Menlo Park Academy buys former Joseph & Feiss complex -- By Stan Bullard, March 13, 2015
Plans are in the works to revive the former Joseph & Feiss complex on Cleveland’s West Side as a campus for a charter school focused on gifted children. Menlo Park Academy of Cleveland is the new owner of the highly vandalized and graffiti stained building. Since 1997, the 1920-vintage garment factory and warehouse has been the subject of two sets of stalled plans by different developers to redo it for residential use. The original suit maker shut the West Side operation that same year. It consolidated its Hugo Boss line to its Brooklyn location, which again is under a closing threatened for April.
Fraser Hamilton, a member of Menlo’s board and chair of its facilities commission, said in a phone interview on Friday, March 13, that the brick building will allow the school to increase its enrollment to more than 600. It can’t grow much beyond its present 364 students at its current location at 144000 Triskett Road, the former St. Mel’s school. Menlo serves students from kindergarten through eighth grade. “It’s a spectacular property,” Hamilton said of the Joseph & Feiss structure. “It affords us the chance to develop a campus and control our own destiny.” He said the school was not put off by the building’s current vandalized condition. “It has good bones,” Hamilton said. “For being neglected nearly 20 years, it’s in good shape.” Visible from I-90, the complex at 2149 W. 53rd St. offered convenient, and crucial, highway access to Menlo. “We attract students from 40 different school districts and nine different counties in Northeast Ohio,” Hamilton said. “That accessibility is valuable to us. We also hope the location will allow us to serve more gifted children in low-income communities. They are probably one of most underserved groups on the educational spectrum.” The tall building with the water tower perched on its roof will house three classrooms for each grade from kindergarten through eighth grade.
Another building on the site will be mothballed for future use. Through West 53rd Holdings LLC, Menlo Park Academy paid $275,000 for the complex on March 2, according to Cuyahoga County property records. Previously, Urban Housing LLC, led by Cleveland developer Doug Perkowski, and the first to undertake the project, Ameri-Con Ashbury LLC led by home builder Sandy Krulak, tackled the project, which went through a 2007 sheriff’s foreclosure sale. Both were thwarted by the housing bust and, in its wake, woes landing funding. Perkowski did not return a call from Crain’s Cleveland Business, by 1 p.m. Friday, March 13. A budget for the school project is not yet available. A capital campaign for the new campus is imminent, but Hamilton declined to disclose its size. The charter school plans to apply for the next round of Ohio State Historic Preservation Tax Credits, which has a March 31 deadline. Hamilton said a prior allocation of highly competitive tax credits has been lost because that project did not proceed. He noted the proposed project is totally different from the prior one.
The empty eight acres surrounding the complex will allow the academy to provide outdoor education and recreation opportunities. Hamilton said Menlo hopes to someday add a field house to the grounds. Although Hamilton would not disclose an estimated cost for the proposed school makeover, it is no small undertaking. When the Urban Housing won the state tax credit allocation in 2011, it was based on a proposed project cost of almost $10 million. However, redoing the factory as a school likely will require fewer interior walls and fewer plumbing and kitchen fixtures than turning it into 60 flats. Read the original article in Crain's Cleveland Business