In June, co-developers Daniel Budish and Betsy Figgie announced they were in the process of purchasing 100,000 square feet of real estate near the Lakewood and Cleveland border to create Studio West, a community hub for the LGBTQ community that includes a sports bar, fieldhouse and six entertainment venues.
Bolstered by longtime community pillars such as the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland, Plexus LGBT & Allied Chamber of Commerce and North Coast College, the concept creates a self-sustaining LGBTQ neighborhood on par with Chicago’s Boystown.
Set to open in multiple phases over the next two years, the first phase will see four retail spots open in the former Phantasy Nightclub by the end of the year with a co-working space and podcast studio.“Together, we could be touching so many lives just with these four commercial spaces,” says Figgie.
In June, Figgie and Budish, who is the son of Cuyahoga County executive Armond Budish, also supported the launch of the West 117th Foundation, which will offer funding and support for the project’s next steps, which include purchasing a mixed-use building with apartments, My Friends Restaurant and more. As tenants move out, Budish and Figgie are committed to renting those spaces to LGBTQ seniors, youth and students.
The Fieldhouse, which will open summer 2021, will occupy the 16,000-square-foot Mack Products building behind Phantasy with three dodgeball courts, locker rooms and other facilities. Juan Vergara, owner and executive chef of Barroco Arepa Bar and Hola Tacos will also helm the on-site sports bar and restaurant. “We’re going to be adding different pieces as the need comes up and as we know how we can fund it and support it operationally,” says Figgie.
At the heart of all of this is creating a strong drag culture by infusing international drag events, a residency program and adding a drag curriculum at North Coast College. “That intersection of drag and art is hugely important because you can’t have a truly thriving arts community without a thriving drag scene,” says Budish.
In creating this community, a hiring committee will oversee all venues and businesses within the LGBTQ district to ensure everyone is allowed at the table. “The commitment to inclusivity and diversity is really going to make this space truly incredible from a programming perspective,” says Budish. “It really lets us think outside the box.”
in the cle
8:00 AM EST
August 18, 2020