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Crain’s Cleveland Business

Akron’s new developments got put on hold in 2021 due to the pandemic

Despite the pandemic, Akron had a busy 2021.

Development downtown continued. The Bowery project started the year with its nearly 100 apartments almost all leased out and its focus on retail tenants. Then the 159 Main building across Main Street opened early in the year, unveiling more than 100 more luxury apartments.

Mentor developer Lance Osborne kept the momentum going by building another 139 apartments at Canal Place during 2021, representing an investment of more than $40 million. He followed that up by announcing another project at Canal Place, similarly sized and also representing a $40 million investment, in December.

But while residential activity showed little to no weakness during a year that was fraught with pandemic and other perils, business activity downtown and nearby in central Akron was largely stalled.

The city’s new hotel, the BLU-tique, had just opened at New Year’s before it was shuttered for almost all of 2021. It remains closed.

Another hotel, this one proposed for the Martin House, a former mansion on the campus of the University of Akron, was slated to begin construction in 2021, but financing proved impossible to arrange. Tom Chema, who was able to raise millions of dollars and a bounty of support for Cleveland’s Gateway sports complex projects in the 1990s, told us in December that the project still was unable to find backers and remains shelved.

Not that there weren’t signs of hope.

Downtown bars and restaurants reported a significant pickup in business in the middle of the year, and new restaurants such as El Patron downtown reported their business was brisk. Developer Tony Troppe, who built and co-owns the BLU-tique, has said he hopes to reopen soon and expects to do so with a new badge from a major hotel brand.

But those same bars and restaurants that reported a return of their patrons also often had a difficult time finding staff, sometimes leaving them unable to take advantage of improving business. Now, they’re facing another uncertain winter and year ahead as COVID has returned in the last month of the year with a vengeance.

The Bowery, until December, had failed to attract a single retailer, bar or restaurant to its new spaces — though many, including its developer, said that was a blessing in disguise considering the economic climate.

Before the year ended, though, Akron’s glitziest development announced it had landed a major restaurant as its first retail tenant. Crave, one of the city’s most popular restaurants, announced it will move and expand into new digs at the Bowery and move from its home on East Market Street.

Meanwhile, as the nation argued and convulsed over whether to spend trillions of dollars on new infrastructure projects, Akron completed some of its major infrastructure work.

Not only did the city make largely unseen progress underground on its more than $1 billion, federally mandated sewer project, but the city’s big makeover of Main Street downtown made major progress, and the street is now reopened in most of downtown.

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By: Doug Livingston and Kerry Clawson 
 Akron Beacon Journal

A new space to Crave: Downtown Akron restaurant relocating to new Bowery development

For owner and chef Aaron Hervey, the invitation to move his Crave restaurant to the Landmark Building in the up-and-coming Bowery development downtown was an offer too good to refuse.

By April, he expects his current East Market Street restaurant to be in its new home just two long city blocks away at the corner of Main and Bowery in the space that, nearly a century ago, was the two-story lobby of Akron Savings and Loan.

Hervey said Don Taylor, CEO and president of Bowery developer Welty Building Co. and a longtime Crave fan, approached him about the move.

“He felt that we would really be the hometown recognizable brand, the right anchor to help fill those buildings and just basically be the cornerstone of the neighborhood,” Hervey said.

With the city’s help, the move would relieve Crave of an undisclosed debt.

The pandemic put many restaurants out of business. Hervey missed rent payments to his current landlord at the corner of Market and High streets in the historic Castle Hall building owned by developer Tony Troppe and his partners at the Everett Group.

Crave’s relocation also gives Taylor, whose plans to rent retail space have been sidelined for two years, his first commercial tenant at the Bowery.

“If we roll the clock back to 2019, in October/November I had two tenants looking at every space in the building,” said Taylor. “The economy was doing well. The world did not understand what a pandemic would do.”

The prospective tenants said they’d come back when the sidewalk wasn’t torn up and the city’s complete reconstruction of Main Street, which was a couple months behind schedule at that time, was finished. Then news of a novel coronavirus broke, burying any hope of renting street-level storefronts as the economy come to a crashing halt.

Now Welty Construction and its partners on the Bowery project are negotiating with a second business seeking 7,000 square feet of office space. Taylor hopes to announce that deal in the next two weeks.

Taylor said he’s never bullish on restaurants as tenants. Even before the pandemic, their thin operating margins made for an unreliable revenue. Sitting at a conference table with Hervey to discuss the tentative deal, Taylor made that clear.

He told Hervey: “I know this isn’t going to give you any great comfort, but the No. 1 business failure industry is talking to the No. 2 business failure industry. Construction goes out of business more often than anybody. And restaurants are the No. 2. Here we are trying to plot success.”

