Latest Brickhaus Project to Get a Neighborhood Feel

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

The Warrensville Heights development concern is preparing to construct a townhouse project on the site near the entrance to Edgewater Parkway, formerly known as the West Shoreway connecting the West Side and western suburbs to downtown.

Best known for a simple, modernist style, real estate developer Andrew Brickman of Warrensville Heights-based Brickhaus Partners plans a traditional residential design for his next project.

Brickman said in an interview that the company's proposed Bighaus project on the southwest corner of Clifton and West boulevards in Cleveland is designed to contextually match the big, single-family homes nearby, even though the project will consist of five townhouses costing upward of $400,000 apiece. "We're not abandoning the modern style," Brickman said. "We're also not a one-trick pony."

However, necessity also shaped the design. Cleveland Councilman Brian Mooney, whose Ward 11 includes the site, said the final design differed dramatically from Brickhaus' original proposal. It evolved from the more typical townhouse designs cropping up in Cleveland to reflect the look of area houses to fit the neighborhood.

Mooney said neighbors closest to the project disliked the density of the proposed development but warmed up to the final design. He said he supported the project because the site has been empty for decades and Brickhaus' plan may go where other single-family and duplex plans by other developers failed to proceed. Although the site had defied several prior developers, it was not cheap.

Through Bighaus Development LLC, Brickhaus paid $200,000 on Oct. 7 for the half-acre site, according to Cuyahoga County land records. That's the same price parcels of similar size command in Westlake. In the final plan, two townhouses will face Clifton, two will face West Boulevard and one will face an interior courtyard. The structures will be two or three stories high and consist of more than 1,800 square feet of living space. For his part, Brickman said that kind of collaboration with neighbors and the city cleared the way for the plan to get unanimous approval from city planners. He said Brickhaus has used more traditional designs in the past, depending on the location, including its Derbyshire project in Cleveland Heights and a planned project in Chagrin Falls with five houses and a duplex costing upward of $700,000.

The Bighaus name might be offensive to some — recalling the "Big House," or plantation house of a slave owner in the Antebellum South — but Brickman said the company went with it because it plays on its Brickhaus name and the Chagrin  Falls project is called Riverhaus.

"It also fits the design of the project," Brickman said. "It looks like a big house. Political correctness is getting overbearing in this country." Brickhaus recently dropped plans for a residential project in Richmond, Va. Through an affiliate, Brickhaus sold for $4 million a 2-acre site in southern Richmond it bought for $2 million in 2019. "I got an unsolicited offer," Brickman said of the U-turn. "You can't lose money if you make a profit, I've been told." The funds will come in handy as Brickhaus is pursuing other out-of-town projects, one in south Columbus and another in St. Helena, Calif. The Bighaus site caught Brickman's attention because he lives nearby at one of his other developments, and he saw it daily.

"It's a beautiful street with terrific setbacks," he said of West Boulevard. Brickman acknowledged part of his motivation for pursuing Bighaus is that there are prospective buyers leftover from other projects nearby on Lake Avenue and at West 117th Street.

One prospective buyer is also looking at Bighaus to relocate from Clifton Pointe, a Brickman townhouse project in western Lakewood. Debbie Berry, vice president of community development at University Circle Inc., said she and her husband, Patrick, have been reviewing designs for a Bighaus unit with Brickman and Dimit Architects. "We want to move back to the city and support it and continue to own our home," Berry said. "It's a central location, close to Edgewater Beach, and we know the area well. My husband rented a third-floor apartment in a house across West Boulevard before we were married." Brickman said he also took on the project because he viewed the tiny site as both a challenge and an opportunity.

"It's like a smile with a big tooth missing," he said.

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Written by Stan Bullard

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