik, P.E., LEED AP. Founder/owner Isaac Lewin, P.E. S.E. says he’s looking forward to shifting the firm’s management to the next generation. IALPE plans to expand its presence within Northeast Ohio, while looking for new opportunities to work with clients nationally. IALPE has provided structural and site/civil engineering on projects ranging from $10,000 to $20 million. Notable projects include the Gen 5 Porsche

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BILLBOARD News about people, products, places & plans

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BOMA Hosts Real Estate Management Courses BOMA Greater Cleveland recently announced it will be hosting the Foundations

of Real Estate Management Course for the second year in a row. The course will be from April 10 through May 22 on each Wednesday afternoon from noon to 5 p.m. The course will be instructed by seasoned professionals in the industry and will be hosted at a different BOMA Members Building each week. The course is designed to be for all experience levels and covers the fundamentals of commercial real estate administration, management, building systems, accounting and reporting, contract management and more. To learn more about the Foundations Class or to register, visit https:// You can

also call BOMA Greater Cleveland at 216.575.0305 or email for info.

Hasenstab Architects Hires Business Development Lead Hasenstab Architects recently announced that Amity McClelland has joined the firm as business development manager. McClelland has over 20 years of experience in the AEC industry. She has held various roles, including payroll, accounting and project coordination, and has worked the last seven years in business development. McClelland works to develop and maintain relationships with current and future cli-

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ACAR CORNER Issues in the real estate industry

Hitting the Reset Button in 2024?



s the real estate market adjusts to new norms in a postpandemic world, the commercial and investment property sectors are shifting. A retail rebound, changing investor sentiment about climate risks and eroding affordability are among the top trends commercial real estate professionals are contending with, according to the “Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2024” report from the Urban Land Institute and PwC, available at “Industry professionals are at a turnkey moment that will require both innovation and adaption to shape a resilient real estate landscape for the future,” says Anita Kramer, senior vice president of ULI’s Center for Real Estate Economics and Capital Markets. Labeling it “The Great Reset” in real estate, ULI and PwC’s report notes some of the following “emerging trends” to watch in 2024.

The retail rebound

Nationally, demand for retail property has skyrocketed over the past 18 months, with about 35 million square feet of new retail space in the U.S. across all shopping center types.

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“The industry is coming to realize that the nation will keep shopping for most of its goods and many services in shopping centers indefinitely, even if e-commerce continues to take market share away from in-store retailers,” the report notes. Retail has strengthened as an investor preference compared to recent years when it was deemed one of the most troubled asset types. The suburbs remain an attraction for retail investors, and grocery-anchored community or neighborhood shopping centers account for 25% of the nation’s retail inventory.

Hybrid work isn’t going anywhere

Office employees are showing their preference for a hybrid work setting – a

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Properties | February 2024

mix between remote and in person. As such, office buildings are losing their appeal with investors. Transactions have fallen more than twice as much as any other major property type. Industry experts are growing concerned about what to do with high vacancies in office buildings, turning to adaptive reuse or even demolishing and repurposing the land when buildings can’t be used as conversions.

Debt comes to the forefront

“Rapidly rising federal debt could potentially ‘crowd out’ private investments in the industry, leading to slower economic growth and higher interest rates, both of which would create long-term delays on property construction, investments and returns,” the report warns. Credit has become more expensive and more difficult to get. Still, despite the lack

CRE industry experts expect... greater applications [of artificial intelligence] starting to emerge that aim to enhance the property search and analysis process, reshape how investors assess potential investments, improve the customer experience and provide greater fraud detection in real estate transactions. of credit availability, “some investors are cautiously pursuing deals and lining up to take advantage of undervalued assets. The industry is seeing its highest ‘buy’ rating since 2010, signaling a favorable entry point for acquisitions after a decade of unabated appreciation.”

AI advancements get CRE’s attention

Artificial intelligence received plenty of buzz over the past year, but CRE applications were “limited” and “most mundane to date,” the report notes. However, industry experts expect that to change, with greater applications starting to emerge that aim to enhance the property search and analysis process, reshape how investors assess potential investments,


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improve the customer experience and provide greater fraud detection in real estate transactions. The report also points to the potential for AI to predict property climate risks, identify investment opportunities and create higher-performing real estate portfolios. Expect greater offerings and experimentation with AI in the 2024 commercial market, the report notes.

Climate change – a pressing concern

Billion-dollar climate events in the U.S. are rising, which has led to government regulations and proposed ESG mandates. Developments may need to be repositioned to spotlight their sustainability, and more buildings likely will need to be retrofitted. “Not every building will be converted; some assets will simply become obsolete and need to be demolished,” the report also notes. In those cases, developers

veloped, as they have been in the past, and focus on building up their “live/ work/play” allure to compete with the growth in the suburbs.

Housing affordability deteriorates

Like the residential market, affordability also continues to be a top challenge for the commercial sector. The U.S. has experienced the fastest-ever deterioration in real estate affordability over the past three years as housing prices soared during the pandemic. Further, mortgage rates more than doubled in a short time. “After sharp rent escalations last year,

rent growth has eased for now due to large supply deliveries but is expected to resume,” the report notes. “One answer has stood out to solve the affordability crisis: build more housing, preferably at all price points.” Mark Vittardi (Century 21 DiPiero and Associates Inc.) is 2024 president of Akron Cleveland Association of Realtors (ACAR). For additional information, contact Kelli Moss, ACAR’s communications director, at 216525-4847 or kmoss@akronclevelandrealtors. com. This article was reprinted from NAR’s REALTOR Magazine.

Ignoring your environmental issues won’t make them go away.

Like the residential market, affordability also continues to be a top challenge for the commercial sector. The U.S. has experienced the fastest-ever deterioration in real estate affordability over the past three years as housing prices soared during the pandemic. and architects are exploring the design for “disassembly,” which allows for the easy recovery of products, parts and materials when a building is disassembled or renovated.

Downtowns poised for reinvention

Urban economists are debating the future of downtowns nationally and how economic forces have been hampering these once-bustling business hubs. Concerns are growing about an “urban doom loop,” as empty office buildings have been left behind in urban cores after employers relocated to the suburbs or downsized their office spaces. This also has led to a decrease in tax revenues, forcing cities to reduce services and possibly stall future commercial and residential growth. The report says downtowns likely will need to be rede-

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VANTAGE POINT Experts weigh in on industry issues

Preventing Slips, Trips & Falls on Your Property By Oliver Mahnke RWK Services, Inc.



ince 1989, “America’s Funniest Home Videos” (AFV) has aired every Sunday. This comedic show, enjoyed by families across the country, allows viewers to laugh at pets, babies and even adults being silly. Often, video clips are sent in of slipping, tripping and falling. For kids, slips, trips and falls can provide a chuckle – but in the world of facility management, this is no laughing matter. Slips, trips and falls are a serious matter in workplace safety and facility management. Not only do they lead to serious injuries, but also tremendous costs. Liberty Mutual Insurance’s “2023 Workplace Safety Index” shares that in 2023, “Falls on the same level cost employers $8.98 billion per year.” Often, slips, trips and falls are the result of facilities and facility services not maintaining the building appropriately. An article at notes “slips, trips and falls accounted for over 211,640 cases [of injury] in 2020.” While some accidents can lead to slight or severe injury, some can unfortunately be fatal. As a result, this “makes them the second leading cause of fatalities in the workplace, next to transportation incidents.” In this article, we will discuss what steps can be taken to prevent slips, trips and falls in commercial buildings.

well as showing examples. “Slips, Trips, and Falls: Protect Your Employees from Preventable Injuries” (TMullins, 2021) shares that “proper training for hazard awareness is the most effective way to avoid slip or trip injuries. Any safety orientation training or refresher course should include a reminder of the types of slip or trip hazards your workers may encounter at your facility, as well as how to safely navigate them.” For companies serving property management, it is critical to train appropriately on what actions can be taken to prevent slips, trips and falls.

