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Shaker Square sold to local non-profits; improvements planned while group mulls future

Community development non-profit Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, with Burten Bell Carr Development, are the new owners of the historic east side retail center.

CLEVELAND — Shaker Square, the historic retail center on Cleveland's east side that has been in foreclosure limbo for over a year, is now officially under new ownership.

Community development non-profit Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, with its real estate subsidiary New Village Corporation and collaboration with Burten Bell Carr Development, has completed an $11 million purchase of the property, opening the way for maintenance improvements and keeping the historic landmark in local control.

“Shaker Square is a vital, historic asset that supports more than 150 jobs and is a catalyst for neighborhood development,” said Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb in a release announcing the transaction. “The revitalization of this neighborhood is a priority for my administration and I am confident that this team is aligned with our vision to bring this gem to its full luster.’’

The retail center, which spans more than 168,000 square feet of retail, office and mixed-used space across four buildings, has been in foreclosure since 2021 after its previous owners, Coral Company, defaulted on a $10.6 million loan amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Stakeholders feared the property would be brought to a sheriff’s sale, which could have potentially resulted in an out-of-state buyer “who had little concern about the community’s interests, which would have worsened the decay and vacating of the property, harming nearby home values,” CNP said.

The sale to CNP and its partners was made possible in part by the City providing $12 millions in low-interest loans to the developers in support of the project, approved by Cleveland City Council in the spring.

Tania Menesse, CEO and president of CNP, hailed the collaborative effort to keep Shaker Square in the hands of the community.

“There was a genuine collaboration by city officials, residents of this community, tenants, philanthropic organizations, and others to make sure this historic, neighborhood anchor did not fade into obsolescence,” said Menesse. We are so grateful for everyone’s partnership and assistance. The city of Cleveland’s loans were a game changer and this opportunity would not be possible without that funding.”  

The owners have hired retail property managers CRESCO Playhouse Square Management to handle day-to-day operations and conduct a critical needs assessment to prioritize a list of needs and costs on the property.

While the news is certainly a relief to community members concerned about an out-of-state sale, Shaker Square’s new owners have their work cut out for them. The property has leaking roofs, flooding issues and several other critical issues in need of addressing.

They’ll start with a “thorough clean-up” of the property within the first 30 days of ownership. Other urgent needs will be addressed as soon as possible, though New Village Corporation president Linda Warren cautioned that “there’s a lot we don’t know about the property.”

The St. Luke’s Foundation and Gund Foundation have also committed financial support to the project and the owners expect to raise other funding.

The new owners plan to engage the community for feedback as they map out Shaker Square’s future.

“We are committed to working with merchants, customers, residents, and area stakeholders to craft a community-driven vision for a renovated Shaker Square and the green space in its center,” said Joy Johnson, executive director of Burten Bell Carr.  “The Shaker Square, Larchmere, Buckeye and Mt. Pleasant neighborhoods have a long and proud history of community engagement. We want to tap that spirit of activism and passion.”

Johnson said the long-term vision for the property could include a partnership with a private sector entity that has “urban retail experience” and “a vested interest in Cleveland.” 

Cleveland City Councilwoman Deborah Gray, who serves the ward in which Shaker Square stands, said the property has served an essential role in the lives of east side residents. She hopes that role continues under the new non-profit ownership.

“It is critical Shaker Square remains a strong social and economic anchor for the contiguous neighborhoods,” she said. “The Square provides essential conveniences like Dave’s Grocery Store and CVS that we must ensure remain in the neighborhood, and it is an important link for key commercial corridors.”

 

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