New Owner of Huntington Building Plans to Convert it to Apartments, Restaurants, Clubs

 
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CLEVELAND, Ohio ‑‑ The new owner of the former Huntington Building in downtown Cleveland plans to spend $280 million to convert it into a vibrant mix of apartments, office space, hotel rooms, restaurants, stores and banquet and conference space.

The renovation will be "big and risky" with a "South Beach flair," said Terry Coyne, vice chairman of Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, which will lease and manage the property. But new owner Andrew "Avi" Greenbaum, who describes himself as an urban developer, stressed Tuesday that the renovation will preserve the history of the building, including the beautiful facade and the massive bank lobby.

The L‑shaped space, which is the largest bank lobby in the world, is known for its four huge murals, marble walls and floors, three‑story vaulted ceiling and majestic Corinthian columns. In a tour of the 22‑floor, 1.4 million‑square‑foot building, Greenbaum said that while his company bought the building last week for $22 million, it will spend 12 times more money to convert it into what he hopes will become an anchor for the new center of Cleveland at 9th Street and Euclid Avenue. "We think that Cleveland as a city is starting to boom," Greenbaum said, adding, "We are here for the long term."

The property, now called the 925 Building, is currently only 8 percent occupied. Over the years, Greenbaum's company, Hudson Holdings of Delray Beach, Florida, has bought and built about 20 major projects, mostly in Florida. They include 4,000 apartments and more than 3 million square feet of commercial space including restaurants and hotel projects.

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Highlights of the Huntington/925 renovation include:

  • 550 apartments, which will offer housekeeping and room service, just like a hotel.
  • 400,000 square feet of office space.
  • 300 high‑end hotel rooms under an as‑yet‑unnamed flag.
  • 200,000 square feet of retail, banquet and conference space.
  • A lobby that is once again open to the public, as it was until Huntington Bank moved in 2012 to Public Square.
  • A rooftop restaurant and club.

The restaurant has been known over the years as the Mid‑Day Club, then the Metropolitan, then Sammy's. Greenbaum said the roof offers "phenomenal views," adding, "We think we can turn it into something special." The penthouse was intended to be a ticket lobby and boarding/waiting area for zeppelin flights to New York and Chicago. But Lake Erie winds made that risky, so zeppelin flights from the building never happened.

When he first saw the building this spring, Greenbaum said he immediately "fell in love," calling it the "most grand building we had ever walked in to." The developers will need to get various permits, including some pertaining to the historical significance of the building, which was constructed in 1924.

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But Greenbaum said he hopes remodeling will begin in the first quarter of 2016. Some projects may be finished quickly. And the lobby and perhaps other parts of the building will be used for events during the Republican National Convention next summer. He expects everything will be finished no later than sometime in 2018. "We want to make this part of the fabric of downtown Cleveland," Greenbaum said. He praised brothers Greg and Fred Geis, of neighboring The 9/Metropolitan Hotel, which opened last fall. Greenbaum said he envisions the corner of 9th and Euclid could be the new heart of downtown and a place where people want to work, live and play. "We think downtown is going to explode," Greenbaum said. Coyne called the purchase and redevelopment plan another big chapter in the resurgence of downtown. The office space may be a mix of traditional and creative, Coyne said.

There's significant demand for creative office space in Cleveland, he added. The former bank building has three vaults, with the main one in the basement encased in three feet of concrete. Hundreds of safe deposit boxes of varying sizes line the outer vault. Greenbaum said they're exploring what the main vault could be used for.

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The building last sold in 2010 for $18.5 million. Coyne said it's interesting the building sold for more now, when it's nearly empty, than it did a few years ago when it had many, many tenants. But he said the rising value is a tribute to what's happening downtown. It is Cleveland's largest multi‑tenant office building and is one of the largest office buildings in Ohio. The property cost $17 million to build nearly a century ago. At the time, it was the second‑largest office building in the world. It would cost $2.2 billion to build today, Coyne said. Tom Yablonsky, executive director of the Historic Gateway Neighborhood Corp., said it's "one of the grandest buildings in Cleveland."

It was designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst and White of Chicago, which also designed Cleveland's Terminal Tower and the Merchandise Mart building in Chicago.

adam ballHuntington