Often, slips, trips and falls are the result of facilities and facility services not maintaining the building appropriately.... While some can lead to slight or severe injury, some can unfortunately be fatal.

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Training on any subject is essential to providing the proper education and plan of action. Unsafe conditions that should be covered in training can include spills, leaks, elevations/decreases within the floor and much more. Training should classify what is a slip, a trip and a fall, as

2. Safety Signs

For any facility, no matter the size, signs are essential. Signs provide visual communication to gain one’s attention. One key sign used in facilities is the wet floor sign. Although its inventor and history are not definite, we know that the wet floor sign has been a part of facilities for a very long time to help prevent injuries. This sign’s role is to display areas where accidents or cleaning has occurred. The outcome of not displaying the wet floor sign when needed can result in slips, trips and falls. As a result, this can lead to serious injury and damage the reputation of one’s facility. By placing Properties | February 2024

RECOGNIZING RISK Hazards, such as icy walking surfaces, are often easy to recognize. But if they aren’t reported and tended to immediately, they can become even more dangerous, leaving property owners at risk for litigation if an accident occurs.

wet floor signs in areas needed, you are not only protecting those in the facility from potential injuries but also helping prevent liability costs.

3. Reporting spills, potential hazards

With proper training and appropriate signage, hazards are often easy to recognize. However, when they are not noticed and not tended to immediately, the damage can increase and become even more dangerous. Knowing who to communicate with about potential slips, trips and falls is essential. Not only does it directly connect you with the individual who will resolve the conflict, but it will prevent others from getting injured. By communicating effectively to facility management or cleaning services of leaks, spills or other potential hazards, this can help combat future conflicts. In conclusion, slips, trips and falls are dangerous when not tended to appropriately. These hazards can result in serious, even fatal, injuries. By providing appropriate training, signage and reporting methods, your facility can be a safer environment. This article was written by Oliver Mahnke, sales associate at RWK Services, Inc. RWK Services has served Northeast Ohio commercial property managers for 40 years and is a BOMA Greater Cleveland Signature Partner. Please contact Oliver Mahnke regarding your building service needs at 440-346-6791 or

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Properties | February 2024

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Sparkle + Shine

Radiant Bride moves into elegant new, Parisian-style home in Rocky River By Doug Bardwell | Photos by Doug Bardwell and Howard Doughty (Immortal Images)


hat used to be a small local residence turned commercial business has now transformed into a premier destination for brides-to-be at 19415 Detroit Ave. in Rocky River. Designed to resemble shops found in Paris, the 5,800-square-foot, two-story Radiant Bride truly glows in the evening, with its trademark window displays at the corner of Prospect Avenue and Detroit Road. Situated on a half-acre triangular corner parcel, the building’s corner is beveled to enable guests to arrive from either street. A large show window above the entry proclaims the shop’s motto: “All you need is love – and a great dress.”

But the owner needed a great building

It’s a classic tale of local business success. Owners Scott and Ellen McFadden purchased a not-so-thriving bridal business in 2017. With love and dedication to their customers, they quickly improved the business with hundreds of five-star reviews online. Ellen had experience dressing show windows for the former May Company,

and created a similar display window for the 1,600-square-foot old location. It quickly became a local favorite, and people would come by, compliment her, and ask when the next display could be expected. In 2020, it became apparent that they would need to expand as their client list kept growing. They looked around at dozens of other buildings, including some churches, and realized that to obtain their objectives, they needed to build from scratch. Fortunately, only a couple blocks away from their existing shop was a vacant commercial corner lot with another vacant residential lot right behind on the side street, which they could have

approved for conditional use as their parking lot. “In 2021, we contacted The Arcus Group, a local architectural firm with a reputation for doing high-end residential work, because we didn’t want a cookiecutter retail space,” Scott McFadden says. “So the idea was to keep the culture we had from a very small, intimate shop,” he continues, “and try not to lose it, so people would walk in and say, ‘This is a comfortable feeling,’ whatever that means to them, and get them in the mood to try on dresses and enjoy the experience.” “From the very beginning,” says Tom Liggett, principal with The Arcus Group, “Scott and Ellen had really positive visions of a very elegant streetscape 43

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ELEGANT ENTRY Marble flooring and warm lighting in the vestibule aim to provide a welcoming, upscale atmosphere for arriving guests.

like you would see in Paris. Fortunately, downtown Rocky River has businesses right on the sidewalk, giving that intimate feel.” Typical of many nearby retail spaces, the second floor looks like it could be residential upstairs. Stepping down the building toward the parking lot in the rear gave it an even more oldfashioned feeling. “The idea was to get an old-fashioned limestone type of a building,” explains Liggett, “and give a warmer pronounced feel along the first floor. The dark awnings out front and the black precast base of the building help to bring it down to the ground, with a bit more of a human level to it. The color palette was basically blacks, grays and cool colors, so it has a very elegant and stately look outside.” “We wanted to convey a foundation of permanence, an assurance that the store is a lasting part of the community’s landscape,” adds Rick Benos, principal with The Arcus Group. Limestone was then specified for the north wall, extending around the corners and partially to the parking lot. A stucco-textured white EIFS finish covers the remainder. “As chair of the land use committee these past two years,” says Jeanne Gallagher, Ward 3 City Council, “I have witnessed the professionalism of planning, zoning, design and review boards helping to bring this building into fruition.” Properties | February 2024

Photo by Doug Bardwell

INVITING ATMOSPHERE Luxurious seating and a cozy fireplace are available immediately inside the front door, while walnut plank flooring in a herringbone pattern adds to the classic appeal.

By the summer of 2022, plans were out for bid, and Fortney & Weygandt was the successful bidder.

Murphy’s Law applies to construction projects as well

Work began in October 2022 with a one-year completion schedule, coinciding with the lease expiration on McFadden’s former shop. “I recall being here during that first month and seeing sand collapsing as we approached the sidewalk,” says Bard Fulton, vice president with Fortney & Weygandt. “We had to go back to the geotech engineers, and to Scott’s credit, he was very calm and patient as we worked through various options.”

Due to the extremely unstable soil next to the Detroit Road sidewalk, the basement needed to be reduced in size. A higher-than-expected water table also required the foundation to be raised a foot or more. “Water just kept coming up everywhere we dug,” states Mike Clemons, project manager for Fortney & Weygandt. “We ended up using wellpoints and then a mud mat over rammed aggregate piers.” The wellpoints kept the water at bay until the poured concrete walls were completed and waterproofed. Another complication arose as the planned connection to city water was not where it was expected on the side street. “We were supposed to pull water

for the fire line and domestic off of Prospect,” says Mitch Lapin, president of Fortney & Weygandt, “so we ended up going into Detroit and had to close the street and relocate traffic just to get that water line to the building.” “To even further complicate matters,” adds Benos,” we then had to snake up under all the other utilities already in the street to get where we needed to go.” With those issues behind them, supply chain issues were all that remained. To get an occupancy certificate, they had to order temporary fixtures. “Some of the desired lighting fixtures were delayed two or three months,” recalls Benos, “so we had to come back, cut out those fixtures, and install the

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DAZZLING DISPLAY As you wander through the showroom, unobtrusive but bright recessed LED lighting in the ceiling dramatically illuminates the sequins on wedding gowns, making them glisten.

new ones as they arrived. That wasn’t a choice. We had to get Scott and his folks in here so they could get out of their other space.”

