Thursday, April 8, 2010

Cleveland Landmarks Commission meeting April 8, 2010

This is the first of what will be many articles reporting on the proceedings of the Cleveland Landmarks Commission meetings.

The commission met at at 9:00 am today in room 514 of the Cleveland city hall. The following items were addressed:

Ohio Savings Bank - 1866 West 25th Street - sign
Ohio Savings Bank (formerly AmTrust Bank, and before that Ohio Savings Bank) needed to change their neon sign to reflect the new name. The existing neon sign was installed relatively recently - within the past 10 years. The matter was before the commission because the building is located in a historic district.

At their last meeting, the commission presented their concerns regarding the proposed new sign. The representative from the sign company took the concerns back to his client, who agreed to the changes.

This image illustrates the changes to the sign. The neon letters will be removed and replaced with backlit letters. The metal frame and other neon will be retained. The commission voted unanimously in favor of the sign as proposed, with the exception of Thomas Coffey, who had to abstain due to a business relationship involving his firm.

Henry C. Holt House / Holowchak Funeral Home / Ukrainian Museum-Archives - 1208 Kenilworth Avenue - Demolition
We've covered this house, one of six left standing in the city designed by Charles Schweinfurth, and its proposed demolition in considerable detail. The Ukrainian Musuem-Archives owns the building and wants to use the space for surface parking and eventual expansion. We described the history of the house and its residents and what it might have looked like. We were able to document another house in the neighborhood, also designed by Schweinfurth, the Richard T. Coleman residence. On the basis of the interior of the Coleman residence, which was built at about the same pricepoint, at about the same time, I had high hopes for the potential that might be present in the house.

Some of the members of the commission visited recently visited this house and discussed what they saw at the meeting. The meeting agenda includes photographs of the interior. Note that the first few photographs, labeled "1202 Kenilworth" are of the building next door that currently houses the Ukrainian Museum-Archives.

Very little original detail was still present, especially when compared with the Coleman residence. Further, the physical structure of the house had been severely modified. All of the original windows have been removed, the grand staircase had been removed, and it had lost much of what made it an interesting house.

I expressed my concern regarding the precedent that turning this space into surface parking would set. The committee tended to agree. They had previously said that they would want the start of the parking lot to be even with the setback line, and that they would want additional screening to help keep the visual character of the block.

The staff of the commission reluctantly recommented the demolition, pending documentation of the sturcture and a salvage plan. The commission voted unanimously to allow the demolition of the structure, with the provision that the above conditions were met.

1723 West 32nd Street - Renovation
The house in question is a property in the Ohio City historic district. It was condemned as the result of damage from a fire in the house next door, which burned to the ground, claiming four lives.

The present owners bought the house, built in the 1880s or 1890s, with the intent of making it into a single-family home again. They also plan to make the house much more energy-efficient, with additional insulation that will expand the exterior dimensions of the house by two inches in all directions. The windows will be replaced with triple-glazed models which will be fitted into new jambs.

Though my opinions of replacement windows are well known, I have to say that I am quite pleased with the quality of the product they have chosen and their overall vision for this project. I look forward to seeing how this house turns out, and hope, if possible, to document some parts of it as an example of the right way to do energy-efficient retrofits to a house of this age. I applaud the owners of this project for their efforts thus far, and wish them luck on this project. The commission voted unanimously in favor of the plan.

The Ukrainian Museum-Archives will have to go before the Landmarks Commission before they proceed on the parking lot and landscaping. They expect to do this in the next month or two.

ABC Bail Bonds - 1280 West 3rd Street - signs
ABC Bail Bonds proposed new signage for their windows as well as a freestanding sign and one for the side of their building. The signage seems historically appropriate, and a good fit.

The commission voted unanimously to approve the signage plan.

Anytime Fitness - 11517 Clifton Boulevard - Signs
Anytime Fitness occupies the building on Clifton formerly occupied by Hollywood Video, a single story building of relatively recent construction. They had to appear before the commission because the size of the signage that they wanted to use was larger than what was allowable per code requirements.

The size of the signage as proposed seemed to fit the building well. The commission voted unanimously to approve the signage plan.

4717 Clinton Avenue - Renovation plans
This circa 1860 Greek Revival style house has been purchased by an investor who plans to rehab the property and sell it. The formal hearing for this property will be held at the commission's next meeting. Councilman Zone expressed his support for the plan at this meeting because he will be unable to attend the next one.

The plan as suggested seemed to eliminate what little historical detail was still present on this house, in favor of details that were closer to that of the turn of the century. I will be investigating this matter further and will report on it at a later date.

Franklin - West Clinton Historic District Design Review Committee
The creation of this committee was proposed. Councilman Zone spoke in favor of its members, who will be: Chris Bongorno; Bruce Buchanan; Joe Figueroa; Dave Jurca; Kevin Kantz; Cathy Marquardt; Rick Matisak; and Randall Shorr. The commission voted to approve the committee.

I know that at least one of the committe members is a reader of this blog. I wish them luck in their work serving that community.

St. Wendelin Church - 2281 Columbus Road - Landmark Nomination
The church is one of the ones that will be closing. The whole campus, built in the 1920s, was nominated for Landmark status. The commission approved the nomination, which will now go before city council.

The church is an interesting structure. We hope to report more on this complex in the future.

The next Cleveland Landmarks Commission meeting will be held on Thursday, April 22, at 9:00 am at the Cleveland City Hall.


  1. I thought that the gentleman from the planning commission made some interesting points regarding the house at 4717 Clinton Avenue. He explained the original architecture to Matt Zone and further elaborated on the porches and the side door.

    It occured to me and I spoke with Matt Zone and Mr. Kaiser, Mr. Rastattter and Ms. Coleman about the possibility of having a relator with the assistance of a design review, historic district committee, CRS and landmarks commission of having information available to a potential buyer. This is what you're buying - this is what it will be held to based on the fact that it is in an historic district. Perhaps this particular buyer did know what was going to be involved, but it seems to me that buyers of homes and buildings should be better educated about what they may face when they plan renovations/restorations.

    The double porch does not belong in any renovation/restoration of this house and the side door does. Sigh...

    The buyer should be informed about the challenges that lie ahead so that we can reduce the battles to be fought, won and lost on all sides. Imagine if the (Schweinfurth) Holt House had faced landmarks constraints when the funeral home changes were made. It might have been more worth saving now.

  2. An excellent point. It would require, however, access to accurate information about the ages of the houses in question. It's not in the County Auditor's data, which is where real estate agents tend to pull all the other data for their listings - the house in question is listed by the Auditor as having built in 1890.

    I like the idea, mind you, but I think that you'd have to have the staff of the Landmarks Commission on board to provide some serious research help in order to make it work. Either that, or you'd need some other group of researchers.

  3. Teaching an elective course to Realtors earning points for their license renewal on the laws relating to historic landmarks would be good. Could be combined with information on the histories of the city and the various neighborhoods, prominent homes, etc.