Vetting of Aragon Proposal for West 25th ST.

Submitted by lmcshane on Sun, 01/11/2015 - 11:33.
01/22/2015 - 18:00
01/22/2015 - 20:30
Etc/GMT-4

 

 See http://realneo.us/system/files/AragonBallroomPublicMeetingFlyer1-22-152_1.pdf for details -

 

This is a potentially problematic owner as he has contributed to Cummins' campaign indicating conflict of interest and also if Tim Donovan is allowed to vote on the zoning of this project in his capacity at Board of Zoning Appeals.

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Aragon - noncompliance

W. 25th Metro Expansion - REAL estate games

For all of the GREEN party folks out there - please know that Brian Cummins sold out residents and encouraged CPL board to rent from shady former La Copa owner on Clark Ave.

 

Cleveland Public Library, like any public agency, follows council person or mayoral recommendations - Cummins wanted developers to use Scranton historic building for historic tax credits - he stated this at a public meeting held at Carnegie South before it was mothballed. Cummins is a sell-out. Please let him know that public libraries are not poker chips for his W. 25th/Scranton development plans. Thank you.

 

Please see :

http://www.cleveland.com/architecture/index.ssf/2014/12/cleveland_public_library_sched.html

Sign the Petition:

https://www.change.org/p/reopen-carnegie-south-library

 

I could not attend the community meeting - but a long time near west side resident Sandy Smith posted this description to FB:

 

For those of you who were interested in what's going on with the Aragon Ballroom... The new owner wants a D5 liquor license and says that the occupancy will be 1,200 people. He said he doesn't want to operate it as a nightclub, but with that license and the variances he's seeking from the city, including a parking variance because there is ZERO parking, there would not be anything to stop him from opening the largest nightclub in the city of Cleveland. Here is a letter I wrote to various stakeholders, including representatives from the city and neighborhood leaders and residents.
"Hi Everyone:

I know I didn't say much at the meeting last night (probably much to the surprise of most of you!). The main reason is that the public meeting to do little more than show us some pretty pictures contained so little definitive information that it almost wasn't worth asking questions. I did want to share my thoughts/concerns with all of you, and get your feedback as well.

1) Occupancy and Use: My biggest concern - especially after finding out that the occupancy is 1,200 and not the 400 I initially was told - is that it will turn into a huge nightclub, bar or entertainment center that is open until 2:30 am and will be the scourge of the neighborhood. Councilman Cummins, how many liquor licenses have you objected to during your tenure with Cleveland City Council and how many of those have been successful? The owners and their representatives are claiming that objections to the license by the city, something that is instigated by the council representative, is a safety net for residents. We've asked Councilman Cummins several times to lodge objections to the liquor licenses of the strip clubs on W. 25th, Gas USA on Scranton and other neighborhood locations. Has this been done? If so, have any been successful in shutting down these nuisance (and in some cases, illegal) businesses? Troublesome businesses such as El Tropical and Moda operated for as long as five years AFTER objections were lodged by the city.

2) Liquor License: If the owner has no interest in operating as a bar or nightclub, as was stated at last night's meeting, then I don't understand why ANY liquor license is necessary. As was shared at the meeting last night, he's been operating La Villa for years without a liquor permit and his architect, attorney, etc., indicated that La Villa was a very successful business. Operating the Aragon as a banquet hall will eliminate the possibility of it turning into a nightclub and eliminate the possibility of a 2:30 am closing time. In turn, this will lessen the impact on the surrounding neighborhood and make them a better neighbor. I don't know all of the ins and outs of liquor permits; if there is one that requires him to stop serving earlier than 1 am or 2:30 am, then I might not be opposed to that.

3) Parking and Traffic: This operation, as outlined last night (1,200 occupancy, valet parking spaces at Lincoln West High School, D5 and D6 liquor licenses) will be extremely impactful on the surrounding neighbors on both sides of W. 25th Street. Large quantities of cars (200? 300? during a short period of time) moving in and out of the parking lots at Lincoln West - particularly during the early morning hours - will be disruptive for those neighbors, regardless of the professionalism of the valets. People attending the events will add additional traffic on main and side streets as well. Have any traffic studies been conducted? Is an additional traffic signal indicated for W. 25th Street at Prame Avenue or Althen Avenue? Those streets between W. 25th Street and Scranton Road are one-way and narrow. Has that been taken into consideration? Has a truck zone on the north side of Althen Avenue been proposed for loading and unloading into the Aragon kitchen during business hours? How will businesses and traffic on W. 25th Street be impacted should the owner hold large, daytime events? I would imagine that his valet company would not set up a valet zone on W. 25th Street during the day, when traffic is at its heaviest. It would be hazardous to have cars pulling up and double-parking to wait for the valet, and for the valets jumping into cars and pulling out into traffic to move the cars to Lincoln West. And that's another issue: When school is in session and the Lincoln West lots are being used by school personnel, parents, students, etc., where are those daytime Aragon visitors supposed to park?