Showcasing the new building

Local residents weren’t disappointed when the new space opened in November 2023. The beloved show window was back with a new theme:

“We’re all becoming stories – let’s make it a love story.” Radiant Bride is easy to find, especially for westbound traffic on Detroit Road. When you reach Prospect Avenue, turn south, and there’s a convenient 25-space private parking lot behind the store. Walking down the sidewalk, the design team intentionally placed win-

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dows so you can look in and see the fireplace, some of the dresses and oversized mirrors, and get a sense of the place before even arriving at the impressive double-door entry, complete with two flanking authentic gas lamp sconces. “You hear that the first 30 seconds makes the real impression,” McFadden says, “so everything is very intentional.” As you enter the vestibule with its marble floor, your senses continue to tell you, “You are welcome here.” Soothing music delights the ears from the vestibule to the showrooms, the private studios and even the restrooms. A classic warm fireplace and luxurious seating are available immediately inside the front door. Hundreds of wedding gowns hang on gold rods in the two-story-high display area, making them easy to peruse. Unobtrusive but bright recessed LED lighting in the ceiling dramatically illuminates the sequins on the gowns, making them glisten as you wander through the main showroom. Warm walnut plank flooring in a herringbone pattern adds to the classic appeal of the space but is also uberpractical. Hardwood floors, by Stellar, float on a plywood underlayment, and any individual board can be removed with a heavy-duty suction cup should it need to be replaced. Properties | February 2024

SPACE TO CHANGE Three suites on both floors, each more than 200 square feet in size, provide ample space for brides-to-be to try on dresses. Wide, white wood trim, elegant wallcoverings and a crystal chandelier give each room its own identity.

Photo by Howard Doughty

“We wanted the store to have the whole Parisian feel,” says McFadden, “and I knew we had achieved our goal the first time someone walked in and asked, ‘Is this a 100-year-old building you renovated, or is this a new building?’” Three suites on both floors, each more than 200 square feet in size, occupy the far south end of the building. Each provides an ample draped changing space for brides-to-be to try on the dresses while family and friends comfortably sit. The rooms each have an oriental rug and a large floor-mounted French mirror. Wide, white wood trim, elegant wallcoverings and a crystal chandelier give each room its own identity. An open staircase of white oak treads and handrails with white newel posts, balusters and risers winds its way to the second floor, where another three suites are located. A secondary

Photo by Howard Doughty

“We wanted the store to have the whole Parisian feel, and I knew we had achieved our goal the first time someone walked in and asked, ‘Is this a 100-year-old building you renovated, or is this a new building?’” Scott McFadden Radiant Bride

Photo by Doug Bardwell

display area on this floor allows for even more dress selections. From the office, just off the showroom on the first floor, a wide stairway descends to a large storage area in the basement. With generous headroom, the space is ideal for storing off-season display material and other supplies. “The basement HVAC utilizes mini split systems for storage of precious dresses and accessories,” explains Chris Schnell, senior project manager for TH Martin Inc., “and they are able to maintain a climate where materials won’t dry out or get over-saturated with humidity.” Steel joists and a steel roof deck support a white TPO roof. Rooftop units from TH 47

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LEADING THE WAY An open staircase of white oak treads and handrails with white newel posts, balusters and risers winds its way to the bridal shop’s second floor.

Martin Inc. serve customer areas, dressing rooms and the upper balcony. “This job had high demands for highquality retail, and we feel confident that we supplied the appropriate system for customer satisfaction,” says Schnell. After his first endeavor developing a commercial building, McFadden is quite pleased with his choices of both The Arcus Group and Fortney & Weygandt. “Arcus did a great job of keeping me within the guardrails,” admits McFadden. “You really need those professionals around to be able to navigate an owner’s ideas, especially if they are counter to good construction policy or counter to maintaining a budget. They excelled at that.” “When it came to selecting Fortney & Weygandt, it wasn’t a money issue,” says McFadden,” but I chose them for their years of experience, their ethics and their calmness. I knew there could always be problems that would arise, but I thought we’d look back on it and say, ‘we did this right.’ They ended up

reflects McFadden. “However, people not even in the market for dresses have stopped by to say thanks. Some have even written thank-you notes.” As another barometer of goals achieved, McFadden said that some of their previous customers selected their dresses at the old location and hoped the new location wouldn’t lose its charm. Months later, as they came to pick up their dresses at the new location, their jaws would drop with acclamations of how beautiful the new space genuinely was. “We wanted to have a new space, but we didn’t want to change our DNA, and how we operate, and how we take care of our customers,” conMatthew Frank cludes McFadden, “and I think we’ve Fortney & Weygandt been successful according to the brides that have seen both spaces.” “Radiant Bride has transformed an ultimate achievement is when your customer can trust that what you com- empty lot into a beautiful destination for brides from all over to shop,” says municate will truly be done.” The space has certainly fulfilled Gallagher. “From the architects, conneighborhood expectations as well. tractors, building trades, landscape and “Ellen had hoped that our show lighting designers – the Radiant Bride window would lift peoples’ spirits as radiates. We are so happy to have this they walked or drove by, but we never business stay, invest in our community, expected to receive thanks for it,” and continue to thrive.”

“This has been a great showpiece for everyone involved, but the ultimate achievement is when your customer can trust that what you communicate will truly be done.” 49

Photo by Doug Bardwell

Contemplating their achievements

proving me correct, not to mention they selected fantastic subcontractors. My apologies for probably getting in their way as the project progressed.” “This has been a great showpiece for everyone involved,” adds Matthew Frank, business development director with Fortney & Weygandt, “but the

Legal Services + Risk Management

One-Sided Contracts

Risk protection or false security from hidden costs? By Allison Taller Reich Frantz Ward LLP


ith every project, parties seek ways to avoid or resolve issues of unanticipated costs and delays. Frequently, parties in the construction industry ask how to better protect themselves in the future or prevent this from affecting their jobs again. We hear all-too-often that parties want “an airtight, all-inclusive force majeure clause” that “would be fully enforceable and protect them in all scenarios,” without considering the potential business case or cost-benefit to including or enforcing such clauses, or when it might be best to omit them. Facing strict, burdensome provisions, lower-tiers often take another look at their bidding and reserves processes and build in additional margins and risks in anticipation of being forced to bear the burden of uncontrollable cost escalation, supply-chain disruptions, labor shortages and delays. The cumulative result can be that owners, construction managers, designbuilders or upper-tiers may pay more than intended for lower-tier work because of risk-mitigating increases and margins built into lower-tiers’ bidding and cost estimates. Frequently considered provisions include claim and notice provisions, waiver of delay and liquidated damages provisions, contingent payment and waiver of lien provisions, conditions precedent to claims or dispute resolution processes, waiver of consequential damages and others.


Many contracts and subcontracts contain provisions requiring notice of a claim, often within a specific and short period of time. These provisions often state that failure to comply or give notice within the specific time will result in the claim being waived or time-barred. Many contracts also require that the notice include specification of impact or changes to the contract sum or contract time due to the change within a specified – often short – period of time. While owners and upper-tiers often want to know about changes and increased costs 50

seen delays, which will result in a more expensive ultimate project cost.


and time as soon as possible for planning purposes, these provisions can have the adverse effects of causing lower-tiers to add additional cushion into their pricing to protect themselves if they are worried about missing short time-periods or claims being denied. Reasonable time periods and reasonable practices by owners and contracting parties can reduce over-estimates and get truer pricing.

