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Architecture, Cleveland Ward 3, Community Development, Ohio City

25th Street Lofts rehabilitation adds 83 apartments and commercial space on Church Avenue between W. 25th and W. 28th

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1951 PHOTO FROM THE CLEVELAND NEWS

1951 photo of the Odd Fellows Building on the Southwest Corner of W. 25th and Church Avenue (1504-1512 W. 25th Street.) The Odd Fellows Building, built in 1873, and designed by Cudell and Richardson. Its original address was 315-321 Pearl Road. This photo found in the Cleveland Public Library’s collection by architectural historian Craig Bobby was later photoshop enhanced by Tim Barrett in July of 2006.

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PHOTO BY CHUCK HOVEN

Tuesday, December 20, 2016; 1504 -1512 W. 25th Street at Church Avenue, the former International Order of Odd Fellows building. Architectural historian Craig Bobby notes the top two floors of the building were removed due to extensive damage from a tornado in June of 1953.

by Theresa Delaney

(Plain Press, January 2017)          “My dad sold chickens at the Westside Market,” says Rick Foran, a real estate developer, explaining how he got interested in a $25 million project on W. 25th Street. Rick Foran of The Foran Group is one of the developers of the W. 25th Street Lofts at the corner of Church Street and W. 25th Street in the Ohio Historic District.

This master piece is located across the street from St. John’s Episcopal Church, referred to as the “Station Hope,” once a stop for runaway slaves passing through and one of the oldest edifice churches in Cuyahoga County. On this property, next to the church Foran has renovated a small building and made it a temporary office at their request, he said.

The Foran Group focuses on projects that involve urban revitalization and historic preservation. The project had been on pause for almost six years. Plans started in 2012, but then the housing market and economy crashed so the Foran’s Group had to find new sources of financing.

The Arts & Sciences Preparatory Academy moved into a warehouse on the west end of the project at W. 28th and Church, after Foran and his group took over the property, providing rent to help pay the mortgage, Foran said. The charter school was run by Mosaica Education out of Atlanta. The school has since moved out, and that area is being renovated for part of the 83-unit project, with 64 different floor plans.

The project renovation is being financed by a Federal Housing Administration-insured loan with Love Funding. It’s location in a historic district made it eligible for a tax credit, although a small part of the property did not fit into the historic district. Foran’s Group now occupies the entire block from W. 25th Street to W. 28th Street, on the south side of Church Avenue, with two separate $4 million in tax credits approved.

The buildings on the property were home to Exhibits Builders, Inc., a warehouse for the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, and offices before Foran purchased them for renovation.

According to local architectural historian Craig Bobby, nearly all the buildings that front on Church Avenue that are part of this project “were built for the Riester & Thesmacher Company, after they acquired these properties at different times during the 20th century. The Phoenix Ice Company did some building at the W. 28th Street end of the property”

In the early 1900’s, the Riester and Thesmacher Co. (R & T) was located there, according to Sanborn maps. R & T made pressed tin and sheet metal fabricators among other things. Today you can still see the remains of designs and pressed tin on the walls and ceiling fixtures as Foran uncovered the historic beauty of the architecture and décor that remained underneath drywalls and dropped ceilings.

Masonic Hall Association and the Westside International Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.) were once located on the east side of the complex, facing what was then called Pearl Avenue.  In 1881, I.O.O.F. Hall had huge galas and meetings that attracted people from near and far, with thousands of people in line to join parades or hear prestigious speakers. What remains of the I.O.O.F. Hall is a now empty 6,000 square foot building. It is gutted out, as the first floor of this building has experienced a time reversal. Foran is unveiling “original brick walls and cast iron columns, while retaining the vertical space in the building,” he said.

As he walked out on the boarded, temporary, sidewalk on W. 25th Street in front of the former I.O.O.F building, he notes the new windows they waited about two years to customize and fit the gothic shaped historic frame of the 25th Lofts from the 1800s.

The W. 25th Street Lofts are now renting 1, 2, and 3 bedroom apartments, and spacious lofts, some with two floors. Some have access to a patio, so there are many designs to choose from.

Directly in the middle of the project on Church Avenue is a huge skylight. There is plenty of parking in various spaces on the property, with garages spaces inside for tenants.  It has a nice size fitness room and neutral carpet and painted walls throughout the halls.

Foran showed a couple of apartments that had an original Maplewood floor restored. On other floors, the wood had been replaced.

The building was full of surprises. The original architecture was laced with contemporary trinkets like stainless steel refrigerators, dish washers and stoves, and granite counter tops. The building has lots of light since there are no buildings blocking the second level apartments. The bedrooms have a technique on the walls called borrowed light — a long, horizontal cut out piece of the wall a foot from the ceiling, like a stolen piece of a sunlight to borrow from the next room that has larger windows.

The International Order of Odd Fellows Building which once had an address of 315-321 Pearl Road is going to be a new home for a storefront and apartments at the corner of W. 25th and Church Avenue (1504-12 W. 25th Street).

At 327-329 Pearl was the Baehr Brewery Building first constructed by Jacob Baehr, a former employee of the Leisy Brothers Brewery, a German, immigrant that moved from Iowa with his eight children and wife Magdalena. He established his own brewery there.

Jacob died five years later and never got a chance to see his idea flourish to its fullest potential. Magdalena ran a saloon in the store front while living in a house directly behind the saloon. She also ran the brewery behind the house her husband built.

The building still has the original brewery brick smoke stack from the 1800’s.  Some of the new residents will have the luxury of having this little piece of history going through their apartments.

The building started as a single-story structure. But the Baehr brewery business did so well, after Magdalena took over, she added two more floors. The family started living a more “opulent” lifestyle, Foran says, as you can tell when you walk through the parts of the building that used to be the Baehrs’ home. Some of the features of the house still had two marble fire places, pocket doors, chandeliers and detailed designs in the plastered molding along the edges of the ceiling on the second floor.

Baehr built a brick stable for the horses. The family would manage to get the beer kegs in and out of the basement cellar.  A tilted floor in the basement was built with a wide V shaped slant for the ice aged lager beer to stay cold in the winter.  While in storage for the winter ice was brought in from the Cuyahoga River across Pearl Road and placed in the basement on the kegs of beer to start the aging.  As the ice melted the water went in the floor and out of the building.

A restaurant will likely be located on the first floor, and a shared space snuggled in between the two halves of the building may provide space for a patio and dining, Foran said.

In 1898, more than thirty years after starting the brewery, Mrs. Baehr sold the company to Cleveland and Sandusky Brewing Company. Cleveland and Sandusky Brewing Company lasted into the 1960s, says architectural historian Craig Bobby.

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