4) Third-Party Entertainment Events: Will the owner have a contract with third-party promoters regarding use of the valet? I think that the owner should have the responsibility for ensuring that the valet company is on site EVERY SINGLE TIME THERE IS AN EVENT SCHEDULED AT THE ARAGON, whether it is "his" event or not. He should not depend on any third-party promoters contracting with the valet. They are visitors; he "lives" here. Frankly, I'd like to see the potential for third-party-promoted events eliminated entirely. In my perfect world, every single event - meeting, wedding, party, fundraiser, etc. - would be contracted through the owner, so that he can be held responsible if things go wrong or congratulated when things go right.

5) Valets and Street Parking: If our experience in Tremont is any indication, most valets will take street parking spots on their way to the valet lots if spots are available. We cannot have every single vacant street parking spot in a five-block radius taken up by the Aragon valets. Traveling 2+ blocks, while waiting to cross busy W. 25th Street, can take a while. I have no doubt they'll cut corners and search the sidestreets to the east of the Aragon for spaces before they cross W. 25th and head to Lincoln West. I'm equally certain that they will take any available street parking they find between W. 25th St. and Lincoln West. Brian mentioned what happens at MetroHealth... For those of you who don't know, what happens at MetroHealth is that their employees ignore the inexpensive monthly parking plans the hospital offers them and they take up most if not all of the available free street spots near the hospital during the day and early evening. The ones that employees don't take, visitors take. It's a mess. One possible option for the area surrounding MetroHealth and the Aragon, should it receive the variances and be allowed to operate as a 1,200 occupancy hall, is to institute a parking permit program on residential streets (with a limit of 2-4 hours unless you have a permit with residents allowed almost unlimited permits for guests).

6) Entertainment District: I don't want an "entertainment district" along W. 25th Street, 100 feet from homes. And while everyone wants to be able to walk to nice restaurants and shops, nobody wants to live next to rowdy bars, have people puking in their shrubbery, breaking bottles on their sidewalks or blocking their driveways. We need to be very judicious about development along W. 25th St. I think that there are some people who have trouble differentiating between what constitutes beneficial development that will help our neighborhood grow and "entertainment." The northern part of W. 25th Street is a great example of what we don't want. Too many liquor licenses, too many cars and too much congestion. Anyone who lives in that area or anywhere near it avoids it on a Friday or Saturday night. It's all fun and games unless you live there, and then it's a shitstorm.

7) Nothing Is Better Than Some Things: Jeff Ramsey mentioned the "anything is better than an empty building" philosophy to me last night. I don't subscribe to that theory and I am not willing to support every suggested project on W. 25th Street in order to fill vacant buildings. Isn't there a long-term planning process to systematically rebuild this important thruway? It is an entrance to the city of Cleveland for many visitors on both the north and south ends. The "something is better than nothing" argument is the one that Councilman Cummins has used regarding the illegal strip clubs on W. 25th Street and it's bullshit.

8) Due Diligence and Neighborhood Impact: The city appears to be on board with all of this and either unaware or unconcerned about the possible impact on the neighborhood. While I want our neighborhood to recover and for people to see it as a great place to live, work and socialize, I'm not willing to get to that point at any cost. It's OUR neighborhood. We have to live here. The gentleman who spoke last night and who was representing the Hispanic organizations royally pissed me off. He can support the project as described all he wants, but the reality is, at the end of the work day, he goes home to Westlake or Solon or Shaker Heights or Brecksville, as does the owner of the Aragon. And we - and everyone within several blocks of the Aragon - have to live with it 24/7. I want to see the building revitalized and reused. I think a banquet hall or event center – with appropriate oversight to ensure it can't become something else and consideration for neighborhood impact – is an excellent use.

Residents should be allowed to see the signed contracts with the CMSD and the valet company, as well as the owner's operation plan. Is he subletting to third-party promoters and if so, how is he going to manage that process and limit the impact of those third-party events on our neighborhood? His other party center has hosted rock concerts and boxing and wrestling matches. As Rebecca pointed out last night, maybe the patrons attending a party for the Cleveland Museum of Art happily will wait in line to valet their cars. Will someone attending WWE wrestling consider using a valet, even if it's free? I also want to see the signed contract with the security company and/or receive assurances about the number of bouncers/security guards they plan on having in the building, at the door, in the valet lots and in the neighborhood in general every time the Aragon has an event. I also would like uniformed, visible CPD officers on site for any "entertainment" events.