Delays and liquidated damages

Project schedules and milestone dates are important and can cost real money if they are extended or missed. However, “no damages for delays” clauses and/or liquidated damages clauses are not always useful in resolving unavoidable delays and merely penalize parties for delays that may be outside of their control. Concern over application and enforcement of these clauses may cause careful bidders to increase durations and/or prices in their prices, estimates and schedules at the front end to protect against any unfore-

Post-COVID, many lower-tiers wanted to include pandemics and/or the COVID-19 pandemic to force-majeure clauses as unanticipated, unavoidable occurrences that would entitle the lower-tier to some relief – escalated prices, extended project durations or both. However, many owners and general contractors argued that COVID-19 was no longer unanticipated and should be considered when planning staffing, schedules and costs. In either case, the abuse of the provision was foreseeable and cause for increased reserves, contingency or pricing in cost estimates.


Pay-if-paid provisions seek to transfer the risk of nonpayment downstream. Like all other provisions, this risk transfer does not come without a hidden cost if the lower-tiers are savvy. If a third-tier subcontractor has to risk the burden of the owner becoming insolvent without any protections or security, it is going to build in ways to protect itself.

Inspection of work

Many contracts make contractors responsible for inspecting the work of others and/or inspecting the site or premises and notifying the owner or upper-tier of any problems or defects before commencing work. This provision again shifts risks and burden to lower-tier parties. Properties | February 2024

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Legal Services + Risk Management Sometimes this inspection requirement is warranted and possible, and other times it is cost-prohibitive and/or outside of a subcontractor’s area of expertise, requiring it to engage a consultant. This oftenoverlooked provision provides layers of added protection to the owners. A careful contractor will see this provision and add additional budget costs for investigations

and consultants and/or build in additional protection and cushion for itself in the event it failed to catch an existing issue that was outside of its scope of work.

Dispute resolution

Use of an initial decision-maker, independent evaluation and/or mediation as a condition precedent to arbitration or

litigation is meant to be an intervention to avoid costly litigation and encourage parties to communicate and resolve disputes amicably, but, if they are conducted too early in the process merely because they are an initial step that must be “checked off” before moving forward, they are merely an added project cost for all parties.

Other provisions

While well-meaning, waiver of liens provisions, insurance and bonding provisions, and representations and warranties can all have the effect of unintentionally increasing project costs and hidden price escalation. These should be carefully considered on a project-by-project basis with thought given to why a particular

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The decisions to include these provisions and how to draft them – as well as whether, when and how to enforce them – should be carefully considered at the outset of a project. Many times, in addition to hidden project costs in the bidding process, these provisions can result in added time and expense of drafting notices and claim letters, as well as litigation, arbitration or other dispute resolution. Parties may be able to save time and project costs by simplifying or omitting these in certain projects or scenarios based on consultation with their business and legal advisors. Allison Taller Reich ( is a partner in the Construction Group at Frantz Ward LLP in Cleveland, Ohio. For more information, please visit Properties | February 2024


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Property Tax Appeals

Examining the fight between taxpayers & school districts By Robert K. Danzinger & Elizabeth Grooms Taylor Sleggs, Danzinger & Gill Co., LPA


t’s the season to review tax assessments and to determine if an appeal is warranted. Under Ohio law, county auditors establish a value for each parcel in the county. This value is the basis for the amount of taxes the property owner will be required to pay. Pursuant to Ohio Revised Code §5715.19, property owners have the right to file complaints challenging the value established for their property. Those complaints are heard and determined by the county board of revision (BOR). Because Ohio’s public school districts receive their funding predominantly from property taxes, Ohio is one of the few states that permits school districts to participate in this complaint process. Specifically, pursuant to §5715.19(B), a board of education may file a counter-complaint to an owner’s complaint seeking a change of $50,000 or more in the value of property in the school district. Additionally, a school district may file an original complaint seeking to increase the value of property in the district. As a result, property valuation complaints are typically disputes between a school district seeking higher taxes and a property owner desiring lower taxes. In 2022, the Ohio General Assembly passed Am. Sub. H.B. No. 126, which brought substantial changes to the tax complaint procedure. One of the most significant changes pertains to a school district’s ability to seek increases in value. Prior to H.B. 126, a school board’s ability to seek an increase in value was not limited. However, with the passage of H.B. 126, school districts may file a complaint to increase the auditor’s valuation of real property only if the requested increase is based on a sale that occurred prior to January 1 of the tax year at issue. Moreover, the requested increase must be at least $500,000 and 10% higher than the county auditor’s value for that year. Additionally, while Ohio law previously permitted both property owners and school boards to appeal unfavorable deci54

sions to the Ohio Board of Tax Appeals (BTA), H.B. 126 amended Ohio Revised Code §5717.01 to provide that school boards may no longer appeal BOR decisions to the BTA, effectively cutting off a school board’s appeal rights. Despite the language of H.B. 126, some Ohio boards of education filed original complaints for tax year 2022 seeking increases in value based on sales that took

As the effective date of H.B. 126 approaches its two-year anniversary, litigation regarding the new law continues to amass. Most significant is a declaratory judgment action that is pending in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, claiming that the new law is unconstitutional. place after January 1, 2022. In some cases, a third-party taxpayer filed an identical complaint seeking an increase in value based on the same sale cited by the school board. Then, the school board filed a counter-complaint, making it a party to the third-party taxpayer’s complaint. Most boards of revision dismissed those complaints as invalid, and the board of education appealed. Those cases are currently pending before various courts of common pleas. Moreover, school boards continue to file appeals with the BTA in the hope that H.B. 126 will ultimately be deemed unconstitutional. Sound like chaos? It is. As the effective date of H.B. 126 approaches its two-year anniversary, liti-

gation regarding the new law continues to amass. Most significant is a declaratory judgment action that is pending in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, claiming that the new law is unconstitutional. While the constitutionality issue is under consideration, boards of revision, the BTA and Ohio courts continue to wrestle with how to proceed in the face of other challenges regarding H.B. 126. Another issue that has arisen is whether school boards have another avenue of appeal from BOR decisions. With the BTA appeal route closed by H.B. 126, school boards have been filing appeals with the local courts. Thus far, the common pleas courts of Cuyahoga, Delaware and Fairfield counties have determined that boards of education do not have standing to appeal BOR decisions to the courts. Other cases have been stayed while courts await a final determination on the constitutionality issue. In the meanwhile, appeals continue to pile up at boards of revision, the courts and the BTA. In summary, H.B. 126 was promulgated to provide clarity and simplicity to the property valuation complaint process. Unfortunately, the opposite result is occurring as litigation, confusion and frustration continue to mount. Hopefully, there will be some light at the end of the tunnel and Ohio’s appellate courts will soon provide much needed insight and clarification. Stay tuned. Robert K. Danzinger ( is partner and Elizabeth Grooms Taylor (etaylor@ is an associate attorney with Sleggs, Danzinger & Gill Co., LPA. For more information, call 216.771.8990. Properties | February 2024

Sleggs, Danzinger & Gill, Co., LPA

Reducing Real Property Tax Assessments Throughout Ohio And Across The United States

When you hire Sleggs, Danzinger & Gill, you work directly with Sleggs, Danzinger and Gill. Each client is directly represented at all levels by a Partner of the firm with a combined 90 years of experience. No pyramid, no associates, no on-the-job training. Our clients deserve the very best representation, so we structured our firm to allow each client, throughout the entire process, to work directly with Todd Sleggs, Robert Danzinger and Steve Gill. Our philosophy is to work cooperatively with school district and county officials to ensure that our clients pay the lowest possible real property tax obligations. If a fair resolution requires litigation, Sleggs, Danzinger & Gill have the depth of trial and appellate experience to handle the most complex valuation issues. Whether the valuation relates to large industrial plants, apartments, shopping centers, warehouses, office buildings, hotels or any other type of commercial property, the attorneys at Sleggs, Danzinger & Gill will ensure that you receive the best counsel, legal advice and litigation expertise. Most importantly, Sleggs, Danzinger & Gill wishes everyone continued health as we navigate through the Covid-19 pandemic. Todd W. Sleggs, Esq