Taylor said the men laughed at conventional wisdom, prepared to challenge a pandemic that’s upended consumer behavior, jerked around prices and limited the availability of everything from construction materials to chicken wings. The construction company lead, whose company has been around for 76 years and is currently a partner on Ohio’s largest construction project at the new $600 million Sherwin Williams headquarters in Cleveland, said he’s “betting” on Crave’s success.

To account for uncertain times, Taylor said the prospective lease with Crave, though not yet final, would be tied to the restaurant’s sales and not to the 8,000 square feet it would occupy in the bottom of the Landmark Building.

“It will be a function of the success that they have,” said Taylor. “We are definitely betting on the fact that they will be doing very well.”

Why move to the Landmark?

Hervey, who opened Crave downtown in 2005, said the new Landmark space is highly desirable due to the hundreds of thousands of guests that the Akron Civic Theatre and Lock 3 draw annually. The area also features 92 new apartments in the building right above the restaurant space.

Taylor was “pleasantly surprised” to see Akronites snatch up the apartments, which were shown virtually during the pandemic. Only about six are vacant at any given time, he said.

More residential units are coming online across Main Street at The 159 as developers continue to chase market demand for more downtown living.

Hervey estimates the relocation and renovation of the Landmark space to cost upward of $1 million.

A grab-and-go grocery area will offer limited but fresh, nutritious foods, which is a requirement of the publicly funded new market tax credits that helped fund the Bowery project.

When it opens, Crave will be a part of the Downtown Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) that allows businesses around Lock 3 to serve alcohol in special biodegradable mugs that can be filled and taken out for a walk around the canal or along Main Street, Hervey said.
With the move, expected to be complete in April, Crave’s space will grow from 5,000 square feet to more than 8,000 at the Landmark Building, which will seat 140 on the ground floor, 20 at the bar and another 100 upstairs in the L-shaped mezzanine, a 3,200-square-foot space that will be used for special events as well as overflow dining seating. Crave also will seat 40 in a front sidewalk patio area.

“The first time we went and looked at the space, it’s just like jaw-dropping. It’s really dramatic; it’s 25-foot ceilings,” Hervey said.

He plans to redesign Crave’s current horseshoe-shaped dining room booths for the new dining room area at the Landmark and will get new booths for the bar area.

A focal point of the new decor will be a stainless steel sculpture by Akron artist John Comunale, which will rise out of the back bar up to the mezzanine level.

“We’re looking for a showstopper,” Hervey said of the work.

Comunale also will create arms that will cantilever over dining booths with Crave’s signature lights, handblown glass from Crete, that will be moved to the new restaurant space.

Hervey expects Crave to spend at least $500,000 on the move, which will include repurposing furniture, new furniture, new kitchen and bar equipment, and a new, black granite and stainless steel bar. With seating increasing from 212 currently to 313 at the new space, Crave also will need more plates for banquets and about 11 more staff, including more servers.

“We are using almost everything that we currently have but we need more of it,” Hervey said.

Help from the city of Akron

The city of Akron also is supporting the move financially, which may include paying part of Hervey’s back rent to its current landlord. The back rent is a result of the restaurant’s lost business during the pandemic.

Hervey would not specify how much the city may cover.

When Crave opened its doors again early in the pandemic, it was unable to reopen for lunch because the restaurant had lost staff and nobody was working downtown. As a result, Crave lost a third of its revenue stream.

The restaurant, which is still open for dinner only, didn’t see business improving until April, when vaccinations started.

“The entire thing is about the pandemic, and we’re nowhere near what pre-COVID numbers are” sales-wise, Hervey said.

More details about the move

Welty and the city of Akron have pledged to help facilitate parking for Crave customers at its new location, including signage and talk of creating a valet zone in the Bowery area, Hervey said. Guests who park in the Cascade parking deck also will be able to access the back entrance to Crave without having to go outside.

Hervey said his culinary team has notebooks full of new menu ideas but the new Crave location will continue to offer favorites, including the cornflake chicken sandwich, mac and cheese, and grilled cheese and tomato soup.

The current restaurant will close after New Year’s Eve.

Starting in January, everything at the current restaurant will be cleaned and moved or stored while construction is being completed. Booths will be sent out for new springs, seats and fabric and another shop will sand the restaurant’s current chairs and barstools and paint them black.

“We want to make sure that this is clear in people’s minds: Crave didn’t go out of business,” Hervey said. “They’re just moving, and they’re not moving out of the city.”

