Adam Kaufman didn’t expect his Beachwood home to sell so quickly. In the midst of building a new home in Pepper Pike, Kaufman received an offer on his 5,600-square-foot modern French Normandy home from the first people who saw it. And so, the real estate agent found himself temporarily homeless.
But not for long. Kaufman decided to take what is being called an “adult gap year” — like the year of exploration some students take between high school and college.
He rented a two-bedroom, corner unit at the Upstairs at Van Aken, an upscale Shaker Heights apartment complex that opened in late August. Located in the center of the new $90 million Van Aken District mixed-used development, the 103-unit, five-story building is within steps of On the Rise Artisan Breads, Shinola, Restore Cold Pressed juice bar and more.
“I’m thinking of it like I’m on vacation for a year,” he says.
Gap years — where homeowners take a break in between the selling of their former residence and the buying of a new one — are becoming increasingly popular in Cleveland, especially among the empty nester sect whose houses feel too big for them now that their kids have moved out, Kaufman says.
“These people are perhaps not sure what their next life move will be, so they think, Why don’t I take a step back, do a little soul searching and, in the meantime, try living in a completely different environment than what I’m used to?” Kaufman says.
For many, that means choosing to live in a more urban setting.
While the 48-year-old doesn’t fit the empty nester demographic, Kaufman was drawn to the Van Aken neighborhood. “It’s urban without being too urban,” he says. “It has the feel of a city, but I’m not outside my comfort zone.”
Kaufman expects to move this month. And while his 1,490-square-foot unit is much smaller than his former home, Kaufman sees the 6-acre Van Aken District as an extension of his living room and dining room. He can take a spin class at GrooveRyde or grab a treat from Mitchell’s Homemade Ice Cream.
Specialty fashion boutiques Bonobos and Xhibition are already open for shopping, while Market Hall — a grown-up cafeteria-esque spot featuring 22 artisanal food and retail spots such as Banter and Rising Star Coffee — is expected to open this month.
In spring, the Van Aken District’s second phase promises a Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, a neighborhood bistro from Miami-based James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Schwartz, and a still yet-to-be-named concept from Jonathon Sawyer. With a Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority Blue Line train and bus station steps away from his apartment, Kaufman can be downtown in 25 minutes.
As for the apartment, Kaufman was also drawn to the floor-to-ceiling windows, open layout and kitchen that seems perfect for entertaining. “I love to cook,” he says.
Details were also important to the developers of the complex, RMS Investment, which partnered with the city of Shaker Heights on the project. “In my experience, it’s the little things that accumulatively matter,” explains Ron Ratner, a partner in RMS Investments.
That’s why Upstairs at Van Aken features specialty amenities such as a washroom for residents to spray off their pets, a 24-hour package concierge and an extra layer of airtight acoustic membrane to keep the apartments insulated from noise.
But for Kaufman, the buzz of downtown life is part of the allure. He can hear the low rumble of the rapid coming and going from his Juliet balcony. “I think it’s fun,” he says. “The sounds and sights are what adds to the whole experience.”
Correction: A previous version of this article stated Michael Schwartz was opening a Genuine Pizza in Van Aken District. Originally slated to be a Genuine Pizza, Schwartz is now planning to open a version of his flagship restaurant, Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, instead.