Robert K. Danzinger, Esq

Steven R. Gill, Esq

(216) 771-8990

Sleggs, Danzinger & Gill

820 West Superior Avenue, 7th Floor, Cleveland, Ohio 44113

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Giddy Up



f you’ve spent any time around the legal world, you know that the outcome of many cases revolves around a concept known as “legal precedent.” Cases are made, argued, won and lost based on the results of decisions that had been made on similar cases in the past. Oftentimes, these precedents go unnoticed, as they usually have a narrow potential impact. But every so often, there will be a case that gains widespread attention because of a much broader potential impact. And this was the situation last fall, in a case known as Sitzer/Burnett. Before I get into the details and potential ramifications, I need to make a disclaimer. The focus on this article is on the primary components of this case, the initial decision and how it may ultimately impact the commercial real estate industry. I am going to deliberately not address specific commission rates. Although this was a part of the original case, I consider it out of bounds for purposes of this discussion as it may be construed as price fixing. And I have

no desire to have my broker’s license suspended. With that out of the way, off we go. The plaintiffs in Sitzer/Burnett are over 500,000 homeowners in Missouri. They collectively alleged that the four national brokerage firms unfairly inflated the commission rate charged to this group in conjunction with the sale of their homes. Also named in the suit was the National Association of Realtors (NAR), as all of these firms are members (known as


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Realtors) of this trade group. Two of the national brokerage firms chose to settle outside of court but the other two and NAR elected to go to trial. To fully understand the plaintiff’s position, we need to dig a little deeper. There is a code of ethics associated with being a Realtor and one of these is known as the Participation Rule. This includes an obligation to share a portion of the commission that is received by the seller’s agent with an agent that is representing the interests of the buyer. The amount of the fee available to the buyer’s agent must be disclosed if the property is listed by the seller’s agent on their local multiple listing service (MLS). There are approximately 500 MLSs nationwide, with each typically maintained and administrated by a local or regional board of Realtors that ultimately roll up to the NAR. The homeowners argued that the commissions charged were unfairly inflated as a result of the seller’s brokerage firm being associated with NAR, who mandate that a portion of the fee be shared with the buyer’s agent in order for the property to be listed on the local MLS. If you are hearing about this for the first time, you may be scratching your head a bit. But it didn’t take long for the judicial system to scratch their heads, as the jury not only quickly found for the plaintiff but granted an initial award of $1.78 billion. And, pending the judge’s decision, not only could this amount triple but the current practice related to commission sharing could either be modified or completely banished. Hundreds of similar cases were immediately filed in courtrooms across the country within days of this decision, with associated alleged damages spiraling into the hundreds of billions of dollars. Many of you reading this may be thinking that this could have a longterm impact on the residential sector but think the commercial sector is insulated because it’s different. There are several key factors that make me say “not so fast.” First, while the nuances, motivations and drivers of the residential and commercial sectors have many differences, there is but one type of real estate license in

What I C @ PVC REMEMBER WHEN? At the end of last year, Twinsburg Office Park was sold for $8.25 million or $49 per square foot. This two-building, 168,000-square-foot campus was at one time the headquarters for Things Remembered. PepsiCo, Inc. is the new owner. –AP most states, including Ohio. It doesn’t matter if an agent only sells houses or only leases office buildings – everyone holds the same real estate license. Second, membership in the NAR is much less widespread amongst firms that focus on the commercial sector. But the two leading trade associations in the commercial real estate sector, the Society of Office and Industrial Realtors (SIOR) and the Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM) Institute are both affiliated organizations of the NAR. And third, participation in the local MLS is also much less widespread among firms focused on the commercial sector. But the practice of the seller’s agent sharing their fee with the buyer’s agent is just as common in the commercial sector as it is in the residential sector. If you think that lease transactions are different, think again as it

too follows this same practice, with the landlord’s agent sharing the fee with the tenant’s agent. Remember, this was a primary allegation of the plaintiffs in the Sitzer/Burnett case – the amount of the fee that was paid by the seller was unnecessarily increased as a direct result of the seller’s agent sharing it with the buyer’s agent. The defendants in the Sitzer/Burnett case are in the process of appealing the decision and it will take months if not years for the full impact of the Sitzer/ Barnett case to play out. But to my thinking, the quick and decisive initial verdict speaks volumes of the public sentiment and ultimately where the current fee-sharing arrangement may be heading. And it’s not going to just be isolated to the residential sector. Years ago, one of my real estate Yodas characterized the real estate brokerage industry as “the last of the wild west.” Only time will tell if these real estate cowboys are riding into the sunset. Alec Pacella, CCIM, president at NAI Pleasant Valley, can be reached by phone at 216-4550925 or by email at You can connect with him at alecpacellaccim or subscribe to his youtube channel; What I C at PVC.

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hen it comes to risk mitigation for property investors, title insurance may be the best kept secret in the industry. While the concept of title insurance is well known and most investors understand the basic coverage offered by a title insurance policy, many don’t know about the optional – and valuable – coverage that may be available to them. Litigation over property rights occurs daily, and often the risk at issue could have been covered by title insurance. Even if you haven’t purchased a title policy for your own benefit, if you have a mortgage, you have purchased title insurance for your lender. For even the simplest transactions with the smallest of real estate collateral, lenders routinely require specific endorsements to their title coverage. Clearly, banks and other financial institutions are on to something. So, what is it that your lenders know that you don’t? Simply put: Lenders know to take advantage of any chance to minimize risk. They know that extended title insurance policies with appropriate endorsements may cost a bit more at closing (usually on buyer’s dime), but will save them money in the long run. From

insuring that a building conforms to applicable zoning ordinances, to removing the arbitration provisions from the title policy itself, there are many ways that title endorsements can change a title policy. For instance, if you are buying an LLC in order to obtain a parcel of land, the prior owner’s knowledge of defects could be imputed to you as the new shareholder – even if you had no idea about the issue at hand. However, a non-imputation endorsement would prevent the title company from assigning that knowledge to you as a defense against your claims. The American Land Title Association (ALTA) is primarily responsible for creating forms of standard endorsements




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EAST 216-283-5533 which states may choose to adopt. In Ohio, most endorsements available are ALTA form endorsements. However, ALTA does not have a monopoly on title policies or endorsements in the United States. While ALTA is still the industry standard, many states have adopted their own endorsements. California, for example, issues California Land Title Associations (CLTA) endorsements in addition to ALTA endorsements. Of those states that have adopted ALTA endorsements, not all ALTA endorsements are available in each state (looking at you Florida), and some states don’t issue ALTA policies or endorsements at all (yes, of course it is Texas). In whatever state you are in, endorsements can transform your title insurance coverage. For example, if there is an easement that runs through your property

Simply put: Lenders know to take advantage of any chance to minimize risk. They know that extended title insurance policies with appropriate endorsements may cost a bit more at closing (usually on buyer’s dime), but will save them money in the long run. and the prior owner constructed a garage that encroaches into that easement, the easement and the encroachment would appear as exceptions to the title policy. However, you could still get coverage through endorsements over both the easement and the encroachment. With an ALTA 28.1 for instance, if the other party to the easement sued to force you to remove the garage, you could make a claim with the title company causing the title company to step in to defend you against the claim and, if their defense fails, to cover your damages. Although title insurance is generally thought to be insuring over mistakes of the past, with certain title insurance endorsements, you can also insure the