While I understand that DS-SCFBC is taking the lead on this project because it is on W. 25th Street, it will have a huge impact on the residents of Tremont who live as close as nine feet away from the Aragon Ballroom building in the MetroNorth Block Club area. Because of the immediate proximity of this project to Tremont residents, I'm formally requesting that it be vetted through Tremont's process (block club, Economic Development Committee, etc.) as well as any process DS-SCFBC might have in place.

I also would appreciate the scheduling of another, neighborhood-wide meeting (Tremont/SCFBC) that includes ALL of the stakeholders, including Ms. Bungard, Mr. Riccardi or Mr. Hunt, Commander Stacho, Director Mavec, Councilman Cummins, a representative from CMSC who is empowered to answer questions, the owner of the security company and the owner or empowered representative from the valet company. I also would like to hear from an empowered representative from MetroHealth. I was told that organization supports this project. I'd like to know if they are fully aware that if the variance is granted and the zoning changed - given the occupancy number and the liquor license request that were mentioned last night - that the potential exists for the Aragon to turn into one of the largest nightclubs in the city of Cleveland.

And let's not use kid ourselves that a "cooperation agreement" can be used as a tool to stop the Aragon from becoming the site of the city's largest nightclub at some point if the variance is granted and the location has a D5 liquor permit. For the most part, cooperation agreements are unsuccessful unless the city chooses to send police and inspectors to enforce them. Given the current political climate and the current mayor, I don't anticipate a cooperation agreement being a useful tool in this case. There is one that was read into the record for Tu Casa auto repair on Scranton Road that limits them to parking for six cars overnight. They've rarely parked fewer than 10 or 12 and often have 15 or more, despite requests to Councilman Cummin's office and the Department of Building and Housing to cite them. Without enforcement, the agreement is worth diddly-squat and the owner of the Aragon legally is allowed to sell liquor until 2:30 am with a D5 license and there isn't anything any of us can do about it once that license is issued and BOZA approves all of his variance requests.

So, let's do what we can to ensure the Aragon becomes a positive development in our neighborhood and not a nuisance."

Cummins wants to bully Senyak off TWDC committee re Aragon

Brian Cummins, the barely re-elected council rep,  is now trying to bully Tremont West Executive Board into dropping Henry Senyak from the Economic Committee at Tremont West.  As an ex-officio, Henry is chosen by the block clubs to chair this committee.  See the exchange regarding the Aragon project.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 
Councilman All:
 
Sandy and many others have requested actual city officials be present to answer their questions, not a FAQ manipulation by representativeness of the property owner.
 
This will be on the agenda for this Thursday's TWDC Economic Development Committee, we have a official request from the leadership of the Metro North Block Club to vet this through are policies and procedures.
 
I intend to ask for a vote to send to the full Board of TWDC to write a letter requesting Ms. Bungard, Mr. Riccardi, Mr. Mavec, Mr. Hunt, Mr. Collier, Commander Stacho, CMSD Reps, and the Security Company to attend the next public meeting.
 
Five voting members of the TWDC ED Committee were in attendance, none were satisfied with responses given. Mr. Minshell's answer's were not being taken seriously. I personally called Ms. Bungard after your first public meeting. She said she was never consulted about this project. I personally find this quite troubling, that the City of Cleveland's legal representative that is involved in crafting Cooperation Agreement's was never requested by your office and SCFBC to provide clarity.
 
As you know TWDC provides much weight in its Community Process prior to supporting any process. TWDC staff may be working with the appellant, but to make it clear this project does not yet have any support from TWDC as a organization. This starts first with the TWDC ED Committee making recommendations to the full Board for a resolution of support.
 
Eliminating Liquor permits once established is not a easy process, Mr. Minshell explanations on its own justifies requesting the proper city officials to give straight answers to the community.
 
I have spoken with Gloria Ferris, President of the SCFBC Advisory Council, we are in agreement, the Communities will not be divided by service boundaries, or politics. TWDC has a process and it will start, are community and residents will be impacted and until there is a comfort level the concerns of our community outweigh's the pressure or the financial investment by any one person or group.
 
Two large concerns are the D-5 liquor permit and the Extreme Occupancy of 1200 persons. One suggestion is to ask for a limited occupancy, and to wait a year on supporting a liquor permit for the premise. I spoke with Mr. Faraj  and his architect. It does seem that there will be events of concerts, wrestling, etc. This was also confirmed with Trevor Hunt in a follow up phone call. Mr. Faraj did also state to me his concerns because wrestling and boxing events did not bring in the right type of crowds to his Brookpark facility. Mr. Faraj's ability to run a large scale operation in a completely isolated area in another City without abutting a residential community is apples and oranges.
 
Regards,
 
Henry P. Senyak
Chairperson TWDC Economic Development Corp.
 
