Will a $100M ‘innovation center’ be built in Cleveland?

A Cleveland  property developer reluctantly unveiled plans for a proposed innovation center on the city’s East Side, but the plan is a long way from being realized.

Veteran developer John Ferchill seems to have preferred not to publicly discuss plans for the $98.6 million “innovation center campus,” but relented at a hearing Tuesday at the request of Cleveland City Council.

“My style is not to go in and make an announcement on something that’s not real,” Ferchill told the Plain Dealer. “And it’s not real at this stage of the game. Who knows what’s going to happen here?”

Details of the project are understandably sketchy. Its planned location now houses a police station and library, though Ferchill is working with the city on a new, replacement police station at another location.


Plans call for two project phases. The first would involve a five-story, 100,000-square-foot office building at Chester Avenue and Stokes Boulevard. A second 100,000-square-foot building would be built nearby, Crain’s Cleveland Business reported.

Ferchill humorously called the proposed site a “demilitarized zone” — neutral territory between Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals Case Medical Center, an area popularly (ahem)  known as the Medical District.

With such close proximity to those three institutions, it seems likely that Ferchill’s group would seek plenty of healthcare tenants, should the project come to fruition.

Even at this early stage in the process, Ferchill asserted that he’s received “an inordinate amount of interest” in the project, but declined to reveal from whom.

If nothing else, credit Ferchill for persistence. A few years ago, his group drew up plans and bought a building that was to house a similar innovation center. But that project, dubbed the MidTown Technology Center, never went anywhere, and the building has since been demolished.

One thing working in Ferchill’s favor is that his group has previous experience with a similar project, having built two lab-and-office buildings near the University of Pittsburgh.

Ferchill has discussed his proposal with BioEnterprise, a University Circle nonprofit that helps biomedical companies develop their businesses, according to to Baiju Shah, the organization’s president. “It’s a great idea and a needed building that is complementary, not competitive, to other buildings under development,” Shah said of Ferchill’s project.

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