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future of your property. If you are purchasing a vacant parcel of land with the express intent of building a multifamily apartment complex, there isn’t much to insure as there would be no potential encroachments, violations of restrictions or zoning issues at the time of purchase. However, if it is the future improvements that you would want to insure – you can, in fact, insure them. Through land under development endorsements, you can ensure that your planned improvement is in compliance with zoning ordinances, doesn’t violate any restrictions on record and will not cause an encroachment (among other things) to avoid any unwanted surprises at the completion of your project. All investments come with a degree of uncertainty. Since 2020, real estate investments have become even more

All investments come with a degree of uncertainty. Since 2020, real estate investments have become even more uncertain and volatile. Regardless of the security of the investor, walking away from the type of insurance offered by today’s title companies would be a mistake. uncertain and volatile. Regardless of the security of the investor, walking away from the type of insurance offered by today’s title companies would be a mistake. Do yourself a favor: the next time you review a commitment to issue title insurance, ask what endorsements and additional coverage your insurer can provide to your project. It just may save you in the long run.


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Tara J. Rose, a real estate and construction partner at Hahn Loeser & Parks LLP, can be reached via email at or by phone at 216.274.2337. Kate M. Grady ( is an associate attorney with the firm’s Real Estate Practice Area. For more information, visit Properties | February 2024

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All Ohio Future Fund Ready to Roll Out



he 2024-2025 State Operating Budget, memorialized in Ohio House Bill 33, established the All Ohio Future Fund (AOFF) with the goal of making strategic investments across Ohio to increase the state’s inventory of project-ready economic development sites. The primary objective of the AOFF is to drive economic growth by attracting new economic development projects and businesses throughout Ohio. $750 million will be invested to assist local communities with site readiness. The AOFF aims to lure end-users within one of the JobsOhio targeted industry sectors, such as advanced manufacturing, information technology, healthcare, aerospace, aviation and energy. The program rules have been released, and were recently modified based upon feedback received, and remain subject to Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR), a process in which JCARR must review and approve the proposed rules. If there are no further changes to the rules, then the pro-

gram is expected to become effective on February 12, 2024. Following JCARR approval, eligible applicants may begin to submit an online Indication of Interest at a time that will be determined by the Department of Development (DOD). Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis by DOD in coordination with

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JobsOhio and other state agencies, and if approved, awards must be approved by the Ohio Controlling Board. DOD anticipates initial AOFF awards during the spring of 2024. One of the key features of the AOFF Program is its emphasis on collaboration between businesses, developers and government. Private entity applicants must agree to collaborate with local governments on a project, and each applicant must have proof of county and local government support in order to be eligible for funding. Eligible applicants include “political subdivisions, port authorities, community improvement corporations, conservancy and park districts, land reutilization corporations, nonprofit organizations, transportation improvement districts and organizations for profit willing to develop project-ready sites to improve the economic welfare of the people of the State of Ohio.” While DOD has stressed that the AOFF is not meant to be a “one-size fits all” program, project parameters are spelled-out in some detail in the program guidelines. Multiple factors will be considered before awarding funding for any AOFF project, including the expected economic impact of the project, the local community’s ability to support the project, the quality of expected jobs created, the importance of the site to the region’s economic development, public ownership, local control of the land to be improved, and any other factors DOD deems appropriate. One important requirement for the program is that the site must attract a new end-user or a new project, meaning an existing Ohio enduser cannot simply relocate to the newly readied site. Another key requirement is that no more than 20% of a proposed site can be composed of a mixed-use development. Funding awarded through the AOFF Program will be allocated primarily through partially forgivable loans that may fund up to 75% of eligible project costs. Those loans will have a 0% interest rate and will be disbursed quarterly in advance based on estimated project

expenses. In order for the loans to be considered for forgiveness, an end-user for the project must be successfully identified within five years after funding, have wages that are 25% above the median community wage, and/or must operate in one of the JobsOhio’s 10 targeted sectors. The more of those factors

the project be funded, and sites that meet JobsOhio’s site certification criteria and/or have been identified by local and regional economic development organizations for development. Preference will be given to sites that have broad local private and public support, sites that have advanced plans for infrastructure improvement, sites that are not already benefitting from or eligible for other state programs, and sites with workforce capable of fulfilling the proposed end-use. By establishing the All Ohio Future Fund, the Ohio General Assembly and Governor DeWine have continued to boost support for economic development projects throughout Ohio. The program represents an extremely important, flexible initiative that is focused on continuing Ohio’s momentum and strengthening its economic landscape by fostering collaboration, innovation and investment all across the state.

One important requirement for the [All Ohio Future Fund] program is that the site must attract a new end-user or a new project, meaning an existing Ohio end-user cannot simply relocate to the newly readied site. apply, the greater chance of a higher percentage of loan forgiveness. Highest priority will be assigned to sites with the end-use capacity of 200 acres; 500,000 gallons per day water capacity; 500,000 gallons per day sewer capacity; 111,000 cubic feet per hour of gas capacity; and 40 megawatts electrical capacity. Preference will be given to sites that are publicly owned or under an option to purchase should

Michael J. Sikora III is the NAIOP Northern Ohio Government Affairs chair and the president of NAIOP Ohio. He is the managing partner of Sikora Law LLC and the president of Omni Title LLC.

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It’s More Than Just Office... A look at the impact of price declines & their potential effect on property tax assessments By Phil Brusk Siegel Jennings Co. LPA


ince the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and the shift to working from home, the question of how office properties would be impacted has been a topic of discussion in the real estate industry. However, it is not just office properties that have been impacted greatly since then. According to MSCI’s Commercial Property Price Index, all U.S. commercial sectors experienced annual price declines through September of 2023. What might be shocking to learn is that the apartment sector experienced the largest annual decline among property types, at 12.8% – whereas suburban office experienced a 9.0% decline and central business district (CBD) office experienced a 5.6% decline. There are several factors affecting the commercial real estate industry as a whole and driving a softening in prices; however, two main factors are the rise in interest rates over the past two years and increasing expenses outpacing rent growth.

Interest rates & tax assessments

Since March of 2022, there have been 11 interest rates hikes by the Federal Reserve. The target Federal Funds Rate range has increased from 0.00-0.25% in early 2022 to 5.25-5.50% by July 2023, where it remained as of December 2023. An increase in the Federal Funds Rate indirectly leads to increases in the interest rates that lenders charge their borrowers. Depending on factors such as asset class, geographic location, leverage, debt service coverage ratios and others, commercial real estate mortgage interest rates are typically determined by lending institutions as a spread over certain indices. Examples of common indices used are the one-year treasury yield, the 10-year treasury yield, or the Secured Overnight Financing Rate. As these indices increase, lending institutions must increase their mortgage rates to maintain their spread over the particular index used to determine a particular mortgage rate. What’s the theory behind interest rates affecting cap rates? In short, higher interest rates lead to higher cap 64

rates because investors must offset the increases in debt service by decreasing the amount they’re willing to pay for a specific property in order to maintain their target return thresholds. Assuming net operating income (NOI) remains constant, this decrease in purchase price results in an increase in the cap rate for the specific deal. It is important for properties owners to keep this in mind when evaluating

Property owners should not simply assume that because their property tax assessment is equal to or below their recent purchase price, that they are unable obtain a reduction in the property tax assessment. property tax assessment because a deal that was negotiated in early 2022 may not reflect what market participants are willing to pay for a property today. Property owners should not simply assume that because their property tax assessment is equal to or below their recent purchase price, that they are unable obtain a reduction in the property tax assessment.