 
 
 
 

 

In a message dated 2/2/2015 10:25:52 A.M. Eastern Standard Time, bcummins [at] clevelandcitycouncil [dot] org writes:

Sandy,

We met with staff from the two CDC's and the Aragon owner and his Attorney and Architect this past Thursday afternoon.  Adam Stalder is working with the owner on putting together a Frequently Asked Questions based on discussions from out meeting and a few other issues that need to be clarified.  TWDC and SCFBC will be working on scheduling a second public meeting so that the FAQ and additional issues or concerns can be discussed.

Your's and other concerns that have been brought up were discussed.   The 1,200 person occupancy was originally, and will be the occupancy sought for the building.  The 400 person occupancy that was conveyed to you and several others was incorrect.  The owner has explained that the average number of occupants for 90% of their anticipated events will be approximately 500 persons.

I'll be providing information about my office's objections to liquor licenses and outcomes. Regarding third-party promoters of entertainment, the owner explained that his business does not turn their hall over for third-party managed events.  It is expected, as their operations on Brookpark Road, that the business will manage the facility and any bookings that occur there.  In addition to the parking agreement the owner is securing with CMSD for Lincoln West High School, there are other parking arrangements that the owner and the CDC's are working on for additional parking capacity. 

We're doing everything we can to ensure this project can be beneficial to all our local residents and businesses.  I feel very fortunate that we have a new owner who has proven experience in running a professional, high quality and commercially successful banquet facility that is willing to invest more than $1.5 million to put back into use the historic Aragon for purposes very similar to what it has functioned as traditionally.

We look forward to working with the owner to provide additional information at a second community meeting, prior to their BZA scheduled hearing.

Regards,

Brian

________________________________________

Subject: RE: The Aragon

Good Morning, everyone!

It's been more than a week since I sent my email. I know a meeting occurred with the Aragon owner and his representatives in the meantime. Were any of my/my neighbors' concerns brought up to the owner? Does he even know that neighbors have very serious concerns about the liquor license he's requested and the occupancy of the building?

Was anyone able to get answers to my questions? Will a public meeting with shareholders - residents, the building owner, CMSD, the valet company, city officials from streets, the law department, Commander Stacho, Planning, etc., - be scheduled? I think that many questions need to be answered and some compromises considered before neighbors - some of whom live just a few feet from this project - are satisfied that it won't become a problem for years to come.

I personally cannot support the project as presented - D5 liquor license and 1,200 occupancy - and I will encourage my neighbors to send letters of non-support as well and to attend any BOZA hearings to protest the project as outlined. I think it will be a detriment to the neighborhood. The block club has requested that our councilman contest several liquor licenses in our area. As far as we know, this has not been done or has not been successful. If that is the case, we cannot risk the potential for such a large, full-service bar in our immediate neighborhood.

Second-tier concerns include parking and any plans to minimize the impact it will have on neighbors of Lincoln West; the potential for use of third-party promoters for concerts, boxing matches, wrestling, etc.; the impact of patrons parking on narrow, one-way sidestreets like Althen Ave. if the valet gets backed up; parking for daytime events when the school parking lot is not available; safety and security for event nights (Is there a specific plan for the number of security personnel on site and in the Lincoln West parking lot?); a loading zone (and possibly a "no parking zone" opposite the loading zone to facilitate traffic flow) on Althen Avenue and whether or not there will be 18-wheel semi trucks loading and unloading on that street; hours of operation; etc.

Best,
Sandy Smith

"The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing," –Albert Einstein

West 25th Parking planning is nightmare.

Why with soooo many underworld planning efforts underway for West 25th from Detroit to Brookpark - are there no plans for public parking - or coordination between the various entities to identify parking needs for Metro and businesses along W. 25th??? 

Detroit, and recently Waterloo, District incorporated staggered PUBLIC parking lots in their planning efforts. Green shaded parcels are city land banked.

Brian Cummins, Jeff Ramsey and the useless SCFBCDO are following some ass-backwards planning strategy to accommodate Ali Faraj, the developer, who is requesting liquor permits for his event center proposed for the historic Aragon ballroom (Residents are OPPOSED to the liquor permits and capacity of 1200 requested).  Why is Ali Faraj creating a LLC just to handle valet parking that is proposed at Lincoln West High School?

I doctored the above GIS photo from City of Cleveland - with possible locations for a public parking garage and/or surface parking to accommodate reasonable car capacity needs for the Aragon Event Center (400-600).   Metrohealth could also benefit by having a facility nearby that addresses large crowd needs.  Lincoln West High School is located to the left side of image - the oval shaped buildings with two square parking areas to north and the south.  To my knowledge the top surface lot at the south of Lincoln HS CAN NOT accommodate cars parked on the top of the underground garage, which is also south of the school building.  Also, from a visual inspection of the Lincoln West HS underground garage - I wouldn't park my car there EVER... it looks very unstable.