New apartments headed to Hessler, construction to start this summer


Courtesy of RDL Architects

After multiple years of heated debates, the Cleveland Landmarks Commission approved a new devlopment on Hessler Road that is planning to break ground this summer.

Shreyas Banerjee, Executive Editor

New apartments are coming to Hessler Road soon and are garnering some controversy.

Hessler is a historic street, developed in the early 20th century as a quiet and quaint community, isolated from the hustle and bustle of the rest of University Circle. With its wood and brick-laid pavement and counter-culture aesthetic, Hessler has been one of Cleveland’s hidden treasures. The Hessler Street Fair, which has been held since 1969, is often seen as the embodiment of the strong sense of community of the little neighborhood. As such, the residents of Hessler have fought for decades to preserve the street’s unique aura from new developments and student residents.

This trend continued when a proposal for building a new apartment complex on Hessler was unveiled in February 2021. Developers put forward a plan to build a new four-story, 23-unit apartment building, targeting young professionals and students with rents between $1,500-$1,600 per month. The proposal drew immediate backlash from residents of Hessler, some of whom put together a campaign to “preserve and protect” their street. In a statement, the coalition spoke out on how the developers had put forward the project with “no respect for the fragile historic district, its cultural heritage, and the community that stewarded it for decades,” and pushed University Circle Incorporated to rethink the philosophy of the proposed building and take feedback from community members. Further revisions from the developers in April 2021 saw the apartment building being scaled back to a 12-unit building with a design more reminiscent of other houses on Hessler. Ward 6 City Council member Blaine Griffin also became personally involved in securing funds to preserve the brick and wood pavement. 

Residents still were unhappy with the style of the proposed building and the idea of a dense apartment being introduced to their haven. The developers returned with a third proposal to scale even further down to a six-unit building, with three bedrooms in each unit to enable the family-style living that the Hessler residents preferred. The developers presented the plan to the Cleveland Landmarks Commission in late 2022 and received approval in January 2023, despite reservations, opening the way for construction to start this summer.

Many Hessler residents remain in opposition to the new building, however, and have expressed concerns about the impact construction will have on their living conditions and parking, especially considering the street is already very narrow and space for vehicles limited. In addition, they are requesting repairs to occur on the old-style pavement, the development of a new parking plan and a complete stormwater management study. It is unclear if any style of new development would be supported by residents as the coalition has expressed that the lot should instead be retained as green space.

Residents have long railed against the slow shift from the street’s community-based historic character to one increasingly dominated by students from Case Western Reserve University; that will likely continue, especially with the new construction. While there has been a long back and forth about the character of Hessler, the street’s future now seems clear.

“Within the last five years we’ve seen over 1,800 apartments and condos built in University Circle, with 1,000 more in development. That staggering growth is unprecedented,” said Laura Cyrocki, a Hessler resident. “The addition of 18 more bedrooms on an already dense and fragile street at the expense of the character of Cleveland’s first historic district only serves to create more economic benefit for the developer and the property owner.”