Assessments should reflect market

On top of rising interest rates, the real estate market has seen operating expense increases without offsetting rental rate increases, thereby lowering NOI. As noted above, data indicates that all property types have experienced declines in value. In a recent report

from Trepp, utility expenses for multifamily properties across the 50 major MSAs showed an average increase in utility expenses of 10.1% from 2021 to 2022. Another operating expense line item that has been largely affected is insurance premiums; Trepp also reported the cost of property insurance increased 13.6% on average across the 50 largest MSAs from 2021 to 2022. It is important to remember that this is only an average, so properties located in MSAs that are more likely to experience natural disasters saw even larger increases. To align property tax assessments with market conditions, property owners should adopt a proactive approach. Anticipating and accounting for future expense increases, while using 2023 income and expenses as a guide for proformas, ensures a more accurate reflection of property values for a the upcoming tax year. Property owners, even those not immediately facing difficulties, can benefit from keeping these concepts in mind when they receive their assessment notices. In conclusion, the challenges facing the commercial real estate industry extend beyond office properties. Understanding the impact of interest rate increases, rising expenses and market trends is crucial for property owners when evaluating their property tax assessments. A proactive evaluation and collaboration with property tax professionals is essential in adapting to the evolving landscape of commercial real estate. Phil Brusk is an attorney at Siegel Jennings Co. LPA. He can be reached by email at pbrusk@ or by phone at 216.763.1004. Properties | February 2024


WE KNOW HOW TO GET RESULTS BECAUSE WE KNOW PROPERTY TAX LAW. We are the property tax law firm. It’s all we do, with more than 40 years of experience and billions in assessment reductions nationwide. Contact Kieran Jennings and the team at Siegel Jennings for a no-fee, no-risk review of your portfolio.

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CONSTRUCTION PROGRESS REPORT Updated info on important projects in the region, provided courtesy of ConstructionWire ( Project: #3430233 GREAT LAKES BREWING COMPANY NEW BREWERY AND CANNING FACILITY PROJECT TYPE/SIZE: Retail/Mfg./Industrial/ Warehouse (200,000 sq-ft) CONSTRUCTION TYPE: New ESTIMATED VALUE: $20 million SECTOR: Private LOCATION: 34925 Chester Rd. Avon, OH 44011 DETAILS: Plans call for the construction of a 200,000-square-foot brewery and canning facility for the Great Lakes Brewing Company (GLBC). Estimated Schedule (as of 1/8/2024) STAGE: Planning CONSTRUCTION END: N/A BID DUE DATE: N/A TENANT: Great Lakes Brewing Company Contact: Mark King, CEO 2516 Market Ave. Cleveland, OH 44113 P: 216-771-4404 Project: #3339214 26 MARKET STREET MIXED-USE PROJECT TYPE/SIZE: Multifamily (< 50 units), Retail/Office (10,000-24,999 sq-ft) CONSTRUCTION TYPE: Renovation ESTIMATED VALUE: $25-$100 million SECTOR: Private LOCATION: 26 Market St. Youngstown, OH 44503 DETAILS: Plans call for the conversion of the existing Huntington National Bank Building into four floors of commercial space and upper-floor apartments. Estimated Schedule (as of 1/3/2024)

STAGE: Planning CONSTRUCTION END: N/A BID DUE DATE: N/A ARCHITECT: A Neider Architecture Contact: Annissa Neider, Principal 565 E. Main St., Ste. 150 Canfield, OH 44406 P: 330-360-6676 TENANT: Mahoning Snacks 24 Market St. Youngstown, OH 44503 P: 330-747-1321 OWNER: 22 Market Street Ohio LLC 51 Forest Rd. Monroe, NY 10950 Project: #3290561 VITALIA SMART LIVING ACTIVE ADULT COMMUNITY PROJECT TYPE/SIZE: Multifamily (152 units), Social (< 10,000 sq-ft), Athletic Facilities (< 10,000 sq-ft), Medical CONSTRUCTION TYPE: New ESTIMATED VALUE: $30 million SECTOR: Private LOCATION: 19150 Bagley Rd. Middleburg Heights, OH 44130 DETAILS: Plans call for the construction of 152-unit Vitalia Development on a 11.75-acre site. The project includes 19 one-story villas, a three-story assisted living and memory care building, and a four-story structure containing independent living apartments. Villa units will have two- and three-bedroom options with attached garage. The four-story building will have studios, one- and two-bedroom inde-

pendent living apartments. Amenities include an indoor pool, theater, exercise room and full-service dining room. Prices ranges from $2,700 for a studio apartment, $3,000 for one-bedroom unit, and $3,700 for two-bedroom unit per month. Estimated Schedule (as of 12/27/2023) STAGE: Planning CONSTRUCTION END: N/A BID DUE DATE: N/A DEVELOPER, OWNER: Omni Smart Living Contact: Gary Biales, VP of Development 33095 Bainbridge Rd. Solon, OH 44139 P: 216-514-1950 DEVELOPER, OWNER: Vitalia Smart Living 21452 Royalton Rd. Strongsville, OH 44149 P: 440-878-3737 Project: #3246657 STS. PETER AND GEORGE COPTIC ORTHODOX CHURCH PROJECT TYPE/SIZE: Office/Schools (K-12) (9,800 sq-ft), Athletic Facilities (10,200 sq-ft), Religious, Facilities (11,550 sq-ft), Cultural (14,250 sq-ft) CONSTRUCTION TYPE: New ESTIMATED VALUE: $5-$25 million SECTOR: Public LOCATION: 25796 Hilliard Blvd. Westlake, OH 44145 DETAILS: Plans call for the construction of a new building totaling 45,800 square feet on 5.89 acres. The plan includes a 11,550-square-foot church with 450 seating capacity, a 14,250-square-foot social

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hall with 400 seating capacity, a 10,200square-foot gymnasium with 150 seating capacity, and a two-story classroom wing with nine classrooms and an office covering 9,800 square feet. Estimated Schedule (as of 1/10/2024) STAGE: Planning CONSTRUCTION END: N/A BID DUE DATE: N/A OWNER, TENANT: Sts. Peter and George Coptic Orthodox Church 25800 Hilliard Blvd. Westlake, OH 44145 P: 440-558-8732 ARCHITECT: Meraki Architects, LLC Contact: Richard Jozity, Principal 6887 Smith Rd., Ste. #5 Cleveland, OH 44130 P: 440-783-4290 Project: #3422684 EDGE INDUSTRIAL PARK PROJECT TYPE/SIZE: Office (3,000 sq-ft), Mfg./ Industrial/Warehouse (252,000 sq-ft) CONSTRUCTION TYPE: New ESTIMATED VALUE: $5-$25 million SECTOR: Private LOCATION: 12101 Worthington Ave. Cleveland, OH 44111 DETAILS: Plans call for a 255,000-square-foot warehouse building that will feature 32 foot clear height, up to 57 dock doors, four drive-in doors and 4,000-amp power. It will also have 3,000 square feet of spec office space and a parking lot. Estimated Schedule (as of 1/2/2024) STAGE: Early Construction CONSTRUCTION START: 12/2023 CONSTRUCTION END: Q3/2024 BID DUE DATE: N/A DEVELOPER, OWNER: Leveck Commercial Construction & Development Contact: Robert LeVeck, President 625 Eastgate Pkwy. Gahanna, OH 43230 P: 614-582-4765 Project: #3430236 CASTLE HALL REHABILITATION PROJECT TYPE/SIZE: Multifamily (25 units), Retail/Cultural (< 10,000 sq-ft), Retail/ Restaurants (<10,000 sq-ft) CONSTRUCTION TYPE: Renovation ESTIMATED VALUE: $6.7 million SECTOR: Private LOCATION: 57 E. Market St. Akron, OH 44308 DETAILS: Plans call for the conversion of an existing space to create a performing arts center, apartments and restaurants. A new construction on an adjacent vacant lot will include house support spaces, elevators and stairs as well as 25 new apartments.

