Cleveland Business Connects

For immediate release (October 6, 2017) Media Contact: Judy Abelman Email: Phone: 440.725.8861...

By April Miller  |  Photo by Doug Khrenovsky

Nearing graduation from Oberlin College, Josh Rosen, Naomi Sabel, and Ben Ezinga were looking for ways to impact the environment — physically and socially — and make a positive difference in the community.

“We converged upon real estate development, specifically community development,” Sabel says, “as a way to work with community partners to make transformative changes.”

The trio formed Sustainable Community Associates in 2001 — all three serve as partners, co-owning and co-managing the company — and embarked on their first endeavor, the East College Street Project. 

The $17 million mixed-use new construction project in Oberlin was a mix of market-rate condos, affordable housing, and retail and office space on a former brownfield site. The 33 residential units range from efficient one bedrooms to three-bedroom penthouses with private rooftop patios. Some of the businesses that now utilize the 20,000 square feet of retail, office, and restaurant space include Cowhaus Creamery, Magpie Pizza, and Ohio Educational Credit Union.

“We like to look at challenging projects that maybe a traditional developer would shy away from,” Rosen says. “Every block in every neighborhood is different and requires different approaches. We won’t shy away from complicated financing or a complicated building program if it is right for the neighborhood.”

We like to look at challenging projects that maybe a traditional developer would shy away from.

The developers’ current project is the Fairmont Creamery building on Wiley Avenue in Cleveland. Built in the 1930s, the site will be redeveloped into 30 rental apartments, a 13,000-square-foot fitness center for the nearby neighborhoods, 10,000 square feet of office space, indoor parking, and what will be one of the city’s best roof decks, Sabel says of the historic restoration project. As of early June, 25 of the 30 rental units had been reserved.

“We looked at the building in September 2012 and closed our financing in December 2013. We will be open for business in October 2014,” Sabel says. 

“The Creamery sits in-between Ohio City and Tremont in an area that has not seen much in the way of new development. We believe this project will be a spark that further connects Tremont and Ohio City and encourages further investment in these areas.”

Along the way, Rosen says, they’ve had a great relationship with Cleveland Development Advisors, the city of Cleveland and the county. 

the creamery sits in-between ohio city and tremont in an area that has not seen much in the way of new development. we believe this project will be a spark that … encourages further investment in these areas.

“The people who work in these economic development departments are truly dedicated civil servants,” he says, “and without their patience and creativity, the investment in the Fairmont Creamery never would have happened.”

Looking forward to continuing to work in Cleveland, Rosen says one of Sustainable Community Associates’ biggest challenges is finding ways to continue to do interesting and meaningful projects while remaining a small business. 

“We enjoy working with tenants, meeting new residents and being a part of these communities and don’t want to grow so big or so fast that we lose touch with the communities we are working in,” he says. “At the same time, we want to start to achieve the economies of scale that larger companies are able to realize.”  

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