Cleveland Guardians: All the changes coming to the Gateway District and beyond
In addition to Progressive Field, the Cleveland Guardians will be part of huge changes to the Gateway District and beyond in the coming years.
We are all well aware of the forthcoming renovations that our favorite ballpark located at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario will undergo in the coming years.
This second round of major renovations to the ballpark will see the often underutilized Terrace Club transform into a hip new indoor/outdoor social gathering space and eventual sports betting parlor, all while allowing more fans a unique experience.
There will also be the updated upper level, which will open up the concourse while allowing fans to still look into the field of play. Then there is the much-celebrated prospect of the removal of the “shipping containers” in right field, which will be replaced by some form of gathering space more akin to that which is in place at Coors Field.
The final piece includes the removal of many ticket windows and expansion of the front office in the Gateway plaza section of the stadium. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that there will also be a number of other upgrades fans won’t see, intended for the players, and the option to buy the Gateway garage for future development (more on that in a moment).
Now, if things just stopped there I think most fans would agree these changes modernize the stadium enough so that Progressive Field will remain the Guardians’ home for a nice long while. Well, buckle up Northeast Ohio, Guardians fans, and anyone who plans to catch a game in town soon!
In case you missed it, there was a bombshell of a story earlier this month, as there could be a lot more to do right around the ‘ol ballpark and Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse (or RoMoFiHo as some of us are affectionately calling it) very soon.
History of the Gateway Neighborhood
A little history lesson before we move forward (trust me, this context is worth it): The Gateway Project was transformative for Cleveland. I was young when it started but certainly old enough to be cognizant of what was happening.
Prior to 1994, the Indians played in the cold, damp, decrepit Cleveland Municipal Stadium – a venue that holds a special place in the hearts of any fan roughly 35 and older. Meanwhile, the Cavs played some forty-five minutes away in a cornfield, in the town of Richfield. Seriously, the Richfield Coliseum was in the middle of nowhere – centrally-ish located halfway between Cleveland and Akron.
When both Jacobs Field and Gund Arena opened in 1994, it was amazing; the stadiums brought life to a portion of downtown Cleveland that was unimaginable decades prior. Each facility would host their sport’s respectable All-Star game just some three years after opening, too.
Now, fast-forward roughly twenty years to 2015 and 2019. Each of those facilities underwent a massive renovation to bring new life to each, and it’s worked. However, there is still work to be be done, which is why we are seeing this second round of renovations to Progressive Field. Though this recent news takes this to another level.
Development sleuth Ken Prendergast, who runs the NEOtrans blog, dropped the bomb on us all. Any followers of Mr. Prendergast are sure to know of his insights in the goings on of the various development projects in and around Cleveland. For those unfamiliar, you are in for a treat.
In the post, we learned a ton about a year-round Ballpark Village, similar to St. Louis and Atlanta, and a mixed-use complex just north of the RoMoFiHo. The Ballpark Village would be directly behind the bleachers where the current parking garage stands, and the Rocket Mortgage mixed-use complex would be built on the site of the now-abandoned NuCLEus project. From office spaces, to hotels, to living, to entertainment and sports betting, each of these new projects would bring something additional to the Gateway District.
In order for the Ballpark Village to be constructed, the Guardians, or some affiliated development group, would use their option to purchase the Gateway East Garage (right behind the ballpark) from the Gateway Economic Development Corporation of Greater Cleveland for $2 million. These terms were set in place within the renovation agreement. This purchase would happen rather quickly, within the next two years.
There would be up to three aspects to this portion of the project:
- Redesigned parking structure
- Ballpark Village (restaurants/shops/baseball museum/hall of fame/interactive sports and indoor event/entertainment center)
- High-rise apartment (akin to what is going into the St. Louis Ballpark Village)
One of the hidden takeaways is that HBSE Ventures would be the group behind this venture. HBSE just so happens to be operated by David Blitzer and business partner Josh Harris. Harris has not been identified as a possible minority owner of the Guardians before, but his involvement in this project would lead many to believe that he too would be involved in any acquisition of ownership in the club.
Rocket Mortgage Mixed-Use Complex
Proposed on the site (between Prospect Avenue and Huron Road and East 4th Street) of the failed NuCLEus building would be a “significant structure,” including:
- A 1,500-car parking structure, used as the ground floors for an office tower
- The roughly 30-story (550 feet tall) tower would house office space (for Gilbert’s Rocket Mortgage offices and a law firm), while a second tower would likely be home to a hotel and possibly apartments
- Retail and/or restaurants would likely occupy the ground floor
Dan Gilbert’s development company, Bedrock, appears to be taking charge on this project and doing its due diligence on the property. With existing leases set to expire and the impending purchase of the Gateway garage by the Guardians, indications are that Bedrock is looking to move quickly on this project.
Other Projects Near Gateway
On top of this news are the already planned/pending/rumored projects, each roughly a block from the stadium that have gained some level of momentum:
- Vision for the Valley (20-30 years from completion): Announced late last year, this is Bedrock’s project for behind Tower City, which would include green spaces of boardwalks and parks; residential, commercial and retail buildings; and additional upgrades to the current roadway and river bulkheads.
- Land by the former Peterson Nut retail shop: The parking lot directly across the street at the corner of E. 9th and Carnegie, flanked by Sumner Ave, has been discussed as a potential site for a mixed-use Ballpark Village as well. Though details have been sparse, at one point ground-level retail with apartments and condos was being discussed. Also across the street is an existing gas station and Carnegie ballroom, each set for massive renovation in the coming years.
- Bolivar Apartments: Just past the center field gates lies an underutilized stretch of land along Bolivar Road. Cleveland’s planning commission has already given conceptual approval to add roughly 200 apartments atop a number of existing buildings. Some work has already been completed on neighboring buildings, as this is a key stretch of connecting the Gateway district to the Theater district.
- Spaghetti Warehouse lot and garage: The old New York Spaghetti Warehouse site, now just a gravel parking lot, directly across E. 9th from the stadium, has been for sale for some time. The site also includes a two-story parking structure that spans from Prospect Ave to Bolivar Road. This lot has been proposed to house a myriad of uses, the most likely being office or residential space.
- Parking lots by Wilbert’s and Thirsty Parrot: There have also been rumors of the availability of the parking lots along the west side of Bolivar Road, directly behind popular watering holes Wilbert’s and the Thirsty Parrot. Just on the other side of these establishments a number of bars and restaurants have either closed (including Winking Lizard and Panini’s) or severely altered their model since COVID struck, though a former tenant of the area, A.J. Rocco’s, is set to re-open close to the start of the season.
It’s quite likely that as a result of the Gateway Mega Project, some of these plans either move forward or are altered in scale or use. However, if not for the renewed lease and impending minority ownership sale, many, if not all, of these may have just been ideas that never came close to fruition.