Estimated Schedule (as of 1/4/2024) STAGE: Planning CONSTRUCTION END: N/A BID DUE DATE: N/A DEVELOPER: Events Akron Contact: Tony Troppe, Co-Founder Akron, OH 44301 P: 330-376-6460 Project: #3408476 CLEVELAND CLINIC GLOBAL PEAK PERFORMANCE CENTER PROJECT TYPE/SIZE: Athletic Facilities (10,00024,999 sq-ft), Medical CONSTRUCTION TYPE: New ESTIMATED VALUE: $12 million SECTOR: Private

LOCATION: Canal Rd. beside the Cuyahoga River Cleveland, OH 44113 DETAILS: Plans call for the construction of a sports performance center and training facility that will anchor the Bedrock Riverfront Development. The facility, a joint-venture between Cleveland Clinic and the Cleveland Cavaliers, will offer personalized expertise in training, treatment, nutrition and recovery from Cleveland Clinic’s professional medical specialists. Estimated Schedule (as of 1/2/2024) STAGE: Planning CONSTRUCTION END: N/A BID DUE DATE: N/A OWNER: City of Cleveland 601 Lakeside Ave.

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Cleveland, OH 44114 City Hall P: 216-664-2000 DEVELOPER: Bedrock Detroit 630 Woodward Ave. Detroit, MI 48226 P: 313-373-8700 ARCHITECT: Populous 4800 Main St., Ste. 300 Kansas City, MO 64112 P: 816-221-1500 TENANT: The Cleveland Clinic 200 Southeast Hospital Avenue Stuart, FL 34994 P: 772-287-5200 TENANT: Cleveland Cavaliers 1 Center Court Cleveland, OH 44115 P: 216-420-2000 Project: #3367169 AKRON BEACON JOURNAL BUILDING MIXEDUSE REDEVELOPMENT PROJECT TYPE/SIZE: Multifamily (197 units), Retail/Restaurants (< 10,000 sq-ft) CONSTRUCTION TYPE: New, Renovation ESTIMATED VALUE: $52.2 million SECTOR: Private LOCATION: Akron, OH 44308 44 E. Exchange St. DETAILS: Plans call for the conversion of the former Akron Beacon Journal building and construction of a new building to create a mixed-use development consisting of 197 residential units, food purveyors and other businesses. Rent in the new units will be between $1,300 and $1,500 per month for units that are 600 to 700 square feet in size, with larger units up to 900 square feet. Estimated Schedule (as of 1/17/2024) STAGE: Starts in 4-12 months CONSTRUCTION START: 9/2024 CONSTRUCTION END: Q4/2025 BID DUE DATE: N/A DEVELOPER, OWNER: Tony Troppe 44 E. Exchange St. Akron, OH 44328 F: 330-996-3052 GC: Pride One Construction 2211 Medina Rd., 100 Medina, OH 44256 P: 330-239-6100 Construction project reports are provided with permission through ConstructionWire, courtesy of BuildCentral ( BuildCentral specializes in planned construction project leads and location analytics for CRE, hotel, multi-family/ single-family, medical, mining & energy, and retail construction spaces. Properties Magazine makes no warranty of any kind for this information, express or implied, and is not responsible for any omissions or inaccuracies. To notify Properties of any reporting errors, we encourage you to email Properties | February 2024

Coming in March Aura at Innovation Square Grace Church & Sports Facility Landscapes + Hardscapes Special Section …and more Want to increase your connections? Contact Properties today and an account representative can help you address your marketing needs: Visit us online today to view archived issues in an interactive digital format. 70

ADVERTISER INDEX AIA Cleveland.......................................................23

John G. Johnson Construction ....................... 9

Air Control Products, Inc..................................38

JV Janitorial Services, Inc................................... 6

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Krill Company, Inc...............................................32

All Floor Removal................................................62

Lisco Heating & Cooling, Inc..........................33

American International Construction........57

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Masonry Restoration Maintenance............... 6

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Bialosky Cleveland.............................................. 11

Messina Floor Covering, Inc...........................27

Brennan Heating & Associates......................60

Mid State Restoration, Inc...............................37

Carey Demolition................................................67

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Carey Roofing.......................................................37

Northern Ohio..................................................31

CESCO Imaging...................................................... 7

North Coast Paving............................................61

Charles Svec Inc...................................................12

NorthCoast Moving & Storage .....................59

Cleveland Chemical Pest

OCP Contractors..................................................63

Control, Inc........................................................68

Ohio Awning & Manufacturing ....................12

Cleveland Demolition.......................................36

Oppenheim Construction...............................17

Cleveland Public Power....................................67

Pella Window & Door Company/

Columbia Building Products..........................42

Gunton Corp.....................................................20

Corcoran Tile & Marble Company................24

Pete & Pete Container Service.......................66

Cunningham Paving Inc...................................13

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D&R Commercial Flooring...............................45

Contracting Inc................................................14

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Precision Environmental Co...........................41

Diamond Roofing Systems.............................69

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Root Integrated Systems.................................26


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EA Group.................................................................39

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Eastside Exteriors LLC.......................................44

S.A. Comunale Company.................................19

Fortney & Weygandt, Construction, Inc....42

SE Blueprint, Inc...................................................46

Frantz Ward LLP...................................................12

Siegel Jennings ...................................................65

Freeman Building Systems................................ 3

Sixth City Glazing................................................ 11


Sleggs Danzinger & Gill....................................55

Gateway Electric LLC.........................................18

SMACNA Cleveland.............................................. 2

Geauga Mechanical, Co.................................... 17

Space Comfort Co...............................................68

H&M Landscaping & Snow Pros, Inc...........72

Sunray Window Films LLC...............................58

Hahn Loeser & Parks, LLP................................59

Suntrol Co...............................................................60

Hicks Roofing........................................................71

Superior Floor Coatings..................................... 4

Infinity Construction.........................................51

T. Allen Inc..............................................................23

Infinity Paving Company................................... 7

T.H. Martin, Inc......................................................48

Integrated Project Solutions..........................51

The Arcus Group Inc..........................................44

J Barker Landscaping, Co.................................52

The Thomas Brick Company..........................21

Jamieson Ricca Fenestration............................ 7

US Communications & Electric Co...............24

JL Taylor, Co. Inc...................................................51


Jlji Enterprises, Inc...............................................29

Yerman & Young Painting, Inc.......................37 Properties | February 2024

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Since 1947

Mike Hicks President For over seven decades we’ve earned the reputation of being more than just roofers. Our four generations carry the tradition of partnering with our customers, who trust us to provide the right product, at the right price, installed with integrity to last for decades. Contact Hicks Roofing to get the maximum life out of your top-level investment with zero compromises. • 800-750-4425

Call to setup your free consultation today!

Walmart 200,800 Sq Ft | 2014

Wooster City Schools Custom Color Membrane Simulate Metal 15,700 Sq Ft | 2017

Buehler’s Grocery Store 84,800 Sq Ft | 2016

to Life

Your landscaping makes a powerful statement to your team and prospective clients. Let our Grounds Maintenance Division show you what 37 years in Property Management can do to protect your corporate appearance.

GROUNDS MAINTENANCE DIVISION Professional | Dedicated | Experienced • 440-564-1157 • 855-GREEN06

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