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A Chicago-Based Construction Firm Is Bringing Decades Of Adaptive Reuse Experience To Cleveland

45 Erieview under construction

For more than 35 years, The Bell at 45 Erieview Plaza in Cleveland was home to phone companies — first Ohio Bell, then AT&T, until the company moved out in 2019. Today, it has joined a growing list of vacant office buildings across the country that are being transformed into multifamily housing through adaptive reuse

Office vacancy rates continue to rise across the country, and in July, more than half of the top 25 U.S. markets reported office vacancy rates above the national average of 17.1%. In response, more office owners are embracing adaptive reuse opportunities, turning their underused office spaces into multifamily housing or life sciences space, both of which are in higher demand than office.

Illinois-based contractor Leopardo Construction broke ground in September 2022 on the transformation of 45 Erieview Plaza, which will feature a total of 367 apartment units, community and retail spaces, a fitness area, and a rooftop amenity space with an outdoor pool and hot tub. Leopardo was chosen for this project thanks to its track record of successful adaptive reuse projects and extensive pre-construction expertise, Leopardo Senior Vice President Mike Mastin said. 

“We are very experienced in adaptive reuse and have done many of these projects in Chicago,” Mastin said. “It comes down to our team having the knowledge, the experience and the drive to get the job done, regardless of what city we’re in.” 

Back in Chicago, Leopardo recently completed the transformation of 226 West Jackson St., which won a Landmark Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation. The 248K SF building now features a 135-room Hilton Garden Inn, a 215-room Canopy by Hilton and a rooftop restaurant opening in October.

Leopardo also converted a 225K SF former Chicago hospital into Ravenswood Senior Living. The project team constructed a four-story steel addition off the second floor of the existing building to supply additional residential units to the complex.

“In addition to tying the new building into existing [mechanical, electical and plumbing] systems, we also performed a full facade rehabilitation with masonry restoration, installed new windows and entrance systems, completed porte-cochère modifications and created outdoor amenity spaces,” Leopardo Project Executive Steve Sebastian said. 

45 Erieview under construction

Texas-based Wolfe Investments tapped Leopardo for 45 Erieview after being impressed with the company’s past adaptive reuse work.

This won't be a one-off project for the company, Mastin said. The team has additional projects in the pipeline and is working on building out Leopardo’s local office, which will open this fall. 

“Cleveland aligns with our long-term strategic vision,” Mastin said. “We are excited to be a part of the growth that is happening here, and 45 Erieview is just the beginning. We are initially focusing on multifamily, residential, affordable housing and healthcare projects and building relationships that will help the city achieve their vision.” 

Leopardo started building those relationships during the pre-construction process for 45 Erieview, gathering key team members from Chicago and Cleveland-based construction experts who know the area and could introduce them to local subcontractors, Sebastian said.

“Our estimating team does a great job with outreach — meeting new subs, introducing them to Leopardo and talking about how we do business,” he said. “A key part of how we operate is that we view developers, architects and subcontractors as partners, and they appreciate that approach. It has worked out well, and we have a very collaborative team.” 

At 45 Erieview, Leopardo worked with the developer during pre-construction to identify cost-saving solutions like reusing existing mechanical systems in the common areas. The team has completed several feats, including removing the existing roof deck and creating a cradle for a new floor deck. That allowed it to fly a swimming pool and whirlpool spa up to the roof and set them in. 

Sebastian said leveraging Leopardo’s in-house virtual build group to digitally scan floors post-demolition allows it to map out existing conditions with precision. The technology also enables the company to solve any potential issues in a 3D model and reduce the chance of errors in the field, which cost time and money. 

“We’re excited to bring our decades of experience and technical expertise to Cleveland,” he said. “The reinvention of formerly vacant buildings is rewarding, and our people thrive in complex environments. They love the challenge of working with existing conditions.”

This article was produced in collaboration between Studio B and Leopardo. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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