Office, retail project being built near Crocker Park

A multimillion-dollar office and retail project first proposed in 2019 prior to the pandemic is starting to rise from the ground on a 16-acre site at 2207 Crocker Road.

Called Crocker Commons, the mixed-use project is far enough along that real estate developers proposing the project and the brokerage representing it have announced the signing of the first three tenants for the retail portion of the complex.

Committing to the project are Shake Shack, the premium burger chain already represented in downtown Cleveland and Orange Village, as well as Choolaah Indian BBQ restaurant, which is in operation in Beachwood and has a location going in near the West Side Market on West 25th Street in Cleveland. Verizon, the cellular phone provider, also has agreed to lease space at the complex.

Moreover, Max Sussman, vice president at Ponsky Capital Partners and Five Forty Investments, said in a prepared statement on the project that “leasing activity is robust” and another four tenants are in negotiations for retail space that will be available in the fall of 2022.

Sussman and Steve Rubin, chief operating officer of Five Forty Investments who is also the principal for Midwest Real Estate Partners, are serving as the developers of the project for Five Forty. The company is an investment arm for the Weiss family, best known for making American Greetings Corp. a global concern. Another Weiss affiliate owns the site.

Rubin said in an interview that plans for the complex are virtually the same as when he originally discussed them in 2019. The project encompasses two retail buildings, each about 15,000 square feet, and a U-shaped single-story office building. The office space is designed to serve as a buffer between the retail structures and an adjoining single-family neighborhood.

However, there are two big changes in the project that reflect what is hopefully a post-pandemic world.

On the north end of one of the retail buildings and on the south end of the other building there will be drive-up windows that will allow customers to pick up food from Shake Shack and Choolaah.

“They’re not drive-up restaurants,” Rubin stressed in an interview. “They are for pick-up and delivery. All the ordering and payment will be online. This allows the restaurants to continue to streamline operations.”

In a prepared statement, Kevin Moss, a CBRE vice president, wrote, “Despite many challenges with COVID, rising construction costs and inflation, CBRE was able to source new-to-market and expanding retailers and restaurants at this exciting new mixed-use development project. The developer and City of Westlake were creative and thoughtful about the current climate and were willing to work with Choolaah and Shake Shack to address their needs. “

Moss and Stephen Taylor, vice president at CBRE in Cleveland, both represented the developer in the project.

An element that might have been dropped, given uncertainty about future office demand post-COVID-19, but that has been retained, is the 60,000 square feet of office space in the project.

“We had no second thoughts about the offices,” Rubin said. “I think the market we expect to have particular interest in the office space will need to be in the office. That includes medical and health and wellness tenants and traditional neighborhood office tenants (such as lawyers and insurance agents), but we don’t want to limit it. “

Rubin said the office building will have direct entrances to office suites similar to those in office condos, although Crocker Commons offices will only be for rent. He likened the market for the suites to that in one-story office buildings to the project’s south, which are home to eye doctors, oral surgeons and financial planners.

Alex Jelepis, an expert in the Westlake office market and director at the NAI Pleasant Valley brokerage in Independence, said constructing offices with direct entrances to suites means the developer will not have to pay to build and operate lobbies or other amenities.

“I like it,” Jelepis said. “It’s a potential value proposition in a high-rent office district.” Asking rents for offices are not yet set.

Rubin declined to estimate a total construction and development cost for development.

However, ErieBank has provided an $ 18 million construction loan for the project, which means that total costs, including equity, are likely more than $ 20 million.

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