Flats East Bank adds new retailers including BBR sports bar, The Beer Market, Panini's Bar & Grill

CLEVELAND - More restaurants and retailers have joined on as part of the Flats East Bank development project.

Developers announced Wednesday that they have secured commitments from seven new retail tenants, leaving limited space available in the $500 million waterfront development.

The new tenants include: BBR sports bar, The Beer Market, Big Bang dueling piano bar, Constantino's Café, East Bank News & Gift, FWD: night club and Panini's Bar & Grill.

Office tenants Wells Fargo, Northwestern Mutual and Gilbane Building Company have also joined Ernst & Young, Tucker Ellis and CBRE, as part of the project, bringing the 23-story Ernst & Young Office Tower to 70 percent capacity.

Other retail tenants included in the Flats development include Toby Keith's Bar & Grill, Ken Stewart's, Lago, Flipside and Willeyville.

Developers are preparing for the opening of this first phase, as well as working on financing and pre-construction of the $146 million second phase of the project, a 200-unit waterfront residential complex.

That second phase is expected to bring hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars to the city's economy.

Developer Scott Wolstein was careful to explain that bringing the old Flats of the east bank back was not the goal.

"I don't want to say that we're going to return to the old flats because it's going to be very, very different," Wolstein said. "We are very, very busy and anxious to get this started with Phase 2, which will include 200 units of apartments and 75,000 square feet of retail, which will be primarily restaurants."

Meanwhile, from the outside it looks like a movie set's ghost town throughout most of the old east bank flats area. Graffiti, broken bottles, decks missing boards are behind the once-vibrant businesses. Contrasted by busy construction trailers and hard-hatted workers scurrying about at the north end of Old River Road, it now looks like an area about to bloom.

Former visitors to the Flats in its heyday are now working and spending their money in the Warehouse District on West 6th Street.

Doug Kovach was a Longshoreman during the east bank's high point. He fondly remembered the young crowd from Old River Road's main road, cruising the strip, to the girls and guys sitting on boats tied up to the docks in the sun.

"I used to go to Fagan's, but my favorite was The River's Edge," Kovach said. "It was nice. Lots of people, bunch of wild, young ones… I'd rather be down there than up here."

For Beth Levy, she was shocked to think she was as young as 25 the last time she was down there. She's a bit more careful about her money and time these days. She's not sure she'll frequent the new businesses.

"I'm more of a homebody nowadays," Levy said.

Michelle Pankratz works on W. 6th Street, but says she'll be glad to see the east bank's economy come back, but wants to be reassured the developers, and the city of Cleveland, deal with it correctly this time.

"I don't want to see it dwindle as quickly as it did. I'd like to see something more stable," Pankratz said.

The Wolstein family made it clear their hearts are in this, not just their financial investment with the other developers.

"To put this effort into a project is strictly a labor of love between my son, my husband's memory," said Iris Wolstein, wife of Bert Wolstein who died before he could see his east bank dream realized.

For more information on the project go to: www.flatseast.com

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