When Dick Pace was a Shaker Heights teenager in the early '70s, he volunteered at nonprofits in Hough. Traveling the neighborhood streets, he marveled at the beautiful old homes. Some still had stained glass windows; others had lost them to thieves.
"I thought you could fix these houses up," Pace recalls. "There's got to be a way to do that profitably and save the neighborhood."
Now, at 57, Pace is working to remake Cleveland. The guy behind downtown's 5th Street Arcades and Midtown's Baker Electric Building has just gotten a big promotion in the town's real estate hierarchy: a chance to achieve one of Cleveland's most elusive civic goals. He's the local partner in the team Mayor Frank Jackson has chosen to build a new waterfront neighborhood north of First-Energy Stadium, complete with a school.
"It's only about 30 years of dreaming that has gone into this," Pace says. "I think everybody in the city of Cleveland wants to see this lakefront developed."
Pace spent the '80s and '90s working for famed urban designer Peter van Dijk's architecture firm, now Westlake, Reed, Leskosky. He contributed to renovations of Blossom Music Center, President James A. Garfield's Mentor home and three never-realized projects on downtown's lakefront, including a headquarters for Progressive.
In 2002, Pace started Cumberland Development, which specializes in offices for technology startups. Four years later, he bought the Baker Electric Building at Euclid Avenue and East 71st Street and made the 1910s showroom for electric cars a place for innovation again.
A year and a half ago, Pace took over management of the former Colonial Arcades downtown and renamed them the 5th Street Arcades. He brought about two dozen local retailers, many of them startups, into their vacant store spaces by offering steep rent discounts. Now the arcades hum with more traffic and energy.
Pace has relocated Cumberland Development to the arcades, and his desk sits by a storefront window, in full view of passersby.
"You cannot lease this kind of space from a distance," he says. "You have to be very involved."
When the mayor asked developers to vie to remake the waterfront, Pace decided to take a shot. He traveled to Dallas to convince executives at the real estate giant Trammell Crow Co. to partner with him.
Young professionals are driving downtown's boom, Pace notes, but will they move to the suburbs for better schools after they have kids?
"What we want to do is meet that need out here," Pace says, pointing to a spot north of the Great Lakes Science Center on a map, "and create a walkable community centered around an excellent school."
Pace and Trammell Crow want to build apartment buildings, townhomes, offices, stores and restaurants. They want to extend Erieside Avenue right to the lake and build public walkways around and through the development, including a boardwalk at the water's edge.
City Council began considering the plan in May. Pace hopes to lease the land from the city this summer, nail down financing this year, break ground for a first phase of 250 apartments in 2015 and open them in 2017.
Voinovich Bicentennial Park
To make the lakeside park more inviting, Pace wants to erect a concession building with a sandwich shop and restaurant, plant more trees to break up lakefront winds and replace the parking lot at the end of East Ninth Street with metered spaces close to the water.
Pace has talked to Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon about the district possibly opening a K-8 school on the waterfront. Or, it could be run by the Breakthrough Schools, the consortium of high-performing Cleveland charter schools.
Near the Rock Hall
Between the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and science center, Pace and his partners plan a three-story building with restaurants, meeting rooms and a catering kitchen for Rock Hall events. It would connect to the proposed Mall-to-lakefront pedestrian bridge.