September 30, 2021 – Akron, OHDon Taylor, President and CEO of Welty Building Company, has been named the National Sales and Marketing Executives™ (NSME) 2021 Executive of the Year, NSME’s highest honor award.  The winner is selected by NSME leaders based on nominations from local professionals. Criteria for the Executive of the Year include:  outstanding leadership of a dynamic and growing organization, significant corporate achievement, community and civic involvement and be a recognizable figure in the greater Akron/Canton and surrounding areas for his/her contributions.  Don Taylor and other NSME award recipients will be recognized at the “Accent on Excellence Event – 2021,” on September 30th at The Tangier in Akron.  For more information, visit NSME.

“As a consummate businessman, a strong community supporter and a good friend, there is no one more deserving of the NSME 2021 Executive of the Year honor than Don Taylor,” stated John G. Morikis, Sherwin-Williams Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer. “Don has demonstrated to me over the years a steadfast commitment, solid business acumen and sharp objectivity that he brings to every project and cause for which he is involved. The business community, and his family and friends, are better off for these and so many other positive attributes associated with Don.”

“Recognizing Don Taylor as the NSME 2021 Executive of the Year is a deserving honor,” said Bill Considine, Chief Executive Officer – Emeritus, Akron Children’s Hospital. “Don is a champion of the community and he has served in a variety of leadership positions. His term as Chairman of the Greater Akron Chamber was a transformational term. He embraces innovation of being a continuous learner. His networking skill set finds opportunities routinely that enhance our communities.

Don Taylor began his work as a developer in 2005. Don teamed up with Rick Fedorovich to create the office space at 3421 Ridgewood Road. Having both grown their companies significantly, they needed more space and desired a more efficient building. Using Taylor’s construction knowledge and Fedorovich’s accounting insight, they finalized the design and financials to bring this high-performance office space to life. In 2007, right on the heels of the move-in on Ridgewood, Don was approached by Bill Ginter about saving a historical building in downtown, the Old Akron Post Office. The city had plans to build a transportation station completely surrounding the building, which would have inevitably secured its doom. Don and Bill went into action, proposing alternatives for the city and even congress to evaluate for the transportation hub that eventually received approval. The Post Office was transformed by a $35 million development deal and the space was leased to Summa and LTEC.

Fast forward to 2020, Don’s development portfolio continued to expand and reached the stage of needing additional professional oversight and drive. And to make sure all the skills of our economic, construction, furniture, and facilities groups were being harnessed together to facilitate better deals, Don created Welty Development Company (WDC). Knowing Tom Charek’s well-respected reputation and proven track record for putting together successful projects, Don elected Tom as WDC’s president.

About Welty Building Company
With offices in Akron and Cleveland, Ohio, Welty Building Company provides professional construction management services, specializing in Lean Construction, for clients in a variety of healthcare, commercial, education, energy, mission critical and hospitality markets nationwide. Since 1945, Welty has delivered extraordinary building experiences by never being afraid to do what’s right.   Welty has created many prestigious community assets, including the new Sherwin-Williams global headquarters, world-renowned Goodyear® Tire & Rubber Company’s Global Headquarters, a multi-phased expansion to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Kay Jewelers Pavilion at Akron Children’s Hospital, the City of Akron’s Ohio Canal Interceptor Tunnel, numerous academic buildings at The University of Akron and many others.


View Press Release as PDF

Nikki DiFilippo
Via Vera Group
(216) 780-0472

Picture yourself at the Bowery where you can be a part of the rocking fun happening in Downtown Akron all summer long. Bowery residents can stroll over to Lock 3 for a dynamic variety of entertainment, including local and national musical acts, movies, festivals, fitness and more!

In 2018, leading developers and city visionaries invested nearly $42 million in restoring and rehabilitating six historic downtown Akron buildings into what is now The Bowery District neighborhood: 92 luxury apartments, 74,138 square-foot (36,000 sf retail space and 4,000 sf office space), pet-friendly residential housing community in the heart of Akron.

And it’s so much more than just a place to live! It’s also home to some of Akron’s newest cultural, dining and work opportunities. It includes a mix of studios, one, two and three bedroom apartments, as well as commercial space for lease. The suites have a modern interior with a historical shell, large historical windows with amazing views of the surrounding city and include luxury finishes combining quartz counter tops, soft close cabinets, stainless steel appliances, and various porcelain tiles. The Akron Savings & Loan Building, the 12-story building built in 1923, serves as the cornerstone.

The Bowery attracts residents with the waterfront area, a walkable neighborhood with nearby businesses, restaurants, retail, University of Akron, Akron Civic Theater, Lock 3, Rubber Ducks Stadium, and other cultural/entertainment venues.

