CLEVELAND, Ohio — Construction is to begin in the coming months on a new Cleveland Public Library branch in the city’s Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood, along with a connected low-income senior living facility, following a city commission’s approval of the project Thursday.
The new branch at Detroit Avenue and West 79th Street will replace the 55-year-old Walz Branch at the same location. The two-story, 10,300-square-foot branch will be supplemented by a five-story, 51-unit senior living facility attached behind and above the library’s portion.
Those eligible to live in the apartment portion, called Karam Senior Living, must be at least 55 years old and make 60% or less of the area median income, which for a single person is $31,920 or less.
A door will connect the portions, so residents can access the library when it is open.
Demolition of the current branch, as well as the neighboring Detroit Chateau apartment building which dates to the 1920s, is slated to occur from April to June, with construction of the new building wrapping up by summer or fall 2022, library Chief Operations Officer John Lang said Friday.
The library is developing the $11.6 million project with the Northwest Neighborhoods community development corporation.
Lang made his statements a day after the Cleveland Landmarks Commission unanimously approved designs for the new library branch and apartments. The commission needed to sign off because the site is in the Gordon Square Historic District.
Commission members praised the project, though some had reservations about design choices, including a lack of balconies on the 55,000 square-foot apartment portion and no greenspace on top of the library’s roof.
The commission’s approval included some stipulations, including coming back for approval for landscaping and signage and to look at re-adding some of the amenities.
Northwest Neighborhoods Real Estate Chief Anya Kulcsar said during Thursday’s virtual meeting that some of the choices were made because of increased costs for construction materials.
Commission member Giancarlo Calicchia, though, said that “I just get the feeling that, for budgetary reasons or whatever, senior citizens get a bit of a short end of the stick when it comes to architectural integrity.”
The commission previously approved demolitions of the existing library branch and Detroit Chateau. The Ohio Housing Finance Agency last year awarded a $1 million tax credit for the project.
The approval came before Cleveland Public Library closes the existing Walz Branch to patrons on Saturday. Curbside pickup will be available for another week, but the branch will fully close on March 5 so materials can be moved out, Lang said.
The new Walz Branch is one of the first five new library projects in a 10-year, $100 million project launched in 2019 by the library system’s trustees to improve its 27 branches. The plans for the Walz Branch mark the second time the library has elected to include apartments in the same development as a new branch. The other is in University Circle, where a new Martin Luther King Jr. branch is slated to be part of the 11-story Library Lofts apartment building.
Lang said such developments are a trend other U.S. library systems are following.
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