CLEVELAND, Ohio — The tech industry in Cleveland is growing and is in need of more office space.
To accommodate this growth, a local developer is hoping to create a tech office space in downtown Cleveland. In addition to new development, FlashStarts has announced a new investment fund. Cleveland is quickly becoming a tech city that never sleeps.
Tech Zeppelin. Cleveland’s Playhouse Square area is already a hot market, especially with the newly announced apartment tower on Euclid Avenue next to the Hanna Building. But, a local parking lot owner Shaia’s Parking, Inc., also quietly has been upping the tech ante with the purchase of 1500 Superior Ave., which is nearby.
Paul Shaia and his father Victor see a lot of promise in the worn building, better known as Ambassador Lanes, that they purchased in April 2015. They plan to turn it into an office development catering to tech companies, called the Zeppelin. They hope to start housing office tenants by early next year, Paul Shaia said.
Shaia’s Parking started serving the downtown market in 1968. The company currently owns or manages nearly 5,000 downtown parking spaces. Shaia’s underlying business philosophy of surface lots is “we recognize that parking lots are development sites when it works.” Shaia holds a firm belief that within the next five-to-eight years, Cleveland will see a large number of its surface lots being built vertically.
“We’ve been investing in the downtown area for many years and this particular block we believe will be experiencing a lot of economic development in the near future,” said Paul Shaia.
The structure, built just before the Great Depression in 1929, was meant to be a two-story parking garage, but over the years has been home to Cleveland-original companies such as Superior Transfer Company, Lapeer Trailer, Trail Mobile Co. Truck Trailers, Acme Fast Freight and Brush Development Corp. Around 1958, the building expanded to accommodate one of the country’s fastest growing recreational activities at the time: bowling. The building owners constructed a brand new third floor and built a 36-lane bowling alley which became the iconic Ambassador Lanes. It was during this time that most of the original historic detailing was removed and replaced with a simple brick facade. In fact, to properly quarter the bowling lanes and its need for a large amount of open space, long-span bowstring trusses were added and then covered by a drop ceiling.
When the drop ceiling was recently removed by the Shaia family, the trusses resembled the inside of a Zeppelin airship, thus the new name for the building.
While the family had no specific plans when they bought the building, they began to learn more about the various tech companies that already grace the area: BlueBridge Networks, OnShift, FIT Technologies, Dakota Software, e-Ventus, Assurint, STACK and Jurinnov.
While the first two floors of the renovated building will remain parking, the 36,000 square-foot third floor offers flexibility and could include a number of bowling lanes for employees, a Japanese rock garden, a climbing wall, in-door bicycle racks, a cafe and an outdoor deck.
FlashStarts Fund. Flashstarts, based in the Terminal Tower in downtown Cleveland, launched Cleveland200, a $5 million micro-venture investment fund focused on high-growth startups.
This fund was just one of many funds that received more than $100 million in new funding from the Ohio Third Frontier program. This is one of the largest investment waves for tech start-ups in the Northeast Ohio history.
Startup companies can now apply at www.cleveland200.com and applicants will be selected on a rolling basis over the next three years. Flashstarts will initially invest $25,000 – $50,000 in each company in exchange for 4 percent to 8 percent equity.
The fund will focus on big, disruptive ideas in healthcare IT, enterprise SaaS, data analytics, Internet of Things (IoT) and FinTech.