The largest impact of the project stems from the redevelopment of prime real estate in the center of the greater Akron area from a previously unutilized/unuseable space into a desirable, liveable and playable destination.

An Economic Development study (completed by the Department of Economics at the University of Akron and Kent State) predicted that over the next 5 years, it will produce $44 million and will create or support 400 jobs. The economic benefits to Summit County for construction alone was over $69 million and created/supported nearly 500 jobs. In 20 years, this economic impact will grow to over $175 million and 1,600 jobs.

In total, the Bowery Project will generate well over $113 million and over 850 jobs in Summit County in just 5 years. In 20 years, that number will total well over $245 million and just over 2,000 jobs. Every $1 of the $42 million investment results in $2.71 in total output after 5 years as well as $5.84 after 20 years.

By: Dan Shingler
Crain’s Cleveland Business

Greater Akron’s office market was a ‘mixed bag’ in 2020

Top-tier buildings tend to do best, which they say is likely why sites such as GOJO Plaza have remained full. GOJO Plaza had little trouble replacing a law firm that vacated 20,000 square feet in 2020, leasing the space to the Akron arm of the law firm Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith and to the hardware wholesaler Banner Solutions for its headquarters. Williams said the two tenants wanted smaller spaces than the company initially offered for lease.

Don Taylor, CEO of the Welty Building Co., said his company has been able to keep its Fairlawn headquarters 100% occupied. Welty leases out much of that building. Although there has been some tenant shuffling of late, Taylor said he has been able to replace any lost leases.

“We’re full. The building’s completely leased. We had a couple of tenants move out, but we had new ones move in,” Taylor said.

In 2020, the accounting firm Bober Markey Federovich took about 17,000 square feet in the 62,000-square-foot building, while Huntington Bank took another 7,500 square feet, Taylor said.

He cited similar success on White Pond Drive in Akron, he said, where Stark State College created a vacancy in the Harmony Point Building, but the Hondros College of Nursing snatched it up.

Other office spaces, at the Harmony Point Building and in Welty’s big Bowery Project downtown, have seen less activity, so 2020 was a “mixed bag” overall, Taylor said.

“On the first floor (of Harmony Point), we had the Census Bureau, but they’ve since moved out and we’ve not seen a whole lot of activity there. And at Bowery we’ve got nothing,” Taylor said.

But at Bowery, its 4,000 square feet of space is a tiny portion of the six-building project, which also includes 92 apartments that Taylor said have been leasing well, and 40,000 square feet of retail space that has not. Residential leasing has gone well, and Taylor said he hopes the rest of the project will gain traction once COVID lifts.

“I think the space there is less interesting as office and more interesting as bars, restaurants and hospitality,” Taylor said of the Bowery District.

Looking forward, real estate experts expect a busy year in 2021. There will be more shuffling, but activity is already picking up, said Colliers vice president Lorin Schultz.

“As soon as the vaccines started rolling out, I noticed a huge increase in activity,” Schultz said.

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By: Dan Shingler
Crain’s Cleveland Business


Things are progressing on Main Street in downtown Akron — and not just on the street itself, which has been undergoing a major redesign this year.

Developers of the $42 million, seven-building Bowery District next to the Akron Civic Theatre and the $30 million Law Building renovation across the street — two landmark projects downtown — both report they’re on schedule to open later this year.

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Bowery District Canal Side
By: Mary Vanac
Cleveland Business Journal


A live-work-play project in downtown Akron in which the Greater Cleveland Partnership has invested has started leasing 40,000 square feet of retail and office space, some of which faces the Ohio and Erie Canal.

The project marks the first time the GCP has invested in a project outside Cleveland and Cuyahoga County and it could deliver $245 million in economic impact and more than 2,000 jobs.

“The Bowery project is indeed catalytic and will be the keystone project for all future downtown Akron development,” said Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan, in a statement.

Started in November 2018, the $42 million Bowery District project redeveloped, restored and rehabilitated six historic — and long vacant — buildings on South Main Street as a mixed-use residential, retail and office complex.

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window view from apartment

There’s never a good time for a pandemic, but as far as Akron’s concerned, now is probably the best time in terms of its impact on the city’s redevelopment plans.

As long as things return to normal as planned and attitudes toward urban living survive this historic episode, that is. If so, it may even present the city some opportunities.

The COVID-19 crisis has downtown Akron, like a lot of city centers, virtually shuttered. But at least the shutdown is occurring when the core of the city was already hobbled by a massive construction project on Main Street, said the builder spearheading downtown’s $42 million Bowery Project, which now sits behind orange barrels on Main Street.

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